BULA! Welcome to FIJI !
Uncharacteristically, this FIJI Listing is going to be a long one. I warmly suggest you dig into it when you have your favourite beverage by your side, and a clear 35 minutes… : )
Fiji wass our penultimate destination for 2016, and more-than-managed to live up to the magnificent reputation our cruising peers suggested it might be. In a word ,,, Awesome! 👍
AITUTAKI – FIJI (arrived Aug/29/2016)
Total trip time: 7 days, 16 hours
Total trip distance: 1360 nm
Total fuel used: 1012 gals. / 1.34 nm/gal
First things first though. If you have frequented our blog in the past, you may recall our anchor winch failing (almost catastrophically) in Aitutaki, Cook Islands, during our final recovery. Not understanding what mechanical support lie ahead in Tonga, we decided to by-pass Tonga, and head directly to Fiji where support was assured. (I am SO glad we topped-up our tanks with Tahiti’s duty-free diesel when we had the chance 👊). However, arriving FIJI under such conditions (an unplanned destination, and the ability for us to change plans quickly), was immensely rewarding.
During our transit to Fiji, I made contact with James Ellingford / N62-PENDANA. James confirmed that Port Denarau Marina was indeed the place to go, and offered to manage our arrival in Fiji with Customs, Agents, and service providers. All was waiting on the quayside when we arrived. Thank-you James!
After the legalities of checking into Fiji were completed, we immediately tore into the Hydraulic Winch problem.
The project got off to a good start. We identified all the parts required, and left the ordering of parts in the service providers hands. We then decided to rent a car for a few days and check out Nadi while our parts were to be flown into Fiji from New Zealand. Not my brightest move. Julie and I usually handle all repairs ourselves. This time however, I decided to hire professionals to quarterback the project as I was exhausted, both mentally and physically from the anchor-failure-drama, and the week-long transit to Fiji. The last two days of which I was on ‘high-alert’ as we threaded our way through Fiji’s insufficiently-charted waters.
It seems there was an issue behind the scenes, between the NZ distributor and Maxwell. Old part numbers conflicting with new Maxwell 3500 HWC drawings. Days rolled on. When I inquired about the delay, only then was I informed about the issue. (The British have a saying – “I was beside myself!“)
In retrospect, I blame only myself. I should have ordered the parts myself (as we always have done) and managed the entire project between us (as we usually do). The delay in receiving the parts was further complicated by the Marina needing our slip for other pre-booked vessels. We played dock chess for a week, moving 5 times during our stay. Ali @ PDM was a star. Ali – God bless you my friend.
Our agent, Josephine Morris (Jo), from Yacht Partners Fiji, cleared the parts through Customs and had them delivered to our boat in hours. Jo continued to provide exemplary service to INFINITY throughout our entire time while in Fijian waters. + 10!
Our hydraulic windless was rebuilt in just a few hours, then function tested and put back into service. I suppose we’ll never know for sure what the exact root cause of the failure was, and I have many theories. But having stripped and rebuilt the unit, I’m convinced of the Maxwell quality and satisfied INFINITY is good-to-go for another 16 years.
We rented a car for a few days, and zipped around Nadi to see what we could see. The Sleeping Giant mountain was repeatedly suggested as something you should see, so we drove out to the Botanical gardens.
Normally, I’m not really a flower guy. Oh I can appreciate it alright, like when Julie and I used to get ‘garden-fever’ when we owned our house, but I thought of this trip out to the Gardens more as something to occupy some time. I was pleasantly surprised by the tranquil energy and vibe of the place. In fact, I’d welcome the chance to visit the local ‘Gardens’ in any future destinations we go to.
The next day we headed out to familiar territory, and tried-out the Sleeping Giant Zip-Line. Just the drive out there was an adventure in itself.
And of course no visit to a new destination is complete without dropping-in to the local Market.
During our stay at Port Denarau, we met a great couple (Gerard & Trish Knight). Yes, Gerard Knight is James Knight’s brother. We enjoyed a fun afternoon together, and invited them over to the marina for some cocktails on INFINITY.
We were asked if a Nordhavn Rally was taking place because there were 5 Nordhavns gracing the docks, 1 x N60, 2 x N62’s, 1 x N75 EYF, and 1 x N78. I t was cool spending time with the Captains, and the owners. As you might have guessed, all good people : )
While sitting at the ‘Rhumba’ at Port Denarau Marina (PDM), sipping our rum & cokes, we watched one of the most wonderful sailboats I have ever seen, slip gracefully into Harbour. A famous quote sprang to mind.
“Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made.” – Robert N. Rose
The vessel was s/v ATLANTIC, and she must be seen to be fully appreciated. While studying the boat from our bar-stools, I had this realization come over me, ‘our days here are going to be cool’. PDM is temporary home for many super yachts, cool yachts, and other fine ocean crossing craft. Pinch me now.
INFINITY next to some big dogs. (Helps us keep our perspective as we travel).
To our Starboard side was Senses, (owned by the dude who owns Google).
To the Port of us was SuRi.
With our windless repaired, and our stores replenished, it was time to move on and discover FIJI. But just around the corner was Musket Cove, a must-see location near Nandi.
The timing our our arrival at Muskett Cove was just perfect. Everyday was filled with fun events, followed by an evening party.
non-stop events, people flying-in & flying out at regular intervals, daily.
Cloud 9. Yes, that’s right. A Bar & Pizza joint right out in the middle of Ro-Ro Reef, opposite Malolo Island. The only way to get there is by small boat (dinghy). You anchor your boat just off the platform, or tie your boat right up to the platform rail as we did. The Bar is surrounded by crystal clear water, around 20’ deep, and ideal for snorkeling. The top level is perfect for diving-off of. Rock music is playing and the vibe just says –“PARTY”–. I loved this place, it was unique and a lot of fun.
Another great cruising event, in another fantastic tropical destination. : ) 😎
After regatta week,,, Musket Cove turned into one of the most peaceful & tranquil anchorages we’ve ever been in.
Jay & I went sailing on a Hobie Wave (a small Catamaran) this afternoon, and what great fun!! We had such a fun afternoon, we have decided to buy a small sailing Catamaran for INFINITY. Because we require one which can be assembled on site, our choice is between two models, the MiniCat or the SmartKat. Which one will we choose? Which one would you choose? Our next Listing for New Zealand will reveal all. ; )
Funny story: 27 years ago Julie and I were visiting New Zealand. Our trip to the south island was scuppered because all the Ferry’s were booked solid. So, feeling cold and needing some warmth, we booked 10 days in Fiji instead. 27 years later we find ourselves in the exact same resort! We spent a fun afternoon going down memory lane at the Plantation Island Resort.
Yep, 27 years ago we stood right here (BC) “before kids”.
Our first stop on the Yasawa Islands tour was Navadra Island, which consists of two islands joined together by a small inlet. It’s the perfect Island-get-away that you dream of, and we shared the bay with only a couple of other boats during our whole time there.
From our boat, we had the most stunning view of the hill top beside us. I kept looking at it during my morning coffees, and mentioned to Julie how it was toying with me. “We should climb to the top of that mount”,,, seemed like a good idea at the time.
Monty & Margy (from s/v WHISTLER), got their Drone out and managed to capture some great shots of INFINITY from the air. Note to self: must buy a Drone!
WAYA ISLAND / NALAUWAKI BAY
On our next stop, just 15 nautical miles north from Navandra, is Waya Island. We met some wonderful locals there and got some great diving in.
Once we met with the Chief, we were invited to walk around their village. It left a huge impression on us, being surrounded by such lovely people. And by lovely I mean folk without any agenda at all (well, perhaps some Kava or fish-hooks) button attachment to the outside world or even a consideration about it. I found the experience calming, something with a purity about it. I liked it.
While we were on Waya, the was a group of Volunteers from Australia rebuilding the village school that was damaged in the last Hurricane. God bless these guys. While social media prevails with negative stories, as Jay and I travel we consistently see good, bright, positive deeds done by wonderful people.
Back in the water for some more diving.
NACULA ISLAND / BLUE LAGOON
Navigating through the Fijian Islands is done in daylight, and by sight only. Many of these waters are uncharted, which make it easily the most treacherous waters we’ve had to navigate in, by far. Vessels going aground are common. Lately, our navigation is assisted with Satellite imagery, using an iPad app ‘MotionX-GPS HD’. This simple software is a revelation to me and has saved our bacon once already. (entering into Blue Lagoon).
While we were anchored in Nalauwaki Bay, we spent some time with Greg & Karen (s/v ENTICE), and they mentioned a couple of activities they enjoyed during their stay in Blue Lagoon. I have come respect the opinions of other cruisers who have gone before you. It’s usually hard-won knowledge, and something we can capitalize on while cruising to new anchorages. So, when they suggested we venture out to a nearby Island to buy some fresh vegetables, and go mud-crabbing with with Shirley, that sounded like a good plan.
During one of my morning paddleboard excursions, on our third day at anchor,,, behold! What do I see? The sailing vessel Red Thread – who we last saw in Tahiti! I paddled right over and said a big hello to Jesse & Neil, who with cruising with their good friends from the USA, Katrina & Tyler. It was a blast to see these guys again, and just reinforces why international cruising is so cool.
