Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back in Savusavu

We sailed back to Savusavu on Monday after a couple of peaceful days in Fawn Harbour. The superyacht, Ethereal sailed in behind us, so large that she appeared stationary in the light breeze, but in fact steadily overhauled us. Ethereal is 58 meters long and is owned by Bill Joy, a computer programmer and one of the founders of Sun Microsystems. You can read more about her here.

We met up again with Ann and Bob on Charisma, who showed us pictures of their amazing trip in the southern Lau group. We are inspired to following in their footsteps and may head out to the Lau after a visit to Suva to see a dentist.

In Savusavu we are having a repair done to our bow roller fitting, which has a broken weld. We will have an extra reinforcement welded across the main roller to increase its rigidness. The fitting has come under high loads when the anchor chain caught on coral during retrieval or when we were anchored in places where a large chop was coming into the anchorage and we had the bridle led across the roller.

We will be here for a few days refilling diesel, propane, and water, doing laundry, and stocking up in fresh goods at the Saturday market.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rambling on Rabi

On one of those windy days on Rabi we hiked across to the north tip of the island escorted by Tabeta and her young brother Taipau. Tabeta chatted with confidence while Taipau competed silently for hike leader, grabbing the machete and swiping at  bothersome vines or branches along the way. Sometimes he would dart off the path to bring us edible treats like cocoa pods. We sucked on the fleshy pulp around the seeds inside and found it very refreshing. The taste reminded me of lemonade. Some of the pods were too mature, the seeds already sprouted and quite dry, so we threw these away. It was interesting to see the different stages of growth. We have kept some seeds to dry and roast for making "cocoa tea", brewed local style by boiling the roasted seeds and simmering for a while. The trick is to add lots of sugar and milk!

A grand old tree along the trail
The trail climbed up a hill, passed beside a kava patch belonging to Tabeta's family and then through a taro patch planted by Tabeta's cousins. We went down into the valley on the other side and came out at a small sandy beach beside an ancient tree. The wind was blowing right into the bay and the sea was full of whitecaps. There was a woven palm shack at the other end of the beach but no sign of life. Three hammocks hung limply from a large tree beside a little freshwater stream. Tabeta led us across to a neat looking field of taro and showed us how they use a sharpened branch to dig a hole for planting. It is hard work keeping the field cleared as the jungle takes over very very quickly. The family who owns the land here come over from the main village and must work very hard to maintain their plantation. There was a wooden cradle built in the shallow water for drying copra.

Talking Taro!

Rani planting taro with Tabeta's help
Little Taipau shimmied up a very tall leafless fruit tree and shook the branches, raining custard apples all around us. He did not climb down until the very last fruit had fallen to the ground! We used the machete to peel the fruits and enjoyed munching on them while swinging in the hammocks. Our feast continued on the return trail to Albert Cove as Tabeta opened up some young sprouting coconuts for us - their sweet spongy centres make a delicious dessert. She also picked some tiny purple berries on bushes growing beside the path and I found a chilli bush. All in all it was a lovely nature walk.

Can you see Taipau in the tree?

Taipau breaking open Indian almonds 

edible purple berries

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rabi Island Songs

I have converted a few songs from the videos Rani shot (at night) at Albert Cove. These are in MP3 format and you should be able to download them and listen to them on most devices. The thumping noise in the second video is the pounding of kava in the background. The quality is not great due to being recorded on an inexpensive point and shoot while sitting beside a bunch of noisy kava drinkers. The files are also a bit large - between 1 and 5 MBs - that is what the free processing software produced by default.

Bill Solo

Pauline and friends plus kava pounding

Tabetha, Pauline, and Rara

Passage to Fawn Harbour

I have not written about a passage in a while, so to forestall my sailing friends from asking if we ever use our boat as anything but a floating home, I will jot down a few notes on our passage from Kioa Island to Fawn Harbour.

We left Kioa on Saturday morning anticipating a moderate breeze from the ESE. Instead we hoisted all sail and made a very modest 3 knots in a NE breeze and closely spaced one meter swell. As we passed the reefs at the entrance to the bay that fronts the village of Salia, several dug-out outrigger canoes kept us company, their occupants keeping pace with us easily in their handy craft. These fishermen had been our companions in the anchorage and we would often awake to hear them talking to one another as they hand-lined from their boats inside the reef.

