Katherine Bay, Rabi Island
Wednesday 1st July 2015
Distance run: 14 nmiles
We left Buca Bay mid-morning and headed up the west coast of Kioa Island towards Rabi (pronounced “Rambi”) Island. There was little wind and that was fluky as we motor-sailed along the lee shore of the island, but as we passed out from behind its shadow the wind picked up and the sea became a little lumpier. With reefs on either side we decided it was probably best to keep the engine running on low revs and so continued to motor-sail towards the gap in the reef. With our eyes on both the water ahead and the forward-looking sonar, we followed Curly’s waypoints through the gap in the reef, with minimum depth 10 metres at one point, and then continued through the gap in the fringing reefs into Katherine Bay. Once through the reef, the water immediately calmed, and only slightly further into the bay the wind dropped in the lee of the hills as we passed a huge church looking down on us from the hillside. What a lovely spot!
The west side of Kioa Island with Taveuni behind. Passing the northern tip of Kioa Island with Taveuni behind.
The Methodist church on the hillside as we entered the bay. The old copra shed to the left with village behind.
We eased our way deeper into the bay and found it to be wonderfully calm inside, surrounded by hills and with mangroves lining the shore. Having dropped the anchor and settled the old girl, we then dropped the dinghy and headed ashore to the village to see if we could find a policeman with whom to check in.
Although part of Fiji, Rabi has two police forces – Fijian and Banaban. This is because the people who live on Rabi are originally from a Central Pacific island called Banaba, part of the onetime British Annexation of the Gilbert Islands, now part of Kiribati. In 1900 phosphate had been discovered on Banaba, and over the next 100 years was mined out by the British whom some would say did less than fair deals with the local people. It’s a long and involved story, but suffice to say that eventually the Banabans were resettled on the island of Rabi, which they had bought from Fiji using royalties from the phosphate.
Anyway, it seems they still haven’t sorted out who is governing the island of Rabi, and so there are two police forces present. We do not need to check in with the Fijian force, as we have our cruising permit which allows us to go virtually anywhere in Fiji – we just have to email customs once a week and tell them where we are. But we do need to check in with the Banaban Police, or some other Banaban official. Hence the trip ashore.
We found a small village strung along the dirt main road, and asked the first chap we saw about checking in. No need to do that, he said, no policeman here. You’d have to go to the main village of Nuku for that, but he wasn’t sure what time the bus would go there. We thanked him for his help and wandered on. A group of children were playing on a piece of grass outside a wooden building which turned out to be the village store. A lady sat behind the barred window, and Steve asked her about the bus. The truck/bus would be there between 8 and 9 in the morning, but best be there by 8 to be sure not to miss it, she told him. He also asked for a Vodafone top-up card which were advertised for sale, but was told she had none, he would have to go to Nuku for one. Well, one out of two isn’t bad – at least we knew when to get the bus in the morning!
The main road through the village. Steve asks about the bus at the village store.
This young man appreared to be wearing Dad’s wellies! Apparently this is a ‘Peace’ sign!
We tried chatting to the children, but they clearly had very little English, and we definitely didn’t speak Banaban, so that didn’t last long and they went back to their game. We wandered along the main road in the direction of the big church, and found it in need of a little TLC, but still quite magnificent for such a small village.
Quite a magnificent building for such a small village. Inside it was well looked-after.
We wandered back through the village and then dinghied back to the boat for an anchoring beer and to plan the next day’s adventure – a truck/bus into Nuku, the main village.
Kava drying in the sun. Pig pens were down by the shore in the mangroves.
S-F at anchor in Katherine Bay, Rabi Island, Fiji.