Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Few Days at Budd Reef

July 19-22

When we did our sevusevu at the village at Budd Reef, the chief's son, Willie, offered to take us in the village launch to hike to the top of the crater on Cobia Island, in the northern part of Budd Reef. It is possible to take the big boat there, but it seemed easiest to go with Willie in the launch.

We loaded 10 cruisers, and their hiking and snorkel gear into Willie's launch. The wind and seas were up in the lagoon, and it was a very wet ride over from where we were anchored to Cobia Island. The wind was a little more south than normal, and the beach that Willie normally stops at was not very tenable, so we circled the island counter-clockwise to the opening in the island facing NE. It was about mid-tide and falling, and the heavily laden launch just made it over the reef and into the bowl-shaped lagoon. Willie anchored the boat, and we spent the next 2 hours hiking up to the highest point on Cobia. From there we had a spectacular view of the entire reef and the village and islands to the SE.

The only boat we could see from the top was Chesapeake, who was anchored on the N side of the island in "School Bay". The rest of the boats were hidden from view. We were all a little anxious about our boats, because we were still anchored in the first night's anchorage, which was not very protected. But we didn't see any boats floating off across the vista, so we assumed they were still firmly attached to the bottom where we left them.

After taking lots of pictures, and eating lunch, we hiked back down to the launch. By this time, the tide had come back in enough that we could get back out over the inner reef in the launch easily. The next stop was the snorkle/dive spot. Unfortunately, we did not get a waypoint on this spot, but I'm sure Willie would be happy to take any visitor out there.

This was a pretty amazing area with lots of profile, and big caves in the reef. The reef top was awash at about 2 feet, and the bottom behind us was about 80 feet. Live coral, lots of fish, etc. We had a great snorkel, and we hope to go back to dive that spot, maybe this summer.

When we got back to the boats, our anchorage area was pretty boisterous. Willie insisted that we move west to the west side of the westernmost island. We were reluctant to move because it was late in the day and visibility was bad. But we finally did, and were glad of it. We found that 'West Anchorage' to be much quieter in the prevailing conditions.

The next day we all rested up, snorkeled, and did boat chores. And the following day, the weather was finally right for leaving for the jump to the Lau Group. So we did boat preps (scrubbed the prop, loaded the dinghy, got the sails ready, etc), and left the anchorage about 4pm for a daylight exit out the south pass for an overnight to Vanua Balavu.

It's worth mentioning that in the two westward-facing anchorages, we had Vodafone cell and internet access--weak but usable with our dongle on a USB extension cable and tied as high as we could reach in the rigging.

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