Greetings from off-the-grid. This is our fifth night anchored in Yadua (Yandua). We sailed here on Sunday, after leaving the Manta Rays and spending a few days at the (famous thanks to the movie of the same name) Blue Lagoon. We motored with light winds on the nose, which meant that we could make the 50+ nm trip in daylight; our friends on Honey followed us on Monday, and they had winds into the 30+ kts for much of their trip.
The most exciting news from the passage was that our Yellowfin (tuna) drought finally ended. We caught a skipjack and a yellowfin; the former is filleted and tucked neatly into our freezer, and the latter has provided lunches & dinners for the last four days. Just when I was starting to wonder what to serve for dinner tonight, Max and Tim (Exodus) (who have gone spearfishing together a few times here in Yadua most recently at a reef three nm away from the island) came back with a dinghy full - a nice-sized walu each, and what was left of a dog-toothed tuna that Tim had shared with some sharks. Even the tuna's head (which is in our freezer awaiting its presentation to the village) weighed about the same as Benjamin [later weighed at 35 lbs for just the head and remaining fish - Tim estimates it would have been a 90 lb fish]! Walu for dinner tonight :)
The evening we arrived, the bay was absolutely still. We enjoyed one of those rich silences which are really not silent - we could hear the surf on the reef several hundred feet away and the fish jumping out of the water right beside us in the anchorage. Although the winds weren't forecast to build until Monday, high winds and heavy rain arrived on Sunday night, so Max found himself on deck in the wee hours taking down the laundry that had been fluttering so innocently in the gentle breeze at bedtime. After losing some clothing off the lifelines in Gau, we are a little more vigilant now. As for me, I must admit that I slept soundly through most of the night, waking only to deal with Benjamin :)
With northerly winds when we arrived and Southerlies forecast for the rest of the week, we anchored near the northern edge of the bay on Sunday afternoon and moved across to the southern corner on Monday morning. We then set off mid-morning with Exodus for the sevusevu ceremony in the village on the other side of the island, anticipating a 5-hour round trip. Although the path was at times muddy, steep, narrow, rocky and/or hard to find, it was enjoyable in its own way. Our hike took us uphill through the woods and along a ridge, past numerous rocky outcroppings ("I think this is volcanic, Mom") and beautiful vistas of the many bays around the island. After a quick picnic at about the two hour mark, where we enjoyed Victoria's home made bread and Deanne's Yellowfin "Poke", we carried on with one eye for the trail and one eye on our watches ... we didn't want to do the return trip in the dark! I think we were all relieved when we met a villager toting an empty woven bag on her back who was enroute to collect some yams from her farm. She told us that we were "close". When we asked if close meant 10 min, she hedged and said more like 20. I assumed this meant at least 30, and this was about right! The chief was away until Thursday, so the sevusevu was a quick affair. We were most grateful when they offered a cup of tea and some crackers rather than kava - I figured that this would give us time for a short visit and then, restored in body and soul, we could start back towards the anchorage. As it turned out, we were offered a ride in an open fiberglass boat, as long as we would reimburse them for their gas. Despite the fact that the expedition would not earn any Canadian safety awards (no life jackets, no radios...) we decided to take them up on their offer of a 20 min return journey. This allowed us time to see a bit more of the village and to watch the daily routine of filling dive tanks (a main source of income for the villagers is collecting sea cucumbers [Beche de mer] for the Asian market) which was going on right outside the chief's house. Our high-speed journey back gave us a windblown view of the island. When we returned to Fluenta we invited our driver, his wife, and their three-year-old aboard for a cup of coffee - it was nice to return the hospitality. I was short on biscuits so I made a bowl of popcorn, which is a cruiser staple. It turned out to be quite a hit as the little boy had never had it before.
After our guests headed back towards the village, we were glad to accept an invitation to Exodus for Yellowfin sashimi - so tasty! Our four kids gathered on Fluenta to play Minecraft, and then they were joined by Ella and Samuel when SV Honey made it into the anchorage just before dark. An exhausted Jude popped over to Exodus for a fish report and a quick visit. They had caught two mahimahi (dorado), so everyone's fish stores have been replenished.
Tuesday dawned sunny and blowy, so we were finally able to get Saturday's laundry dry. Things were a bit glum aboard Fluenta for a short while in the morning when Victoria put out the call to see who wanted to go camping and she got two no's and a couple of maybe's; she was all smiles after a visit to Honey, however, where it was determined that she and Ella would camp together. The boys decided that they would rather play on the beach and sleep in their own beds: less stuff to lug back and forth! The girls made individual packing lists, and Victoria quickly got to work collecting the things she needed to bring. Once they were ashore, they mainly kept their radio turned off to conserve battery power; it was a strange feeling to know that my 11-year-old was perfectly fine in her tent on the beach and did not need us (the beginning of our emptying nest ... perhaps I felt a bit of empathy for families at home who would love to hear from us more often)! Ella's gentle Australian voice was music to our ears in the morning when she announced at about 0730 that they had survived their night with no injuries, and their only question was could they do it again? We have hardly seen Victoria since! They paged Johnathan at one point so he could come to shore and use his hatchet to help them with the door to the outhouse they were building, and we have sent a few cans of food and some fresh bread (I have had to step up and complete this daily task in Victoria's absence). All in all, it seems that their camp has been a great success. Meanwhile, the boys have banded together and spent the afternoons on the beach, hiking and exploring, or swimming off Exodus, followed by playing Minecraft together in the early evening (whenever the first mom has dinner ready, the boys head home). Everyone has found some enjoyable activities suited to their own interests.
