Day 94, Year 2: From Denarau on the Mainland Back to Musket Cove

Day 94, Year 2: From Denarau on the Mainland Back to Musket Cove
Date: Friday, July 27, 2007
Weather: Another Beautiful Day; Windy Tonight
Latitude: S 17 degrees 46.219 minutes
Longitude: E 177 degrees 11.325 minutes
Location: Malolo LaiLai Island, Mamanuca Group, Fiji

At exactly 10 PM last night, as I sat in Windbird’s cockpit, I watched a plane take off from the Nadi International Airport. I’m sure that was Steve’s flight as there is only one 10 PM departure. In just a few hours he should be landing in Miami, Florida. Unfortunately he had a ten hour lay-over in Los Angeles today so I know he will be exhausted when he finally reaches Fort Myers. We miss him already and hope that he will be able to join us again somewhere along the way. We have more miles
to go than we have come already, so he should have plenty of chances. We had just an incredible time while he was here and we are going to miss him.

Early this morning Mark took the dinghy in to the Denarau Marina to pick up the repaired alternator bracket. We were anchored outside of the marina and it was almost a two-mile dinghy ride in. You can go in to the marina dock or you can anchor inside, but the depths in the anchorage area inside are very shallow. He returned with the bracket and had it installed in minutes. We then both went back in to make some Skype calls using the marina office internet connection.

Anytime we come to land, I have to call my kids. We tried Heather, but she was not online. We then called Justin. He was online working and we had a short but great conversation with him. The connection was not great, but we got to see him and his new puppy, Alphie, via the webcam. His wife, Jo, was not home, so we will have to see her the next time we come to land. They have found a wonderful little two-bedroom ranch to rent in Albuquerque for half the cost of an apartment in Los Angeles,
so they are happy. I then had to have my grandma hit, so we connected with our daughter Heather. Again, the connection was not great, but we did get to see our grand baby Sam. He was much more interested in the computer keyboard and the webcam than he was in us, but that’s understandable. He is so determined, and he really wanted to hold the webcam. Heather and Jed already have an old keyboard for him to bang on as he always wants to hit the keys. So now I guess they are going to have to get
a webcam “dummy” for him to play with. He is unbelievable cute and so curious. He is now six months old and seems so grown-up. This past week, Heather and Jed bought a home close to where they are presently living in Falmouth, Massachusetts. They will be moving at the end of August. After we talked to them, we went to their Picasa site and got to see pictures of the home. It is a beautiful little Cape and I know they must be so excited to finally own their first home. We are very happy for
them. We made one last call to my sister Patsy in North Carolina to get the family news. She and my brother Dickie now both live very close to the beach on the North/South Carolina border, so they have had lots of family visiting this summer. As always, I can’t sing the praises of Skype enough. It is so wonderful to be able to talk to family back home and even see them. Unbelievable. After our conversations, we checked our website and our land-based email. We only get to the see the comments
sent to our website when we are on high-speed internet, and we always enjoy reading those comments. We downloaded our land-based emails and then headed on in to Nadi to do some shopping.

I went to the fresh food market while Mark went searching for a fuel pump. This is an auxillary pump to enable fuel to be pumped from one tank to another, and in the process the fuel passes throught the fuel filter which “cleans” the fuel. We used this pump to clean fuel for the first time a couple of weeks ago and discovered that it had a leak when used in this capacity. Mark was successful in find a new pump and I was successfuly in buying what felt like 50 pounds of fresh fruits and veggies.
We had agreed to meet back at the grocery store on the main street and we both arrived within minutes of each other. I had to get a few items in the grocery store, and then we took a taxi back to the marina. We could have taken the bus for only 50 cents, but that 50 pound bag convinced us that we should pay $10 for the taxi.

