Viani Bay

Well, we’re here. And we caught two fish on the way up. Problem was they were both Mahi and a bit small so we let them go thinking what we really wanted was a nice big TUNA. Alas, no joy on the tuna.


We're here in Viani.







We're anchored off a little island that has one family living on it.








But, we’re tucked into a gorgeous spot in the NE corner of the bay, just next to a little island that provides some shelter from all but direct south wind. Right now, there’s absolutely zero wind. We could be on a mountain lake.

Last night we caught up with Rich and Jan on Slip Away (which was great) and also got to meet Andrew and Kerri on Mariposa, a Westsail 42. We had a pot luck and really enjoyed the evening. New friends and old. Great combo.


Mariposa (left) and Slip Away.








Today, we had a wonderful first full day in the bay thanks to Puddy Tat, a Brit/South Africa duo (David and Silvie) who were kind enough to offer their boat as “taxi” for the day. They contracted with Jack, the local fixture and character, to guide them to a couple of snorkeling spots on the barrier reef. Would we like to come? “You Betcha!”

Here comes Jack. He rowed about 1/2 mile from his house on the beach at the other end of the bay.








Meet Jack. What a character. I really enjoyed his stories. He'll talk all day if you let him. He's been guiding boats one way or another for 40 years.









The deal with Jack is you pay him $10 Fijian per person and make lunch, and he’ll guide all day. And as a bonus, we got to hear his stories of guiding boats in and around Fiji for the past 40 years. Definitely a character and a lot of fun.

We also had some tremendous snorkeling. The first spot we stopped at in the morning was the “White Wall”. This is an internationally known dive spot, but how would snorkeling be? Just OK is the answer. We battled a bit of a current and ended up snorkeling a couple hundred yards up current and then sliding back to the boat. The coral was just OK-the better experience is deeper-but there was a highlight. I got to see a shark pursuing an octopus. I didn’t see the final outcome, but it was a thrill to watch the chase.

Then we relocated to the Cabbage Patch”. I thought, “well, what a stupid name” until I dove it. Wow! That’s exactly what it was. I’ll try to get some pics up soon. It also had some of the most beautiful coral we’ve ever seen. Ann and I felt really fortunate to have had the opportunity to see this spot. Many thanks to David and Silvie for playing “taxi” and taking us all out to the reef.


Ann diving down to the Cabbage Patch coral formations.








Yup, looks like cabbage!








The coral here is just stunning!








We just can't get tired of these views.









So, we’re here for a while. In the plan is: diving (with tanks-there are several operators who will pick us up at Charisma), going ashore to meet some of the locals and do some hiking, and hopefully paddle boarding. There’s also some bad weather due in the islands this weekend, so we’ll likely hunker down in this nice bay until that blows over.

We’ll see what comes.

Bats In The Sunset

So we left Cousteau Resort around the corner from Savusavu and motored 20 some miles up the coast. We’re now in Fawn Harbor, which is not a “harbor”, it’s a bay and we’re the only boat here. We came in through the reef around 1430. Pretty straightforward other than a significant dogleg. We had good visibility though, so easy to see the shallow water/reef. Once inside we choose the western side to avoid the need to do sevusevu at the village to the east since we’re only stopping here for the night on our way to Viani Bay where we expect to spend a week or more.

The hook's down and the sun's setting...







Surrounded by mangroves but we were the only ones here.









This is a nice spot. It’s actually a hurricane hole-surrounded on all side by mangroves. And living in the trees above the mangroves are hundreds if not thousands of fruit bats. We had quite a show just befor sunset as they all rose from the trees and flew around. It’s pretty impressive since they have a wingspan of somewhere around three feet!

The only disappointment today was not catching fish. I was sure we’d get one. We had two lines out and were seeing baitfish jumping all over the place, but no joy. Maybe tomorrow.

We’re planning to leave early for Viani. Hopefully we’ll get there before noon and have time to play a bit before end of day. Also hoping to hookup with our friends on Slip Away, who we have heard are there until Monday.

Our goal for Viani: dive (it’s supposed to be one of the best dive sites in the world), paddle board, meet local people and hike. There are some worthy hikes to waterfalls on Taveuni Island, just a little ways across the Somosomo straight from the anchorage-or so we have heard.

