Cruising the South Pacific with Tackless II
Tackless II, along with her two captains, Don and Gwen, cruise from Fiji to Australia
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
July 16-18, 2007 – Buca Bay
We sailed away from Albert Cove mid morning on Monday. Our route took us down along the west coast of Rabi Island, passing the principal village of Nuka, with light-colored reefs between us and shore. Things got a little dicey at the southernmost end as we crossed back into the eastern hemisphere again and the CMap charts failed to knit together. We had heard a lot of bad reports about CMap in this part of Fiji, but it was just hard to accept after I being so reliable all the way around Vanua Levu. As we sailed further and further along, past Kioa Island and approaching Buca Bay (pronounce Bu-tha), we must have been off by nearly a mile!

To add to our discomfort, the pass east between Kioa and the mainland refused to reveal itself. It looked like we were sailing into a closed bay, and our guidebook let us down with no detailed drawings or pix of it as to where would be best to anchor! Fortunately, we spied by binocs a sole sailboat with a triple spreader rig and red sail covers anchored dead ahead that stood good odds of being the yacht Red Sky. Like Sequester at Also Island, we had not previously met Red Sky, but we had communicated with them by radio and email, so wanted to meet them in person.

Red Sky was anchored in a dimple along the southern shoreline of the bay. Actually they turned out to be on a mooring, of which there was only one, so we had to drop the hook in 70' (16*40.443'S; 179*51.363'E), and the afternoon wind being nor'east we settled right back with the shore off our stern. Hmmm. Steve and Carol promptly paddled over in their two-man inflatable kayak, and we had one of those instant impromptu get-togethers that cruisers have.

Steve and Carol had found this place by walking down the road from their previous anchorage further up the bay. What had caught their eye was a house and garden with a painted gate saying Welcome to Valesia, so they had walked in. It turned out to be the home of an enterprising young Fijian couple – Joe and Sau -- who have recently moved back here from Savusavu. Joe has undertaken a new baking business, producing loaves of coconut bread (with wholemeal loaves planned to start production next week) from a wood-fired oven in their back yard that are distributed not just around the bay but to Rabi and Kioa by ferry. Sau, an experienced seamstress, makes clothing and takes on various sewing projects. Red Sky was taking advantage of her skills and having screens made for their hatches. Joe and Sau plan to build a couple of bures for backpackers and hope to draw more cruisers with the bread-baking, sewing and laundry services.

We met Joe and Sau in person the next morning when we took Red Sky's suggestion to checkout the new clinic being built up the coast. The clinic, a huge undertaking of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, is a pleasant mile or so walk up the road. It is a large, modern concrete structure in a broad lawn of tall red coconut palms. We are told it is funded by a couple of doctors who have been organizing medical missionary visits here overr the past ten years. Indeed a large group of physicians were here earlier in the month.

The managers of the project – Wayne and Lois -- live up a road just beyond the clinic, so we climbed it to see if we might meet them. It turned out they were gone to Savusavu for the day, but Wayne's 80-year-old parents, recently arrived from Colorado, were glad to welcome us. They showed us around their son and daughter-in-law's interesting living arrangements: a sort of pop-up geodesic tent known as a yurt! The yurt sat annexed to a concrete kitchen/shower/laundry annex and a shady porch where we sipped lemonade. The view was outstanding.

Upon our return to Valesia, Joe produced a couple of cool drinking coconuts to refresh us and before we knew it we were seated at their kitchen table enjoying a fish soup and sweet potato lunch. That led to checking out some of the Fijian outfits that Sau has produced,…which led to my taking one home with me, a great buy at just F$20. At last I have proper attire for church or funeral! If we just had more time to linger, Sau would take my measurements and sew an outfit specifically tailored for me. I am tempted to come back with fabric and get some lightweight tops made with just enough shoulder coverage – no more no less – to be acceptable to the village fashion police; my stateside tanks are too skimpy and my cotton T-shirts too hot!

Just beyond Joe and Sau's place is a complex belonging to an Indian family. Sonny, the patriarch, has built several boats in his yard, including the ferry Raja, that came in and dried out with the tide for some bottom work while we were there. More currently, he runs a major grocery distribution center, which services all of Buca Bay as well as Kioa and Rabi. We took a stroll down the aisles and were impressed with the volume of staples. In charge during our visit was one of Sonny's two sons who are home for a month-long break from the University of the South Pacific in Suva.

That evening, Steve and Carol reciprocated by inviting us aboard their boat for cocktails. These two condo captains don't often get to go aboard a REAL sailboat. Red Sky is a Santa Cruz 50, and inside everything is built to minimize weight. There are no bulkheads, the barest furniture, and the sole is slats rather than solid flooring. Carol tells me that they go twelve knots where we'd go five, and that the boat can do much faster. Yikes, I think I'd get a nosebleed from the speed.

In the morning, all four of us went ashore to say goodbye to Joe and Sau. They had made lemon leaf tea and fresh coconut bread for us, and the men left with gifts of Sau-made shirts. Well, if they learn not to give everything away, I think this couple could be the future of Fiji. I asked Sau what she thought made the two of them so motivated compared to typical Fijian villagers, and she attributes it to her "urban exposure" and to her father and brothers having businesses in Suva, essentially just being a few generations up the experiential curve. It's an indication that things can evolve here after all.

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