Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fiji—Part Two

The sea was so calm one morning in Fiji that it seemed more like a lake than the ocean.
Absolutely pristine.
Well, we have been back at the marina now in Port Danarau, Fiji for the past few days and we have been busily getting AMARA in shipshape before we set off for New Caledonia.  I even went and did a little shopping spree with Sue this afternoon.  It was so fun since I haven't done any real shopping since starting out on this adventure.

It has been almost five weeks when we arrived in Fiji and I feel like we have barely skimmed the surface of all the islands.  I can see why so many cruisers just come to Fiji for a season and don't go anywhere else.  But alas, it is time to point AMARA westward toward Australia.

Since time is ticking down, I thought that I would just post a few photos of our time in Fiji so that you can see what we have been up to and so I can remember 10 years from now what we did.
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Martin and I visiting an old leper colony on the island of Makogai.
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Sue and Lily enjoying the sun in Fiji. 
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Lily enjoying her fancy drink.
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Martin giving some local school kids a ride home from school in the dinghy.
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The rest of the school kids following the dinghy. 
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We went and visited a small community off the island of Taveauni.  
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These people essentially had nothing, but what they didn't lack was a lot of love for Lily. 
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We brought balsa wood gliders for the kids.
Here, Martin is helping to assemble one for the little boys.
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This girl loved Lily.  She never put her down the entire time
we were visiting the village.  Of course, Lily loved it.
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Lily enjoying "Fairy Bread."  An Aussie kid favorite.  
*  *  * 
While on the island of Makogai, we were given a tour by the local chief of the community.   It was an old leper colony when it finally closed down in the sixties.  The children were so sweet and loving with us and they were especially enamored by the little girl in the stroller.  They followed us everywhere... rather, they followed Lily everywhere.
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Showing the children all the pictures that I had taken of them.  They LOVED seeing pictures of them.  Next time, I am going to bring a polaroid camera so that I can give pictures away.  
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The community takes pride in their turtle preserve. 
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This is Rosie.  I could have taken her home with me.  She was such a precious little girl.
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The old cemetery.
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The women preparing for the evenings ceremony that we were going to have with them.
Here they are making headdresses for the children to perform in that evening.  
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Where I love being the most–With all the little ones.
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Heading back to the boat.  Lily and Sue have turned into Pied Pipers.
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The children waving goodbye until the evening where they are set to perform for us.
We loved visiting this part of Fiji.  Especially the community of Makogai.  I will try and get the photos up of the children performing for us that evening.  It was one of the funnest evenings that we have had in a long time and I'd love to share it with all of you.

*  *  *  
We are pulling up anchor as I type heading to check out of Fiji.  It will take us a day to get to where we have to check out and then we are off to New Caledonia.  I am sad to leave all our new friends behind but anxious for the new adventures that await.

Here is to safe travels and fair winds.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Swimming with the Whales in Tonga

After 3 weeks of traveling around Fiji, we are back in the marina in Denarau, Fiji (on the main island) preparing for our crossing to New Caledonia and then on to Brisbane, Australia.  I am currently writing up our latest adventures in Fiji and will post them shortly.  We have really loved our time here and had some amazing experiences.

While visiting the different locations in Fiji, I have also been working on completing the video of our magical moments with the whales of Tonga.  Swimming, photographing and just being in the presence of these whales was an amazing experience.  I am so excited to be able to share a small part of what we experienced while swimming with them through this video.  It should be noted that Martin did all the underwater photography, and I am still in awe of what he was able to capture.  I hope you enjoy this video as much as we enjoyed this time with the whales during our stay in Tonga.  Enjoy!

*Note:  Please check the volume on you computer and also the volume on the YouTube video as well (Below the start arrow-speaker icon).  There is music that accompanies this video, so make sure all the volumes are set to your preference so that you can enjoy the video.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Making Friends in Fiji

One thing that Martin and I have really enjoyed doing while sailing is making great friends.  

For instance, take the Schaffer family.  Martin and I had heard from other cruisers and members of the LDS (mormon) church that there was another "Mormon" family with seven kids that were sailing through the South Pacific at the same time as us.  Problem was, they were always two weeks ahead of us.  

Martin and I arrived at church in Bora Bora and again we heard, "Hey, did you know there is a Mormon family on a boat 'Far and Away' that is sailing like you guys?"  Then when we got to Tonga, we would hear the whole thing all over again.

