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.