Bula Bula!

August 4, 2023

Abby ten Broek, Smith College, B Watch

Third Mate Olivia Le Blanc tubing down the Nakawaga River. Fiji

Ship's Log

At the dock, Savusavu, Copra Shed Marina

25C, overcast, drizzling

Souls on Board

All blogs from S-310

Bula Bula!!Bobby C. is officially in Fiji! We anchored on August 3rd in Savusavu Bay, and the orchestrated chaos that has ensued has not stopped! First of all: I want to shout out to Captain Rick, fellow student Autumn Crow, and the rest of the crew of the Seamans. Together, with Autumn on helm, they managed to get the Seamans into dock, backwards, into a tiny space that normally holds boats half our size. We were told by the dockmaster that the Seamans is the largest boat to dock at this memory in living memory, and our anchor lines are so big that they had to go around the pillar of a restaurant instead of being secured to the dock. It’s clear we’re the focus of attention in the harbor; passersby constantly stop to take photos, chat with us, to ask for tours of the ship.As soon as we could, we all put on the nicest set of clothes we could and took our small boat to land. LAND!!! Oh my goodness. I cannot describe the weird feeling of being on land after being in constant motion for six weeks. We ran, skipped, cart-wheeled, everything that we could not do on the boat. Then it was back to the boat for watch: just because the boat stopped does not mean boat checks can! However, there is less to do at anchor, so our watches are broken into three-hour shifts with a reduced crew instead of the usual six hours.However, being at anchor watch isn’t everything we’ve done here! Today, we booked a tour: we went river-tubing!  We went off the boat and across the street, and most people loaded into a caravan that took them directly to the spot on the river where we would begin. However, Hallie, Olivia P., Süpi (1st scientist) and I went into the pickup truck that was picking up our lunch and the innertubes. Our driver and tour guide, Michael, talked with us the entire time about Fiji, pointing out landmarks and telling us about their history. The three students in the back talked as we could, but we were mostly just stunned by the whole experience. We were actually in Fiji! On land! It was incredible, and we were just staring gawk-eyed at the mountains, the trees, the animals (we saw many cows, pigs, and dogs, and a mongoose!!), and all the things we hadn’t seen in six weeks—but what really struck me was the smell. Before going to sea, I didn’t know that land has a smell, and then we were enveloped in it, zooming through the countryside in the truck. Fiji smells sweet, like coconut and fresh rain and dirt and growing things.After half an hour, we popped out of the jungle and found ourselves with everyone else, waiting for us. We grabbed our innertubes and hopped in the river, zipping along. We all had such a good time!! Some people chose to float in rafts, hooking their legs together, while others chose to be solitary, floating along. I did a bit of both, enjoying moving from chatting and splashing to quietly rotating, enjoying being in one of the most beautiful places in the world. In addition, the weather was overcast with rain drizzling off and on, so we had the entire river to ourselves.As a biology major, I have spent some time studying plants. In one plant evolution class, we learned about the progression of plant life from single celled organisms to ferns, to gymnosperms (pine trees, essentially), to the shockingly recent development of angiosperms, flowering plants that work with insects to propagate. So, one can imagine my absolute delight that, along the river, I saw tree ferns. TREE FERNS!!! Tree ferns, for those who don’t know, look like small palm trees, around eight to twelve feet tall, with smooth trunks and a bunch of fronds sticking out the top. But they are not actually trees at all: they are ferns, and they are a part of a super interesting step in plant evolution where things started to grow up instead of just spacing out along the ground. I had only seen them twice in my life before: in the plant house on my college campus, and in the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston. And here they were, everywhere along the riverbank, along with so many tropical plants that I had only read about, turning the mountains a vivid emerald in the fog. In my excitement, I disturbed the peace of the morning by pointing out every tree fern, cool plant, or cow that I saw. Fortunately, my shipmates are very used to me shouting “OH LOOK!” at every seabird I saw during the trip, so I don’t think they minded too much.After about two hours, we got off and quickly ate our lunch. After a few of us had a good time jumping off a rock into the water, we drove to our next location. At a nondescript location, Michael pulled over. He took us then through a hidden path in the brush. At the other side of this secret tunnel, we found a lightly steaming pool that smelled slightly of sulfur. This was a hot spring: a place where the volcanic activity that built Fiji warms up underground water that pools on the surface. We took off our shoes and hopped in.This was my favorite part of a very good day. The warm water felt incredible after a long, wet, chilly morning. There were little holes on the bottom of the pond where the hot water came from, and we splashed around, and we shifted from the hot spots to the cool ones, foot to foot. The volcanic mud that forms on the bottom of these ponds is supposed to be very good for your skin, and we made mud masks and later mud moustaches out of it. But this was my favorite part of the day because the hot spring gave everyone a chance to relax. Being on board, you are always a little bit on duty. You are on watch six hours out of every eighteen hours, and even when you are stood down, you are always aware of the things going on the ship, when sails are being set, when science equipment is being deployed. And 1/3 of your friends are on watch at a time, so even in the confined space of a ship, you don’t get to see everyone as often as you would like. I got to be fully off duty and having a good time with everyone for the first time of the trip. We have gotten so close during these six weeks, and these few hours we had relaxation and fun, a celebration of our community. I am truly sad to leave this place, this boat, these people. Having time to appreciate the hard work we have done sailing here and building ties together wasn’t just the icing on the cake of this trip. It was a necessity. After the pool, we went to another section of the river to wash the mud off, and then B watch had the deck again! After watch, the students of B watch, our mate Olivia LeBlanc, and a few other students ended the day with dinner ashore and ice cream. B watch then got a full night’s sleep for morning watch.We leave Savusavu tomorrow. I am so glad we got to see Fiji together, even for a few days. Honestly, during the lovely timelessness of being on board, the pleasant eternity of routine, I had forgotten about Fiji. It’s been a pleasant surprise, but also a reminder that the time of S-310 is ending. I feel so bittersweet about the whole thing: I loved life on board like nothing else in my life, and while I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family again, I could stay out here, blue water sailing, forever. Fiji allowed our last little taste of the trip to be sweet: and for this I will be forever grateful.Abby ten Broek, Smith College, B WatchShout out to my parents: Hello! I’m so glad we got to talk a few days ago when we got service: I can’t wait to see you! Less than a week! For Ness in particular: I love you so so much, and I can’t wait to talk to you properly when I get to our final destination! I miss you, but I will hang up on you if you spoil ANY of the Barbie movie for me. To Cezanne: Dad told me you were reading the blog! I miss you and I want to hear all about your summer. Also, I need to go on a hike after six weeks on a boat. Hopefully we can make that happen :).To Sam’s family: He says that he can’t wait to see you all! To Luca: Sam is at 4,360 pushups and he tells you to catch up.

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