May 29, 2017 - No Comments!

DAKU DAYS | 004 | SEVU SEVU

It sounds like a machine gun, or a string of firecrackers exploding in quick succession. Its a hard-to-describe sound, its equally hard to approximate how far off it is, but it catches my attention every time. Blue Mullet, a massive school of them, I guess 150-200 fish of 3-5kg size breaking the surface and jumping through the air in unison. It’s about 800m away past Bat Island, but the noise is so clear it could almost be across the garden. Big Eddie tells me they do it every day, either being chased or spooked by what I would guess is a larger Barracuda or GT.

Today we have to go to Yacata village on the other side of the island to make an offering to become one of the clan here. This grants us a citizenship of sorts that will allow us to swim, catch and eat fish, dive, eat coconuts and basically give us access to the island's natural resources. It's an extremely important part in the whole scheme of things and is our priority number 1 since coming. I had asked Tevita what would happen if we didn't make this offering, he replied with “ Something bad will happen, if maybe not the same day, then the next”. The look in his eye suggested that this was not a play play voodoo doll thing.

The offering process is called “Sevu-Sevu” and we will be giving a bunch of roots wrapped in newspaper from a special Fijian tree to the village chief in hope that he will grant us the privilege of being part of his tribe. He could also say no. But I have been assured that since Eddie Vulakoro, who was once the village headman himself is our connection, this won't happen. Would really suck if we had to pack up our things and head back to the airport.

The Sevu-Sevu tradition being observed, meeting the boss man and delivering the root.

What does one wear to an occasion of this sort you might ask? Well, board shorts and yesterdays suncream aren't really gonna cut it, but I just so happened to bring my Armani 3- button suit for it. Not. There is a typical Fijian design shirt with tribal motif's called a “Bula shirt” that the boy's wear, and a kilt/sarong sort of thing called a “Sulu”. Tevita hooked me up on the mainland by taking me to a clothing store and wrapping me in Fiji's finest imported Pakistani cotton threads. Today I'm balling out in a slick all black pocket ‘sulu’ (it has pockets) and a bottle green and black bula shirt. Awwww yeeeeah!

The whole shabang should happen after the day's church service, since the head man and his crew are in church, we have to wait until they're done. It’s just after breakfast and the breeze coming from the east is most welcome. The humidity is no joke here. Just walking around and doing menial tasks is a chore when you're sweating bullets. I have take out my bedding to hopefully get rid of the moisture by putting it in the sun for a bit.

I’m sort of dreading going to church, partly in fear that my feet will spontaneously ignite should I step on Holy ground, and partly because I’m just not a church kind of person. I've always been more into spirituality and the concept of karma than a book and letting someone else decide what is wrong and right.

The boat ride is usually 10 minutes, but since today is Sunday and everyone is in their finest, we take it easy so as not to splash and get wet. It's a family affair; the whole gang is on board, Eddie, his wife, Eroni, Jiko, Edwina, Tevita, and the Danishes. Along the way we pass a rocky point and some grassy flats, a beach that looks like it has some good structure scattered in between bombies and finally the deeper channel that runs between Kaibu and Yacata. We spot 2 green turtles hovering and grazing. The lagoon and the way to the village look amazing in terms of fishing potential. Definitely a place we will be coming to drift and throw some flies some time soon.

Bula shirt? Check. Pocket Sulu? Check. All in our Sunday finest and ready for the village.

Arriving in the village, it looks incomplete; everything is sort of unfinished, half painted, half built. Tatty I guess is the word. I don’t say anything, but then it hits me as to why. The cyclone. So cyclone Winston hit the Lau group last year and basically smashed Yacata a solid shot in the jaw. Winds of up to 160kmh tore down houses, wrecked the school, flattened storerooms, and basically wreaked havoc on the small village. Eddie points to where his house is/was (what’s left of it). It’s a shell; the husk of what would have been a very nice house. Fuck. I try envisioning what it must be like to be exposed and at the mercy of the elements like that. Scary. The waves and high sea level swamped a lot of the houses closest to the beach. One of Eddie's buddies was stranded at his house until the water receded. All in all, of the 41 structures that stood before Winston, less than half of them had their roofs still on after the catastrophe. A lot of people are still living in makeshift housing structures - tents, outstretched tarps and a few walls pinned together to form a dwelling.

