Fiji- Southern Lau Group-A Chronicle of Adventures by anchorage
Fiji established Blue Lanes Initiative allowing yachts to explore the islands while following strict safety guidelines including quarantine upon arrival, covid tests, AIS tracking by the Fijian Navy and weekly itinerary updates. Once we received approval and were granted a cruising permit we were also issued a Blue Lanes approved burgee flag that is an assurance to locals that our vessel does not pose a threat.
Fiji is aggressively vaccinating its population in an effort to control the spread of Covid on the main island of Viti Levu. In our case we arrived and quarantined on Vanua Levu and sailed to the Lau Group; all the areas we have visited remain Covid free at present. (Mid-August ’21)
Llil -Steve’s crew from NZ to Fiji on Destiny is in Fiji to teach women empowerment skills so she has access to the people in the villages (we are to limit our exposure) and was able to take all the school supplies, glasses, linens and a childrens clothes that Cindi on Zensation and I collected and distribute to the villages on Taveuni.
Once out of Quarantine we only spent a few days at Savusavu- Copra Shed before we hit the road to the Yacht Friendly…
Paradise Resort- Taveuni Island
Paradise Resort is unusual because normally resorts prohibit us yachties from visiting their properties however Allen the owner of Paradise Resort has 8 complimentary moorings and has always allowed yachties to visit his resort. He said the guests are are simply fascinated by the “sail guests” and the dynamics of the guests interacting makes it unique. This turned out to be a win-win for the resort during the lockdown as no tourist have been allowed to fly into Fiji however, the Blue Lanes Initiative has allowed yachties to safely cruise the islands. Allen said the “sail guests” have allowed him to keep the resort open, maintaining a few staff to prepare the meals and maintain the grounds has benefitted the local economy and kept the jungle from overtaking the property.
Allen still maintains the dive boat and takes visitors to the spectacular local dive spots: Orgasm (Vuna Reef), The Great White Wall (Rainbow Reef) and The Zoo. They have bakery on site and provide fresh veggies and eggs…really what else could a yachtie ask for! Meat; and what do you know the local butcher closed down his business after his workers refused to get vaccinated so instead of enduring the government fines for unvaccinated workers he just sells fresh meat directly to Allen who sells us the fresh cuts of beef. The butcher tosses the fresh carcass on the beach with the pools of blood attracting a plethora of shark species…large shark fins can be seen swarming. Apparently when he was in business it was advised Not to swim on Tuesdays and Thursdays however now he is on his own I am a bit concerned that we don’t have his “slaughter day” schedule!
Llil and some of the local kids came for a visit onboard
We had a fun afternoon hanging out with the local kids which I was surprised to hear hadn’t ever been invited on a boat before.
FULAGA- Southern Lau
Weather was just right! Off to the Southern Lau Group- Fulaga– popularly known as “Vulaga“
The 24 hour sail from Paradise to Fulaga was uneventful. We arrived in the morning to eyeball navigate our way through the narrow pass and the coral reefs within the lagoon. Anchored safe and secure in this spectacular lagoon. The village chief requested that the yachts in the lagoon consolidate all of our cruising permits and kava on one boat to minimize social contact. S/V Brave was nominated and on our behalf took part in the significant and ancient sevusevu ceremony that is performed by the Chief for us visitors to seek acceptance into a Fijian village. However, due to Covid restrictions we were asked to limit our contact with the villagers and not go to the village.
We met a local from the village; Alfereti while he was out in his kayak and in the course of our conversation he invited us to visit his land where he showed us and a few other yachties an ancient burial site and his vegetable garden. We all cooled down with some refreshing coconut water.
Next stop in the Southern Lau Group- Ogea
Another beautiful reef protected island and this time the local village was welcoming to our visit onshore. We left early with a group to make the hike to the village. We met with the Chief- Matu Tabu i Tui Nayau to present our gift of kava for the traditional sevusevu ceremony. At the Chief’s house we sat on a mat while he blessed our visit to his village and invited us to look at his beautifully carved bowls and traditional masks. The people of Ogea are known for their carefree and happy approach to life; this was evident in the village we visited. We were invited to sit with a local family and drink coconut after coconut of naturally hydrating goodness after a long hot walk. We learned a lot about their village and the challenges they have had to deal with. Mostly life sustained on food they grow and fish they catch remains unchanged.
