Adventures in Falaga
We’re going on eleven days in Falaga, and the adventures keep coming, rain or shine. After our initial few days in the village, we moved Helios to an anchorage on the eastern end of the lagoon to be near the pass. From there, we could monitor conditions to go diving. Given the geography of the lagoon, the ebbing current can flow as high as four knots, yielding standing waves and dangerous conditions. Timing our dive with the current was critical.
Waiting two hours after low tide, the pass was calm enough to explore. We spent one day riding the current in through the pass, flying fast over vast expanses of coral. We spent another day on the outer reef, diving a bommie surrounded by turtles and spotted eagle rays, exploring a coral wall teeming with hump-head parrot fish and the most curious white tip reef sharks we’ve seen.
The coral here is in pristine condition. It’s tempting to describe Fulaga as an oasis in the middle of nowhere; but it is in the middle of somewhere, directly between Viti Levu and Tonga to be specific. Because it is upwind from all of Fiji’s ports of entry and has no tourist infrastructure, it is rarely visited by anyone other than a handful of cruising yachts and a supply ship that visits once a month. Free from pollution, the underwater ecosystems are vibrant and thriving.
From the eastern anchorage, we also had easy access to the beaches in the lagoon. We went for long, meandering walks, and Dominic finally had the chance to bring his quadcopter ashore to see how it flies. We definitely had some helicopter envy—Evviva, a 165-foot Westport motor yacht, had been out cruising in their chopper that morning.
With rougher weather in the forecast, we moved Helios back to the protected anchorage near the village. We went in for a village visit, hiked to the look-out point at the top of the island (that’s Helios on the right in the photo), and had the chance to meet Evviva’s crew. Ken, Evviva’s captain, and two younger deck hands stopped by to share their updated tide tables. We had a lot to chat about. They seemed as curious about life as two aboard a 38-foot sloop as we were about life as crew aboard mega-yacht.
Then I shamelessly inquired if there were any girls onboard within a decade or two of my age (such is my desperation for some girl talk these days…), and was thrilled to find out Evviva’s chief stewardess, Kaveen, was born in the exact same year as me. Ken was kind enough to bring her by Helios the next day on her break to introduce us, and we spent a glorious hour sunbathing in the sand and chatting about the differences in our lives at sea.
That night the weather hit. Though Helios was completely comfortable and protected from wind and chop, we woke on Sunday to a gloomy, wet morning and felt that sinking feeling that comes from knowing we were going to be cooped up for a day (or three) on the boat.
But you know what my favorite part of cruising is? Never knowing the direction day’s current will flow.
Ken hailed us on the VHF inviting us to lunch aboard Evviva. We spent the day touring our dream boat—hot tubs, helicopter, panoramic windows surrounding a three-tiered climate controlled living space, an engine room larger than Helios with dual 3800 horsepower diesel beauties. We had a barbecue feast, buffalo wings and the most succulent pulled pork I’ve ever tasted. The atmosphere was festive. We listened to dance jams of the 90s and everybody got presents, commemorative photo albums for the crew, Evviva swag for the two of us. Dominic talked boat design with Orin, Evviva’s owner, who worked in the industry. I talked with Charlene, his wife, about the last 20 summers they spent cruising Alaska and what it felt like to fly the helicopter (one of her favorite hobbies).
I’d be lying to say I didn’t consider defecting to Evviva. When we returned to Helios, she felt…small. But then we had a cozy night making vegetable pizza (Kaveen had put a goodie bag of veggies in our dinghy before we left—heavenly fresh bell peppers and tomatoes), watching movies, and drinking hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. Helios quickly worked her way back into our hearts.