24 September 2006

Malake Island, Fiji

  • Malake Island
  • Vita Levu, Fiji
  • Melanesia
  • 17°20.4000"S/178°8.7000"E
Just noticed that I have been putting West longitude and not East longitude on the last few blog entries since crossing the 180° date-line near Savusavu. My apologies. I have had a lifetime of plotting "W", and takes some getting used to plotting "E". I had the same problem getting used to writing South latitude for every fix after crossing the equator. If you were tracking us, you were probably trying to figure out where we were, as that would have put us out in the middle of the ocean.

Another day of extreme Sandpiper operations today! We awoke at sunrise, along with our friends on Sheriaz, and departed the anchorage with strong winds and rain. Just the kind of weather you want when you are trying to spot reefs! We made it through the reef, but were a little nervous because there are no aids to navigation here in Fiji. You have to blindly trust that your charts are accurate enough. When the depth finder starts counting up to the bottom, and you can see reefs on both sides of you, you just have to close your eyes and power on through.

We had a very windy sail, with 25-30 knots of wind right off the port beam. We were able to average 6 knots with only the stay-sail and main-sail. We never even had to roll out the jib.

We sailed 30 miles across Bligh Waters. Captain Bligh, from the HMS Bounty, sailed these waters in his 18 foot open boat. He tried to go ashore here, but the locals wanted to eat him, so he pressed on.

Arriving at the reef pass at the north end of Viti Levu was as equally EXTREME, as there was a white buoy marking the channel. What side of a white buoy do you pass on???? Once we figured what side of the channel it seemed to mark, we powered through and motored inside the reefs for 7 miles to where we are now, anchored next to s/v Sheraz.

When we were sailing in French Polynesia, we were using Maptech electronic charts, which are very accurate. But out here, they do not supply charts. So we are doing what all the other cruisers do. We use CMAP electronic charts. The difference is that we can not use our Palm Pilot plotter that we keep in the cockpit because the CMAP charts have to be read off our laptop. The one nice thing about the CMAP charts is that they contain electronic charts for the whole world. So you do not have to buy a new set of charts every time you want to travel to a new place. The downside to the CMAP charts is that they are not accurate, and they will sometimes plot you on a reef or land. So you cannot place a lot of trust in them for piloting passes.

One note from last night: Amy made Baja taco's with the Mahi Mahi we caught on our last passage. And we have to admit, they were "Off the Hook"!!

Tomorrow's plan is to sleep in a little, and then head south down the west side of Viti Levu to the city of Lautoka. There we will stay two days because we both have to get chest x-rays for our Australian visas. Plus, we hear that they have a movie theater there as well.

Will update you from Lautoka.

Tom and Amy

Notes From Ron:
(1) I've always checked and corrected the coordinates I receive from Tom and Amy before posting them on the blog. So the blog has been correct all along. I did notice that they kept sending me "west" longitude coordinates after they crossed the 180° longitude near Savusavu. I figured that they would notice some day soon. They are now officially in the earth's eastern hemisphere.

(2) Port Beam = Left side of the boat... in this case, the winds were blowing from east to west.

(3) Bligh Waters is the area between the Fiji's two major island, Vanua Levu and Vita Levu. It is named after William Bligh, the captain of the HMS Bounty, who sailed through there in May 1789.

On 28-April-1789, Bligh's ship, the HMS Bounty, was ceased in a mutiny lead by Fletcher Christian. Captain Bligh, and 18 other loyal crew, were set adrift into an overloaded, 23 foot (not 18 foot as Tom claims), open launch. With only a sextant and a pocket-watch, Bligh managed to sail 3618 nautical in 47 days miles to Timor, only loosing one crewman on the way.

After the mutiny, Bligh landed on the closest land, Tofua Island in the Tonga Islands, in order to get supplies. After a couple of days, the island locals attacked and drove them from the island. One sailor was stoned to death on the beach as Bligh and his crew were escaping. Bligh's journal indicates that they had no idea what set the natives off. Because they had no weapons and felt vulnerable, they did not stop again until they reached Australia (called New Holland back then).

As they sailed though the channel between the Vanua Levu and Vita Levu islands in Fiji, they observed some locals launching boats and giving chase. Because of their experience on Tofua, Bligh pressed on. There is nothing in his journal about fears of cannibalism. I suspect that is a local legend.

His journal also reveals that he was not sure where the Fiji Islands were exactly. He suspected the land was Fiji. But since he didn't know for sure, he called them "The Bligh Islands".

You can read Bligh's journal for free here. You can read a detailed history and anaylsis of the mutiny written in 1831 here. Both are very interesting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mutney on the Bounty...what a great book! Don't forget to mention that Bligh (as a deck-hand) sailed with Captain James Cook on his 3rd circumnavigation of the world (in-which Cook was killed) and then Bligh went on to become a captain. All excellent reading...currently I am reading Magellen's Log book