All of this took much longer than we had hoped, but we were on our way back to Musket Cove by 1:30 in the afternoon. The wind had really picked up while we were in town, and it was blowing a good 20 knots all the way. Since we had to run the engine to recharge the batteries after our alternator problem, we only rolled out the headsail and motored all the 13.5 miles back to Musket Cove. We are now here and the wind is really whipping through the mooring field. It was a beautiful afternoon, but
late in the day it looked a little like rain. Right now it is really quite blustery, but no rain. So sun, rain, or wind, We are planning to sit tight here for a few days. I want to work on organizing all the pictures we took while Steve was here, do a little laundry, reconnect with Bob and Dianna of White Swan who are here, start researching Vanuatu, and just relax. I’m hoping we can do a little snorkeling as well.

Day 93, Year 2: Nausori Highlands and Farewell to Steve

Day 93, Year 2: Nausori Highlands and Farewell to Steve
Date: Thursday, July 26, 2007
Weather: Beautiful Day
Location: Denarau Island, Viti Levu, Fiji

Since Steve arrived on July 7, we have gone full-tilt and had a great time time doing it. We figured Steve’s last day with us here should be no exception, so we took a full-day land trip, went out for a wonderful dinner in Nadi, and delivered Steve to the airport a bare two hours before his flight home. He’s due to fly out in an hour from now at 10 PM and the way we will know he is on his way home is by standing on the deck at that time and watching the plane fly over.

I’ll back track a bit to some happenings last night after I sent the log and then outline today’s really wonderful land trip into the highlands. Just as I was sending the log last night, Mark started the engine to charge the batteries and found that we weren’t charging. That is always a heart-stopper, but this time the problem was apparent and an easy fix. A bolt that held the alternator mount had broken, so we had a loose belt. Mark and Steve tried and tried with our battery-charged drills to
drill out the bolt, but it just wasn’t working. Today we were able to get the drilling done in the shop at the marina office. We got back too late from our land trip to pick it up, but someone was around who knew the work had been done. So early tomorrow, we will hopefully have that problem under control. In the past few days, we also discovered a leak in a pump that pumps diesel from from one tank to another or can be used to clean the fuel. We need to tackle that fix tomorrow before leaving
here, so tomorrow morning will be busy.

By 8:45, we were picked up by the Viti Eco Tour driver, Henry, and we headed north. The trip plan was to drive from here to Lautoka and then to Ba on the northern coast of Viti Levu. From Ba, we were to head up into the mountains on unpaved road to the village of Navala. After a village visit and lunch there, we would travel on through the mountains to Bukuya and then start the trip down from the high mountains to the Naisori Highlands and back to Nadi. This was an ambitious plan, but we all wanted
to see as much of the interior as we could in one day. And it was a beautiful day. So off we went.

We drove north and made our “drive by” visit to the village Viseisei. This is a coastal village that is the home of the current President of Fiji. Given the coup we are not sure what the status of the “current President” is. We then drove through Lautoka with a Lautoka native at the wheel, and Henry was able to explain many things to us about the local industry. He showed us how the wood chips and sugar are loaded on ships, and he explained the sugar industry in much more detail than we have
heard to date. After stopping by his wife’s restaurant to pick up lunch, we traveled on to Ba. This town is in the heart of sugar cane country, and it was the beginning of our climb up into the mountains. Henry stopped every time we wanted to take a picture of breathtaking scenery, and this seemed to be around every curve. The mix of green sugar cane plantations on mountainsides with yellow grass and black volcanic rock surrounding it is really beautiful. We finally came to one view-point where
we could see the village of Navala. It is nestled in a mountain valley by the Ba River and it is a picture to behold. The village caretaker has basically imposed zoning rules and requires that every home or bure be built in the traditional style. This means that every home has a grass thatched roof with split bamboo woven “siding.” If I weren’t so exhausted, I could go on and on about the beauty of this all Catholic village in the middle of nowhere, but I think I will have to continue the more
detailed description in another log. After a kava ceremony, a walk through the village, a FANTASTIC lunch and visit with our guide Fina, we drove on through the mountains to the village of Bukuya. We stopped to take pictures, but we didn’t have time for a village visit. We started the trip back to the west side of Viti Levu and climbed into higher mountains with lots of tree ferns, one of my favorites. When we finally started making our descent, we could see the ocean in the front of us and enjoyed
views of islands which we had visited just a week or so ago. We made our final descent and got back to Denarau by 4:30 PM. We made a quick trip out to Windbird, about two miles out the pass at anchor, where Steve took a quick shower and got his bags. We made it back to the marina by 5:30 PM and Uma, the taxi driver we met yesterday, picked us up as planned to take us to dinner and then to the airport. We went to a Japanese restaurant we had read about, but we decided this was not the right place
for Steve’s last night. We ended up in the heart of downtown Nadi at Chef’s Restaurant. This was actually a little fancier than we anticipated, but we just settled back and enjoyed the complete attention of the staff and ate the most delicious meals presented just perfectly. Uma waited for us and then took us to the Nadi Airport where we said our farewells to Steve.

