Fiji 2015

Please note: If there is no recent update it is because Internet is either non existent or signal too weak. Sorry! but that's what we get when we go to remote places. We will certainly update when we can. Bon Voyage me mateys!

5th November 2015….Here is the Master Plan…. we are bound for Marshall Islands. We depart Fiji tomorrow and will sail 600nm north to Funafuti Atoll,Tuvalu 08.31'S, 179.12'E. We may stop here to rest and to wait for good conditions before continuing 700nm to Kiribati in the North Pacific 01.21N, 172.55E. We should be safe from South Pacific Cyclones here. We hope to stay and explore some of the outer islands and will probably be here for Christmas. Some time in January we will continue on to the Marshall Islands 07.06N, 171.22E where we hope to do lots of exploring and diving. Weather permitting of course. Unfortunately, internet is not as wonderful and cheap as in Fiji so updates may be few. However, we will continue the blog with movies, photos and adventuring so that when we do eventually get good internet again, you won't have missed anything.

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It's a long way from Fiji to the Marshall Islands.

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Cyclone Season …. is upon us again. The 2015/16 Fiji Cyclone report was released by Fiji Met on 22nd October. At the time we were on our way to Futuna to renew our visas. We felt secure in the knowledge that we had an excellent cyclone mooring in the protected Nakama Creek, great internet/phone access, surrounded by friendly Fijians with promises of excellent cruising for the season. However, the El Nino factor…. the Fiji report is based on statisics from 4 previous El Nino seasons. In an El Nino year we can expect more cyclones. We can also expect more severe cyclones ie. Cat 3-5. In 1997/98, our biggest El Nino year, there were 16 cyclones in the Sth Pacific of which 7 were Cat 3-5. This season for Fiji the report says we could see 2-3 cyclones with 1 being greater than Cat 3. Every cruiser has to decide what is right for them. At the end of the day we take responsibility for whatever choices we have made. We have decided not to stay in Fiji for cyclone season this year. Instead we are going ahead with Plan A….we are going to the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific…the 4th least visited country in the world. It's time for a new adventure!

Video below is "Matagi Island and returning to Savusavu."

We are at Matagi Island pretending we are on vacation. Forecasts show strong winds for the next few days so we think we will just wait until it calms down before we go anywhere. That is the beauty of cruising. Time to wait.

Horseshoe Bay is protected in SE winds and it is expected that we ask permission to go ashore. This island is owned by the Douglas Family and it has been in their family for generations. They have a kid-free resort here. With time poor guests paying $1000's for a week long vacation we do our best to respect their privacy. For example, each day only 2 guests arrive at 10am. We assume they have booked the beach for their day. There is a cabin on the beach which is surrounded by rainforest. The staff arrive earlier and prepare it for their guests and activities such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking etc. At noon each day the the local resort boat arrives with 2 eskys. Gourmet food and chilled drinks. I keep wishing they would call into our boat and drop off those eskys. What great food has the Chef prepared for them today? At 2pm the resort boat arrives and picks them up to take them back to the resort.

We don't go to the beach during those hours and we don't run the generator until they are gone. Not so hard. I also try to come up with my own gourmet meals. Today is Beef Tacos for lunch and Chocolate Mud Cake for dessert.

late September

An early start as we pull up anchor and head to Fawn Harbour on our way to a private island called Matagi.

A seaplane arrives at Cousteau Resort and lands right in front of us. We enjoyed the unexpected show whilst sipping sundowners. The staff greeted their VIP guests on the dock with warm Bula's, guitars and singing. Or perhaps it was Jean Michelle himself as I have heard he is in town and you can go diving with this legend. We saw their dive boat out at Namena Island and the conditions were perfect.

Namena Island is one of our favourite places. An underwater paradise. It was also a chance to catch up with Exodus and Fluenta. The weather window was an opportunity not to be missed. It is only a 3 hour sail from Savusavu and we were all provisioned and ready to go, so off we went. Check out this dive we did on Chimneys. Conditions were calm. Last time we were here there was wind chop and a ripping current so today was a pleasant change.

Push play and come for a dive on Chimneys with us.

Namena Island is also a beautiful place for nesting sea birds. Fluffy chicks still in their nests and curious youngsters show no fear as they hone their flying skills around the anchorage.

This fluffy chick needs his sleep.

This little guy has fallen out of his nest but I saw mum still feeding him and he was practicing his flying exercises so I have my fingers crossed that he will be dive-bombing our fishing lure or pooping on our decks one day.

The red footed boobies breed here. In Mexico we saw blue footed and yellow footed boobies so we really appreciate seeing the red footed boobies here in Fiji.

16th September...After Suva we did an overnight sail to Savusavu. We stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables and decided to head out to Namena Island.

Calm conditions in Savusavu means it is near perfect diving conditions at Namena Island. In Fiji you have to go when the going is good.

12th September…Suva is the best place in Fiji for provisioning. It is said "If you can't get it in Suva, then it is not in Fiji". So after 4 days of shop till you drop we will depart early tomorrow morning for an overnight passage to Savusavu. We had a pleasant experience here but will be glad to move on as our boat which is anchored in the harbour is often surrounded by a smelly diesel slick. That and Suva has the same hectic pace as many cities. We had some taxi drivers who just grunted and some that were very friendly and talked the whole time. Car horns were used as weapons along with raised voices and the usual arm gestures. It was great to see, city life is the same everywhere!

This is what a Chinese tuna-boat raft up looks like in Suva harbour.

Hmmmmm…no wonder we haven't caught any tuna yet.

The commercial harbour in Suva is business as usual.

Fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables on the corner in Suva.

4th September….Vanua Balavu means the "long land".

A very moody photo of Bay of Islands at Vanua Balavu. This photo was taken from the lookout which is reached by a short dinghy ride, 271 steps up to the trail which leads to the Caretaker's village and Mbavatu Plantation. Continue past the only internet repeater tower; follow the road up the hill to Allardyce grave site and arrive at scenic splendour. Well worth the effort.

The Caretaker's Village. The owner is not always is residence and the caretaker looks after everything whilst he is away.

This little house is the only place around which has an internet repeater signal and we were told we could go up there and make use of it. Vinaka!

A quick email check in and phone home. You have to do it when the opportunity arises.

The previous owner lies buried here. I must say he certainly picked a good spot.

Looking out to a neighbouring island. There are reefs everywhere so careful navigation is required in these waters. Too many boats have come off second best when they tangled with Fijian reefs.

September 3rd...

Good Morning! This is the view from our cockpit. Craig is still sleeping and I am drinking my coffee and playing with my camera. It is a Nikon Coolpix and has more functions than my last camera. Timber framing…interesting. This time I got a waterproof camera as water is what killed the last 2. I haven't checked to see if it floats.

September 2nd…Another Walu! Very nice, but the thrill of the catch soon wore off when the dinghy started to deflate.

One angry Walu, 2 sharp treble hooks = 1 hole in the dinghy.

Now is a good time to start mumbling something about cruising being all about doing repairs in exotic places. Such is life. Where is the dinghy repair kit?

Internet...This is what it looks like trying to get an internet signal in a remote location at Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu. There are a couple of villages nearby where there is a tower on a hill but it doesn't always mean you will get a good signal. It really is a bonus to get any phone or internet access out here. That is one thing Fiji does really well.

In search of a signal….We left True Blue V, went on a 10minute dinghy ride, walked across a beach….just to check email.

We are at Mbavatu Plantation located in the fjord-like harbour at Nabavatu. It is privately owned land but armed with our Letter of Introduction from Copra Shed Marina we are allowed to enjoy their free mooring, scenic walks, and make use of their limited facilities. Vinaka! How good is this?

The local yacht club. Well, sort of. It is not open and we are the only boat here. If you want to get a cold beer though, you would be wise to bring your own.

This bay should be renamed Walu Bay. We just caught 3 by trolling around in the dinghy. This fish was the biggest so we kept it and gave the other 2 and the prized head to the local Fijian village on top of the hill.

Game on! Walu on the left and, trevally on the right. Not too bad for a little trolling around the bay in the dinghy. And yes, I did catch these 2. They are destined for a a fish curry night with friends.

