Day 100, Year 2: Getting Closer to Leaving Fiji

Day 100, Year 2: Getting Closer to Leaving Fiji
Date: Thursday, August 2, 2007
Weather: Sunshine is Back–Beautiful Weather
Location: Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji

We had red sails last night and today was a sailor’s delight. Paul of Ranger asked me what “sailor’s delight” means–good winds or sunshine or both? I never really thought about it, but when I see red sails at night, I think the next day will be sunny with moderate winds. And that is what today was, except the winds were from the wrong direction for us. But we only had to move about twelve miles, so we motored and enjoyed the delightful day.

Today was all about getting ready for the passage to Vanuatu. Passages always mean talking to our children before we leave, cooking food for the passage, checking the weather, and doing the last minute shopping. And that is exactly how we spent today.

We stayed right on schedule this morning. We met Marie and Paul of Ranger on shore at 8:45 and walked out to the round-about where we could catch a 50 cent taxi. We were in town and on our computers by 9 AM. The most important “getting ready for passage” task for me is talking to our son Justin and to our daughter Heather. I thought that Mark had emailed them and prearranged 9 AM calls, but we had a miscommunication. He had emailed them that we would call at 10 AM our time, but it all worked
out. Since we were an hour early, Justin’s computer was asleep and we could only reach his cell phone to leave a message. Heather was not online, so we called her cell phone and only got a message. But within minutes, both were on their computers. We ended up talking to Heather first, and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing Heather and Sam. Jed was not home, so we missed seeing him today, but Sam certainly kept us entertained. He is still absolutely fascinated by the webcam on the computer, and he
spends his entire time trying to find a way to grab it. He has the biggest, most beautiful eyes I have ever seen (grandmother’s opinion), but they are also the most intent eyes I have seen. You can sense that when he sees something he wants, you will be hard pressed to keep him from it. Poor Heather and Jed. I think they are going to have their hands full with this little one! Heather said that they will be in their newly purchased home by September 1, so her next month is pretty well taken
care of with moving.

We then talked to Justin. He didn’t have his webcam on so we didn’t get to see him. He and Jo have just moved into the home they are renting in Albuquerque and Justin says it is wonderful. Their puppy, Alphie, has a fenced yard which they are very happy about. So both children seem to be doing great. We aren’t sure what the internet situation will be in Vanuatu, so we don’t know how often we will be able to talk to them from there. I don’t know if I could have sailed around the world ten years
ago when talking to people back home was not so easy and affordable. That contact with family is what keeps me going out here.

While we were talking to Justin, Mark was at the same time playing around with uploading pictures to the website. We have not been able to do that since leaving Suva, so he was just checking it out. What he found is that Nadi has a great connection and he was able to upload quite a few pictures beginning with our arrival in Suva. Justin has received the CD we sent him with the pictures, and soon he will try to get the rest uploaded. I’ll be sure to mention when all of the pictures up to our arrival
in Savusavu are posted. The pictures from Savusavu onward will either be uploaded in Vanuatu or sent to Justin from there.

While Mark uploaded photos, I did the last minute shopping. We had set 11:30 as the last possible time to leave town and head back to the boats, so that is when we hailed a taxi, went to the butcher’s to pick up the meat we had ordered yesterday. As soon as we had the meat, we headed directly to our boats to get that put in the freezer. Both Ranger and ourselves made one more trip back in to the Denarau shopping plaza for last, last minute shopping, and then we were on our way to Lautoka where
we have to check-out of the country. White Swan and Maggie Drum left at the same time, and we are all now in Lautoka. Tomorrow morning we will check-out with customs and immigration and either head to Musket Cove for tomorrow night and start our passage on Saturday morning, or we will just keep going once we leave here. Since starting out on a passage on Friday is supposed to be bad luck, we might just tuck into Musket Cove for tomorrow night (our Friday), and head for Vanuatu on Saturday morning.
It is a four to five day passage, so we will be in a new country by next Tuesday or Wednesday if all goes well.