Fisherman of Kioa

The wind was blowing nicely down from the north end of the big island of Taveuni, but died as it neared us and soon we were under motor and sail, skirting the edge of the Rainbow Reef. We elected to cut inside the reef, across the entrance to Viani Bay, since there was too little wind to sail now. This would save a couple of miles and we could anchor in Viani Bay if the wind died out altogether. As we neared the "Fish Factory" dive site, the wind sprang up out of the southwest, blowing from the south end of Taveuni island - 180 degrees from that we had seen blowing from the north end. We turned south, cut the engine, and laid a tack for Taveuni so as to later clear the reef on a westerly tack down to Fawn Harbour.

How pleasant it is to silence the engine and feel the wind bring the boat to life. The seas were little distrubed by swell and Ladybug laid over a few degrees and settled into an effortless close haul at 4 knots in 6 knots of wind. The only excitement came shortly after lunch, when we were once again skirting the Rainbow Reef on a tack to the west. A large ferry/cargo vessel was on a reciprocal course and showed no sign of altering. I let her approach to about a mile and altered 20 degrees to starboard and toward the reef to give her a decent clearance. We passed about 1/2 a mile apart and the wind clocked a little into the south allowing us to just pass clear of the reef and lay a direct course for Fawn Habrour.

A  family poles and paddles their raft at the edge of the reef lined entrance to Fawn Harbour

The sun was behind clouds when We entered the channel at Fawn Harbour and I placed Ladybug on autopilot just off the pass to lower and furl the main. I told Rani I would like to sail in under jib, despite the winding entry, because our way-points were good and we had navigated the pass once before. She agreed, to my surprise, and made her way to the bow to watch while I steered and monitored our progress on the chart program. The reefs are obvious in the passage and there are posts at each dogleg, so it was a simple matter to sail in, gybing the jib across and furling it a few turns to slow us down. A current was ebbing from the pass at about 1- 1.5 knots, but we had plenty of wind now from the south pushing us in.

Once past the first dogleg, the swell vanished and it felt like we were in a slow moving river - although the coral banks close by on each side gave the lie to this. We waved to a bamboo fishing raft carrying four people. One man was poling and a woman added her paddle to make way against the tide. We turned the last corner and the narrow channel widened into a lagoon in which floated two small palm covered islands. A few more turns on the roller-furler to slow Ladybug to a respectable speed for setting the hook. We close-reached under jib toward the settlement at the head of the lagoon, dropping anchor under sail in about 30 feet. Rani put the helm hard over to starboard to avoid running over the chain as I paid it out. It felt wonderful to end the passage in this peaceful way, with Ladybug floating in a salt water lake just off the fringing reefs.

We finally applied Ladybug's new vinyl lettering today on the quiet waters of Fawn Harbour.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Return to Kioa

We had promised to come back to help with the library organization and when the winds abated, we sailed over from nearby Booca Bay and anchored again just off the beach at Kioa. The last few days have been predictably hectic. Fea Fea, the head teacher was very happy that we had returned. He had plans to build new shelving for one wall of the library and we discussed what he wanted and looked over a supply of lumber and materials. Much of this had been donated to repair a house damaged in a tsunami or was left over from the construction of the new kindergarten building.

Chris and Seelie begin work on  putting together the rear lattice

Chris rips a 2 X 2 using a jig and somewhat dull circular saw.
I drew up some plans that made use of kindergarten siding off-cuts as shelves and ripped 2 X 2 lumber as the supporting structure, with some thin ply (we had two sheets available) to strengthen and brace the structure. The overall size would be about 12 feet long by 6 feet high and a little over a foot deep. Over the next two days, I worked with Seelie, the school manager to build the shelving. Seelie is an experienced carpenter with 5 houses to his credit and it was a pleasure to work with such a capable person. I was particularly impressed by how he could bang in a big 4 inch nail in a few blows when it took me twice as many!

We requisitioned the island generator, normally used to run the communal fish freezer and rigged up a jig to rip the long rough 2 X 4 lumber. A Makita circular saw was borrowed from one of the women in the village and together with another helper we ripped 8 long timbers, planing them by hand. The wood was wet and the ripping slow because the saw was a bit dull. Hand planing all this rough wet lumber was also slow,  tiring work and took until near the end of the first day. We finished the day by assembled the back - a heavy lattice of 2 X 2 posts and stringers braced by plywood sheeting glued and nailed.