Finally, one cruiser remembered the Schaffers website and we quickly looked them up to see where they were headed next and to see if we could head them off at the pass.... or something like that.  When we looked though, we read that they were headed up to American Samoa while Martin and I were headed towards Fiji.  We finally decided to let it go, knowing that we weren't going to meet up with them since we were now both going in separate directions.

Then, last Saturday, we were pulling into Savusavu (Fiji) and low and behold, we looked and read on the side of another boat in the harbor, "Far and Away."  We couldn't believe our eyes.  Martin yelled over to them and said, "We know you and would like to come visit!"  Then we started laughing because I think they had the same shock on their faces as well when seeing AMARA.  We later found out that they were getting the same stories on their end about another Mormon family sailing the South Pacific.
Of course, we made friends fast and it was wonderful to be able to spend time with this great family.  Each one of those kids was so polite and capable... even down to little Zakary (A fierce little toddler who keeps his mom very busy!)

Sweet little Teyauna quickly befriended Lily. 
*  *  *
After the Schaffer family left, we had the opportunity to go to church and meet some dear people from the LDS ward in Savusavu.
Lily is a pied-piper wherever we go.

Everyone loved Lily.  What's new?
After church, we invited one young woman (who we had met on the street the day before) over for dinner that evening on AMARA.  Her name is Emele (pronounced, Emily) and she is leaving at the beginning of November for an LDS mission in Salt Lake City, Temple Square.  Emele's story is incredible for just a 19-year-old woman.  When Emele was 12, her mother could no longer care for her and sent her to a family friend to see if she could live in their home.  From that moment on, although she had guardians, Emele knew that she would never have real parents.  Since her guardians were barely surviving on their own, they didn't have enough money to pay for Emele's schooling.  So, Emele took fate into her own hands and left and went to each school in her area to see if she could somehow be allowed into school without paying her fees.  Finally a dear principle saw her willingness to learn and permitted her into the school on a full scholarship.  Emele just graduated last year.

If her story isn't already humbling enough, four years ago, she got word of a woman who was not able to care for her three-month-old son.  Yep, Emele offered to help pay and care for the baby herself.  For the past four years, Emele has been working a full-time job at a grocery store and as a teacher's aid to pay for the child's care while also saving up for her mission.  He calls her "mama" and she knows that it will be difficult to leave him with her guardians after she leaves for Salt Lake City.  Oh, and she has also come up with the funds to pay for this little boy's care and food the entire time while she is on her mission.  How many of us could say that we lived a life as stoic as Emele's?  I just love this young woman and all that she is doing to make her world and other's worlds a better place to live in. (Emele, we wish you well on your mission!)
*  *  *
... And then there are the cruisers.  Wow, we have made such wonderful friends on our travels through the South Pacific.  Fabulous people.  Strong and capable people who are making their dreams of sailing the South Pacific a reality.  I have so grown to love these families that we have met along the way.  

As our trip is winding to a close, this will be the hardest part for this leg of our journey.  I have so looked forward to arriving into ports and looking for our friends boats in the harbor.  I get giddy every time we see a familiar face and am so grateful for their friendship.  

Adventures Underwater

Before Martin and I started this sailing adventure,  I wasn't super keen on snorkeling or diving.  In fact, I still don't get the same kind of excitement being in the water as Martin does.  He loves the water.  He gets lost in his thoughts while diving and he could spend oodles of time swimming in the deep blue of the ocean.  Me? Although I have developed a love for diving and snorkeling these past few months, I could still take it or leave it.  I think it's because I still worry about what is lurking around in the water with me.  That, and a mild case of claustrophobia makes for unwanted panic at times.
For example, the other day, Martin and I decided that we would go out for a snorkel.  I was more than wanting to go, but again, the anxiety of what is swimming with us always brings on unnecessary panic on my part (I try to remain 'cool and at ease' to any onlooker).

