Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Cabbage Patch


We headed further north, up to Viani Bay. Bounding the bay are a number of world famous dive sites. We snorkeled the Cabbage Patch. Can you guess how it got its name? These are large, hard corals. The image above is probably a 12 or 15 foot square view. The actual portion of the reef area that is practically all cabbage coral is maybe 150 by 40 feet. The overall reef goes on for miles.


Our intrepid dive guide, Jack

When we first arrived, we anchored in a sort of sub-bay called Daveta Bay. (55ft at 16*45.36, 179*54.31) Definitely a coral rubble bottom with some shallower bommies around. It got pretty windy overnight. In the morning, Jack Fischer rows up to the boat in his tinny, aka aluminum skiff. That’s Jack talking with Chris above. He handed us more papaya than we could possibly eat and then asked if we wanted to go out to the reef. He would guide us out in our boat to a small sandy spot where we could anchor while he showed us where the best reefs were. For $10 Fiji a head ($5USD) we decided to go for it as the wind was laying down and the sun was really trying to come out. Jack took us out to a small sandy spot about 3.7 miles out of the bay.

Jack has an interesting story and does enjoy talking. His grandfather came over from England working on a four masted schooner. He was a skilled seaman and had some money saved when he arrived. This area was owned by the Chief on the opposite large island, Taveuni.

The grandfather purchased the land rights in Viani Bay from the Chief. Over the years it has been a Copra plantation and sugar plantation. It is still a functioning copra plantation. They harvest the coconuts once a month, husk and dry them. Then they are sold for somewhere between $200 and $600 a ton. Jack and his family, including 11 grandkids, still live on the original property.


This is some of the healthiest coral we’ve seen in a long while. Not a ton of fish, but a great display of coral colors.


This gives you a feel for the scale of the reef. That’s a miniature model of Chris using her GoPro.


Not many shells, but always worth taking a look


Even though it wasn’t that bright a day, the clear water gave us great color contrasts.



After diving we motored into Viani Bay and picked up one of Jack’s moorings (16*44.998, 179*53.265). It cost us a can of salmon. We are moving more slowly than we had planned working our way toward the Lau Group. They are about 150 miles to windward, making getting there a planning exercise. Hopefully we’ll be able to get out to the Lau when the winds lay down a bit, and see some of the more remote islands of Fiji.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Queer As A Seven Dollar Bill


I pulled this bill out of my pocket the other day to pay for some eggs in the market. I thought it was a 10 dollar bill. The guy handed it back to show me it was a 7 dollar bill ?????? Turns out that rugby is the sport of Fiji and this bill was minted to celebrate recent great victories. Why 7? Because they actually play Rugby Sevens here, which is:

A variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of seven players playing seven minute halves, instead of the usual 15 players playing 40 minute halves


We left Vuda Marina anchorage about a week ago to head up to the main north island of Fiji, Vanua Levu. It was a motoring slog into the wind almost the whole way. We stopped at Yadua Island (pronounced yan-dua). We were told it was a good spot to hunt Nautilus shells. This is a view from hill top looking down on the bay. That’s Georgia, Frandavig and Time Bandit left to right. You can see the large reefs to be threaded on either side of the bays entrance.


Chris needed to do some work, so I headed off with the other boaties to hike to the village to pay our sevusevu respects (more on this in a later blog). It really wasn’t much of a trail and we ended up bushwhacking over the islands hills for near 5 hours. We never actually found the town.


We did some serious high wind beach combing. Here I am bringing my pearl float haul back with me. We use these to float the anchor chain when there are bommies (coral heads) trying to grab it (at least when we remember to).


And here’s Chris pointing at a beautiful but disappointing  beach that gave up no good shells. You really can’t see it here, but the trade winds really blow onshore here, bringing with it lots of flotsam.


We did get in one snorkel when we convinced ourselves that the wind had laid a down a bit – it hadn’t. This is a 10 inch wide oyster of some sort.


This caught Chris’ eye as we swam over it. It looks like some white coral, but it is actually a pulsating bloom of some kind, each little flower is continuously opening and closing. A video would be a lot more interesting.


We spent 3 days sitting out howling winds in Yadua. Then headed out to continue the slog. We anchored behind this ferry in the open roadstead anchorage in Nabouvalu. We thought it was going to be a rough and rolly night as we headed in, but the moored ferry made for a nice wind and sea break and we had a very comfortable night.


We finally made it to Savusavu. This is Georgia on one of the Copra Shed Marina moorings in the quiet of the narrow protected creek that runs in front of the town.


The entire South Pacific is actively volcanic. The steam you see along the waters edge is from a vent.


Not trying to get political (even though I did read about the Charlottesville alt-right convention), but I saw this picture of the White House (what a dump) remodel they are doing while the Trumpsters are on vacation and thought it was interesting. Hope they don’t forget the gold-plated toilets.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fiji Visitors


It was sure fun to have bro and sister-in-law come for a 10 day visit. Weather was decent while they were here, although too windy pretty often. We got in some good beach walks and some decent snorkeling. Shelling hasn’t been that great here in Fiji – so far. But we did find this large Nautilus shell. The winch behind it is the largest winch on the boat.


