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2023
29
Jan

Project weekend

After a week in bustling Suva we headed out for an anchorage just round the corner, out on the reef in clear water, to get away from it all and relax a bit. Or so we thought. We only had two tasks on the to-do list: changing the gear oil on the outboard and sewing a new hatch cover to replace a torn one.
But then the fridge suddenly acted strangely–orange alert!! Fortunately it turned out to be only a cable issue, but that still meant half a day of pulling cables through the bilge–tons of fun in steaming 33°C. Today we tackled the outboard issue (after putting up a shade over the aft deck) and of course things turned more complicated than expected and we ended up working from early morning until 3 in the afternoon in the sizzling sun while apocalyptic clouds were building up over the shore. We finished just in time before the downpour!
The hatch cover has to wait for another day…

2023
22
Jan

Work routine

We love exploring, but sometimes it’s good to just settle down in a comfy place and go into work-mode. We were in Vanua Balavu for three weeks and fell into our usual work routine–easy without distractions as there are no other cruisers here and the next village is miles away. Christian was working on an experimental set-up to make the Pitufino work with the old Seatalk system, so he was blocking the whole salon table with his electronics board, lots of boxes with tiny parts, a soldering station and a magnifying glass (that looks a bit like Pixar’s animated lamp “luxo jr.”), so I alternated between the sofa and the aft cabin with my laptop while writing articles and new chapters for the sequel of “Sailing Towards the Horizon”.
Today we have set out again to sail to Suva for some shopping and to renew our visa!

2023
22
Jan

Barking?

We couldn’t believe our ears when we heard barking ashore. Not a sound like a little yuppy dog would make, but a huge specimen, like a Saint Bernard dog… The next village is miles away, the islands are nearly impossible to climb with their overhanging shores and horribly spiky – had some lunatic abandoned his dog here? Then we heard more barking from the neighbouring island and yet another one?!
Glad that we didn’t have to venture out on a mission to save a dog, we opened our wikipedia and soon found an extremely unlikely source of the strange sound: a pigeon!
“The barking imperial pigeon (Ducula latrans), also known as Peale’s imperial pigeon, is a species of bird in the pigeon family Columbidae. It is endemic to Fiji, where it occurs on most of the medium and large islands. Its natural habitats are mature tropical moist lowland forests and tropical moist montane forest.”

2023
17
Jan

Coral above and below the water

The strange landscape here in Qilqila on Vanua Balavu is a result of the volcanos here on the Pacific rim: former reefs and coralheads were raised by tectonic activity and are now forming sheer cliffs and a maze of tiny islands. Why the cliffs aren’t all the same height (like on other raised atolls) seems mysterious–maybe there were different tectonic events over time… The spiky coral structures are overgrown by an incredibly hardy vegetation–some trees cling to the bare, vertical rock! Over the centuries the waves have gnawed on the rocks and eroded them to a point where the shores have impressive overhangs, giving the “mushroom islands” their typical shape. In the meantime new coral has grown below, so now we see coral skeletons above and pretty reefs below the surface.

2023
14
Jan

Photos of Taveuni

Taveuni Island, Fiji

Fiji's third biggest island features rainforest and lots of waterfalls. The main sight ashore for nature lovers is the Bouma national, which is located on the east side of the island and therefore impossible to reach by boat in tradewind conditions. We got lucky and enjoyed a full week exploring this rugged shore-line in NW wind!

(29 photos)

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2023
13
Jan

MJO

The Madden-Julian Oscillation is a weather phenomenon that travels eastwards around the globe near the equator and recurs every 30 to 60 days. It brings enhanced weather activity with clouds, rainfall, winds and an increased risk of cyclones. At the moment we are experiencing an active MJO here in the South Pacific. Cyclone Hale has affected Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand and the grib files show two lows coming close to Fiji in the next few days, before the MJO travels on.
We are staying close to our “cyclone hole” here in Vanua Balavu in Qilaqila (Bay of Islands). We’ve already taken Pitufa for a trial run into the little, enclosed “hole” with a very narrow, tricky entrance. If a cyclone comes precariously close we’ll anchor her in the middle and bring out a spider-web of shore lines. Let’s hope the weather will stay calm! So far we’ve had a gorgeous summer here…

2023
10
Jan

Back in Vanua Balavu and happy!

