Monday, November 30, 2009

Welcome Riley Lynn Page

December 1, 2009--On November 6, 2009, we welcomed our granddaughter Riley Lynn Page, who was 8 pounds 2 ounces and 20 1/2 inches long. Our daughter Brie and her husband Tim are very proud parents, and we, of course, are proud grandparents. We spent two weeks in San Diego enjoying our time with her and her parents. She is such a blessing to all her family, and we are grateful that she is so healthy.

Our future sailor!

Since returning to the states in mid-October, Steve has been very busy organizing and purchasing the charts necessary for this next season. We plan to leave Fiji around the first of May and travel to Vanuatu, the Solomons, Papau New Guinea, and through the Torres Straights to Darwin, Australia. In Darwin we plan to join the Indonesia Rally, which leaves Darwin in mid-July. We will then travel through Indonesia to Singapore and on through Malaysia to Thailand.

This season will require additional electronic and paper charts, as well as cruising guides, and we have worked very hard to make sure that we have what we need. We have also ordered a new radar/chart plotter and other assorted items; however, we are limited to what we can carry back to Fiji on the airplane.
Steve and I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Our travels have made us realize just how blessed we are and how grateful we are for our family and friends. May God bless you all and watch over you during the holidays and the coming year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On the hard in Fiji

October 14, 2009—The past week has been a very busy one. After arriving at Vuda Point Marina, we immediately began cleaning the boat and preparing to have her hauled out. We hoisted both sails in order to wash them and let them dry, and we washed down the topsides. We had not been able to give the boat a good wash for quite awhile so she was really in need of some TLC. The good weather held for the first five days that we were in the marina, and we were able to get a lot done.

On Friday, October 9, we left our slip and pulled into the boat lift. Chris from sv Wind Dancer came on board to help us with the lines to hold the boat in position while George swam around the boat making sure that the lifting straps were in place. Moe is the travel lift operator and did a great job lifting the boat from the water.

The boat was moved to the wash down pad where George used a power washer to clean the bottom and propeller. We were very pleased that there was very little growth on the bottom and no growth at all on the propeller. We had “Prop Speed” applied to the propeller in New Zealand, and it was well worth the price because Steve did not have to clean it once.

The next step was to place the boat into the pit that was dug in the ground. After making sure that the hole would accommodate our keel and rudder, Moe carefully lowered the boat while George guided him. When she was sitting correctly, George placed stacked tires around the hull in order to hold her in place. When she was secure in the pit, George released the lifting straps, and Moe pulled the travel lift away from the boat.

We got a bure at the First Landing Resort right next door and then spent the next three days cleaning the interior, removing lines from the deck, and covering important items with plastic to protect them while we are away. I also cleaned the interior with vinegar in order to keep the surfaces clean.

After that work was finished, we began moving items from the deck down below. The dodger and bimini were removed and placed on the forward berth, along with our sail bags. We also moved our cockpit cushions below to keep them out of the sun and to prevent them from blowing away in the event of a storm. Anything that could blow away or cause damage to other boats was removed and stored below. Steve also placed storm boards over our large port lights in order to keep them from being broken by flying objects.

I cannot list all the work that is involved in leaving the boat on the hard during cyclone season. It takes a lot of work to get the boat prepared, and that is why many cruisers never leave their boats for any length of time. Our effort was complicated by two days of heavy rain that soaked everything, and storing wet items below is just asking for mold problems.
We finished our work on Tuesday, in the rain, enjoyed a chicken curry lunch at the Yacht Club, and then took a taxi to the Nadi Airport where we booked a room for two nights. John and Renee from sv Scarlet O’Hara joined us until their plane left for Los Angeles that night. The Raffles Gateway Hotel is a nice place with lovely swimming pools; however, we are now anxious to be home.
Because we will be off the boat for a few months, I will not post another blog on December 1. We will leave Fiji on Thursday. I will spend four days in San Diego with Brie and Drue, but Steve will continue on to Albuquerque. We will then await the arrival of our granddaughter Riley around the first week in November, and that makes all the hard work required to go home worth it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Earthquake and Tsunami in Vanuatu

October 9, 2009--Well, it has happened again! Another severe earthquake, this one measuring 7.8 on Richter Scale hit to the northwest of Espirito Santos in Vanuatu yesterday morning at a little after 1100 local Fiji time. We were first alerted to the Tsunami at 1115 by a police officer walking around the marina warning people of the event and telling us that we should seek higher ground. Soon thereafter the marina manager passed through telling us that we should stay on the boat to adjust lines if necessary. The majority of yachties took off for higher ground, but a number of us chose to stay on our boats using the logic that boats float.

We tuned into both the VHF radio and the high frequency radio to get any information we could. On the radios we learned that we should expect the first waves around 1150 and that the danger would not pass until 2 hours later. We slacked off our lines and moved LINDA further from the dock, shut all the hatches and portlights, put on our harnesses/PFDs (personal flotation device) and tethers, and sat to await whatever was on its way. I have to say that it was a strange feeling sitting on the boat waiting for something to happen and not knowing if that something was going to be bad or not! At 1145 a call on the radio from civil authorities said a one-meter surge was expected and that the threat was increased from moderate to high. We continued to sit but nothing ever happened. Around 1300 the authorities canceled the threat, and the masses descended from the hills, local businesses reopened, and life returned to normal. For all of that we are grateful!

We know that non-US news in the US usually consists of a couple of sound bites of coverage, but here in the Pacific these geologic phenomena have been the major news stories lately. There have been 3 major earthquakes in our general area within the past 10 days, all near 8.0! The first near Samoa/Northern Tonga, the next near Sumatra in Indonesia, and now this one in Vanuatu. We do not know yet of damage and casualties in Vanuatu, but the first two quakes/Tsunamis did major damage and killed several thousand people. We have to compliment the US and Pacific Island governments on their rapid and efficient communication and emergency management. Within 15 minutes of the earthquake, almost everyone had been advised, police were blocking roads, information was provided on all radios, and order was maintained.

Now we continue with getting the boat ready to be hauled out.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

South through the Yasawas

October 5, 2009—Monday morning, September 28, we took the trail leading over the island to the windward side. The trail ended at the Sunshine Lagoon Resort, which is a backpackers resort. A woman named Sala called out to us and invited us to come into the dining hall, so we sat down to visit with her for awhile and found out that there are two other resorts on this side, the Coral View Resort and Gold Coast Resort. These three resorts are owned by Fijian families, which is unusual here; and, unfortunately, you can see the difference. The facilities were not as nice as the other resorts we have visited; however, we had to give them credit for being entrepreneurs.

When we left, we walked down the beach past the other two resorts and stopped at Kim’s Tea Room at the end. The sign said, “Cold Beer,” so we went in to the small, but very quaint, thatched building. The woman behind the window introduced herself as Lo and asked us what we would like. Steve said a beer, but she said there was none, so we ordered two warm Fantas and a slice of chocolate cake. We sat down at the table and enjoyed the food, but we had to finish it quickly as the resident cat moved in quickly for any leftovers.
That evening we went ashore to the Nanuya Bay Resort where we enjoyed a wonderful meal of lamb chops with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed okra. Both of us were surprised that the okra was so good. We also had a beautiful sunset that evening.

The next morning we went by sv Cheshire Cat to meet up with Mike, Justin, and Hazel. We took off in our dinghies across the bay and around the point of Matacawa Levu Island. At the backpackers’ resort, we were able to get directions to the vegetable farm, which was just over the hill. We followed the trail, and when we came over the ridge, we saw a beautiful valley below us. We walked down and went to the house where we met Toki, who works the farm. We explained what we wanted, and he led us to the fields.

Throughout the process of getting our vegetables, we walked over quite a bit of land. The guys all helped pick the vegetables and fruit. We bought carrots, tomatoes, jack beans, bell peppers, cabbage, beets, bananas, papaya, and coconuts. When our bag was full, Toki’s wife came over, examined the bag, and told us the cost was $25 Fijian or about $14 U.S. She did not charge us for the coconuts because they did not plant them. We happily paid her and then asked to take their picture. They work hard here, and Toki was very excited that he had just purchased a rototiller to make the work easier.

