Monday, July 1 was departure day from Savusavu. That morning we had another provisioning session, stocking up on food and other necessities as we would not be near stores for the foreseeable future. We were heading out to explore some of the Northern outlying areas. If weather permitted we would also head to the Northern Lau group. Early afternoon once Maia was shipshape, (everything put away and stowed for sea), we motored to a nearby anchorage in front of Jean-Michael Cousteau resort. It was wonderful to jump in the water and swim! The water was cool and refreshing. We also had fun rowing around in the dingy, during a beautiful Sunset. We were eager to explore Fiji!
Our first cruising destination was Viani Bay, east of Savusavu, still on the Island of Vanua Levu. It is a beautiful big bay on the Somosomo strait, which is known for its amazing Scuba Diving areas, the Rainbow Reef, (with the White Wall and the Cabbage Patch). We were excited to meet up with Starlet, Harlequin, and Peregrine, and have friends to play with. Starlet graciously took us out a couple days to the Reef and while they dove, others of us snorkeled. We would take a dingy out from the mother ship Starlet and snorkel in amazing spots where the coral is alive and vivid, with a diversity of fish. We had several awesome days out.
One night at Viani Bay resort, we had a wonderful dinner prepared by the resort, another night we had a super fun July 4th celebration, a potluck with good ol’ American food, potato salads, coleslaws, potato chips, BBQ chicken, sausages, cake prepared by the resort and flares lit for fireworks!!! Several mornings we had Yoga on the beach, led by Tessa, another cruiser. It was wonderful.
One afternoon we helped replant the reef. The reef inside the bay had been damaged by Cyclone Winston, Jone and others from Viani Bay resort regularly come out to re-plant the broken stag coral. It’s a simple process of finding the downed coral and re-cementing it to a coral base. After planting, Jone took us on a tour of the reef, and on the outer edge we found some beautiful coral with a wide array of fish. On the following Sunday, Dick and I snorkeled the reef and enjoyed a beautiful calm afternoon. He paddled over on the standup board and I motored over in the dingy. After our enjoyable snorkel, it was super calm, so I rowed the dingy back to the anchorage. It was super fun getting back behind the oars. (Great training, for my sometime in the future, Grand Canyon river rafting trip :-).
After a week in Viani, we motor sailed to Catherine Bay on the island of Rabi. As there were several reefs we needed to pass through, as well as Islands to navigate around, it seemed the prudent thing to do 😊. Part of the pull to Catherine anchorage was swimming with the Manta Ray’s and we caught up with Harlequin there. The Manta’s are known to be feeding in the pass, while the tide is flowing. Harlequin took us out and anchored on the outside of the pass and then we motored the dingy to the top of the reef, over the side 3 of us went, while Henk manned the dingy. We quickly floated with the current and soon spotted a Manta Ray. Now it was game on! We all climbed back into the dingy and motored back up to the top of the pass, against the current. While in the dingy we began seeing the Manta’s wings coming out of the water. We would watch where the Manta’s were and then jump into the water and try to swim with them. It was quite the adventure and we were able to get a few pictures. Henk experienced a close-up as we dropped him right in front of one of these beautiful creatures.
Lisa and I also walked on shore one morning and enjoyed seeing the village of Buakonikai. There is a large Methodist Church, that is a grand and beautiful landmark from out on the water. However, up close it is somewhat tired looking, but it was busy that morning with a women’s fellowship meeting. As we wandered through the village, we met a couple of locals, one lovely man gifted us bananas.
We were told Albert Cove, on Rabi was a beautiful anchorage and we found it so! The water was a gorgeous tropical green and it was backed by a large crescent sand beach. Our first evening we were invited for dinner aboard Starlet, with Harlequin and Midnight Sun. (Our first time meeting John and Wendy.) Dick scuba’d one day with Mark from Starlet and enjoyed swimming deep around the large coral bommies. While down there he noticed that the fish did not dart away as they do when snorkeling. While he was “diving” I went snorkeling on the wall outside the reef. We enjoyed our time immensely at this picturesque tropical paradise, spending more time snorkeling, walking on the beach, socializing, while seeing many rainbows and watching beautiful sunsets.
Generally, each day, we are looking at weather. We have a “Predict Wind” subscription that we use with our satellite device, IridiumGo when not in cell range. The weather gribs provide all sorts of details, wind, rain, swell. We find it a necessity as we travel to know when to sail from one spot to another, or to pick out protected anchorages or know if a storm is on its way. While here in the Northern sector of Fiji, we were watching to see if we would get a “weather window” to sail / motor to the Northern Lau group of Islands which are Southeast of us. Here in Fiji, the Tradewinds generally blow from the Easterly quarter… East, Southeast…. So, we were hoping for either a lull in the winds or a westerly breeze to make the one-day journey “uphill”. To set up for this we will move south to either Taveuni or Qamea to shorten our sail to Vanua Balavu.
After 4 days at Albert Cove it appeared the winds would be easing, and we would have an opportunity to sail to the Lau. Harlequin, Starlet and Maia headed back to Catherine Bay. That afternoon we had a “muster” and decided on a plan of action. We were going to anchor on Qamea which would give us an easily navigable route away from the anchorage, for our 8-10 hour sail to Vanua Balavu. As we had been away from civilization for a while, the fresh food supply was dwindling, so a stop at a market was necessary. We also wanted to scout the route out of the anchorage, as we would have a pre-dawn early departure to arrive at Vanua Balavu, Daliconi Village during mid-day. That next morning Starlet and Harlequin would head to an anchorage on the Island of Taveuni, get a taxi to the town of Somosomo and do the provisioning. Maia would sail ahead and scout our passage for our 0400 departure. We all would meet up at the anchorage on Qamea in Naivivi Bay!
Our strategy worked and everything went according to plan. On Monday afternoon, once we were all snug in the anchorage, Lisa and I had a wonderful paddle through the Mangroves surrounding the little inlets, we heard birds singing, and enjoyed our up-close time in Nature. We discovered that the inlets led to small villages spread in and around Naivivi Bay.
The following morning, at 0400 Maia, Starlet and Harlequin were motoring out of Naivivi bay and were on our way to the Northern Lau Group!