Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween underway for Rotuma

October 31, 2013 12:24 local
13-53S 177-55
Underway for Rotumna

Upping anchor yesterday we headed toward Ravi Ravi passage on the north side of Vanua Levu, Fiji. In the distance several guys on a local fishing boat were franticly waving diving fins while standing atop their wheelhouse. We approached and asked how we could help. All three guys were ethnic Indian Fijians and none spoke intelligible English. Clearly they wanted a tow, but to where? We offered the use of our cell phone, so they might call a bilingual friend for translation, but alas no cell signal.

At this point we were located about 6 miles from land with the Great Sea reef and Ravi Ravi passage another 4 miles distant. Instead of pointing towards shore, these guys were pointing and waving that we should tow them more or less parallel to shore some unspecified distance. The only land we could see in that direction was over 15 miles away and we'd have to negotiate lots of patch reefs along the way.

The weather was clear and calm and perfect for lending a hand to fellow mariners, but it was starting to look like our sail to Rotuma might be delayed another day. We rigged a tow bridal of two 50' lines and then a 100' tow line and got underway. Occasionally, I'd stand on the back deck to confirm that we should continue parallel to shore and they'd wave heartily that we should.

A few miles later the skipper was standing atop his wheel house with a cell phone and making a call. We checked our phone and now had coverage. A few patch reefs later we neared some other fishing boats and the skipper instructed through lots of hand waving to stop and get them anchored where they could await repairs. We got them settled, offered them some water and they offered us some fish in thanks. Our fridge was full so we declined the fish, wished them well and headed back toward the ocean pass, the Great Sea Reef at Ravi Ravi.

After motoring for an hour we were at Ravi Ravi pass and we anchored in a sandy patch to prepare for a drift snorkel. Climbing aboard the dingy, 12 pacific white sided dolphins swam directly towards us. We quietly slipped into the water and enjoyed by far the closest dolphin swim ever. Several small baby dolphins stayed close to their mothers, but swam on their sides to check us out. Very, very cool.

A strong flood tide whipped us along the vertical coral walls as if powered by jet packs. On our second drift through the pass we spotted a school of tuna leaping wildly in a feeding frenzy. Approaching in the dinghy, I dove down and swam under the school to observe the chaos from below. WOW! Simply amazing to have Tuna zipping by and charging toward the surface. The water was deep and an ominous blue, so I was also watching my back expecting that some sharks might crash the party.

Coral in the pass was wrecked pretty bad, perhaps from last years cat 4 Cyclone Evan? Deeper down the vertical walls were better with some fans and sea anemones and tons of aggregating fish in huge schools. Some extra curious white tip reef sharks and one bigger grey shark took special interest following us to the surface after bigger dives. Did they think we were spearing fish? We've never had sharks check us out quite like that. On the west side of the pass the wall was better with overhangs and big bump head wrase and many smaller ones as well.

It's an awkward distance to Rotuma. A little too far for one overnight and too close for two overnights. So in no big rush we had lunch and eventually got underway around 1PM as nasty storm clouds full of black and lightening were threatening to engulf us from the mainland.

The wind was light until sunset then filled in with a vengeance of furious squalls and lightening, a Halloween fright. We expected a broad reach with E or ESE winds, but we got no treat only a trick of close reaching ENE and squalls all night. With a double reef main and jib we averaged 8 knots pushing us well ahead of schedule.

Today we need to slow down as our current speed has arriving at Rotuma just after midnight. In hindsight we could have anchored at Ravi Ravi passage, left early in the AM and made Rotuma in just one night at sea.

That's it for now.

Dave & Kathy Kane
s/v LightSpeed

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