Craig caught these 2 fresh coral trout which are perfect plate size. He stuffed them, wrapped them in foil and cooked them in the oven. They were melt in the mouth delicious.

Hanging out with friends…

29th August…It was too windy to go diving but our little bay was perfect for wakeboarding behind the dinghy with the crew from Skabenga and Eleutheria. Check out this 1minute movie for the highlights in wipeouts!

Push Play for some wakeboarding fun.

Craig is about to high-five Bruce on his way past True Blue V. This is a fun way to spend the day. Thanks guys.

27th August

We have heard there are caves around here so we all head out in our dinghies at low tide to explore. It is alot of fun as we zoom around, race and explore to find the caves.

Push Play to check out this movie.

It's Happy Hour as we raft up our dinghies and float around whilst catching up with cruiser friends Eleutheria and Skabenga. L-R Alyssa, Jen, Bruce, Lewis and Craig.

We last saw our friends in French Polynesia. Everyone has stories of their adventures over the last 12 months and it is always entertaining with plenty of laughs.

We have just arrived at Daliconi Village for sevsevu. It's time to meet the Chief and present our kava to him. Everyone looks great in their Fijian sulus and the locals really appreciate us respecting their traditional customs.

We met and presented our kava to the Chief's sister and Joe the Village representative. We are all sitting on a handmade mat woven from pandamus leaves that the village ladies make themselves.

August 24….Its's whale time again and within 1 hour of departing Levuka we came across these humpbacks who were having a wonderful time breaching, spy-hopping and slapping. It was a great show and Craig did well to get these photos as we sailed past at a distance doing 7knots.

Breaching/Jumping: Leaping clear of the water, often vertically, then falling back with a splash.


Spy-hop: Slowly emerging vertically from the water to raise the head clear of the surface, before sinking back without a splash.

Lob-tailing/fin slapping: Forcefully slapping tail flukes or pectoral flippers onto the water surface, creating white water.

I love the whales. These are the first humpback whales we have seen in Fiji. During the 1850s Levuka was one of the Pacific's main whaling bases for sperm and humback whales. By the 1880s whalers had moved south as the populations were decimated and steam driven whalers managed to brake through the ice of Antarctica to find more concentrated groups to hunt. The government declared Fiji's Exclusive Economic Zone as a Whale Sanctuary on 11th March 2003 but numbers are still very low for this endangered species.

August 23….Finally it is time to do some real cruising again. All the work is done and we are heading back to Vanua Balavu in Northern Lau to catch up with some friends who spent their summer in Hawaii. Our plan is to get out and enjoy some Fiji cruising as we are seriously considering heading north to the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific. It is the 4th least visited country in the world. There are very few services up there and a boat has to be self sufficient. This is one of the reasons we have been doing so much work on our boat lately. We are getting our boat ready for another off-shore adventure.

Craig is at the helm with his cup of tea. It is 6.30am and it rained all night. Viti Levi Bay brings out the rainbow as we depart.

We caught a nice Spanish Mackerel along the way so it will be fish n chips for dinner and fresh fish in the freezer again.

We stop for 1 night at Levuka. It is a typical Sunday afternoon in Fiji and the town looks like it is asleep. Sunday is a day of rest. The sound of guitars and singing can be heard coming from the local churches. It is a good place to top up our fuel tank and wait for the expected southerly wind to arrive tomorrow for our overnight voyage to Vanua Balavu.

More maintenance! This time it is the engine. The exhaust elbow was removed and checked. There was a little bit of carbon build up but only a couple of millimeters which cleaned off easily. Tick that box. The heat exchanger was next. It was disassembled and the cooling tubes were removed to be checked and cleaned. Tick. The fuel injectors were removed and taken to a diesel injector shop where they were cleaned and tested. One of the injectors had an irregular spray pattern, one had a small drip and the other 2 were ok. They came back looking brand new. Next on the list was a service to replace fuel and oil/oil filters. Check and tighten any loose bolts. Clean up. The last job of the day was to tidy up some loose alternator wiring. Start the engine and woohoo all good to go. She looks good and sounds good. It must be nearly time to go cruising again.

Our Yanmar engine 4JH2TE. We do our best to keep it clean and maintained.

Out and about again. Yay! but not for long as we will soon head back to Denarau to get our engine maintenance done.

Navadra Island…..unedited. A stunning spot with white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.


Here is a slideshow of some of our favourite photos here in Fiji. I have tried to capture the essence of our stay in Fiji with songs such as Bula and Ni sa Bula which are 2 Fijian favourites. Fiji is a wonderful destination with lots to see and do but it is the people that make it really special. They are the happiest and friendliest people we have met.

Push the PLAY button to Fiji.

True Blue V goes back in the water.

July is all about getting boat work done. We have hauled the boat at Vuda Pt Marina and we are staying on it whilst we get boat work done. Life on the hard is hard.

The view from our boat which is currently high and dry, looking out over the circular marina. There is a long list of boat jobs to be done but certain jobs can only be done when the boat is out of the water. This is the plan...

Boat is hauled and washed down. Bottom sanded, 3 coats of bottom paint. Repairs to some electrolysis around freezer plate, propeller to be cleaned, rudder bearings and spacers checked + new packing, new stern gland packing, new zinc anodes, replace thru hull fitting. Other jobs include drop all anchor chain and mark out new 10m lengths, end to end chain, check and charge batteries, check sails and restitch, clean dinghy, clean BBQ, clean and polish hull. Once we are back in the water we will check our engine maintenance list and a climb up the mast to check that all is good up there. And that will be our July.

In this photo, we have put our first coat of bottom paint on. It is blue but the final coat will be black.

Bottom Paint…We previously had Petite Trinidad SR bottom paint on our boat and we were very happy with it. If we could use it again we would but we cannot get it here which probably has something to do with changes to the marine environment protection laws. We are now using International Ultra which is a hard bottom paint. There is a big push for us to use soft bottom paint which is a self polishing ablative paint, but in 12 months there will be none left on the bottom of the boat. It will need doing again. How is that good for the environment? We figure that if we use the hard paint and scrape off the bottom with a plastic scraper every 2 months then the paint will last longer.

Craig stands beside the work bench. True Blue V has her black top coat on.

With no fridge/freezer working on the boat Craig heads to the bar for a cold beer and a well earned break.

This is a cyclone pit. There are 35 of them here at Vuda Pt Marina and they are usually booked out by the end of July. The keel sits in the hole and the hull is supported by tyres. The boat needs to be properly prepared with all sails and excess windage removed. It is certainly an option for leaving your boat in secure long term storage during cyclone season. The good thing is that there are no other boats to bump into.

1st July….We are anchored in Viti Levu Bay which is a large bay located at the North East end of the main island. It has great protection from SE winds and with a forecast of 20-25knots, gusting to 35knots we decided to stay for another night.

True Blue V is at anchor in Viti Levu Bay on her way to Nadi.

It's nearly the end of June and we are ready to depart Savusavu. We have a new windlass installed and it is time to make our way to the big island Viti Levu. The boat needs to be hauled out and have its bottom painted and there is a long list of maintenance jobs we would like to get done. Then we will be keen to get out and do some Fiji sailing and exploring.

Everyone loves a Marching Band and the Fijians are putting on a show for Crime Prevention Week.

Also in town is the USS Mercy.

The USS Mercy has arrived in Savusavu with 800 personnel on board. They have been warmly welcomed by the locals as they are offering free dental, optical, physiotherapy and medical services. The line up for some services is 1km long and includes babies, schoolkids and the elderly. In addition to these highly sought after services they are entertaining the locals with the fleet brass band. Businesses are benefitting as they spend up big in town so everyone is happy. The USS Mercy also went to Vanuatu and assisted the local people after Cyclone Pam.

15th June. Continuing boat jobs.

Craig is fibreglassing in the cockpit workshop. Our old Muir windlass is on the red mat and has serious corrosion issues from dissimilar metals. The new ones are made from stainless steel but before our new windlass gets installed we are making some changes to our chain locker.

Craig is fibreglassing a shelf which is to be installed in the chain locker. The idea is that when the anchor chain arrives at the chain locker it will hit the shelf and slide off it and into the deepest and widest part of the locker. This will prevent the chain castling in one big pile at the narrow part of the locker which is what happens now. Craig then has to run down below deck and haul it back before continuing with the job of bringing the anchor up. This can happen 3 times with 200feet of chain and it is a real pain in the butt that makes hauling up the anchor a much slower process. Our new shelf should make hauling up the anchor and bringing in the chain much easier.

