Somosomo (Spitfire) Bay
Monday 7th September 2015
Distance run: 15 nmiles
We waited for a shower to pass through and then lifted the anchor around mid-morning yesterday and bade the Blue Lagoon a fond farewell. Pepe and Bear were still not feeling up to leaving, so we bade them and Beez Neez ‘au revoir’ and were soon meticulously avoiding the reef we had narrowly escaped on the way in. It was not a very pleasant day, with dark clouds all around, and as we left Matacawa Levu Island behind they caught us up, reducing visibility to a few metres and dumping rain that flattened the sea. We reduced speed to around 1 knot as there was no way of seeing reefs, and waited for it to pass.
Dark clouds followed us, bringing poor visibility and rain. They caught us up as we left the coast of Matacawa Levu.
Ahead is Somosomo Bay, just visible here... ...but only barely visible here.
We drifted slowly along for half an hour as rain whited out the islands around us. Finally it passed over and we were able to make out the bay we were heading for, and more crucially the waves breaking on Drui reef that stood in its centre. As we got closer, the large bay revealed itself. We could see a couple of yachts anchored right down by the village, but we planned to anchor near the track over the island which led to the sunken aeroplane after which the bay is known, so we found a suitable spot and dropped the anchor. It was a very pleasant bay, and we had this part of it all to ourselves.
This morning we took the dinghy ashore, pulled it up the beach, and set off to look for the track through the trees to the other side of the island. There we hoped to snorkel over the remains of a WW2 aeroplane, thought to be a Spitfire that crashed when its pilot was showing off, rather than in combat. Apparently he survived the crash and was found alive and well some years later, living happily in a local village. What is left of the aeroplane is now host to a variety of marine life.
We had landed the dinghy in the middle of the bay, and now turned left and walked along the beach looking for an opening in the trees. Just before we reached the end of the beach we found an opening, and footprints leading both in and out of the gap led us to believe we had found the right place. We followed the path through woodland and grassland, up and down hills and through shoulder-high grass until we came out at the beach on the other side of the island. There were three or four houses just back from the beach, with gardens and paths laid out with shells, but no one was around and the houses were all closed up. We looked out at the islets that lie off the coast there, and at the gap between the fourth and fifth, where we knew the remains of the aircraft lies.
Not immediately enthused, we sat on a rough bench and looked at the water, choppy and murky in the stiff onshore breeze, and at the sky, full of dark, threatening clouds, and pondered if it was really worth trying to find the wreck. In these conditions we might not be able to see what was down there. Steve was still not feeling 100% - just the short trip yesterday had him asleep all afternoon, and an hour in the cold water was certainly not going to help speed his recovery. Eventually, we came to a decision – we just were not enthusiastic enough to give it a try in these conditions. So we packed the snorkelling gear back in the bag, and headed back across the island.
We passed this coconut-opening stick in a clearing. Just back from the beach, three or four houses all closed up.
The islets off the east coast of the island. The wreck of the aircraft is out there, somewhere.
We arrived back at the boat a little disappointed that we had not seen the wreck, but pleasantly tired from a very enjoyable hike over the island and pleased that we had at least found the right path and seen the east coast of the islandof Naviti.