A make-shift house near the beach

The aftermath of Winston

This doesn't change the spirit of the people though. Everyone is so warm and so happy to meet us; they are all very welcoming to us and smile at every given opportunity. The church is an octagonal shaped building in the middle of the village, outside there is a small roofed structure that houses the “lali” - a tree trunk shaped object that resonates like a bell. A tall man is beating it with two thick sticks to make a dull clinking sound. Eddie signals we should find some seats as the service will begin shortly. Basically I understood absolutely nothing of the next 1 1/2 hours of hymns, preaching and church stuff in Fijian. But the choir sang very well, I am fairly qualified to make this judgment as my mother sings in her church choir and I have been forced to listen to a choir piece from time to time.

Sunset over the village. You can see a mix of rebuilt, partially destroyed and temporary houses.

Then comes the exciting part, after the service, we are led to Buli's house. Buli is the acting headman of the village, since El Padrino is back in Suva attending to some business. Buli has two sidekicks, an attaché if you will. We sit down on a woven mat on the floor, it’s a solemn atmosphere. I can sense the formality as nothing is said, its tense. Then finally Eddie says something. Eddie says a lot. It’s all in Fijian. Afterwards he explains to me that he has to present us since we are his guests, state our intentions and vouch for us that we aren't criminals. Eddie then hands over the parcel of magic roots. One of the sidekicks accepts and bows his head and prays for a bit. Then he speaks for a while, and from what my limited Fijian lets me understands, Eddie is saying thank you a number of times.  This is going well I think. Then Buli talks for a bit and looks at my worried face and my Danish companions. Then he smiles and says: “OK”. Eddie gives us a nod and says welcome. We are now free to fish, dive, swim, play in the sand and live peacefully on the island with his family. Pheeew. Stoked. We made it. Officially part of the clan now.

We shake hands afterwards and I thank Buli and his crew for welcoming us and tell them what an utterly breathtaking island they have. His face lights up.

That night we are invited to drink some grog with the local boys and our new family by the fireplace. I have heard about this stuff - both good and bad things. There is a whole process and a ritual behind it, it’s almost as sacred as the Sevu-Sevu process. So its starts with one dude pounding the Kava root into a powder in an oversized pestle and mortar setup, then they have to mix the powder with water in a net of sorts, that holds out the big bits you don't want in your teeth, then its mixed more and more in the big bowl until the other dude is happy with the shade of brown the water is. Then it has to be blessed. Some casual chanting and prayers and the grog is now fit for human consumption.

Eroni, Mereseini, Eddie and Edwina - OceanSouldiers adopted family.

I get served my first bowl, where I am instructed to clap my hands and say BULA! (Fijian for hello) Everyone in the circle roars back at me, “BULA!” I say thank you and put the carved out, coconut shell bowl to my lips and drink. I was expecting worse. It’s not that bad, kinda spicy, kinda sandy. I give the cup back to the guy that served me and everyone says “MATHA!” Then my gums go numb a minute later. Then it’s Chad's turn, then Bee, and its goes round and round until you tap out basically. I wonder exactly how much sand I have drunk now, at least 50 grams? I don’t know. My gums are properly numb and I need to pee. I've had at least 8 bowls of grog now and going against my better knowledge, I have a few more. I’m told this stuff helps you sleep well. I excuse myself and go pee in a bush near the beach. I return to the circle, say good night, basically get told by the local's I’m a soft-cock for not drinking at least 10 bowls more of muddy water. I head for my tent and curl up and drift off into a sleep that I have never experienced before.

Words & Imagery Nic Schwerdtfeger.

Published by: @oceansouldiers in Blog

May 23, 2017 - No Comments!

DAKU DAYS | 003 | OCEANSOULDIERS CAMP AMANZI-WAI

The offloading is taking forever. There are now 3 small skiff's shuttling our myriad of supplies from Brianna to the Amanzi Wai camp site. Bricks, bags of cement, furniture, food stocks, barrels of fuel - basically everything and anything you can think of that one needs to sustain life on an island, is coming off the boat. I sort off take charge on deck and start organising which loads get sent on which boat, counting boxes and making sure they check out against the shipping manifest. I then realise my luggage has evaded me and has somehow been liberated from this shit box. This is definitely a sign. If my luggage can make it off the boat undetected, maybe I can too.

OceanSouldiers Camp Amanzi-Wai

FINALLY! Stoked to call this home for the next few months...

