Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Ono Island and Suva, Viti Levu
Fulaga is easily a place where one could linger for many weeks but, with a lot more places to see and the cruising season steadily moving ahead, we chose an appropriate time to exit the lagoon’s narrow reef pass and begin the overnight sail to the island of Kadavu, about 170 miles to the west-northwest. We were excited about exploring the island and, especially, diving several spots on its famous Great Astrolabe Reef named after the French sailing vessel that was wrecked there in the 1800s. Our intent had been to enter a bay on the northeastern side near Naigoro Pass, a place we hoped to dive. From there, other anchorages could be accessed between Kadavu Island and a cluster of smaller islands to its north. Unfortunately, grey, overcast skies, scattered rain showers and poor visibility nixed that plan by compromising our ability to safely navigate visually within the coral reefs. With both our paper and electronic charts lacking accurate detail, we certainly didn’t want to experience the same fate as the Astrolabe. Instead, we altered course to enter the reef and island group through a wider gap and proceed down the west side to a lovely and protected anchorage called Nabouwalu Bay on Ono Island. There, we would reconnect with several other boats of cruising friends and share their company over what would be a rather rainy and windy week.
Since a small village is located at Nabouwalu Bay, our group of new arrivals went ashore the first afternoon with our bundles of yanqona root to meet the chief and make a sevusevu. As usual, the villagers were welcoming and exceptionally friendly. As more boats arrived to sit out the spell of inclement weather, the residents expressed amazement at having never seen so many in their bay (as many as eleven) and that the anchor lights at night seemed to them like a constellation of stars.
One of the high points of our visit to Ono was a hike across the beautiful island to another coastal village and a small resort run by an expat German couple. When our group of thirsty hikers showed up unannounced at the two-bungalow resort, the owner was quick to invite us into her parlor, decorated with antique furniture, and provide us with complimentary cold drinks. We would later learn the a stay in one of the resort’s bungalows cost $2,500 per night. That sure made us appreciate our floating accommodations that allow us to move about and enjoy the same scenery at a far more modest price. While hiking back across the island, we were befriended by a quite little dog that followed us for more that an hour. Anne worried that it might not find its way home but was, upon reaching the village near our anchorage, surprised to hear one of the locals remark rather causally that it was their dog, named “Striker”, and that he’d been gone for two months. Another high point was sharing a delicious, traditional lovo (earth oven) cooked meal with several of the villagers one afternoon. Most of the small and rather poor Fijian villages have learned that funds can be obtained for village improvements by putting on these feasts for visitors and we were all happy to help with their efforts by paying for the meal in the form of a donation.
The low point of the stay at Ono was a problem with Blue Rodeo’s diesel, auxiliary motor that powers our reverse osmosis water maker, refrigeration compressor and high-output alternator. Over the course of about two weeks, we noticed that the 22 horse power engine was a little down on power and beginning to emit a fair amount to soot and black smoke when under load. Mark began the trouble shooting with checking the air cleaner, the replacement of fuel filters, fuel lift pump and finally, replacement of the fuel injectors. Unfortunately none of these steps made any improvement in the little engine’s condition. Without the use of this motor, we were left with no ability to make fresh water from sea water and our ability to run our refrigeration system was greatly compromised. With no refrigeration, we’d have no choice but to give away most of our season’s supply of frozen meat that Anne had so carefully shopped and stocked aboard in New Zealand. While we continued to trouble shoot the problem, cruising friends were quick to offer advice and assistance. Sandy and Rankin, from “Gypsea Heart”, really saved the day by providing us with 5 gallon jug after jug of fresh water from there own supply to keep us going until we could fix the problem. Finally, we were forced to head for Suva, Fiji’s largest city where we knew we could find the resources to accomplish more serious repairs if necessary.
Suva is a fairly large, and modern city with high-rise buildings and hundreds of shops and markets. It also has bustling, crowded sidewalks and lots of vehicle traffic, things we had not experienced for many weeks in the outer islands. Despite the negatives, we enjoyed seeing the town, sampling several restaurants, touring it’s South Pacific Museum and doing a rain forest hike on the outskirts of town. Anchoring in the area offers the option of being among the commercial ships in Suva Harbor or in a quiet bay, near the town of Lami, about 5 miles to the west of the city. We chose the latter as we’d been warned by another cruising couple that they somehow had a rat come aboard while anchored near the assorted rusty ships in the main harbor and struggled for days with the rather disgusting task of eliminating the furry, knawing stow-away.
During the first few days in the Suva area, Mark’s primary focus was restoring the operation of our auxiliary motor. His efforts were finally rewarded when, upon removing the engine’s exhaust mixing elbow, he discovered a carbon blockage serious enough to prevent the exhaust gasses from flowing without producing back pressure in the combustion chambers. Several hours of dirty scraping and reaming of the passages restored proper flow and brought the engine back to life. What a relief! Without the ability to make water, he’d been making trip after trip to shore to fill our water jugs and lug them back to pour into Blue Rodeo’s water tanks. We’d also been running our main engine to recharge our batteries and provide enough electrical power to run our secondary, 110 volt AC refrigeration system from our DC to AC inverter, something that is not very healthy for the engine or refrigeration system.
With the auxiliary motor problems solved, our last few days in Suva were spent re-provisioning and refueling for the coming weeks. Bags and bags of supplies were purchased and transported by taxi to a small park near our anchorage where we would load them into our dinghy for the trip to Blue Rodeo. Refueling involved similar steps with our four-five-gallon jerry cans. Mark would walk to the nearest filling station, about a mile away, with the empties and return by taxi with the full containers. Anne would meet him with the dinghy, and the fuel would be shuttled back to the boat where it was poured through a filter into our tanks. This messy and exhausting process was accomplished four times before our tanks and extra containers were full. Thankfully, were are able to do most of our traveling by sail power and a major refueling like this is necessary only a few times each cruising season.
Sometimes our friends may wonder what we we do to keep busy while cruising. With the diving, snorkeling, hiking, exploring, socializing, research and planning, laundry, meal preparation, navigating, provisioning, boat maintenance and repairs...and, of course, blog writing there never seems to be enough hours in the day.