Posted by: catamarantwooceans | September 29, 2010

With Gili in Fiji

The original plan was to go back to Fiji at the end of September, but at some point, my dear wife Gili complained that she did not have any vacation in 2010. “Why not come with me to Fiji?” I asked. “ I’d love to” was the reply. Excellent! I wish she would do it more often!

23.9.10 – Thursday – It’s a long way to Fiji when you start in Israel. Gili and I flew close to 15 hours from TLV to Lax, spent 12 hours in an airport hotel, another 10 hours and 10 minutes to Nadi international in Fiji. Landing at 0500 local time and jumping a day forward we still had a three hours taxi ride to Suva, so altogether a very tiring trip.Getting to the boat did not mean rest or relaxation. We plunged right into work, cleaning and preparing for the voyage ahead. Gili came for just 11 days, so we were determined to go as soon as possible. While Gili assumed control of the cleaning part, I faced the maintenance front. Two main jobs were: installing the regulators for the alternators and trying to fix the fridge.

A guy named Chris, who seemed to be sitting in the yacht- club eternally nursing a permanent Vodka cocktail,called a refrigeration expert for me. The man came and checked the machinery and came up with the diagnosis: the electric board and the compressor control unit have to be replaced. Can you get the parts here? No-o-o… O.K, we’ll go on using the freezer in double function – Fridgzer!

Chris also called an electrician for us. We waited in vain but the guy did not show up. The refrigeration man, Jimmie, said he knew a good electrician. Ragesh, came over, took the wiring diagrams and the regulator’s installation guide and promised to come back in the morning. Gili was having great progress in the cleanliness department, aided by Raki, a lady who works in the same field in the yacht club. When we asked her how much she wanted for the job, she said:”Usually I charge five dollars per hour” That’s Fijian dollar, about 2.5 U.S.

Raki (note the gleaming gold tooth!)

24.9.10 – Friday – Ragesh came to return the documents and said that he could do the job, but… He was apprehensive about a possible affect on the windlass control and anyway, will only be free in two or three days. Frankly I was happy about that. Somehow he did not inspire confidence in his ability. So,back to Chris again! I found him (0855am) sitting with two other fellows near the bar, a glass of clear liquid with a slice of lemon floating therein. The other guys were having the first beer of the day.Chris was quick to call a man he named “Happy” who had some connection to the elusive electrician and promised to deliver. 0910 am – A waitress brought Chris another glass. “So, what’s your poison?” I asked;”Vodka” the man says “Why don’t you have some” I said I did not drink that early. “It must be five pm somewhere” said one of the guys. They showed me the local newspaper with a picture of the  three of them with a BIG swordfish. 157 kgs it weighed, one of them said . Wow!

Just a little later, while I was trying to attract the attention of Mr. Semiti, the customs man, to my need for a coastal clearance, the phone rang. (I acquired a local telephone for 20$ US). “The electrician is on the pontoon, he is looking for you”. Great!

Rizvi is a young man, with calm confidence and the appearance of somebody who knows what he is talking about.

Rizvi - electrical wizard

With his assistant he fixes the two new regulators. “Start the engine” he says. Euphoria changes to despair when the house voltmeter stays at 12.00 v. Rizvi goes back to the manual and in a short time the solution is found. The system works! Euphoria again! “How much do I owe you?” “One moment, I have to ask my father” he says. A short conversation ensues after which he tells me the cost will be 60 Fj$. (approximately 30 US). They worked for almost two full hours! His phone number is:3387361, mobile:9942616.

Semiti of customs told me he will be at his office at 2 pm. At 1355 I stand by his door. At 1403 a man comes out of the office next door:”You are waiting for Semiti? He will be here at two o’clock sharp” I point at the clock; He smiles and says:”In ten minutes it’ll be exactly 2 o’clock Fiji time!”