I say to Eddie (Tevita's dad), that maybe we could be of better help on land since they could need some extra help off-loading all the gear. He agrees. Sweet. I’m on the next skiff with a lounge suite, some cooler boxes and a few pockets of onions. Brianna was anchored extremely close to the reef. Pretty shortly after departing form my former prison, we can see through the brilliant aquamarine water onto the shelves of coral. I know this place, not this place exactly, but this vision. How I have missed it. It looks like everything I had imagined, and more, so much more. All the islands we have stopped at the previous few days looked pretty sweet - white sand beaches, green fringed palm trees, great fishing possibilities, but all kind of similar. This however is something different, something unique, something special. I'll tell you why.

The view from the Brianna Barge.

The bow of the Brianna, the crew of the Brianna, and Yacata.

We approach from the northern tip of the island, which a squizz on Google Maps will show you, is the sheltered side of the island where our camp is and the future buildings will also be. It has everything all the other islands have, a massive, lush, dark green centre, the palm trees, and this amazing water with a colour and clarity that is just transfixing. There are some awesome looking flats too, to the west, extending over a point that is close to a very special geographical point named “the waterfall”. Lets take a conservative guess and say 50-60% of the northern coastline is protected and sheltered by a sort of semi-circle of jagged smaller islands. This naturally created a lagoon right on our doorstep. The closest outcrop is 300-400m away from our beach and about the size of half a football field in surface area, I presume. The lagoon itself is pretty big, at least large enough to hide a number of big fish!

Cpt. Chad Kockott on route

My old buddy, Capt. Chad Kockott, fisherman, guide, eco-lodge pioneer and all-round legend.

Its spring tide at the moment, so the difference between low and high is significant, but when it drains out, you can see exactly what you're casting onto. Some pure sandbanks, some deeper channels, some grassy flats, some pocketed reef banks, the odd little coral bombie poking out here and there, and a little section towards the north east that has a jagged rock bottom. The vast majority of the lagoon is fringed by our island’s beach.

I have to say that our position is fairly strategic in terms of the short distance required to reach a range of areas offering different opportunities to catch many different fish species in many different ways. The outer reef is less than a mile run in the boat, you can wade the majority of the lagoon on a low tide and I can only imagine how awesome it must be to drift over the lagoon in a boat at high tide. If you designed a sport fishing theme park, it would look something like this.

The main beach of OceanSouldiers Amanzi-Wai

The white sand beach dotted with black larva coral sets the scene for many a radical day spent on OSC Amanzi-Wai.

Our skiff lands, I hop off and stand on the beach for the first time. I’m here now. So long I've waited for this. Weeks, months, countless packing hours, countless repacking hours, time spent, money spent, hours travelled, but finally, I’m on the island. It’s breathtaking. I can see fairly quickly that the foliage behind the camp is thick and quite unwelcoming. A good mixture of hardwood, coconut palm, paw-paw trees and a few other species I can’t identify grow tightly together so you can see no deeper than 20-30m before things become a blur.

The camp itself is, well, a camp. Nothing fancy here. Chad's tent, another 2 man tent, and a massive blue army style tent, which I later would find out is one of the tents the Chinese government donated to the island when cyclone Winston hit the Fiji islands last year. It obliterated everything. It uprooted 20-year-old palm trees and lashed houses into pieces over the course of 2 days.

Phase 01: Amanzi-Wai tented camp. Rustic but function for the team as they build the Fijian Bure's over the next couple of months.

There is a fire burning in a large fire pit dug into the sand. A few benches, suspended net-chairs, and hammocks surround the centerpiece. Behind this and further towards to the rocky outcrops behind the beach is the HQ. It’s crude, but functional. It’s also going to be my office. A 6x6m industrial tarp stretched over a few 3m high poles, completed with some guide ropes to hold everything taught, makes the base of operations an airy but comfortable area. There is a large, very obviously handmade table in the corner that is supporting a few large Pelicase's. This is the heart of the operation; no one puts non-valuable items in Pelicase's. All our power tools and hand tools are in here. One thing catches my eye - an utterly massive STIHL chainsaw. I am well aware that chainsaw's and angle grinders contribute to the highest number of work related casualties in various industries, but my God, I can’t wait to slay a 30m tall hardwood tree with that beast.

