Day 43, Year 2: Across Kadavu Passage to Astrolabe Reef
Date: Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Weather: Sunny, 5-10 knots E, Calm Seas
Location: Dravuni Island, Astrolabe Reef, Fiji

It pays to wait for the weather. We had to motor sail the 35 miles from Beqa to the Astrolabe Reef, but we didn’t have to fight strong southeast winds and heavy seas. It was a beautiful day for a passage south. Astrolabe Reef is on the northeast side of Kadavu Island. We left Maluma Bay at 0730 and by 1000 we could see Kadavu. We sailed past this island on our way to Suva, but we turned north before we could clearly see the islands in the Astrolabe Reef. Today was clear so we could easily see
them as we approached. We called Ranger on VHF 16 as we were leaving Maluma Bay just to see if they could hear us and they answered. We haven’t been within VHF range for the past few days, but they were actually leaving Suva and were also headed to the Astrolabe Reef along with Safina. This was truly a pleasant surprise! So we had a reunion when we all arrived here in the afternoon.

I’m still not a lover of reef cruising, but both Mark and I gain confidence with each experience. This morning coming out of Beqa we had to go through a hole in the reef about as wide as a football field called Sulphur Pass. The width was fine, but the problem was that we could not see the reef on either side of us and there were absolutely no markers. We just had to trust the information we have, especially the electronic chart. When we are going through reefs, Mark keeps the computer in the
cockpit so he can see our position on the chart at all times. The only problem is that the electronic charts are not always correct. I remember as we entered Neifu in Tonga that the electonic chart showed us on land . You always have to cross reference with paper charts to be safe, but for today the electronic charts were correct. We made it through Sulphur Pass unscathed and we made it into the Astrolabe Reef through Herald Pass just fine as well. At least Herald Pass had a stick as a marker.
That helps things considerably. As we entered and saw the islands inside, we could tell this was going to be a fantastic place. Bright sunshine and blue skies helped that image.

Safina and Ranger were already at anchor when we arrived at 1530. In fact, Safina had already been to the village and stopped by to say hello and give us arrival information on their way back to their boat. We then got the dinghy in the water and we went over to say hello to Ranger. They had not been in to the village yet, so we went together. We took our yaqona or kava for sevusevu and made our way to shore. This little island is so very different from Beqa. Instead of looking like lush rain
forest, the islands within the Astrolabe Reef look sculpted, almost unreal. They are certainly lush enough, but the high peaks are grass covered, not topped with trees. The village on Dravuni is a stopping place for large cruise ships. Yes, these cruise ships come through those reef passes! In our reading about it, we gleaned that this is a very neat and clean village, prospering from their cruise ship visits. When we went ashore, we found that to be the case and were greeted with repeated choruses
of “bula, bula” from adults and children. We asked where we could find the village chief, and were led to him. He was sitting in the grass cross-legged ready to accept our gift. We think the village chief’s first name is Romero and he is probably around 45 to 50 years old. Another older gentleman came to say the blessing. We all sat cross-legged–it is very important not to show the soles of your feet. Some young children joined us and when the older gentleman said certain words, everyone would
clap once. This indicates a thank you. When the blessing was complete, we started to talk about life in the village and to ask for permission to snorkel, walk through the village, walk about the island, and visit the other islands inside the reef. Some islands are uninhabited, but you need permission from the Dravuni village chief in order to visit them. I also asked permission to visit the grades 1 through 4 school in the village and was invited to come tomorrow morning at 0800. As we started
to walk away, the older gentleman who had conducted the ceremony asked Mark and Paul for some help on an engine problem. Marie and I were drawn to some woman sitting on the grass, so we parted ways for a bit.

Marie and I met Marianne, the chief’s wife, and an older woman named Eleanor. Marianne was quiet and shy, but I could tell that Eleanor must be an island character. Marianne explained that the chief’s home had been burned to the ground on May 26 and we could see only the round stone foundation–the sign of a chief’s home. She explained that they have two daughters that live in Suva, and they have taken three young boys to raise. One of the young boys was killed in the fire. As we were talking,
Marianne expressed a desire to learn to bake bread. I told her that I would come tomorrow after visiting the school and we would made bread. I was surprised that she didn’t know how to make banana bread. They have soooooo many bananas, but she explained that they have no recipes. So instead of snorkeling all day tomorrow, I plan to made whole meal bread and banana bread with Marianne in the morning and she is going to show me how to weave pandanus floor mats. She is currently weaving them for
the new home they will be building. Mark and Paul will return tomorrow with some tools to help the older gentleman with his engine problem and hopefully by early afternoon, we can have the bread baked and be ready to snorkel. I can’t wait for that.

This village has generators and individual homes also have them. They have TV’s and Marianne said they really like to watch the 6 PM Fiji news to see what is happening in their country. She said the generators are not working like should right now, maybe no fuel, and they are currently using keronsene lanterns for light at night. While writing this log, we heard drumming beginning at 6:45 PM. The drumming continued for a short while. We will ask tomorrow what this signifies. It is now after
7 PM and we are listening to singing, probably from the village church. There are so many things to learn and so many questions we don’t even know to ask. Tomorrow will be another day of discovery.

070606 Day 43 Astrolabe Reef, Fiji– Maluma Bay to Dravuni Island