Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Viani Bay for a Few Days

July 12-16

After one calm night and one really windy bouncy night on anchor, we checked out Jack's second mooring and found it adequate for most conditions, so we moved to his mooring.

Jack's mooring is in about 60 feet. It had about a 60-lb CQR, about 5 feet of heavy ship's chain, then about 20 feet of normal yacht-sized anchor chain, which was wrapped securely around a big coral head. From this, 1.25" line on a good shackle comes up to the bouy (several lengths tied together, and one length was 2x5/8" line)... a typical 'island' mooring--not storm strength but good enough for most conditions. The mooring loop at the top was nearly chafed through by some lazy cruiser who put only one length of line thorugh the loop from one bow to the other--a sure way to saw through a mooring loop in a short time. (The proper way is 2 lines, one from each bow cleat, through the loop, and back to the SAME cleat, which eliminates the 'sawing' effect as your boat swings back and forth). We tied our mooring lines, a primary and a backup, around the stout mooring line itself.

We had already arranged a day of diving (by email and phone) with Taveuni Ocean Sports. Our friend Linda from Sea Flyer had dived with Julie for a couple of dives on the reefs off Taveuni and just raved about Julie. Unfortunately, she wasn't aboard the first day, but her guys were good safe dive boat operators (just not as good as Julie). We ended up doing a second day's worth of diving with them the next day, as the conditions were supposed to be 'perfect' for the White Wall dive. There are several other operators in the area, but I highly recommend Taveuni Ocean Sports.

Had we not been in a hurry and had not already booked dives with TOS, we probably would have ended up just going out diving with Jack Fisher as our guide. Though TOS is very good, they are expensive, and with all our own equipment and a compressor aboard, we don't need that kind of service. Though we negotiated a 'backpacker' rate with them, it was still pricey for our limited budgets. Jack, on the other hand, guides divers on the same dives for $20 FJD per person per day (about $12US). You take him aboard your boat, he takes you out to the dive area to a safe big-boat anchor spot, and then he takes you to the 'famous' dive spots in your dinghy. These are all 'high current drift dives', so you need a surface support vessel. He gives you the dive briefing on the surface, and then stays in your dinghy and follows your bubbles until you surface. It is typical to have 3-4 yacht crews doing this at the same time--pick one big boat to go out in, drag 3-4 dinghies, and Jack deftly pilots the 'raft' of dinghies while the divers are down. We met several boat who'd been hanging out in Viani bay for weeks diving with Jack. We plan to come back during the summer months and do a lot more diving on the reefs off Viani Bay with Jack.

The dives we did were great, especially the famed 'White Wall' dive. But even the 'lesser' spots were full of fish, and lots of live soft and hard corals. Dave got some great pics which we'll post when we have time and good enough internet.

Though it would be easy to spend a month in Viani Bay, we really wanted to stay focused on getting to the Lau group, about 60 miles to the SE (directly against the trade winds). Getting to the Lau Group is akin to getting from Florida to the Bahamas... not that far, but can be tough to do during the stronger wind months.

Looking at the 10 day GFS forecast, we could see a possible weather window coming up. So we made plans to move from Viani Bay the next day, do a provisioning stop in Somosomo on Taveuni, and then move up to the north end of Taveuni, to be positioned to jump if the right weather presented itself. We'll have more time to explore Viani Bay and Taveuni during cyclone season--it is only a day hop downwind to get back to our cyclone mooring in Savusavu from there.

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