30th May. Boat maintenance.

I really enjoy doing boat jobs and there is always something to be done. It is a great way of getting to know our boat. As full time cruisers we now have time to do these jobs ourselves. In our previous busy working lives we used to congratulate ourselves if we could find a day to go sailing. We would get out onto Moreton Bay and say "hey this is great, we should do it more often." Limited time meant we often had to pay someone else to do essential maintenance jobs. When we do our own maintenance we learn how to pull things apart, how they work, what is causing problems, what needs replacing, cleaning or lubricating. Ideally, this will prevent problems when we are underway.

It's time to clean and lubricate all of our winches on board.

We like to make sure we have everything we need before pulling things apart in remote anchorages.

Hot Springs

There are hot springs in Savusavu. This photo shows the steaming shoreline at low tide.

Just behind the building is a stream and more thermal hot springs.

The locals use the hot springs daily for their cooking needs. This photo shows 2 pots of food which the locals are cooking in the boiling water. The stream which runs beside it is cool water.

25th May…Bula, Bula! and Welcome to Fiji! Our friends on Exodus arrived this morning after spending cyclone season in New Zealand. We went to the bakery and greeted them with 2 fresh loaves of white bread. After a long passage, that is always appreciated.

Tim and Deanne are very happy to be arriving in Fiji. We have been invited over for "safe arrival drinks" once they get checked in. Lunch will be burgers at Surf & Turf and there goes the day!

23rd May...Savusavu

Our visitor has gone home and Craig and I are enjoying a calm evening in Savusavu. Aaahh, the serenity.

22nd May….Sailing in Fiji. This is the movie which covers our visitor David on board, our trip to Vanua Balavu, Koro Island and back to Savusavu. We hope you enjoy.

Sailing Fiji….Hit the Play button and come along for the ride.

May 20th….Wednesday was all about the fishing on the way back to Savusavu. Mahi Mahi. Mahi Mahi. Yes 2 big ones landed on board and both caught on the handline with a pink lure. Craig had just finished cleaning the first one and the second one arrived. We put the fishing lines away after that. No more fishing today.

David was very happy with the first Mahi Mahi but couldn't believe it when the second one arrived. We are keeping the fish head for our Fijian friends back in Savusavu.

Fish No. 2 was time to pack away the gear and celebrate. Then the big clean up…boat and fish.

Monday afternoon…we departed for Koro Island. Approx 92nm. We discovered a problem with our in-mast furling main so we sailed through the night with 15-20knots wind and just the headsail out. We chose Koro Island as we can pick up a mooring there (anchor windlass still not working) and it is only a day hop back to Savusavu. Craig took David on a quick tour and the next morning we went snorkelling on the outer reef.

David is doing his best "Oh what a feeling" pose. A little bit higher David.

This is the resort at Koro Island and it is open for locals, guests and cruisers to use their facilities.

Current location…..Vanua Balavu, Northern Lau.

Sunday…A day of rest. Swimming, watching movies, exploring and coffee on board Cat Impi.

I am the only one carrying a camera so it looks like I have to take my own photo. Another bad hair day in paradise.

Cat Impi are anchored close to us in their very own secluded anchorage location L-R Ana, David, Craig and Brent

Saturday…..After a swim and a big breakfast of french toast with yogurt, banana & passionfruit Craig and David worked on getting our anchor windlass working. Unfortunately, it is still not working.

Later that day we met up with Cat Impi and Nautilus for lunch and to help celebrate Katrine's birthday. We spotted this beautiful beach yesterday and it was a great place to picnic, swim and snorkel.

The beach has a nice cleared area with shade & stump seating. We were surprised to find there was another beach and bay on the other side of this clearing. It is only 100m from beach 1 to beach 2.

The beach and bay on the other side.

David enjoyed snorkelling at the point in front of the bay and saw schools of parrotfish.


The water is clean, clear and aqua blue. This is a pristine location unaffected by pollution and the spoils of man.

It's time to explore. This is an amazing anchorage. There are so many bays and inlets and rock pinnacles that it is easy to spend the whole day exploring. There are 2 other boats around the corner in another bay. They are Cat IMPI and S/V Nautilus. There could be 100 boats here and they could all have their very own anchorage and not see or hear anyone. We are the 4th boat here this season. 1st Guava Jelly, 2nd Cat Impi, 3rd Nautilus and 4th True Blue V. Last season only 20 boats visited and signed the Visitors Book at the Village.


David on passage to Lau

David flew in to Savusavu on Tuesday and Craig met him at the airport at 3.45pm. After a welcome beverage at the Copra Shed Marina, we pulled the dinghy up and headed out of Nakama Creek on our voyage to Lau. The wind was on the nose so we tacked back and forth all night. The next day the wind turned SSE giving us a straight line to Vanua Balavu. We made a decision around dark to heave-to for the night. We thought this would be a good exercise as we could have dinner; get some sleep by establishing a 2 hour watch system; be well away from islands & reefs and practice heaving to. It worked well. We reefed in the main and headsail, backwinded the headsail and turned the rudder to windward. We drifted an average of 1nm/hour. At 3am we let out the headsail and were underway again. The wind was not in our favour so it took all day to get to our destination. We arrived at 4pm and enjoyed a beautiful calm anchorage and a good nights sleep.

Our first visitor aboard experience. Craig's cousin David is arriving 12th May.

Some cruisers have visitors and some never do. It is easy to understand both points of view. Afterall our 45 foot boat is really a small 1 bedroom apartment with a storage room for sail bags, fold up bikes, boxes, air conditioner and boat stuff…lots of stuff. It used to be known as the aft cabin but that was before we became live a boards. We initially thought we would get all that gear off the boat and David could have his own space but it is easier to leave it all there. We asked Dolly at the Copra Shed Marina if there was somewhere secure to keep it for a couple of weeks. She asked is it valuable? does it need to be secure? which is bit like "do you want it back?" Yes, it is valuable to us but I am sure others would like to ride the bikes too! So probably best to keep it all on board. At least we know where it is.

Space is relative. Sometimes we may go to a boat (usually a catmaran) and exclaim "Oh, nice space!" Others will come to our boat and say "wow your boat is huge". My eyes widen "really?" It doesn't feel huge when trying to cook a meal with limited bench space that also lifts up for fridge, freezer and pantry storage. Some cruisers have even stepped into my very limited space known as the galley and exclaimed "wow you have plenty of room for 2 people in here!" If they are helping prepare something then i will smile and agree and together we will drink more wine. If they are in my way and just hanging out then I might say "No, its definitely a 1 person galley." I try to resist the urge to pinch their bottom but have not always been successful much to their shock and surprise. Craig has even learnt to ask "Permission to enter" as he always wants to lift the bench and grab a beer at the worst possible times.

Making bread…..this galley space is occupied.

David was due to arrive on 2nd May but weather showed a (BFH) Big Fat High was sending honking SE winds our way with up to 30/35 knots and rough seas. David is keen to do some sailing and would have been disappointed to sit at a mooring in Savusavu for 6 out of his 9 days. Lucky for him he was able to change his flights. Visitors need to know that we have to work with the weather. It is what it is. Passage planning is important as arrival at new anchorages should be planned for when the sun is still high in the sky and reefs and coral heads can be seen. Navionics cannot be blindly trusted and a google earth backup is a good idea. Some tried and trusted waypoints are handy too. If we arrive at a village before 3pm then the villagers will be expecting us for a Sevusevu ceremony. Bula Vinaka! None of this is an issue. It is all a balance between where we want to go, when we want to go and whether or not we can get there at the right time.

They have seen your boat arrive, they are now waiting for you to visit their village.

The biggest advantage of sailing here in Fiji is that very few people have access to the outer islands. It is not just about the destination but also about the journey to get there. To be welcomed into a remote village and to see how these people live in their daily lives is an experience you will not forget. If you stay long enough it may even change how you think about your own life. Either way it will leave you wanting to come back for more. It is a privilege for us to be able to share this experience with our dearest friends and relatives and Fii is the best destination to do this.

