Saturday, July 28, 2012

Somosomo for Shopping and then to Matei

July 17

We could see a weather window to make the jump to the Lau Group--NE winds 15 knots or less--coming up, so we decided to position ourselves in the best spot to jump off to the Lau, and do a little provisioning on the way.

We had planned an early departure--with Challenger and Chesapeake following. But Challenger was anchored and hung up on the coral. Jerry almost had to don a tank to get free, but they persisted and eventually got their chain unwrapped from the coral. Once Jerry was free, we tried to start our engine and found that the battery/starter problem was still unsolved (in spite more work on it while in Viani Bay). Fortunately, the easy solution is to haul out the Honda EU2000 generator, plug in the charger, wait 2 minutes, and the engine starts every time. So, with only a little delay, we were on our way.

Navigation is Fiji is difficult--lots of reefs, historically very inaccurate charts, and sometimes not-so-clear water. I have done a lot of work to prepare for this--making Google Earth charts, collecting waypoints, and other peoples' tracks, which I use as 'layers' on my Maxsea navigation program (NOTE: Maxsea's new offering, Time Zero, does not support layer files, I do NOT recommend this version of Maxsea). This is a lot of effort and does require some level of dedication AND computer expertise. Consequently, we seem to have picked up a following of boats willing to let us go first... :)

So Chesapeake and Challenger followed us across the Somosomo Strait, across the dateline, through the reefs, to the tiny town of Somosomo, where we had heard there was an MH Grocery Store, and some fresh veggies to be had. Sure enough, as we got close to Somosomo, we could see the MH Grocery Store sign. We edged our way in really close to the black sand beach, before the bottom shallowed up to anchorable depths. We ended up anchoring in about 25' in what felt like good holding sand, at 16-48.18S / 179-58-295W.

We opted to take 2 dinghies for 3 boats, with no motors, so we could carry our dinghies clear of the beach and up to high ground. We actually ended up carrying them into someone's yard at the south end of the beach (Dave was worried about someone molesting the dinghies while they sat unattended).

A 5 minute walk to the left of the beach, and we found the MH Grocery Store, for a quick survey trip. It was reasonably well-stocked with staples and frozen goods, plus the more durable imported fruits and vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, celery, apples). We had provisioned well in Savusavu, so didn't need much, but Dave did buy all the 'plain' potato chips on the shelf and and Challenger was happy to find Raisin Bran cereal. Both bought right then on the spot in case they wouldn't be there when we came back to really buy stuff later. Next, we walked 15 minutes in the other direction to find the actual 'downtown' of Somosomo, where we heard there was a fresh veggie market. By the time we got there, we were all starving, so we first took advantage of a nice little restaurant next to the BSP bank (with an ATM). We got a nice sit-down meal for $6FJ, and enjoyed talking with the ladies running the tiny road-side restaurant.

The village market actually ends up being stalls lining the road in Somosomo. We found all the normal Fijian fruits and veggies there--nice tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans, snake beans, bok choy, papaya, bananas, root vegetables, etc. We were under-stocked with Kava (for the village acceptance ceremony called sevusevu), and so Dave arranged to buy another 5 bundles at better prices than we found in the market at Savusavu. (Later we talked with a Fijian on the beach and he told us that the Indian shopkeeper who sold it to us charged us about double, because we were foreigners--he said we should have only paid about $6 for what was being sold in $10-15 bundles in Savusavu).

Because we were now lugging many pounds of fruits and vegetables, we organized a taxi back to the MH Grocery Store, for $1 per person. I volunteered to get out at the 'park' where our dinghies were, and babysit all the veggies, while the rest of the group went shopping at the MH. The park turned out to be the playing field for the school, and there was a constant stream of kids coming and going, plus games of 'dodge ball' and rugby going on. I got a chance to chat for awhile with the headmaster, who was enjoying his afternoon sitting under the tree and watching over his school.

By 4pm we were back aboard and hauling anchors, headed for the anchorage at Matei, the small town at the north end of Taveuni. Here, friends on Sidewinder and Eagle's Wings had been anchored for a week. The normal anchorage at Matei is up inside the reef, north of the point. But because of our late arrival, we opted to anchor in the open bay west of the point, at approx 16-41.59S / 179-53.66W, in about 35 feet with good sand and isolated coral heads. There is some swell in the bay, but it wasn't bad for an overnight anchorage.

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