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The Family Visits Fiji, Part II

Lionel Dobson and Barbara Erickson

Sea Whisper
Fraser 50 Ketch
February 16th, 2015

After learning how to say ‘Bula’, visiting a school and learning the ceremonial welcome ritual involving ‘kava’, the family Fijian visit continues as to Sea Whisper’s adventures.

Rugby

It was time to play rugby with the village kids. Every male from five to forty aspires to be a rugby star and plays rugby every day, even on the smallest patch of grass. Blake and Nolan are very athletic and fit right in with the village boys and girls. My, how they stood out with their blonde hair and fair skin amongst all the dark Fijians! What fun to watch all these spirited kids as they ran, laughed, talked and tossed themselves around.

Fijians are fanatical about their own rugby game. And then there are the big leagues – Pacific Nations Cup with Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Genius on the rugby field can translate into political power! In Suva, the atmosphere at the match we attended between Fiji and Italy at the National Stadium was electrifying! At least 15% of the Fiji population are registered rugby players!

The Villages

Our family had the opportunity to observe life in the hidden villages in front of the lush mountains of Northern Lau. It was fascinating for us to be part of the village life observing how simple, basic, and not too ambitious their daily existence appears. Inside their tin and straw and bamboo houses we observe how the families live in very small primitive spaces and how their mothers and grandmothers prepare simple food in sooty metal pots on wood fires on dirt floors inside smoky ‘Kitchen Houses’.

Kitchen house

The Kitchen House and fuel for the cooking fire

In a separate house the families sleep, often with many children in one room. Blake and Nolan visited Melanie and her brother’s house one morning before school. In their blue and white uniforms, the school kids sat on the ground by an open fire eating their pancakes that their Grandmother ‘Bru’ had prepared, blue smoke wafting in the air inside the small kitchen house. At the lunch break the boys and girls walk from the school back to their village for lunch – fish, casaba, and rice. Not your conventional Canadian lunch-box lunch! We watched the women make coconut oil, weave mats and purses, wash clothes in pails and cook the family meals on open fires. The men were catching fish, walking around with machetes, working in their plantations, fixing their boats, and drinking the kava.

The Fijian family is happy to meet the Canadian family

The Fijian family is happy to meet the Canadian family

One day, in Dalaconi Village, while Camie is visiting the village women who are weaving and making coconut oil, she meets Maja and her little baby and they have a wonderful visit – both young mothers – Maja with jet black hair, Camie with long blonde hair – striking contrasts.

John can be seen a few yards away on the beach with another ‘yachtie’. They are helping Joe, the village spokesman who is also a keen fisherman, fix his outboard motor on his fishing boat. Joe shows us wicked scars from shark bites while spear-fishing at night on the outside of the reef. He limits his fishing to inside the lagoon now.

The boys are mixing it up with the local village kids with a rugby game on the beach. This day has captured magical moments. Bula Fiji!

Fishing

A double header catch for John!

A double header catch for John!

John is a keen fisherman. Very soon he is rigging the gear and on day 3, with 2 lines in the water – one with a Tom Mac spoon and the other a feather, we get 2 hits – a double header. With Lionel’s encouragement John hurls the yellow-fin tuna on the boat keeping tension on the line – never mind wasting time with a gaff or net! Wow, both slippery tuna are sprawled on the aft deck. Rod and hand lines go in all directions. Towels quickly wrap the heads of the fish to calm them down. Hang on tight should the powerful tails start slapping you!

Village Fishermen

Regardless of the weather the men of Dalaconi village strike out at dusk in their open boats to the outside of the reef where the seas and surf are strong and fierce. Here for 3 to 4 days at a time they fish, fish, fish for the big tuna. Can you imagine the discomfort of hanging out and upside down in a 15 ft. open boat in the heavy rolling sea hoping to catch big tuna on hand lines with the most rudimentary gear. Some of these fish are sold at the bigger markets. The ‘Catch of the Day’ becomes paramount as fish is the mainstay of the Fijian diet and also the prime fare at village feasts and ceremonies.

The Kid Boat

A banner in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia spelled out ‘Kid Boat’. Sea Whisper did not have a banner but we had 2 great kids – Blake, just about 13 and his brother Nolan, 11. They were active and busy with water sports every day – swimming, diving, snorkelling, and wakeboarding. Yes, a wakeboard in the remote islands of Fiji! It’s a good thing that we were the only boat in the anchorage. At 0700 hours Nolan could be heard calling from the aft deck “Lionel, Lionel, let’s go for a wake-board!” Off they went spinning around the nooks and crannies of the Bay of Islands, an idyllic group of islands in the northern Lau. And then it was time for a snorkel out to a reef or a swim with their mum around an island. Snacks were a big part of the day – popcorn, chips and cookies. And if the kids were not too tired, mixing bread and baking oatmeal cookies was also part of the day’s activity.

At night the stars in the Southern Hemisphere made for interesting entertainment. The Southern Cross is my special star and Noley’s too! In their journals Blake and Nolan wrote all the words and phrases that were part of each day.

An Overnight Passage

Log entry July 7, 2014

Enroute to Viani Bay from Bay of Islands

0000 17 09.4S 179 13.5W SOG 6.1 COG 274 W ESE 10-12 kn.

It was midnight and passage out through the reef went smoothly, retracing our route in through the pass. Slight swell. Wing on wing. Family crew doing well.

And then at 1000 hrs in the morning we hear, “Fish on, Fish on!” John has just nailed a big Dorado (20 lbs). He hand lines it carefully to the boat and with everyone holding their breath he heaves the big fish onto the aft deck. What excitement onboard with only 7.5 miles to go to Viani Bay!

A good passage wouldn’t you say?

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