Where are we

Sunday 30 October 2022

Arthur’s Cove, Rabi Island, Paradise Resort and what we’re up too now.

Arthur’s Cove was a destination we’d heard very good reports about, so when a southerly wind arrived we took the opportunity to make the short sail north to Rabi Island.

This extract concerning Rabi Island is from the ‘ Fiji Compendium’, a cruising guide created and updated by various cruisers over the years. 

‘Rabi Island (pronounced Rambi) has four villages populated by Micronesians originally from Banaba, in Kiribati. Their homeland was ruined by phosphate mining and influx of settlers and more so during WWII when the Japanese invaded Banaba and massacred many villagers. Rabi was purchased for the Banabans by the British Government with Banabas own phosphate mining royalties. In 2000 the survivors were resettled here.’ 

You can find out much more about the Banabans at their website - Come Meet The Banabans.

‘The forgotten story of the Banabans is a very special tale. One which in today's society would cause a world outcry and would never have been allowed to happen. It's a lesson we should tell our future generations to ensure that these tragic events in history are never repeated. It's also a wonderful story of courage, determination and hope as the Banabans come back from the very brink of extinction.’

It is a shocking history that affects the Banabans to this day. 

We were able to use wifi for the whole of our passage up to Arthur’s Cove. Once we passed between the outer then inner reefs into the anchorage, the wifi disappeared completely.

A lot of time was spent getting our little underwater camera found and charged as the snorkelling in the bay was very good, we hid from the heat of the day on Burmese Breeze playing Mexican Train Dominos and I did a lot of cooking.  We were planning to stay more than two days when the weather forecast took a turn for the worse and we had to up anchor and move to the south of Riba for a well protected anchorage with good holding. It was a nice change to be anchored in 10 metres of water in nice sticky mud.

Alistair, one of crew on Burmese Breeze provided some photos as I hadn’t taken any. Sometimes you’re just doing and it’s easy to forget about photos all together.  We plan to visit Riba again when we visit Fiji again in 2023 and I will do better then. :)

The cove is quite large with small beach areas. Thick foliage gives you only hints of the buildings behind. We saw boats full of people going out to fish on the reef to whom we waved. We took their waving back as a encouraging sign though that was all the communication we had. The anchorage is quite far from the beach as much closer is rife with coral heads/rocks.

The beach where they go ashore.  

Larus anchored in 30 metres.

We left Rabi Island to shop and the  stop at a halfway point on our way to Suva.

Larus and Burmese Breeze anchored off Paradise Resort, a very nice stop between Riba and Suva.

The resort provides moorings for visiting yachts in the hope that they would use the restaurant. Tim, Colin, Thant Zin and Alistair went ashore to the bar to ‘pay’ by buying beer for the use of the mooring.  Witney weren’t the only ones taking photos of our boats at anchor. Many of the clientele at the bar did as well and they will be appearing in quite a few holiday snaps.

The water here was the most astonishing blue and very clear. 

Tim and I snorkelled a sloping wall just to the west of the resort. It was quite deep and as the wall disappeared into the depths, the colour got darker but the blue was even more intense.

We also swam through thermoclines, where warm surface water and cold water from the depths meet. I’ve felt them before but had never actually seen them. The water actually became blurry.  You felt that blinking should clear your vision, but nothing changed until you moved out of the thermocline. It was quite disconcerting. 

From a website called BoatSafe/thermocline - 
  • Swimming through it: While this might not be the most practical method to recognize one (since thermocline depths vary from water body to water body), there are instances where you can swim through a thermocline. I go back to the “jumping in a lake” example. If you feel the water suddenly becomes much colder than it just was, you have just hit the thermocline or swam through it.
  • Seeing one: You can actually see the thermocline in some waters. You will recognize it by the kind of light refraction that suddenly occurs. This is because there are two water bodies with differing densities in the same location. This creates some kind of light refraction, which in turn creates a visual distortion. Scuba divers have been known to describe this as a shimmering in the water, frosted glass, oil on the water, or something similar to the kind of hazy heatwave you see just above the road on a hot summer day.