After our skiff arrives, we greet the local people who will, in the next few days, become our new family. There are a lot of new faces and names, the saving grace is that Fijians generally have fairly simple names like: Henry, Mary, and Poppy, to name a few. The offloading starts with a renewed fury as the next skiff arrives with bricks and some bags of rubble. Then the next boat is stacked full with bricks, the next one also, and the next. Eventually, with 12 guys running backwards and forwards up and down the beach we managed to offload 764 cast blocks, 150 bags of cement, 200 bags of building sand, 200 bags of rubble, a lounge suite, food for 10 people for the next 2 weeks, water, 2 x 200l of fuel for the boat and generator, and various other nik naks of small cartons with mainland goodies. After a fairly solid session of physical labour, I’m sweating like a stuck pig. I mean properly sweating, like forearm sweating - you know it’s serious when your forearms start sweating.

Fijian Skiff, Yacata island

The boys running the supply chain to and from the ship to our beach.

After a catch up with Chad and giving Shaun a decent amount of shit for not landing a GT on fly already, we start making dinner preparations, which for Chad is a big thing. We're having chicken tonight, freshly frozen, imported by yours truly from Cost-U-Less on the mainland. Chad hasn't had chicken in close to 3 weeks, so I can understand his stoke. The birds are heaved in a drum of lukewarm water to defrost while the girls boil some sweet potatoes. This is where things get, for lack of a better word, “Afrikaans”. The wheelbarrow comes out, is filled with coals from the fire, and has a big 1inch gauge fence chucked on top. The fence is now the braai grid (Braai is a South African tradition that will bring a manly tear to any patriotic Saffa when done correctly - but basically grilling over an open flame or coal.) The chicken gets chopped, marinated and made short work of, on the braai. I call it “wheelbarrow chicken”.

Wheelbarrow Chicken

Trust the Saffa (South African) to braai a chicken on a fence. In a wheelbarrow...

It’s pretty good - I can’t lie. Sitting back on a hardwood bench taking it all in, the new smells, the idyllic sound of small waves lapping the shore in the background, the feel of soft sand under foot. And lets not forget, the chicken - after 2 days of travelling and 3 days on the boat, either eating very little, or eating crackers, this is definitely a treat. I think I can get used to this. Work, play, fish, and surf. Island life. The ‘stoke’ is high. Every now and then I have a little giggle at where I actually am. It’s real. It’s tangible now. A dream that has been in the pipeline for almost a year finally comes to fruition. I can’t wait to see what the next few days will have in store for us. What fish are we gonna see? What fish are we gonna catch? All these questions and all these possibilities. So, so many possibilities.

I set up my tent, unpack the essentials, move all the technical gear under the HQ tent, and proceed to commandeer half of Chad's neatly organized table. This is going to be an issue, I can see already. Sand free real estate is worth a lot in these parts. I have a lot of things, lure bags, fly boxes, a hardware box, a basic tool kit, a surfboard, a body board, and 7 fishing rods that need to find a home. This is a problem to be solved in the daylight hours. Eventually everything just gets plonked down on Chad's mathematically organized grid of ‘things’. I feel like I’m invading. Am I invading? I get told I’m invading. Yeah, I'm invading. Just for one night though…

I creep into my tent, warm and humid, but the wind is blowing and it makes it bearable. I drift off knowing I’m right, I went left when everyone else went right. I made the right choice, put in the hours, made the sacrifices. I’m here now, I’m committed and I can’t wait to go fishing. Good night.


Words & Imagery Nic Schwerdtfeger.

Published by: @oceansouldiers in Blog

May 12, 2017 - No Comments!

DAKU DAYS | 002 | OFFICIALLY ON FIJI TIME

Its inexplicably humid. The sun isn't even up. I'm sure its around 30 degrees. Whoever wakes me up better have a large spatula to peel me off the mattress. I arise from an unsatisfying sleep a few hours later, only to discover I have slept on a Disney princess sheet in Tevita's house, more specifically, the living room of Tevita's house. Tevita has 5 kids. I know this for two reasons: Two of them are lying next to me, two more in the background screaming at full tilt and the last one is being well behaved helping the nanny make our brekkie.

Tevita is the fixer/driver/organiser on the mainland. He's also a legend. He fetched me from the airport and offered me his place instead of a backpackers, which I went for. You definitely want this guy on your team, like most of the other Fijian dudes  I have met, he's not exactly small. Arms like my legs kinda deal but one of the warmest and most generous, genuine people I have met.

We scoff down some eggs on bread and slurp some instant coffee. The other 2 kids have now woken up and without too much concentrated effort they are now part of what I can only describe as a painful cacophony of foreign language noise with the musical notes of a child's scream.

