We made a quick but rolly passage from Koro to Makogai yesterday. We had winds from 10-20 knots from the east, which put the wind almost on our stern. Once clear of the lee of Koro, a lively 2 meter swell kept us in a perpetual roll. However a slight shift in wind to the ESE stiffened things up and we had only a few soakings when odd wave combinations slammed into the hull abreast the cockpit and a few liters of water found there way into the cockpit (and all over where I was sitting of course). We flew only the jib, slightly furled for the most part, and still averaged better than 5 knots.
The entry into the narrow northeast pass was hair-raising due to cloudy conditions and rough seas. We used way points from the "Soggy Paws" cruising notes and our Google Earth charts, but despite this, Rani says we passed a boat length from green water. She was up the spreaders while I hand-steered us through on a beam reach under half-reefed main, waves crashing on the coral on either side. Heart in your throat stuff and it would have been much more difficult with only one person. I suppose I would have put the motor on had I been alone and possibly sailed around the island to the easier western pass. Anyway - we made it through into the relatively calm waters of the lagoon, passed between the main island and a smaller one to the north, and dropped the hook in a lovely quiet harbour off a research station where they raise giant clams and (currently) rescue turtles.
We went ashore and met a caretaker to whom we presented our Kava offering for the chief (his uncle). We then had a brief tour of the station where baby giant clams (about the size of bent over beer bottle caps) were growing by the hundreds in large concrete saltwater tanks. In another tank a half dozen larger clams with their beautiful coloured 'mouths' were being raised until old enough to put out on the nearby reef or in other places in Fiji where they would be protected from hunters.
The station and nearby houses are built on the remains of a vast leper colony. Until quite recently, this was the home of more than 4000 lepers. There are dozens of concrete and wood frame buildings still standing and hundreds more can be seen draped in vines and crumbling back into the jungle. We walked until we came to a wall marking a graveyard. The first few graves were marked and named - those of priests and nuns who worked here, but hundreds more were simply piles of stones, some marked with concrete crosses, some decorated with old bottles turned upside down and buried all along the top of the grave. The graves extended up a hill side covering many acres. There is a terribly sad feeling here and as we walked back to the dinghy, the laughter of children returning from school seemed out of place.
Today we plan to visit the village on the other side of the island and snorkel to visit some giant clams in their natural habitat.