How now to Lau! Departing 12th May.

The Lau Group is a large area of 188square miles and consists of 60 islands of which 30 are inhabited. All but 8 are very small. The islands are east of the 2 main islands Viti Levi and Vanua Levu and may be referred to as Eastern Lau, Eastern Archipelago, Northern Lau, Southern Lau or just Lau. Lau is not easy to get to and the lack of resorts, transport, entertainment, shops and facilities make it a perfect destination to arrive by boat. 2 of the islands have a small airport/runway and is serviced by a weekly flight but only in good weather conditions.

Lau Islands shown by Google Maps.

The Fiji Government has only recently allowed the Lau Group to be opened up to cruisers. Cruisers must first clear in to the country and apply for a Cruising Permit or risk a huge $$$ fine. Our cruising permit is good for 6 months. This area is so remote that Fijians of this area follow a subsistence lifestyle that has not changed too much from their ancestors. The island life may be simple and the people may be poor in material terms but they are rich in family, history and traditions and a lifestyle removed from our western society ways. For us to be accepted into a village we must present a gift of kava to the Chief and ask for permission to be there. Perhaps the best way to think about it is that someone pulls into your driveway and sets up a tent to camp for the night. It would be very rude if they didn't show you any respect by coming to ask you if that was ok. What if they started to pick your flowers and use your water? The Chief will usually welcome you to his village and grant permission for you to anchor/fish/swim/dive/hike/go to church…..etc. It is truly a wonderful way to start a friendship and get to know the local people.

These photos from the Internet. Images of Lau. I look forward to getting my own photos soon.

It is important that we as cruisers visit the area with the right attitude. Cruisers need to be self sufficient. Fresh fruit and vegetables are hard to find and the local people are not used to the idea of selling things that are normally shared freely with friends and family. We will take some items that may be useful to them. These items may include toothbrushes, school items, soap, laundry soap, simple medical treatments, thongs, clothes or some other consumable item which could be used to trade, donate or simply say thanks. No alcohol, no lollies. Our visitor, David, arrives on Tuesday and then it is off to Lau for a visit which I already know will be too short. He is bringing a new camera for me and I can't wait to get snapping again. Lau is remote and internet/phone access may be variable or non existent. Some of the best anchorages in the South Pacific are waiting for us in Lau. I can't wait to get out there and check it out.

1st May 2015….is the official end of cyclone season and the official beginning of the the cruising season. We have applied for a Special Permit which will allow us to stay an extra 6 months without having to leave the country. We are loving Fiji for the simplicity of life, happiness, laughter and light-heartedness of the local people.

Chief Moses at Qamea Village is still our favourite chief in our favourite village.

Farewell to S/V Lady Carolina…..our sailing buddies whom we first met 2 years ago at the dock in La Paz, Mexico.

In true style S/V Lady Carolina departed Savusavu as the sun set today. With Kyle at the helm, Steve in his bright yellow mankini outfit and Carolina and Joel up on deck, we escorted them out of the harbour. Craig and I were in our dinghy, with our huge pirate flag flying and a very loud horn to ensure everyone in the anchorage noticed. Along the way, Craig handed Steve a cold beer as he had promised they would have one last beer together. We stopped at S/V Guava Jelly and picked up Ricky and Wade before continuing our escort to the entrance of the harbour. Farewell dear friends! We will miss you more than you know. Bon Voyage!

Easter Tuesday….Up anchor at 0600 hours for our full day passage from Qamea Island back to our mooring at Savusavu. 30 knot wind against tide made the first 6 miles very unpleasant as we passed close to reefs and surf breaks. After that the wind was on the aft quarter and although still a vigorous ride it was much more tolerable and later in the day enjoyable. Craig was determined to catch a fish and put the handline out. With main and headsail out, doing 7kts boat speed we hooked up a 184cm Short Billed Spearfish.

Check out that blue fin. Sorry about my thumb but I am not used to taking photos with my phone. I slowed the boat to 5kts and Craig did a great job getting it on board.

This is the biggest fish landed on True Blue V. We will share it around and still fill the freezer. The fish head is highly prized by the Fijians so we are keeping it for our friend Simi at the Copra Shed Marina. It will make his day.

One of my favourite photos...

Chief Moses with his grand daughter Josephine. I told Moses I would bring him some of the photos next time we visit.

Easter Sunday…Floyd invited us to church at 10am and to lunch with his family afterwards. Everyone dresses up and the singing is beautiful. The service was conducted in Fijian and they made us feel very welcome. Lunch with Floyd and his family was very enjoyable and we tried some new & tasty Fijian dishes. I made a Walu seafood chowder, boiled rice and chocolate cake which we added to the feast. Thank you Vatusogosogo for your hospitality and friendship and making Easter so enjoyable for us.

They are very proud of their village church as they had to build a new one after Cyclone Tomas blew away their old one in 2010. They saved the money to build by doing regular Meke (fijian dancing) shows at a resort on a nearby island. Their goal now is to build a community building out of concrete blocks - a strong building that will provide shelter in a cyclone. Only 3 of their houses survived that cyclone and they said all the leaves on the trees were stripped bare. Wind reached speeds of 240km.

Easter Saturday….Floyd from the Vatusogosogo village offered to show us his garden today. It was different to what I expected because I was thinking he would show me a square plot about a 1/4 acre. Thats Floyd in the photo below.

Instead he took us on a hike through bushland, past his relatives homes, up and down hills, across creeks and through the footy field whilst showing us trees, plants, roots, bananas, kava, eggplant, taro, cassava, chilli, string beans, corn and everything else which they grow to eat. They grow and eat everything and sell kava for income.

The local fruit and vegetable market. Taro leaves up front, long stringy leaves for weaving, banana trees, coconut trees, breadfruit and papaya. Floyd gave me a breadfruit and cassava root to take home and make hot chips with. Thanks Floyd!

Unfortunately it rained really heavy and my camera got flooded. I don't know if it will survive. It is currently drying out in uncooked rice. Fingers crossed. No, it's definitely gone to camera heaven.

Good Friday…..We had a great day hanging out in the village today. Moses invited us and IMPI to join him for a traditional fijian lunch after church. Anna and I both cooked up some dishes to take in and share. It was a feast which we all enjoyed.

The camera loves the kids. The kids love the camera.

Sam is pounding the kava root to prepare it for drinking later. Ana & I have returned to our boats leaving Craig & Brent to do some serious kava drinking with the men. Not too serious….mostly laughing and telling stories. The more kava you drink the more relaxed you get and the less talking you do.

April 2nd….. The Qamea Mud Walk. Craig, Brent and I went to the village to see Chief Moses to do our sevusevu ceremony. Unfortunately we arrived at low tide so I opted to stay in the dinghy. Apparently we could have gone to a nice sandy beach 200m away and walked along a path to arrive at the village. Now we know! I thought you might enjoy watching the mud walk. I enjoyed watching it from the dinghy.

Push play for this movie which is about "nothing" but mud walking. Good for a laugh. Song is Can You Do This by Aloe Blacc.

Moses invited us in to drink kava with them later in the day.

Chief Moses in the middle is a real family man and exudes genuine warmth and hospitality. All the kids adore him.

Carla, Frances, Moses and Sam enjoying kava with us.

High tide makes all the difference as the kids race Craig & me in to shore.

April 1st 2015….Up anchor at 0700 hours. We motored across the Somosomo Strait to Waiyevo. A taxi into town and some more provisions before venturing on to Qamea Island which is on the other side of Taveuni.

The best of the fresh foods grown by locals is always at the street market.

Prices are good and the locals are friendly.

The fish are back and everyone is happy about it. We caught this toothy guy, a Walu, on the way to Qamea. Catching fish always makes a good day even better!

Tuesday, 31st March….only 1 month of cyclone season left. We are at Viani Bay and making the most of the cooler weather.

Jack Fisher is at the wheel and heading S/V Salsa out of the bay. As you can see everyone else on board is enjoying a break from the helm. We are all off to snorkel a dive site located near Taveuni Island called The Fish Factory. We had a very enjoyable morning and saw lots of healthy reef, an abundant variety of small fish and ended the dive with white tip reef sharks cruising around under us.