I  had lots of help. Here some of the older boys steady my work bench (an old school desk) while I  cut some more paneling to fill a gap in the back of the shelving. 

The second day we assembled the front lattice and raised the back, leaning it against a building. We glued and nailed thin plywood sheets to the ends and fastened the front lattice to the side panels. Finally we laid the shelving, ripped from siding off-cuts, along the stringers and nailed these in place. The whole giant unit was lifted by a classroom of boys and girls and carried across the playing field and into the library room where with much re-arrangement of shelving and piles of books, it was moved into place. Seelie then fastened it to the wall with concrete nails and Fea Fea got out some cans of stain left over from the kindergarten and we stained the bookcase with two coats.

Fea Fea and Chris start staining the shelving.

Rani and Lepa take a break from training on the library computer system

Meanwhile, Rani was working with Lepa, the new librarian to train her on the library system computer program. They roped in a few young helpers to practice checking out books  and by the end of the day I think Lepa felt comfortable with the system. While I had been building, Rani had been helping organize books and had made good progress on the adult fiction and nonfiction as well as the youth section. She had reorganized the categories, too, to better suit the age ranges of the children.

Friday afternoon sports on the playing field.

To our surprise, the teachers had us over for a lovely lunch on the second day in their offices. We ate eggplant curry and rotis made by the students as well as lovely home-made rolls and each teacher made a speech to thank us for our efforts. They are practiced speech makers on Kioa and our own speeches were a pale shadow of theirs but we tried to let them know how much we have enjoyed our experiences here.

Finished shelving with stain still drying
After work on Friday, we had the teachers out to the boat for a visit. None had  been on a 'yacht' before and I believe they enjoyed seeing how we lived as much as we enjoyed sharing this with them.  We will be sad to leave here, but it is time to see my broken tooth  looked at and we need to fix a broken weld on our bow roller, so today we sail toward Savusavu.

Roseia, Fea Fea, Chris and Lepa on Ladybug

Rani thought Lepa looked Indian, so she convinced her to let her braid her hair and added a special Indian hairpiece  (a prandi) to extend Lepa's already impressive tresses.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Copra Express

Copra is dried meat from the coconut - rich in oil (70 percent) that can be extracted and used to make soaps and cosmetics, lamp oil (once the primary source of lighting in parts of India), bio-diesel for powering cars and buses or generation of electricity, and as a cooking and baking oil high in saturated fats. Copra is mainly harvested by smallholders rather than on large plantations. It has long been a cash crop in the south pacific and we have learned that it is an important source of hard cash in economies (such as those of the Polynesian islands, Tonga, and Fiji) that are mainly based on subsistence.

In French Polynesia the government subsidizes copra production, paying far above the world price for the product. Unfortunately for the small Fijian copra farmers, this is not the case here and the prices we heard quoted were from 40 to 50 cents a kg. It takes about 7 coconuts to make a kg and these have to be removed from the tree (someone typically climbs the tree and harvests the ripe nuts), broken in half, the meat scooped out, and then sun dried or dried over a fire. Here in Fiji the locals use steel drums as the basis of stoves for drying the copra. Coconut husks and gathered firewood are used to fuel these stoves and it takes between 2 and 3 days to dry out a load of copra. Once dry the copra is packed in sacks and taken to a warehouse facility, typically run here by an island council, where the grower is paid for their product by weight.

The profits from copra gathering are not great when you take into account the labour required and the transportation costs. In the case of our friends on Rabi, they would have to pay $40 to move their 7 bags (about 280 kgs) of copra from their plantation to the nearby warehouse in the main village. This is a distance of only 5 miles, but gasoline is expensive here and there are few powered boats in the area to do the job. While $40 does not sound like much, it would remove nearly 40 percent of their earnings. When we understood this, we offered to take the copra and some of the family down the coast to the main village on our way south.

The day we chose to leave (Saturday) was overcast. I went ashore in the dinghy and we loaded four sacks of copra, transferring them to the deck and cockpit of Ladybug. Some of these sacks weighed more than Rani and it was no light matter to get them out of the dinghy, even with Kasipoa helping from the deck. Then the heavens opened and we put tarps and awnings up to keep our cargo dry. Rani was against going, suggesting we wait until Sunday when the weather should be better, so we told the families we planned to wait. Then, we saw our friends Tabeta and Rara wading along the shore, intent on going into town despite bad weather and high tide. They had run out of Fijian tobacco two days earlier and could not wait another day. We felt bad and I rowed over to head them off and tell the families we would go today anyway, provided we could take Samuel to guide us.

