Moce (mow-the, goodbye) Makogai, we will miss you all! We made our farewells to the village after work late in the afternoon of Wednesday 17 August. Sadly it was not our usual moce mada (mow-the manda, see you later) but hopefully it will be sota tale (soh-tah-tah-lay), see you again.
We then spent most of the following day hiding from the rain except for the hour of drier weather mid morning when Kevin managed to top up the diesel tank from the cans on deck. Other jobs like taking the rubbish ashore, tying the cans back to the rails and going up the mast to check the VHF aerial would have to wait. Friday morning was dry, just, it had finally stopped raining around four am so we quickly got ourselves ready for sea when we woke at six; the dinghy was brought on deck, the outboard and its fuel can stowed and the empty jerry cans secured on deck.
Shortly after seven o’clock Temptress made a round of the anchorage saying farewell to the crews we had got to know over the past couple of weeks (Outsider, Carpe Diem and Matin d’Or), to Jennifer and Richard of SY Our Rose who had kindly bought our missing fitted sheet from the laundry at the Copra Shed as well as a case of beer to replenish our stores and to Tom of SY Piko and his French/Australian crew Alexis ; both the latter boats had sailed in on Monday bringing supplies of both food and building materials for the project team.
Ian on Outsider called us on the VHF as we motored away to ensure we had our fishing lure out. “You’ll catch a fish as you approach the pass and another just the other side” he confidently declared. Sorry Ian, Temptress’ usual luck prevailed, we motored through Daveta without even a nibble.
Out at sea enroute south west for the inside passage through reefs that surround the mainland, Vitu Levu, we overtook the catamaran Fidelio that had overnighted in Delice Bay and had departed even earlier than us. The early morning weather was grey and lowering but behind us to the east the sun seemed to be to making an effort to break through with patches of blue sky dotted with fair weather trade wind clouds, perhaps the forecast improvement will arrive today before we complete the 16 nautical miles or so across the channel to Tagitoacala Reef and the start of the “inside passage”. A few miles from Makogai we spotted whales, a humpback mother and calf passed within twenty metres or so of Temptress heading east. We stopped the boat, whales are a real privilege to watch and never fail to cheer us up.
And as we approached the reef we caught not one but two fish in quick succession; so in some weird way Ian was right just he got the reef wrong. Our first catch of the day was a relatively small bluefin tuna destined for the supper table, the second however was an entirely different matter, taking the lure just as we were trying to juggle nav station issues with finding our way into the inside channel; a barracuda or as the locals call it Ogo (ong-o) not big by barracuda standards but big enough to be dangerous with some 50 plus centimetres of muscular body behind that wicked long thin mouth with its several sizeable fang-like canines capable of giving a nasty bite. The fish was big enough to have its own sucker fish who did the decent thing and took a dive back into the sea when nudged by the skipper. As the barracuda seemed to have swallowed most of the lure Kevin decided on a cautious approach and donning the leather gardening gloves we keep for moments just like this hauled the thrashing fish up Temptress’ transom steps out of the water before tying off the line to the solar panel supports. It could die rather slowly, a fish literally out of water until we felt it was safe to get anywhere near those teeth.
Some hours later as Temptress motored into pretty Vitu Levu bay with scenery rather reminiscent of Scotland, the skipper extracted our lure and we gifted the big fish to a few villagers from Navuniivi who were returning by boat from the town of Naukuloa across the bay. The barracuda was far too big for us and even if all its meat had fitted in our icebox, which it wouldn’t have done, we’d not manage to eat it all before it spoiled. A while after rather unexpectedly, one of the villagers, Aquilla (my phonetic spelling) and a bevy of teenagers including his son and daughter brought us out some vegetables as a thank-you – lots of tomatoes, we haven’t seen any for weeks, a long squash (butternut?) and three huge yellow sweet potatoes each about the size of a swede all fresh from their “plantation” as the locals call their vegetable patches. Very timely gifts as, having made soup for lunch from the last part of a butternut squash, the only fresh veg onboard were onions. Vanaka, thank-you Navuniivi!
A few minutes after they departed another boat stopped by; more villagers heading home just wanting to say “Bula” (bool-ah, hello) and invite us ashore tomorrow. And they weren’t the last! So despite planning just to stop overnight, it looks like we’ll be making our sevusevu tomorrow and staying another day. No point in hurrying in any case, Monday has been declared national holiday in this rugby mad country to welcome home their victorious Olympic 7’s team… Fiji’s first ever medal and it was gold, but it means officialdom like customs and immigration won’t be working in Lautoka so checking out will have to wait.