We spent a few days in Savusavu, got some rest, did laundry, cleaned the boat, reprovisioned and had a few meals ashore with our sister boats.
Then we were all off again heading to Taveuni. It is about 50 miles SE of Savusavu and the third largest island in Fiji. We all moored on brand new moorings at Paradise in Fiji Resort. The resort was badly damaged by Cyclone Winston in 2016 but had been rebuilt over the last couple years and it was looking nicely restored and appeared fully operational. The owners, Terri and Allan, welcome cruisers and all the staff were friendly and helpful.
We signed up for a dive and they took us out to Vatudrua Reef, a few miles southwest of the resort.
On the first dive, we saw a big humphead wrasse, also known as a Napolean Fish. They can grow to over 6 feet long and eat Crown of Thorn Starfish, so they are critical to the health of the coral reefs. Overfishing has been a real problem for the Napolean Fish in Fiji and it is now on the “endangered list”.
The coral was not in good shape, probably due to the recent cyclone, but we saw a variety of soft and hard corals, reef fish and a couple microscopic nudibranchs. For the second dive, Allan, the owner, took us on a “shore dive” where we worked our refining what weights we needed and practiced our technique. It was helpful.
That afternoon, the crew from GG and ES and Monty took a taxi about an hour ride to a waterfall. Photos compliments of Annie on ES.
A day later, we motor-sailed northeast 20 miles to Katherine Bay at the southern end of Rabi Island (also known as Rambe). We had our friends over for appies and had a fun evening. April 30th happened to have a “blue moon”, meaning the second full moon in a month. We gazed at it from the cockpit until the clouds overtook the sky.
A torrential rain in the wee hours and showers throughout the day deterred us from exploring but Chuck and Rand were more determined. In the morning, they dinghied out a couple miles to where some manta rays were supposed to frequent but didn’t see any. They got a good drenching on their way back.
The following morning, GG and ES motored off to explore some lesser known lagoons about 40 miles to the east-north-east, on their way to Nggelelevu Lagoon. They figured they could motor to one of the lagoons where they could anchor before dusk but we were not so sure about Whistler with her smaller engines and the wind direction.
We went for a snorkel in another effort to find the manta rays. The current was strong so we had to swim hard just to stay in one place. We didn’t dare swim too far from our anchored dinghy. We saw some coral, fish and a giant clam and Monty saw a few stingrays, but not mantas.
We decided to leave Katherine Bay later in the day and sail through the night to Nggelelevu Lagoon, at the far eastern end of the Ringgold Islands. With just the genoa, we sailed slowly at 3 to 3.5 knots through the night. Around dawn, we passed the lagoon where ES and GG were anchored and could see their anchor lights. Golden Glow’s crew were still sleeping as we sailed by, but Chuck on ES reported by VHF that it was very rough at anchor in the lagoon. They later said they were almost seasick and couldn’t even read a book.
On a mission to check out Nqqelelevu Lagoon, and hopefully find a peaceful anchorage next to a deserted island with swaying palm trees and exotic birds nesting, we sailed onward. Inside the 12-mile long, 5-mile wide lagoon, we saw two small fishing boats, possibly anchored, a mile or so away. As we approached shallower waters nearer the eastern end, we could not see the bottom well due to cloud cover. The still distant island was quite flat and we could not discern any signs of life. One report we read said one could only access the anchorage nearest the island at higher tides. The tide was now receding and it was still very chopping inside the lagoon as the reefs were not offering much protection from the considerable ocean swell. It was also blowing 15 to 20 knots from the south.
We then heard from ES and GG that they were not coming to Nggeleleva, but heading to the NE end of Vanua Levu (Undu Point on the chart below) to get out of the rough conditions. Anchoring in this lagoon overnight was becoming less appealing by the minute. We were concerned about continuing into the shallows to find an anchorage with the poor visibility. It would not have been a comfortable night with the chop. It was over 50 miles back to a safe familiar anchorage and it was noon. We turned around.
A piece of good news about the lagoon was that something finally bit hard on one of our lures! We pulled in a fish that was new to us. We could not identify it with certainty using our books. It was a good size but, living in a lagoon, ciguatera (a poison) was a concern. I convinced Monty to keep it.
The winds picked up and were almost on the nose, about 30 degrees apparent. The short period steep waves were thrashing the boat and crashing over our bow. Strong currents up to 2.8 knots were against us too, slowing our boat speed by a couple knots or more! It was an uncomfortable afternoon and evening.
As we got closer to Rabi Island’s reefs, we furled the genoa and used an engine to ensure we did not get pushed too close.
The choices we faced were going back to Katherine Bay on Rabi Island by retracing our track and dropping anchor in the dark, or pressing on through Somosomo Strait. We decided to carry on and sail all night again.
Upon approaching the Somosomo Strait, we dropped the mainsail and ran the engines as a precaution. The wind and currents dropped, so there was no drama. The Strait seem fairly calm and we had moonlight to show us the way.
We got sailing again and had to decide whether to go to Paradise Resort on Taveuni and pick up a mooring in the dark, or sailing all the way back to Savusavu and arrive in daylight. Savusavu was the decision. We thought that, from there, we could go on to Nananu-I-Thake to kite or just going diving around Savusavu.
We arrived in Savusavu around 10am the next morning, 44 hours and 183 miles after leaving Katherine Bay. The boat was coated in salt. We were tired and not very satisfied with this 2-day lagoon adventure. Monty said this was like going ski touring and ending up skiing “sastrugi”. We learned a few valuable lessons, which we always do.
It was Saturday and most of the businesses close at noon. We quickly rounded up our laundry and got it to the ladies at Waitui Marina. This is one of the conveniences we enjoy here in Savusavu! They are so sweet and accommodating of my instructions (wash only, wash and dry, etc.).
With internet again, we continued researching our catch. We showed a picture of the fish to our dive instructor. We asked a few friends by email and looked online. We finally determined it was a Green Jobfish, also known as a Utu or Utouto. It is good eating with firm white flesh. We were told not to be too concerned about ciguatera at this time of year. We got up the nerve to cook it and it was very good. No ill effects, thankfully!
More on our adventures and misadventures in Savusavu soon!