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Leg 7 - 2004 Suva to Lautoka

Leg 7 - 2004, Update 1 October 26, 2004 1230 18.52S, 178 17E, Log: 83,733, Baro: 1015 Cabin Temp: 86F Beam reaching at 8 kts in 24 kt easterly winds

We enjoyed Suva during our time of between Legs 6 & 7 and found time for some sightseeing (taxi to Pacific Harbour) swimming in the downtown public pool and several shopping trips.

Amanda loads up with groceries

Amanda's Dad and I check out with the Suva officials

A colonial building in busy Suva town

David Stone takes his first trick a the helm

Before long it was time to clear outbound customs and get ready for Leg 7 crew arrival. Robert and Lesley, Amanda's parents cleared out at the same time and we made plans to meet a week lager at Maololailai Island.

It was a little sad leaving Suva, knowing that with our trip to Europe in 2005-2008 meant it will be several years before we'll be back.

What a sail we're having now! The tradewinds are blowing fresh, Suva Radio just announced strong wind warnings for all waters, and we have made record time on our passage from Suva to Kadavu Island. We can see the lush green ridges and valleys ahead and have identified Daku Bay on the radar. We tucked a reef in the main and two in the headsail when leaving Suva this morning and that has proven to be the right combination.

I'll have our crew introduce themselves:

David Potter, 59
I am a consultant for logistics and infrastructure issues, primarily for the U.S. Government and live in Arlington, Virginia. I started sailing a bout 30 years ago while stationed in the army in Germany. I have chartered in Europe and the Med, sailed the Chesapeake Bay but sail mostly in the Caribbean. I am currently looking forward to buying my first boat within the next year. The primary reason for signing on to sail this leg is to find out if I really want to plan of cruising for several years.

RaeEllen Stone, 54

I live in Janesville, Wisconsin with my husband David. I am retired from social services and later processed medical and dental claims. David and I are on this expedition to learn more about sailing our 40' Gulfstar on Lake Michigan and beyond. I am also very interested in visiting remote villages and schools that this expedition provides.

David Ray Stone, 60

I have retired from GM as a stationary engineer. I had 30.5 years with the company, working in the power house in Janesville, WI. We have a 40' 1982 Gulfstar which we sail on Lake Mich. Rae and I are both private pilots and we fly our Cessna when we can, but enjoy sailing much better. We recently sold our waste removal business and now we can sail a lot more, now that we have more time. RaeEllen joined Mahina Tiare as we wanted to find out if offshore cruising was for us. So far one day one, it is excellent and we liked the idea of visiting the school children.

Bob Garbe, 51
I do safety and health consulting for the federal government, having 30 years of federal service. This is me second trip on Mahina Tiare and this time I am looking for a little more anchoring and relaxing as a contrast to our 2300 mile passage on Leg 2 - 2004, Tahiti to Hawaii. I and my family have a Nor'Sea 27 that we sail locally in Denver and trailer to other locations. After retirement in three years I intend to sail more and longer and the experience aboard MT has really been a great way of learning the ropes.

Carl Nielsen, 69

I am the retired manager of Northwest Natural Gas in Portland, Oregon where my wife Ellen and I live and sail our Pacific Seacraft Orion 27. This is my seventh leg with John and Amanda over the last 12 years. These have included the South Pacific, Patagonia, Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand; where Ellen also sail aboard. Why do I do it, and especially why so often? The answer is simple - I always have a grand time, get to visit excellent places, learn a lot each time about sailing and look forward to another leg in the future.

Daku Bay, by RaeEllen Stone:
Daku Bay - to me, a place lost in time. Our expedition first came to Daku on Tuesday and soon after arriving we met Kata, Epi, Senemile and Epi Jr Ravono; friends of John and Amanda's from previous visits.

Daku Village as viewed from Mahina Tiare

Epi and John are all smiles as they catch up on news

Amanda views the thatched bure the Epi and the village just built for Karen, a peace cor worker

Daku is where we had our first experience with the sevusevu kava ceremony, a traditional Fijian form of socialization. The kava root was pounded, mixed with water, then we were each presented with bilos (a coconut cup) to drink during the ceremony. After the first round of kava, Epi led us to the chief's house where Epi presented our sevusevu bundle of kava, asking the chief for permission for us to anchor and swim in their bay, and to visit ashore. After some chanting and ceremony we went back to Epi and Kata's to drink more kava.

Drinking Kava

On Wednesday we hiked, with Senemeli as guide, an hour along the shoreline then up a steep hill to the nearest school, Vunisei District School which is the only school for three villages on either side of the island. We brought 450 lbs of school books, calculators, dictionaries, encyclopedias, pens and exercise books plus toothbrushes and toothpaste for the children, many of whom board in dorms at the school during the week. In thanks, the children entertained us with their beautiful and angelic singing and delighted us by performing traditional Fijian dances.

Hiking the 45 minute track to school

School children singing

The older girls performing Meke - traditional Fijian dancing
The younger boys performing a vigorous sit down warriors dance

David Potter gives dictionaries to the teacher

David and I waited at the nearest village while the rest of our group hiked back to Daku. While there, the villagers wanted to have a kava ceremony to welcome us, so when John arrived back with the dinghy, we were well involved in another kava ceremony with our new friends.

That night we returned to Daku for a traditional Fijian dinner that Kata and Epi and Senemeli had prepared in the lovo, or earth oven and which Amanda contributed to. Of course, more kava followed!