On Wednesday, September 30, we were listening to New Zealand radio on our SSB radio when they announced that an 8.3 earthquake had struck northwest of Samoa. Steve wrote the last blog posting about the situation. Since that posting we learned that one cruiser was lost in Pago Pago, American Samoa, when he was swept off his boat. We still do not know if any yachts were lost, but some were damaged. We heard that the family that we got to know in Nuitoputapu, Tonga, lost their home. The south shore of Samoa where we enjoyed lunch at a lovely resort was completely wiped out. We are still waiting for more accurate information. So far no cruisers that we know personally were affected.

We planned to leave Blue Lagoon and go south a few miles to Somosomo on Naviti Island, but we waited for a few hours to be sure that there would be no effects from the tsunami. We were able to enjoy a nice sail, which was nice for a change. A few miles down the coast, a school of dolphins crossed our path, and six of them broke off so that they could swim in our bow wave. It was fun to watch them because we have seen very few dolphins here in Fiji.

We arrived at Somosomo Village on Naviti Island around noon, so we decided to eat lunch and then go into the village. When we went ashore after lunch, three young men were waiting to help us pull our dinghy on shore. Two of them then took us to the chief’s home so that we could present our “sevusevu.” We entered the home, and Steve placed the kava in front of the chief, who was sitting on a mat on the floor. The chief then chanted a welcome in Fijian, accompanied by clapping his hands. When he was done, he shook our hands, and we were now free to walk around the village and to leave our boat anchored in the bay.

The village was very nice with shrub lined paths to all the buildings. We were taken to see the Methodist church, which is one of three in this village. Of course, as we passed homes, the women would ask us to look at their handicrafts. We always try to purchase something from them, so I bought some material from one, and then we met Moce (Mothe), who had some nice shell earrings. I asked about a conch shell, and she sent her nephew off to get her sister. The sister brought a lovely conch shell that I really liked so I bought it. We got to meet all of the family, including little two-year-old Lucy, and really enjoyed our time with them. When we returned to the boat, it was late afternoon, and we just took it easy.

Around 10 o’clock the next morning Bill (the chief’s nephew) and Robert came out to the boat in a kayak for a visit. They brought us two pumpkins and two coconuts, and we served them lemonade and ginger snap cookies. They visited with us for about an hour, talking about the village and their lives. We got out two large charts to show them where we had been over the past two seasons, and then Steve gave them a tour of the boat before they left. We had a very nice time with them.

Around noon we moved north just a bit to Narewa Bay on the same island and went ashore to a very long beach with beautiful white sand. We walked for quite a ways looking for, and finding, some nice shells. I have decided that I cannot take any more shells home so that will be it for this season. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset in the evening.
As we were pulling the anchor the next morning, we saw a very large sea turtle that surfaced close to the boat. We planned to go to the northern end of Waya; however, after sailing for about two hours, the wind picked up and was right on the nose so we had to motor once again. The seas were building, and we just didn’t want to pound into them, so we diverted to Manta Ray Bay. We anchored and put out the flopper stopper so we did not have too much roll. The wind continued to blow and then around five o’clock it suddenly stopped and was perfectly calm. Two hours later it was blowing once again—very strange.

The next day we planned to go about 20 miles back to Navadra, and we had great sailing for three hours. It was so good that we decided to continue on to Musket Cove. Of course, once we had passed Navadra, the winds died down, and we had to motor sail the rest of the way in to Musket. In the end we didn’t mind because it was such a lovely day.
We arrived in Musket around five in the evening and picked up a mooring ball. We then prepared lamb shanks with vegetables for dinner, which was exceptionally good. It had been a long day, so we crashed for the night. The next day we just took it easy and did little project s around the boat. We cooked steaks for dinner and then called it a night because we planned to leave early to return to Vuda Point Marina to prepare the boat for the haul out.
Our last leg back to Vuda Point felt a bit strange. We both agreed that we were anxious to go home, but we felt sad about leaving the boat. We were motoring so we made water and charged the batteries all the way. We arrived around nine o’clock and pulled into Slip 12, where we tied up the boat. It has been a good season.
Before ending this blog, I wanted to post our picture of the beautiful manta ray that we swam with.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Earthquake and Tsunami in Samoa

September 30, 2009--As you may have heard, a severe earthquake measuring 8.3 on Richter Scale hit about 180 km southwest of Samoa/American Samoa at approximately 0600 local Fiji time this morning. Before long, Tsunami warnings were issued for most of the islands in the Pacific from New Zealand to French Polynesia in the south and Fiji to Kiribati in the north. We received the warning via high frequency radio from the New Zealand News Service and an alarm received via the Digital Selective Calling feature on our high frequency radio.

The epicenter of the earthquake was near the northern Tongan Island of Niutopotapu where we were last year. We are approximately 400 miles from the epicenter here in the northern islands of the Yasawa Group in Western Fiji. We did not feel the quake. At approximately 0630 local Fiji time we were listening to our morning radio net when the quake was reported. Over the course of the next few hours, we heard live reports from cruisers in Pago Pago, American Samoa, who reported water rushing out of the bay and then flooding back in washing many boats upon the beach. Severe damage to villages, industry, and the marine community was reported and a number of dead were reported also. Much of the damage was being attributed to the Tsunami, and the warning was changed to an imminent warning as far away as New Zealand - approximately 1500 miles.

We calculated that if the Tsunami moved at 100 mph then we would see the effects beginning around 1000 local time. Thankfully, we did not see any of the effects, and that was most likely due to the fact that we are well inside the Great Sea Reef which runs around the north and east of Fiji. Furthermore, the estimated time of arrival of the Tsunami here in Fiji corresponded to approximately a low tide. We have no way of getting local Fiji news so we do not know if Fiji was affected in other areas or to what magnitude it may have been affected. We just want to let you know that we DID NOT have any noticeable effects, and it appears that we will not. Unfortunately, that can not be said for other cruisers and Pacific Islands, and our prayers are with them!

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

North through the Yasawa Islands

September 27, 2009--On Monday Morning we had good weather, so we left Musket Cove and headed north to Vanua Levu Island--not the same Vanua Levu that we visited last month. I had to keep watch on the bow for the first hour or so until we were in deeper water. We passed through the Mamanuca Islands, which includes Monu Island which is where the movie Castaway was filmed.

We arrived in Vanua Levu around noon and had to anchor in 65 feet of water. The island is beautiful with a white sandy beach. Vanua Lailai Island is a very small island just west of Vanua Levu, and the two islands are connected by a sand spit that is covered with water at high tide. We went ashore just after low tide to walk the beach, and we found quite a few good shells. The sand was so soft, and the views to the south were really spectacular. We were returning to the dinghy when we stopped to talk with Mike, the owner, and Justin and Hazel, the crew, from the lovely yacht sv Cheshire Cat that had anchored soon after us.

The next morning we went to the other beach but found no shells so we decided to go snorkeling instead. We took our gear to the coral reef right in front of the main beach. The coral was in excellent condition, and there were quite a few fish, so we spent a good hour covering a fairly large area. After lunch we did another snorkel out toward the point. The visibility was not very good, and the coral was not nearly as pretty; however, we did get our exercise for the day.

Wednesday morning we left early to move up to the western anchorage on Waya Island. The trip was fairly easy except that when we turned east to go into the anchorage, the visibility was not good. We came close to a patch of coral, but, luckily, we saw it in time. We anchored and then went ashore to the Oyster Bay Resort for lunch. This resort is probably the nicest one we have seen. It is more remote and low key than Musket Cove, but the island is beautiful and peaceful. Cheshire Cat arrived in the afternoon, and we all ended up at the restaurant later on. We stayed for a curry dinner and ended up sitting at a table with a couple from Australia, a couple from Boston, and two guys from Australia. It was a very entertaining evening.

