June 21, 2019
Just a quick entry to say that we’ve arrived in Fiji. We are anchored by the village of Lomaloma, on the island of Vanua Balavu, in the Lau Group. I have learned the names of so many places I didn’t even know existed! It’s truly mind-numbing how many people there are, living on small islands in this part of the world. They grow their own food, hang out with their families, and enjoy life.
We were able to slow the boat enough to have daylight on our entry to the atoll and were glad of it because there was a large reef that would have been difficult to spot at the entrance. “Beacons” were marked on the chart but these were really just sticks with faded symbols on them that were difficult to see even in full daylight. We arrived at the anchorage at about 8:30 am and met most of the ARC fleet (and no other boats) there.
In Fiji, you must remain on your boat until Customs and Immigration and Health officials come see your documents, tour your boat, stamp your passports, etc. Because many of the ARC boats had arrived the day before, they were already backlogged. So we were confined to Charm until the officials arrived around 3 in the afternoon.
This wasn’t a problem because we had school to finish, things to tidy up, naps to take (although I never got mine), and pizza crust to make for Friday pizza/movie night.
It was a bit odd to look around and see everyone else confined to their boats as well. Normally any anchorage we are in has dinghies zipping around, people snorkeling, swimming, etc. This time, just boats with people on them, looking around.
The big excitement was Aurora B’s arrival. They had engine problems outside the channel to enter the atoll and were unable to use their engine. Not a huge deal for the pass because it was wide and the wind was going in the right direction so they could sail through, but anchoring without an engine isn’t something I would ever care to do, especially when there is an area already quite full of boats and surrounded by reefs.
Since none of us could go anywhere, we were all glued to our radios, listening to all the chatter about Aurora B. Everyone was offering advice and help and plans and poor Aurora B fielded all of it with their usual British style. I’m not sure how they managed to sail since they were fielding radio calls every five minutes. Luckily, a couple of boats had already cleared through the entrance formalities to Fiji and were able to send dinghies out to help tow Aurora B to an appropriate spot to anchor. Everything went well and it sounds like it is a relatively fix. Joe, of course, may get involved although Ed sounded like he might have it taken care of on his own.
After doing the clearance process, which mainly involved a group of 7 – 8 people sitting in our cockpit, looking at our papers and taking notes, we went to shore in the dinghy. We were immediately greeted by friendly locals who seemed very happy about us being there. We stopped at a small store that looked like something out of those recreated Wild West towns. There were wooden counters all around and shelves with all kinds of things behind the counters. You told the lady what you needed and she got it for you. Unfortunately I left our new Fiji dollars on the boat so we had to dinghy back out so we could pay for all the things she had piled up! Cobin ran me out and we were back in the store within 15 minutes.
The cheery storekeepers told us how to say hello (Bula), thank you (Vinaka), and good-by (mole). We walked through town and found the turn-off to a road where we can hike up to the radio tower, which is in the plans for tomorrow. The weather was beautiful – warm but not hot, with a pleasant breeze. It makes such a difference in my attitude when it’s not blazing hot outside! The kids also complain far less about walking around town when it’s pleasant. Cobin actually said he wanted to get off the boat and explore today after we had anchored. Usually, they don’t mind just hanging out on the boat.
All three kids started sprinting down the road and wanting to race or have me time them so maybe they had some pent-up energy they needed to get out. In any case, we had a short visit to town (really just a dirt road with houses and building along it), met some locals, and used our new vocabulary many times as each local we passed called out, “Bula!” It’s a charming place, with lots of mown grass yards and an adorable little church.