Heading East - Nasasobu Bay 16 45.176S 179 51.089E

Mike and Liz Downing
Tue 29 May 2012 09:29
The anchor reluctantly came up this morning - the chain caught twice on the coral and gave us a bit of a scare, but it did come up. So it was off to Fawn Harbour about 37 miles to the east. The plan had been to head south about 5 miles to get away from the land and then head east, or slightly north of east to get to Fawn Harbour. This is the recommended ploy when the winds in the south east, which the forecast said it would be. The wind hadn't read the forecast - it was light and coming from the north! This continued for the first 2 hours, so the plan went out the window and we headed east much earlier. It then swung to the east where it stayed light for the rest of the passage. So it was a close-hauled motor-sail all the passage. It was also a different destination. Within about 10 miles or so off Fawn Harbour we heard 4 of the rally boats on the VHF radio and made contact, finding they were in another anchorage a few miles further to the east, so that's where we headed. They were in a large bay between an outer reef and the fringing reef round the land. To get to it meant negotiating the Dakuniba Boat Pass, a gap in the reef about 90 metres wide. Okay if you have a chart plotter that gives that level of detail, but under 12 miles on this part of the coast our Navionics Gold electronic chart (from 2009), shows no detail at all and changes the whole coast to a block diagram with straight-line edges - no good for navigation! So it's Mark 1 eyeball navigation, but we have found something that looks like it's going to be very useful - navigation with the aid of Google Earth. Sailors back in the UK may already be using it, but if not, it's definitely worth looking at. 
We hadn't looked at Google Earth (other than the position map on this blog) for years, so once told that it was good we downloaded it in Savusavu (good Internet access) and zoomed into the coast passages that we were considering. Google Earth keeps all this information in store, so when not attached to the Internet you can still access it. Zooming in low shows the anchorages and the reefs and it is possible to put placemarks in on Google Earth and then transfer them as waypoints to the chartplotter. So when changing destinations today, it was a quick load of Google Earth, put in the placemarks for the new destination, transfer them to the chartplotter and we had a route to follow through the reef, BUT I was also on the bow! The waypoints were dead on and we went right down the middle of the pass. One other benefit of Google Earth - we have a connection from our Raymarine navigation systems that plugs into the laptop and allows the navigation data to be transferred to the laptop. Using this with Google Earth and putting on real-time, our moving position is shown on Google earth with a small length of trail, so we can see on the satellite picture where we are in relation to the coast and reefs. It's also great for checking out other people's way points (and waypoints are being swapped all the time here). In the absence of decent charts, it looks like it's going to be really helpful and as you've probably already guessed, although only having only used it on one passage we're impressed. We have some younger American friends here and using their vocab, on what we've seen so far we think using Google Earth is both Cool and Awesome!!      
Having gone through the pass we joined the others who were anchored just behind the reef to snorkel on the reef. So Liz had her first snorkel in the tropics since leaving Tonga in October 2010. A long wait and we're glad to be back, but for me the wait goes on until my leg heals and that's really frustrating. Before the sun got too low in the sky, it was time to retreat from the reef to a small mangrove-lined bay hidden inland with hills clad in rain forest and coconut palms all around - Nasasobu Bay. Or at least it would have been if our chain hadn't got really stuck this time. We freed it, but it took a lot of maneuvering in different directions and quite a bit of persuading with engine power to get it up. On reaching Nasasobu Bay it was like a mill pond - not a ripple. As it's lined with mangroves it would be a superb cyclone hole, offering great protection in high winds. As dusk approached, lots of big fruit bats took to the sky above the trees. It is very tropical and very remote here, and feels it.
Above and below - pictures around Nasasobu Bay. The tide is exposing the roots of the mangroves.
Sea Bride - one of the 4 rally boats we met here.
Looking out the entrance to the bay towards the barrier reef. The reef can't be seen here, but goes right
across the picture. The pass out of the reef is round the headland to the left.