The first times we visited Vanua Balavu’s Qilaqila Bay (Bay of Islands), we thought it was really pretty above water (mushroom islands) as well as below water (healthy reefs). Now we are back and after the slightly disappointing experiences with overfished reefs and rolly anchorages further north we REALLY appreciate the protected bay with and its biodiversity. Finally we are well rested again and can hang out with a large variety of big, relaxed fishy friends! Additionally we have internet on the boat, small shops in the main village and some locally grown veg and fruit :-)
The calm anchorage was also a bonus when we had to change the brushes of the watermaker today. Working in the confined space of the bilge and fiddling with tiny parts is tricky enough without Pitufa pitching and rolling…

2023
06
Jan

Waterfall coast

Tour operators take tourists to the waterfalls in Bouma and Lavena, but sailing down the southeastern coast of Taveuni we discovered that about a dozen more gush down from the mountains. Some we could see up the slope partly hidden in the forest, others gush from cliffs right down to the shore!

2023
01
Jan

Vurevure

The best anchorage on the eastern side of Taveuni is certainly Vurevure Bay. It would be no good in winds from the E or SE, but now in NW conditions it’s calm and additionally we are protected from the southerly swell that is usually running and the chop that gets bent around the island. Dinghy landing is possible at the creek at the end of the bay even at low tide (even though it involves some dragging over sand banks then, no prob at high water) and the pretty village of Vurevure lies just behind the beach (even though it’s hidden by trees).
We were out of kava, so we went to the village and apologised that we’d first have to get some in town–only to be told that they grow it here and we could very conveniently buy it for a good price (part of our bundle remained of course with the chief as our present ;-)
We didn’t get an official host family like in the Lau group, but Kali, the headman has become our host anyway, we got fruit and veg and were invited for a delicious fruit cake and got some delicacies prepared in the lovo (thanks!). Sana, the chief’s son, is eager to bring some tourists to the village and would love to organise tours and other activities here (lunch, cake, fruit, etc.). Everybody visits the waterfalls in Lavena and Bouma, but today Sana took us to a little gem just an hour’s walk behind the village: the Savu-ra fall tumbles down just as prettily as its more famous colleagues and the pond is easier to access, colder and clearer than the one at Bouma! Call Sana +679 2551331 (vodafone and whatsapp) for details!

2022
31
Dec

Taveuni

The Ringgold Islands were a big disappointment: rolly anchorages, overfished empty reefs and the unfriendliest locals we’ve met so far in Fiji. .. Then we stopped for a few days at the private island Matangi (good hiking and snorkeling and wonderfully friendly folks–thanks a lot for all the hospitality!) and now we’re in Taveuni.

The third-largest island of Fiji gets lots of rainfall, so it wasn’t ideal for sugar-cane plantations and luckily escaped deforestation. It’s called the garden island and it’s beautiful indeed.
We got lucky with the weather: in trade wind conditions it would be impossible to anchor on the east coast, but thanks to a prolongued phase of northwesterly winds we have the chance to hang out here in the pretty bay of Vurevure: the Bouma national park covers 80 percent of Taveuni and there are many hiking trails into the beautiful forest that lead to stunning waterfalls! Yesterday we did trail up to the three waterfalls of Bouma (32,- FJD per person) which is popular with tourists, but also with locals–in the morning we had the deep pond at the highest of the three falls all to ourselves, by the time we walked back the park had started filling up with families who had come for a picnic–a great way to celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one!

2022
30
Dec

In unison into the new year!

We wish you all a wonderful year 2023 with lots of health, fun, energy and adventures–and of course fair winds and following seas! Keep sailing and paddling along with us on our blog :-)

2022
26
Dec

Photos of an island paradise

Many islands here are private, some were sold cheaply 200 or 100 years ago to be exploited as plantations (the islanders displaced or used as cheap labour), others were sold recently to be holiday homes or resorts for the super-rich. Dietrich Mateschitz owned one, another one belongs to Mel Gibson… We anchored close to a bird island that was bought by an Australian in 2004 to be turned into an exclusive resort, but the project never was finished and the birds were left alone for another decade. The anchorages are open and rolly, but we still spent a few days there watching birds and turtles (now is the season when the females come ashore to lay their eggs).