So today, we are once again in Musket Cove and just beginning to look for weather windows for our passage to NZ.   On out way here, we stopped in at Vuda Marina to get the zipper replaced on the bimini.  It’s an important zip as it attaches the infill between the sprayhood to the bimini.  Without the infill there is the potential to get very wet from rain and rogue waves. The thought of sailing to NZ without out it was not very appealing.

It would have been nice if the sun damaged half of the zip had been on the infill, a single panel that unzips from both the sprayhood and the bimini, but it wasn’t.  It was the bimini side, which has the solar panels bolted on top of the bimini.

It looks very strange with the solar panels visible from below. It also doesn’t give much rain protection and anchored off Vuda Marina, on Diwali - the Celebration of Light - there was constant heavy rain all night. As a side note the plastic panels supporting the panels was Tim’s design.  The poles supporting the bimini are curved, which makes fitting flat, though slightly flexible, panels a challenge.  My contribution to providing support for the panels was to sew a long tube, into which we inserted swim noodles halves, cut length wise. The tube was was then attached to the middle support and secured with cable ties to the panels. 

To removed the bimini canvas you have to undo the fittings at the front, slide the canvas toward the back of the bimini, refasten the forward fittings, undo the aft fittings, slide the canvas out and redo the fittings. Without being attached to either the canvas or the solar panels the frames just collapse.  It’s a long a fiddly process, which you have to repeat to get the canvas back on.

The was a very good sail loft near the marina that did the repair, for $100 Fiji  while we were shopping in Lautoka.

On the local flora…

Mangos and pineapples are at the height of their seasons. Mangos are now sold ripe and go off in an instant. I froze some for smoothies (Tim is VERY fond of smoothies, particularly the ones they make ashore with ice cream, which is a bit of a cheat.) and made another batch of chutney.  The pineapples are now 4 for $5 and I’m looking for new ways to use them. They last longer than mangos but that’s still a lot of pineapple and the freezer is only so big. 

On the local fauna..

A small White Ribbon Eel of the conger eel family. 

Burmese Breeze has a light on the aft deck, which attracts little fish, which attracts various predators. This type of eel is sold for tropical aquarium. It really was very pretty.

Double Eep!

Colin and Thant Zin have been doing a lot of work on BB’s outboard. It’s been very badly behaved and yesterday they stripped it down, changed the spark plugs, etc, etc,finally gave up and climbed out of the dinghy. As they gave the engine on last look of disgust, they saw this black and white Banded Sea Krait right where they’d been working for the last couple of hours. 

The Sea Kraits preferred food is eels. I can’t help but wonder if it had slithered onto and into the dinghy to digest a small White Eel the previous night.

Even Thant Zin, who is far more used to things found in the sea than anyone I have met before, was rattled by the Krait, but was bold enough to scoop it out of the dinghy with a boat hook.

Thant Zin is an expert fisherman. Catching a fish has always been a piece of cake; getting it on board is a different thing all together. The trick, apparently, to landing a big Mahi Mahi like the one below is to grab the line and swing the fish up and onto the deck. This was caught and landed on the way to Paradise Bay.

They gutted the fish en route but saved the filleting for my arrival.  I am very out of practice. 

Thant Zin was surgically precise and hardly a scrap of flesh was left.

We had dinner with them that night. Sashimi to start, followed by very lightly pan-fried egg-battered Mahi with bok choy, blanched then sautéed with thirty cloves of garlic and oyster sauce. Yum.

After leaving Paradise Cove, we pushed on to Suva, making a 14 hour over night passage to arrive in daylight. Suva was not quite as expected and I’ll more about that in the next blog.


Sunday 23 October 2022

Viani Bay

Viani Bay was  nice change from the hustle and bustle of Suvasuva. We arrived during a period of holiday to celebrate Fiji Day.  The local school is by the water front, which we could pick out because that was where the singing was coming from.  

White clad students grouped by age marched in orderly lines around the field behind the school. After a few passes around the field they formed up in lines at attention.  There was then a burst of shouts and movement and all ran helterskelter around the field. It was fun to watch.