We snorkeled the next morning just off the beach; however, it was very murky with few fish. Mike had asked us to have dinner with them for Justin's birthday, so at seven o'clock we went ashore with our balloon bouquet for him. We joined them at the table, and a few minutes later a young couple, Gaspar and Samantha from sv Octobasso, joined us. We enjoyed a wonderful fish dinner topped off with chocolate cake. It was a great evening.

Thursday was our day to move up to Manta Ray Bay on the west coast of Drawaqa Island. The wind was blowing 20 knots--right on the nose, of course--and the seas were a bit rough; however, we motor sailed and tacked our way up. The entry to the anchorage was a bit tricky because we had to weave our way around a few small reefs and coral heads, but the sun was out, and we could clearly see everything. We anchored and sat for just a few minutes before we decided that we had to put our our "flopper-stopper." This is used to reduce the roll of the boat in an anchorage with swells coming in. We have not used it since Mexico, but it certainly helped make the motion of the boat more comfortable. This anchorage is called Manta Ray Bay because there is a pass between Drawaqa Island and the much larger Naviti Island where Manta Rays, some of which are quite large, come to feed. It was too late in the day for us to snorkel so we planned to go out early in the morning.

Around 8:30 the next morning we got our gear and headed to the pass. We went through the pass and then got into the water to drift with the tide. I held the dinghy line while Steve took the camera. The coral was beautiful and the fish were so abundant that there were large schools all the way through the pass. It was just amazing--so amazing that we decided to do it again. Unfortunately, we did not see any rays, and now it was time for lunch.

Right after lunch a local was fishing very close to our boat so Steve said hello and began talking with him. His name was Jay, and he is a caretaker at the Captain Cook Drawaqa Island Resort. He said that the rays would come to feed around two o'clock and that he would give us a call on the radio. Around 1:30 we returned to the pass, and about an hour later, a snorkeler spotted a large ray. We swam to the center of the pass and spotted a 5- or 6-foot Manta Ray. He swam by us headed west, and I followed him for a few minutes. When I lost him, I rested for a minute and looked down in the water. There he was right below me! I followed him again until I got back to Steve, an then I took the gear while Steve followed him taking pictures and movies. It was a fantastic experience, and I will post some pictures next week when I have Internet again.

After another rolly night, we left Drawaqa Island to go to Blue Lagoon on Matacawa Island. This route took us along the west coast of Naviti, which is in uncharted waters. We had pretty good light, but clouds were moving overhead. We were motor sailing again with light winds on the nose. About 45 minutes later, I was on the bow keeping watch, and Steve called out that the water was getting shallower. At 27 feet, he turned the boat 180 degrees and followed our track back toward deeper water. With the adrenalin pumping, we returned to our course line, only a little further west. The rest of the trip was through areas with reefs and one stretch where we were in about 25 feet of water, but this time everything was shown on the chart so we had no surprises.

We arrived in Blue Lagoon around 2 o'clock and anchored with three other sailboats. This large bay is filled with resorts so it is a bit too developed for us. We plan to stay only a short time before moving on. We have one week left before we return to Vuda Point, and we want to see a few more places.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Birthday at Musket Cove

September 20, 2009—The past week has been rather benign. We checked in with Pau, our favorite Customs officer in Lautoka , early Tuesday morning and then went into town to get some money and provisions. When we were returning to the boat, we stopped to talk with Darren and Melinda from sv Mischief. We had met them at Kawau Island in New Zealand in April, so it was good to see them again.

We left Lautoka and headed back out to Musket Cove, where we picked up a mooring ball, and then we went in to shore to barbeque for dinner. We were happy to see the cruisers from Argonaut, Scarlett O’Hara, Po’oino Roa, and Toketie, all of whom we had not seen for quite awhile.

On Wednesday I took care of the laundry, had my hair cut by Kathy on Po’oino Roa, and met Steve for pizza at the Musket Cove Café. Thursday brought a downpour of rain and wind up to 25 knots. We were able to fill our water tanks, collect water for laundry, and flush our holding tank three times with fresh water. The weather kept us on board all day, but we didn’t mind because the boat was getting a much needed bath.

Steve worked most of Friday morning getting computer problems worked out, and in the afternoon we met Dave and Linda from Toketie on shore so that we could enjoy a visit. The last time we really had a chance to talk with them was in Tonga last season.

Saturday morning we decided to take a walk around Malolo Lailai. We found a path that led up to the top ridge of the small island. From the top we had a beautiful 360-degree view. We had a light drizzle of rain a few times, but it actually felt good. We walked down to the beach on the other side of the island and continued along the beach, and I found a large top shell in pretty good condition. We then cut through the island at the runway for the airplanes and walked out to the point, where we enjoyed a chicken curry lunch at the Lumani Resort.

Today is Steve’s birthday. We took Renee from sv Scarlette O’Hara to breakfast and then returned to the boat so that I could bake a chocolate cake. I also made an applesauce coffee cake for the morning. At five o’clock we went in to the Island Bar, where the barbeques are held. The marina provides large barbeque pits that the cruisers can use. They also provide the plates and silverware, so all we have to do is take in the food. We decided to have steak and lobster for Steve’s special event. Toketie, Argonaut, and Patrick from Eagle Dancer joined us for the celebration.

We plan to leave for the Yasawa islands tomorrow to spend our remaining time there. The weather looks good for now, so we will keep our fingers crossed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Finally Back at Viti Levu Island

September 14, 2009--After spending ten days at Yadua Island, we were finally able to get back over to Viti Levu. Most of those ten days we had winds from 25 to 30 with some gusts to 40 knots. The anchorage was rolly and there was quite a bit of chop on the water, which made snorkeling difficult. Getting ashore was even difficult because the water was so rough. Neither of us wanted to cross Bligh Waters in those conditions.

We spent time in the anchorage with Rick and Terry from sv Morning Star and Sigrid and Ben from sv Optimus. Steve went with Rick one afternoon out to the southern reef at the entrance to the anchorage. They had decent visibility, and Steve said that it was excellent snorkeling. He even saw a five-foot white-tip shark swimming around them. Terry and Rick went ashore with us one afternoon to look for a grapefruit tree that the locals had told Rick about so we hiked around for about two hours but never did find it. Steve and I did find a lemon tree so we gathered up six lemons, and then we added two papaya that we found. When we returned to the boat, I made a lemon meringue pie, which turned out to be very good.

One afternoon we went over to Optimus to enjoy afternoon tea with Sigrid and Ben, who are Danish, and then we invited them over the next evening for chili. Friday afternoon Sigrid went with us on a hike up the hill. We wanted to hike to the light at the top, but we never did find the path from the ridge over to the light. Still we got some good exercise.

This past Saturday we decided to go back and snorkel the reef that Steve had done. Sigrid joined us while Ben stayed in their dinghy to read. The sun was not out; however, it was bright enough that we were able to enjoy all the lovely coral on the reef. We did spot a lobster, but Steve was not able to get him out of his hiding place, and, luckily, we did not see the white-tip shark while we were there.

Finally on Sunday the weather looked pretty good to cross back over to Viti Levu. The wind was forecast to be around 10 knots for the northeast, which would be good for our crossing. The best part was that the seas were supposed to be low with a decent time period between waves. The stretch called Bligh Waters is notorious for having short, choppy seas, which make for a very uncomfortable crossing. We experienced those on our crossing from Viti Levu over to Yadua on our way to Savusavu. We did not want repeat those conditions on our crossing back over.

We got underway on Sunday morning just as soon as we had good light. Optimus left with us, and we both made it through the reef and out of the anchorage with no problems. We put up our sails and were able to turn off the engine soon after exiting the bay. The winds were light, but we made pretty good time. About half way across, we had to start the engine and motor because the wind had died to almost nothing, and the skies were getting dark so we wanted to get across before bad weather set in.

We made it across the bay and had just gone through Nananu Pass when the thunder, lightning, and rain started. We had low visibility because of the rain, but we were able to follow our previous track right back into Nananu-i-thake anchorage. Unfortunately, Steve had to go to the bow in the rain to drop the anchor, but it grabbed immediately so he did not get too wet. Optimus came in about two hours after us and anchored close by.

