Zoom out to see where we are.
After whiling away a few days anchored near the village, we set sail for the uninhabited island of Mara, three miles distant. There we anchored under the island's lee in 20 feet of the clearest water imaginable. Fronted by a magnificent white sand beach, Mara Island was lush compared to over-cultivated and cyclone ravaged Ndravuni.
Sailing for the uninhabited island of Mara.
After many hours snorkeling, unfettered of toggery as befitting the local custom on this uninhabited tropical island, we pulled ashore and climbed to the island's highest summit. There we met with a stunning view in all directions. Discernible in the distance lay the great Astrolabe Reef, barely awash and extending across the eastern horizon as an unbroken line of pale green, backed by the deep blue of the Pacific.
Suka anchored in the tranquil waters of Mara.
Although the sun shone hot, the gentle trade winds provided ample air conditioning, so the day was most pleasant. We wandered down to the beach, and in about two hours strolled around the island's perimeter. The beach combing was more rewarding that we expected, for we found a World War II artillery shell, presumably live and left undisturbed. Also two chambered nautilus shells and a particularly beautiful swimming cove, dived into with abandon. We also found attractive little white goats that scampered away up the hill every one save for one youngster left behind, which then tried to adopt us in its mother's stead. And as the result of our afternoon spear fishing forays we dined on grouper the subsequent few evenings.
The place seemed the epitome of tropical utopia, however the villagers had related that a few years previously a lone yachtsman sojourning here had drowned when his craft sank during a cyclone.
While beachcombing for sea shells, instead we found an artillery shell - a grim reminder of long past conflicts.
Jenny strikes a pose.
A few days later we pulled anchor and motored out of the pass, with the skipper perched aloft in the spreaders as pilot while the mate responded to his arm gestures that warned of the random coral heads. Once clear, we enjoyed a pleasant sail back to Suva.
Return to Suva
Hailing a taxi into town, we commenced scurrying here and there, preparing for our Fijian departure. We received our Australian visas at the consulate. We collected a newly purchased, duty free piano-keyboard. At the market Jenny bought a few bags of fresh vegetables, then we enjoyed a fish and chips lunch, our favorite 50-cents Suva special. The following day we motored the dinghy to the yacht club dinghy wharf and back to Suka many times, lightering water in all manner of buckets and jugs.
New keyboard purchased in Suva.
More than two weeks ago, our French friends Yves and Louisette aboard their yacht Dy Chior had departed Tonga, bound for Suva. But sadly, they had not been seen since. Their disappearance was the main topic among we yachtees, and we had all but given them up as possibly lost at sea. The alert was out via the ham operators, and the officials in Fiji and Noumea were supposedly searching for them. Gravely concerned about Dy Chior, we breathed a collective sigh of relief when the familiar blue-hulled ketch motored into the harbor. It seems that Yves and Louisette had spent two weeks anchored pleasurably at Totoya Island, while disregarding pratique.
The cruising season was fast approaching its untimely end, and the necessity was fast upon us to leave the South Pacific's cyclone belt. How disappointing it felt to be in some of the world's most fertile cruising grounds, with islands everywhere beckoning come explore, but to have to pull stakes. Most of our cruising friends would not be sailing beyond the South Pacific, but would soon lay a course for New Zealand, with plans to eventually return to the states via the long windward slog or by sending the yacht home aboard container ships. Originally, Jenny and I had planned on visiting New Zealand also, but now we felt the urge to generally come to grips with the circumnavigation. So sailing for Australia seemed the more expedient course of action. Bound for the Indian Ocean and points beyond, we were reluctantly parting company with the majority of our cruising friends, who were plying the standard "coconut-milk run."
A dance troupe from the Gilbert Islands.
Paperwork and errands finished, we attended the yacht club's traditional Sunday night barbecue. This time it featured a song and dance troupe from one of the atolls of the Gilbert Islands. The star of the show was a small boy, perhaps 10 years of age, who twirled and tossed his machete as though it were a mere baton, this to the accompaniment of the adults who sang and chanted to the beat, pummeled on makeshift drums.
September 19: We weighed and motored to King's Wharf, from where Jenny scurried into town for one final shopping spree, in order to expend what remained of her Fijian currency. Then when the customs had granted us an out-bound clearance paper, we stowed the mooring lines, hoisted the canvas, and sailed out of the harbor.