Stolen Kiss

Stolen Kiss

September 26, 2012

Bula Fiji

Although a wonderful experience and not to be missed, Fiji is not the most relaxing cruising ground as you need to keep one eye on the weather every day and four eyes on the reefs!!! The people are so welcoming, helpful and just generally friendly and full of smiles that it is often very humbling.

Paradise has its price as there was one yacht lost to a reef and 5 others we heard of hitting the bricks. Although wonderful anchorages, not many are for all wind directions and if you have to get out quickly, you have to have good visibility. Make sure your track on the charts updates at least every 30 seconds!! Around the Nadi area, the best all round anchorage appears to be behind the island off Port Denarau.

As the charts for the Yasawa Islands are not accurate and there are lots of things that go bump, yachties are now using google earth charts with a GPS. I am almost at the stage of understanding how to set this up and will work on this next year. Good old Valhalla..'The General' for keeping us updated!  We met him in Boat Lagoon, Phuket.

We were very happy to have sailed up to SavuSavu and missed the horrid weather that often plagues the southern coast of Vitu Levu, the main island of Fiji and where Suva is located. We did have a wet and wild bash for a day in 25 knots to get south when we left, which reminded us of why we came north to start with!! The Indian food we found was just sensational and of course so was the cost….we could both eat for under $12 Aus, with the occasional meal costing a total of $16!!

One of the reasons for visiting SavuSavu was to visit Bebi Electronics which make LED lights. So now we have an LED cockpit/anchor light and Peter has made globes for all out lights using their LED lights. Peter lusts after the spreader lights on the Super Yachts and has now purchased some LED's for our spreaders!!

There are moorings in the SavuSavu anchorage that cost around $5 Aus/night with a choice of 3 ‘marinas’; we chose the Copra Shed. 

They also have cyclone (Helix) moorings in the marina next door and many yachts stay here for the cyclone season. It is a very protected anchorage and a truly wonderful town to enjoy. Peter had the two alternators fixed for a good price; probably less than half the price of what it would cost in Australia.

National Youth day for the Fijians is celebrated with much gusto. 

Whilst we were waiting for the weather to clear to get out of SavuSavu, we hired a car with Carillon and drove over the mountains....

to the north of the island to Labasa, the major town and port on the north coast of the island, Vanua Levu. Being in the lee of the weather, it is a lot drier with vast sugar cane farms.

At the end of a very bumpy road we took as a side trip, we found an eco lodge, Palmlea Lodge (not the hut above!!) which is a wonderful place to stay to get away from all that you wish to get away from!! Labasa was very much an Indian town and you could have been in India!!! 

In SavuSavu, there is a guy called Curly who has cruised Fiji for over 20 years. He offers a short lecture and gives suggested waypoints for some cruising around Fiji. We went along, as only having a short time here, we felt it would give us a good overview and help us get our head around the ‘how to’ of getting from A to B. Java came along too, and it was fabulous meeting up with them again. Curly also liaises between the villages and the cruisers when any of the cruisers do the wrong thing and an area is taken off the cruising list. Like this year when a yacht was caught taking Iguanas off an island!! The stupidity, ignorance and arrogance of some cruisers is unbelievable. We see and hear of this so often!! 

It was a useful talk, but with all waypoints, you are responsible for your own navigation. We did get the low down on how to do SevuSevu; a kava ceremony with the local Fijian villages when you anchor in their water. Doing such a ceremony, invites you into their village and surrounds. They are then responsible for your safety whilst you are there. We did this once at Makongai Island and Viti Levu Bay, both wonderful, relaxed experiences. 

We were relieved that we did not have to actually partake in the drinking of the kava.
The kava is made from the roots of a pepper plant and can be bought in the market or small outlets. You wrap it in the latest newspaper as the village chief likes to read the paper!!!

Given the weather, we opted for the route to Makongai Island, then across the north side of Viti Levu to Nadi, in company with Carillon.  

Due to the 18-22 knot SE winds, we actually day sailed (not motored!!) all of the way......a very wet and wild bash for the first 22 miles and a fast sail the remaining 22 when we could free off a little. A little pucker factor approaching all the reef as the engine over heated and we were in the lee of the island. We now know the temperature alarm works!!! It appears we had something caught in the intake, which fell off when we stopped the engine. Interestingly, we were higher and faster than the Tayana in heavy winds, but they have us pegged downwind. We think it's their folding prop!!

We had a wonderful, long walk along a jungle track to the south side of the island. We were happy to be on the lee side!

Fiji was a time for catching up with cruisers we have previously met….Westward II from Fremantle and Java whom we had spent time with in La Paz, Baja, Mexico.  We had been in Darwin with Westward II and found them in Makongai Island, travelling with another Fremantle registered yacht, Cable’s Length II, the owners of which are from Mandurah. In Vuda Point Marina we also met up with Paul and Karen from Gigi. They are from Darwin and were next to us in San Carlos, Mexico.

