Category Archives: Fiji

Harvesting Oysters from the Mangroves in Susui Island

This afternoon was one for the highlight reel. We were invited by Jacob, a village elder, to join him in collecting oysters, we happily accepted. Around 1400 we all jumped in the two dinghys and sped off around the corner to secret bay. After carefully threading our way through the coral heads we entered a magnificent, protected bay. One of the shores was lined with mangroves and this is where Jacob told us to anchor the dinghys. We donned masks and snorkels and followed Jacob into the maze of mangroves. I watched as he skillfully removed each oyster from the branches of the mangroves with a quick and deliberate hit with his hammer. He was quickly filling the flour sack with oysters as I followed his lead and went at them with my screwdriver. Within 10 minutes I had collected half a dozen and one of them had split in half revealing a delectable treat. I asked Jacob if it was still good to take with us and he said yes and I was to eat it. I took a couple chomps and swallowed it whole – doesn’t get more fresh than that! After 45 minutes or so the 50lb flour sack was getting pretty full so we loaded it up and sped off to a nearby beach. Jacob and another guy from the village started a fire and threw on some kasava, which is a Fijian breadfruit. Then once the fire was going he started tossing on the oysters. They are done when they start bubbling, announcing that the oyster is dead and ready to be opened. Then he tosses them out of the fire and we opened them with hammers and pry bars. We added them all to a bowl. This is when any regard to sanitation went clean out the window (ask me tomorrow how my GI tract is coping)… Jacob walked into the sea and added saltwater to the bowl. Then he added chili’s and lime juice and mixed the whole lot together by hand. He took the kasava out of the fire and slit it open. Then we all took turns sticking our dirty hands in the bowl and picking out the oysters. They tasted amazing and I was surprised that the little bit of chili and lime/orange juice, combined with the sea water, was enough to bring out more flavors from the oysters. The kasava made a perfect compliment to the dish. After gorging ourselves on heaps of oysters we all sat back and visited while Jacob and his buddy rolled homemade cigarettes out of kifa, a local tobacco, and – get this – pages from the local phone book!  I asked politely where they got the papers (because a week ago Bruce was desperate and couldn’t find any on the island), they calmly replied that they are using pages from the phone book! They said that they strictly use the white pages and NOT the yellow pages. Good to know.

We loaded up the dinghys with the remaining 20-30 lbs of oysters and headed back to the boats. We tried to have them take the remaining oysters but they were not having it. We now have about 30 lbs of fresh oysters hanging off the back of our boat to keep them alive. We’ll be shucking and shooting oysters for the foreseeable future. And to think that we used to pay $20 a plate for half a dozen of these guys…..ridiculous…and yet another reason why we love Fiji so much.

Hope everyone is having a great week. Go get some oysters and raise a shell with us!

Cheers,

Lewis & Alyssa

September 9, 2015

Susui Island, Vanua Balavu, Lau Group, Fiji 

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We had to stop at the shrine of the Chief who owns this bay. Legend has it that he flew here from Taveuni to seek asylum. Before he entered the bay he dropped off oysters and clams in goodwill. So now anyone who comes to take oysters must pay homage before leaving. They said that if we didn't, he would take them all back... Look in the cave in the backgound. They said someone offended him in the beginning so he turned his back and that's why you can't see his face.
We had to stop at the shrine of the Chief who owns this bay. Legend has it that he flew here from Taveuni to seek asylum. Before he entered the bay he dropped off oysters and clams in goodwill. So now anyone who comes to take oysters must pay homage before leaving. They said that if we didn’t, he would take them all back… Look in the cave in the backgound. They said someone offended him in the beginning so he turned his back and that’s why you can’t see his face.

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Pictures and Updates from Vanua Balavu, Fiji

Since the last post we have sailed around the north side of the island, spent two nights back in Nabavatu – one of the days we sailed to another island (Kimbombo) to do a wreck dive, which was awesome! – and then we sailed down to Lomaloma Village. We took advantage of the light nor’easterlies to anchor off the village for some provisions. Not much there but smiling faces, a bag of potatoes and a couple onions. After our meager provisioning we motored into the lee of Susui Island and set the hook. This afternoon was spent presenting our Sevusevu (kava root) to the Chief, getting a tour of the village and handing out tootsi pops to the kids, visiting the school to gift them school supplies and then we attended the church service. Apparently they have church every single day. I think this was the first and last time I will be going to church on a Monday evening. The villagers are amazingly friendly and the singing in church was uplifting, but we got enough God in Penrhyn to last a decade. After our Sevusevu and introductions, we are now official members of the village and under protection of the Chief. The anchorage offers excellent protection from the SE trades, which are filling in tonight. Another kicker is that we have high speed internet onboard. Which brings me to the title of this post…..Pictures from the last few weeks here!!!!

