Tuesday 15 September 2015

BIG FISH and an anchorage that belongs in the cruising magazines - 11 Sep 15


I am sure that photos of this anchorage should be in the January sailing magazines. I am just not sure whether they should accompany an article entitled "Why you should sell your house and head for the tropics" or "Fijian anchorages: Not for the faint of heart". After today, I think we could probably write appropriate articles for both! We have come around the north side of Yadua to anchor closer to the village in time for church on Sunday.

Victoria was returned to us bright and early by Tim from Honey. By 0645, he had already helped the girls strike camp and delivered a dinghy-load to Fluenta, so Honey could get an early start on their trip towards Nadi. Fluenta was pretty quiet at that stage, with Benjamin, Johnathan, and myself asleep, and Max & Victoria enjoying the early-morning peace. When I surfaced, the skies were blue and clear, the breeze was light, and the sun was burning down - perfect weather for drying diapers!

Max and I were just starting to think about coordinating our plans with Exodus when Tim hailed us (there sometimes seems to be a telepathic connection across the anchorage...) to suggest spear-fishing and then transiting towards the village in the early afternoon. Max's spear gun was down for the count because yesterday's walu had cost him the spear tip [note to self: bring more speargun parts next season. Max], but they decided that two guns amongst three people would work fine.

The first highlight of the day happened while Tim, Brendan, and Max were fishing. I heard a friendly "hello" beside the hull and tore myself away from the sink, where I was rinsing diapers, to find a Fijian man holding onto the side of the boat. We got chatting, and I learned that his name was Mele. Not entirely sure of the protocol, I asked if he would like some water, and whether he would like to come aboard, which he accepted. It turned out that he was the headman (spokesman) of the village, who had been visiting one of the other villages in the Chief's domain while we were doing our sevusevu. Now that we have our daily (Honey-inspired) bread-baking habit going, I was able to offer him bread and butter, which he enjoyed happily. Not every Fijian has enough English for an easy conversation, but Mele and I had a lovely visit, and I learned about the water system on the island which is being improved (I believe he told me that the water comes from the ground to a dam, from there to a (new) tank, from there to a tank in the village, and from there to their homes). He and his wife had come to this side of the island to take a government rep to look at the new tank, so he left his wife with the rep and came around to the anchorage to visit us. I was glad that we had done our sevusevu, and he seemed appreciative of the effort we had made. It was his brother, John, who had driven us home on Monday evening. I asked if there was anything that we might share with the village, and he suggested that I look for some baby clothes that Benjamin has outgrown, which I will gladly do.

The second highlight of the day happened when Tim, Brendan, and Max returned from fishing ... Brendan had shot a regular sized walu, and Max had shot an enormous walu. The fish was as long as the seating area of our dinghy, and Tim estimated its weight at about 50 lbs. It turned out that Mele had also visited their boat after he left the anchorage, and he was incredulous that they had shot such a fish: "You shot that fish?? Here???". We used three salt-water-soaked t-shirts to cover the fish and keep it fresh for the passage around the island.

Let me take a minute to pay tribute to "Dr Speargun" aka Tim from Exodus. Throughout the season, he has generously loaned wetsuits, spears, spare parts, and even spearguns to the rest of the kid boat fleet so that everyone could fish. Given my lack of love for being cold, wet and/or under water, I have not gone with them, but I understand that he has also passed along many lessons and tricks of the trade as well. I think this morning offered a moment for the professor to be pleased with his students: his 12-year-old son Brendan shot a regular sized walu, and (with Tim's gun) Max shot the huge walu. Thanks Tim!

The passage over the top of the island was spectacular. I spent the whole time on the bow to warn Max of reefs (and enjoying myself by taking photos). It was blowing almost 20 kts as we came through the tiny pass into the tiny bay, and it was a bit of a slalom course from there to the anchorage. Thankfully, we had tracks from our friends on Lumbaz, and we have begun using satellite imagery on both the iPad and the laptop, so we can see where the reefs actually are (as compared to where the charts say they are [if they say anything at all). We ended up anchoring several times in order to be well situated amongst the reefs on three sides and the random bombies and coral heads in the middle. As I said at the beginning, this is not a spot for the faint of heart, but it sure is beautiful!

Once we were happy with our anchor location, Max, Tim, and the kids went to the village to bring them Max's walu, some tuna and the fish heads from yesterday (to give a sense of the size of Tim's dog-tooth tuna head, the part that the shark didn't get weighed 35 lbs, and the head itself weighed about as much as Benjamin). Fish heads are prized by Fijian villagers, so we share them when we can. Max and the kids were glowing with excitement when they came back. Victoria and Johnathan had been playing tag with the kids, and the adults were thrilled when they were led to the dinghy to see the walu - no one in the village had ever even seen one that big, let alone shot one with a speargun. Not only did they want photos of Max and Tim and the fish, but they wanted their own hero shots holding it as well. This was definitely the third highlight of the day.

The fourth highlight was the dinner we just finished: Exodus kindly shared some of the dogtooth tuna with us, and we enjoyed this light-coloured tuna as sashimi and sushi rolls. I could never have guessed before we left home that I would have children clamouring to eat raw fish, rice, and seaweed!

That about sums up our day: we are in a spectacularly beautiful, but reef-filled, bay, behind a tiny island, near the north-east corner of Yadua, just across a reef from the village. We will stay through the day tomorrow and go to church on Sunday, then we will watch the weather to determine our next move.

Love to all,
At 9/11/2015 5:57 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 16°48.99'S 178°19.55'E
At 9/11/2015 11:57 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 16°48.99'S 178°19.55'E

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