Day 58, Year 2: Naroi in Mourning
Date: Thursday, June 21, 2007
Weather: Sunny Day; Still NE Winds 15 Knots
Location: Naroi, Moala Island, Lau Group, Fiji

At promptly 9 AM we went to shore as we had arranged with Litia, the chief’s wife. Before we got all the way in we could tell that the village was in mourning. School children were walking back from the village green in their athletic uniforms, men walking on the road had on dress sulas and dark shirts, and the woman on the hill by the chief’s house had on black dresses and wore pandanus mats around their waists. This is mourning dress in Tonga but we had no idea that Fijians also wear the mats.
They might not on the main islands, but since the Lau Group is halfway between Tonga and Fiji, the Tongan influence here over the years has been great. We could see Litia waving us back, we waved, and I threw a kiss which she did in return. I doubt that we will see her again before we leave and I’m a little saddened by not saying a personal farewell. But it is not respectful for strangers to come to the village during mourning, so we must respect that. I had printed some pictures that I wanted
to leave with them, but we will look for a fishing boat coming by in the morning to see if they will deliver them to the chief for us. We are wondering where they bury people here. We have seen no graveyards in the villages we have been in since leaving Suva. Graveyards in Suva are prominently located, but in the out islands, they must be hidden away. Many questions. I guess we will ask when we arrive at our next destination.

Today was a day of “reality.” I looked at the calendar and realized that we have only two weeks before Mark’s brother arrives in Savusavu. Time sure flies when you are having a good time. We spent more time in Beqa than planned–waiting for a weather window. We spent more time in Kandavu than planned–waiting for a weather window. And we have spent more time here at Moala than planned–waiting for a weather window. Those weather windows seem to be few and far between this season. So we made
a decision late this afternoon to skip visiting the island of Tuvuca and will go straight to Vanua Balavu. Again, this was a hard decision for me. Tuvuca offers a people who have little if any contact with the modern world. But Tuvuca has no real anchorage. It is only possible to anchor there with an east wind, and we are still having wind north of east. Vanua Balavu offers the most beautiful anchorages that Fiji has to offer, but the people have had more contact with the outside world. After
long and hard thinking, we opted for beauty over remoteness. So in the AM we will head directly to the Exploring Iles in the Northern Lau Group. Vanua Balavu sits inside a barrier reef with eight other smaller islands. On the northwest of the Iles is Qilaqila or the Bay of Islands. It is supposed to be a “spectacular place for yachties to draw anchor” according to the Lonely Planet. By noon on Saturday we should know if the place is as beautiful as advertised. We talked with a boat named Christina
on the radio this morning and they just left there. They did say it was beautiful and they are sending us some waypoints for their favorite anchorages via email.

Today was also a day of connections. Since there was no field day to attend, we came back to Windbird and did a little reconnecting. we are planning to return to the United States at the end of this cruising season and work for a few months before returning to Australia and continuing our trek around the world. We wrote resumes and contacted old friends. Mark had an especially good time connecting with friends and faculty from college days at Eastern Illinois University. Darlene Miller wrote
with updates on friends who were on the Speech Department faculty and even his college roommate, Jim Rinnert. Darlene found us online through our web site. What a blast from the past!

We have heard from a few other cruiser friends recently. Bob and Dianna on White Swan have recovered from the traumatic passage from New Zealand and have headed out in the Mamanuca islands with Zfarse and New Dawn. Joe and Cindy of Maggie Drum have reached Suva, and Ranger is back in Suva as well. Quantum Leap with Tom and Bette Lee are on their way from New Zealand to Tonga. They have 420 miles to go and have had some ugly weather. Tom has been sending daily updates and he is truly a fantastic
story teller. Here’s a bit of his log from today, “We are in the grip of the dreaded low pressure system. In New Zealand they are experiencing 40 knots of wind with 15-20 foot seas. Up here things are not so bad, with 20-30 knots of wind and 5 foot seas. The problem is that the wind is blowing from the direction we want to go. We are having to sail against this torrent of wind. Sailors call it “beating”. Bashing, crashing, thrashing, splashing…would also be excellent words. QL is as salt encrusted
as a virginia ham. Moving around is much like standing in the saddle of a mechanical bull.” Eloquently stated!

So tomorrow morning we head a little north of northeast. We hope that winds come around to the east from the northeast, but if not, we will be doing a little bit of that bashing and crashing that Tom describes above. Let’s hope that is not the case.