Our passengers huddle under the awning to stay dry
So - we loaded the remaining 3 bags of copra, 7 people, one dried octopus, and a large sack of clothes. We tied Samuel's outrigger canoe to the wind vane frame and raised the anchor. The visibility was poor, but with Samuel on the bow we weaved our way out of Albert Cove between the reefs. We towed our little dinghy with two sacks of copra as well as Samuel's canoe. As we headed south inside the reefs, Samuel guided from the bow, with Tabeta up the ratlines helping, and Rani watched our chart plotting program down below. We sailed for a while under jib but had to dowse sail in a vicious squall and proceeded under motor from then on. A large swell set in from the north and the motion soon made Teteke feel ill. We had her move outside and sit in the cockpit under an awning. The younger boys were told to lie down below and thankfully nobody was physically sick.

Chris rows our cargo and Samuel and Tetieke ashore. Samuel is sitting on a sack of copra.

The navigation was tortuous and we had some conflicts with what Rani recommended based on our charts and where Samuel was pointing us. I gave Samuel the benefit of the doubt and despite almost zero visibility in black (rain) squalls we did eventually make our way into a very tight anchorage off a beach at Nuku. We unloaded passengers and cargo, rowing our dinghy in and out to the beach 5 or 6 times. We were all soaked through and exhausted, and the copra had to be brought inside Samuel's house to be re-dried. However everyone made it to shore in one piece and seemed to be happy to be back at their village, so I guess our first cargo/passenger carrying trip was a success.

The weather cleared up a bit after we arrived and Samuel gave us a tour of his and the neighboring villages.

As usual, Rani was right - we should have waited until the next day when things were considerably calmer. These kids and one adult came out to visit us just before we headed south to Buca Bay. Yes that dinghy is as small as ours - designed to hold 2-3 people!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Bells of Rabi

Note - Chris wrote this post, but Rani posted it...

As we sailed away from the village of Tabwewa on Sunday morning, the bells began to chime, calling the people to church. Earlier, a handful of cheerful and noisy children had paddled and swum out to Ladybug to say hi, but few adults were to be seen. And we knew why.  Saturday night is the main night for 'grog' (Kava) drinking because on Sunday, the people do not work. The men (and some women) stay up, often until dawn, drinking shell after shell of kava. Starting in the late afternoon, we saw groups of men gathered around heavy steel pestles, taking it in turn to drive an iron rod into the pestle to pulverize the dried and cleaned kava roots. On each stroke, the rod was removed, striking the side of the pestle and emitting a chime, similar in sound to, but very different in significance from the bells we would hear the next morning. Interestingly, the Banabans on Rabi only took up kava drinking when they emigrated to Fiji in 1945.

Panea, Tabeta, and little Taipau - Panea is cleaning our kava

We had our first grog drinking evening a few days before at Motawa, with 'The Old Man', Panea, presiding over the kava bowl and Bill's son Kasipoa and son in law, Taipau, taking turns to pound the roots. We had brought a bundle of kava purchased in Savusavu as our contribution and Panea carefully cleaned this first, removing some dirt from the turns and hollows in the roots. The sons then pounded the roots using an iron rod as tall as a man and a heavy steel pestle made by welding an inverted steel cone to a plate about a foot square. The powder was brought inside in a small bowl, transferred to a fine cloth, and then into the kava bowl, which had been partly filled with well water. Panea then began to repeatedly massage and twist the carefully bundled powder, the cloth taking on something of the role of a tea bag being squeezed. The water quickly turned brown and muddy looking. Panea tasted it by dipping a shell made from half a coconut. He judged the drink to be too strong and added some more well water before offering me a full shell. Samuel instructed me to clap once before I received the shell and three times after drinking. I knew we were expected to drink it all in one go and did so. I was served first and Rani also tried a shell, although they served me a 'low tide' shell - only half full.