070802 Day 100 Viti Levu, Fiji–Denarau Anchorage and Cultural Shows

Day 99, Year 2: Busy, Busy Day

Day 99, Year 2: Busy, Busy Day
Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Weather: Rainy Day
Location: Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji

It was a busy, but productive day. Marie of Ranger and myself motored into Denarau Harbor by 8:30 this morning, dropped off one of our propane tanks to be filled, and started walking the half mile to a place where you can catch a 50 cent cab instead of a $10.00 one. We first went to the butcher shop to order meat and have it vacuum packed and frozen, ready for pick-up tomorrow morning. Next we walked to a bus stop and took a bus north to Namaka, a town north of Nadi. Here we shopped for groceries
in the big MH store. We filled the back of a taxi and were back at the marina by 11:30. While we were gone, Mark and Paul brought the boats into the Denarau Marina from the anchorage outside. It was rainy and windy, so they both got on Windbird and brought her into the dock first. They then went out and brought Ranger in. By the time Marie and I returned they had just gotten both boats docked and were waiting to fill up with fuel and water. Marie took her things and went down to the dock and
sent Mark up to help me. The place where taxis have to drop you off here is far from the docks and I had way too much stuff for even two of us to carry in one trip. Somehow we ended up with four of the new shopping center security guards helping us to carry all of our groceries. I can’t believe it took six of us. I’m not sure how we will eat and drink that much food in six weeks!

Shopping is just the first step. Finding a place to put everything away is the real trick when provisioning for long periods of time. I barely got started putting things away when Mark called for help in filling the fuel tanks. One of us fills while the other one stands by the fuel tank vent to catch any fuel that might come out. This was a high pressure fill, and it easily blew fuel out the vent. Finally the fuel and water fill-up was completed and then we had to move the boats off the dock
and out to an inner anchorage. The wind was blowing the boats hard against the dock, so getting off was not easy. We tried walking Windbird backward along the dock, but this was very difficult with the wind. Three Fijian workmen came to help and it was amazing how easy they were able to push the boat off. We anchored Windbird and then Paul came out in his dingy to get us to help get Ranger off the dock. The workmen had gone to lunch, so they weren’t there to help, but luckily the wind died and
getting Ranger off was much easier. Mark and I took our dinghy out and I picked up Marie for the second round of shopping. I left Mark on Ranger as they were going to have to re-anchor in another location. By this time it was after 2 PM, so we walked fast to get to the place to catch a cheap cab. This time we were headed into Nadi to the fresh food market and to do a few other errands–check on exchanging money, trying to find a new dinghy anchor for Ranger, buying a few more small items at the
grocery store, and the buying all the fresh veggies and fruit. The passage to Vanuatu is only four or five days, but where we will be coming in to the country, we aren’t sure we will be able to buy fresh food. So we are stocking up.

By 4:30 we were in a cab and on our way back to the marina. Now there was more stuff to be put away and by 6 PM we were on our way to dinner and to a Fiji fire walking show. I must say this was one of those evenings that just didn’t pan out to be what we had hoped. We ate at a new Indian restaurant in the new Denarau Port shopping center. Dinner was fine, but nothing to rave about. We then hopped on the free Denarau Village shuttle and got to the Westin Hotel just before 8 PM when the fire walking
show was to begin. We had been told it would cost $15 per person, but it cost $24 per person. That was a bit of a bummer, and then we saw that a Fijian cultural show was just about to end and we realized that we were also paying for seeing that. We saw two minutes of “culture” and 22 minutes of fire walking, costing us each $1 per minute. I didn’t want to leave Fiji without seeing the fire walking, so now I can saw I have seen it. At least we were able to catch the free shuttle back to the marina.
As one of us noted, that might have been the highlight of the evening.

The weather appears to be changing and we might not need to leave here as quickly as we thought yesterday. Tomorrow’s first job is to go into town to the internet cafe to check weather and talk to our kids via Skype. After checking the weather, we will make a decision whether to rush on to Lautoka tomorrow to check out, or whether to stay here until Friday morning and then make the move. More immediately, I am sitting here looking at piles of canned food that need to be put away, so I had better
quit writing and get to work.