All the food we gathered and caught that afternoon, was cleaned and prepared by Shirley’s family, and we we’re invited to their home to enjoy the feast.
Sawa-I-Lau was yet another, quiet, tranquil anchorage in the Fijian Islands chain. Additionally, the location is also renowned for it’s underwater cave structure, which is open to cruisers.
Slowly, as we threaded our way through the Tuamotus Islands, French Polynesia, and the Fijian Islands, I have been doing more Free Diving and loving it! This cave was only 50′ deep but gave me another safe opportunity to explore. As I approached the bottom, I found a CASIO Waveceptor watch. The strap was broken, but I scooped it up and got the strap fixed for $10. I now love wearing the watch as it reminds me of FIJI.
Just before the sun started to set, I’d get the paddle board out and paddle around the island, which was full of intricate rock formations and shallow waters. I could have spent a month in this one spot.
YASAWA ISLAND / 8-MONTH BEACH
From Sawa-I-Lau, we moved further up North to the tip of the Yasawas Island. Apparently there are beaches there, (8-month-beach and Champagne beach), that are recognized as some of the worlds best – with silky white, powdery sand. In fact, local folklore has it that “it will take you 8 months to wash the sand completely from your hair.”
Well, turns out we didn’t even get a sniff at the beach. We arrived in cloudy unsettled weather and things did not improve once the hook was down. As I was pondering the situation, I saw a trimaran entering the Bay. It looked peculiar at first, and it took me a few seconds to figure it out. It was dismasted!
Once they were settled, they hailed INFINITY on VHF 16, and I paddle-boarded over to their vessel to see what assistance we could provide. Jeff & Jose Allen told me how the dismasting events unfolded, and indeed, they were lucky to be alive. Their Norman Cross designed trimaran suffered some serious damage. We worked out a plan for the next morning. I would provide them with our Satellite Phone and a few gallons of diesel.
Morning came, and over I paddled. Julie and I had invited them over for lunch on INFINITY, but as the morning progressed, so did the weather, and it became increasingly obvious that no lunch-date was going to be had. : (
I wish I could tell you that was the only issue. Not so. While we were sitting there at anchor, a local weather system passed right over us. Seas rose over 5m with breaking waves, sustained winds over 50 knots howled through the rigging. It was getting ugly out there and my cavalier attitude was disappearing fast. INFINITY was pitching up and down wildly and then BANG! Anchor chain running out uncontrolled a-freaking-gain! I ran out of the Pilothouse in terror, and grabbed some 1” nylon line. The reef was only 30 meters behind us! I bent on the 1” line with a rolling-hitch and secured it to our centre-cleat. As more chain began to run out, it was halted by the line. Thank you God. Two more lines soon joined the chain, one to the Port cleat, and one to Stbd. OK, now that that was in-hand, Julie and I went around the boat securing everything. It was kind-of a disaster really. The Flopper-stoppers were both deployed and there was no way we could recover them now. They held strong for many hours but the 6mm stainless-steel wire harness eventually parted. So there we were. Connected to the seabed, pitching and rolling wildly for the 12 hours the Storm Force winds lasted. By luck, I installed separate retrieval lines to the Flopper-stoppers, so we were able to recover them as conditions allowed. It was an altogether horrible experience and probably the worst boating experience we’ve had to date. It’s not all sunshine and Champagne you know. ; )
Savu Savu was a much, much better experience altogether. : )
After the storm force winds abated the the Yasawas, we picked up anchor and cruised on over to Fiji’s Northern Island of Vanua Levu. Here, we were going to see our friends Mike & Cheryl who we met in Hawaii. They have chosen to build a house and settle part-time in Fiji. We were looking forward to see what the appeal was.
The Parade is on! & the town stops. I needed a break anyway, we grab a coffee and watch.
We felt quite charmed with Savusavu, so much in fact, that we found ourselves looking at property. Yep, ‘wouldn’t it be great to own a slice of this heaven?’ Little did we know that this thought process was going to occupy us over a 6-month period. A spending an enjoyable week in Savusavu (promising to return), we picked up anchor and cruised back to Nadi to make plans for our final transit to New Zealand.
The majestic faces of Savusavu,,, just another day in Paradise.
Once back in Nadi, we dropped anchor in Musket Cove again. We have only been there twice before but somehow it felt like coming into a home anchorage. From here, we organized our immigration and refueling to be done at Port Denarau. The forecast was good and we’d soon be on our last leg to Auckland, New Zealand. All-in-all, this Journey has been a wonderful, glorious 8 month period. A lot of work, and a lot of challenges, but one so worthwhile!
Next Listing >> New Zealand.