Hello! My name is Grant Carey and I am currently a junior at the University of San Diego studying Engineering with a concentration in sustainability.
I am sitting here on the deck of Bobby C (SSV Robert C Seamans), a magnificent ship that I now get to call home, contemplating how best to convey this unfamiliar world that I have entered. Not the unfamiliarity of Fiji, this wonderful country that the crew and I have been lucky enough to have spent the past week and a half sailing and exploring with loud Bulas! of greeting and smiles trailing in our wake. Rather it is the unfamiliarity with the world of a sailor, learning the intricacies of this little floating island, of living a life aboard a tall ship reminiscent of eras gone by. Of being up at all hours of the day, helming the ship through reef passes and laying anchor in lagoons. Of being out on the bow scanning the horizon for ships or other dangers on clear days or in the middle of the night with only the moon and stars to illuminate the way. Of lurching haphazardly through boat checks and around the deck as we crest wave after wave and eating dinner on tables that sway back and forth with every roll of the boat. Most of all, it is the awe that exists being but a speck at sea carried onward by the wind and sails, and of being rocked asleep each night by the swaying of the boat. It has been a day of many moods of scattered rains and light winds, of muddy hikes through the jungle and washing off in mountain streams. Right now, I am sitting here, basking in the sun, awaiting dinner and the end of my watch, enjoying the calm, a calm that comes between adventures. There is the quiet babble of voices people spread across the deck. My shipmates reading, resting, talking and a trumpet tune floating through the air being played by one of the many musicians on board. I take another sip of my freshly picked lemon grass tea and can't help but reflect on how lucky I am to be here. In a far-off place, a traveler in a foreign land yet having the experience of being so wonderfully welcomed. Of people taking the time out of their day to get to know us from complete strangers showing us the best street food to eat and picnicking with us for hours in the grass. To others leading us on hikes through the jungle, and welcoming us into their homes with Kava ceremonies and gifts of fresh bananas from their farms. There is a brisk breeze blowing from the SE, swaying the ship back and forth at our anchorage in Savu Savu Bay. The sun has finally decided to come out from the clouds, accompanied by blue sky and a bluer ocean that surrounds the jagged green landscape. Of to the port side is a forest of greenery. Started by the mangroves along the rocky shoreline and palms on the beach continuing away from us with ridgelines fading off into the distance reaching up to and becoming obscured by clouds that carry with them the whispers of rain coming our way. Rain that always appears to be around the corner, sneaking up on us to wash the salt from our faces, but ending as soon as it arrived. Today, our last day at anchor in Fiji, we all took a trip up into the hills piling into the back of a truck where the sides had been converted into two long benches that we squeezed onto. We wound our way up into the hills father away from the shore going up onto an outlook where we could see the bay way below us and our home this majestic ship bobbing off in the distance at the far side of the bay waiting to take us on our next voyage. A little farther up the road we pulled onto a dirt road winding our way further into the heart of the island past villages and farms with cows and horses munching on grass below the lush palm trees and coconuts way above. We eventually made it to the start of our hike and set off as a group winding our way above the bank of a stream through a mix of farm and woodland. I fell into the back of the group constantly getting distracted by the scenery around us and being taught by our guides about all the different plants that are being farmed such as taro, kava, papaya, bananas. The most interesting, however, was hearing our guide's knowledge of all the natural plants growing around and their medicinal properties. One of the plants, mileaminute, is used for cuts as an antiseptic and for stopping blood flow, other plants and leaves are used to ease upset stomachs or used in place of soap. Eventually after winding our way up the stream slipping and sliding on the mud and clay along the way we entered this little gully and the sound of a torrent of water rushing let us know that we had reached our destination, a waterfall cascading above out of the volcanic rock into a long deep pool framed by steep walls. We enjoy our little moment in paradise frolicking in the water, climbing into alcoves behind the waterfall, showering off in the cascade, and jumping back into the pool. All of this water and volcanic rock was framed by a dense jungle of greenery and the river that left the swimming hole flowing from one pool to the next. Just as it was time to leave some rain showers rolled in and we started our hike back out, accompanied by the pitter pater of rain on the leaves. Our next stop was a geothermal mud bath right off the side of the road. We clambered out of the bed of the truck eager to get into the soothing water especially after getting soaked in the bed of the pickup by another rainstorm as we retraced our pathway to the coast. The mud bath was this pond of clear hot water nestled under palm trees and surrounded