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Anchorage in Ships Sound, Bay of Islands

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Going to shore in Daliconi to pay respect to the Chief and present Sevusevu
Going to shore in Daliconi to pay respect to the Chief and present Sevusevu
Chillin' on Skabenga
Chillin’ on Skabenga
'Splorin' the Bay of Islands
‘Splorin’ the Bay of Islands

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Caves
Caves
Beach BBQ
Beach BBQ
Trollin' for dinner
Trollin’ for dinner
Day excursion to Kimbombo Islands and reefs
Day excursion to Kimbombo Islands and reefs
Wreck diving at Kimbombo
Wreck diving at Kimbombo

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The Pirate himself (aka Bruce)
The Pirate himself (aka Bruce)
I am ready for the Sevusevu!
I am ready for the Sevusevu!
On the way to the chief. Kava in hand
On the way to the chief. Kava in hand
After the Sevusevu
After the Sevusevu

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Daliconi Village
Daliconi Village

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Our scenery in the Bay of Islands
Our scenery in the Bay of Islands
View from inside the cave
View from inside the cave

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Tons of fruit bats here
Tons of fruit bats here
Cheers to the home brew in paradise!
Cheers to the home brew in paradise!
Ahhhh....
Ahhhh….
Bruce and Jen
Bruce and Jen
Dice night on Ellie! Craig and Leanne from True Blue V on right
Dice night on Ellie! Craig and Leanne from True Blue V on right
Lyss making delicious rolls. The boat always smells of delicious baked goods!
Lyss making delicious rolls. The boat always smells of delicious baked goods!
Wakeboarding in the Bay of Islands. Bruce towing me.
Wakeboarding in the Bay of Islands. Bruce towing me.
Dance, dance, dance! Girl has gotta blow off steam somehow....Par-tay!
Dance, dance, dance! Girl has gotta blow off steam somehow….Par-tay!
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Lyss up the mast to watch for coral heads. Overcast skies are the worst when trying to spot coral
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Cleaning a Walu we caught underway. Delicious!!!
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We took over the Nabavatu yacht club. Owners aren’t here most of the year and we were invited to use the facility.
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Lomaloma village. Funny that the post office had more groceries than the grocery store….
Brain coral in Kimbombo
Brain coral in Kimbombo
Hey Brielle (my Niece) I found Nimo AND his girlfriend!
Hey Brielle (my Niece) I found Nimo AND his girlfriend!
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We were able to buy gasoline in Lomaloma. I’m happy because I can now burn it through the genny, dive compressor and the outboard.
Waiting for the Chief in Susui. Minister and his son in the background.
Waiting for the Chief in Susui. Minister and his son in the background.
Minister playing drums made from dugout logs. This is how they summon the flock
Minister playing drums made from dugout logs. This is how they summon the flock
Handing out lollies in Susui village
Handing out lollies in Susui village
Young boys. Ready for Monday evening church service
Young boys. Ready for Monday evening church service
Happy girl on the beach in front of Susui village
Happy girl on the beach in front of Susui village

Exploring the Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Fiji – PICTURES!

Bula, Bula!!

Wanted to send a quick update and pictures. I took the dinghy a few miles to windward to find an internet signal. Sitting on a rock on a white sand beach to get the best signal. I came out here to order some boat parts….this time it’s our battery monitor. Having it sent to Savusavu.

We we have been having a blast here with SKABENGA and TRUE BLUE V. We have been kayaking, hiking, exploring caves, having beach bonfire BBQs, dice nights and just hanging out. We still haven’t moved our anchor and aren’t planning for at least a few more days. We did Sevusevu at the village yesterday; it was mellow with no kava drinking. Beautiful village and friendly locals. I’ll send a longer update later.

Here are some pics off the iPad from the past week. We are anchored in a small bay in between those islands in the first picture:image

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We Found It and We’re Never Leaving – Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Fiji

When sailors die and go to heaven one of the anchorages available to them will be Ships Sound in Vanua Balavu, Fiji. We moved over here this morning and once we set the hook in 25 feet of turqouise water over fine white powdery sand, we knew we made it to where we were always searching. There is 360 degree protection afforded by the barrier reef and then a string of volcanic islets covered in vegetation and what look similar to pine trees. The water is flat, despite the prevailing trades blowing over 20 offshore. The sounds of the waves lapping against the undercuts of the tall volcanic rock islets and the birds are the only sounds to be heard. Above the bay are towering mountains providing the protection from the prevailing winds. The color of the water is incredible and no matter how hard I try I cannot get a picture to accurately reflect its beauty. We both feel that we have found our true paradise and both have an overwhelming feeling of peace and contentment. I was not kidding when we said we were never leaving. We have decided to keep Ellie in Fiji for the foreseeable future. She will live on a cyclone mooring in Savusavu during the cyclone season and we will come back out here next year. It’s that amazing here. It is more beautiful, more peaceful, more incredible than any place we have sailed or anchored during the entire voyage. We’re home to stay.