Senemele grates coconuts with the kittens helping

Epi heats the stones for the lovo.

Senemeli instructs David Potter on coconut grating but he quickly became distracted.

Epi explains the evening meal

Kata relaxing during a Kava ceremony
Senemeli gets ready for evening church

We spent the next day at sea practicing Lifesling overboard rescues and heaving-to, returning in time for an afternoon gave of volleyball with the villagers. The villagers laughed at David Potter's antics and cheered David Stone. Such friendly people with warm smiles!

Lifesling practice

Heaving to practice

Evening games in the village

Seteri smiles as we say farewell

Carl, David P., RaeEllen, Bob and David S. practice their Kava appreciation claps

As we left Daku Bay the next morning, we all stood in amazement as we remembered their simple, uncomplicated way of life. We all hope to keep that innocence and simplicity with us when we return to the "real" world.

(Thanks RaeEllen!)

On Friday, October 29th we had a great sail down the coast and anchored south of the village of Drue, where Australian friends of ours Rina and Bob run a cool little dive resort called Dive Kadavu, This is always a major contrast to village life and after sewing classour crew enjoyed relaxing in the shade on the beach followed by an excellent Fijian meal. Over dinner we met two of the six guests, a young couple from the Czech Republic who were getting married the following day. Keen lake sailors, they jumped at the invitation to have a look around Mahina Tiare the following morning. After showing them around, Amanda taught sail and rig repair and crew enjoyed some quiet time on the beach. In fact, they all fell asleep on the porch of one of the unoccupied beach bungalows while Amanda and I hike up the hill.

Mahina anchored off Dive Kadavu

David P completes a practice seam on the sewing machine

Cape Washington on the west tip of Kadavu Island

Heeeeeeere's Bob's contrubution:

The overnight passage from Kadavu to Mololailai was an incredible full moon lit experience. We left our anchorage in front of Dive Kadavu resort at 1500 in order to have enough light to thread our way out the passage into deep water. We had a leisurely reach down the northern coast to Cape Washington at the end of Kadavu to use up some time as we wanted our next landfall to be after first light and to provide a better angle of sail, a broad reach to Molo. As darkness began to settle in, we jibed to starboard, set the preventer and prepared for the night ahead. With a two hour on and four hour off watch schedule there was plenty of time to both sail and rest. The moon was full and kept the boat very well illuminated in the darkness and the steady 15 - 25 knot wind stayed steady on the aft quarter, giving us a perfect broad reach all the way to Navula Pass. At the pass the waves and wind moderated as we motorsailed through the pass (the wind was on the nose) and then set sail for Malololailai Islands. Instead of anchoring or mooring offshore, we went inside the tiny marina and tied next to the $3 Bar where ice cold Fiji bitter was waiting!
(Thanks Bob!)

Our crew had been looking forward to laundry, showers, phones, internet and cold drinks ashore, and being side-tied to the dock meant easy access for all. Amanda's parent's had earlier arrived on their 41' yawl, Swanhaven III with her brother David also aboard, and they joined us for the barbecue that evening. Robert, Amanda's dad is the consummate fire starter and barbecuer, so we were glad to have his help. Musket Cove Yacht Club and Resort was started by cruisers 40 years ago and remains an all time favorite destination for many South Pacific cruisers. The $3 Bar is a great example of why the place is so popular. There are eight barbecue stalls with free firewood and plates, silverware and condiments provided. They even wash the dishes! The only charges are for drinks (all $3 Fijian, about $1.80 US) or if you are really lazy, you can buy prepared barbecue dinners of fish, beef, or chicken plus salad and baked potato. It's always fun to meet dozens of cruisers from many different countries here. If you don't like barbecuing, you can eat ashore at the restaurant, but then you don't get to meet the cruisers.

On Monday, the following day, crew hiked and explored the island before we set sail with Swanhaven for a gorgeous, deserted white sandy-beach bay on the next island, Malolo. Here we studied storm tactics, double braid line splicing, going aloft and cruising medicine before our crew swam ashore and explored the beach and island.

Swanhaven anchored off Malolo

Amanda catches up on news with her mum Lesley

Mahina and Swanhaven anchored at Malolo

David takes in the view from up the mast

Tuesday we motored 23 miles north through several incompletely charted areas of coral to a tiny, uninhabited group of islands. This was the longest period (3.5 hours) of motoring that I could remember in months! Our class Tuesday was voyage planning, dealing with customs in different countries and communication options including radio, email and satellite. David and RaeEllen were the only ones keen to explore another untracked white sandy beach while the rest of the crew relished their last few hours in an idyllic tropical anchorage.

Our final 26 mile passage to Vuda Point Marina was excellent with 14-16 knots close hauled, then close reaching in progressively flatter seas as we approached the main island of Viti Levu.

After taking their tests and scrubbing MT down, crew got showered and dressed up for an excellent farewell dinner ashore at First Landing, a small resort started by an ex-Peace Corps teacher located next to the marina. We were seated on the beach under palm trees and it was a fun evening. Leg 7 crew really clicked, and it was neat to see them making plans to keep in touch. Before we knew it Thursday morning had arrived and after helping by cleaning their cabins, crew were off on more adventures.

Amanda and I set sail the following day for a week of visiting with family and friends at Musket Cove, interspersed with getting MT ready for the Leg 8 passage to New Zealand.

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