Anchors up at 6:00 AM, we started out for Naqelelevu (pronounced, Nahng-eh-leh-lehvoo). It is a little known ring of coral, 11 miles across with a tiny little island along the eastern most side of the ring. We had a long trip ahead of us, expecting to arrive in late afternoon, and of course the winds were right on the nose, but the skies were clear and we knew it would be a lovely day to negotiate in and around reef systems. All five of the yachts in our little group made the trip, and most everyone was up for a day of fishing en route.
Once inside the reef the waters were crystal clear aquamarine and dotted with tall coral heads. We chose the deepest passage and made the 1+ hour trek across the lagoon to the anchorage in front of the little island, setting the hook just after 3 PM. Wow! Eye candy. We could not get enough of just sitting and looking at the sandy beach, the swaying palms and the sparkling clear water.
I grabbed the binoculars and saw that there seemed to be some structures on land indicating a village of sorts, however closer inspection revealed a sad state of topsy turvy-ness to the structures. We knew this area had been hard hit in the cyclone. In the meantime, Gloria on the cat, "Scallywag" called us all to inform us that they had caught a huge mahi mahi which they wanted to share if we wanted to pop over with a small container to place it in. We had a delicious dinner of seared mahi mahi and then hit the sack. We were pooped.
The next morning we gathered on shore with bundles of kava, ready to meet the inhabitants of the island. We were in for a big surprise. There were only 3 young men - boys really - who live here at present. The story they told us was quite sad and tragic. Their family owns the atoll, and at the time of the cyclone they had a small village for the 21 inhabitants. When the storm hit, the island was submerged, they had no cave in which to hide, so they all sought shelter in the largest and strongest building. That building and all of the others were swept away. In fact everything they owned was destroyed, but fortunately no lives were lost. One of their three boats made it through the storm. They all fled to the island of Taveuni to live with extended family, but for 8 young men who are charged with remaining on Naqelelevu to guard the interest and to try to rebuild. The 8 boys rotate every few months. The 3 who are here now will remain until August. The youngest is 16 and the oldest is 22. They are all very well spoken and educated and were so excited to see us all. We could see that they had some small lean-tos and not much of anything else. We asked them if they had food and clothing, and how on earth they were getting by. They smiled and said, we eat coconut crabs and lobster and sometimes one of our chickens. God Bless them! They took us on a walking tour of the island, showing us the nesting places of some red-footed boobies and other sea birds, then they took 4 of our 10-person group who had worn decent walking shoes (not us) hunting for coconut crabs. The rest of us returned to the anchorage with the promise to meet them in the shallows the next morning at 9:00 to go lobstering.
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