Viani Bay….It's Monday morning

The local kids are off to school which is just across the bay. You can see flowers floating behind their boat. Jack tells me they are called wedding flowers and fall from the Vutu tree. Every morning these beautiful flowers float past our boats with the outgoing tide.

The Vutu tree flowers only at night. This is the fragrant wedding flower. It falls from the pod which is shown hanging from the branches. During the day there are no flowers.

Its always good to get off the boat for a beach walk.

The rolling hills of Viani Bay. This photo L-R Cat IMPI, Salsa and True Blue V.

Taveuni Island….

Craig is rowing the dinghy into shore. Saturday mornings are a good time to stock up on fresh fruit & vegetables as the locals bring in their fresh produce to sell.

The local police boat. A multi purpose boat which gets used for many things including getting supplies and transporting family and friends across the Somosomo Strait.

Where are the Hot Springs? This is our 3rd time at Fawn Harbour and we ventured out to find the hot springs. Last time we tried to find them it had rained so much that the road was so wet and slippery with mud that we gave up. Today, we asked a local "is it far?" He replied "it is a bit far."

On the road to the hot springs.

Oh yes, that is definitely hot. Like a really hot bath.

This pool has a little bit of hot and a little bit of cold. It is nice but I am feeling a bit nervous after Craig jumped out in a hurry. He wasn't sure if something bit him or he sat on a stick.

True Blue V at anchor in Fawn Harbour. The tide is going out and you can see the outer reef. This is a suggested hurricane hole.

End of March…..25th It is cooler and we can sleep easier at night. That has got to be good. It is a relief that the hot tropical summer is coming to an end. We have ventured out of Savusavu again and we are now at anchor at Fawn Harbour.

We simply love being out of the harbour and at anchor.

Check out this homemade canoe. A sheet of iron folded in half. OK so its abit close to the water but hey this if Fiji and they could probably fit another 3 people in there. Friendly locals paddled out to offer us fresh papaya and fruits grown in their garden. They are planning their own trip to Australia in 2015 to do some fruit picking. Enjoy!

S/V Lady Carolina are heading back home to North America soon. Brent and Anna from IMPI generously hosted a farewell party for them. Goodbye, good luck and thanks for many great travelling adventures & special moments. Many of these have been captured in our movies and will always bring back great memories. Also in this photo is Staffan & Eleanor and their daughter Erika from S/V Salsa. They have joined the Sea Mercy team and are taking their boat to Vanuatu to assist the local people in outer islands, after Cyclone Pam caused massive devastation. We wish you the best and will follow your journey with great interest.

Mid March…Cyclones. We have been having a great cyclone season with no real threats to speak of. Cyclone Pam has been our first major threat with warnings of a Monster Cyclone approaching. It is reportedly the largest cyclone in the South Pacific since 2002. As per our cyclone plan, we returned to our mooring at Savusavu and started preparing our boat for strong winds and the possibility of a direct hit from a monster storm. Yes, we imagine the worst. We know cyclones are unpredictable so we prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Not everyone does this. Afterall it is a lot of work. However, we are finding that the more we pull our boat apart then the easier it is to put it back together. It's a great way to get to know your boat. We pull it apart, clean it, notice repairs & maintenance and can store the sail, bimini and dodger whilst they are still dry. Sails are easier to get down and fold when there is little wind and no rain. We ended up with some gusty NW winds and small rain squalls but nothing to worry about. Certainly not enough rain to fill our tanks.

All good here! Check the picture below. Fiji is in the top right corner breathing a sigh of relief after escaping the worst of Pam.

We watched the weather reports and tracked the cyclone which to our relief headed more S than E. Unfortunately Vanuatu copped a direct hit from Severe Cyclone Pam Cat 5 when it swerved SW towards them. We currently know that Vanuatu has no communications, massive devastation and loss of life and we wait to hear more news with heavy hearts.

This picture was taken on 15th March with Cyclone Pam well past Fiji and Vanuatu and New Caledonia. It should lose alot of strength by the time it arrives down in NZ but I know our cruiser friends down south are preparing for Pam and expecting strong gale force winds and heavy rain. Batten down folks!

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Cyclones are unpredictable so it is important to keep up to date with their latest track.

March…A visit to Labasa whichis a busy Indian market town with a population of about 25,000. It is a working town that services Vanua Levu's major cane-growing area. Located on the Northern side of the island it reportedly has little to interest the average tourist. The bus ride over costs 6fjd and takes you high up into the mountains and rainforests, past pine forests and then down to the cane farms on the delta. The Labasa river snakes around the main street which is long and lined with shops and restaurants.

The Indo-Fijians are very friendly and the prices are much better than Savusavu. I missed the market which is supposed to be really good. Cruisers travel to Labasa to see Optometrists, Dentists and Doctors and also to search for mechanical parts, computer/electrical items, materials, clothes and hardware items that are hard to find or cheaper here. Labasa is pronounced as Lam-basa. It may not be very exciting for tourists but we liked it. It's real and has a down to earth farming community feel about it.

The challenges of living in the tropics on a boat…during the summer cyclone season in Fiji.

Warning: This article may dash the illusion of tropical bliss. However it is what it is!

It's hot, too hot. It's humid, too humid. It's sweaty, too sweaty. Clothes are bothersome. They are hot and annoying and undesirable.

Rain…well it is the wet season. Rain can be lots of little showers where you have to rush around and shut all hatches and port lights quickly. As soon as you close everything the boat immediately starts to heat up. As soon as the rain shower passes the hatches are opened again. This is not much fun when you are sound asleep and then woken by rain drops on your face or arm. Instantly springing out of bed to shut everything down because you know those first few drops are the only warning you will get before a torrential downpour. Of course a few drops always get in here and there and now we have warmth with moisture. It's uncomfortable but mould loves it and thrives everywhere. Timber veneers, gelcoat, pillows, carpet, clothes, anything leather, fruit and veg, coconuts, you name it - mould loves it. So armed with vinegar and bleach it's a battle that is difficult to win, but one that you can't afford to lose and can never give up trying.

Every so often we will get a Heavy Rain Alert. When it rains it pours…it means abundant water and for me its time to get to work. It's wonderful and heaps cooler outside the boat anyway. It's time to fill buckets, jerry cans, water bottles, open up the water tank, have a shower, wash the cockpit; cockpit cushions; dodger clears; deck; clothes, dishes, flush the water maker; flush the anchor windlass, the bilge and shower sump. And sometimes its just nice to sit on the coachroof and enjoy. I get great pleasure watching pure Fiji rain water fill our water tank. I usually look around at the other boats and I see no one. Everyone is staying warm and dry down below. They have missed a great opportunity and are usually seen at the dock filling their tanks with the questionable local supply.

Then the sun comes out and its time to put everything out to dry again.

Jobs…Cleaning the bottom of the boat regularly helps keep it clean from growth and barnacles. Our Air Line Hookah system has been a good investment and Craig and I like to clean the bottom ourselves. Its a great opportunity to see what is happening down there. The more you do it the easier it is. We have been very happy with our bottom paint but it has been a couple of years since it was done and it is time to haul the boat and do it again. Armed with 2 plastic scrapers we take a side each and usually get the job done in about 2+ hours. A little longer if the zincs need changing. Craig found 2 baby lobsters this time. 1 hanging inside our bowthruster and the other in the marine forest around our freezer plate.

Engine Maintenance….Craig has been busy. This month included replacing an exhaust hose, tightening engine mounts, changing oil & fuel filters, replace oil, tighten the fan belt, replace an impeller,change engine mats.

Pantry Weevils….have inspired a huge clean out. Infested foods have been thrown out and everything has been date checked and stored in containers. We have discovered we have lots more storage on our starboard side which can be used to free up some space in the aft cabin. It's not all bad as those dreaded pantry weevils are responsible for me finding another 3 boxes of white wine from Mexico!

Forward Head…the toilet! Yes everything will need maintenance at some point. It has stopped working and this job is designated as a "blue job". Yes, Craig can have that one. He has been busy clearing lines and in future we will take further preventative maintenance as this rates as one of those "least desirable" jobs on a boat. Luckily we have 2 toilets on board!

