Day 60, Year 2: Arrival in Vanua Balavu–Perfect Passage
Date: Saturday, June 23, 2007
Weather: Beautiful Day, E Winds 15
Latitude: 17 degrees 13 minutes S
Longitude: 178 degrees 58 minutes W
Location: Daliconi Village, Vanua Balavu, Northern Lau Group

I’ve heard of sailors who have had to reef down because they were going to arrive at a destination too early due to great winds in passage, but that doesn’t usually happen to us. It did happen on this passage, however. We sailed all the way from Moala with east winds anywhere from 7 knots in the middle of the night to 15 and even 20 after sunrise this morning. We were close-hauled for part of the trip, but on a beam reach for most of it. It was a clear night with a half-moon that didn’t set until midnight and a beautiful morning with blue skies and those puffy little trade wind white clouds. I got quite a start when I thought I saw the bright orange light of another boat approaching at midnight, only to find that it was the moon being swallowed up by the sea. At sunrise, I was on watch and as I looked around, I was amazed. I had been watching our progress on the electronic chart and saw that we were passing through the islands of the Northern Lau Group, but they look far away on the electronic chart. When dawn came and I could see them all, it was quite a show. There was Vatuvara that looks like a huge volcanic cone that someone cut the top off. It appears to just rise straight up out of the sea. There was a long, low island to the east known as Mago (pronounced Mango) and a little island with one pointed volcanic cone to the west. Kaibu, a tiny little island that looks like a loaf of bread except that one-third of the middle of the loaf must have fallen into the sea, was off to the northwest. Kanacea, a plantation island was to the northeast, and finally behind that I could see Vanua Balavu.

Entering the reefs that surround these islands is always a heart stopper. Thanks to Jan and Christina on the sailing vessel Christina from Norway (I think) we had waypoints that led us in with no problems. We have never met Jan, but we heard him on the net the other morning, called to him, and he emailed us detailed information and waypoints for Vanua Balavu where he had visited last week. One of the great things about cruising is that sailors love to share information. When we could clearly see the west side of Vanua Balavu, we heard someone calling for a yacht. It sounded like a Fiji official calling and we answered because we couldn’t hear the yacht name and thought he might be calling for us. Actually, the voice was not calling us but was calling another sailboat entering the anchorage in front of Daliconi (Dalithoni) village. This was our destination for today, so we made contact and explained that we were still about two hours from anchoring. The other yacht, Chaotic Harmony, was right in front of the village and we got to talk to them on the radio as they were leaving and we were coming into Daliconi.

Until we talked to Jan, we thought we had to go all the way around the east side of the island and almost to the south end to check in at a village called Lomaloma. Evidently that is old information that we have in our cruising guide. With the strong east winds, checking in on the west side of the island was much nicer. And the village of Daliconi has taken advantage of that fact and started a little tourism business by checking in sailboats and charging $20Fiji per person. I suppose the money pays for the Tourism Chairman that mans the radio.

We sailed past the northwest side of Vanua Balavu and marveled at how much it looks like Maine. We will be going back there tomorrow or Monday, and then on around the north side of the island later in the week. Chaotic Harmony, the boat that checked in this morning, called us on the radio and explained that they intend to spend the next six weeks or so here. There certainly appear to be unlimited bays and anchorages.

After getting the boat secured, we put the dinghy in the water and went to shore. Two woman came to meet us, Ana and Lako. They took us to the chief’s house for sevusevu, but explained that the chief was not at home and that one of the village elders, Qio (which means shark), would perform the ceremony. Joeli, the village tourism chairman, also attended, and he took care of the paperwork. The chief’s name is Mariko, which the women pointed out is the same as Mark. We hope to meet him tomorrow. His wife’s name is Moce (Mothe) and she served us small muffins with strawberry jam and hot tea after the ceremony. We marveled at all of the pandanus leaves she had hanging in the house to dry and finally got to see the huge aluminum pots that are used to cook the pandanus leaves. I said I had never seen a pot that large and the everyone was quick to tell me that the pots from the US. Lako took us on a tour of the village and we found it quite interesting. There are only 104 people here living in 40 houses with 50 flush toilets. The number of toliets is greater than the number of homes because the school and church have facilities as well. Lako is on the Tourism Committee and she really knows her stuff. She invited us to attend church tomorrow morning and come to her home for lunch afterwards. It was an invitation we couldn’t refuse. Every bure or home in this village has a cell phone and the village generator actually works and people have power for three hours every evening. A Telecom crew from Suva was here today installing a new satellite dish for phone and television, and most of the men of the village we sitting in the village green watching the installation. It was late afternoon by this time, and everyone in the village seemed to be engaged in preparing food for dinner. They were having a special dinner for the Telecom crew tonight and a few men were preparing the lovo or earth oven. Life here is such a mix of old and new.

070623 Day 60 Vanua Balavu Island, Fiji–Passage and Arrival in Daliconi Village