The anchorage here seemed to be either 15ish metres deep with lots of rocks that catch your chain as the boat swings making quite horrible scraping noises, or 25 to 30 metres, which leaves you with less scope than we are used to.  After one horrible night listening to chain on rock, we opted to anchor in 30ish metres.  This meant less scope than we are used to but in settled conditions, with good holding and the knowledge that if we did drag it would only be until we snagged on a rock, we chanced it.

Once ashore, the local canines try their luck. Even the adult dogs have adopted a puppy type of submissive begging when first you meet. They must have noticed how well it worked for actual puppy.  Once they realise no food was forthcoming they contented themselves with charging up and down the beach as we walked.

Tide’s out!

There is something both elegant and surreal about mangroves.

We signed up for a dinner at the German run restaurant/bar and Dive Centre along with all the other yacht crews in the Bay. The food is baked in a pit and are very much local fare.

Though I did get a look at the cooking pit, there really want anything to see. I had planned to watch the food being uncovered but a squall with torrential rain and wind swept in and settled for staying dry instead.

From top to bottom - There was a huge Grouper, that was the centrepiece of the meal; roast chicken which is hidden by the mixed salad; the things that look like bread is actually baked taro root;  next is taro leaves cooked in coconut cream; and finally cooked papaya or pawpaw. 

The Grouper and taro in coconut cream were my favourites.

The village not only has dogs, it has it’s fair share of cats as well. This one jumped onto Tim’s lap of its own accord.  Tim was more than okay with this.

With favourable winds from the south east forecast the next day, we decided to up anchor for Arthur’s Bay on Rabi Island.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Savusavu, Vanua Levu

As I corrected all the typos and missing words and garbled thoughts in the previous blog, I noticed that though I mentioned big beautiful mango’s I used to make chutneyI didn’t include a photo. We’ve seen three types of mango - apple or round mangos, the tradition oval shape but very small and these big fleshy mangos.  Glad I choose these for the chutney as they are much easier to handle then the tiny ones. I use a Jamie Oliver recipe.  Two kilos (thus the scales) make two jar or three jars of chutney and it is very good.

When we arrived in Savusavu on Vanua Levu, I was very disappointed to find no mango in the market. It seems that the more southerly Viti Levu has a jump on the mango season.

Below in red is our completed route to Savusavu. We’re had a nice time here in the company of Burmese Breeze and met another boat, Rala, registered in Southampton, UK recently arrived from French Polynesia.  Since we’ve been here there have been three new arrivals. You can always tell as they are flying a yellow ‘Q’ for quarantine flag and have not yet cleared into the country with Customs and Immigration. 

The yellow line is the route we hope to take in the coming weeks.  We will finish back in Vuda Marina to prepare for the passage to New Zealand.

It was really nice to be on to move to somewhere new to us.

Mizzen going up.

This is a section of the our route on the chart plotter.  All the green areas are reef. Although we are surrounded by reefs most are below the surface of the water.  

You can often see them in the distance - lighter turquoise of the reefs compared to the dark blue of the deeper water.  It is hard to imagine navigating these areas without a chart.  You can see the reef in the distance easily with the sun behind you, but on a cloudy day or with the sun ahead of you all the water looks the same.

Happy sailing.

As you motor in to the Savusavu Bay, the the prettiest and loftiest areas are tourist resorts.  

We had a fun snorkel off one of these resorts.  We tied our dingy to the mooring ball over the reef, dropped in and were immediately mobbed by stripy black and yellow fish called Sargent Majors.  They stuck to us like glue and often had to waved off so you could see the reef.  They gave up once they established that unlike the resort guests, we weren’t going to feed them.

The Main Street in Savusavu.  We were out walking early before it got too hot and the street was very quiet.

Suvasuva Bay has some of the ‘cyclone holes’ where people prepare their boats and then head ashore to safe areas to wait out the storm.  Some don’t prepare quite well enough.

Outside the centre of the town the schools are as well groomed as we saw on Viti Levu.

A roadside cemetery. There are a variety of religions in Fiji - Religions of Fiji.

After topping up our fresh fruit and veg, we set off for our next destination, Viani Bay.

Sunday 2 October 2022

Viti Levu and Vanua Levu - Fiji’s largest Islands.

