The morning after our low-tide struggle, we moved T2 about two-thirds of the way across the bay to be nearer to the village. Originally we had been anchored at least a mile and half away behind the protection of a sand bar. The thought was to save the strain on the dinghy (our prop is still slipping) of making the two round trips to bring Sera and Freddie out for their visit to Tackless. Tuned in now to how these things are done, I had coffee or tea ready along with biscuits and jam and the ever popular banana bread muffinettes. Sera and Freddy got the tour of the boat, and then we all watched Don's video from the previous day.
Sera and Freddie were leaving that afternoon to go to another village to pick oranges. Since they would be gone until the next afternoon, this seemed to provide the most painless time to move on. Even in such a short time, even despite less than perfect communication, these friendships become intense. Sera keeps in touch with her several foreign friends, so we exchanged mailing addresses (to which, of course, I have a lot of photos to send once I can can prints!)
Afterwards, we spent the afternoon where we were and took the opportunity to do several loads of sweaty laundry! Mother Nature smiled on us by reserving her usual afternoon showers.
The next morning we were underway as soon as the sun was high enough to see the reefs. We had no real firm destination in mind, just the waypoints of several possibilities. There wasn't a lick of breeze, so it was definitely a motorboat ride, but at least this gave us the chance to really top up the new batteries.
Landward the striking rock outcrops of the Monkey Face peninsula gave way to an even ridgeline behind a fairly smooth foreground. Here and there we saw a roofline or a column of smoke to suggest a village that might or might not be indicated on the chart, but most the noticeable difference was that these hillsides were thickly forested.
We motored most of the day generally northeastward through clumps of islands and reefs, impressed with both the accuracy of CMap and the Fijian nav aids, although in most cases the topmarks had been replaced by birds!
Near the outflow of the Dreketi river we crossed paths with two men in a fishing boat. The boat was piled high with net, and a reasonable pile of fish lay in the shade in the bottom of the boat. In the heat of the windless day, the men wore several layers of clothing, including shirts wrapped around their heads. When they pulled up to chat, we gave them some cold water to drink.
We had been thinking we might explore the Dreketi River by dinghy, a trip that probably would have been really interesting. But given the feeble condition of our outboard, it didn't seem the wisest idea. Alternatively, we considered dropping the hook in the lee of one of the little offshore islands, but the bottom stayed stubbornly at 65'. So in the end we continued on up to Ravi Ravi Point. Once again the mountains, both inland and along the coast, turned lumpy and craggy. making a more interesting landscape. Two possible anchorages were noted in the fourteen-year-old cruising guide. The first turned out to now be a pearl farm, so we gave that a miss, but the bay on the east side appeared open and uninhabited. As much as we enjoyed our village stay at Navigiri, we were ready for a stop with no sevusevu and no dress code. Vunisinu Bay fit the bill.
However, as placid and inviting as it appeared, we came near to disaster on our approach. Being out of the way, there were no handy beacons marking the reef, and of course now the sun suddenly slipped behind a cloud. Don passed the wheel to me and jumped up to the ratlines to keep a lookout. He didn't make the first rung before he shouted, "Left, Left. LEFT!!!!" I swung the wheel to the left and looked right. Bright green corals that looked like they must only be just below the surface slid past the beam and then dropped away with the turn. It took several minutes for our hearts to start beating again. Needless to say Don stayed up in the rigging until we'd found our anchorage in the center of the reefs.
It really is amazing the thin line between good luck and bad. What in fact was a very lucky thing continues to sober us with its nearness to what could have been a major mishap! Of course, they don't call these old CSYs "reef-wreckers" for nothing. The hull would have come out it alright, but we can't be so sure of the rudder and prop not to mention the living reef, that, at a quick glance, seemed pretty healthy!
But this is what being explorers is all about. We are hardly the first cruisers to explore this part of Fiji, but it is off the beaten path. We do have surprisingly good charts to depend on, yet when we "pull off the highway", we are on our own. On the other hand, the rewards of these out-of-the-way places are what it's all about. The sunset and the stars in a sky untainted by civilization is incredible.
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