Kasipoa pounds the root using an iron rod and steel pestle

Panea squeezes the good stuff out of the powdered kava by massaging it inside a folded cloth

The kava was peppery and not unpleasant. We had been told that it would numb the lips and make one feel mellow and relaxed, especially on an empty stomach. This probably explains why the grog afficionados waited to eat supper until midnight or so.  I did experience a mild tingling initially, but as the night wore on and we drank shell after shell of kava, he said he definitely felt a mild buzz - maybe equivalent to drinking a couple of glasses of wine. The shell went around the hut, most of the men and women drinking full shells until the bowl was empty. The used root powder was saved and re-used later after a second pounding. New root brought from their plantation up the hill was pounded when the root we brought had been finished. Altogether they extracted four large bowls of grog from the 1/2 pound of roots we brought and we must have drunk about twice as much again from their kava before retiring around 9:30pm (we had been drinking for 6 hours!). The serious grog drinkers continued into the early morning.

Samuel and Chris playing  mellow tunes

 Kava also seems to have a mild diuretic effect and I had to make a few trips down the beach in the night. But perhaps this was due to the large volume of liquid I drank - 16 or 18 shells, each about 1.5 cups!

To accompany the kava, we ate chilli provided by Ladybug and a special vegetarian dish that Tabeta and Panea made with Rani's help. This is called palusami and I will describe the recipe for this in another post. They even killed and boiled one of their chickens in my honour. Of course we had some of the local staple - a starchy root vegetable that is nicknamed 'elephant ear' for its giant leaves (we have posted photos of this plant on our blog).

 Saturday night ritual in Tabwewa - pounding the kava .

We also sang songs accompanied by the newly repaired ukulele and my own uke. Everyone here seems to have a good ear and there were many talented uke players in the family. For my part, I played and sang tunes by the Beatles, Eagles, Elton John, and Simon and Garfunkel. The family members took turns to sing Banaban songs - many of which describe the history of their people. The harmonies and rhythms were lovely and I will try to post recordings of a few of these to this blog.

Pauline has a lovely voice and is also a good uke player
We felt so very lucky to be invited to spend a day with this family. They have little, but are willing to share what they have with new friends. This season we have slowed way down and while we are covering a much smaller area, we are enjoying ourselves more because we are getting to know local people better.

Days Of Our Lives

A few days after our arrival at Albert Cove, Bill and Tekete's older daughter Tabeta arrived and livened the place up with her laughter and cheeky humour. She is almost the same age as Rara (thirty something) and the two hung out together to gossip and laugh as young women do in any culture. As I got to know them better, they opened up and told me more about their personal lives. Tabeta's first husband, whom she had loved, had been bitten by a shark while diving in deep water off the reef at Albert Cove. His four diving buddies had taken him to the clinic at the village but had not staunched the blood draining from his leg, so he died from blood loss. He was only nineteen. Tabeta was six months pregnant at the time and their daughter is now being raised by the in-laws. She later adopted her cousin Rara's six month old baby boy.

Tabeta catching breakfast

We found out that marriages are arranged by the parents although two people who love each other can ask permission to get married. Most couples have large families. Children are often adopted by extended families in cases of separation or if they cannot financially afford to keep the child. Sadly, physical abuse (wife beating) is also fairly common.

Some of Bill's family - Taipau, Pauline, baby Steven, Kasipoa, Bill, and Tabeta - note giant grog bowl on left made from oyster farm float.

The families we met were devout Catholics (all wore rosaries around their necks) and we later visited their church, Our Lady Fatima, in Tabwewa. On Sundays at Albert Cove they prayed to the Virgin at an altar set up in Rara and Panea's house. This brought back memories of the Mexican fishermen who often had shrines close to their remote fishing shacks in the Baja.

Rani and Tabeta cooking rotis

As we spent more time ashore, our lives slowed down to the rhythm of Rabi time. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rabi - First Contact

Our first trip ashore at Albert Cove (the settlement of Motawi) was a short one and we met the people who lived in two palm-thatched houses just off the beach. We took some tea and noodles as gifts and chatted for awhile. The patriarch of the larger family, Samuel, was visiting the couple who lived on their own, close to where we beached the dinghy. Samuel spoke good English and welcomed us to visit anytime.

What's for dinner honey? This Octopus. caught on the nearby reef has been preserved by smoking over a fire.

The couple who lived in the first home, Panea and Rara, had a clean two level home made from woven palm leaves. Three of the walls were open off the ground, allowing good air flow. Set back about 8 feet from the front wall at waist-level was a sleeping platform. There were several mosquito nets hanging from the ceiling over the platform, one sewn from an old magenta sari. Chickens appeared to roost below this platform;  I guess this makes it easy to gather eggs for breakfast!

