Better and better

by Christine Kling

Every day I think to myself, nothing can top this. But the next day does. Fiji truly is a land of exceptional beauty.

This evening we are anchored out far from it all and off the grid again. I will have to post this blog with our Iridium-Go satellite communicator again, so sadly, I cannot include any photos. We are anchored in Mbavatu Harbor off the northeast coast of Vanua Balavu in the Lau group of islands. There is one other boat anchored in another arm of this big bay, but we cannot see him. We can only see the impressive sheer cliff of gray, black and reddish rock on our starboard side and the thick green jungle-clad hillside on our starboard. The deep water (anchored in about 75 feet) is an amazing sea green. The rocks around us are under-cut and the sound of the wavelets lapping at the underside of the rock is startlingly loud. Off in the jungle some sort of animal (a bird I think) is making a noise like a cross between a bark and a hoot.

We left Vurevure Bay in the Tasman Strait’s corner of Taveuni Tuesday night at midnight and we crossed the 60 miles to the Lau group overnight. The weather window called for NE winds, but in fact they were so light we motored almost all the way and at one point we saw 5 boats other than ourselves on the AIS. Everyone else decided to come across at the same time. We made it through the pass and proceeded down to the village of Dalconi where we had to take a bundle of kava to the chief in an Traditional ceremony called sevusevu. I wrote before that most of the land in Fiji belongs to the village clans. Each village oversees a certain area — that is called its vanua. You must go to the head man and ask for permission to visit any of the bays or lands that come under his authority. To not ask permission would be comparable to having some strangers pitch their tent in your backyard without permission. As Fiji transitions into more of a western nation, these traditions can seem silly to some, but I hope that people here will continue to observe them. There were at least 6 boats that had to do this when we arrived, and we were glad to be the first ashore. Already the chief, who did not speak English, seemed pretty bored as he said the words of the traditional thank you and welcome. I guess this island will see about 200 boats or more this season. But, that doesn’t change that we are in his backyard. The woman who was translating for us also told us that they were requesting a donation for the village. We had heard about this before — they had started several years ago asking for a $30 Fijian per person anchoring fee, and many yachts had grumbled loudly. They now make it voluntary which is much better all around, however, I think that these out of the way islands that mostly live off the land and the sea have every right to ask yachties to contribute to the village. If that money pays for better schools, sports equipment, medicine for the clinic, fishing equipment, etc. I am happy to pay that modest amount.

We spent our first several days at the Bay of Islands. It is another beautiful spot. Hopefully, when we next get Internet I can share some photos of all the cut-away limestone islands. Our first evening there we saw these large fruit bats go airborne right at dusk. The next day we had a great time in the inflatable kayak exploring through all the little islands and bays and we found a tree full of fruit bats hanging upside down. We had the dogs with us and they heard the noise of the bats flapping their wings, but they didn’t know to look up. That’s probably a good thing since they would have gone nuts if they’d seen them.

One of the challenging things about navigating here is that the Navionics charts we have on the Raymarine chart plotter and in the apps on the iPads have this island set about half a mile out of its charted position. Today we moved around to this bay using a combination of Google Earth and the captured Bing charts on the Navionics app that managed to update one of the iPads. Mostly, the best navigational tool is the old eyeballs, but with chop and cloud cover even that can fail.

The temperature here continues to amaze us. To us, it’s cold! We’re sleeping under a blanket and when showering on deck or jumping into the water there is lots of shreiking (on my part). Overnight lows have dipped below 70 and that’s just not what we expect in Fiji. Even the locals are commenting on how cold it is this year.

Tomorrow we plan to hike up to the top of the hill across the bay where there are supposed to be impressive views of all the lagoon surrounding this island and down into the Bay of Islands. It’s difficult to believe that anything could be as beautiful as what we’ve seen so far, but every day it just keeps on getting better.

Fair winds!

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About Christine Kling

I have spent more than thirty years living on and around boats and cruising the waters of the North and South Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean. I’ve written articles and stories for many boating publications including Sailing, Cruising World, Motor Boating & Sailing, and The Tiller and the Pen. When I was married, I helped my husband build a 55-foot custom sailing yacht. After launching her, we sailed through the Panama Canal to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we chartered for over two years. While in the islands, I received my 100-ton Auxiliary Sail Captains license. It was that sailing experience that led me to set my first nautical suspense novel, SURFACE TENSION (2002), on the waterfront in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Florida female tug and salvage captain, Seychelle Sullivan, the first book was followed by CROSS CURRENT (2004) and BITTER END (2005). The fourth book in the series, WRECKERS’ KEY was released in February 2007. At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, I took the motto of this blog to heart. I quit my day job as an English professor at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale (just when they offered me tenure, I said no thanks and took early retirement). I was living the dream of full-time cruising on board my 33-foot Caliber Talespinner on my very tiny pension and whatever I made from my books having parted ways with the big publishing establishment. I self-published two books on my own: a small collection of four short stories entitled SEA BITCH: Four Tales of Nautical Noir and my first stand-alone sailing thriller set in the Caribbean, CIRCLE OF BONES. In 2012 I was offered a publishing deal with Amazon's mystery/thriller imprint Thomas&Mercer and they reissued CIRCLE OF BONES. The sequel to that book, DRAGON'S TRIANGLE came out in June 2014. And as for me, I'm no longer a singlehander on my little boat. I met Wayne Hodgins in 2013 and after a whirlwind Skype courtship, I flew to meet him in Fiji and we sailed a nearly 2000 mile passage to the Marshall Islands for our "first date." We now sail together aboard LEARNATIVITY, a 52-foot motor sailor with our family including Barney, the Yorkshire Terror and Ruby, the Wonder Dog.
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2 Responses to Better and better

  1. Gail Isaacs says:

    Sounds like a fabulous spot, I can’t wait to see the photos!
    __/)__ Sail On

  2. Pam Angel says:

    Hi Chris, I can relate on working through the personalities
    … I also tend to be the worrier/planner while Dave goes with the flow and smiles as it all works out… Quite a day you had coming into the anchorage… I would have been white knuckled the entire way. I continue to live vicariously through your blog. Take care, regards to Wayne

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