16.46S 179.20E Thursday 26th June Arrival at 10.00am
in Fiji – Vanua Levu Island - Savu Savu moorings and
anchorage - we are now in a new hemisphere! What a wonderful sailing experience
we had too – sunny days, moonlit gentle nights with 10- 12 knots of wind
behind us, so we had the twistle rig, with poles, up all the way through the
‘exploring isles’ or Lau Group to Fiji. This is the most remote
region with 57 islands, many uninhabited, and treacherous uncharted
reefs. Since the military coup a year ago it is not permitted to drop
anchor in this region so we kept to the main ‘channel’ and admired
the beautiful island landscapes and beaches from afar. Fiji was once known as the Cannibal
Isles and is made up of over 300 islands, many inhabited these days by a rich
mixture of vibrant Melanesians, East Indians, Polynesians, Micronesians,
Chinese, Indians and Europeans.
The Suvu Suvu yacht club is based at the Copra Shed which has its own
dock with limited space for a few yachts to anchor stern too, along side
Copra shed with yachts stern to the jetty
the rest of us are up a rather stagnant, sewage ridden swamp! But
hey ho – the view is pretty and a quick foray ashore showed a promising
array of Indian owned shops, fresh produce and curry restaurants!
Pretty anchorage ……. Gift of huge fruit basket from our
We are here for a week and a very comprehensive itinerary has been
prepared for us including village tours, rainforest trips and activities
including an optimist sailing race (with a very large incentive not to capsize
I have to say).
Motoring to our pre allocated buoy……….
Peter Seymour BWR flew out to smooth our arrival and the whole
procedure went like clockwork. The bureaucracy here, taught and well
learned, by the colonial British can be awesome so we were all relieved to say
the least. There is absolutely no sign of any military heavy-handedness
here…….in fact story has it that the leader was peacefully escorted
back to his own island with no bloodshed with all his ministers left in place!
The welcome ceremony was hosted by the Savu Savu yacht club which is very well
supported locally and has a tremendous input into the community, offering all
children the opportunity to learn to sail free of charge. All kinds of
fund raising events are sponsored towards this goal and consequently there is
an instant feeling of ‘community’ when you step ashore here.
Going back to the welcome ceremony…….. the
‘elder’ of the village performed the ‘meke’ inviting
five of the men from the Blue Water Rally to participate on behalf of the rest
of us – Hugh (Stargazer), Ian (Paramour), Peter (Lousill), Lee
(Glendora) and Robert (Heidenskip) were asked to form a cross legged seated
line on a large blue waterproof mat facing the solemn ritual.
The ceremony begins – Left to right - Robert, Lee, Peter, Ian and
Hugh – lambs to the slaughter……….(thank goodness for
The bare chested elder clad in his straw skirt, surrounded by several
ladies, men and children then proceeded to pour some dubious looking water into
an old wooden bowl whilst rubbing all the debris from around the edges and
giving his hands a good wash at the same time. He then whisked a large
clump of straw from his apparel and gave the contents a good stir, with the
same vigour as you would clean a pot with a brillo pad, before systematically
squeezing the straw as you would when rinsing out your washing. Once this
was completed to his satisfaction he dropped all the straw back into the water
and gave it all another swill around before two of the children poured the root
of a ground pepper plant into the mix…….kava!!
Got the picture…………?
Of course our delegation were all looking on in keen anticipation of
the delicious narcotic intake to follow…... a half coconut full is
proffered - and it’s a traditional must to down it in one gulp - followed
by three delighted claps of the hands to show full appreciation, before the
next recipient gets his share – oh joy! And more joy was to
follow……. When they had all had a brimful of the beige nectar,
there was enough in that old wooden bowl for another round of the same…..