16:43.59S 179:43.72E

Sun 5 Aug 2018 00:15

16:43.59S 179:43.72E

Why Fawn Harbour I Wonder?

I looked right through the limited list of useful Fijian words translated into English and they do not appear to use the letter ‘F’, instead many of their island names start with ‘V’ which has been Anglicized to ‘F’ eg Vulaga becomes Fulaga and is pronounced Fulanga. The assonance is there, Fulanga sounds very similar to Vulanga, the Fijian doesn’t it. So Fawn must be the English meaning either the colour, creature or the verb to exaggerate affection or the Old English ‘fagnian’, making or being glad. Thank you Mrs COD 2011 (Concise Oxford Dictionary), but we’re none the wiser.

The sound ‘F’ seems to be a European introduction just as Whangarei is pronounced Fungarey with a soft ‘G’, so following that line of thinking I looked to no avail for Fijian words like ‘vawn’ or a similar spelling that might explain a Fijian meaning to the name. It also begs the question where did the name Fiji come from?

In our well sheltered anchorage we were surrounded by a thick band of mangroves before the topography rose up the slopes of an ancient volcano to the broken ridge, thickly forested with native trees right to and over the top. You get this feeling with Fiji that those forested hills will forever remain so, a sanctuary to all the species of flora and fauna that live there. The same as in the reefs, the colour and variety of the corals and fish are affected only by cyclones and I hope there is never enough pollution in the oceans to affect the ones in this locale.

We visited the little islet near us with Alison and Randall to find it lightly farmed with Papaya and Coconut palms. There were lots of potential ankle busting crab holes. At night this little place would be alive with activity. On the mounds of excavated earth around the holes were shells flicked aside by crab claws and these shells were highly ridged.

I remember while visiting an island made of spoil from dredging deposits off Corpus Christi in the Gulf of Mexico back in 1977 seeing similar shells whose shape was familiar but were also deeply ridged. It was explained to me then that they are shells in the process of being pushed down into the seabed by the newer deposits on top and they could be tens of thousands of years old.

These mini dredgers were doing the same as the mechanised ones in the southern US, bringing history back to the light of day.

Rob rowed us all across to John’s catamaran where we met his charming Danish wife for a short chat. John proceeded to question the authenticity of the sevusevu ceremony and concluded with the throw away comment that snorkelling to the east was spectacular and we shouldn’t worry too much about the few shark attacks that have been reported in the waters to which we were heading!

We had in the back of our minds of course the dangers of this paradise, the coral reefs to be negotiated and the rocks and coral heads hidden in the waters. What looks like an open expanse of sea, the likes of which we are well used to, are no such thing in this area as the telling line of white breakers along, and between us and the horizon warn us. But these reefs can be as protective as they can be destructive, like a bipolar friend they can offer safety, security and sheer enjoyment inside their lagoons but make a mistake with them and the consequences are obvious.

Like everyone else we were taking our beloved floating home into these areas and as I find the anticipation of an up-coming event is usually more painful than the event itself we would proceed with carefully measured caution and the hope that our fears would be tempered as we gained experience.

I used to tell my nervous learner driving pupils on the day of their test that the anticipation of the test was usually much worse than the test itself. “When you get out there you will be too busy to feel nervous.” Some even returned saying they quite enjoyed the experience, especially if the examiner was a friendly one who knew how to put them at ease and more especially if they passed!

In the same way Rob and I would be pooling our joint knowledge, experience and eyeball navigation to keep Zoonie safe. We weren’t alone of course as we also had the minds of our dear friends Alison and Randall to listen to and fill the holes in our learning.

We already had Open CPN on our laptop, which is a free navigation system with Google Earth overlaid on to it in places. You cannot get more accurate than photos from above the earth. How often did past navigators wish they could look down on the earth to see their way forward from above?

Rob installed the GPS dongle onto this system so we could actually see where Zoonie is in relation to the overlaid charts, well that is the theory. Our outdated CPN Charts of this and other areas can be inaccurate, as we have found by as much as 1 kilometre, so by following the trustworthy and tested waypoints we have been given from Curly in Savusavu and Jon Martin of the ICA that Rob has installed on the charts it looks as if Zoonie is crossing land!

Much like childrens’ dot to dot games we follow the shaped track formed by joining the dots and have to transpose it on to the chart by moving the track east or west to allow for the chart error. The easiest way is to ignore the land mass on the chart and look just at the designated track and the land mass around us. Even then the ultimate safeguard against disaster is the eyeball as we were to find out on entering Vanua Balavu later on.

Cyclone Winston in 2016 did phenomenal damage in Fiji and guiding posts shown on charts are not always there, also it must be remembered that they are on rocks or reefs themselves and so need to be given space and great respect.