by vegetation. I soon discovered that the deeper you dug your feet in the silty mud the warmer it got. Soon I was covering myself fully with mud and laying floating on my back staring into the sky enjoying the heat soaking into my body feeling very at peace. This serenity was soon disturbed by the yelling of "Mud Fight!" and people splashing around as we threw and headbutted mud balls and competed for the best mud hairdos. Satya definitely took the prize as we crowned him Mud-king and decorated the pile of mud on top of his head with ferns and flowers fanning him with palm fronds. I felt that I could have stayed in those pools forever but our time ashore was nearing an end. We jumped into the cars and drove a short ways to a river to cool down and wash off the remaining mud and float lazily in the gentle current. Alas, it was time to say goodbye to land for a little while. The ocean was once again calling and to it we set our course. Back on-board Bobby C I saw Captain Rick Miller in the charthouse looking at the maps, plotting our course for tomorrow, and decided that now was as good a time as ever to learn a little bit more about how he was planning our course for tomorrow. Navigating at sea is very different from using google maps to direct me as I am driving around, or the lake sailing that I am accustomed to. The SSV Robert C Seamans is a much bigger boat, and it is no simple matter to set and strike sails and jibe the boat (and tacking is extremely hard and one needs the perfect conditions so we have yet to do it). Steering the boat is much more about looking at the charts, radar to find a course that is favorable with the wind that will allow us to make it to our destinations with minimal distance, and changes of headings. Modern navigational technology is amazing there are electric charts called ECTS that communicate with short wave radios to overlay our position as well as other boats positions on the map. However, this modern technology is much the same as using the paper charts that are much more fun to hunch over and, every hour underway, plot our course on. In essence navigating with these tools requires one to have an idea of the destination in mind and a mental map of the course that we need to steer the boat on. The captain then plots that course on the map or chart, sets the boundaries ranges on the radar that will alert us if we stray too close to land or reefs and finds the compass bearings that we much follow on each leg of our course will require. Captain Rick then tells us which bearings to steer and the important waypoints points at which we should wake him. It is the job of the rest of the crew to record our progress, weather conditions watch over the boat to ensure our safety passage. As we ready ourselves to leave the island of Vanua Levu I cannot help but be reminded of the last island that we anchored at Ovalau and the old colonial capital of Levuka set on its shoreline with jungle covered mountains and cliffs that rise directly up from town dominating the skyline. Before we went ashore to visit this town Jan gave us something to think on. He mentioned how we are arriving to this island in much the same way that colonialist and colonial powers did in centuries past aboard a tall ship, outsiders to the culture and people that call Ovalau home. I couldn't help but think over the dark colonial past that still defines so much of our society, the implications that this has had in shaping the lives of people living on these islands over the past centuries, and my place within it all. I continue to reflect upon this and will throughout our journey in the South Pacific. Reflecting with a tinge of guilt for being the one to benefit from this colonial history and be fortunate to be able to travel and explore these new places. But also thankful to have my world view opened and to have the chance reflect and question the values and priorities that exist within my own life. With these thoughts ever present in the back of my mind we set off in groups to explore the town and mountains behind. I had my eyes on a few of the peaks that rose up from the town from the moment we landed and was really excited to get a chance to try and find our way to the top of one of them. A group of us wound our way up a road from town towards a valley and a waterfall that we heard was located further back in the mountains. The road soon ended and turned into foot paths that wound their way through the houses in the hills and as we passed by we found smiles filling our faces as we waved hello back to people waving at us curious of where we might be heading. We passed by the house of one family, and they asked us where we were going. We said that we were going to the water fall and mountains behind, and one of them, Mesu, mentioned that he had a house right by there and offered to take us that way. We winded higher and higher up into the hills getting glimpses of the boat and coral reefs off in the distance balancing along the old metal water pipes that brought water to town before. Eventually the houses started becoming less frequent and we transitioned to walking on dirt paths winding passing beautiful flowers and trees. We then took as sharp right off the trail and traversed down to the bottom of the valley. The stream rushed out from above a water fall formed by a giant bolder being wedged between volcanic sides and a quaint pool of water that we could refresh and float in. It was so nice to cool off and take a moment to relax form the hustle