Makongai Island would have to be one of the most beautiful islands we have seen. No vehicles, so nice and quiet. The ruins are from the Leper Colony; the old theatre screen is still standing and the old Lister generator from the early 1900’s is still in use.

 Makongai is now sponsored by the fisheries department for a giant clam and turtle breeding program for Fiji. This giant clam was over 2m long and had a little fish guarding it!

We anchored in Toba Basaga Bay for the night so did not go ashore. Some of the girls and later some boys came out to visit on their bamboo rafts. The girls did find it amusing at Peter’s joke about their village being very very nice, as its name was VereVere.  Lovely young people. 

We did not want to encourage the culture of the children coming out to yachts asking for things (which is what the cruising community has inevitably encouraged in Indonesia), something which the village chiefs also want to avoid……so being kill joys, we said no to the request for sweets (not that we had any…) but did give them a string of small Australian Flags for their school. The young boys were delighted at this, which was a good thing!

The village in Vitu Levu Bay is quite large and run like a commune, with the men from each of the 70 families coming together to make decisions. Traditional lives are led with the weaving  done by the women and cocoa beans dried for sale.

We had a few more stops before reaching the Nadi area on the east coast. Weather is very localized and the reef, easy to see as it dries! The marks are not very frequent and in different states of disrepair. However, the reef is easy to spot as a lot of it dries!

Lucky for us each day the skies cleared and we had excellent visibility with calm seas behind the reef!! The local fishermen are happy to see us and love to pose!

Our anchorage just south of the VoliVoli resort is gusty but calm! The Tayana and the Hylas at anchor!

The resort itself is very low key and welcomes us grotty yachties. Meals are well priced and not over the top. The islands around VoliVoli funnel the wind, hence attracting great windsurfing and kite surfing. However, we didn’t see any!! Peter and Steve did their kava tasting here! They did not opt for seconds!

Lautoka will be our clearing port and unfortunately we have to anchor in the harbour to clear out. Chilli Bites is the most awesome place for lunch...Indian food..can't go past it!!! Of course Peter's first stop off the bus was the Indian 'Swits'; street vendors were a dime a dozen around the market and bus station.

Whilst in Vuda Point we also met up with Peter Atkinson (and his wife Darin), who is Peter's second cousin. We last met them on Pollen Path in Phuket, which was a surprise as at first the Peters did not realise they were related!!!!! They now live in Phuket.

Vuda Point Marina is a good affordable place to do work and hang out. We can use the resort next door, First Landing; pool, restaurant and bar. Of course there is the cafe and yacht Club at the marina who provide entertainment in the form of live music and outdoor movie nights. One film we did enjoy was The Lady (Aung SunSuu Kyi and her life in Burma), which was all in French!! Despite this we sat through it all with Karen and Paul and understood what was happening! Needless to say we were the only ones watching the film!!

Marina life Pacific Style.... Vuda close is too close???

Vuda Point Marina is a great place to hang out. However, it gets very hot!! Its a circular basin with a large ring on the bottom in the centre that yachts shackle their chain to during a cyclone. Entrance is via a channel through the reef, but don't expect it to be on your charts!!! The boat (on the screen) ends up in a swamp!!

The other alternative is to be partially sunk into a pit, supported by tyres. Apparently this works well.

Musket Cove was another 'tick the box' for Peter. Although still busy following the regatta, Musket Cove was worth the visit with a very laid back approach to life and nice sand tracks between bars and pools!! We are now life members of Musket Cove Yacht Club!! 

As you would expect, some stunning real estate...

The anchorage and mooring field open to the SW, albeit behind a reef or two. According to those who have spent time there, it gets a little lumpy there in 50 kts of breeze....which they had on a few occasions this season..but not while we were there..we had calm to very light conditions!

We met up with Red Sky again before checking out and also Malarkey, whom we met in Tonga briefly and who have crossed the Pacific at just a little head of us. Leanne (Red Sky) and Jenny (Condesa)..what did we all do before technology??????? Vodafone's 3G stick has enabled us to have internet access in almost every anchorage. Too easy to keep an eye on the weather!

We had an amazing chunder and frightening show our first night at Denarau Marina. Comfortable to be on a mooring ($15 Fiji/night)! We are waiting for a few days for the trough to clear and SE winds to return before we push on. We need to take the boat to Lautoka Harbour to clear out, which is not a good anchorage in NW winds and you get a sticky film on the boat from the sugar refinery! 

Anatom Is, Vanuatu, which should be a 3 day sail. At the moment we have lots of troughs in between the Highs, which gives us light winds, lots of rain and chunder and frightening!! Yuk! We are aiming to get between the troughs!

We are very sad to be leaving Fiji in our wake but excited about the big island that is now 1400 miles away!

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