Fiji. Am I really here? Its all a bit much to take in all of a sudden.

Bags in car, off to Suva we go. It should be about two and a half to three hours to the Fijian capital from where we are currently in Nadi.

The drive is quite something. Imagine what the rain forest and lush landscape of Fiji looks like, take a second and close your eyes and drift off.... Yeah, its beautiful, like that Timotei advert, but better. The thing that really catches me though, apart from the really picturesque landscape is the thing I have been fizzing over for the last few months. The flats. Endless flats. They just keep going.

So, for those of you that aren't fishing savvy, flats are the part between the deep open sea, and the dry beach. Generally on atolls and islands they are fairly large expanses that sort of make up an outer ring around the island. Flats are also where you'll find the majority of the fish species you'll target on a fly rod. Good flats are a wet dream for any fly fisherman. We drive next to the beach for about 5kms, there are literally 600 - 800m wide open flats all the way to the drop off the entire time. This is the big time. The Superbowl of fly fishing could be played here. It only gets better the further away form the mainland you go.

We drive through some pretty amazing looking villages along the way, one especially that is nicknamed “Rugby Town”. Joe Rocococo and some other All Black and Wallaby superstar's were all born here. Fiji loves rugby. Fiji is frothing over rugby. And with good reason, they look like they were born for it. As similar as it is to being in other island groups, the one difference is that here I'm small by comparison to these dudes. (Im a regular sized guy, 1,80m and 80 something kg's) In Indonesia I'm a giant, they all look frightened of me. Here, i'm a pip squeak, a mere inconvenience in physical terms for these guys.

Fun fact though: Fiji recently won the Olympic 7's. The country has also now become the first country in the world to produce legal tender in the form of  7 Dollar note. Yes, a 7 Dollar note. And yes it's because they won the 7's. This becomes quite clear when you actually hold the note and see the entire team is printed on one side, and the coach and captain are on the other side.

The Fijian 7 Dollar note

Apart from the obviously awesome thing this is to do, I'll tell you why it's so awesome. You know what the first thing the US occupation in Iraq did when they defeated Sadam Hussein? They removed his face from all the money. Do you have any idea how empowering that is for the people of a country to have their dictator removed from their money? Massively. Now imagine how proud this small nation of just over 800,000 people must be for their rugby team to win the freakin' Olympics! Well deserved I'd say! In addition the government also dished out what I understand is a pretty chunky piece of land to the entire squad and coaches. I know of a country or two that could take a lesson or two on how to handle their sporting heroes from Fiji....

At the dock, waiting for my barge to leave, it's organized chaos watching these guys load the boat. It just works though, it all comes together. Kinda like watching ants go about there routine, it looks like just frantic movement but I'm sure it makes sense if you're an ant.

Eager Villagers await to claim their new bounty from the mainland

Having worked offshore for a fair amount of time and a considerable amount of that time having been logged on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, you could say I have been influenced by the safety culture there. But lets be real here. I'm South African, we make a plan. The crane operator is a small dude huddled over the control panel of load-sensing valves and arms with a purple towel draped over his head and shoulders to keep the rain out. The flag man looks like he could mow down a wall. With ease. There are a few other guys involved in the loading process, who is crew on the ship and civilian isn't obvious as everyone is in casual clothes, and flip flops. Steel toed boots? Not so much.

Timber, JoJo water-tanks, 23ft skiffs, bags of cement, pockets of onions, sheets of corrugated iron, various other building supplies and veggies are all being slung over one load at a time. A pallet of bricks is divided into 2 piles and slung up without the pallet underneath. I imagine this is a weight issue. The crane looks like it tops out around 1 short tonne. I can accurately guess that a pallet of bricks weighs more than a ton. Everything finds a place, somehow. Then come the fuel drums. 200L items that carry a varied assortment of household kerosene, pre-mixed two-stroke fuel, diesel and run of the mill unleaded. This sort of just gets piled on deck. Then there about 40 12L canisters of propane that also find their home on the upper deck on the bow. We are now a 75m, mobile, one time only potential fireworks factory. Sweet. I cant see a fire extinguisher anywhere, should probably chill though. A fair amount of the cargo is sent below deck into the hold, mostly rice, flour and other harmless dry goods, oh,  and my main bag... Surfboard, all my fishing rods and basically the reason I'm even here.

