In the Fiji Islands group, there is an island (Rabi Is) populated entirely by displaced Micronesians – their original island (Ocean Is) having been destroyed by phosphate mining. They moved onto Rabi in 1945, and still maintain language, traditions and skills from their home island. These people are legendary for their fishing skills and sailing exploits. No outboard motors here. So of course, because of our interests in sailing and traditional boats, Marcy set sail for Katherine Bay on Rabi Island.
The canoes are works of art, made of hand sawed hardwood and held together with monofilament fishing line. There is not a bolt or nail on them. Every evening some of the smaller light paddle canoes are out trolling the bay.
The bigger sailing canoes go out to nearby reefs to fish.
One canoe owner, Atia, brought his boat out for us to inspect in detail.
The Rabi people are expert fishermen. They think nothing of crossing twenty miles of open ocean to the town on a neighboring island to sell their catch. A Fijian in Savusavu told us of a Rabi canoe that showed up at Taveuni Island to sell a huge billfish – so big that it stuck out of the canoe both bow and stern. The fisherman said after hooking on and realizing somehow that it was a huge fish, that he had to put a turn on the fishing line around the stem and jump to the stern to balance the boat, then he was towed around by the fish for two days until it was tired enough to bring it to the surface. After killing the fish, he had to swamp the canoe, maneuver it under the fish, and then bail out the canoe to lift the fish out of the water. He must have been worried about sharks!
Speaking of sharks, we notice that when we ask if sharks are a problem, the local people always answer no, of course not. Later we ask, on seeing a nice launch rotting away on the beach, who’s boat is that? Oh, that belonged to the Australian man who was killed by a tiger shark across the channel….If the conversation goes on long enough, everyone has a story.
Here our friend Semi shows us his shark bite. While spearfishing, his friend shot a small reef shark that then, perhaps understandably, tore around biting things in the water. Including Semi.
We’ve had no problems with sharks, but Peter managed to drop a freshly caught wahoo on his foot. The only blood on Marcy's deck was Peter's!
As if the first aid kit wasn’t getting enough use, Ginger slipped with a knife while cutting the meat out of a coconut…….
The village has a huge church, even by South Pacific standards. Ginger attended on Sunday, and reported that the small congregation was lost in the big room.
It was nice to get off the boat for a while and walk the wonderful traffic free roads. The couple from another yacht in the bay, Jeff and Gayle, joined us.
Soon, we realized that it was time (out of beer!) to head back towards Savusavu for a visit to the grocery store. We stopped on the way at Viani Bay, a gorgeous spot on the route back. Marcy anchored in a quiet cove among bits of floating pumice.
A colorful half English half Fijian man named Jack is the ambassador of the bay and wonderful host for yachts. He offered the use of moorings, guided treks, offered fish, fresh water and fruit, and told stories of his five wives and of the days his grandfather tried to make a go of a sugar cane plantation.
Jack even insisted on towing us with his skiff if he thought we were working too hard paddling our inflatable canoe.
Our stay in Viani bay was so enjoyable; we were asking Jack how much a couple of acres of beachfront would cost.
There is always another bay to explore in paradise – so we reluctantly said our goodbyes, slipped the mooring pendant, and sailed out the pass. The heavy scent of flowers followed us out to sea.
Labels: 2007 - 10 - 11 Fiji, boats of the world