Before coming to Yadua, we were four (and for one night five) kid boats at the Blue Lagoon. After the rolly anchorage near the Manta Rays, it was nice to be in a more sheltered, flat location for a few nights. When Victoria and the other girls watched The Sound of Music together, they had commented on the beautiful dresses that the ladies wore, which led to a conversation about how they would be easy to sew, which led to Ella saying that she thought her mom had some extra fabric, which led to our saloon becoming dress-making central for several afternoons :) By the last night in Blue Lagoon, they had finished a beautiful dress for Ella, and Victoria is hoping to sew a dress for Elizabeth (Field Trip) when we see them again in Nadi or NZ. Since Ella had a zipper, Victoria now knows how to use the zipper foot on Grammy's 1976 Kenmore sewing machine.
After our wonderful coffee afternoon on Field Trip in the previous anchorage, the moms created a few more opportunities to visit together while we were in the Blue Lagoon, culminating in a mother-daughter games night on Exodus (when Victoria heard that the boys were getting together to watch a movie, and that Deanne was open to the girls coming over, she pretty much squealed with excitement, and that was that). We had been talking earlier about how to help daughters grow into strong women, and decided that it would be fun to spend an evening with this delightful group of girls :) Cruising has a lot in common with the military when it comes to the fluidity of friendships - in both contexts, we learn to form strong bonds quickly and to trust that true friendships will survive the test of time and space. This came up in conversation with Sabina (Breeze) on our last night in the Blue Lagoon - she and her family are on their second cruising voyage, and she has seen the years fall away when she reconnects after 10 or 20 years with cruising friends. I often find myself in a state of gratitude (for the friends we have made) and hope (that we will see them again down the road). It is also bittersweet, as each new anchorage leads to a change in the mix, and we don't always know when we will cross paths again.
Anyway, backing hastily away from all that gooey emotional stuff, the Blue Lagoon had a very friendly village which was happy to receive our group for sevusevu. I tell you this secondhand, as Benjamin started to get noisy as we prepped to go ashore, and for the first time, I elected to stay with him on the boat - what a blessing that I did, as he slept almost immediately and had a long nap. After the previous village where it seemed like the villagers just saw us as tourists who would put funds into their coffers, it was a pleasure to meet people who seemed genuinely friendly.
The Blue Lagoon also had great internet, so we were able to Skype with our Learning Consultant (LC) from our new school. It seems like our year is off to a good start - both kids really enjoyed talking to her and I enjoyed watching how she engaged them in conversation. She seems to have a gift for drawing them out and sharing her own experiences. I knew we had chosen well when I found out that she loves to sew (which gives her a connection with Victoria) and she will be participating in a hatchet-throwing competition in October (which is a quick way to Johnathan's heart - it is not such a leap from his interest in throwing knives to throwing hatchets!) Each of them talked to her for a good 15-20 minutes, then I had a chance to chat for the last few minutes of the call. She had spent some time reading our blog ahead of time, so I appreciated that she had made an effort to get to know us, and was supportive our of cruising lifestyle. On the more mundane side of things, I finished the week pleased that I had managed to send in the week 1 report on the proper day for week 1! I have been known to let deadlines get the better of me, so I was happy that at least the first report was submitted on time :)
Our trip from the Blue Lagoon to Yadua unfortunately uncovered a weakness in our two-year-old water lift muffler (which we replaced in Mexico, just before Benjamin was born). Max spotted a leak of bubbling exhaust mixture on its top surface during engine checks when we were motoring on Sunday, so after sevusevu on Monday, his day on Tuesday was dedicated to re-fiberglassing what turned out to be a five-inch two-pronged crack. We will find out when we motor from this anchorage whether the fix has held or not ...
I mentioned our daily bread baking habit a little earlier. I have been inspired by Jude (Honey) to have bread baked on Fluenta every day. As soon as Jude wakes up, she sets her bread. On Fluenta, this often looks like Victoria setting bread while the rest of the family is still asleep, or me setting bread sometime around noon while Victoria is camping. We have found that a recipe with 2c of liquid and 6c of flour seems to do us nicely for one day (making a bigger batch every other day means stale bread on day two). We dealt with our passage on Sunday by making a 3c/9c recipe on Saturday before we left (then Victoria actually made fresh bread on Sunday evening so we would have it for our hike on Monday - I think this would be her father's forward-planning nature coming to the fore...) Victoria has made some whole wheat bread and some white bread; while she was camping, I found a stash of WW flour, so I have been making WW bread this week (and adding cooked quinoa and oats to the mix, which seems to work nicely). We have had fun making half the batch as fancy bread (eg with cinnamon and brown sugar) and the other half plain as sandwich bread or rolls.
Honey will be leaving early tomorrow for Nadi to pick up some company. We hope to see them in the Yasawas in a couple of weeks. We will stay with Exodus for a few more days, then it will be the end of a two-year era as they head for Savusavu to prepare for their trip to the Marshall Islands and we turn back towards Nadi (via the Yasawas) to prepare for our journey to NZ [or we could follow them to the Marhalls ...]. No matter how stoically I wax poetic about friendships that will last over time and space, I have a suspicion that there will be some sad days ahead. Such is this cruising life.
One of the things I enjoy most about being "off the grid" is the chance to catch up on emails with friends and family - there is no web browsing or Facebook to distract us here :) I can't say I have really done this yet, but I am looking forward to writing a few more emails over the next few days.
Love to all,
At 9/6/2015 6:27 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 16°48.62'S 178°16.93'E
At 9/11/2015 11:57 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 16°48.99'S 178°19.55'E
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