Loading the final supplies from the wharf in Suva....if you think the boat was full, it's nowhere near what 'full' means in Fijian.

It starts raining. Hard. Really fucking hard. Ok, wow. I actually have not seen rain like this in a really long time. If you've ever seen a tropical rain storm, you'll know what I mean. It buckets down in the port for 30 minutes. The guys doing the loading don't seem phased. Some of them have oil skins and some other rain gear on, some of them just t-shirts and shorts. And flip flops. They just continue grinding and making things fit.

So the way that it works is that we are on a route which requires the boat to stop at 5 other islands after ours. Everything I have previously mentioned is packed in reverse order to make the offloading process as easy as possible. (So our stuff is packed last, and on top of everything else because we are getting off first.) Got it? Right. Then, basically when 90% of the work is done, Eddie (Tevita's dad and our go to guy/stakeholder from the Fijian side ) tells me that the plan has changed, the whole schedule is now backwards.  Essentially meaning we will now be the last to get off the boat instead of the first. Also meaning instead of one night and arriving ten hours to have breakfast on our island, we will spend THREE WHOLE NIGHTS AND MAAAAAYBE ARRIVE ON FRIDAY!!!! I sort of stop listening in order to process this information so I don't hear the exact reason, I later find out it has something to do with the tides and the timing of our mooring. F*&ck.

So I was prepared to spend a night on deck or find myself a little corner somewhere on the boat for the ten hours it would take for our transit, but 3 days and nights? We needed to do something about this....Enter Bee and Em.

I had heard about these two from Chad a while back. They are two medical students from Denmark heading to the island to help the local nursing sister. They seem pretty chilled, a little on edge maybe, but very warm for Scandinavians. I guess you have to be a different breed anyway if you find yourself standing quayside in Suva about to embark on a journey to an island where there is no running water and electricity is a luxury for a few hours a day. Between the two of us and under Eddie's instruction, we get a cabin with 2 bunk beds for the trip. $500 Fijian later we are being shown our new quarters for the journey. I'm just gonna have to be honest here, it's not fancy, not at all. If the outside of the boat is anything to go by it paints a fairly clear picture of what you can expect from the inside. The hardboard interior has had a few coats of paint spewed onto it a while back, the floor is wooden and painted with what looks to be excess green anti-foul paint from the last time the boat was on the rollers. There is a sink and two bunk beds, the one positive is that there is aircon! Albeit, no remote for the damned thing, but working cold air none the less.

Myself, reluctantly enjoying my morning feed of Weetbix, along with Big Eddie, Emm & B.

I have to recall one episode where a mate of mine, a certain Jeremy was on assignment for GQ Magazine I think it was. The new Airbus A380 had just come out, so they booked him a 1st class ticket to Zurich and a 6 star hotel for a few nights, all expenses paid to write about what it was like to live the “fast life” and here I sit on a converted Chinese rust bucket trawler with a certain uncertainty of whether or not we will arrive at all. Amazing the places writing will take you.

Its Friday today, usually offshore in Norway this means cheeseburgers for lunch. Sailing on Brianna , this means you will have a main course of mind numbingly bored with a side of “Please cant we stop so I can throw a popper at that atoll for 30 mins” Its getting bad. I'm revving, I need to get on land and just flick my fly rod, I don't even have to fish, I just want to wander down the beach barefoot and feel the line run through my fingers. We have been at sea for close to three days now, I have done way longer offshore at work before; 3-4 weeks when need be, but there's a difference. Offshore on the NCS (Norwegian continental shelf) is cozy, like  a 5 star hotel, own bathroom, own bedroom, golf simulator, music room, gym, badminton court, sauna and great food. Here, I share a room with five other people and the “shower” isn't fit for a dog-wash. Trust me, when even a western girl doesn't shower for 3 days, you know its bad. The other issue is where to sit. The dining room holds 6 ok maybe 8 at a push per sitting which is fine and well, but when you're 130 people on board it gets really tight, really quick.

Dammit I better catch a lot of fish to make up for this! Its now 09:48. We have stopped at our last unpronounceable destination before our very own. We should be here for two hours or so whilst the boys offload and swap out some passengers. Our ETA is around lunchtime, hopefully the next time you check in here, I'll have something to show for my troubles. Tight lines.


Words & Imagery Nic Schwerdtfeger.

Published by: @oceansouldiers in Blog

May 10, 2017 - No Comments!

