Sunday, 22 October 2017

Guest blog by Annemie and Elisabeth

Dear Charles and Nicky,
 Many dream about sailing the Pacific but very few actually do. You have sailed 8000 nautical miles through the South Pacific Oceans since I left you in Panama after our adventure with The Stocks' in the San Blas Islands. You invited me to sail Calliope from Fiji to New Zealand and Elisabeth was kindly accepted as first mate. Due to my not too unrealistic fear of the weather conditions on this Fiji-New Zealand track, you were so kind to offer us cruising the Fiji islands with you both instead.
Ziplining girls
Our Fiji adventure started on September 28th. Calliope was anchored in Suva harbour and you had spent some time ashore in search for civilization after visits to the remote Lau group Islands. We met in the Namosi highlands of Vitu Levu. No fins so far on your feet and hands. However, this trip made you ageless in appearance and in behaviour…..we went zip lining.

Charles had not lost his rock-climbing skills from years ago - together we were sliding over rivers and high jungle treetops.  After that, we drove through the highlands with a map we could not trust. On our way on dirt roads through the tropical forest, with wild orchids and real biodiversity in vegetation, we talked to the people we met on our way and went to visit one of their villages in these highlands, located in a volcanic lush tropical and fertile landscapes next to a little stream. They greeted us with kisses on the cheeks and embraced us. 
Narukinubu village, Vitu Levu
We did not have "Kava" as a gift or any other drug of their own choice (Nicky's expression) but that that was not the villagers' main interest.
We got the impression it was just their way of living with each other, their hospitality and a genuine interest in us.  Lots of wild orchids on our way through the highlands, not a lot of birds and certainly not one single parrot, which Nicky was searching for her embroidery memory of this voyage. C&N first picked up 8 children whose school bus did not come and dropped them at their village, and then transported 5 rugby players picked up from the highlands to Suva, where they would have a tournament that weekend.

While shopping for fruits and vegetables at the Suva market, Elisabeth was cured form her fear of exotic busy markets.  Next day we left Suva harbor for Dravuni. A few days before, C&N had done an eye clinic on Dravuni and handed out solar lights.
When we anchored off in the blue lagoon bay, right in front of the little village, they were instantly greeting us again and we got directions how to get through the reef to the next islands, Ono and Kadavu, and recommendations for the best diving and snorkeling places. Sailing through the Kadavu group islands we passed deserted palmtree rimmed white sandy beaches with lush jungle mountains islands and 2 tree island, which was a large rock with 2 trees on it. The 2 sea tramps knew exactly the dangers of the reefs around and in between all these islands - one of them is that charts are not accurate, so  we learned to sail in good eye sight with the sun above us to be able to find the safe way through the reefs and their islands. While floating on anchor between these islands we snorkeled the great Astrolabe reef.  
Elisabeth reports on these trips:

- After very precise navigation through a reef which Charles was so kind to let Elisabeth have the helm and coach her through, we anchored the beautiful Calliope and raced off with Charles driving the dinghy like a maniac so we would all hold on like we were taking a rollercoaster ride in a theme park. Then when we reached the reef Nicky would slip into her fins and snorkel gear and just jump out of the dinghy without any fear as if she was entering the baby puddle in the swimming pool. She would elegantly swim around in the deep sea far away from any island to scout for the best spot to drop the dinghy's anchor so we could explore the beauty of Fiji's under water life. In the rare occasion of Nicky not succeeding of finding a good sandy patch for our little rollercoaster's anchor, Charles and Nicky would just nods their heads and be like: "well we'll just drag it along with us when we swim then" and so they took us out on their magnificent reef exploring adventures.

Annemie and Elisabeth
I did live up to expectations as I was seasick immediately on our first passage to the Mamanucas/Yasawas. Charles (my partner in the nightshift), decided it was not worth waking me up. No offence, but I flew all the way from Holland for it. "Calliope was sailing herself", was his explanation. Charles' questions while I was helming, were very effective in pointing out the effort I still need to do for a yacht master. The last day he handed over the helm (captains title), or "skip" status to Elisabeth as part of her personal leadership program, made me her admiral and aid and Charles a totally useless and Nicky an extremely lazy deckhand, who would only take exact orders and only when addressed and managed in the right way. In the Yasawas we snorkeled with Manta rays, a black fin shark and lots of very diverse fish. And had a wonderful sundowner on one of the other Oysters.

 Elisabeth and I can now say: we have sailed a tiny part of the vast South Pacific, which covers half of the globe, and we got a glimpse of what you have experienced on your journey through it.

But we have sailed the South Pacific, together, through you and with you.

Annemie and Elisabeth
Fire burn Yasawas

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