I’m anchored on a lagoon the blue of butterfly wings. I see sand beaches, long and empty. I hear the crack of coral. I feel the rush of the outer reef.
Sea turtles slide by. Fish jump up doing the junebug. Slack-jaws hang on the surface, mouths open. And somewhere a fan coral blooms.
Volcanic rock sculptures rise out of the water in an order as random as pennies in a wishing well. Their sharp with shapes as surreal as clouds; toadstools, dragons, turtles, gargoyles, pyramids, dinosaurs. They’ve all got oysters growing on their legs and palm trees on their heads.
Saltwater has worn their bases so thin that at low tide they turn into mushrooms or Christmas trees or arrowheads. Some look like they might fall down tomorrow. Like one wrong touch of a wave and they’ll crash right into the butterfly blue.
I’m in Vulaga, one of the most south eastern islands in Fiji’s Lau group. The people here believe that if their boats are broken, they will fall ill. I believe this too.
To get to this island it was an upwind sail hard on the trades. We took our time. We anchored off Paradise Resort on Taveuni and ate curry with other cruisers. And it was there that I had the best shower I’ve had in four months, even though the water was cold. We stopped at the Bay of Islands on Vanua Balavu and snorkeled. And it was there that I held a crimson colored starfish in my hand, she moved in delicate floating motions. We stopped at Yagasa Levu and slept next to a jungle of seabirds. And it was there that I collapsed into a pre-Jurassic existence.
I’m sailing on a 53 ft. Warwick, hailing from New Zealand, and captained by Don Salthouse. His boat is fast. On a close reach it sails almost the speed of the wind.
Aboard is me, Don, and Lucy. I met them at a bbq in Savusavu. We ate fresh caught rainbow runner at a house overlooking the Cousteau Resort anchorage.
Don is 59, spiritual, and plagued by future shock. He comes from a family of boat builders and extreme sailors. His sister rounded Cape Horn, and his brother has done four around the world races. Remember the race where one boat hit an atoll and sunk due to too much faith in their chartplotter? Well his brother was on that boat. As for Don, he has survived sailing through 80 knot winds with watersprouts torpedoing out of the ocean.
If I ever saw the sea like that, I’d shrink right back into a fetus and fall overboard.
Don has been sailing to Fiji for years. He’s helped rebuild communities after cyclones spun them into dust and performed all sorts of prayer miracles with villagers. He once witnessed an Australian man pray a partially blind boys eyeball back into it’s socket.
Lucy is 34. She loves lolly-water and fishing, and men pour themselves all over her. She boat hopped onto Don’s floating palace a few weeks back.
When they invited me to join their mission to deliver 250 kilos of rice and other goods to the villagers of Vulaga, I didn’t even have to rinse in the idea. I said yes without even seeing Don’s boat. I just packed a bag, set roach traps, locked Juniper up, and left.
This island is way out here and the supply ships haven’t delivered goods in over a month due to the outbreak of COVID on the main island of Fiji. A woman just kayaked over on her way to collect octopus. She has invited us to a party in the village. We will go. We will bring kava. Don will make arrangements with the chief for the delivery of all the goods we have aboard this boat.
*Don runs a non-profit and is continuously doing charitable work in Fiji. If you would like to contribute you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about getting involved.