DAKU DAYS: THE JOURNEY TO OSC AMANZI-WAI

A REAL-LIFE ACCOUNT OF THE BUILD OF THE OCEANSOULDIERS PRISTINE SPORTFISHING CAMP ON YACATA ISLAND, FIJI AND THE ADVENTURES THAT ENSUE.

I remember the first time I saw a Kingfish. It was in a magazine or a fishing book when I was a about 12 years old and catching sand sharks was about all I did. I remember thinking to myself: “That's a stout looking fellow”, with that massive rounded forehead, big eyes and powerful jaws.

It was a large fish, about 20 kg, and the angler had a fly rod across his shoulders. I had no idea what a fly rod was at the time, it looked like a fancy version of a scarborough reel and a very long toothpick.

I subsequently saw pictures of big queenfish, big kob and other species too. The kingfish or giant trevally as I would later find out was still the most impressive fish I had seen. He looked like a brawler, the kind of drunken lout who was known all over town for being bad news. It would really be the prized jewel in the crown to catch one of those I thought.

My name is Nic Schwerdtfeger, I'm 30 years old, and currently sitting in the mess hall of a 75m government freight barge named “Brianna” with a group of hand poke tattooed men and stevedores in sleeveless shirts. Our current position is 17” 56' S , 179” 57' E, which if you don't have a chart of the Pacific ocean in front of you means that we are in Fijian waters. Leaving the main port from the capital city Suva and on our way to my home for the next few months. An island on the outer rim where I will be involved in building and providing the social media outlet for the OceanSouldiers Amanzi-Wai sport-fishing and surf retreat. I have so many questions, so many expectations, and quite frankly no real idea of what Im doing. This might be what will come to be known as: “ A long series of bad decisions that brought me to Fiji.”

The names Nic, not Nick! A glimpse at my days on the rigs.

 

I have taken off my day job working in the oil and gas business in Norway and decided to go fishing. The opportunity came up when a friend and part of my fishing “family” Chad decided to go on a recce to Fiji, I saw some pictures of some fat coral trout, a Napoleon wrasse that could swallow an unsuspecting child whole and a few sizeable Giant Trevally's from that trip. I was excited for him. Catching fish is always rewarding, catching fish in a corner of the world after having travelled 3-4 days to catch, is something else altogether. Chad made a few trips back and forth with what has been undoubtedly a challenging frustrating and extremely rewarding process. Now the OceanSouldiers business, run by Chad and Ryan, has recently been granted rights on the island to begin building the camp. With all this knowledge and an opportunity to be part of the adventure, I had no choice but to go.

surf camp, adventure travel, surf travel, Fiji surf

The coffin carrying it all. Camera Equipment, lots of fishing tackle, some clothes and i'm good to go.

Fiji? Fishing? Cloudbreak? Reefs? Coral? Warm blue water? Living in a tent? And for once going somewhere cool without having to take malaria medication? How could you not want to go and be involved with something like this? I had to find someway to give up these 'commitments' I had gotten myself into. Work, property woes, family, girlfriend..I had to solve and balance all of these things. As you can probably surmise, I got it right. As one of my rock climbing mentors says, “You win some, you lose some, you can never have it all”. I knew I was going to take a knock somewhere and I did, luckily it was the one that matters the least. Care to guess which one it was?

It's been a long journey, Norway, South Africa, Australia and now finally Fiji. I'm here, i'm ready and i'm amped. It feels like diving in the deep end. I have seen literally 10 pictures of the island and the setup. Coming in hot much? Anyway, ask me about how this ends up in a years time.

topwater lures, halco lures, poppers, stickbaits, giant trevally, spoons, gt ice creams, plugs

Enough poppers, stckbaits and topwater lures to keep me occupied for a while...

I have recently re-found my love for fly fishing. I have also recently befriended a few people that pretty much work to be able to fly fish. I also made the horrible mistake of watching a few fly fishing movies, namely “Waypoints” and “Providence”. My word what an amazing piece of film making Waypoints is, if you fish with any sort of rod, you need to watch that movie, it really is breath taking. It also showed me the diversity that can actually be achieved with a fly rod. This, along with having friends that were very good at twisting my arm, made sure I didn't really have much choice then when it came to packing gear and choosing what I would be taking along for the what is potentially going to be the fishing trip of a life time. I have a Plan A which involves targeting and landing as many species as possible on the fly, and Plan B which is exactly the same but on conventional tackle.