After saying goodbye to Sigrid and Ben this morning, we left in the rain and headed west. It had rained all night and looked as though it was going to continue, but we still had our previous track back to Lautoka so we were not too worried. The first two hours we had quite a bit of rain, but then it cleared a bit. Unfortunately, we had to motor because there was no wind. About half way to our stop at Vatia Wharf, we decided to just continue on to Lautoka. We made good time, but around two in the afternoon we had a huge rain shower go over us. The other showers along the way had no real wind in them, but this one did. The winds piped up to about 25 knots and the seas became very choppy. Our visibility was about 50 feet, and with no radar, we felt a bit uneasy. The cell stayed with us for about 15 minutes and then moved off. Luckily, that was the last of the rain.

We arrived in Lautoka at 5:30 in the afternoon and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. We will check in with Customs early tomorrow, do some shopping, and then head back over to Musket Cove.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Back at Yadua Island

September 7, 2009--On Tuesday, September 1, we left Savusavu around eight in the morning and headed back to the west. After about an hour, we were able to sail along at about five knots. The seas weren't too bad, and it turned out to be a good sail. We approached Nasonisoni Pass for the second time, but this time we were moving in the opposite direction. Our timing worked out very well because we were able to go through the pass right at low tide, which meant that we could clearly see the reef, and the tide was slack so we had no strong current.

We went through the pass easily, and then we pulled into the large bay on the west side of the pass and dropped our anchor in forty feet of water. The sv All the Colors pulled into the bay a few hours later and dropped its anchor to our starboard. It was a pretty relaxing evening with light winds so we slept very well.

The next morning we went to pull the anchor and discovered that, unfortunately, it was on top of a coral platform, but we were able to pull the anchor without a problem. We were following a track on our GPS and were doing just fine, moving at about four knots in 80 feet of water. We were both in the cockpit talking when Steve suddenly saw the depth go to 30 feet and then 24 feet. I jumped up and stepped to the port side deck. When I looked down, all I saw was coral. We immediately slowed down and waited. The depth never went below 24 feet, but the coral always looks closer to the surface than it is.

We motored on for a short time, but then the wind picked up, and we turned off the engine and were sailing on a nice broad reach. All the Colors had left just a bit ahead of us, so you sailors reading this know what happened. Whenever two sailboats are going in the same direction, it becomes a race. The winds were contrary so we ended up reefing and unreefing the main sail about eight times so Steve certainly got his workout for the week. We kept right up with All the Colors, which was good because it is a lighter boat with a longer waterline.

We moved around the southwest corner of Vanua Levu and then up the west coast. We decided to pull into Bua Bay for the evening because going on to Yadua Island would mean getting in late in the afternoon. We turned into the bay and went into the bay a little further this time because the weather indicated that the winds might pick up. This bay is a river delta, so the bottom is pure mud, which provides excellent holding.

On Thursday morning we left early to cross over to Yadua Island. The winds were between 10 and 12 knots, but we were able to sail along on another broad reach. The seas were pretty small so the crossing was not bad at all. As we came around the western side to enter the anchorage, the wind was gusting again but not nearly bad as it did the last time we were here. All the Colors was anchored on the left side of the bay so we dropped our anchor close to our old spot. We put out 180 feet of chain because the weather was again indicating some wind.

That afternoon a local fishing boat came by and offered us four lobsters--they were huge. We asked how much they wanted, but they couldn't seem to bring themselves to quote a price. After Steve talked with them for a few minutes, a price of $10 Fijian per kilo came up. Steve figured that the four of them weighed about 3 kilos, so we offered $30, and they countered with $40. We agreed, and they gave us the lobsters. We decided to give them some extra kava that we still had on board, and we gave the two small kids in their boat some watercolors and a balsa-wood airplane. We all seemed happy with the exchange.

The fishermen had already cooked the lobster so Steve went to work getting the meat from the shells. We planned to eat two of the tails, but after eating one and a few of the legs, we were so stuffed that we ended up freezing the remaining tails. The meal was delicious. Actually, it was so delicious that the next night Steve made a lobster chowder with the meat from the rest of the legs, and it, too, was wonderful.

Friday afternoon Steve and I went to shore to cut some wood for a beach fire with sv All The Colors; however, they planned to leave early the next morning and decided not to participate, and we agreed.

Saturday was a snorkel day for us. We had to stay in close to shore because of the wind, but we did find a nice shelf. Most of the coral was in good shape, and there were quite a few fish. On our way back to the dinghy, Steve spotted a white-tip shark that was about my size. I was more than happy to get back into the dinghy.

Sunday afternoon we went over to sv Morning Star to play a board game with Terry and Rick. It was a fun afternoon, and we enjoyed talking about our cruising experiences. When we left their boat, we stopped by sv All The Colors in order to drop off a birthday gift for Monica, who was celebrating her twelfth birthday. She wasn't on board, but she called us on the radio later to thank us for the gifts, especially the Snickerdoodles.

The weather has continued to be contrary, and we are becoming frustrated. We though that we would have too much time here; however, we have been held up quite a bit by bad weather and then end up traveling on the good days only to sit and not be able to do much when we get somewhere. Hopefully, we have some better weather over the next few weeks.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Around Vanua Levu

August 30, 2009—The weather on Tuesday was not good for us to leave so we decided to do some land travel instead. We found an ad for Palmlea Farm Stay on the other side of Vanua Levu close to the town of Labasa. The owners, Joe and Julie, are former cruisers who have built a nice resort, so we called and made a reservation for Wednesday night. We then went to town to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Wednesday morning we left around nine o’clock and drove to the west along the Hibiscus Highway. We are not sure where the term highway came from because the road was paved for only the first 20 miles or so and then it turned into a dirt road with a lot of rocks on it. The scenery was lovely because we were driving right along the water, but after two hours of driving along the “highway” we decided to return to Savusavu for a quick lunch.

After lunch we headed north out of town on the main highway, which was actually paved, up the hills, and through the interior of the island. The road was paved, but it still had large pot holes all along the drive. We arrived on the north side of the island and soon found the turnoff to the resort. We arrived around three in the afternoon, and Julie greeted us and showed us to our bure. The facilities were lovely and the view was amazing. We unpacked our bags and then went out to the lawn chairs to relax and take in the view. Julie and her husband Joe soon joined us, and we enjoyed talking about their cruising experiences. That evening we enjoyed a meal of grilled and blackened wahoo, potatoes, and green beans followed by apple pie with ice cream. We then called it a night and returned to our bure.

After breakfast the next morning, we said goodbye and drove into Labasa. On the way we got stuck behind an overloaded cane truck so westopped and asked the workers in the field if we could take a picture of them., and they were more than happy to strike a pose for cane us. Labasa is one of the main sugar cane towns in Fiji. Here again the trucks were lined up waiting to deliver their sugar cane.

After we got through Labasa, we wanted to drive to the Naag Temple to see the cobra rock. Unfortunately, there are no road signs or tourist signs to direct you, so after several wrong turns, we asked directions and finally found the “Snake Temple.” Inside the temple was a rock that did look like the head of a cobra that is preparing to strike.

We then walked up the "108 Steps," one step at a time and viewed a small room where a family was saying prayers.

Our plan was to drive around the northern tip of the island and make a loop back to Savusavu. The road had again become dirt with rocks so it was slow going for us. We had to stop once again for directions at a small grocery store that was owned by an Indian family. After they gave us directions, we prepared to leave; however, the man came out and asked us if we would take the older woman in the group to her home. He said that she didn’t speak English, but when we got there, she would tap Steve on the shoulder. She spoke to me along the way, but I could not understand anything that she said. We drove for quite awhile before she indicated for us to stop. When we did, she got out of the car, waved to us, and walked toward her home.

We were not sure that we wanted to continue on the very poor road, but just then we saw a sign indicating that a new road cutting across the island had just opened. We decided that we would take it because it would cut about 60 miles off our trip. We drove along a secondary road that led back up into the hills. After we passed a village we became concerned when we noticed dump trucks loading up large gravel for the roadbed. We weren’t so sure the road really was open.