Wow! It has been a fast-paced couple of weeks since leaving Savusavu, but we have seen the most incredible sights and experienced the warmth and kindness of the Fijian people. It is now time to kick back and just relax for a few days. So tomorrow after boat repairs and shopping, we will head back to Musket Cove. We’re not sure where to from there, but in no more than two weeks, we know we will be on our way to Vanuatu. It just gets better and better.

070726 Day 93 Viti Levu, Fiji–Navala Village
070726 Day 93 Viti Levu, Fiji–Land Tour on Steve’s Last Day in Fiji

Day 92, Year 2: Musket Cove Marina to Denarau Marina

Day 92, Year 2: Musket Cove Marina to Denarau Marina
Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Weather: Partly Sunny Day Despite Weather Reports for Rain
Latitude: S 17 degrees 45.569 minutes
Longitude: E 177 degrees 22.806 minutes
Location: Denarau Island, Viti Levu, Fiji

I feel like we have come full circle. We arrived in Suva,Fiji, almost two and a half months ago, sailed south to Kadavu Island, sailed east to the Lau Group, sailed back west to Vanua Levu, then back to the north side of Viti Levu, on west and north to the Yasawas, south to the Mamanucas, and now back to Viti Levu. Steve has been with us only two and a half weeks, but I think he has sailed half the miles with us. Our time together since he arrived in Savusavu has been absolutely magical. The
weather has cooperated every step of the way, and we have had some incredible experiences. It has been a wonderful time for Mark to spend this time with his brother in such a beautiful part of the world. Once again, life is good.

Today we left Musket Cove and motored the twelve plus miles to the mainland to Denarau. Actually Denarau is an island, but it is very connected to the mainland by a little bridge. Denarua is home to the Sheraton, the Hilton, and about five other 5-star resorts. It looks much more like Florida than Fiji. We anchored out and took the dingy in to the marina. We visited the brand new shopping center next to the marina, and then walked out to the main road headed into Nadi. We could have paid $10
for a taxi, but we wanted to pay 50 cents for a bus, so we hiked. We met an Indo-Fijian woman at the bus stop, and she explained to us how to get to our destination just north of Nadi. I wanted to go to a town called Namaka to the Fiji Visitor Bureau. I thought they could help us figure out the best way to see everything we want to see in the highlands tomorrow. The woman we me at the bus stop was incredible. She hailed a taxi that charged us the same as a bus, went into Nadi with us, walked
with us to the bus stop, and got on the bus headed to Namara with us. She got off with us at our destination and walked us right to the building housing the Visitor’s Bureau. She didn’t want any money, she just wanted to make sure we got to the right place. She assured us that she was fine walking to her final destination. Once again, we were all amazed by the kindness and sense of hospitality that Fijians have for their visitors. We found the Visitor’s Bureau, and a man named Pate met us at
the front desk, listened to what we would like to do tomorrow, and made some calls and found just the right tour guide for us. The driver will pick us up at 9 AM and we will start our trek. After making these arrangments, we then took the bus back to Nadi.