We have the anchorage to ourselves today but our friends on the catamaran SKABENGA (remember them?!?!) and our Aussie friends on TRUE BLUE V will be joining us here on Tuesday. We have so much fun together and I’m sure many adventures and wild times are to come over the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for the updates.

The other anchorage at Mbavatu (Nabavatu) was awesome as well. We went hiking to the top of this amazing lookout and took some phenomenal pictures that we will upload once we find internet again. The plantation was in great shape and we spent an afternoon sitting on the porch in rocking chairs just taking in the beauty and watching the locals lasso a wild horse. We enjoyed kayaking the bay and meeting some other cruisers. We’ll be back.

Well, cheers from our paradise found. We really hope we can share this spot with our friends and family one day. We aren’t leaving anytime soon so start saving up for airfare to come visit.

Manuia and Vinaka Vaka Levu,
Lewis & Alyssa

August 23, 2015

Ships Sound, Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Lau Group, Fiji

Anchored:
17 10.631 S
179 00.890 W

Bashing Our Way Back to Windward to visit the Remote Lau Group – We’re in Vanua Balavu!

This morning finds us bashing into tradewind seas, as we have done all night. It is not comfortable or easy on poor ol’ Ellie girl, but we can all take a one-night beating; for the spoils of remote Vanua Balavu are beckoning. We have motor-sailed – or rather ‘bashed’ – 100 miles since departing early Tuesday morning and have another 40 rhumbline miles to go before we reach the protected lagoon of Vanua Balavu. It’s a wet and rough ride but if the engine keeps up the pace we should be in by noon. So far the new heat exchanger we installed in Savusavu is working like a champ. [I wrote that under way. The rest I wrote this morning at anchor.]

We left Savusavu Wednesday morning after loading up on vegetables and bundles of kava from the market. It’s funny seeing big bundles of kava in our hanging baskets, but each village we visit requires that we present a bundle of kava roots to the Chief and participate in a Sevusevu ceremony (more on that later). The heat exchanger arrived last Saturday and we installed it on Tuesday. I ran all over town on Monday looking for radiator hose but none of the stores had a length long enough to reach the inlet/outlet ports on the new exchanger, which of course had ports configured differently than the old one. I did not want to spend another week or two in port waiting for a longer length of hose (that would have been more than fine for the Princess, she loves close proximity mooring, while I feel claustrophobic). So I disconnected the water heater hose and used that to plumb the new heat exchanger. Now the engine will not heat the water in the water heater but we can still use the generator to make hot water. The install went well and the engine is running like a champ! We have been hammering the engine at 2,000 rpm for the past day pushing into the wind and seas and the temperature has yet to climb above 155F.

With most our errands done, we were doing some final prep and running last minute errands when we ran into a backpacker friend from Tonga, Miriam (somehow spelled with a J – she’s Dutch). She asked where we were headed and we said Taveuni. She wanted to come along so we invited her to sail with us for the day. We had the dinghy on deck and secured by 0800 Wednesday morning and headed out to sea on a beautiful sunny day. We enjoyed a mostly motor-sail to windward into the lee of Taveuni. We picked up a mooring off the Paradise Resort and went in for happy hour. The sunset was incredible and set right over Ellie while we relaxed under the palm-thatch roof on the cliffs edge. We returned to the boat via borrowed kayak from the resort and enjoyed a delicious dinner. After dark we bid farewell to Miriam, cast off the mooring lines and put back to sea, bound for Vanua Balavu, another 70 miles to windward, directly upwind.

We sailed out of the lee of Taveuni and were hit with 26 knots on the nose. It was funneling around the island and kicking up seas. I pushed the engine to 2,000, tucked in a double reef, and pushed hard into it. We were 40 degrees off the wind making 5 knots SOG and taking water over the boat with each wave. It was tough going but ol’ Ellie girl knows how to bash to windward. We continued taking our beating and fighting back and eventually the wind subsided below 20 knots and our speed increased. We split the night watch – I took the first half and Alyssa the second. I did my best to avoid getting sick and throwing up and I managed to hold it together, the Mermaid was not so lucky. Sunrise was beautiful and the sunny morning saw us sailing in between the islands of the Lau Group. I imagined that only 500 years ago there were Fijian and Polynesian war canoes traversing these same waters; they would have been filled with savage cannibal warriors. Not something you would want to see if you were on passage to another island out here. After five tacks and 100 miles, we made it to the QilaQila Pass on the NE side of the reef. The charts were off so I lined up the range marks and, with Alyssa on the bow, we threaded our way through the reef and into the huge protected lagoon. We were both elated to have made it and both awestruck at the sheer rugged beauty of this place.