Stay tuned. I think there’s Internet coverage at Viani too, so maybe we’ll be able to upload our pics as well.

P.S. a big shout out to our families who are at “The Beach” starting today. That’s Aptos in Santa Cruz, Ca. If we weren’t here, we would be there with them and we are thinking of them and all the fun they are having!

A Nice Day

Here’s Ann’s Facebook post for today (since we’re still in internets range), couldn’t have said it better, so here it is:

“Today’s itinerary went like this: coffee in the cockpit, dinghy over to snorkel area and snorkel (disappointingly cloudy), instead of snorkel let’s scrub barnacles off of Charisma’s hull (lookin’ good!), lunch, paddleboard to the reef on the other side of Cousteau and back to check out alternate snorkel spot, tie paddle board to buoy and enjoy simple beauty, back to Charisma to get snorkel gear and dinghy to return to great spot (so many fish they startled me when I rinsed my mask prior to getting in), back to Charisma, Bob naps, Ann takes three more paddleboard laps of anchorage, showers, delightful sunset display with a Charisma in hand. This is cruising!”

The dive boats moored off Cousteau Resort where we're anchored today.








Part of the resort from our anchorage.







Our view away from the resort.








OK, I should add that free diving on one of the bommies, I saw a Lionfish. First one I’ve seen in the wild. He was hiding under a coral overhang. Very graceful.

Left Savusavu today

Finished our reprovisioning, got an extension to our visa for Fiji (we’re now good for six months ending 12/1/13) and left. We’re now just six miles around the coast, anchored at Cousteau Resort. Yes, we have the same fantastic view that the folks paying $1000/ night are getting. We can even hear the live music at the resort.

We decided we would stay here because Kathy at Waitui Marina helped arrange for us to go with the Cousteau Dive boat to Namena Reef. We were going to sail the twenty miles there, but then we couldn’t dive, only snorkel, and everyone has been telling us it’s not a fun anchorage. Very rolly. So, the plan is to take the dive boat and then come back to this lovely spot. We may even stay here a couple days.

By the way–anyone coming to Savusavu by boat should stay on the Waitui Moorings. They are just so nice and helpful and Kathy is awesome! Call channel 16 as you get to the river. They will send a boat to show you to a mooring.

So, 6:30 AM tomorrow we dinghy 100 meters to the resort and get our gear. Cross fingers for great dive conditions out at the reef- which is a 20 mile ride out. Stay tuned for the report.

Rub A Dub Dub…

…three Aussies in a tub…

A dinghy actually. Three Aussies together are usually pretty funny.  Great sense of humor and timing.  But add the fact that these three just got in from Samoa, were tired, had been up all day clearing customs and hadn’t slept yet, and then went out for dinner with seemingly a few beers and you have real comedy.

Our new friends the next day.







Ann and I were walking back from an evening at the fair (more on that below) and we heard from out of the dark; “‘ello then? Remember us?”. Um, maybe? “We’re Doug, Ken and Bennie!”. Oh yeah, on the mooring just in front of us, they came in this morning. So we chatted a bit as we all headed down the rickety old wharf to our dinghies to go back to our boats. The three of them kept up a running commentary the whole way about how Bennie’s leg was just like their outboard-neither was working. Bennie had a bum knee and the outboard, well it was being an outboard, which meant it choose not to work whenever it wanted to. Like tonight! Just getting into their dinghy was a challenge. “Bennie, you sit over there-Ken you sit here, no there. I’ll just slide over, omp, here, oops, sorry mate…watch them oars!”

They then proceeded to try the engine a few more times before declaring it dead and deciding to row back to their boat. The slapstick continued off into the dark until we heard a thunk and a “That’s got it then, up ya go Bennie, watch the knee”.

We felt better knowing they had made it back safely and got in our dinghy for the short ride back to Charisma. These were really great guys. Wish we had more time to spend with them, but they are headed west and we’re headed “northish”.