And so that brings us to the end of February. With only 2 months left of the cyclone season, It is a time when we start to think about the cruising season ahead. Some cruisers who left their boats here for the summer are starting to return to their boats. Others who stayed in Fiji are planning their next voyage to far away places. We are thinking that we might just stay here in Fiji and do it all again because the diving here is some of the best in the world and there is so much more to see, explore and learn. We feel it might be too early to leave.

Fiji is a great country and it really is hard to beat a big Fijian smile. Bula Vinaka!

Saturday is race day and the kids sail Lasers in the Nakama Creek. Last Saturday, the starting line and turning point was our boat at its mooring. There was lots of yelling and laughter whilst the kids on the start boat Kalia jumped overboard for a swim. All good fun.

"Dan Does Fiji"……is my latest slideshow/movie. Dan is Steve's best friend and he visited Fiji staying on Lady Carolina. I put together a movie for him and captured some great moments that we all shared (including Brent and Anna from IMPI). Film and photos were shared by Dan, Lady Carolina and us. I am happy to share it with you all as it captures the fun we all had doing our advanced diving course and swimming with pilot whales.

Push play for "Dan Does Fiji"

Middle of February….Savusavu. The last couple of days have been awesome. Craig and I have been doing our PADI Advanced Diving Course. It has been a long time since we did our Open Water so it is all new and exciting again. Our first adventure dive was Deep Diving and was down to a depth of 40m with hammerhead sharks. Someone should have invited the hammerhead sharks because they obviously had other arrangements and didn't show up. Our next dive was Navigation which was ok except my dive buddy was Craig and he kept pointing at where I should go. I'm supposed to use the compass Craig. Night Diving was last night and our dive location was "Lighthouse" out near Cousteau Resort. It was a beautiful evening both on and under the water. Everyone enjoyed it.

Today we went to Namena Island/Reef which is one of the Top 10 diving locations in the world. On the way to Namena we came across a pod of Short Fin Pilot Whales. This was unexpected and totally delightful. Our fast dive boat came to a stop so that we could check them out but it wasn't long before several of us wanted to go snorkelling with them. I jumped in off the back of the boat and saw Dan with his head under the water filming. When I got closer I thought "that's not a whale, that's a shark. And it's big!"

It is amazing how your desire to snorkel with Pilot Whales can overcome your fears and anxieties about being in the middle of open water with oceanic sharks around. (Photo by Dan)

The whales had moved away so we all appreciated a tow to their new location.

Craig, Kyle, me and Brent at the end of the tow line

Soon we were close enough to the Pilot Whales so that we could swim out to them. Notice how we are all staying close together. Don't worry, that fin that we are all heading to is a Short Finned Pilot Whale. We were able to swim behind the whales. They stayed just in front of us and were not worried by our presence. In the first group was a mum with 2 calves. We were heading back to the boat when someone yelled "there's more whales over there" and off we went again! Great fun.

At Namena….Our first dive was called "The Chimneys" which is 2 pinnacles rising up from the bottom, covered in soft corals and small fish. Depth is about 60-80 feet and we circled down and around the first one and then crossed over to the second pinnacle before winding our way back to the top. It was a great dive with lots of thriving soft corals and every kind of small fish hiding in amongst it.

We enjoyed lunch at Namena Island at a beautiful white sandy beach with coconut palm trees. Thanks to Ana from IMPI for supplying lunch for Craig and I.

After lunch we proceeded to our next location known as "Grand Central Station" for our final dive of the day. This dive had larger fish including a huge Humphead Wrasse, White Tip Sharks, Grouper, Sweetlip, Barracuda and lots of schooling fish. Unfortunately visibility was not very good but that didn't stop us from enjoying it.It was a big day out and we had a fast trip back to Savusavu. Craig and I slept well that night.

Thanks to Rodney and his team from Namena Diving for making our Advanced Diving Course a highlight and very memorable experience of our stay in Fiji. Awesome.

End of January….We are back in Savusavu to see what happens with the weather. There were lots of lows and threats of a cyclone developing so we motored all the way back and now that we are here it looks like it has fizzled out. We will reprovision, do some maintenance jobs and hang out here for a short time. Finally, a map to show where we are!

26 January, Australia Day was celebrated at Rabi Island.

We celebrated on board with a BBQ stuffed chook, spuds, pumpkin, carrot and onion, spinach and beans, gravy, fresh bread/rolls, followed by chocolate mousse. We flew the flags and played Australian music all day. We invited everyone in the anchorage which was a total of 4 Canadians from Lady Carolina to come over and party. It was a fun day.

We are at Rabi Island….Rabi lives to a different set of rules than the rest of Fiji. Some things are the same such as monetary, postal, education systems, kava drinking (Fijian implant) and Methodism. The local language is Gilbertese and the social order is that of the Gilbert Islands. Cooking is done outside in thatched huts. The islanders fish with handlines from outrigger canoes. To understand why Rabi is different you have to know some of their history. So here it is:

1855 At the request of the Tui Cakau on Taveuni a Tongan army conquers some Fijian rebels on Rabi. The Tongans depart and the local Chief sells Rabi to the Europeans to cover outstanding debts. Until WWII an Australian firm Lever Bros ran a coconut plantation there.

In 1940, the British government began searching for an island to purchase as a resettlement area for the Micronesian inhabitants of Ocean Island (Banaba) in the Gilbert Islands (presently part of Kiribati) whose home island was being ravaged and destroyed by phosphate mining. With the outbreak of WWII the Japanese occupied Ocean Island. Back in Fiji, British officials decided Rabi Island would be a better homeland for the Banabans and so in March 1942 they purchased Rabi from Lever Brothers using L25,000 of phosphate royalties. Meanwhile, the Japs had deported the Banabans to Kosrae in the Caroline Islands to serve as labourers and it was not until December 1945 that the survivors were bought to Rabi, where their 4,500 descendants live today. (Ref: Moon Handboooks South Pacific David Stanley)

Rabi at low tide. We went for a walk to check out the beautiful white sandy beach and meet Bill and his family who live here.

Bill asked us if we liked coconut water…yes…he then sent his son up the coconut tree to get coconuts for us. You can't get much fresher than that.

Thumbs up! Coconut water is sweet and delicous and I think it is good for you too!

After drinking, Tabitha shows us how to open the coconut and scoop out the soft flesh to eat. Also sweet and delicious.

Matthew and Tabitha guided us on a hike to Smiley Bay where we met the local family. Mr Kee Ke (left) caught a large gummy shark in his net yesterday and is holding its tail. He is with his 2 sons and Matthew is in the red shirt. That is a roll your own tobacco/cigarette in Mr Kee Ke's mouth.

The shark is cooking in the pot and Matthew has his hands in the sharks mouth. What a smile.

21 January…Taveuni Island at anchor. We arrived earlier today at Waiyevo and dropped anchor. If you are coming here be sure to check out Sliding Rocks. A 20 minute walk will bring you to a creek and further up is a waterfall where the local kids like to ride the sliding rocks. Some spots are like a slippery dip and local kids go down standing up. Today, we had the place to ourselves and it was wonderful to feel the chill of fresh water. I can't remember the last time I had goosebumps but we gladly sat in the pool and played for over 2 hours. Feeling cold was a real treat.

This is a beautiful spot which we will come back to.

17 January….Snakes Alive! I had just climbed back onto the boat after cleaning the waterline when Craig said "Hey Leanne, look at this. There is a sea snake swimming right where you were cleaning".

This is a fine specimen of a highly venomous black and white banded sea snake. They are usually docile and will not attack people unless they are severely provoked. They have little mouths too small to open wide enough for a good bite, however, with venom 20 times stronger than any land snake "Who the hell wants to find out?"

16 January, Viani Bay…..Jack Fisher! We have picked up one of Jack's moorings which is right in front of his house. He rowed his boat out to welcome us and generously gave us a bucket full of bananas, pineapples and pumpkin. Everyone knows Jack, especially cruisers. He is 3rd generation European descent and he and his family own alot of the land around Viani Bay. He says he knows all the best spots for snorkelling, diving, anchoring etc and he wants cruisers to use his services for a fee. It is not a bad deal especially if you get one of his moorings which are free.

