Journey to Vanua Balavu (Northern Lau Group, Fiji)

September 16, 2013

The conditions were comfortable as we started north from Fulaga to Vanua Balavu, but the wind came up during the night and we had a lot of mixed swells, making for an unpleasant and uncomfortable ride even though the true wind was aft of the beam. The combination of having too much sail up plus swells hitting us on the beam made for classic seasick conditions. I ended up losing everything I’d eaten that day, especially sad when one of those things was a fresh fish dinner.

After a nap I was up again by 3am to take another watch. Again I felt sick and had a pretty intense round of dry heaves (with nothing left to bring up) over the side of the boat. No fun, but I felt better after that. (There will be a point to this story.)

What a relief when the island came into sight the next morning. We were able to head up its lee side, getting us out of the swell although it was still windy and rather cloudy.

Vanua Balavu is an island surrounded by a coral reef; so we had a pass we had to enter. Nature, of course, played her favorite joke on us and decided to let loose some rain as we headed in through the pass. No matter what the conditions, we tend to attract clouds and rain as we head in through any given pass.

After going through the pass we motored across a large harbor inside the reef. We had two choices: anchor off Dalconi Village and do our sevusevu, which would give us clearance to head up to the Bay of Islands. Or, we could anchor off the bay just south of that, Malaka Bay and get some rest before dealing with the sevusevu thing the next morning. Below, an interactive map of Vanua Balavu showing the day’s two anchorage choices.

Malaka Bay
Draconi Village

Feeling exhausted, we opted for Malaka Bay. This turned out to be a good thing: I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and was horrified to see I had a sudden outbreak of dark freckles under my eyes that made me appear to have two back eyes! WTF?! I ran to show Rich and we both realized what it was; petechiae. It seems leaning over the side of the boat with the intense forces that come from being heeled over combined with dry heaves had produced this petechial hemorrhaging around my eyes. I looked like a racoon and certainly not in shape to go do the sevusevu ceremony. I hoped some rest and a good night’s sleep would fix it.

What a pleasure it was to motor into Malaka Bay! It was well protected, semi-enclosed by an island just off the point and surrounded by beautiful green hills, some mowed and grassy while others were covered with trees. The water was very dark but also very clear, and while there was a village here, it was hidden well back behind the vegetation. In all, while it wasn’t a particularly special spot compared to other Fijian anchorages, it was perfect for us at the time. (Click to enlarge/scroll through photos.)

After sundowners and popcorn, we headed inside for a good night’s sleep and slept very, very well. -Cyndi

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