Federico, a yachtie from Italy, whom I met a month ago, came looking for the customs man too. “Did you get the FAB cruising permit?” he asks. I never knew I needed one! Right then came a smiling Semiti and confirmed I had to go to the FAB (Fijian Affairs Bureau) first. I took a taxi to that office and very quickly got the permit. Back at the customs office – and the door is locked. I knew that there was another customs office nearby, walked over and found Semiti, who took me to a third office, transferring me to the care of a couple of customs agents who issued the necessary clearance. You have to declare exactly to which locations you will sail, which is a pain. And what if I wanted to change plans on the way?

Left customs to go to Carpenter Shipping, Admiralty charts sellers. Each paper chart costs 50$ US so I gave it up. The electronic chart will suffice. I met Gili near the market and we went in for fruit and veg plus the all important Kava bundles for the Sevusevu ceremony you are supposed to participate in when visiting a village on the islands. You are supposed to seek out the village chief and present him with a half a kilo of the Kava roots, he then gives you permission to visit the village, swim and fish in its waters and sometimes you are invited to the Kava drinking ceremony.

Gili with Sevusevu Kava

25.9.10 – Saturday – We said goodbye to the RSYC and motored out, passing an impressive tall ship that just came in.

Picton Castle

Our destination is Mbengga island, circled by a reef with a few passes. It was good to be sailing again and with the wind on our beam at 10 – 13 knots on relatively flat sea we covered the 20 miles in three hours. We went through the pass and entered the deep Malumu bay, perfectly protected from the prevailing easterlies, anchoring on mud in 5.5 meters. We were the only yacht there.

At 1715 we took the dinghy to the village carrying a Kava bundle with us, and frankly feeling a bit foolish. The feeling changed as we stepped ashore. A group of children greeted us and then two young men came over. “Can you take us to the village chief?” They were happy to take us, but first Gili had to wrap a cloth around her middle; It seems that long trousers were not decent enough. On the way we were told that the village was celebrating the 70th birthday of the chief’s sister, 70 being considered a very old age. I should have told them about my 96 years old mother…

As we approached the meeting house we saw that inside the Kava ceremony was already in progress. Our Kava bundle was accepted and we entered, shedding our shoes. and sat cross-legged in the circle of men, Gili being the only woman. The village women and children sat on the side of the room. In the middle a big polished wooden vessel containing the Kava drink was served by a man who continuously dispensed the drink in coconut bowls, replenished the drink by putting dry Kava powder in a cloth and immersing it in the brown liquid.

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Kava man

Behind the circle sat a guy with mortar and pestle preparing a new batch.

Mortar and Pestle man

There was chanting and hand clapping each time the drink was delivered and drunk. I had two bowls of the sour, tongue and lips numbing brew. Gili had a small one, excusing herself by saying she did not feel so well. We were invited to stay for a meal but said we needed to go back to the boat before dark. Chief Ben invited us to come to church tomorrow at ten am; Gili deserves the experience.

Chief Ben

26.9.10 – Sunday – Jetlag is playing games with me. I woke up at 0430, mistook it to be 0530, especially with the strong light of the full moon, and rose up from bed to go fishing. The result – a bat fish, good for two meals for us.

Batfish

In Fiji you go to church on Sunday, unless you are a Seventh Day Adventist and go on the Sabbath. Most of the village people showed up, bringing the children, even the babies, along, all dressed for the occasion.
                                      

Church boy

There was, of course, the beautiful singing. We were given a bible (in English) and a hymn book (in Fijian) so we could follow closely the proceedings. Take a look at hymn number 134. You can see the name of the reverend who wrote it, probably in the 19th century.

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hymn 134

We excused ourselves at 1115 and rushed to “Two Oceans”.   We had a little over 20 miles to go to our next destination, Somosomo bay, and wanted to get there in good light. We shouldn’t have worried because the wind cooperated and blew 22-25 knots. Sailing wing and wing with the jib poled out we were making good progress. When Gili saw the bay on the chart and compared it with Vunanio bay, 3 miles closer she asked to go there. Entering between two large reefs we noticed that the bay was very large, protected from the waves by the reef, but not from the strong wind; Not a nice place. Did a 180 with both engines running plus a reefed jib and hurried to Somosomo.