Fwd: Day 98, Year 2: Back to the Mainland

Day 98, Year 2: Back to the Mainland
Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Weather: Mostly Cloudy Day; Some Sprinkles
Latitude: S 17 degrees 45.560 minutes
Longitude: E 177 degrees 22.835 minutes
Location: Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji

Once again the weather rules. When weather was downloaded this morning, we saw that today and tomorrow were going to be days of light wind, and then Thursday and Friday are supposed to be days with 15-20 knots from the east. This meant it was best to head back east to the mainland today or tomorrow and get ready to leave for Vanuatu as soon as possible. So the decision was made to go snorkeling and then leave Mana to go back to Denarau today. Provisioning will happen tomorrow, and then on to
Lautoka on Thursday to check-out of Fiji. This is much faster than I had anticipated, but as I have said before, I know it is time to move on. I just love it here in Fiji and am having a hard time convincing myself that there are other places in the world that might be just as beautiful. I had hoped to have time to try once again to send photos to our website and to talk via Skype to our children. I still hope to be able to talk to them on our Thursday morning, their Wednesday afternoon, but
I’ll just have to try again with photos in Vanuatu. I did send a CD full of pictures to our son Justin a couple of weeks ago and I’m hoping he will be able to post the photos of our first weeks in Fiji soon. The others will just have to wait. I just wish so much that I could share with you the beauty here in a more timely fashion.

Snorkeling on the outside of the reef off Mana this morning was wonderful. Paul and Marie had dived this site a few days ago, so they knew just where to take us. We snorkeled out along the edge of reef and then came back snorkeling on top of the coral. I saw a couple of fish I had never seen before and loved snorkeling along the coral wall where there were larger fish on the edge. Mark is loving the underwater camera I gave to him for his birthday. Underwater photography is tricky, but he is
capturing a good number of the different fish we see out here. The fish move quickly, so getting a great photo takes a lot of patience. We must have been out for way over an hour this morning before we headed back to the dinghies. Marie and Paul had dropped an anchor and we were tied to them. Unfortunately, the anchor line got twisted around a piece of dead coral and there was just no way to get it up. Ranger’s dinghy anchor will rest forever on the coral ledge off Mana and they will look for
a new anchor tomorrow. Even with that problem, it was a great snorkel and it might be our last in Fiji.

We arrived back in Denarau around 3 PM. We anchored outside as we did when we brought Steve here a few days ago. That means that you dinghy in about a mile or so to the marina area. We went in as soon as we got here and checked in with the marina office about bringing both Windbird and Ranger in tomorrow to get fuel and water. We made the arrangements and Mark and Paul walked over to check out the dock where we will bring the boats for refueling. Mark saw Mike on Good News, the big catamaran
that we met in the Blue Lagoon, and he went by to say hello. We then walked over to the new shopping center and checked out the “Yees” food store. Yees has those hard to find items in the South Pacific. It is very similar to a Costco. We left the shopping center, but before going back out to our boats, we dinghied over to visit with White Swan and Maggie Drum. They are both anchored inside the marina area. Actually, they weren’t there, but as we started to leave, we saw a dinghy headed our
way with four people. It was Bob and Dianna, and Joe and Cindy. We rafted up our dinghies and talked about our shopping plans and our plans for leaving here. They are also getting ready to leave for Vanuatu in the next few days, so we will probably be making the passage at the same time.