A few more miles up the road we came around a corner and found that we had to take a side road around construction.

When we came over the hill, we had to stop because a section of the road was not completed. We thought that we might have to turn back; however, a construction worker indicated that we should wait. A bulldozer was working on the last section, and after about 15 minutes, he backed up to our car, and then he cut a path across the red clay (thank goodness it wasn’t raining) for us across the missing piece. We had to weave around some large earthmoving equipment, and everyone gave us a look that said, “What are you doing up here,” but we just waved at them and continued on our way.

Finally, we came over the last hill, and we could see Natewa Bay down below. We drove down and were so glad to be back by the ocean. A village was close by and everyone we passed called out “bula” (hello) to us. We met Joshua and Navuka on the road, and they asked us to come by their house for a minute. They carried out chairs for us, one of which was a recliner, and we sat on the porch and visited for about 20 minutes. Joshua had another property by the water with a bure, and he said that we could stay there for as long as we liked. We thanked them but said that we had to return to Savusavu.

We were about 20 miles out of Savusavu and still on a dirt road when our RAV 4x4 began to run poorly, so we kept our fingers crossed that it would get us back without dying. We arrived back in Savusavu around 3 o’clock and immediately went to the marina to load our things. We then returned the rental car and went out to the boat.

The trip was interesting, to say the least. We enjoyed seeing the interior of this island, which is much greener than Viti Levu, but the people are just as friendly.

During the weekend I took advantage of the lower humidity to get some varnishing done. As soon as the weather clears, we will leave Savusavu and work our way back over to Viti Levu.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yandua Island to Vanua Levu Island

August 23, 2009-Our time on Yadua Island was very relaxing; however, the wind continued to blow hard on Monday and Tuesday. Luckily, the bottom was pure mud so the anchor held with no problems.

On Monday, we went ashore to find the trail over to the village on the other side of the island, but we never did locate it. On Tuesday we decided to try one more time, and this time we did find it close to where a fish camp was located.

We left a little past noon and began the walk through the jungle. Soon we were climbing a moderate hill that took us up to a ridge that ran the length of the island. Once we were on the ridge, the trail leveled off, but it was still a bit difficult because in some spots the trail was very narrow, and there was a steep drop down a slope. The good thing was that the views were spectacular in all directions.

Our only incident was when I was walking along watching the path and never saw the huge spider web across the path. I did have my sun hat on so I just picked up some of the web and not the huge spider that was on the web. While I cleaned off my hat, Steve took a picture of "Charlotte" in her web.

After about two hours we arrived at Denimanu Village on the east side of Yadua Island. The village was lovely, and the people were all very friendly. A man named William greeted us and then took us to meet Peter. Peter informed us that the chief had left the island and would not return until Friday, so we asked Peter if we could leave our "sevusevu" or kava with him to give to the chief. He took the kava and then checked our cruising permit. He offered us some tea, but we told him that we needed to head back before it got too late. He did ask us to sign the guest book that was kept at the village.

Peter is the caretaker of Yaduatabu Island where in 1979 the crested iguana was discovered. Yaduatabu Island is separated from Yadua Island by just 200 meters. The island was turned into a sanctuary for the iguana by the National Trust for Fiji, and people are not allowed on the island, at least not yet. Peter told us that there were about 11,000 iguanas on the island.

We made a quick stop by the school so that we could drop off some supplies for it and then said goodbye. We made our way back up to the ridge and headed back to the other side. This time, I kept a sharp eye out for Charlotte or any other relatives of hers. We did pass her again, but this time we didn't disturb her web. We continued on, and it was about 5 o'clock when we got back to the boat. We were pretty tired so we showered and then relaxed for the rest of the evening.

The next morning the weather report was good so we pulled our anchor and headed toward Bua Bay on Vanua Levu Island. We motored over the north side of Yadua Island and crossed the waters between the islands with light winds right on our nose. We arrived at Bua Bay around 2 o'clock and dropped our anchor. This bay is very large, but it is shallow and well protected.

On Thursday morning, we left around 7:30 in the morning so that we could get to our next anchorage before the next piece of bad weather set in. Steve could hardly get the anchor loose because it was buried so deeply in the mud. We were lucky enough to catch an ebb tide out of the bay, which pushed our speed to 7 knots. We rounded the southwestern point of Vanua Levu and continued on along the southern shore.

Naisonisoni Passage allowed us to cut through the very large reef that was on our way to Savusavu. We arrived just past low tide and were able to clearly see the reef edges, which was good because the sky was so overcast that we could see nothing unless the tide was down. We went through the pass in calm water and light winds and then were lucky enough to pick up the flood tide all the way into Savusavu. We decided to continue all the way to Savusavu because the weather did not look good for the next few days. We arrived at 4:45 and Bill from the Copra Shed Marina led us to our mooring ball. Just as we were tying up to the ball, the rain started to fall, and it hasn't stopped since.

Savusavu is a small town, but the Copra Shed facilities are very nice, the people are very friendly, and the restaurants have good food at very reasonable prices. We plan to lrent a car and drive around the island for a couple of days.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Crossing from Viti Levu Island to Vanua Levu Island

August 17, 2009--The past week has been one of unsettled weather. We did not leave Vuda Point Marina on Monday because of a poor weather forecast. Instead we went into Nadi with Christine and Jamie from sv Morning Light in order to have lunch and do a little shopping. The owner of the boat next to Morning Light, Owen, was kind enough to drive us into Nadi. We ate lunch at an upscale bistro and then caught a taxi to take us to the meat store and then to the grocery store.

Our driver was quite nice and waited while we shopped for meat. He then drove us to the Morris Hedstrom grocery store for some provisions. Just few stores away was a Hot Baked Bread Shop, so we all loaded up on fresh bread. They even had whole wheat loaves. We returned to the marina, put away our stores, and prepared to leave on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday morning the weather forecast still did not look great; however, we decided to just go ahead and leave. We were tired of sitting in the hot marina and not seeing more of Fiji, so we checked out and took just a short time to motor to Lautoka. We quickly anchored the boat and then got the dinghy off the deck and the outboard on it. Steve took the dinghy in to Customs to check us out of Lautoka district while I stayed on the boat. Before I knew it, he was back so we reversed the whole process--outboard off, dinghy on deck, hoist the anchor--and were on our way east inside the barrier reef headed for Nananu-i-cake.

We had come this way from Levuka to Lautoka, so we had a track in our GPS to follow back to the east side. Tuesday evening we anchored behind Tavutha reef, which has a small, sandy island lined with mangrove trees, so that we could get some protection from the northeast winds. Because the weather forecast for Wednesday called for stronger winds in the afternoon, we left at dawn so that we could arrive at Nananu-i-cake by lunch. The winds were mild and the seas relatively calm for most of the trip. We went through a brief rain shower but arrived at Nananu-i-cake right after twelve o'clock. We dropped the anchor in 50 feet of water, put out as much chain as we could, and hooked up our Anchor Buddy to help keep the anchor in the mud. We were ready for the winds to pick up.

The wind blew that afternoon and evening at about 25 knots with gusts up to 35 knots or more. The boat was dancing at anchor, but the GPS showed us holding our position just fine. We did not get much sleep since the wind created noisy rigging, and the waves were slapping against the hull. Short rain showers went by several times, which made us happy as the boat was quite salty.

Thursday gave us more of the same weather. It was a good thing that we were in such a lovely anchorage. We did not go ashore as Nananu-i-cake is a private island, but we enjoyed relaxing and reading. Friday the bad weather continued. Finally on Saturday the weather started looking better. On Sunday we decided to leave for Yadua Island across the Bligh waters from our anchorage.

Yadua Island is a small island on the southwest coast of Vanua Levu Island. The trip was about 25 miles long and took us across the Bligh waters. Yes, they are named after Captain Bligh who sailed through them after being put off the Bounty. We had to leave Nananu-i-cake through a pass in the reef that turned out to be a little nerve racking. Once we were out of the pass, we were in open water and sailed on our jib across to Yadua Island. The entrance into Yadua included sailing through two small, but still dangerous, reefs that were not visible at all. We were entering at almost high tide but at least we had the sun to help us see any reefs. We got through the reefs and relieved because we were sure that once we got into the lee of the island, the wind and waves would calm right down. Boy were we wrong.