of boat life and the heat of wandering around town. The mountains were still calling my name so after an hour or so of relaxing Satya, Susanna and I broke off from the rest of our small group and with vague directions about how to reach the peak, "just trace the trail back a little bit and you will see a farmers footpath that leads up and left", we set off hoping to summit and get a view of the island from above. We soon found ourselves winding our way along the bottom of this valley though small farms of taro, kava, bananas, pineapples, and papayas separated by lush vegetation in between. I really appreciated this style of farming as it seemed to have less of a destructive impact on the environment for small plots of land were used in conjunction with leaving other vegetation to exist as well contributing to a landscape that from afar does not even look like farmland. After winding our way past most of the fields and different farmers working in them we came to what appeared to be the furthest farm up the valley and met a new friend Sammy. Sammy had a radio hanging from a tree playing an eclectic mix of reggae and pop American music and was planting and clearing some vegetation from a fresh crop he had planted. He gave us a friendly "Bula!" and then asked us where we were going. "We were trying to climb one of the mountains" we replied. "Which one?" he asked. "Any of them!" we said happily. He then gave us a big smile and a loud and contagious laugh, a laugh that we were happy to hear throughout the rest of the day and then said "well, you are very lost. Come, come I'll show you." and went to pack up his things. We insisted that we did not want to bother him if he was busy but he said that he was happy to show us the way and that we would never find it without him. He was right on that. We made pour way back down the valley back to just about where we started, crossing streams and filling our water bottles in the fresh water as we retraced our steps. As we came below the base of the closest of the steep peaks to the shore he pointed to a little path and said "go that way" motioning for me to lead. Now I would like to say a path is a strong word, animal track maybe more like it as we wound our way steeply up the side of the mountain with muddy footing and branches to dodge and duck under. I soon realized why he had told me to lead the way the path was barricaded my spider webs just about every five feet some with spiders the size of my hands. I will admit it, I am slightly afraid of spiders, so I led the way forward waving a stick to clear the way watching the spiders scamper to safety and shouting in fright every time I missed a web and walked right into one. After what seems like eternity through the steep jungle with a mere glimpse or two of the ocean and our boat below we caught a glimpse of the rocky peak rising directly above us. We were with reach! We quickened our pace towards the peak and came through out to this rocky overlook. The ground seemed to drop away from below our feet as we looked out at one of the most beautiful views. We seemed to be directly on top of the houses that we far down below us and the valley that led out to the ocean. Our ship looked like a speck below us bobbing in the lagoon with coral reefs tracing the shoreline and forming a lagoon encircling the island. Out in the distance we could see other islands rising out of the ocean and lower lying coral atolls each one holding their own wonders and beauty. We sat on the cliff chatting and admiring the view thankful that Sammy had chosen to take the time to bring us to this magical place. He echoed our thoughts saying "you haven't been to Levuka if you have not seen this view!" Naturally we let the time get the best of us and realized that we only had an hour to make it back to the boat. Wishing we could have slept on top we reluctantly got up and made our way as fast and safely down the mountain as we could. A climb that took us almost two hours to reach the top but somehow made it down in under thirty minutes pausing only to dig for wild ginger and watch as Sammy machete down some sugar cane, peeled off the skin, and passed chunks around. We chewed on the sweet fibers and relished in the wonders of the day as we made our way through the village and to the boat awaiting our return. SHOUTOUTS! To all my family and friends reading this and following our journey I hope all is well and I can't wait to catch up hear how life has been going and share some more stories of adventure with you all! Edawg! Miss you brotha! I hope you are having the best time in Tokyo and are enjoying the school year and having a blast getting to explore all that is new! Love ya! Mom and Dad, you guys are the best! Thanks for giving me this wonderful opportunity and I hope that the new jobs are going well. I can wait to hear how everything is going, and to be reunited as a fam for some more adventures on this side of the world! All the Deerwood crew thank you for an amazing summer there is nothing like getting the best reset on squam to start off a next chapter. To Nana, Susu, aunts and uncles, and all the cousins I love you all lots and hope that you are all having a great school year! San Diego and other school homies miss ya all a bunch hope you guys are all having an amazing semester and can't wait to be back in SD with you all in the spring Isabella, I love and miss you so much. I hope you are having the best time in Madrid and Europe I cannot wait to hear all about it and see you soon.