Rara and Panea

Attached to the main building was a large cooking shelter with two fireplaces. A wood fire glowed in the corner and a puppy slept happily in the warm ashes. Chickens and a rooster pecked around the yard outside the kitchen at discarded coconut shells and a fair-sized pig grunted on a long leash under a tree close-by.

Before we left to visit the other family, Samuel showed us a ukulele which had had its neck broken and put back together with packing tape. Chris offered to try to glue it back together and bring it when we returned to visit the next day.

Chris repairs a ukulele that had been broken during a kava drinking session
 A few hundred yards down the beach is the home of Samuel's son Bill and his extended family - 4 generations in total. Their house was chaotic and rudimentary compared to the first house, with a simple outdoor cooking area on the ground over which a cast-iron rack was placed for holding pots. A shelf at shoulder level held dishes and sundry items.

One of the huge trees along the beach at Albert Cove 

Bill's son-in-law was drying copra over a barrel stove fire in a small shack closer to the beach. The humid tropical climate here must not be conducive to solar drying. Copra is a cash crop and the family had come over to their plantation to work on their harvest. They reminded me of the Mexican fishermen who spend weeks away from their homes catching fish and other seafood on the isolated islands off the Baja coast.

Recently cut pandanus trees. Bill's wife was cutting this to make mats when we arrived.
Bill's youngest daughter, Pauline, was breastfeeding her six month old baby when we first walked by the house. Being Westerners, we averted our eyes but she invited us to sit with her and chat. Her mum was busy cutting leaves from a pandanus stand a little way down the beach and her two brothers hung about watching us. The baby's nappies were drying on a line and Pauline explained that she did not have laundry soap. Her husband asked if we had any sugar to take with the tea we had given them. We told them we would bring some when we returned the next day.

Before rowing back out to Ladybug, we enjoyed a walk along the beach which is lined by picturesque trees of great age and girth, their tired old limbs leaning on the sand. These reminded Chris of an ancient white oak he had seen in England whose massive sagging branches had to be propped up off the ground to stop them from breaking. These trees are more supple and do not seem to mind even resting their elbows in salt water.

Rabi Island Background

The following are some notes on the history of the Banabans on Rabi Island, mostly taken from the excellent "Moon Guide to Fiji".

The people on Rabi island are originally from a 6 square kilometer atoll called Ocean Island, later named Banaba and now part of Kiribati. Ocean Island was exploited by the British for it's rich phosphate mines between 1902 and 1979. The naive islanders agreed to lease their land for 50 pounds per year for 999 years! In the face of a Japanese invasion, the British blew up the mining infrastructure in 1941 and almost all the company employees were evacuated in February 1942. When the Japanese landed in August that year they deported all but 150 of the 2,413 of the local mine labourers and their families to Tarawa, Nauru and Kosrae.

After peace was declared, the British returned to Ocean Island in 1945 and found only the surrendering Japanese troops. Two months later an island native emerged from hiding and told how his people were marched to the edge of a cliff after peace was declared, blindfolded and their hands tied. The Japanese then shot them and the dead tumbled into the sea. The lone survivor was still alive when he hit the water and managed to kick his way ashore and lived on coconuts until the British arrived.

The British government purchased Rabi Island (off Vanua Levu in Fiji) to permanently resettle the Ocean Islanders at the end of 1945. Fijians living on the island were relocated to nearby Taveuni. The nearly 5000 Rabi islanders have their own local government in the form of Rabi Island Council and their own police but are also citizens of Fiji and answer to Fijian authorities. To make things even more confusing, the council also administers their ancestral homeland, the island of Banaba, which is now part of Kiribati. 

Escape to Rabi Island

We have been out of range of the internet for a week now. The next few posts will catch up with our time on Rabi Island.

When we dropped the anchor at Kennedy Cove off northwest Kioa, we knew it would be a temporary shelter as there were no houses (for social interaction) or beach to keep us happy for a week.