When Martin and I got in the water, we were in a pretty shallow area.  The current swept us up onto some coral where I immediately got a small, SMALL, cut on the palm of my hand.  From the wound there was a miniscule trace of blood coming from the tiny opening.  Of course, I immediately pop up out of the water and ask Martin, "Is this cut big enough that it will attract sharks?"  Poor Martin, I saw as he tried to conceal his laughter while assuring me that it would not, in fact, lure sharks.  Truthfully, at the moment, I only half believed him.  I grabbed a piece of driftwood on the ocean floor and cupped onto it forcing the cut closed to stop the small trickle of blood.  (I swam like that for the remainder of our snorkeling excursion.)
Not the best photo, but it's Martin and me at our wettest.
About 10 minutes after the abrasion/wound incident, I started to feel my lips getting numb.  Then my gums and teeth started going numb.  Putting two and two together, I surmised that the cut had most certainly caused dungy fever, no, denghue fever or was it dinghy fever?  Whatever it was, I HAD IT!  I yelled to Martin, "Hon, I think something is terribly wrong with me.  I am having an allergic reaction to getting cut on the coral."  Martin swam over to me and had me tell him exactly the symptoms that I was experiencing.  As I went down the list, I told him that I had a terrible headache coming on and was afraid that I was going to pass out.  Just about that moment, he asks, "Is your mask on a little too tight?"  Flustered, I responded, "Of course it isn't, silly!  I am having an allergic reaction!  I need to get back to the boat before my lungs give out."  Then Martin starts laughing while lunging forward and pulling my mask off of my face.  Just about that moment, blood comes rushing back to my face and the numbness slowly dissipates.  He was right, and the panic that I had experienced was quickly replaced with laughter.  The mask was the culprit.
Notice the nice suction cup indentations around my face.
While on the subject, our scuba adventures go a little like this as well.

A few years ago, Martin and I were diving off the coast of Costa Rica.  We were with some inexperienced divers who were friends of ours.  Martin was particularly worried about one of our friends as she had just been barely certified and was having a problem equalizing while under water.
We all went down (a group of 8 of us) and Martin could see that our friend was again having trouble equalizing.  About that time, I realized that I probably didn't have on enough weights and I started (uncontrollably) heading for the surface.  I started banging on my tank to get Martin's attention so that he could grab my fin and pull me back down.  He didn't look up as he was still helping our friend with her little problem.  Then I started screaming, "Martin!" through my BC and mouth piece.  He still didn't look up.  I continued yelling, "Martin!" over and over again until I finally bobbed up to the surface.  Luckily we were in less than 40 feet so I was fine.  But still…
After reaching the surface, I worked my way to the dive boat still furious with Martin.  I couldn't believe that he didn't check his "buddy" to see if she was alright. Namely, ME!  His wife!  At the end of the dive, everyone came up and Martin noticed I was a bit angry (to say the least) and asked me why I went up early.  You can imagine my anger as I started in on how I had been banging on my tank and was trying to get his attention to help me, but he was too busy helping out our friend.

About that moment, the guide on our dive said, "Call me crazy, but I think the whales are coming back early this season.  I could hear them singing in the water while we were down there."  Realizing that the guide had actually heard my screams of yelling, "Martin!" underwater and NOT the whales, I couldn't control my laughter.  I then explained it to Martin and we couldn't stop laughing every time the guide brought up the fact that the whales were coming early to Costa Rica that season.  We never let him in on the joke and it remains one of our best stories to date.
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These types of stories are only a small example of my time underwater.  Don't get me wrong, I have had some wonderful dives with Martin, but somehow, they always end up being some kind of funny story with me being the punchline.
*  *  *  
Just today, Martin and I went on a dive trip that was literally in the middle of the ocean.  We had David back AMARA up to this large reef and Martin and I jumped off the back of the boat into the abyss.  I really didn't want to go, but Martin needed a buddy since David had to steer the boat, so I had a bullseye on my forehead (Neither Sue nor myself were willing to keep AMARA out of harms way since we were so close to the reef).  So, I had to suck it up and jump in even though I was teeny bit terrified.
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This dive was absolutely the nail-biter for me when it comes to diving.  All I could think the entire time that we dove was, "How are we going to get back onto AMARA in the middle of the ocean?"
Martin and I swam out to the reef with a drop off of 2,000 feet.  But it was worth all the anxiety, because the view was spectacular.  Imagine being dropped in the middle of the most beautiful aquarium.  It was so lovely.  Fish were in abundance, while large fan coral and different colored coral made a patchwork quilt all along the reef.  It was breathtaking.
Here are a few shots of what we experienced while under the water.
Large plates of coral.
Large fan coral.  We had never seen fan coral this large.
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Can you see the lion fish in this photo?

In the end, I am glad that I did it.  It was still a bit tricky getting back on AMARA and I won't lie that I did panic at one point and yelled to Martin in my best high-pitched voice, "Do not leave my side!"  Finally, when AMARA dipped down under a swell, Sue was able to grab me by my wetsuit and pull me up on to the deck.  Of course, once on the deck, I forgot about the panic and couldn't stop raving about what a magnificent dive that we had just had.   I was so grateful to Martin for helping me face my fears and get out there and have such an amazing experience.

Wow!  Maybe I am starting to love this more than I had thought.