As we rounded the southwestern tip of Yadua Island, the winds actually gusted even higher, and the waves wrapped around the point and continued right on. We turned to enter Cukuvou Bay and had to steer between two reefs extending from each side. The gap in the reefs is about 100 yards wide, which is usually plenty. Unfortunately, with the wind blowing like stink and the waves pushing us to port, I had to watch carefully that we would not be pushed toward the reef to that side. We made it in with Steve directing me from the bow and dropped our anchor in 55 feet of water. Again we put out plenty of chain and the Anchor Buddy just to be sure. There was one other sailboat in the anchorage to our port side, but that was all.

The island is beautiful and deserted on this side. The water in the bay is very clear and there is a coral head that should be good for snorkeling. We tried this morning to walk across the island to the village to offer our sevusevu (giving kava to the chief); however, we looked for two hours and never could find the trail. For right now, we will simply enjoy our surroundings and be grateful that we are out at anchor again.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back at Vuda Point

August 8, 2009—After checking into the Badeera Beach Inn, we relaxed for awhile before we walked over to the Outrigger Resort to see the Hoppers. We all went out to the palapa bar to eat some dinner and catch up on things. The next morning Bob and Barbara joined us for breakfast, and we agreed to meet at the Outrigger pool after lunch. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon by the pool, which was good since Steve was still not fully recovered.

On Monday we hired a tour guide for a day of sightseeing. First we drove up to the Tuvani Village, which is actually the remains of a fort that was used by the Fijians. It sits up on the top of a hill, which created a great defensive position. The rock outlines of buildings were still in place, and we were shown the “killing stone” where enemies were executed if they were not already dead. I believe that cannibalism was practiced in Fiji until the mid 1800s, but I cannot find anything definitive about it.

After the fort, we drove to a village in which the women make pottery. Kitty met our van and gave us a tour of the Methodist church, and then she took us to the community hall where the women displayed their jewelry and pottery that was for sale. They also sang to us and even got us up to dance with them.

Our next stop was at a waterfall. We pulled into small village to park, and we were again urged into the community hall to look at souvenirs that were for sale. We were then introduced to a guide who would take us up to the waterfall. It was a good 30-minute walk, and we had to cross the shallow river nine times before we arrived at the waterfall. It was an overcast day, which was good because it was not too hot for the walk. We rested by the falls with our feet in the cool water for awhile, but then a large group of tourists appeared, so we decided to head back. When we arrived back at the van, we thanked our guide and then piled back into the van.

By now it was almost two o’clock, and we were all hungry so our driver stopped at an Indian restaurant overlooking the water where we enjoyed sweet and sour fish. After lunch we dropped Bob and Barbara at their resort, and we returned to our hotel to wait for our taxi back to the landing for Robinson Cursoe. We arrived back at the landing, caught the shuttle boat back to our boat, and then headed in to shore for dinner.

Tuesday morning we got underway early and headed out the pass on an ebb tide. We had just cleared the pass when we heard what sounded like a plane engine, but we discovered that the noise was from our transmission. Steve immediately took the engine out of gear and we hoisted our sails. Unfortunately, we had only five knots of wind so we were sailing at barely two knots. Luckily, we had enough speed to keep us moving away from the reef to our right. Steve put the transmission into reverse and forward several times, but there was still an odd sound. We decided to head back to Vuda Point Marina in case we needed to have work done. About two hours later we were approaching Navula Pass so Steve decided to try the engine one more time. We started it, then put it in gear, and everything sounded good. We motored through the pass and all the way back to the marina as well because the wind was right on our nose—again! We pull in, tied up, and were greeted by several cruising friends who were also at Vuda.

We planned to leave Vuda on Friday; however, a low was supposed to pass over the area that night and the next day so we decided to stay put for the weekend. I was able to catch up on my laundry, and Steve filled the diesel and propane tanks. On Saturday night we were invited to sv Dorothy Marie along with about ten other cruisers. Anita from sv Kind of Blue played the accordion, Glen from Dorothy Marie joined in on his saxophone, and the rest of us sang along. We had a great time, and we kept the marina entertained for the evening.

We hope to leave Vuda Point in the morning and head over to Vanua Levu Island for a couple of weeks. That island is supposed to be more remote. Unfortunately, it receives more rain than Viti Levu so we may be in for a wet trip. In closing, all is well here on sv Linda. We are thoroughly enjoying our time here in Fiji.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sea Snakes

August 3, 2009—While I have good Internet, I wanted to load a few pictures from Robinson Crusoe Island and my birthday celebration.

The Central Market in Nadi was a very interesting place.

Our snorkeling trip at Musket Cove was really lovely, and Steve took these pictures with our underwater camera.

The past week has been uneventful since Steve was unlucky enough to pick up a case of the flu from another cruiser who was in the anchorage with us. From Sunday through Thursday, Steve spent his time on the settee with a fever, chest congestion, and a bad cough. We kept all the ports and hatches open, trying to get as much air moving through the boat as possible, and some how I did not catch it from him.

Thursday afternoon we decided to go ashore to make some travel arrangements for our trip to Sigatoka to see the Hoppers. Steve got into the dinghy so that we could lower the outboard engine, and when he looked down at the floor of the dinghy, he spotted a sea snake at the back of the dinghy and underneath the inflatable floor. He high stepped it back onto the boat, and we debated how to get rid of it. Our inflatable floor leaves an air space between it and the bottom of the dinghy, which creates a lovely, warm place for the snake to warm itself.

We turned the dinghy upside down and tapped on the bottom, but the snake did not leave. We ended up deflating the floor, and then Steve started pulling it up to find the snake. All of a sudden we realized that there were actually two snakes, not one. He got back on the boat and grabbed our boat pole so that he could pick them up and put them over the side, but both snakes slithered off the dinghy by themselves. Steve then started placing the floor back into position and was amazed to find a third snake, and he did have to pick that one up with the pole and lower it into the water. Now we check very carefully before stepping down into the dinghy.

We went ashore and Ronnie at Robinson Cursoe was very helpful and made our hotel reservations for us and also arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the boat landing. We then returned to the boat so that Steve could rest up before we returned in the evening for dinner.

On Friday Steve was still not feeling great and still had a low-grade fever, so we took it easy for another day. On Saturday morning we were packed and ready to go, and the shuttle boat came by our boat to pick us up and take us up the river, which took about 30 minutes. From there the taxi picked us up and drove us to the Badeera Beach Hotel where we will stay for two nights and spend time with Bob and Barbara Hopper.

In closing I wanted to post the picture that Steve took through the binoculars of Lisa's boat, sv Magia, on the reef. On Friday, July 24, her boat was pulled off the reef, and she now has it on the hard for repairs. This story had a good ending.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthday in Paradise

July 26, 2009--This past week has been pretty low key. Steve spent time on Monday trying to trouble shoot one of our solar panels that is working sporadically. Tuesday's weather was windy and rainy so we stayed on board that day as it was pretty rough to take the dinghy to shore.

Robinson Crusoe Resort on Likuri Island is located between the fringing reef and a bay created by the outflow of a river. We are anchored in the bay, and the currents run at an amazing pace when the water is ebbing or flooding. At three o'clock in the morning one morning we had the current actually pushing us against the wind, and this was causing the boat to actually move up toward our anchor. We have never had that happen before.

Wednesday was a very good day because it was my birthday, and Steve got me a "Pamper Package" at the resort. The package included a massage, manicure, and pedicure. The massage table was under a palapa on the grounds, and it was a nice cool day. Francis, my masseuse, was excellent, and she also gave me the manicure and pedicure. I loved it!

