Camp Acushnet Goes to the Yasawas

We hauled anchor in Yadua around the same time as Acushnet, which meant we were sailing together. It’s a new thing for us to be traveling with another boat close enough to take photos under sail, so we had a lot of fun with that. In fact, it’s unusual for us to travel at the same time as another boat at all, but Acushnet had made a Plan, and we had… not made a plan. So we decided we’d tag along with them and mooch off their planning work, and gave it a name a la Camp Sarah in Dominica. Also pictured: Andrew trying to refill a SodaStream cartridge while under way.

Our first stop was the village of Yasawairara, at the north end of Yasawa Island. We headed to shore in Moby, Acushnet’s 25hp dinghy, carrying our two bundles of kava and excited for our first sevusevu ceremony. But the first two people we met told us that the chief was away on the main island, and we should just give the kava to them. They sang a little song and clapped, and we thought we were in the clear to walk around the village. When we got to the center, we ran into a guy we would later learn is the mayor, and we explained that we’d given the kava to the first guy, and all was fine. But later, walking back along the beach, we were accosted by an older guy, who demanded to know whether we had done sevusevu, and was totally nonplussed with our explanation. He angrily declaimed that he was the mayor’s father, and that since we had done the wrong thing, we had to leave his beach. Which is what we were doing anyway, so we complied, stopping to chat with another group that had just turned up at the beach, off of Salanjo; more about them later.

We walked back to the dock and dinghied back to the boats. Somehow Ross, having worn long pants to Be Respectful, found himself absolutely covered in burrs; we managed to pick most of them off before heading back to Villa for a group dinner and more Firefly.

The next day we sailed south to Sawa-i-lau island, the site of the Blue Lagoon caves, featured in an apparently spectacularly-awkward 80s movie of the same title. The movie has apparently brought the caves great fame, and spurred the creation of several resorts. We dropped anchor at the edge of the bay, after weaving our way around the giant Reef Explorer liveaboard that had anchored in the middle. Once settled we headed towards the caves, carpooling in Moby, and passed a boat full of local guys on their way out. They flagged us down and asked us for our kava, and did a quick “ceremony” with some clapping. We took pictures, partly to remember and partly because we had failed to do so the last time and had trouble explaining, so we wanted insurance. This concluded, they passed a big tour guide into our boat and we parted ways. We were glad to have taken the bigger dinghy; Dinkus would have been swamped with five people, but Moby handled it just fine.

We got Moby settled on shore, and walked the gauntlet past an assortment of vendors, all women, selling sarongs and other handicrafts.

The guide took us into the caves, which is a swimming experience, as the second chamber is separated from the first by a submerged passage. Very cool space.

We got back to the boats and headed south again, for a second move in the same day. Camp Acushnet, keeping it on schedule! We anchored at the Blue Lagoon resort, confusingly located on Nanuya island, where we’d managed to get a dinner reservation that morning. We went in for a sunset drink and dinner, and spent most of the meal trying to keep Saskia from noticing the abundance of rats up in the roof. We were already skeptical when we saw the menu, but we didn’t have a backup plan so we were committed. Someone else’s plate came floating by, nicely presented, and our hopes briefly lifted… but they were dashed. Andrew was unable to resist writing a review.

In the morning we had just enough internet to take care of some paperwork for New Zealand; Captain was a big help. That finished, we headed south again, this time bound for Manta Ray Point. We had great wind for a comfortable sail, and somehow went roughly the same speed as Acushnet, resulting in this photo.

Manta Ray Point proved to be a small oasis of only-mostly-rolly in an ocean that was becoming rough. We stopped here because this is famously a congregation point for ocean manta rays, not the five-foot rays we’d dove with in Huahine, but ten- or fifteen-foot monsters… but we heard from the dive shop that they had not been spotted in almost a month. It is a pretty stop, though, and we saw a squid right under the boat. Salanjo arrived shortly after us, and anchored just barely far enough from Acushnet for politeness. At some point they passed our boat in their dinghy, and the old patriarch told us that we would have to clean our boat bottom to get into New Zealand (sarcastic shocked face) and grilled us about our bottom paint, while his younger passengers looked embarrassed. It had been a while since we’d met the Old Sailor That Knows All the Things And Will Tell You archetype, and we were glad for the reminder of how lucky we’ve been to meet so many great people in the last couple of months.

