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Nakesa follows ancestral trail to the islands

Dawn Gibson
Monday, October 08, 2012

DESCENDANTS of early-day settler and voyager William Henry Bruce have travelled across the world to visit their family ties in the islands on board a yacht named after a maternal Fijian grandmother.

The Nakesa — which sailed from England three years ago — arrived at the Royal Suva Yacht Club on Saturday with William Henry Bruce's great-great-granddaughter, Phaedra Nakesa Applin, and her family of four.

The Swan 57 yacht — captained by her husband, Graham Applin — retraced some of William HenryBruce's routes around the world before he settled in Levuka in the 1870s with his Australian wife, Sarah Watts.

Most of the Bruce clan fled to Nova Scotia after the Scottish Rebellion and some of them ventured further to the US.

Among them was William Henry Bruce who fought in the American civil war and was shipwrecked in Maine before his epic voyage began.

Phaedra and Graham, both architects, put on hold their careers and began their adventure in memory of her ancestral seafarer.

After arriving in Suva, they said they understood why William Henry Bruce settled in Fiji. "I have travelled to so many places, and of all the places I've been to, Fiji is the most like home to me," Mrs Applin said.

Yesterday, their two children — Aston Viliame Applin and Atlanta Talei Applin — were helping them prepare to sail to Port Denarau in Nadi.

Her mother, Sarah Hilbourne (nee Bruce) who lives in Suva, said she was proud of her Nakesa.

"It was from Maine that William Bruce circumnavigated the globe. When he arrived in Fiji, he decided to settle here in paradise, as he put it, and now this very same voyage is being made by his great-great-granddaughter," she said.

Nakesa is named after a woman from Lautoka who had a child with her great-grandfather, Jack Charles Barley, who was a district commissioner in the colonial era.

Mrs Applin said sailing was like a dream come true for the whole family.

We had always wanted to do this," she said."It's terrific."

The family, who left England three years ago to begin their life changing experience, are more than happy at what they have achieved and the people they have encountered

"One of my best experiences is the exchanging of clothes. Because it is so hard to buy clothes at any of our stops, whenever we meet our friends (who are other yachters/boaters), we exchange our clothes with each other, simply because we don't really have any new clothes

"I also use some of my Fijian words, such as Bubu, which is what I call my grandmother," tells ten year-old, Atlanta Talei Applin, smilingly.

Her 13-year-old brother, Aston Viliame, said Fiji was different to any other island he had visited with his family

"The people here are so wonderful, and it's amazing to have that sharp contrast between a developed city life and complete paradise just beyond Fiji's waters," he said.

The family made friends along the way to Fiji

"We've never been to a single bay or anchorage and not known any of the other boats in the bay, it's great, we meet people on the way and then a couple months later, we meet up with them again," she said.

Mr Applin said it the experience of a community of sailors, all simply sailing around the world," was life changing

While the adventure boasts much fun, the children are also given their personal dosage of education; home-school style

"We have a curriculum that we follow, so I teach the kids, as well as help captain the Nakesa with my husband," said Mrs Applin.

On their way here, they encountered rough weather along the coast of Columbia

"The weather was terrible, something like 50 knots and force 9 gale winds. All our emergency equipment was then ripped off the back of the boat," recalled the family.

The Nakesa has seen the likes of Spain, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, the Atlantic, Aruba, the Panama Canal, as well as much of French Polynesia

They sailed through Tahiti and Bora Bora, then on to the Cook Islands and Tonga, and then finally to Fiji.

The family plans to remain in Fiji for a while before they begin their next leg of travels, which will go through Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia (Brisbane and Sydney) where they will spend Christmas, then to New Zealand and finally up through Asia to Singapore.

"All up, that's another year of travelling. We plan to be in Singapore by November next year," Mr Applin said.

The family acknowledged that having spent so much time out at sea and on foreign islands, it was good to have a cinema just down the road as well as some wonderful restaurants.

They are staying with their Suva-based family at the moment and are considering coming back to Fiji after their final leg; perhaps for good.

William Henry Bruce's four children were named after ships he had been involved in building, the Douglas, 'Washington, Cora-Mona and Atlanta. The family are all buried in Levuka.

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