That evening we went in to dinner with Scarlet and Po'onio Roa. It was a dance night, and even though we had seen it before, it was still fun. In the middle of the performance, one of the young men (I will name him Joe) called me and another young woman up to the front. As I was walking to the dance area, one of the other dancers was carrying off a rather large sea snake. I stopped in my tracks to make sure that he was taking it away and not bring it in for some fun. Anyway, we both sat in chairs while the dancers and the crowd sang Happy Birthday to us, and after the song the eight young men performed a special dance for us. They had a birthday cake but the candle that each of us was supposed to blow out was a torch so, needless-to-say, I was not able to blow it out. Next we each cut a piece of cake and Joe made a nice little speech and then holding the piece of cake, he told us to close our eyes. He then told the audience that we would eat the cake the "Fijian way," and the next thing I knew, he was smearing (and I mean really smearing) the piece of cake in my face. Now I really didn't mind this except for the fact that some of the cake and icing went up my nose, and I had sugar on my face for the rest of the evening. All-in-all it was a very fun evening, and I was grateful to have had such an interesting experience for the occasion.

On Thursday I spent most of the day baking bread and cinnamon rolls, and later we put on a pork loin roast to cook. We enjoyed an excellent dinner and called it a day.

Friday was one of the best days as the salvage boat was finally able to pull Lisa's boat, sv Magia, off the reef in the morning. The boat had a third of its rudder broken off, the wind vane was bent, and it was taking on some water, but we thought that it looked pretty good for being on the reef for a couple of weeks. Lisa's was going to sell it for salvage, but she changed her mind and decided to keep the boat, so she will take the boat up to Port Denarau to have it pulled out and repaired.

We had planned to leave on Saturday to work our way further east; however, we decided that we didn't have the best weather window so we decided to stay put for awhile. Since we did not want to be bored, we spent the day re-bedding our life line stanchions on the starboard side. There were only three, but one had six bolts and the other two had four bolts each. Eight of the bolts went through the deck so we had to remove some cabinets down below in order to get to the underside of the deck to remove the washers and nuts. Then we had to apply a coat of Silkaflex sealant on the bottoms of the stanchions and to the bolts. This stuff gets on everything but comes off nothing very easily. We decided to leave the port side for another day.

Today we put the life lines back up since the bedding compound on the stanchions was dry, and we had planned to tackle the port side stanchions, but Steve is feeling a bit under the weather (a cold, we think) so we just took it easy today. I put the dish cabinet back together and did some cleaning up on deck. It ended up blowing a bit today, and we even had some rain, so it is a good thing that we decided to wait to head east.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Robinson Crusoe Island

July 19, 2009--We delayed leaving Musket Cove until Tuesday morning because of overcast skies on Monday. The weather showed another low coming through in about four days so Steve and I decided to change plans and head to the southwestern part of Viti Levu. We made our way back out through the reef and were able to sail part of the way to Lautoka. We had to go over to Lautoka in order to check out of that district and indicate that we were moving toward Suva. The checking in and checking out of the major ports--there are four of them--is not exactly convenient. We anchored in the bay and went in to Customs, where Steve had to fill out the same four-page form that he filled out when we came arrived from Levuka. After that was done we walked into town to pick up our cruising permit for all areas in Fiji and then stopped at the grocery store for some provisions. We returned to the boat in the late afternoon and decided to stay in the harbor for the night.

Lautoka is a big cane sugar processing location, so when we got up in the morning there was black soot from the sugar plant all over the boat. We left early in the morning in order to cover the 35 miles to Robinson Crusoe Island by afternoon. The winds were light so we motored for awhile, sailed for awhile, and then motored again. We had to go out through Navula Pass, which is basically an s-shaped cut through the large surrounding reef. Now we were back on the ocean side and the swell was noticeable. We still had our main sail up and were motoring along, and we noticed that the winds were slowly building. We called friends who were anchored at the island and were told that the pass into Robinson Crusoe was calm and would not be a problem.

Soon the winds were at 25 knots with gusts to 30 knots, and it was right on our nose. The waves were getting larger, and I was getting sicker. I had not taken any medicine because it was so calm when we left. I have definitely learned my lesson--always take the medicine. Steve had to fall off to port and go a short distance and then fall off to starboard for a short distance so that the boat wasn't pounding into the waves. We just did not see how the pass could be calm. When we arrived at the island large breakers were on rolling in on both sides of the pass. As a reminder of what can go wrong, Lisa's sailboat was clearly visible up on the reef just a short distance east of the pass. We reduced our sail to a triple reef and headed into the pass, and we found that it was much calmer. I went up on the bow to watch the reefs while Steve steered the boat. John from sv Scarlet O'Hara came out to the pass to lead us in so I took over the helm while Steve went up to the bow to talk with him. We made our way into the anchorage and dropped the hook in about 15 feet of water.

After we had quickly put the boat back together, I asked John and also Jerry from sv Po'oino Roa to take Steve ashore for a beer while I went below to sleep off my seasickness. That evening we went ashore to enjoy dinner and a spectacular fire dance at the resort. Renee from Scarlet and Kathy from Po'oino Roa were back from shopping in town, so they joined us. The food was good and the dancing was wonderful, and it cost us only $4.50 USD each.

The next day we stayed aboard and took care of chores. On Friday we all got into our dinghies and took a 45-minute ride up the river to the area where the Intercontinental Beach Resort is located. This is a beautiful new resort in Fiji, but we did notice that not many people were there. We walked around the grounds but then walked back to the smaller resort next to it to have lunch. By now it was 1:30 in the afternoon and time to head back to the boats. We went ashore once again to enjoy dinner.

Saturday we stayed on the boat again, but on Sunday the three boats got together on Po'oino Roa to enjoy a Sunday brunch. Renee brought muffins and orange juice, Kathy made the scrambled eggs, and we brought the fried potatoes and coffee. Since my birthday is on Wednesday and we had mentioned that we might leave before then, Renee and Kathy gave me birthday presents of scented lotions, shampoo, and conditioner. What a nice surprise! It was a great way to spend a beautiful morning.

We returned to the boat when it began to sprinkle rain and ended up staying aboard for the rest of the day. The rain would come and go, but we never got much rain at any one time. We had hoped to fill our water tanks again, but we will just have to wait for the next front, which may come through in the next few days. We plan to stay in this protected anchorage until we get a good window with LIGHT winds to make a move to the next anchorage. All is well.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Still Enjoying Musket Cove

July 12, 2009-After James left we took two days to deal with projects. I went in to do laundry, and it took me four hours to do three loads. The resort has three washers and two dryers; however, only one washer was working. I decided to hang the sheets up to dry on the boat, but I had to return in the afternoon and dry them because even though the sun was out, the humidity was too high for them to dry. While I worked on the laundry, Steve spent time on the boat charging the batteries, repairing the shore power cable, making water, and installing the new electronic barometer that James brought us.

On the 8th, we went in to work on the Internet. We had a terrible time just logging on. We then spent some time looking for flights home in October and were able to get that booked before the system crashed. We have also been battling PayPal over our renewal to Seven Seas Cruising Association. They took the money out of our account but would not release them to SSCA. We finally gave up on that one and will deal with it when we get home. The service became so bad that we went to the office to use one of their computers. An hour later I paid $15 USD for the privilege.

On July 9 we put a float on our mooring ball and motored a short distance to a sand bar that shows at mid to low tide. We dropped the anchor and enjoyed lunch. It was a sunny afternoon with just a few clouds so after lunch we loaded up our snorkeling gear and took the dinghy to the sand bar. We walked around it and were able to find some excellent shells, which surprised me considering the number of people that visit here each day. By now it was nice and warm so we put on our gear and snorkeled around a reef that was close by. The visibility was good and the fish were amazing because they were so used to snorkelers that they would swim right by us. After awhile, we were inundated with snorkelers from the resorts, so we packed up, headed back to the boat, and returned to our mooring ball.

On Friday, we went to the dock ashore and took the Malolo Cat II, which is a power catamaran, across to Port Denarau. The crossing takes about 45 minutes. A marina is located there as well as a small shopping mall, which includes a small grocery that stocks items that are hard to find such as A-1 Sauce, Jif Peanut butter, and Honey Bunches of Oats cereal but at very high prices.