Our “tourist” destination in Nadi for today was the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple. This is a Hindu temple built in 1994. The wood carvings of Hindu deities were brought here from India. The artists who painted the colorful temple were also from India. This is a Murugan temple and the people who attend worship Lord Murugan, the worship of nature. This particular diety is the guardian of seasonal rains. The temple is unbelievably intricate and colorfully painted, and the ceiling frescos are
beautiful. This temple is only a walk across the street from Nadi’s busy main drag, and it was a very interesting stop. After our temple visit, we walked back through town and visited the Nadi Crafts Market. We then went to Jack’s of Fiji. This is an upscale kind of shop housing everything from Fijian wood crafts to sulas. After our shopping, we made a phone call to a taxi driver named Uma. Robin on Endangered Species called us on the radio this morning and asked to us pick up an alternator
they had left in Lautoka. They had asked Uma drive to Lautoka to pick it up after the repairs. We made arrangements to rendezvoused with Uma at the end our day in Nadi to pick up the alternator and have him drive us back to Denarau.
Uma was very helpful and will come to pick us up at the end of the day tomorrow to take us to dinner and to then take Steve to the airport and us back to Denarau. We will pay for the service, but really not much considering that he will wait for us while we eat dinner. Buses are fine during the day, but at night it is very reassuring to know that you have a Fijian driver that can get you where you need to do on time. A taxi to the airport from here costs $22, so getting Uma’s services for the
whole evening for $45 is good deal. He will wait while we eat dinner and then he will make sure Steve is at the airport on time.

We all look forward to the trip tomorrow. The highlands are beautiful, and we will get to visit the most picturesque village in Fiji. Tomorrow’s adventures sound most interesting to me.

070725 Day 92 Viti Levu, Fiji–Arrival in Nadi

Day 91, Year 2: Mana Island to Musket Cove Marina

Day 91, Year 2: Mana Island to Musket Cove Marina
Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Weather: Glorious Day; NE 5-8 Knots
Latitude: S 17 degrees 46.219 minutes
Longitude: E 177 degrees 11.325 minutes
Location: Malolo LaiLai Island, Mamanuca Group, Fiji

The anchorage on the south side of Mana island was quiet during the night as the winds settled down to almost nothing. We got up early and spent some time relaxing before taking off for a snorkeling expedition around Sand Cay. Mark and Steve went over to the neighboring boat, Manta from Lake Tahoe, to get a memory stick back from Steve this morning. He said he had the fish we had given him last night as sashimi and that it was excellent. That definitely gave us an idea for lunch.

Sand Cay is a tiny little sand island with nothing on it but sand and a surrounding reef with an entrance on the east side. We had decent light and worked our way into the reef and anchored in sand just before the coral shelf. We had a fantastic snorkeling experience with lots and lots of fish. The coral was good, but the best thing about this site is the volume of fish. I saw a couple of fish that I haven’t seen before in Fiji. Unfortunately the sun seemed to stay behind a cloud the whole time
we were in the water and only began to shine brightly once we got out. If we had been in the water when the sun was shining brightly, it would have been an even better experience. We played around for a while when we got back on the boat. Steve and I fed the Sergeant Majors and watched them go into a feedind frenzy over just a few crumbs of whole wheat bread. By now the sun was shining in a bright blue sky. The little white sand island surrounded by turquoise water was just beautiful and I decided
that I could just stay right in that spot forever. But the winds started to pick up a little and it began to get a little rolly, and then the tourist boats came, so we moved on.

