About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fulaga Chronicles - Part 4: The Sailing Canoe

One of the most memorable experiences of our time in Fulaga was the chance to help Mele launch a new dugout canoe.

All across the south pacific, the dugout outrigger canoes have served as the go-to, workhorse boats for centuries, providing reliable transportation for fishing, traveling, exploring, and even warring and conquering.  In many places these very capable boats are being phased out, as the skills to handle and build the boats get lost to subsequent generations.  But the more modern fiberglass open boats ("fibers") are expensive to buy and repair, and their outboard motors are also expensive, and can be nearly impossible to maintain in remote communities.

Mele's old canoe


The chief of the village of Muanaicake has expressed a desire for the men of the village to build more of the canoes, both to keep the cultural expertise alive among the skilled carvers of the village, but even more importantly as a source of reliable time proven transport within the lagoon.

Very interesting boats, the outrigger designs of the south pacific always need to have the outrigger on the upwind side.  This means that to reverse direction, the rudder is moved to the opposite end of the boat, and the sailrig moved back where the rudder was!!!

Mele sailing his old canoe with Graham from s/y Maunie.  Note the bailing bucket, in use constantly!!!  Photo by s/v Charisma


At present there is just one remaining sailable canoe left in Muanaicake.  One of the other villages on Fulaga has one or two as well.  We heard that Mele, one of the village's most skilled carver and sailor, had been working in the bush on a new dugout to replace his aging (6 years old) canoe....they apparently don't have a very long usable lifespan before rot and waterlogging claim their next victim.  Mele had been working on his new canoe for 5 months, and he needed help to haul it to the water.



Along with a few men from the village, 4 or 5 of us kaipalangis met at the beach early one morning, and together dinghied over to the location where the boat could be launched from the woods.  We left the boats in the mangroves and followed Mele about 1/2 mile into the dense bush, stepping over the logs that he had felled to serve as rollers for his new boat.







Mele leads the way



Planning the next move...
 Finally we arrived at the clearing, where we saw the 24 foot dugout sitting amidst a pile of chips.  He had carved the canoe using primarily traditional tools, an axe, adze, and machete.  Large cuts were made with a chainsaw as well.

Mele, a charismatic, quiet leader, sat down to work, and with a few deft strokes, cut slots to anchor sticks securing a tow vine which he cut with his machete from a tree above. 





 

Mele working on a piece which will become the canoe's deck


Elegant system to secure towing vine


Ready to go!!!
Finally it was time to head towards the water.  The canoe was heavy, perhaps 700 lbs or so, as the hull had been deliberately left thick to withstand its first rocky voyage to the launch spot without damage.  With some pushing and others pulling on the vine, we made our way slowly over the roller logs, with some helping to bring the rollers up to the front after we'd passed over them.  Here are a couple of video clips of the slow progress:

video


video

At last, after about 4 hours we arrived at the mangroves, and with a final 1.....2.....3......, the dugout slid into the water for the first time.

video




We secured the tow vine to our dinghy and towed her the final mile to the landing, where Mele will now finish her with the superstructure, deck, outrigger, rudder and sail rig.










Mele and his new and old boats


Two other men in the village, Sake and Alfreddi say they will be starting their canoes soon, and promise that we will be able to hold races when we return to visit next year!!!  We can't wait!




Friday, August 22, 2014

Fulaga Chronicles - Part 3

Happy Anniversary!

Somehow it happened.  The word got out.  Our host Meri heard that our 24th anniversary was coming up during our stay at the village.  Now, Cindi and I usually take our anniversaries pretty casually....a good dinner, an overpriced bottle of red, and some nice sentiments expressed is usually about the extent.  Not the case in Fulaga!!!

Meri hinted that there might be a bit of a celebration in the works.  "Oh, Meri, you don't have to go to any trouble.....really.....ummmmm, how many people are coming, just us and you and Jon-e???"  With a sly giggle, Meri replied, "well, ummmmm.....I think the whole village"!!!!!  Yikes!

So she was right.  They built a shelter on the grass along Meri and Jon-e's house for the event.  When we arrived at 4, things were already getting underway, and at least one bathtub sized bowl of kava ("grog") was already to the good.




Yellow barrel in the background is water for mixing kava!!!  These guys know how to party!!!


We were quickly ushered into Meri's house, where we were dressed by the women in enormous tapa cloth (made from pounded mulberry) ceremonial sulus.  These sulus are the typical traditional Fijian wedding costume.  Each village has one set, as they are quite valuable.  Speaking with a Fijian woman at the dive shop here in Viani, she said that it is a huge honor that they dressed us "kaipalangi's" (white folk) in this costume; she had never heard of this happening before.  We were very humbled.












Several guitars and a ukelele provided the wonderful music, and the grog drinking went long into the night.....about 6 hours worth to be exact.  We bought a couple of kilos of the precious roots to keep up with the consumption!  It wasn't easy to sit in those sulus, so happily they were taken off after the first hour or two.