Vanua Balavu in the Lau Group of Fiji is a little visited group of islands set inside a 150km barrier reef. The islands are steep volcanic rock covered with very lush foliage. The water is an amazing variety of turquoise contrasted with deep blues. The scene upon entering is similar to Vava’u in Tonga but with an encircling barrier reef, much less boats, take away all the Kiwi and Aussie expats, remove the western influence and you start to get a better picture. The Lau has just recently been opened up to cruising yachts, so most of the traditional way of life has been preserved here. There is little to no development or westernization. Most of the cruising yachts that visit Fiji will not make the trip out here. It’s a tough 140 mile bash back to windward, which most cruisers prefer not to make. Also, most cruisers attend seminars in Savusavu where they are scared into following set waypoints for fear of running into uncharted reefs. So they will all follow the same path, visit the same places, and all end up piled up at the last waypoint before departing fiji. Not us. We have a saying we like to use in times such as this, “to the adventurers go the spoils.” The feeling we had upon entering this lagoon was almost indescribable. I’ll try and fail but it was one of elation, awe, satisfaction, pride and accomplishment. In short, we made it.

After entering the lagoon we turned to port and motored around the north side of the islands, threaded our way past uncharted coral hazards and entered Mbavatu (or Nabavatu) Harbor. The harbor provides excellent protection from almost every direction and the water is like a lake in here. There are towering lush cliffs on all sides, a bit reminiscent of Thailand. There are baby turtles swimming around the boat, schools of fish being hunted by predators and what sounds like monkeys howling in the hills. We slept like rocks last night and enjoyed a very peaceful breakfast this morning in our private bay. Alyssa is quietly reading in the cockpit and has declared a “day off.” I am in full support. We have been putting in some serious miles over the past week or so and it’s time for rest.

There is much to explore here and many new stories will be told. We plan to spend at least a couple weeks here gunkholing around the dozen or so great anchorages in the Bay of Islands. We’re a bit apprehensive about our first Sevusevu (obligatory kava ceremony), but I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience, I just hope I can process the dirty kava water better than I did in Kiribati. Stay tuned for the update.

From our paradise to yours.

Cheers,
Lewis & Alyssa

August 21, 2015

Mbavatu Harbor, Vanua Balavu, Lau Group, Fiji

Anchored:
17 11.211 S
179 00.043 W

Bula from Savusavu, Fiji!

Coming to you live from Savusavu. We entered the bay this morning as the sun was cresting over Vanua Levu in bright shades of fire red and orange. The island came into view and was lush, rugged and a welcoming respite from the rolling swells we have been enduring. We fired up the engine about 2 miles out of Savusavu and the chopsticks held up while Ellie made her way into the very protected river. The river is full of yachts but we snagged what seemed like the last available mooring and are floating peacefully less than 40 yards from the Copra Shed Marina dock. 

The Fijian officials boarded us in a procession of three separate visits. We had to clear health, biosecurity, customs and immigration. They were all friendly and after much paper shuffling and stamping we were officially cleared into the Island Nation of Fiji. We raised our Fijian flag and then promptly went in search of some food in town. We chowed down on some great Hindi food and washed it all down with Fijian Bitter beer, great tasting stuff.

As we strolled the busy streets of Savusavu I kept saying to Alyssa, “this is a crazy place.” It most certainly is. We are definitely not in Polynesia anymore. The people are distinctly Fijian and Melanesian mixed with a large Indian population. Almost all the women sport a huge Afro puff and the Indians are easy to spot in their gold trim and dotted foreheads. Everyone is incredibly friendly and gives out a hearty “Bula!” as we pass. The market is amazing and full of vegetables – Alyssa is in heaven and will be loading up tomorrow.

We have paid our fees and were granted a four month visa. After only a day here we sure want to stay much longer. We may be looking into our options further. Flat water, great food, friendly locals, amazing cruising, incredible scenery and low cost of living. We may have found a true paradise.

We have also been informed that our package is in Nadi and will be sent here early next week. We should have the engine back to 100% by the end of next week. Then we’ll look at the chart, pick an island and go exploring! In the meantime we plan to eat at every Indian restaurant in town.

Bula from Fiji!!!

Lewis & Alyssa

August 14, 2015

Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

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