Vanua Balavu, Northern Lau
Thursday 9th July 2015
Distance run: 76 nmiles
The wind change came as hoped, and we lifted the anchor at 1400 yesterday afternoon and motored out between the reefs, round the top of Taveuni and down between it and Qamea, coming out into deep water at the bottom of the islands around 1700 with enough light to see the shallow water as we passed through a gap in the reef. We raised the sails and for a while sailed in 7-8 knots of wind, until we were headed and the wind dropped to 4-5 knots, when we dropped the headsail and motor-sailed gently along, in no rush as we wanted to arrive in daylight.
It was a moonless night but with plenty of stars it was possible to make out the horizon and check for any ‘lumpy bits’. In this kind of dark, the only indication that there is a piece of land is the interruption in the straight line where sea meets sky. Occasionally I checked the radar, just to make sure the islands we were passing were where we thought they were. At this slow but steady pace, with just a very light breeze to fill the mainsail and stop it flapping we arrived with the daylight outside the Qilaqila pass. Here we switched off the engine and drifted while we ate bacon butties and waited for the sun to rise higher in the sky.
The ‘lumpy bits’ on the horizon as the sky lightens. The sun rises as we drift outside the pass waiting for its light.
Just before 0900 we started up the engine and started our approach to the pass, just in time to see a boat on its way out. We waited for it to leave and then lined ourselves up with the leading marks behind Beez Neez and followed them in. Using the leading marks (two white-painted posts on the rocks behind the pass which must be kept in line) and Curly’s waypoints we were soon safely inside the reef and turned to starboard to make our way down to Daliconi village to anchor.
We dropped the anchor in 5-6 metres off the village, but it took a long time to grab the bottom. We could hear it dragging over coral and just as I thought we needed to start again elsewhere, it grabbed and set. We waited a bit to settle, but apart from the noise of the chain scraping over rock all seemed fine, so we got ourselves spruced up, dropped the dinghy and set off ashore to find the Chief of the village and seek his permission to stay. We were met on the beach by a lady who welcomed us and took us to the Chief’s house which was in the middle of a village that was set around a large grassy area.
The Chief was out at work in the fields, so we were to do sevusevu to his sister. We went into his house and sat on the floor opposite his sister and a man who was the Chief’s assistant. We asked permission to stay, swim, snorkel, fish and visit the village and then the assistant spoke lots in Fijian. The Chief’s sister answered in Fijian and accepted the kava, then we were told in English we were now part of the village and were free to do as we had asked. We were then asked to pay FJ$30 each as a contribution towards the village and to sign their visitors’ book. Business over, we were asked if we would like to go for a walk around the village, and glad to get off the floor, we happily agreed.
We ambled around and then headed up the hill in the direction of the school. On the way we met the Chief on his way home, machete in hand, and we shook hands and said “Bula”. The school was a collection of buildings around a grassed area, two of which were classrooms and the rest were teachers’ quarters. There was a meeting in progress between parents, teachers and children in one of the classrooms, so we were only able to look inside the older children’s classroom.
The primary school in Daliconi village. Year 8 classroom.
The village church – a little run-down inside and out.
Back at the boat we decided it had been interesting to see the village but felt we did not need to see any more and we would move round to the Bay of Islands tomorrow morning.
Daliconi village anchorage from the beach. Sunset and calm.