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Monday, July 5, 2010

June 24 – 28, 2010 Makongai Island (Former Leper Colony), Fiji

We made another early departure to sail west to an island called Makongai.  We were cruising with "Just in Time", Scallywag" and "Northern Winds".  Everyone had fishing lines in the water and we followed suit.  The going was rough for the first hour or so until we were about ½ mile out of the pass. Just about that time I looked back to check our line as a large Mahi Mahi took flight.  We had hooked a beauty! Frank was just getting up to out of the cockpit to bring the big fish in when all of a sudden it was over – the fish and our rig were gone.  It happened so quickly, we were stunned. When the surprise wore off the realization that we just threw more big money into the sea hit us.  This fishing is costing us a small fortune.  Not much could be done about that.  So we settled in for the 8-hour sail, on a port tack.

About 30 minutes afterward I told Frank that I smelled strong raw diesel fumes wafting up the companionway. We went below to check the locker that houses the fuel fill hose, and sure enough the bottom of the locker was sloshing with fuel.  Once again I cursed Island Packet for not only their poor design and installation of the fuel hoses but also for putting our refrigerator and freezer compressors in the bottom of the locker that was now swimming in diesel. I gathered old towels and handed Frank a bucket.  Without going into too much detail, the vent hose had been breached letting fuel literally flow out of the line and pour into the locker each time the boat heeled to starboard.  Frank spent the better part of the passage trying to stay the leak.  He was successful, but by the end of it all we both were suffering extreme nausea and terrible headaches from the dense fumes. Arriving at our destination we were still cleaning up when Jock dinghyed over to bring us a large tuna steak from their catch.  We thank him profusely and I quickly whipped out a large batch of Poisson Cru. By the time it was ready to eat, I could not.  I was so sick from the fumes I nibbled on a couple of crackers and watched Frank gobble down a large bowl-full.

The next morning we were to go into shore to present our sevu sevu, but I got hit with a serious bout of stomach cramps and could not leave the boat, so Frank joined the others for a trip into shore. He returned late afternoon with a full report of the adventure.  Makongai Island is a former Leper colony. It is now a fishery, turtle preserve and giant clam farm.  The current inhabitants of the local village are all paid employees of the Fijian government.  The head guy gave our little group a tour of the now abandoned hospital and leper colony facilities.  They had some very impressive amenities, which I suppose were incentives for getting workers to come live at the place.  By 1965 leprosy was no longer an issue (cured maybe???), and the entire place was abandoned until 1982 when the Fijian government decided to install a clam farm and to establish a protected environment for the sea turtles.  Because it is protected the snorkeling is unbelievable – the diving even better.  The soft corals just explode with colors we've never seen anywhere else.  Even the clams are incredibly beautiful and absolutely huge.  One was at least as large as our dining table.  Because the corals are so healthy here great numbers of fish are happily swimming about, completely non-threatened by our presence. And the variety and colors of the fish are mind-boggling.  We could have stayed for weeks and not have dived the same site twice.  Had we not set ourselves a schedule to fly home we probably would have remained there for at least that long.

This is certainly a stop worth making again – at least for those returning to Fiji.

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