We invited Paul and Marie to stop by Windbird so that we could make our plans for tomorrow. It will be a pink and blue day. The “pinks” will take one dinghy in early in the morning and start the food shopping–ordering meat from the local butcher to be packaged and frozen and picked up on Thursday morning, going to Namaka to the big MH (Morris Headstom) grocery store for paper products, canned food, flour, noodles, etc.). The “blues” will work together to take one boat into the marina to refuel
and then anchor inside. They will then come back out and take the other boat in. Sometime around noon, the “pinks” will return with the first food from the grocery store, and then head back out again to go to the fresh food market. Once we return with the second round of food, we will get ready to go out to dinner and to a fire-walking show at one of the local resorts. It will be a full day, but we will be ready to leave for Vanuatu and that is the goal. We’ll also check weather on the internet
tomorrow which will help us with longer term planning. The weather we get via Ham radio gives us a day by day report, but it really helps to get the longer-range reports. Once we see those reports, we can make some decisions about when exactly to leave Fiji. We will check-out on Thursday with full intentions of leaving, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, we will hang out in the out-islands until the right time to leave.

080731 Day 98 Mamanuca Group, Fiji–Mana Underwater

Day 97, Year 2: Happy Birthday to Marie

Day 97, Year 2: Happy Birthday to Marie
Date: Monday, July 30, 2007
Weather: Another Beautiful Day
Latitude: S 17 degrees 40.848 minutes
Longitude: E 177 degrees 06.701 minutes
Location: Mana Island, Mamanuca Group, Fiji

I was up early this morning in hopes of getting in one more Malolo LaiLai snorkel before moving back to Mana Island, but lucky for us, Joe on Maggie Drum came over with tools for measuring the output of our batteries. We are not getting the charge that we once did, and Joe was willing to look at our system this morning and give us his opinion. So snorkeling was put on the back burner. We found out that the alternator is putting out more amps than we are reading on our display. We’re not sure
why, but at least we are getting the power. That is a good thing, but something is still not quite right, so after Joe left, Mark wanted to do some more checking on the system. We decided to wait and snorkel when we arrived at Mana so he could work on the battery system. I took advantage of the time to work on organizing pictures. One thing led to another, and it was 11:30 AM before we were ready to leave Musket Cove. Paul and Marie on Ranger left at the same time as we did, and we arrived inside
the reef at Mana at 1:30 PM. Shortly afterward we were in the water snorkeling near that anchorage. There were lots of fish, but it was certainly not a 5-star snorkel site. Tomorrow we will to outside the reef to a place where Paul and Marie dived last week. They think it will make a phenomenal snorkeling site, so I can’t wait for that.

Paul and Marie invited us to Ranger for a birthday dinner celebration. We had burritos with New Zealand pork which were fantastic. Tomorrow we will snorkel outside the reef and then make a decision about when we will head back to the mainland. White Swan and Maggie Drum headed to the mainland today and will be leaving for Vanuatu by week’s end if all goes well. Scot Free II is already on their way to Vanuatu, and Safina should have arrived there today or tomorrow. It is time to get moving.

Day 96, Year 2: More Snorkeling; More Planning for Vanuatu

Day 96, Year 2: More Snorkeling; More Planning for Vanuatu
Date: Sunday, July 29, 2007
Weather: Beautiful Day
Location: Malolo LaiLai Island, Mamanuca Group, Fiji

We got an email from Steve saying that he got home safe and sound. He did have a problem with his flight from LA to Miami, but despite the glitch, he made it home to Fort Myers safe and sound. Steve, we miss you.

Where does the time go? I had hoped to spend the entire day working on organizing and naming photos from the past three weeks, but that just didn’t happen. We went out to the reef to snorkel with Marie and Paul of Ranger early this morning. I did come back and work on pictures for about an hour, and then it was time to head to land for an early afternoon walk to the top of the ridge. We had beautiful views of the anchorage and the surrounding islands from there and it was definitely worth the
time spent. We visited a gallery on the hill, walked through the resort and the restaurant there, and ended up in the little grocery store. I had hoped to get in an afternoon snorkel, but by the time we got back to the dinghy we had all lost interest. It was late in the afternoon, and we decided it was best to spend our time doing a little Vanuatu planning. We went to Ranger and sat in the cockpit with books, charts, and notes, and successfully outlined our first sailing plan for the next six
weeks. We now at least have a plan from which to work and change.

