Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Blue Lagoon

We are anchored in the famous Blue Lagoon in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji. This is where the 1949 remake of The Blue Lagoon with Jean Simmons (and some guy) was made as a racy remake of the 1921 version. And most important it was filmed in Technicolor.
The 1980 remake with Brooke Shields (and some guy) added a lot more skin, a lot less guessing and not much acting to the story.
Creature from the Black Lagoon
None of these movies should be confused with the real drama and acting that is offered up in the 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The water in the Lagoon just isn’t that blue right now. So I photo-shopped in the blue above just to make the tourist board feel comfortable.
Here’s Chris off on an early morning low-tide shell hunt. The winds are blowing hard up here, but we are close enough to shore that the coconut palms block the worst of it.
There’s enough shallow water and land around that the water is not crystal clear, but the snorkeling is still fun with lots of little fishies.
A curious little yellow box fish.
These anemone fish are very protective of their homestead and are more than happy to confront the camera.
A Giant Clam shell left open under water. It is about a foot square.
Underwater shell hunting. Chris has a dead cone shell here in her hand. You have to be careful with the cones as they have poisonous harpoons. We do practice catch-and-release for the live shells we find.
The other poisonous thing around here is this banded sea snake. Their poison is deadly, but their mouths are so small its really hard to get bitten. This one was swimming past the dinghy as we looked for places to snorkel.
There aren’t forests of good coral around here, but these blue-tipped corals are really impressive underwater.
I know it sounds bit kinky and maybe X-rated, but for entertainment Chris made me dress up as Brooke Shields.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fiji Is Just Not Friendly to Anchors

Fiji is one friendly place. The locals are constantly greeting you with a friendly Bula! and so far everyone has been really pleasant. Now I can’t say that about the Fijian underworld Gods who have not been friendly to our anchoring gear. I blogged about getting our anchor stuck in Lautoka and bending the anchor swivel when we first arrived. We are now out in the Yasawa Island group on the NW side of the lower main island. We came in late into the north anchorage (17* 10.33S 177* 11.19E) known as Mantaray. It is named for two reasons. Number one is little the Mantaray Resort located close by and secondly because there is some local Manta Rays that like to cruise the pass nearby. Unfortunately the Manta family is on holiday and hasn’t been seen for a while in the pass- maybe today.
When we arrived late at the anchorage there were 3 other boats already anchored. There is a small, narrow shelf that is 25ft to 45ft deep available to anchor on. When we came in, the winds were gusty, going from 6kts to 20kts as they came over the hill and the anchored boats were turning every which way, due to the changing winds and the tidal current flowing through the pass. Because of this, we didn’t feel comfy anchoring close into the other boats and ended up taking a spot in about 60 feet of water. The next morning the anchorage cleared out and we decided to move in to the shallower area.
No joy in getting the anchor up. The chain was solidly stuck in 72ft of water. After battling with the windlass and driving the boat in circles, we gave up and headed into the resort to find the dive shop. After the afternoon dive session, 3 guys came out to free the anchor (you can see the divers in the pic above). Two went down and worked underwater for about 30 minutes or so. Then they had to do a slow ascent to avoid decompression issues, as they had already done 4 dives that day.
When they came up they explained that the chain is stuck hard under a large coral boulder with no slot to get out and no way to slide it. They could not see anyway the chain could have gotten under the boulder. They plan to come back today and give some more Fijian effort.
Just so we don’t get bored in the meantime, the Fijian Biosecurity boat in the background here decided to stop by and board us. They run through the islands checking their fruit-fly traps. So they don’t get bored they board all the yachts they see to ensure that the check-in Biosecurity paperwork was done correctly and any declared pets are still with the boat. This is the second time in two week we’ve been boarded by officials who seem primarily interested making sure that all the paperwork from our check-in is correct.

News Flash!
The dive team came back this afternoon to give it another try. They took a bunch of empty jugs down and attached them so when filled with air from a separate tank they put lifting frce on the boulder. They worked at it under water for close to an hour. With all the air-filled jug force we could put on it plus some windlass tug and boat moment they freed the chain. Tough work – I’m glad it wasn’t me trying to do this with tanks at that depth. The crew looked tired when they left to head back home.
Its nice to be free. Plus we heard that the mantas are back in the cut.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fiji Off the Docks

We’ve finally had enough time in Fiji to get out of passage mode. The passage from New Zealand to Fiji wasn’t one of my favorites. The rhumb line distance(shortest distance between points) is about 1,040 nautical miles. The course we laid out to take took us further east so that we could be better prepared for any northerly winds as we approached Fiji. That distance was about 1,080nm. The actual distance we travelled through the water 1,204nm.
I think the reason I didn’t like the passage – besides the early rolly conditions – was a little burn out. Before a passage I always get pretty psyched to go. Watching the weather every day looking for good exit timing, checking conditions for boats that have already left, getting meals ready, getting the boat ready for offshore, figuring out customs exit and entrance issues… On this passage we waited over 3 weeks trying to get a decent weather window to leave. Just too long for me.
Here’s the damage from getting our anchor stuck in the underwater junk in the port of Laukota where we first landed and attempted to clear in. The tabs on the right hand side where the swivel connects to the are anchor clearly bent.
The view entering the port of Lautoka. It reminds me of a Mosquito Coast Central American portscape. (click to biggerate)
Once we got into Vuda (pronounced Bunda) Point Marina and had cleared into Fiji (at least partially), I found one of the local metal workers who had a side-grinder with a cut-off wheel to cut the distorted, brand new, stainless steel swivel off the anchor. This exercise reminded me of the definition of racing sailboats: standing in a cold shower while burning hundred dollar bills.
Vuda Point is an oddball marina. It uses Med-moor style mooring, but you go into the slip bow-in. This way you won’t hit your rudder on the sloping quay wall. The little wood platform you see in this picture is where you clamber over the bow pulpit and leap each time you want to leave the boat. Leaving at low-tide requires a different set of skills than the high-tide exoduses.
The other strange thing about Vuda Marina is they store boats in holes. They dig large holes in the ground to drop boat’s keel into. Then set the boats on old tires. This is for storage during the cyclone season.
Getting on land requires stopping for lunch at a local’s stop. This one was highly recommended by our cab driver. Here’s Chris and crewmate Bill enjoying curry and large helpings of some kind of Indian-style rice.
We finally broke free of the hot and cockroach infested marina and headed out to the Mamanuca Islands about 12 miles offshore. We have a duck mascot who has lived on our transmission since we rescued him in the Ha’pai group in Tonga a few years ago. He apparently had had enough and decided to make a break for it. Using his plastic beak he chewed threw the leash we had him on and sailed away. I jumped in the dinghy and did a forced return to his perch.
Getting out to the islands meant we could get back into the 85*F water.
Some nice coral scapes
Along with a fair share of little fishes
This is a tiny, pencil thin, pipe fish of some variety.
Little blue fish
Many of you grew up with your parents telling you stories, in a effort to get you interested in nature, of how coconuts floated across thousands of miles of open ocean, only to land on small deserted islands and generate new coconut groves on those islands. Similar to the myths parents tell their young children today about global warming. The coconut story has been definitively debunked. Here you can see this tug towing a large barge overflowing with full-sized coconut trees destined for the out islands. Kind of the modern Johnny-Appleseed of the South Pacific.
While still on the mainland we did a tour of the botanical gardens. I’ll finish off this blog with soft music playing and a display of orchid diversity.