This is Jack Fisher on board with us heading out to do some snorkelling. Anchoring here was tricky and I doubt we would have dropped the anchor without Jack's guidance. I would have felt more comfortable if someone had stayed on board. However, Craig and I snorkel-drifted down along the scenic reef and Jack followed us in our dinghy. Taveuni is in the background (left) and after snorkelling we went across the Somosomo Strait to Waiyevo to pick up a few supplies. It was a great day.

13 January, Hit the road….on a bus from Fawn Harbour to Napuka return. It was a 5 hour return trip in an open air bus on a long dusty dirt road through numerous Fijian villages. We thought we would arrive at the village of Napuka, hop out, stretch our legs, have a bite to eat, a cool drink, use the restrooms and a walk on the beach. Instead, the bus started to do a 3 point turn to turn around and I asked the man sitting across the aisle "How much further to Napuka?" He said "This is it". So I asked "How long have we got before the bus heads back?" He said "We are leaving now". Oh.

Everyone wanders out to see family get on and off the bus. When our bus meets another bus coming the other way the drivers stop and have a chat. Meanwhile people on our bus recognise friends and family on the other bus so they start to wave and call out too. Its all very sociable.

The ladies are working making brooms and crafts to sell. This is also a food stop and people hang out the window to buy cooked corn and sliced watermelon. The guy we asked about Napuka leaned over and handed me 2 slices of fresh watermelon for Craig and me to eat. I accepted his kind gesture and couldn't keep the smile off my face as I heard Craig whisper in my ear "but I don't eat watermelon!" I really wanted to take his photo as he ate the whole piece including seeds but my hands were full.

The Fijians love the water and they love to play. These kids balance on the rail and wait for the busdriver to give the signal to jump.

11 January….Sunset at Fawn Harbour……on our own after Cat IMPI returned to Savusavu today. Poor Brent got cut up quite badly by his new helicopter drone so he needs to be closer to the hospital. He received a big gash in his arm requiring 12 stitches and his little finger had about 8 cuts. In the tropics it is very important to take care of any cuts to avoid infection. No doubt, they will be keen to get it all fixed up and get back out sailing again.

9 January…..Fawn Harbour, Vanua Levu. Weather: hot and humid, not much wind. During this last week we have been back in to Savusavu to reprovision and we have spent time at Cousteau anchorage. Yesterday, with no wind we motored 34nm to Fawn Harbour.

On the way, we spotted a pod of Short-Finned Pilot Whales. They grow to a length of 3.6-6.5m and are described as jet black or dark grey colour with a rounded bulbous forehead. The dorsal fin is set forward.

It was the highlight of my day to see them as I have never seen them before. I hope to see them again and have more photo opportunities. We saw 4 separate lots with a total of about 30 whales. Cool!

2 January 2015…...Levuka, Ovalau Island. This is Fiji's First World Heritage Site. Founded in 1820 by European settlers, shipwrecked sailors and traders, Levuka soon became an important port and trading post. It is described as a rare and outstanding example of a late 19th century Pacific port settlement. It was once the capital of Fiji but by 1882 the expanding town needed more room. It was limited by the high mountains surrounding it and so Suva became the new capital. A visit to Levuka is like turning back time.

The main street of Levuka follows the waterfront. Tomorrow is fresh market day where the locals bring their fresh produce in to town to sell it. They start arriving and setting up at 4am.

We are anchored right in front of this church.

The timber and tin housing reminds me of Queensland. The shops here are good for reprovisioning and diesel and petrol can be obtained from the Service Station.

2014 New Years Eve….Happy New Year from Makogai Island, Fiji! We are excited to be here and have been invited to shore to celebrate with the locals. Church is at 8.30pm, partying and kava drinking from 9.30pm and the children dance for us at 11pm. Midnight is celebrated and then I expect there will be kava drinking until the wee hours.

Well, that was the plan. Church didn't finish until about 11.00pm and the service was all in Fijian so we couldn't understand it. It was long and boring and nor could we escape. Earlier in the day Craig and Steve took the Chief some extra kava so that they could drink with him and the locals on NYE. However later in the evening the Chief told Craig that he had already drunk Craig and Steve's kava! On a positive note, us cruising ladies made little chocolate cakes to hand around to the locals. The kids played and it was nice to hang out with the locals for a while. From Mexico to Fiji, 2014 has been a wonderful cruising year for us. Welcome 2015!

29 December…..At Makogai Island. We arrived yesterday and went straight to shore to meet the Chief and do our Sevusevu ceremony. From 1911 to 1969 this was a Leper Colony and many of the old buildings still stand. Today it is owned by the Department of Agriculture and they grow Giant Clams and Hawksbill Turtles for rehabitation to Fiji waters.

We are all sitting on the steps which are the only remains left of the hospital. After our Sevusevu ceremony the Chief's father spoke to us about the history of Makogai. Patients arrived from all over the Pacific and separate villages for ethnic groups were constructed to promote peace and order. Women were kept separate from the men. In total, over 4000 patients landed on the island.

It is interesting to walk around what is left of the Leper colony. Old kitchens, a lock-up, housing and foundations, even an outdoor movie theatre is still here.

Of course the cemetery is close by. There are about 1500 people buried here in the cemetery.

These Hawksbill Turtles are about 2 years old and will be returned to Fijian waters soon. Notice they have a pointed hooked beak. Reports say that this program is working well.

The Chief shows us the Baby Giant Clams which are growing in this tank. Once in abundance on Fiji's reefs, many species have been overharvested. It's great to see Fijians being proactive about rebuilding the giant clam population on their reefs.

27 December…..At Koro Island. This sand island only appears at low tide.

which makes it a great place to get together for an afternoon beverage with friends and locals.

Any excuse to get off the boat for a while.

Merry Christmas everyone! Be safe and enjoy. Thanks for following our website.

Christmas Day was spent at Cousteau anchorage. It was a quiet and very enjoyable Christmas for us. We played Christmas carols and enjoyed a BBQ roast chicken dinner followed by fruit cake and custard. Later that day we got together with the other cruisers at our anchorage and enjoyed drinks on board Cat Impi.

Merry Christmas! from me, Anna & Carolina.

22nd December…..Cousteau Resort at anchor. There is a strong wind warning and we are all watching 4 Tropical Lows whilst we wait for good weather to venture out again.

We are just around the corner from Savusavu. We spent 3 days back at our mooring where we reprovisioned and topped up the tanks. We are keen to get back out and explore some new islands. There is alot to see and do and at this time of year there are very few cruisers. The locals say this is the best time to go cruising.

Cousteau….This is a lovely spot to anchor. It has a white sandy beach and is protected in East and Southeast winds. We are hoping to get to Makogai for Christmas but that all depends on the weather.

11th December ….. We are heading back to Koro Island with our sailing buddies Impy and Lady Carolina. On the way there Impy and us catch a Mahi Mahi and we all decide to organise a BBQ to celebrate Anna's birthday.

Time to BBQ the Mahi Mahi with a bit of help from the locals who helped with organising a venue at short notice.

Yesterday we visited the closest village which is about 2 miles away and presented our Kava to the Chief. It is a simple thing to do and goes a long way to building goodwill. He generously offered us a cold drink and biscuits and has now given us permission to snorkel and fish in his waters.

Fijian kids extending their hands in friendship

Craig stands ready to pound the Kava root. He is wearing his Sulu and Bula Shirt. Looking good Craig! Behind him is the Village school and where they play rugby.

My 2 new friends have been collecting coconuts. They offered me some mangos and I gave them some lollies. Everyone was happy.

Craig checks out the view from one of the blocks of land. He is pointing down to Dere Bay where our boat is moored. You can see the pier from the resort extending out over the reef. One of the locals has started digging the holes for foundations.

At Koro Island. Craig paddles the kayak in to pick me up from the dock. That's my kind of transport these days.

Savusavu…..hanging out here and waiting for the weather to improve so that we can get out of our safe harbour and go sailing again.

Strong wind warnings and heavy rain are keeping us from venturing out. However, we have filled our water tank, jerry cans and water bottles. I suppose its time to watch another movie.

Still raining! I must be bored. No one is leaving their boats.

I really enjoy the local market. This is where we buy our fruit, veg and kava. Its also nice talking to the local ladies and having a laugh with them.