I'll give you a quick run down of the gear situation:

  • Sage 10wt / Shilton SL6
  • Sage 12wt / Hatch Plus 9
  • Back up TFO 10wt
  • Back up Shimano 12wt
  • Shimano BeastMaster / Penn Clash 5000
  • Shimano OCEA BB 250 / Shimano Stella 8000
  • Shimano Kaibutsu 200 / Shimano Twin Power 14000.

All of them are spooled and loaded correctly, from the Hatch Plus 9 with the Scientific Anglers Wavelength Titan floating line and 100lbs GatorBraid on backing to the little beach walking flick stick with 35lbs Gosen braid. Everything also pretty much has a back up spool. A few of the aforementioned items were graciously given/ loaned to me by fishing friends. Namely Brad Hall, and James Christmas. Thanks boys!

Lures and flies are taken care of in varieties and amounts that are worrying. You'll see the pics. I didn't skimp out here.

saltwater flies, saltwater fly fishing, bonefish, triggerfish, permit, discoschrimps, clousers

Locked and loaded with furry critters for the Fijian flats and some for dredging patterns included.

Aside from all of this, I have a surfboard, a bodyboard, (Im that guy...) some snorkeling gear, lots of suncream, a completely new DSLR system with and underwater housing I have never used before and some odds and ends to make life a bit more comfortable while living in a tent for 3 months.

Right, so now that we have gotten introductions out the way. An informal one at that. I guess I'll be your host for the next few weeks, months. Giving you an inside look into the process of what exactly we will be doing with regards to building a fishing camp in what is quite literally the middle of nowhere. Feel free to ask questions, send us chocolate, send us spools of braid, comment, share, like, don't like, whatever.

Suva, Fiji, barge, oceansouldiers, osc amanzi-wai, sportfishing camp, surfing camp

Where it all begins, the barge that carries all the supplies to all the remote islands in the Lau Group.

Im gonna grab some chow now, enjoy the warm wind blowing over the bow and listening to some more beats while I contemplate the next subject for the next piece. 36 Hours on the boat to go. I wonder which fly I'm gonna throw first at my prized jewel? ...


Words & Imagery Nic Schwerdtfeger.

Published by: @oceansouldiers in Blog

May 27, 2016 - No Comments!

Bula! OceanSouldiers Charters is born…

Its been 2 yrs in the making, and the reality of what we are about to embark on is upon us. Fiji, i can honestly say there is no place on earth like it, the people make the place. Time is not checked on your watch, it's dictated buy the sunrise and sunset, midday notifies the body with a rumbling stomach. 

Inst_OSC_Charters

In 3 weeks time i will set of on an adventure like no other. Heading deep into Pacific the Lau group Fiji Archipelago. Where most fish haven’t seen a lure or heard an engine, where footprint-free sand bays and tropical jungle meet one another. 

My last experience of this region was nothing short of mind blowing, the amount of fish patrolling the reef edges, the coral reef and the pacific jungle palm trees that line the untouched beaches, a paradise, a gift from The Mataqali (Clan) of Dakuicake to co owner Chad of Oceansouldiers.

Screenshot 2014-06-28 16.56.42This is where OceanSouldiers will have a base camp, a place we call home.

Screenshot 2014-07-01 12.59.15

Amanzi -Wai (the camp) will begin construction late May 2016 we have 4 months to construct our little piece of history in the making, it will eventually be a fully sustainable eco operation, running on solar and natural water sourced from a well, with some of the best fishing on the doorstep. Mixed in with two life-long mates and their skills, setting a plan to make it a world-class sport-fishing operation.

Screenshot 2014-06-28 16.44.05

We have a few very exiting projects in the pipeline when it comes to giving back to the community, a high-end sport-fishing training facility to enable local Fijians kids to follow their passions just like we have, the opportunity to travel  and become some of the best sport-fishing guides in the world. A solid conservation program to enable the sustainability of this land and the ocean in which we operate, so we can preserve it for centuries to come and a bad ass sport-fishing operation run by the OceanSouldiers.   

Screenshot 2014-06-28 16.39.47

As we embark on this amazing adventure we will be doing an OCS Recce with weekly blogs and video-logs to keep you up-to-date with the progress and the action going on. 

Stay tuned Cpt. Chad
OSCBattalion

Published by: @oceansouldiers in Blog
Tags: , , , , ,