We’re off adventuring again and as always we find seem to find plenty to keep us busy. We had a damp passage from Vuda to Savusavu but anchoring each night along the way made for an easy start to the new season. Savusavu is the largest town on the island of Vanua Levu, the other big island of Fiji and will be our jumping off place for at least the next four months and possibly on though next year’s cyclone season. As we motored through the mooring field that runs along the main street waterfront of Savusavu we were happy to see both a handful of boats that belonged to friends from Vuda Point and several boats we hadn’t seen since the fleet broker up late last spring. We’d be exploring Vanua Levu with friends!
First we needed a mooring or at least a spot to drop our anchor. But it turns out that virtually all of Savusavu was reserved for a big rally that was due in a few days –The Oyster Round the World Rally. Both the Copra Shed and Waitui Marinas were holding their moorings for the incoming boats and despite the fact that many were empty telephone calls to both marinas left us dropping the hook in 75 feet of water near the head of the pack in the open entrance to the river that runs along downtown. We were tired after the four day passage and just wanted to shower and eat and maybe say hello to a few friends but Bill decided to call Copra Shed Marina to ask again about a mooring. Seeing as we already had a reservation for six months on a mooring for cyclone season maybe they would give us a spot for a night or two until the Oysters started showing up. Surprisingly they agreed and said to come on up the river and they would send out a boatman to lead us to one of their moorings. Unfortunately our trusty 88 pound Rocna anchor had other plans. We were stuck tight.
Our anchor has become stuck before –it’s the nature of an anchor after all- but always with a bit of back and forth and zigging and zagging we have been able to untangle from coral or rocks or what have you. This time the more we worked at it the tighter our chain became. Of course the anchor couldn’t have picked a time to get hung up while we were in twenty feet of crystal clear water, nope seventy five feet of brackish dark water was between us and freedom. Oh and did I tell you that we were tired, and hungry and that the sun was getting ready to set soon?
I was about to cry foul and settle for staying right where we were but Bill caught the eyes of a group of local men who were on a flat bottom boat returning from their working day at the local pearl farm. A bit of negotiation followed –
“One what, one hundred dollars?
Hmmm, well…ummm…. “how about $50 dollars?
In about the time it would have taken us to get the dive gear up on deck and ready to go the local men had us unwound and chain reeling in: great for us and by the sound of their excited chatter as they pulled away great for them too. They were laughing happily and obviously making plans between them over how they would be spending the sudden windfall of cash. I think the local pool hall and grog shop was singing them a siren song.
Savusavu is just a fraction of the size of Lautoka or Nadi. There is a sweet small town feel to the place and everyone seems to be living a slower easier lifestyle. Since we will base ourselves ere for the coming months this is where we will do essentially all of our shopping for the coming months, which means if they don’t have it you don’t need it! So far it’s looking rather prosperous and well stocked with several clothing stores, a shoe stores, numerous hardware stores each with a slightly different base inventory, a barber shop or two, two of the usual fresh bread stores –one of which sells whole wheat, yea, several places selling fresh fish, a daily produce market and plenty of restaurants all with prices significantly lower than for a comparable meal in Nadi town or Lautoka with everything from surf and turf to curry to pizza and burgers. There are a few upscale resorts nearby and several members only clubs that welcome visitors. They also have video stores and a library –the first I will have the chance to use in three years, whoopee! There is even a six day a week cruisers net on CH 14 to answer all the questions we boaters seem to have about a new town. The locals seem to include more Fijians and fewer Hindi’s but are the same mix of happy and friendly people most genuinely happy to share their town with you.
On our second day in town we were wandering through the main street hardware stores looking for two part epoxy paint when we heard a marching band that seemed to be coming our way. Turns out that Suva’s police marching band was in town performing as a part of a country wide safety campaign and they were headed our way. The music sounded great and we’re always up for a chance to share in a little local excitement. The interesting thing about this bands parade down the main street wasn’t that they were there in the middle of the day on a weekday –we’ve learned to expect the unexpected- but in the way the entire town seemed to put whatever it was that they were doing on hold and simply stop to enjoy the parade. By the time the band reached our spot along main virtually everyone had moved out of the shops and were waiting patiently for the band to arrive. When they did it was spectacular. The crowd surged along as they came bringing with them everyone from further up the street. As the band stopped in place and broke into a lively rendition of Rock around the Clock the audience tightened in around them.
The small mostly brass band was good and they were hot. The precision music and choreographed dance steps attested to hours of band practice. They were dresses in dark blue military style long sleeve shirts complete with epaulettes, gold braid and shiny gold buttons over crisp white sulu’s with a shark tooth hem (the shark s tooth hem is typical for all “uniform” sulu’s here in Fiji) and carried trombones, tubas, drum set ups, cymbals and trumpets. As the band played the crowds surged and soon women were breaking from the sidelines and running amidst the members shaking baby powder or flour over every head they could reach. Then as the crowd laughed and clapped several women broke through and were pulling pairs of bright red women’s panties over several heads as others moved in and began a sort of raucous dirty dancing with a couple of the members. When the song was through they launched into another before quick stepping back into parade formation and moving on down Main Street along with most of the crowd. Middle of the day, middle of the week and almost everyone who was in town simply stopped what they were doing and came out to be a part of the show.
Since then things have been a bit quieter but we have had a chance to share a meal with each of our friends here and to learn more about the areas we will soon be traveling in. We’ve almost completed the job of refinishing the aluminum bottom on our newly traded for dinghy and have completed a small list of the usual boring boat jobs. In a day or two we will start serious provisioning for the coming weeks in the outer islands and then will be off for Taveuni. Till then, Happy Sailing, Kat.