Wanting to get into the water one way or another, Ross, Andrew and Jazz did a night dive with the Manta Ray resort, which was a bit of a logistical mess. The wind was blowing 25 knots through the slot between the anchorage and the resort, so fully-loaded Dinkus was unwilling to run at more than idle on the way there. We actually moved Jazz from Dinkus to Moby half way, and Ross drove slowly just ahead to make sure Andrew didn’t float out to sea and die. The resort had no dock, and beaching to bring in our empty dive tanks was a mess, but we got it done, and got under water. The shop basically dropped us into the water right under our boats, and we hung out in ten to thirty feet of water, which meant Jazz was constantly clearing her poor ears; shallow water diving is actually much harder because the pressure changes are more dramatic. Still, we saw some cool stuff.

We picked up our refilled dive tanks in the morning and headed out to sea. We had a choice between stops at Octopus resort and the unpopulated Na Vadra, and given our last resort meal, we opted to take the empty island. Along the way, Andrew finished a bread experiment, and concluded that the no-knead recipes just aren’t appropriate for a pressure cooker. We also found a work-around for the failing plug of our iridium go: it just needs a little pressure to hold the contacts together.

Na Vadra was rolly, and deep – we were aiming for a shallow spot we saw on the satellite images, but as we were coming into the anchorage, Salanjo zipped in from well behind and dropped about 100 feet in front of our moving boat, right where we had been pointed. Flabbergasted at this cheek, we took another circle and anchored in 50 feet, then re-anchored at 60 when we dove our chain and found it draped lovingly next to a big coral head. Lucky that we did, too, because about fifteen minutes after our second time anchoring, the wind shifted 90 degrees; we definitely would have been tightly wrapped. Salanjo took off shortly afterward; we guessed that they didn’t like the roll. We were there to dive, though, so we were going to stay, rain and roll and all. Acushnet came over to Villa wearing oilskins, the first time we’ve had guests come over in the rain, and thus the first time we’ve had to think about where to put someone’s wet raincoat! A slightly bewildered Jazz hung them in the bathroom, the closest thing we have to a wet locker as the original one has become Captain’s litterbox hole, and we had a great dinner and some more Firefly.

In the morning we dove off the back of the boats, and we found an abundance of magic coral and some fun crawly things.

Excellent though the dive was, the anchorage was uncomfortably rolly, and in any case it was time to move on! As soon as the gear was rinsed we continued to Castaway Island, named for being the filming site of the movie. We tried anchoring along the north side of the island, next to a big yacht and, yet again, Salanjo. But we found it both deep and full of bommies, so we moved on.

We tried again in front of the village, but didn’t love that anchorage either. So we moved to right in front of Castaway island, where we found enough sand on a small slope to anchor in 50 feet and sit on top of twenty. We had floated our chain just in case, but we were positioned to maybe swing over some coral if the wind switched, so Andrew went swimming to make sure it wasn’t a danger. Sure enough, the coral was low to the ground so Villa was plenty safe.

As he got out of the water, Salanjo came and dropped their anchor about 50 feet in front of our anchor, right along the wind line; a serious faux pas: even if the chains don’t tangle, it’s not ideal to have to go through another boat to get your anchor up. They moved after only a couple of minutes, but it was still a tense couple of minutes as we watched them trying to set and couldn’t raise them on the radio.

We went to shore for a hike, and on the way up, we found that someone had left a message in the sand. Adorable. The hike was short and pleasant, though we had some trouble finding the path a couple of times and ended up bushwhacking. The view from the top was worth the effort.

We came in with some wind blowing, but overnight it died, which meant that our anchor floats had time to get all tangled before the wind picked up in the morning. So hauling anchor came with a bit of a puzzle to solve, and we got a slightly later start than planned. We could probably avoid this by tying the floats closer to the chain… Anyway by the time we started moving, Captain had stopped.

We started off for Musket Cove with moderate winds in the wrong direction. We tried to tack back and forth a little, but ended up giving up and motoring the last section, through the reef pass and up to the anchorage with the wind right in our faces. This is nobody’s favorite, but at least there were enough reefs around to block most of the chop, so while we were slow, we were at least not slamming.

We made it to Musket Cove and anchored right by Acushnet, who had anchored right by Searcher! We hadn’t seen Searcher since Tahiti, so we got to have a little reunion before they took off for New Zealand. Saskia made dinner for everybody, and we had a great evening on Acushnet.

We are not quite at goodbye, but this was the end of our buddy-boating phase of the adventure. Thanks, Acushnet, for nearly two weeks of a great time!

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