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Friday, July 15, 2016

FIJI Makongai: Rebuilding After Winston


Uh oh, resplendent in turquoise, our Makogai skiff pilot in major foulies
Wayne, fruitlessly attempting to
get less wet on our ride to
the Makogai village
.
Making our escape from Levuka's reputedly rolly anchorage in the wake of a mini-squall, we were lured to Makogai of the Lomaiviti isles by Soggy Paws Compendium's mention of giant clams, a black pearl farm, an historic leprosy hospital and good snorkeling.  Besides, Makogai offered a protected anchorage only 18 miles from Levuka, and shortened the sailing distance a bit to Savusavu, our next Fiji port of call.

After threading our way past Makogai’s reef in the approaching sunset, we noticed, "Gee, those sure are some odd looking trees!"   Most of the several boats in harbor bore Sea Mercy flags, including one of our long-lost fellow "Puddle Jump" yachties, David of Anahata.  


David of Anahata swimming in from setting
the skiff anchor to accommodate
major Makogai tide shifts.  
Ahhh, Winston, we surmised.  The record-breaking Cat 5 cyclone  struck Fiji with devastating impact earlier this year on February 20th, 2016.  Gusts were recorded as high as 190 mph.

We arrived on a Saturday night, which meant no matter what, nothing much would be afoot the next morning.  Sundays on Fiji are days of church. Or, for those of us who do not partake, rest and relaxation.  Given we'd sailed overnight from the Kadavus to Levuka, then that same day from there to Makogai, we were overdue for a good rest.

Monday morning we joined the skiff carrying volunteers from the anchorage to the village, a wild, wet 20 or so minute ride.  Observing everyone aboard wearing some sort of foulies (wet weather gear - or - a modified garbage bag works in a pinch), and glancing across the white-capped waters, we followed their cue.  Word to the wise – when your skiff captain wears foulies don’t expect a dry ride!  Foulies or not, everyone still got soaked.


What’s left of the 50-year-old school on Makogai, post cyclone Winston.
Australians Ian and Wendy of Outsider arrived on Makogai within a week of Winston, capably taking charge of the Sea Mercy’s efforts there. Makogai is Sea Mercy’s biggest Winston project, a substantial effort including sewage and water infrastructure assistance, establishing a worksite to support volunteer efforts with a kitchen, pantry, toilets, the complete rebuilding of what was a 50-year-old schoolhouse, and considerable fix up and clean up of homes and the area at large.


Not sure how this local Makongai boy got blue-handed, but we were all amused.
Once a Habitat for Humanity volunteer of the year, Wayne got handy with a hammer.  He worked with James of Carpe Diem to clear off a foundation, saving viable nails for re-use.  He, James and David also together built roof trusses for a home.

Hannah of Carpe Diem, who makes
killer fritters.
    
I picked up broken glass (injury prevention - lots of folks tooling about barefoot – stray nails were a big problem as well), stacked usable glass slats blown out from the original schoolhouse for reuse, helped stack recycled timbers for later use, ordered the pantry and dominated the volunteer cooking.  C’mon, I am after all the galley wench!


Sadie of Carpe Diem, corn-rowed on one side
by a lovely local Makogai lady.  Sadie’s mom,
Hannah, hovers in the background.
Considering the level of devastation on Makogai – not to mention how scary as hell the cyclone must’ve been -- the resilience of the children, gleefully playing amongst themselves and with the volunteers kids, impressed me.  As well, the adults played a mean game of volleyball.


James, of Carpe Diem, studly posing
after unintentionally breaking
this c-clamp.
Hannah, James’s wife, mentioned the villagers appeared depressed when Sea Mercy first arrived.   Over time, they regained their spirits as relief efforts continued. We arrived right after the volunteers and the chief shared a sevusevu, followed by a village-hosted thank you dinner for the volunteers.  We heard both were exceptionally heartfelt events.


Makogai Fiji, Sea Mercy’s
visiting yachties list
Our last workday, one of the village women presented Wendy with two large bunches of healthy, fresh greens and a bag.  The greens were cilantro and parsley.  The bag held a couple kilos of long beans.  Wendy nearly teared up at the sight.  All were grown from seeds Wendy got spirited in shortly after arrival.  This, I thought, looking at the luxuriant greens, is what hope looks like.  Vibrant life literally taken root in rediscovered self-sufficiency.


Wendy of Outsider, Makogai Sea Mercy
ringmaster while her husband Ian was
recovering from an infection.
We came to Makogai in search of giant clams, a pearl farm and a leprosy hospital and saw none of them (though our friends from Tangatatu did see some giant clams there).  Nonetheless, when we left Makogai five days later, we felt far better for the experience we did have.  Thank you Wendy, Ian, Sea Mercy, the volunteers and the villagers of Makogai.


Makogai-grown cilantro and parsley, from seeds Wendy acquired.











Location Location

This post is a recent retrospective of our time on the Lomaiviti isle of Makogai, anchored at S17.26.530  E178.57.135.  We were on Makogai from June 18-23rd 2016.  From Makogai we sailed to Vanua Levu’s Savusavu, where we spent 3 weeks, from June 24th – July 13th.  Then, after a foiled attempt to sail to Traveuni, we headed to finish our Fiji travels in the Yasawas.  This is posted along the way, from off Nabbuwalu, Vanua Levu (S16.59603 E178.40.965).

Image pilfered from Wikipedia.

Cruising by the Numbers
December 2014 to November 2015 we sailed over 10,000 miles from Florida to New Zealand.  where spent cyclone season.   In May, we sailed 1,000+ miles to Fiji.  Next we’re off to Vanuatu, New Caledonia finishing in Australia, 4,500+ miles later.  There, around November, we’ll sell our boat, travel a bit, then go back to work …somewhere.