Getting close I could see a small ship anchored in the bay and realized that I actually saw this bay from the road when I travelled from and to Suva. The entrance to it is very narrow, waves break on the reef , the water surging up and being sucked back menacingly on both sides. I kept right in the middle and glided in, keeping to the starboard of some makeshift markers, probably put there by fishermen, showing the location of dangerous spots. We squeezed in between a reef on port and a shallow sand bank on starboard and anchored in 8 meters.

27.9.10 – Monday – With about 35 mile ahead of us to Likuri I wanted to go out early. Downloaded the forecast which promised 12 knots of wind from the east. We had to wait a little bit for the rain to stop and at 0745 started out. Inside the bay the wind was less than 10 knots and I was already dreading the anticipated need of using an engine for the ride.

Out of the pass the wind strengthened. When we were about to raise the mainsail it was 18 knots. I had a feeling it will go higher and hauled it to the first reef-point. Those who made up the forecast forgot to send a copy to Aeolos, the wind god and most of the leg was sailed in 25 knots true. Approaching the southwestern corner of Viti Levu the seas grew bigger and the wind stronger. We started surfing down waves in a way that prompted the second and then third reef and still recorded speeds of up to 13 knots on the GPS and wind speed of 35 knots. A very wild and stressful ride!

Reaching the Likuri pass was a relief, flat water and a little less wind. We sheltered behind a small island called Robinson Crusoe island, with a backpackers resort sharing the same name. I decided to drop two anchors in tandem and did it in 3 meters depth on a sandy bottom, good holding.

Robinson Crusoe island

On shore in Likuri

     28.9.10 – Tuesday – We are on our way to Musket Cove on Malolo Lai Lai island in the Mamanucas group, which according to several blogs and other sources on the web is a sort of Mecca for yachties. Musket Cove resort has a so called yacht club to which you can join as a member for a few dollars (1$ for the captain and 5$ for the crew). They have inexpensive moorings, a good anchorage, restaurants and a store.

We sailed from Likuri in light wind, at times having to run one engine to keep Gili’s minimum speed of 4 knots. We caught a fish that looked like a barracuda and managed to escape 15 meters from our stern. The island group is surrounded by a barrier reef, forming a huge lagoon, into which we entered through the Navula pass. When you approach Musket Cove from the south, as we did, the mooring area is hidden behind the island. We were not prepared for the great number of yachts in the mooring field, there were more than 20 of them! A sharp contrast to the three other bays we visited in Fiji

.We took a mooring ball and then went ashore for the obligatory yacht club registration. We walked around the resort and quickly resolved to spend only one night here. Not the style we like!

29.9.10 – Wednesday – Off to Vuda Point marina on “mainland” Viti Levu, where we will be able to do the needed custom clearance, fill up some water and do a little shopping. We are also looking forward to meet a sailing friend we never met yet. Daniel Wachtel is an Israeli who lived in Australia for the last 30 years or so. He is sailing a 64 foot monohull and has met my friends Yoshi and Zulu in Cartagena, Columbia. Vuda marina did not answer our calls on the VHF, so we just came in and tied to the fueling dock. Only then came the local “marineros” and guided us into one of the last remaining berths in this popular and crowded marina. “Regina”, Daniel’s yacht, was moored right by the entrance and it did not take long for the man to come.  We sat and had Israeli black coffee getting to know each other.

Daniel Wachtel

Daniel has rented a car and we all drove over to Lautoka, first to customs and then for the Fijian Affairs Board, where Daniel had to get his cruising permit. A comedy of errors took place with people trying to help and sending us on a wild goose chase all over. We finally found it and Daniel got his piece of paper. some shopping and back to the boat. We are going to an Indian restaurant tonight.

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