The Fair. We had heard there was going to be music and a dance troup at the Fair tonight. There were neither. Maybe tomorrow night. But in the mean time we learned more about “The Fijian Way”. It’s a saying we hear from time to time when people here want to keep things simple. Two examples:

Dinner. There were some really delicious looking foods available for dinner from a number of booths. Most were BBQ type things and we eventually settled on a $5 Fijian dinner plate with noodles, BBQ beef, sausage, onions and taro root.
Mouth watering. As they packed it, seeing no implements, I asked for some chopsticks or forks, or maybe just some napkins? The people in the booth all looked nervously around. Clearly they had no such thing as implements to eat with. Finally one of the bolder men smiled and said: “You eat with your fingers! It’s the Fijian way!”

So we did. And it was delicious even if we did have to wipe our hands in the grass where we were sitting.

Fijian fair.







The food vendors.







Some of the ladies in one of the booths.







Our dinner being prepared.







Fijian Way part two-I needed to use the “facilities”, but assumed there wouldn’t be any and was getting ready to go down the street to a restaurant or something, when I spied a sign that said; “Men”. Ooh, I know what that means and it’s just what I’m looking for. So I walk over and as I get closer I noticed this “structure” looked decidedly temporary. It’s basically corrugated tin held with some sticks pounded into the ground. You walk over behind it and lo and behold, there is basically a rain gutter type thing made out of…tin! Well I know what to do with that. But the gutter suspiciously disappeared behind the wall on the downhill side of the structure (too flimsy to call it an outhouse). Now they had my full attention and I decided to investigate. I followed the open tin rain type gutter a dozen feet or so past the wall within which I had so recently found relief and to my (not so complete) surprise, it terminated at the bank of the creek! No swimming tomorrow!

I imagine if I had asked, someone would have answered; “It’s the Fijian Way”.

To be fair (no pun intended) this is a truly lovely country and I’m just poking some fun, but it is decidedly third world-and that’s really where a lot of the delight in being here comes from. The simplicity of life here is refreshing. We’re really enjoying the places, experiences and people.

Message In A Bottle: Found!

We received a most amazing email today as we got back into Savusavu and Internet access. It was from a man who was relaying the discovery of a bottle we threw over side as we crossed the equator last year (April, 2012). It was a whimsical conclusion to our equator crossing ceremony. As we finished our bottle of champagne to celebrate we decided to put our boat card with personal info about us, contact info and a little note. Little did we really think it would ever be found, much less that it would show up a year later, over 5000 miles from where we dropped it and within 150 miles of where we are right at this minute. Amazing and a little bit fantastic.

I’ll let the content of the email speak for itself:

“Hi Ann and Bob. My name is Vani and I live in San Rafael; California. I called home to my family in Fiji and they told me that they found your letter that you sent in a bottle when you crossed the equator last year on April 12th. Well they found your letter on our island in the the Fiji grp. on 9th July(a few days ago). Inside the letter were your names and other infos…my brother read the contents of your letter to me and asked me to inform you guys on their behalf as they dont have access to the internet on our outer lying island in the Fiji Group. The name of our island is Nairai Is…one of the smaller islands in the Lomaiviti Group.

(He then was able to quote the contents of the note which came from something my sister had sent us that we like.)

‘The difference between adventure and ordeal is attitude’… I love that and do admire your courage and sense of adventure.”

All we could do when we received this email was say WOW! You dream about launching a bottle and having it show up in some faraway exotic spot, but to have it actually happen is amazing. And to have it arrive at almost the same place at which we have now-a year later-arrived is breathtaking. Needless to say we’re following up and may possibly be able to visit this family. Turns out they are about 150 miles south of Savusavu which is our present location. It is also on the way toward Suva where we intend to go in the next month. So, stay tuned on this one. We hope to have some follow up on the folks who discovered our message in a bottle and hopefully actually meet them in their village-over 5000 miles from where we fancifully dropped it in the water.

This and That

I’ve attached a few miscellaneous photos below as we get ready to leave Savusavu.

There’s a weather window coming up that brings unusual North winds for a couple days.  We’re going to take advantage of it to head southeast to the farthest of the southern Lau Group.  The Lau is supposed to be a true paradise, but few visit because from here (where you have to check into the country) it is a 180 mile upwind slog against the trade winds.   Hopefully with this window, we can cover the miles going downwind and then when the trades fill back in use them to ride northwest through the Lau back towards Fiji.  If this goes as planned, we’ll be out at least a month.  Stay tuned.  We plan to leave tomorrow sometime.