Gato Go motors past us heading south for Viani Bay as we approach Rabi

So, on Sunday morning We set sail for Albert Cove on Rabi (pronounced Rambi) Island. We had the jib out in 10-12 Knots from the SSW and were soon enjoying a very pleasant passage, guided by Google aerial maps and eyeball navigation, up the Georgia Channel. Craig off s/v Gato Go hailed us on the VHS and reported 25-30 Knots gusting off Rabi; they were on a reciprocal course. Chris had just raised the main but took it down again to be cautious. The wind changed as predicted to the SE and we were into gusts of up to 30 Knots coming off the island. This was fine for running up the channel but we were not sure if we could enter the pass as the wind would be on the nose and Ladybug has a small  engine. We decided to overshoot the entrance for a better angle. Thankfully the seas were calmer here and we were able to navigate the two reef passes into the inner harbour without undue stress.

Chris repairs the sail cover for our dinghy sail on our first day at Albert Cove

Cocoa seeds when ripe have a  tasty white covering and can be sucked like a candy. We will dry the seeds themselves for roasting and grinding to make cocoa.

Overripe cocoa seeds have begun to sprout

There were two catamarans to the north and a monohull to the south and we found a nice spot in the middle to drop the hook in 50 feet. Little did we know that this would be the beginning of an incredible week!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Northwest end of Kioa

We left our anchorage at the south end of Kioa, off Salia village around 1:30 pm yesterday. The wind was driving a 2-3 foot chop into the bay, which is wide open to the southeast. The forecast was calling for several days of stronger southeast winds, so we will head north and return when the weather is more settled. Our initial destination of Buca Bay was shrouded in rain, so we bypassed this and set sail for the northern end of Kioa.

We ran down a wide channel between Kioa and Vanua Levu under full jib, using a small scale Google Earth satellite image for a guide. I climbed the ratlines to watch for coral heads, while Rani steered, referencing the satellite photo. The photo showed only one small coral head, but large areas were obscured by cloud and we saw a post sticking out of the water well out into the center of the passage where no reef was visible on the photo. The grey light and light drizzle made it very hard to see anything and to crown it all (pun intended) one of my teeth broke and a part fell off while I was eating lunch.

We had been told that the bay at the northwest end of Kioa was supposed to have a good anchorage, sand beaches, and snorkeling. Well - 2 out of 3 ain't bad, but we did not find a really good anchorage here - at least not protected in a south or southeast wind. The head of the bay appeared to be deep and uninteresting, being lined with mangroves, so we tried to anchor on both the north and south sides of the bay off the innermost beaches. On the north side, we were unable to set the anchor due to rock and coral despite two attempts and 160 feet of chain. We finally set in about 45 feet in sand on the south side, just off a coral reef. I let out 170 feet and buoyed the chain at 130 feet to stop it rumbling.

Before anchoring, I swam around the reef wearing my mask to find a suitable patch of sand on which to anchor, while Rani drifted in Ladybug. It was an interesting exercise to guide Rani to the exact spot to anchor as I floated in the water, watching Ladybug bearing down on me with Rani obscured by Ladybug's high bows. Rani was worried she would run me over, but managed to stop in about the right place. I climbed back on board and lowered the hook as Rani backed down. Rani caught her finger in the windlass the last time she tried to drop the anchor, so she is a bit wary of doing this job.

Anyway - we slept well and the promised high winds are nowhere in sight this morning. We will probably stay here for a day and then, if the weather permits, head north for Rabi.

A simple library system for the Salia Community Library

Rani has mentioned that we have been helping out with the library at Salia. Initially we found a simple commercial library management package that would allow them to catalogue and lend out books. However, because there is no budget for the library, I decided it would be better if I came up with something free. It was so rough in the anchorage, that I was awake at 5 am, so I did a search on free database software (thanks to a suggestion from our friend, Jeanne, who is a librarian). I found a product called FileAmigo that supports creation of very simple databases and reports.

In less than an hour I had a Books database and Overdue report created. The system we came up with for managing the books is of necessity very simple. There is only one volunteer part time librarian (one of the teachers). In case anyone is interested in making something like this, the Books database table contains the following fields: Number, Title, Author (surname, firstname), Subject1, Subject2, Subject3, Borrower, and Due Date. The Number is an automatically incremented number and the Due Date is a date field. All other fields are text. Only the Number, Title, and Author are mandatory fields. The Subject fields are optional and can be used to put in tags for searching by topic.

