Monday, June 24, 2013

Batting 1000

We left Bakabaka Inlet with no navigational excitement around 9:30 am, setting full sail and beating 20 miles to Fawn Harbour. The seas were down and the sailing very pleasant in 6-10 knots of light northeasterly breeze. We closed the coral reef close by the pass into Fawn Harbour on our fourth tack. As we did so, we passed just behind a small flotilla of motoring sailboats that were taking advantage of the light winds and flat seas to make the passage directly from Savusavu. The entry to Fawn Harbour dog-legs between reefs, but the channel is wide, the turns marked by posts, and visibility good. In addition we had accurate way-points from a previous visitor (S/V Billabong). Our hearts remained in our chests.

Our friends Rich and Cindy on Legacy were among the motoring flotilla and had caught a huge dorado on their passage . Other friends, Craig and Bruce on 'Gato Go' invited all the boats in the Fawn Harbour anchorage to a potluck on their roomy catamaran. The dorado was delicious, barbecued and soaked in a Thai curry sauce concocted by Craig. We contributed a potato squash curry, while other cruisers brought marinated eggplant/garlic appetizers, brussel sprouts, and a superb chocolate cake. A very pleasant evening, catching up with old friends.

Today was eco-adventure day - an unexpected bonus, for we had planned this as a work day, continuing to paint Ladybug's sheer stripe. We awoke to a perfectly still anchorage - no wind and clear skies. We both agreed that this would be a painting day, but wanted to move over to nearby Dakuniba Bay. So we raised the hook shortly after breakfast and motored out the pass and eastward along the fringing reef.

About 15 minutes out we came up to a pod of what we believe were false killer whales, some of which swam alongside for a few minutes. The small whales were leaping clear of the water at times - spy hopping - and we watched them until they swam away, closer to the reef where the fishing must have been better. A few minutes later I called Rani up on deck again when I saw a much larger spout than that of the false killers. We turned Ladybug in towards the reef and as we approached it became clear that there were two much larger whales, surrounded by the pod of smaller ones. The big whales turned out to be humpbacks - a mother and calf we think - and they put on a great show, rolling around together, sometimes with their barnacled fins in the air and sometimes sounding shallowly. We followed them for 20 minutes, idling along at 1 or 2 knots, Rani shooting a video, while I kept Ladybug at a respectful distance.

The pass into Dakuniba Bay was straightforward, but we had some problems identifying the anchorage mentioned in one of our guides, because I had not thought to note its way-point. We spent a half hour poking around a reef-strewn palm fringed bay before correctly identifying another much more enclosed bay a little to the north. This bay is ringed by mangroves and has a nice mud bottom. A few houses lie to the south side and a mangrove-lined river channel runs into its east side. There is a pervasive musky, skunky smell through the bay and around dusk we learned its source and the source of the high pitched chattering we had heard through the afternoon. When we rowed over to the river mouth, we came upon tree after tree filled with fruit bats, squeaking and squawking to each other. When they saw us, they rose into the air in great wheeling masses, showering us with what we at first thought was bat piss, but later realized was just the recent rain shaken off their wings.

These bats are large and look just like crows from the distance. If you did not know they were bats you would swear they were birds. However, up close, you can see their cinnamon coloured bodies and little squirrel-like heads. They point their feet back as they fly and with their broad fabric-like wings, look for all the world like hang-gliding tailless squirrels.

We rowed up the small river channel, listening to the bat chatter and the calls of birds that we could not see, off deep into the mangrove swamp. Schools of tiny fish leapt clear of the water at our approach and crabs scuttled over the mangrove roots. Spider webs hung from the boughs of larger trees and in places the vegetation closed in and I had to draw in the oars and row with them crossed. The channel ended in a swampy clearing where two open sided shelters had been built, perhaps as part of a copra plantation.

We never did get any painting done. Ominous black clouds crowded over the eastern hills shortly after we arrived and the afternoon was an alternation of showers and sunshine. It was muggy and hot in the boat when we were forced to close the hatches - around 90 degrees F and as much as 83 percent humidity.

We plan to be here for a couple of days and then move around the corner to Viani bay where Rani hopes to do some diving on the world-class 35 km long Rainbow Reef.

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