We were introduced to a traditional Fijian wedding game:  The men stand up in a line and are blindfolded.  Then the line of wives parade past, holding out a hand.  The men have to feel the hands and try to guess their wives.  Some were successful.  Bob from s/y Charisma and I got our wives mixed up, much to the locals' delight.  Amazing amount of laughing and cheering, before digging into the spectacular feast that the village women had prepared.






Finally by 10 the kava ran out, and reluctantly we made our 20 minute hike back to the water, and the dinghy ride back to Bravo.

Wow, truly an anniversary we'll always remember!!!  Special thanks to Meri, Jon-e, and all who helped put on the bash!!!  Vinaka vaka levu!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some Terrific Diving around Viani Bay

With friends from s/y "Maunie" and s/y "Interlude", we made a couple of great dives today just outside Viani Bay.  Went with the good folks at Dolphin Bay Dive Resort.  First, the "Great White Wall", always shows up in magazines as one of the worlds top 10 dives.  Truly spectacular, it lived up to the hype, as we dropped through a couple of tunnels to emerge at the top of the wall at about 95 feet, where a myriad of white and colored corals drop off into the depths.  Other hard and soft corals everywhere, with great variety of fish.  I think we'll have to dive this one again!!!






























Second dive was shallower, on a reef out in the Somosomo Straits, known as the "Fish Factory".  Also a terrific dive, with heaps of fish and a great variety of corals. 




 














We'll continue diving here in the Somosomo Straits for the next several days. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fulanga Chronicles - Post 2

One of the great things about Fulaga is it's relative inaccessibility.  As we wrote earlier, the island was largely closed to visitors until just a couple of years ago, and today only visiting yachties have the privilege of visiting.  So visitors are still somewhat of a novelty (though this is clearly changing with the influx of yachts....this year, so far, over 30 have anchored here).  Both kids and adults couldn't be friendlier or more open.

Fulaga Island has 3 villages, Muanaicake, Muanaira and Naividamu.  The largest, Muanaicake, is the place we spent most of our time, visiting almost daily with hosts Meri and Jon-e and others, participating in daily village life, and generally hanging out and drinking kava.  (a LOT of that goes on in Fulaga!!!).  The village, though simple, is extremely clean.  Paths are raked daily, and all of the houses are neat.


Here are a few miscellaneous shots from around the village to get the general idea:









Post office.  Now, with cell phones (have to climb up to the overlook for any chance of service) they only handle an average of 8 (yes, that's EIGHT) letters on the supply boat each month.  The only phone on the island is in the little box on the right next to the front door.  It is a satellite phone, so quite expensive.



Rugby played by the "boarders" after school.  The boarders are the kids from the other two villages on the island who spend Monday through Friday in Muanaicake, the only village with a school.  The school is only for kids up to age 12.  After that they are sent away to school in Suva for their final 5 years of compulsory public school.  Strange to have no teenagers living on the island.


One day we took a hike with friends Graham and Diane of s/y Maunie, along with Mele and Bis.  Hiked to a high overlook, with spectacular views of the whole island.  







BRAVO is the lower boat of the two toward the left










The path to enter the lagoon is easy to see from here!!!  (Not nearly so easy on cloudy days at high tide!)


Mele, Graham and Diane, Bis, and Cindi



One of our first days in the village was also the going away party for two other boats, our friends m/y Mystic Moon and s/y Spruce.  An amazing party it was, with lots of music, dancing and, oh yeah, kava.  Typical crowd of around 40 villagers and perhaps 10 or so cruisers.....everyone has a great time playing together.









Cindi and host Meri on the right.  Moses on the left, a great guy behind a typically dour facade!



Tara and Bob (s/y Charisma) cut the mat




Tai, always the perfect host, escorts the guys for a pee break in the banana plantation


Pounding the kava roots to a powder before putting in a cloth to soak in the kava bowl.



Standing room only













All parties typically end in a feast.  Here we have fish, crab, curries, eggplant and taro leaves, most things cooked in coconut milk, and all very good.  But it is a very starchy diet, with yams, sweet potatoes, and casava playing a major part, and few green vegetables grown on the island.  Silverware is typically just for serving, and everyone eats with their fingers.


We'll end this post here.  There is much more to the "Fulaga Chronicles" yet to come.  But we have very sadly now left the island.  (notice the photos???  We now have internet for the first time in over a month).  It was extremely difficult to tear away from our new friends in Fulaga.  But we've left the Lau Group entirely, with a fantastic overnight downwind sail north 170 miles to the island of Taveuni in northern Fiji.  After 2 nights there, we've moved today to Viani Bay, where we'll spend the next several days diving the spectacular reefs there.  More posts on our Viani adventures will be interspersed with additional editions of the "Fulaga Chronicles".  Sorry for the somewhat disjointed approach, hope you hang with us!!!