It took about two hours for us to pick our way through the reefs to reach Musket Cove Marina. This is a Mecca for boaters in the South Pacific and it is in a beautiful setting between two islands. I had talked to Paul on Ranger this morning and he said they would be back from a two-tank dive by noon and that he would be glad to meet us and lead us to a mooring ball. He called again on the VHF just before we arrived and he helped us tie up to a mooring ball just beside Ranger and in back of Endangered

Paul and Marie came over for a short visit right after we arrived and we conjured up a farewell party for their guest Sharon who is leaving tomorrow. We decided to have sashimi and sushi from the Wahoo we caught yesterday as an appetizer on Ranger and then move to Windbird for a spaghetti dinner. We invited Rick and Robin of Endangered Species and Donna and Gerry of Scot Free II to join us. Mark and Steve went in to the marina office to check in and go to the little grocery store for me to pick
up some salad makings while I stayed on the boat and made the bolognaise sauce. We all gathered on Ranger at 5:30 and came back to Windbird by 7:00. We had a great evening visiting and eating. The Wahoo provided some of the best sushi and sashimi that any of us had ever eaten. What a treat!

Tomorrow we make our way back to the mainland. We are still hoping to do a tour of the Viti Levu highlands on Thursday before Steve leaves on that evening. We have had an absolutely fabulous time while Steve has been here and we are really going to miss him.

070724 Day 91 Mamanuca Group, Fiji–Sand Cay to Musket Cove Marina
070724 Day 91b Mamanuca Group, Fij–Sand Cay Underwater

Day 90, Year 2: Passage from the Yasawas to the Mamanucas

Day 90, Year 2: Passage from the Yasawas to the Mamanucas
Date: Monday, July 23, 2007
Weather: Beautiful Day, Rainy Evening; ENE 12-18 Knots
Latitude: S 17 degrees 40.837 minutes
Longitude: E 177 degrees 06.704 minutes
Location: Mana Island, Mamanuca Group, Fiji

Today was a 64 mile day from Sawa-i-Lau in the north of the Yasawa Group to Mana Island in the southern part of the Mamanuca Group. Sawi-i-Lau was such a beautiful anchorage and as we left, I know we all wished that we had more time to spend there. I know we will never return there on Windbird, but it would be possible to return to Fiji someday and charter a boat from The Moorings to sail the Yasawas once again. We’ll keep that thought on the back burner

We had expected today to be rainy, but it was actually a beautiful morning. We got an early start from Sawa-i-Lau, had great ENE winds to carry us south, and used the motor to assist us so we could make it all the way south in one day. This will give us an extra day to explore this part of the world before Steve leaves on Thursday evening. Mark and Steve put out a fishing line this morning, using our favorite green squid lure with yellow feathers. We got a bite early, but lost the fish and some
of the green squid. We put it back out, got another strike, but this time we lost the “hook, line, and sinker.” Mark then put on the lure that we learned to make from our friends on Chaotic Harmony back in Vanua Balavu. This lure is a 3-pronged hook, a sinker, and a skirt made from a bright pink Bongo potato chip bag. This was the winner of the day. Steve reeled in a 30 pound, 52 inch long fish. We got at least 20 pounds of fish from this baby and will share it with friends when we reach Musket
Cove tomorrow. Mark had taken our rail-mounted reel and put it on a long paint-roller wooden handle that we had aboard. This more-or-less fashioned a rod and reel, but after working for a VERY long time to bring in today’s catch, Steve definitely thinks we need to get a real rod and reel rig. All I could say is that we did catch a very big fish with our little wooden pole and a potato chip bag. Not a bad deal!

We reached the anchorage on the south side of Mana island at 5 PM. We are anchored next to a catamaran from Lake Tahoe, California, named Manta. Once we were anchored, Mark and Steve went over to say hello and to see if whomever was aboard could help us identify the fish we had caught. It looked a little like a barracuda, but it didn’t have any canine teeth. It looked a little like the Spanish Mackerel we caught back in Yandua, but it was so much bigger that it was hard to discern. Steve on
Manta had a Pacific sport fishing book, and he was able to quickly identify the fish as a Wahoo. That was good news because it meant we could actually eat it. Most cruisers don’t take a chance on eating large barracuda as they sometimes carry Ciquertera or fish poisoning. To thank Steve for his information, we invited him to come to Windbird for happy hour. We had a great visit and gave him a slab of the fish.