Vanua Balavu- Little Bay with Big Adventures
Our first stop at Vanua Balavu was the main “town” of Lomaloma. The Chief, Nurse and a Policeman came out on a longboat to greet us and requested our cruising permit and immunization records. In the most friendly way we were asked to please not visit the village and after we presented our gift of kava to the Chief we were permitted to cruise the many bays of the island.
Just a few hours around the corner we tucked into the cutest “Little Bay” ever!
Martin rescues local Fijian man in his sinking kayak
Early in the morning Martin hears a call for help from a local who is taking on water in his fishing kayak.
Tui was grateful for Martin’s help and invited us to come back at hightide for a visit to his farm. We grabbed the crew from S/V Brave and headed back up the river later in the morning. Tui lives on a sizable piece of property that he manages to farm and raise pigs. He uses his horse Daisy to help collect the massive amounts of coconuts he needs to feed the pigs everyday and calls the pigs from the fields using his conch shell. We really wanted to see all the pigs come running to his conch shell blows however, at 4:30 AM the tide was too low to make it back up the river. Tui and his doggie Devil were a jolly pair and he even had the kids take turns riding his horse Daisy.
In 2016 Tui lost his house in Tropical Cyclone Winston that ravaged Fiji and Tonga. This house was delivered as a pallet of materials via helicopter from the New Zealand Government and was built with the help of volunteers in less than 2 weeks. It is a strong yet simple house that Tui was very proud to show us.
Next Anchorages on Vanua Balavu- Plantation Bay
We waited out a few days of strong winds and bad weather tucked right up and in this secure bay with our mates on Brave. On the third day the organizer of the Bula Rally showed up to open the yacht club so we met a few other yachties as the boats started to arrive for the upcoming Lovo Feast. The lovo is basically a feast of chicken, fish, pork, sheep, taro, yams, cassava etc. that is wrapped in banana leaves and placed on hot stones underground; the bounty is then covered with more banana leaves & coconut stalks and left to cook for several hours. The food was copious and the company of sailors delightful.
Bay of Islands- Dangerously Beautiful
David joined our crew while he is working on getting a crewed position back to New Zealand to sort out his Lagoon Catamaran that he has not been able to visit in over 18 months. David had been helping a Kiwi single- handed captain Theo on his boat Heritage for the last few months. So when the 4:00 AM hail on the radio ” Calling all vessels * Calling all vessels* Sailing vessel Heritage* Do you copy ” David jumped on the VHF. Between spotty WIFI and VHF communications we found out that Theo had been waiting off the pass entrance for the morning light when he lost his steering and ran his boat hard aground on a reef.
We went to Theo’s aid as soon as the sun was up and found him hard on the reef however in a better situation as he was somewhat protected by an outcrop of land. This bit of protection was his savings grace as the winds had picked up and the conditions turned blustery. David got in our dingy and went to Heritage as the approach was too dangerous for us on Shenemere. After a few hours of Heritage slamming hard onto the reef; with engines throttled forward and sails up… the tide came up just enough to propel Heritage in a few halty fits up and over the reef to safety.
Safely back at anchorage Theo came over to thank us for help rendered (we really didn’t do anything but in our community moral support is valued) with a few cold beers, can of lamb mutton and cash for the diesel. His steering cable is broken and he will need to use the cumbersome emergency tiller to get to a port that has parts. There is damage to his rudder but the full keel and hull seem to be OK. He will head to SavuSavu to fix the steering then onto Denarau to haul the boat out.
Here is some footage of this classic ketch- S/V Heritage in the Bay of Islands
Priceless surf anchorage- Taveuni off of Qamea Islands
We rounded the corner from Maqai and Martin was pumped…the surf was up and S/V Manuavi was anchored just off the reef so we knew the surfing was on. We anchored next to them and shot over to get the surf report. Happy to hear that Adam, Rachel, Josh, Iwana and Leah all were wiped out after two solid days of great surfing; sadly for Martin the wind was picking up and conditions were deteriorating.
He did get this amazing drone footage of our anchorage for the night just off the reef. It was pretty special going to sleep with the roar of the waves and the gentle roll of the swell.
We are officially Grandparents and we are over the moon!
Sarah and Justin welcomed into the world River Hendrix Koning
August 5th 2021 * 8lbs 10oz Healthy Baby Boy