In the meantime a few pictures.

Charisma (in the middle) on her mooring just off town

Ann's finished sewing the stays'l with a more permanent and proper color patch

We went for a hike. This is the suburb of Savusavu

Walking down the street, couldn't resist taking this little girl's picture.

Good thing I noticed this. The Monitor steering line was frayed almost all the way through. Hard to see because it was at the turning block that goes inside the tubing.

They have the darndest labels in the stores

Pictures Up

We’ve added pictures to the blog going back to 5/20/13 when we left NZ.  Don’t forget to clear your browser history/cache or you may not see the pages with the new pictures.

In the mean time, here are some other pictures that I like that don’t fit the “story” on the blog

Here's a view up river from when Ann went up the mast

View from the top of the mast

I even got in on the mast climbing "fun" to go up and check the spreader brackets. In a picture Ann took from there, it look like the welds were cracked. They weren't-just dirt.

I couldn't help but buy this beautiful Kava bowl. It's about two feet across. Don't know how we're going to get it home, but the carving was so pretty I couldn't help it

Speaking of Kava, here's the shop where it's ground for "mass" consumption. On the outer islands, they do it all by hand

Here's the machine that pounds it up. You're walking outside and you hear this amazing synchopated beat and you just have to investigate!

And of course this story wouldn't be complete without this picture of Ann drinking Kava at the Rugby game.

Yesterday we heard this beautiful singing. We looked outside and it was a baptism in the river

The Night Before

Leaving for Fiji that is. Looks like a decent weather window, so we’re leaving on Monday (tomorrow). Not a perfect one, we’ll probably see some squally weather in the first couple days, but it’s winter down here. If you wait for perfect weather, you could be here ’till Spring.

So, if we go fast the first 300 or so miles, we should be able to stay out on the far edge of the low that’s coming across the Tasman. Tomorrow looks to be the only window for at least another week. The low will slide over NZ on Tuesday give or take, and bring poor weather for a while.

So…Orcinius Lisa will come on board for the trip (yay!) at 0900 tomorrow, the customs guy should show up at 1000, then a quick trip to the duty free liquor for rum and we’re off before noon.

At least that’s the plan.

Charisma’s ready and looking forward to showing off her new sails!

We’ll miss New Zealand, but are looking forward to warm weather and white sand beaches. Heading back to summer!

Dried Peas?

This blog is inspired by our conversation as Bob prepared dinner last night. Since we are a few days off of actually heading out I have not done the final fresh food provisioning. This makes our meals out here in Marsden, a marina two hours by boat out of Whangarei and closer to the ocean to leave, a bit more of a challenge. No running to the store for one needed ingredient.

So as Bob prepared a lovely fettuccine with prawns we pondered what vegetable we wanted to enjoy with it. And you guessed it we came up with dried peas! If you had told me a year ago that I would be looking forward to dried peas for dinner I would have laughed. But seriously, have you tasted canned peas?

In New Zealand I found Surprise dried Peas! And Surprise dried Beans! Rehydrate them and they rival frozen veggies. Consider the size of our freezer (4″ x 12″ x 8″) and you can get a better appreciation for the dried peas! Remember-our tiny freezer is half full of ice cube trays!

The other surprise food of New Zealand is canned tuna fish. I love tuna fish and we could eat it everyday for lunch. The issue in New Zealand is which flavor do you want? PLAIN in water please! That can be difficult to find. They have it flavored with everything from mayo to lemon pepper to chili pepper to smoked/barbecued and packed in oil. Truly, there are at least ten varieties on the shelf. I just want plain tuna, thank you.

They do the same with chicken. Just plain Kirkland chicken in the large can please.

But we adjust…

From Bob: my only add for today is that I managed to stab myself in the nose with a screwdriver! I was tucked down in the lazarette pulling on a hose with said screwdriver in hand and my hand slipped. Note to self- don’t hold the screwdriver with the sharp part facing you unless you want to seriously compete in a Twit Race. Oh well, now I can tell people Ann punched me!

Later in the day, I managed to burn my finger working on a new hand line for fishing. Don’t ask. I think I’m getting bored waiting for our weather window.

It’s been raining all day. It’s raining now at 1800. The only good thing about that is I have a Charisma in hand. 😉