Once again, the time had slipped away from us. It was time for dinner. We decided to cook together on Windbird instead of going to shore for the Sunday night barbecue. We had a great dinner, continued our Vanuatu planning, and even started seriously planning for the rest of this week. Tentatively, and I mean very tentatively, we are thinking that we might leave here tomorrow afternoon and move back to Mana Island. There are some wonderful snorkeling sights close to there. Tomorrow is Marie’s
birthday, and going to a great snorkeling site is her wish. We might come back here on Wednesday in time for the meke, including song and dance, on Wednesday evening. Whatever we do, no later than Thursday, we will sail to Denarau to begin the provisioning process, and work our way to Lautoka by next Monday for check-out. We will then be on our way to Vanuatu. There is still a lot of planning involved before final, final decisions are made–but we are well on our way.

070729 Day 96 Mamanuca Group, Fiji–Sunday Walk at Musket Cove
070729 Day 96b Mamanuca Group, Fiji–More Musket Cove Underwater

Day 95, Year 2: Busy Day in Musket Cove

Day 95, Year 2: Busy Day in Musket Cove
Date: Saturday, July 28, 2007
Weather: Beautiful Day
Location: Malolo LaiLai Island, Mamanuca Group, Fiji

We really, really tried to have a day of rest today, but somehow we have trouble making that happen. We got up early and Mark decided to take the bag of dirty sheets and towels to shore to wash. He had to go into the office to check us in, and the laundry is just next door. Somehow he was lucky and got all three washing machines. He easily filled them and returned to Windird an hour later with lots of things to hang on the line to dry. It costs $6 a load to wash and another $6 to dry here, so
drying on the boat lines makes much more sense than using a dryer. When Mark returned, Joe from Maggie Drum came by to visit, and not long after that, Bob and Diana of White Swan came by. We hadn’t seen them since New Zealand, so it was great to reconnect. They had just come back from snorkeling and they encouraged us to go out to see the beauty.

We went out to the white sand bars just offshore from the marina and had a great time snorkeling amongst the the shallow coral heads. The fish here are obviously used to humans which makes them most friendly. I saw an octopus today and Mark had a great time taking pictures with his new underwater camera. I absolutely loved snorkeling here. It is the kind of clear water that allows you to see above and below water at the same time. It was very shallow, but even at low tide we could snorkel above
much of the coral. Tomorrow we will go back earlier in the morning when the tide is higher and see what that is like. Today was just so sunny and beautiful and the sunlight was dancing below the water. It was wonderful.

When we returned to Windbird, we took showers, and I captured that water to do the rest of the laundry. By the time I was ready to hang out the clothes, the sheets and towels were dry and ready to be taken down. While I did the laundry, Mark worked on turning around our front hatch. For some reason, all of the hatches on this boat open the wrong way. They should open toward the front to allow air to enter the boat, but our hatches all open in the opposite direction. After a lot of hard work,
Mark was able to lift the hatch and get it turned. So much for a day of relaxation. I think we thrive on activity and rest just doesn’t fit into the picture. Maybe tomorrow.

This evening we went to shore to the little island with the Musket Cove Bar and outdoor grill. The bar supplies dishes and silverware, so White Swan, Maggie Drum, Endangered Species, Ranger, and ourselves each brought a dish to share and our own meat to grill. It is really quite a nice little arrangement for cruisers. All of the facilities here are wonderful, and after a couple of months of being in the outback, this seems very nice. We will probably stay here a another couple of days before
heading back to the mainland to reprovision and check out for Vanuatu. We might be able to come back here after checking out and wait here for our weather window. I think that would be great. It’s much more like the upscale parts of the Caribbean than it is like Fiji, but it is a great stopping point.

Tomorrow is Diana’s birthday on White Swan and Monday is Marie’s birthday on Ranger. Sounds like we could have two days of celebration. Happy Birthday to Marie and to Diana.

070728 Day 95 Mamanuca Group, Fiji–Saturday in Musket Cove
070728 Day 95a Mamanuca Group, Fiji–Musket Cove Underwater