After a wonderfully long visit home Tim and I, a month after him, arrived back in Fiji.  Poor Tim was forced to develop a few culinary strings to his bow starve.  He became a master of the pasta or rice casserole, though he did mention how surprisingly difficult cooking and meal planning actually was.

The day after I landed we took a taxi into Lautoka, Viti Levu.  Sharyn, our taxi driver for the round trip journey had some very useful local information. For example, as obvious tourists there is always a niggling feeling that we might well be paying a higher price than the local population.  Sharyn told us that all pricing is regulated in Fiji whether you are shopping in the open air market or a supermarket.  The only exception are shops in the tourist areas where the prices are substantially higher.

The fresh produce markets are our favourites.

The fruit and vegetables are ingeniously displayed in the quantities they are sold in. 

The markets are huge and very airy.  There is a wide range of produce on display and many tables displaying the same types of produce.  It is a wonder if and how everyone manages to make a living.

Wonderful green veg.  I particularly like the long beans.  You can cut them to any length you like and they keep for ages in the fridge. We have to be so careful not to buy more fruit and veg than we can store in the fridge. 

This was all one table held, pigeon beans, I think, and shaddo beni, which is a herb very like cilantro/fresh coriander in scent and taste. We last saw it in the Caribbean. This was a little tougher than the Caribbean variety and the leaves have serrated edges sharp enough to make one say ‘ouch’ when you brushed against them.

Having a taxi driver guide was useful as Sharyn hustled us over to the ‘best stands’ which turned out to be run by a friend or relative. It did not however lend itself to a slow stroll thorough the market and all the market photos here were taken on a subsequent visit when we took the bus into Lautoka.

Cane sugar is a main export for Fiji and at this time of year the harvest is very nearly over.

The sugar cane is brought to the processing plants by truck and by a narrow gauge railway.

Sugar cane being transported by truck.

On the taxi ride, we did see train load of sugar cane passing through the town. It is late in the season and even Sharyn was surprised it see one. I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture so I have had to settle for train tracks with pigeons.

This is one of the many processing plants we passed. The view from the bus on our return journey was better than most.

It was a more of ‘tourist’ bus and was wide open along the sides with only roll down screens to protect the occupants should there be rain.

Decorations for Divali, - https://www.diwalifestival.org/

The roadside table where we bought our first mangos. The mango season has just started and we have been eating mangos daily.

Along the road we see trees laden with mangos, but only at the top. The low down, within arms reach, the trees are bare.  I saw a guy throwing a large stick trying to knock loose high up mangos. It didn’t work while I was watching. The big beautiful mangos I used to make chutney were $2 each.

Students in all is white in manicured school grounds.

Farming Fiji style.  

As we were leaving Lautoka, I saw aubergines/eggplants dangling from the stems of their short little plant. I had never seen how they grew before but was too slow with the camera.

Mangos are a beautiful tree giving both fruit and shade. I do long for a mango tree in the garden. :)

A small field in a totally tropical setting.

The sky feels huge here.

Another field planted with… something! I wish we had more time to investigate what is grown and who is growing it. This is now the dry season.

Back onboard - Cabbage, pumpkin, local ‘spinach’, mangos, lumpy local lemons, small aubergines/egg plants, cucumbers, garlic, ginger, okra, pineapples, red cabbage and green peppers.

There was far more produce available now than there was in June when we first arrived.

I bought the okra not really knowing what I wanted to do with it other than I wanted it to be crispy.  I found a recipe that used Suya Spice, which is an African spice and peanut mix, which I had never heard of but it sounded interesting so I found a recipe for it. The Suya Spice is mixed with Mayo in the recipe.  I added yoghurt and think would only use that in future. It made a really nice peanuty, savoury, spicy dip for young small okra - quartered lengthwise, dipped in milk, tossed cornmeal and then deep fried.

It was quite nice, but it was the dip was what made it special.  The complicated recipe that inspired me - Crispy Okra from Olive magazine.  Mine doesn’t look so different. :)

More to come tomorrow, including Vanua Levu, but I feel the need to get this posted now!