Rather than add all the books in advance to the catalogue (they have thousands of volumes), we suggested that they add a book when it is checked out. At this time the librarian will write the automatically generated number on an inside page of the book and enter the borrower name and due date in the system. The librarian would then write the borrowed book numbers and due date on a slip of paper that would be given to the borrower for reference. The system has a simple report that will list all overdue books for a given date. When a borrower returns a book, the librarian can find it by its Number and simply remove the borrower name and due date from the system.

Of course such a simple system has disadvantages. It does not keep a history of lent books, for example. However it is a step beyond using a spreadsheet, since it is less exposed to accidental deletion of data. The database files can be backed up to an external hard drive and we recommended they do this each week to avoid losing too much work in the event of a crash.

The biggest problem the library has is to physically organize their books. None of the teachers has training as a librarian and Lepa (the volunteer librarian) told me she was at a loss as to how to proceed. Rani and I did some research and came up with a simple organization scheme that divides the library into Young Child (<5), Child and Youth Fiction, Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Reference. We also proposed a list of high level categories for the non-fiction and reference books (e.g., Geography, Art and Crafts, and History). Most of the donated books fall into the first two categories and finding shelf space for these is also a problem. I spent an hour or two with Lepa going through the shelves and books, sorting adult fiction from youth and child fiction, and putting up temporary labels. Rani and I wrote out instructions on how to accomplish this organization. Lepa will ask some of the older students to help nd the head teacher plans to have some more shelving built, so hopefully by the time we return we will see some progress!

It felt good to give something something to this lovely community where we have been made to feel so welcome.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Library Day on Kioa Island

Thursday was "Library Day" in Salia and we were invited as guests to attend the festivities in the long house. The library is for the whole community, not just the school.

Young ladies placed crowns of sweet scented flowers, Fo's, on our heads, and the head teacher, Fiafia, welcomed everyone. The Chief Guest, health nurse Andi, was asked to speak about the importance of the library to the school and community. Then representative students of each class from kindergarten to primary presented their speeches. I was impressed with their confidence, elocution and recall. Everyone spoke good English and emphasized the importance of reading and improving one's knowledge. Bob from s/v Bright Angel spoke on behalf of the cruisers and expressed our positive impresssions of this friendly community.

Speeches were followed by entertainment by the students. The kindergarten kids sang popular nursery rhymes, like "Ba ba black sheep" while the primary students had arranged a character parade and dances. The characters ranged from superheroes and movie stars to trees and washing machines. Each dressed up character danced down the centre aisle of the long house ( to the same tune!) and then stood to answer an appropriate question from the teacher or one of the guests. For example, Chris asked Snow White "Where are your dwarves?"

The whole village enjoyed a hearty laugh when some of the boys pranced on stage dressed up as girls. They did such a great job of portraying the opposite sex that the head of council brought up the subject of gay marriages in his closing speech!

We broke up for a lunch of curried fish, rice and hot cocoa at the council house. Then everyone attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at the library. Hundreds of books have been donated by overseas visitors and organizations. One of the teachers, Lepa, will be in charge of setting up the library system on a part-time basis with the help of volunteers from the community. One of the first volunteers was Chris. He is working on a computer program to catalogue the books and set up the lending records. A job like this takes a lot of hours and he has spent the best part of two days looking for a free program which will be easy to set up and maintain.

We plan to leave Kioa for Buca Bay today as higher southeast winds are forecast for the next 3-4 days and we are open to that direction in this bay. That's if Chris ever returns from the school!

Here are some photos from the Library Day:

The posts in the long house are assigned for the two chiefs, the council members and village elders. The rest of the villagers sit  around the outside of the posts.

Kindergarten class holds up words and pictures

Lepa, one of the school teachers, peaks out to ensure everyone is in position

Boys and girls file into the centre to sing nursery rhymes

Batman dances into action!

Cinderella looks like an Indian actress!

One of the orators tells why libraries are important to the community

Polynesian dancers

"Daniel" from the bible story

A  traditional Tuvaluan dress

Britney Spears causes an uproar!

Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra struts on the stage

" Snow White" waiting for her debut

Bob from s/v Bright Angel speaks for the cruisers

One of the best posters on display

The prefect on the right is the artist who drew the above poster
Three pretty dancers

Suzanne with her grand-daughter

Guests and teachers

Rani and Lepa

Andi cuts the pink ribbon

Council members tour the library

Boys beat the drum to call the tooth-brushing hour - this is done three times per day!

Children form lines to go to class

Kindergarten class takes out their toothbrushes and water