We pushed to get to this anchorage today so that we can stop at a little patch of sand called Sand Cay tomorrow morning to snorkel on our our way to Musket Cove. This is what is known as the yachting center of the South Pacific. It is a marina with lots of mooring balls located between two islands–Malolo and Malolo Lailai. This is offshore, but will still have laundry facilities, a small store, and at least a couple of restaurants. We will stay at Musket Cove tomorrow night and rendezvous with
Ranger to get my backpack with camera that was left behind in Yadua. We will then head to to the mainland on Wednesday and do a land trek before Steve leaves on Thursday evening. We will then return to Musket Cove and spend a few days relaxing here in the Mamanuca Group before making a final trip to the mainland to reprovision and check-out of Fiji. Sometime in early August, we will begin our trip to Vanuatu.

070723 Day 90 Mamanuca Group, Fiji–Sawa-i-Lau to Mana Island

Day 89, Year 2: Sunday in Nabukeru Village in Sawi-i-Lau Bay

Day 89, Year 2: Sunday in Nabukeru Village in Sawi-i-Lau Bay
Date: Sunday, July 22, 2007
Weather: Rainy Day
Location: Sawa-i-Lau, Yasawa Group, Fiji

Today was a rainy day, but none-the-less, it was a good one. We weren’t sure when we got up whether or not we would be leaving here and traveling south, but pretty soon we made the decision to attend church and travel south tomorrow. Our weather reports told us that rain would be coming this evening and continuing tomorrow, so part of us wanted to go south today in better weather, but the other part wanted one more Sunday church experience in Fiji. That part won.

We went to shore just after 9:30 AM thinking church would begin at 10:00. Sione, the young man that took us to the caves yesterday, met us on the beach. He had heard me say yesterday that I would love to buy some nautilus shells, but that is forbidden on Sunday. Regardless, he told me that his mother had shells for me. I was to come back after church. Mark, Steve, and I then walked to the church. The village children were still in Sunday School class when we arrived. They soon emerged from
the Church. Eleven year-old Kulai that we had met yesterday came out to welcome us and he showed us where we should sit in the church. He then went over to do the first drumming to alert that village that it was time to come to church. Kulai is such a charming young man and we are so glad we got to meet him. At about 10:30 AM church finally started. It was a Methodist Church and the singing was beatiful. The lay clergy was a woman and the minister only gave the final prayer. After church we
were invited by the church spokesman to come to his home for lunch. A couple from Switzerland were also in attendance and invited to lunch. I am constantly amazed by the Fijian people and their ability to feed the multitudes with very little food. We were presented with a wonderful lunch and we will forever remember the kindness of these people.
While we were waiting for lunch to be prepared, Sione motioned to be from a distance, and I went over to see him. His mother had wonderful nautilus shells for me to buy, but I was asked to not say a word to anyone in the village as selling things on Sunday is strictly forbidden. I bought the shells and asked Sione to put them into the dinghy when no one was looking. I also told him that he could keep the copy of “The Blue Lagoon” DVD. I think I have probably corrupted this village for generations
to come with this DVD, but I also think they should see why it is so many tourists flock to this destination.

I’m missing the greatest educational debate in history as I write this log. I’m not allowed to participate since I have to write. Mark and Steve are debating when and how a government should decide to supplement the educaton of students. In Fiji, education is state supported only until grade 8. After that parents must pay.

We are so happy that Steve has been here to experience Fiji with us. We only have four more days, so the clock is ticking.

070722 Day 89 Yasawa Group, Fiji–Sunday in Nabukeru Village, Yasawa Island