Making steady progress on a SW course through a vast ocean expanse with no islands in the vicinity. Favouring winds continue to aid our voyage to Faaite in the Tuamotus some 2200nm away and closing!
Ten days at sea with the crew acting as a team getting all tasks and chores completed on time. The food has been a treat at each meal. For katalau we had Ben's renowned "bani lolo" with a variety of spreads to accompany it. Bananas, cereal and the usual coffee and tea complimented the first meal of the day served at 0600. By 1200 the crew were anticipating for vakasigalevu home baked garlic loaf and sweet corn soup with egg flower. Nothing remained by the time the meal ended. For vakayakavi we are having tuna pieces with roasted capsicum served in a garlic sauce from the albacore caught this morning with rice and vegies and boiled tuna and soup! For dessert there's brownies. Ben has two terrific assistants in Salome and LeeAnn.
The three watch captains LeeAnn, Seru and Jim have effectively managed their crew maximising their uli time and thus our consistent efforts during each shift. All crew have become confident uli operators which is manifest in the reduction in splashes, skipper's commands of port or starboard and time taken to adjust course headings.
Jone has become the "night walker/stalker". He takes time out every night to walk the "rara" ù deck looking in the channels, port and starboard for flying fish (ika vuka) and squid (kuita). He's adept at this and is often seen leaping with long legs akimbo over areas that the lesser man would have to crawl, in order to pounce upon the dry docked, soon to be Jone's tucker! He' so motivated he cleans them, prepares and cooks them and even cleans up after the fishy feast is over, bones and all!
The crew are preparing for Tahiti and with it they need to develop a special set of meke for the traditional occasions that we will attend. Try and develop a meke on shore and then try the same thing on the aft deck while the drua is doing what it does so well, take the waves in style! Iva and Filo have become the meke advisers as skipper beats the lali and Seta, Kele and Jone go through potential moves and actions.
Mausio, a font of the power of positive thinking, enjoys sharing recollections of his earlier days in Rotuma and how he has hopes that what he has learned and is learning on his voyages can be discussed with district elders in Rotuma and applied to making his island an even better place to live and raise children than it is now.
He is particularly interested in consulting with marine experts, the chiefs and the Rotuma Island Council in possibly establishing a portion of each district's reefs as a marine reserve.
If the Fiji government, in consultation with the Rotuma Island Council, would consider setting aside Rotuma and its pelagic areas as a Marine Protected Zone, then the work that could start in-shore would be part of an entire ecosystem conservation effort. We saw this concept in Cabo Pulmo, Baha, Mexico on the Sea of Cortez where once the area was identified and set aside (no fishing, reef gleaning, coral tampering or waste disposal) a wide variety of marine organisms returned or in some cases found the protected reefs so "healthy" that they naturally introduced themselves to it. This made for a wonderful bio-diversity with many niches filled.
The Cabo Pulmo residents were amazed at the rapidity at which this started and noticed positive results within the first year. Once established as such, snorkelers and divers could, following sensible guidelines, enjoy observing and photographing the fish and invertebrates that abounded there.
The secondary spinoff, and the one that could prove very important in Rotuma where their reef systems are limited and somewhat fragile, is that species from the protected area became sufficiently abundant to repopulate the open areas where they could be fished for. With district and village assistance giant clams could be re-introduced; diminishing coral species could be "planted" from shards and that being accomplished the myriad varieties found in plankton would have substrate and viable habitat to settle on and grow to maturity.
There have been several recent studies done on the available (edible) stocks of marine life on the reefs in Rotuma by Rotuman scholars. This information will prove invaluable as base line data in order to start the process of rejuvenating reef sections. Wouldn't it be terrific to have octopus, lobsters, beche-de-mer, shrimp, molluscs, and in-shore reef fish in greater abundance than they are today? For that matter there are many areas in Fiji that would benefit from considering such a plan. Modified of course to suit their particular environmental needs. In passing, we are all becoming aware of the multiple importance of protecting and re-introducing our native mangrove species. Think about the mangal as the nursery for a great variety of marine life, much of which is edible and commercially important. Another article brewing!
Master Mausio is excited about meeting informally with district representatives in Suva during the limited time the Uto ni Yalo will be there in June. If all goes well, he would voyage to Rotuma after the Solomon Islands Arts Festival in late July and have an opportunity to share ideas with decision makers there. Perhaps he, Kim Bennett and Bob Tuxson could share their experiences with others on the island.
Kim, daughter of Harieta Bennett, nee Pene of Itumuta, a serious student, who contemplates a return to academia and medical school, maintains a comprehensive diary and is learning more about celestial navigation through consulting several texts on board and the southern hemisphere star chart at nights during her three hour watches. Others have followed suit and we have a group of serious young navigators in the making!
Bob, with a marine science background and linked to Noatau through his wife of 35 years, Viki Marseu nee Fakraufon, is also enthusiastic about what might be accomplished by using an inter-disciplinary approach to identifying needs, developing a working plan and proposals and training interested people on the island as conservation/education guides and wardens. In Cocos Island where we saw another marine model the "guides" are called rangers and deal with a variety of preservation and conservation tasks.
Moala and Filo have already committed themselves to environmental protection in Fiji. It is fascinating listening to them discuss their plans after the voyage has been completed. Moala has many years of working with NGO's as a field expert. He is aux fait (more French!) with Fiji's bio-diversity, especially terrestrial, and has observed many uncommon and rare species. He has no problem in sharing his knowledge with others.
Filo, who completed a secondment with FIVS before boarding the Uto ni Yalo, is hoping for an opportunity to further her environmental studies abroad before returning home and contributing to the cause of conservation in Fiji. Hats off to both people for their vision and dedication.