The weather has been pretty windy for the past few days as a big high pressure system has passed south of us so we've listened to the wind whistling in the rigging and braved the wet dinghy rides ashore. We've spent time baking bread, biscuits and cakes to take into the village and trying to create inventive meals from a dwindling stock of tins supplemented by a few root vegetables.
The villagers are now less shy about asking for our help where we have kit or skills so a couple of days ago we donated some VHF aerial coaxial cable that we had aboard Maunie and worked with another skipper, Adam, a ham radio expert, to build a new aerial for the village clinic's radio (which in turn was donated by a yacht a couple of years ago); Batai the nurse is now delighted that he can contact boats in the various anchorages and is making full use of the new tool. Yesterday he called 'Charisma' and we all 'lurked' as they went to a new channel. (For non-yachties we should explain that on VHF radios there is a calling and emergency channel (16) but, once you have called another boat you should move to a new, working channel. The Americans all use Ch 17 (so they say 'shall we go up one?') but, whichever channel is used, it's technically illegal to for other boats to listen in to the conversation but, of course, we all do (it's known as lurking) and we've now formed the Faluga Lurkers' Association). Anyway, we Lurkers heard the following:
Batai: "Hi Anne"
Anne (on Charisma): "Hi Batai – the radio sounds great now! What can we do for you?"
Batai: "Um, sorry Anne, but I need $200 from you."
Anne: (after a short silence) " Oh, er, well... I'm not sure we have that amount of cash on board"
Batai: (giggling) "No, no, I'm just joking!! I was calling to see how Bob was...."
Batai was still giggling later that day that he'd 'had' Anne. Like most Fijians he loves jokes.
The advantage of the new aerial for us is that Batai is happy to take our messages for other villagers which saves us a 30 minute walk and gives us the chance to warn our host families when we're coming in; they tend to drop everything and start cooking us meals if we arrive unannounced!
Yesterday we took 4 locals (plus a toddler), 2 other yachties and we also towed a local fishing boat (to save their precious outboard fuel) across the lagoon to the village of Naividamu where we were welcomed like old friends. We were included in a birthday party kava circle, were fed very well (a pig had been slaughtered for the occasion) and enjoyed listening to the men singing traditional songs, accompanied by guitars. When we left there there heartfelt calls for us to return; the village is at the leeward side of the lagoon so isn't a sheltered anchorage and therefore doesn't get many yachts visiting.
The weather has now calmed for a couple of days and it's a good weather window to leave but we've decided to wait until the next lull which will come, we hope, in about a week's time. It'll give us a chance to visit some more of the island, do some fishing with the villagers and, of course, prepare to say goodbye. Leaving Fulaga is a two day process which includes a formal feast with our host families, a final Kava session with anyone who wants to join in and, finally, a farewell audience with the Chief. A couple of boats left yesterday and two more leave today and each crew reported that tears were shed by yachties and villagers alike.