See ya Suva!
See ya Suva!
What was supposed to be a week re-stock / stop over has turned into a 2 week weather watch that we are now very pleased to announce is over – we’re out of Suva tomorrow. Dawn will see us weaving our way through fishing boats and wrecks to exit Suva Harbour and set sail for the Southern Lau.
About 200nm south east and half way between Fiji and Tonga is the Lau Island chain. Given that the trade-winds also blow from the south east and these winds have been very strong and relentless this year – it’s taken us this long to get a weather window lined up to go. Initially we will head to the island of Vulaga – where we have friends from our last visit in 2013. We hope to visit some of the other islands in the group as well, but we’ll just have to play it by ear with what the weather will allow us to do. We estimate that 30 hours sailing will see us arrive at Vulaga at slack water around midday on Tuesday to enter the pass into the protected waters of what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lagoons in the south pacific.
Apart from its isolation, one of the other reasons why this part of Fiji is so special is that it was completely closed to foreigners until around 6 years ago. This was in an effort to preserve indigenous Fijian way of life and many political leaders have come from these islands. The result is Fijians who are even more friendly and with no resorts or means to get to the islands except by private boat, it is an unique opportunity to experience village life and untouched scenic beauty. With no shops, jobs or regular supplies, the Lau people are self-supporting. Traditional crafts flourish here and it is the last area of Fiji where people still get around in traditional sailing canoes with only a few fibre boats and little petrol to move around otherwise.
This visit will however be tinged with sadness as Mele, the sailor in the photo above that we forged close ties with on our last visit passed away suddenly late last year. He had a dream to build a bigger sailing canoe and had it all planned out. As you can see from the photos, decent sails are a problem in the outer islands and the old tarps and sewn together flour sacks were the order of the day. After sailing with Mele, Carl promised to bring him some “proper” sails for his new canoe on our next visit.
Mele carved the hulls last year and with the help of other cruising sailors and Mele’s brothers, the canoe has been completed and launched last week. Fulfilling the promise we have several sails on board Navara which we hope to work with his brothers to fit while we are there (and hopefully test out as well). Traditional sailing canoes are an endangered species here and the passing of the skilled craftsmen such as Mele puts their future further at risk. Apparently this is the first canoe to be built on Vulaga for 7 years so we hope the skills will be nurtured by the next generation and Fiji’s fine sailing traditions continue.
We’ll let you know how it goes. With no cell phone coverage we are officially “off the grid” for the next month or so and by then it will be spring. Judging by what we’ve heard of the winter in NZ you will all no doubt be looking forward to that!
Carl and Linda and the good ship Navara.