Take me to your Chief!

Rumpelteazer Pacific Crossing
Robert Holbrook
Mon 12 May 2008 07:24




Our final 100 miles into Lautoka, on the west coast of Fiji’s main island, became increasingly unpleasant.  Without our main halyard, we sailed under jib alone, working our way north west through the outlying islands.  Eventually, as the wind went further into the north, we motored almost directly into a strong wind, and the short, steep sea gave us an extremely uncomfortable Tuesday evening and night. 


During the night, we hugged the southern coastline of Viti Levu, lit up with the lights of coastal villages and towns, to reduce the crashing of our bows through the waves.  By 11 on Wednesday morning, we were safely anchored in the harbour off Lautoka and Robert went ashore to do Immigration, Customs et al.  The really good news is that our mobile phones are all working again!



Lautoka has a huge veg and fruit market, with big piles of kava roots as well as wonderful papayas, pineapples, bananas and all sorts of vegetables.  Having bought as much as we could carry, we raided the big supermarket for the other provisions which we hoped would last us to Australia.


The next day, Thursday, we went off to explore the outlying islands of Fiji.  We went north 25 miles to the Yasawa islands, sailing and then motoring into heavy rain.  Once again the conditions were nasty, so we opted for the most southerly of the Yasawas and anchored in the delightful Yalobi Bay in the south of Waya island.  The island has high volcanic peaks covered in velvety green foliage and palm trees, and on the shore we saw small houses and a school building.



Robert, Susie and Pippa braved the rain and went ashore.  A young boy was standing on the beach, and Robert approached him.  “Please take me to your Chief” he said.  The boy replied: “I’m a tourist, from the Philippines”.  Much laughter ensued, but the boy told us where we would find the village and we set off through the rain to find both the village and its Chief.


Everyone we met in Yalobi village was exceptionally friendly – “bula” was the universal greeting – and both children and adults shook our hands and asked us our names.  We were steered towards the house of Thomas, the village Chief, and Robert duly presented him with our kava as we sat with him, cross-legged, on the floor of his house.  Thomas chanted solemnly in Fijian for some minutes while fondling the kava, and then clapped gently.  We then had a very friendly conversation.




While on Waya, we saw many aspects of village life – a strong young man crushing kava roots in a giant mortar, smiley ladies cooking cassava in outside cook-houses, and men making canoes out of corrugated iron sheets – as well as meeting up with a lot of young backpackers staying in a simple resort on the beach.  Before we left Waya the next day we went ashore (again, in heavy rain) to present the Chief with a bag of pencils, pens, and other presents for the children –  interestingly the village’s primary school (200 children) is also a boarding school for the children from the three other villages on the island who, without roads or motorised transport, cannot travel home during the week.




In the pouring rain we set off for Malolo island, 35 miles south west.  To begin with we sailed, but as time pressed on and the wind went back onto the nose, we motored, weaving through the reefs surrounding most of these islands.  We finally arrived off Musket Cove and picked up one of the many moorings in the bay.


Saturday was a domestic day with mounds of washing to be done ashore as well as more provisioning and filling the diesel tanks for the next stage of the voyage.   But we also had time to explore the coastline on foot – long sandy beaches with a few large (and surprisingly empty) resorts and a very shallow sea.




Saturday was also the occasion of Andy’s leaving party – after around three months and 7,500 nautical miles since leaving Panama, Andy flew home to the UK on Sunday.  In recognition of his highly valued services to Rumpelteazer, Andy was awarded the Order of the Trans-Pacific Crossing, the medal for which Robert pinned to his chest during the celebratory dinner.




Next morning, we motored back the 12 miles from Malolo to the main island of Fiji on Sunday to drop Andy off in Denarau, near Nadi airport. Rumpelteazer was once again a hive of activity – Charles servicing the mast winch, Susie almost landing her first fish and Pippa writing the blog.




We did our final provisioning back in Lautoka today, including collecting an order of frozen meat sufficient for the next 16 days to Australia, before mooring in the centre of the circular Vuda Point Marina for the night.  We are awaiting delivery tomorrow, Tuesday, of the boat parts ordered from the US, and once we have threaded the new mainsail halyard up the mast we will be off toVanuatu, 480 miles to the west.