Undersea scape near Musket Cove


Anemone Fish guarding his turf


Moorish Idle


A crinoid, which is actually a starfish— looks like underwater ferns


The island that Musket Cove is on has a long dirt airstrip with one or two planes landing  each day. It also doubles as a place to haul out the high speed ferry to do a quick bottom job. Seems a little close to touch down zone to me – but no need to reschedule any flights.


One morning we motored out about 3 miles to the Cloud 9 restaurant. This is a raft anchored just inside the outer reef. If you look closely you can see the waves breaking on the outer reef in the distance, to the left and right of the restaurant. It was really windy that day, even though this pic makes it look calm. The purpose of this restaurant is simply for another place for tourists to go and have pizza.


The restaurant gets its name from the famous surf break Cloud Break which is actually a few miles to the east, part of the same outer reef system. Looks like Pipeline in Hawaii. (photo credit: Josha's photo of Tavarua, aka Cloudbreak)


Lots of fresh fruit available in the markets here. Here Chris is gutting and cleaning papaya for breakfast.


We took the four hour bus ride from Nadi (pronounced nan-di) to the capital Suva. We treated ourselves to a stay in the high end colonial hotel, the Grand Pacific.


The hotel was built by the Union Steamship Company and opened in 1914. All around the lobby are pictures of the past glory days of the British empire, including pics of visits by a very young Queen Elizabeth and her entourage.


This is what it looked like by the end of the 1990’s. You could say it had a little deferred maintenance. It’s a pretty remarkable rebuild and was re-opened in 2014.


The Grand Pacific Hotel is not the only Art Deco building in Suva. I used my trusty Smartphone and asked Mr. Google where the other Art Deco buildings were and it directed me to this McDonalds. Not exactly what I was thinking about, but it got us a nice stroll through downtown Suva.


We walked through the park gardens to the Feejee Museum. The museum is small, but definitely worth a few hours.


They have the remains of the Captain Bligh’s Bounty rudder. It was delivered from Pitcairn Island to Fiji. Bligh and his boys passed through “the friendly islands”, Fiji, without making landfall for fear that they would’ve become dinner.


Shark Rattles. You go out on the reef edge and use the rattles to attract sharks. Then beat them over the head and bring back for dinner.


I first thought this was an early barcode scheme. It’s actually tapa cloth, a traditional fabric made out of beaten bark and then hand-printed. Very intricate. The museum has a lot of nice pieces.


Suva Harbour is not much to look at. It has a lot of partially sunk ships and who knows what else on the bottom. Notice the grey skies. Suva is on the windward side of the island and gets a lot more clouds, rain and wind than the leeward side where we have the boat.


There is a lot of talk in Fiji about keeping the place environmentally clean and issues with Global Climate Change. They have a number of programs trying to improve the island in this respect. If you look at this early morning sunrise shot just off Port Denarau you can see a white cloud line that looks like low fog along the waterline. This is smoke and haze from the continuous, at least at this time of year, sugar cane field burning. I haven’t heard any talk about stopping the burning. This reminds me of traveling to central Florida as a kid. The burning removes the outer leaves before harvest.


After John and Lisa left to head home to South Carolina and Chris headed off for two weeks working in Kathmandu, I took the boat back to Musket Cove. I met up with old Bonaire friends, M & M on Cattiva. They had stored their boat in the inner bay at Musket Cove while they were back in Canada getting a grandkid fix. They asked if I would take my dinghy in to help them get off the dock, as it was beam on to the wind and really tight. After they departed the dock they needed to turn and line up to pass through this small, one lane draw bridge. The hydraulics for the right hand draw were broken, so the locals used a come-along to manually crank the draw open. It unfortunately could not be completely opened that way.


Here’s a close up. The draw on the right has two large tangs on the end that the left draw rests on when closed. The opening was a tight fit and the port shroud just near the spreader on Cattiva caught the bridge tang. It twisted her around pretty violently and unfortunately did some real damage to the mast baby-stay support where it goes through the deck. They are on their way to Vuda Marina to get repairs. We hope to see them out cruising soon.

Now you might have thought that I’m done commenting on the Shite-Show in the Washington. Not really, I just can’t keep up with the latest outrages quick enough to get anything written down. When we brought the boat up to Washington DC a few years ago we got a Capitol tour with some friends through the office of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the highlight being able to ride in the Senate Train (see DC post). If that’s not a reason to run for Congress I don’t know what is. While we were there, I had a brief conversation with one of the Senator’s staff asking about her position on the ACA. The response was reserved and rational sounding. I was surprised, given the rhetoric coming from the Repubs at the time. As the cartoon shows, Senator Murkowski (R) is still acting a like an adult.