Fiji. December. Namena Island lies south of Vanua Levu and is a privately owned island. Today we have sailed here with Lady Carolina and Impy and anchored just around the corner from the Resort.

Of course we will go into the office and and pay our landing fee!

The island is surrounded by reef and is part of the Namena Marine Reserve. Because of overfishing, the local villages who own their fishing grounds declared their 'Qoliqoli' a no-take zone over 15 years ago. This area is known for its World Class Diving.

Rodney at Namena Diving has a half price special on their diving courses so we are planning on coming back to explore some of these wonderful dive spots and doing our Advanced Dive Course at the same time. I can't wait to see the underwater sights.

The island itself is a nesting spot for Red-Footed Boobies, Long Tail Tropical Birds and Hawksbill Turtles.

Baby Booby waiting for a feed.

Koro….Our next stop is Koro Island. It is about 20miles east of Namena Island. We don't have much information on it but it is so close that we will call in and check it out.

Dere Bay, Koro Island is an area where a developer has subdivided the land and you can buy 1 acre blocks and build your escape-to house. There is a small expat community living here and a small resort. It is a very pretty spot and snorkelling off the reef is very good. Note: November 2014, the Fijian Government legislated to stop Foreigners from being able to buy free-hold land. I don't know how Foreigners are going to be able to sell if they already have property here. It's a minefield of problems.

There are 14 villages on Koro Island and I have heard they all get together on Saturdays to play rugby. I'd like to see that although I think I will have to wait for the football season to start up again.

Coconut trees = Coconuts!

November. Qamea….off to see the Chief.

We are all wearing our fijian outfits. A sulu skirt, chumba top for the girls and a bula shirt for the boys. We dress to impress the Chief as a sign of respect. Kava is offered to the Chief and sometimes they will invite you to stay and drink with them. It is a very important tradition and must be done to be accepted into the Village.

Moses is the Chief and he is preparing the kava. The pounded root powder is mixed with water and then strained through the cloth. Our ceremony today is very relaxed and informal.

We were all given lemongrass tea and roti wrapped with coconut milk whilst we were waiting for the kava ceremony to begin. The Kava Ceremony must be done soon after arrival. At this Ceremony the Chief welcomed us to his village and we can now come and go freely for the next 6 months. Photo courtesy of Lady Carolina.

Sitting around the kava bowl. Although this can be a very serious ceremony this informal gathering felt almost like playing a drinking game. The chief hands you a bowl which is a bilo. A bilo is a drinking bowl which is made from a half shell of a coconut. Clap once, accept bowl, say "Bula", drink all in one go, everyone claps 3 times and says "Maca" (the c is pronounced as th) This means the bowl is empty.

The girls want us to take their photo and show them the picture but there are not too sure about it all.

The Chief gets a phone call on his mobile phone and heads to the back door to take it. Some things are just like at home.

November…..Fiji…….Before we know it we are back from our trip to Australia.

We spent days getting the boat back together and headed out of the harbour with sailing vessel Lady Carolina to check out cyclone holes. We are already in cyclone season and will need to be prepared. Fiji Meterological tells us it will be an average season of 6-10 cyclones of which Fiji has a moderate risk and can expect 1-2 cyclones with one of those being Cat 3 or higher. The fruit trees such as mangoes and breadfruit are heavy with abundant fruit. The locals believe this is a bad omen for cyclones. It is Mother Nature telling us to stock up now before the cyclones arrive.

A local sits under a mango tree. It is a great season for fruits but the locals are worried. Some have told us we are "very brave" to stay here in cyclone season. Perhaps they are being polite and really mean we are very "stupid".

This raft is built from bamboo poles and is called a bilibili. It is known as a one-way raft as it is built to travel only one way down the creek to make it to town. Locals also use them to cross the river.

The view from Copra Shed Marina. Many boaties leave their boat on a mooring here for the wet season. We are next in line on the waiting list for a mooring ball.

It is November and we are officially in Cyclone Season. We have no mooring and have not yet decided on our strategy for dealing with Cyclones. This is now being given our full attention.

It is early morning and we are back on True Blue V and underway again. It is great to get out of Savusavu for a while. We are off to check out cyclone holes around Vanua Levu with Lady Carolina.

Recommended Cyclone Holes NE side of Vanua Levu are:

1. Fawn Harbour. A beautiful harbour with a narrow entrance through the reef. A nearby village and a road which can go all the way to Savusavu. Good holding in mud. The outside reef offers protection but we feel the harbour is too large and in a cyclone we may have storm surge, waves and wind which may make us too vulnerable. No tie up in mangrove lined creeks.

2. Dakinuba. Just a few miles further on from Fawn Harbour. The same outside reef offers protection. Shaped like a clover leaf. Excellent holding in sticky mud. Some possibilities of tying up in mangroves but on further inspection not suitable due to access, rocks and small coral heads close to mangrove lined shore. It is too open to the sea and the bay is big. We would be relying on our anchors here. There is a small village of about 30 people.

3. Naiqaiqai. Can be accessed by travelling inside the reef from Dakinuba although there are some tricky parts travelling through reefs and coral heads. I like to travel at low tide in good sunlight to lay your first track. That way we can be in the centre of the pass and follow our track with more confidence if we need to use it in poor visibility. Today, we followed close behind Lady Carolina as they already had a track and it was mid tide and overcast. There are some good advantages to 'buddy boating'. I liked this anchorage, good holding in mud and mangrove lined in most areas without the coralheads or rocks. Could possibly tie up to mangroves on one side and anchors out on the other. Protection from Kioa Island although no sheltering reef. We would be sharing this anchorage with local dive boats and large ferries.

4. Qamea Island. Much smaller cyclone hole than the others but when we dropped anchor we had difficulty with setting it. Lady Carolina had the same problem. I think the bottom is a hard flat coral base and we were dragging over the top of it. We did eventually find some mud to pick in to. A local showed us a mangrove lined entrance to a creek which was about 5 feet deep and would fit 2-5 boats in (depending on size). We would be sharing this anchorage with the local dive boats.

Decision Time……What is our strategy for Cyclone Season?

We have checked out the 4 best recommended cyclone holes 30-70 miles north of Savusavu. Depending on the path and category of the cyclone these would offer shelter. We (and Lady Carolina) have now been offered a mooring in protected Namaka Creek, Savusavu.

Our strategy is to take the mooring and use it as a base to return to should a weather event occur. In the meantime we all want to get out of Savusavu, explore, meet the people and enjoy the cruising season in Fiji.

September, 2014 Arrival in Fiji

Moorings at Nakama Creek, Savusavu.

Hiking and exploring in Waisali Nature Reserve. This 116 hectare reserve protects one of Vanua Levu's last unexploited tropical rainforests.

Savusavu, Vanua Levu…we have been here for almost 2 weeks now.There is alot to see and do so we have decided to stay for summer which is also cyclone season. We are going to fly home to Australia before the cyclone season officially begins 1st November. We have to prepare our boat just in case an early cyclone arrives and we are not back in time. This is alot of work and involves removing sails, securing lines, cleaning, storage and general storm prep such as closing seacocks and battening down the hatches.

True Blue V with sails, bimini and dodger removed. She is ready if an early season cyclone comes whilst we are away. Australia here we come!

A quick trip back to Australia…...Sydney Harbour Bridge. We're back!

Visiting family. An Aussie BBQ feast is prepared. Craig with his dad and brother-in-law David.

The Chalker Family get together. The Christmas you have when you are not here for Christmas. We had lots to do in a short period of time and it was wonderful to catch up with family and friends. Unfortunately it is impossible to see everyone that we want to see and the time passes too quickly.

These local galahs are regular visitors in the backyard.

You always know you are back in Australia when you see this sign.

Bluey is going back home to Pt Richmond soon and we now have 2 new crew on board. A Kangaroo and a Koala Bear.

Just like old times. Back on Brisbane River with Captain Jack and Deckhand Ann onboard a Citycat.

Brisbane. The best way to get around is on the ferries and citycats8th September….Suva...Just arrived in the biggest city in Fiji after a 182nm overnight passage from Vanua Balavu. Vigorous sailing with a bit of everything thrown in. Glad to be at anchor now and looking forward to exploring this vibrant city in between provisioning to the max.

True Blue V 2016