We caught a taxi into Nadi. Jack's, which is the big tourist store here, was having a 50 percent off sale, so loaded up on some new clothes. By now it was lunchtime, so we located an Indian restaurant where we enjoyed lunch. After lunch we decided to walk to the Central Market to buy some fruits and veggies, and then we took a long walk up and down streets so that we would know what is available in the stores here. When we were done, we caught a taxi back to Port Denarau, stopping on the way at the Quality Meats butcher where we stocked up on excellent quality meat for our trip up to the Yasawas. We made it back to the dock just in time to catch the 2 p.m. Malolo Cat back to Musket Cove. By now the wind had picked up so the ride back was a bit uncomfortable, but, thankfully, it did not last very long.

Yesterday, we began the morning by hearing on our VHF radio that a sailboat had gone up on the reef at the southwest passage of Viti Levu. It turned out that we knew the woman, who was a single hander. Lisa on sv Magi had been at Riverside Drive Marina with us, and she had done major work on her boat only to lose it on the reef. They were trying to salvage as many items from the boat as they could; however, the most important thing is that she was off the boat and okay. That now makes three boats that we knew personally that have been lost-all since the beginning of June-but all persons on board have been rescued.

I went in to do my last load of laundry, and that took just three hours. Steve was wondering why our wind generator was not producing more power, and he found that two connections had worked lose. After tightening them, the generator was working
very well again.

Yesterday afternoon and through the night the wind was blowing pretty steadily at 20 knots. Early this morning it began to rain heavily, so Steve set up our deck to funnel the rain water into our water tanks. We also had lightening and very loud thunder. The good news is that it rained enough for us to completely fill our tanks.

We plan to leave Musket Cove tomorrow and head north up into the Yasawa Islands. This, as always, all depends on the weather.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Musket Cove Marina/Resort

July 7, 2009--James arrived on June 29 at 5:10 in the morning. Abdul #1 took us to the airport that morning. He was a very good driver and a quiet guy. His brother Abdul #2 drove us into Lautoka one day and is talkative and is a much more aggressive driver.

We returned to the marina to drop off James's bags and relax for awhile. We then went in to Lautoka to pick up our cruising permit to the Yasawas. We walked through the market and bought some vegetables and kava and then ate lunch at our favorite Chinese/Thai restaurant. When we returned to the marina, we went over to the resort next door to take a swim and relax. James was quite good at climbing on and off the boat. That night we returned for a pizza special--$10 Fijian, which is about $5 U.S.

On Tuesday we had planned to leave; however, the rain set in and continued all day long. Around 2 o'clock we decided that the visibility was just not good enough to sail to Musket Cove so we went back to the pool for the afternoon. We enjoyed chicken quesadillas for dinner and turned in--jet lag finally set in for James.

Wednesday was beautiful so we checked out of the marina and headed out through the breakwater. We raised the sails and enjoyed a lovely 5 knot sail with 10 knots of wind. Unfortunately, half way across the wind died, so we decided to drop the sails and motor. James was up on the bow helping me spot the reefs along the way. Right before we headed into the channel through the reef to Malolo Lailai Island the wind piped right back up. We continued to motor and entered the channel leading to Musket Cove Marina/Resort and had no problems spotting the marks leading us around the reefs. We had called the resort on the radio and were told to pick up Mooring #9. When we arrived, we had some trouble finding the correct mooring ball, but we received some help from a fellow cruiser, who pointed out our mooring. That night I made Sauerbrauten for dinner, and we watched the movie Wind.

On Thursday we took a walk around the resort and over to the other side of the island and then relaxed on the beach for awhile. In the evening, we took Mahimahi and veggie packs rolled in foil to the bar on the point. The BBQ pits were going, and we cooked our fish and veggies and then joined some of our cruising friends for dinner.

Friday we joined four other cruisers for a trip over to Malolo Island and the Funky Fish Resort. Our guide Joe led us up to Uluisolo Peak, which is 220 meters high. This was not an easy hike because it was a very hot day. At the top the remains of a World War II bunker that served as a lookout point for the U.S. during the war still exists. We took some great pictures and then headed back down to enjoy a fish and chips lunch at the Funky Fish Resort. When we returned to the boat we enjoyed a nice swim and then cooked some steaks on the BBQ grill.

Saturday, the Fourth of July, we walked across the reef at low tide to the main island to visit the villages there. We met some of the locals and stopped to purchase a carved mask and a bracelet. The people were very friendly, and we enjoyed talking with them for some time. We walked back across the reef and returned to the beach for a short while. We took a swim out at the boat and then went back to shore to enjoy an unlimited shower. In the evening the resort put on a large BBQ for the Americans that included hamburgers and hot dogs along with apple pie. There was a large group that attended, and we enjoyed the evening very much. They even flew the American flag for the whole day.

Sunday was James's last day so we began by hoisting him up the mast so that he could take some pictures. We swam for a bit siince it was a very warm morning. After lunch we took the dinghy in to the Plantation Resort, which is next to Musket Cove Resort. We took a ride on the Banana Boat, which is a long, yellow, inflated tube being pulled behind a power boat. James did his best to dump us off; however, Steve and I held him off and survived the ride. We returned to the boat and grabbed our snorkeling gear and went for a quick snorkel at the reef in the anchorage.

Now it was time to get James's luggage to the Pacific Sun stand so Steve and James took the dinghy to drop off two bags and then returned to the boat. We went ashore to enjoy another shower. Then at 4:30 we walked over to the air strip and waited for his plane. At 5:30 James boarded the twin-engine, eight-seater airplane for a 10-minute flight to Nadi Airport. He was the only passenger on board so he had the plane all to himself.

After his plane took off, we decided to eat dinner at the restaurant and were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset that evening. We were so pleased that the weather was beautiful for most of James’s trip, and it was really fun having him on board with us.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sailing Through the Reefs in Fiji

June 28, 2009—We left last Tuesday from Wainaloka Bay on the southwest side of Ovalau Island. The sun finally came out, and while the winds were forecast to remain around 25 knots with gusts to 30, we decided to leave.

The trip through the channel to Viti Levu was rolly, but we had no problems. We continued up the east side of the island and arrived at Viti Levu Bay around two o’clock, but we decided not to go any further because we had not thoroughly studied Volivoli Passage through the reef, and the sun would now be in our eyes, so we found a nice spot in Viti Levu Bay and dropped the anchor.

That night we carefully went over our way points and compared two electronic charts in order to plot our course. At nine o’clock the next morning we left the bay. When you are going through these reef passages you should do it at low tide, have the sun overhead, and light winds. Well, we were barely at mid-tide, and the winds were 25 knots gusting to 30. Oh well, two out of three ain’t bad.

We had some trouble finding the first mark for the entrance to the passage. Steve told me that he would be turning to starboard in a few minutes, and when I told him that if he did he would hit the reef, we threw out the electronic course and went with eyeball navigation. I was up on the bow standing on the dinghy with the radio in my hand spotting the marks and giving Steve directions. We made it through the pass with a few more grey hairs than when we left but had no mishaps.

We continued around the channel between the island and the reef and arrived at Vatia Bay around 3 p.m. where we anchored for the night. The next morning we left early for Lautoka so that we could check in with Customs. We arrived in Lautoka around noon, so we called Vuda Point Marina and asked if we could just come on in rather than waiting until the next day.

We pulled into the marina at 1:30 and picked up the center mooring while they got a spot ready for us. This marina is set up in a circle, so we carefully pulled into our spot with fenders ready. The “finger” for the dock is all of four feet long so we have to climb up on our bow pulpit in order to get off the boat. We are becoming quite the acrobats especially at low tide. The first night we were here I was climbing back on board when I hit my glasses pulling them off the lanyard and sending them into the drink. Steve quickly reached down and was able to grab them but went a bit too far over and ended up on the water. Luckily it was high tide, and he was able to easily climb back out. That was our entertainment for the evening.

We spent the day Friday checking in with Customs and shopping in Lautoka. We did laundry and some chores on Saturday and will finish them up today. James arrives tomorrow morning very early, and we are excited to see him.