Wailangilala

We were happy to find one of the few remaining bird islands in the South Pacific with large colonies of boobies, noddies and terns--only to discover that it's for sale, hopefully the new owner won't ruin it... Just 3 Million USD ;-)

(32 photos)

2022
22
Dec

Ringgold Islands

We wanted to explore more tiny islands north of Wailangilala, but northeasterly swell made that seem impossible, so we changed plans and headed westwards to the Ringgold Islands instead to have protected anchorages–or so we thought.
6 emerald islands inside a barrier reef, only one tiny village–on the sat images the place looks perfect. In reality the swell makes it unhindered into the lagoon–in fact it seems that the little effect the reef has is to break it up and make it more confused and annoying. Depending on which side of an island we are we see waves from the NE (wind direction, logical), SW (long swell), but also from the NW and the S–it’s crazy.

Yesterday we first went to the village for the official sevu-sevu welcome ritual (present included) and then went out to see the pretty anchorages around the archipelago and do some snorkeling. The distances between the islands are tiny, but each hop means preparing like for an ocean passage with the boat pitching and rolling. We tried several spots, but most were way too rough to anchor. In the end we had a snorkel-stop on the neighbouring island, slept at the S side of Yanuca (the main island) and now we’re opposite the village again.

At each anchorage we bring out a sling to a rock to align the boat with the swell–a variation of the stern anchor ritual we used to do in the rolly Marquesas of French Poly. Now we have a stainless steel wire living on the stern, attached to our roll of 50 m floating line. We park the boat close to shore, Christian hops into the water, chooses a rock in the shallows, gets the sling in place while I manoeuvre Pitufa’s stern towards that rock. Sling set, we attach the line to the stern cleat–voilá. What’s quickly explained is quite a tiring procedure and it sometimes takes a few attempts until we got the angle right. Today we found a nice corner, Pitufa’s bow points to the nearest cape and it looks like we’ll be able to sleep in bed in the aft cabin for the first time in a week or so :-)

2022
19
Dec

Bird Island for sale!

Wailangilala is home to a few hundred red-footed boobies, a few hundred noddies (most common in Fr Poly, but rare here), some white terns and–much to our suprise and delight–about 20 couples of brown boobies! Those ground-nesting birds have become a rare sight, even though according to our Wikipeda they are listed as “least concern”–makes you wonder when somebody bothered to count last… It’s wonderful to wake up a chorus of roaring boobies and chirping terns, we haven’t seen that many birds in a long time! We also found turtle tracks up the beach and the nests above the tide line.

The island is private, the previous owner only built 8 houses here, planned to have a resort, but never finished the building site and the island was left alone again (only a care-taker family lives here). On the weekend a real estate agent came by–the island is for sale and he wanted to see the property before listing it. A film crew will come soon to do a promotional video. He claimed that there are strict environmental stipulations about the use, but we are still very worried about this bird paradise. The island is a (comparative) bargain, we wished we could buy it for the birds…

2022
17
Dec

Wailangilala

Wailangilala is a strange atoll: not a single coral head inside the lagoon and hardly any on the oval-shaped barrier reef. We went snorkeling in the pass, but even there we found only rocks with isolated, sparse coral growth and only a few fishies (at least a couple of grey reef sharks came by to check us out). We are puzzled by the lack of life: if the reef got damaged by a cyclone, wouldn’t there be young growth everywhere? And shouldn’t the deeper coral be in a good shape? But if it’s man-made damage (from dynamite fishing or fishing with poison), how can it be so wide-spread? We have no explanation.

The reef doesn’t give much protection, so it’s bouncy at low tide and rock and roll at high tide. We arrived with a light SE wind that was supposed to die down, but has shifted to the SW instead. There’s only one little island on the NE side of the lagoon and the anchorage in front of it doesn’t give any protection from the SW. We anchored there and it was unbearable, so we took the dinghy with the portable depth sounder around the cape to see whether there was a possibility to anchor Pitufa there. We found a deep, but incredibly narrow channel between rocks, but no open space big enough to anchor with swinging room. We ended up taking Pitufa through this precarious channel (breaking surf on the beach on one side, shallow rocks on the other) and anchored with a stern line to a bommie. It’s a bit better here, but we still spent the night in passage-mode (one of us sleeping in on the salon couch, the other one on the passage mattress on the floor).

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