Friday, October 17, 2014

Fiji July - August 2014

 We leave Niuatoputapu with a light breeze. Weather predictions are for little wind so we are expecting a motor-sail to Fiji. As we leave we see whales, just as was the case in our last departure of Niuatoputapu,  I take as a good sign. We set out our light air sail and we move along nicely, but soon the wind dies and we are motor sailing again. Tyler and I have set out our fishing lines and we soon have a strike, another nice Barracuda.
With the light wind and calm seas we fall into a nice easy passage routine. As the seas are very calm Tyler is not getting seasick and is able to enjoy his time in the open sea. I do admit it is kind of boring for a 14 year old.
The next day is just like the yesterday as far as wind a sea conditions go. We are lucky again and catch our biggest fish yet, a 5ft Wahoo. This is the first Wahoo caught on Mazu and wow are they a tasty fish. All in all we catch four fish on the passage, 2 Barracuda, 1 Wahoo, and one Mahi Mahi.
After 3 days we arrive at Savusavu on the north island Vanua Levu Fiji. As we arrive at night we drift in the large bay outside of harbor and wait for first light to enter.  We get our first taste of the Fijians “Bula” spirit with the officials who check us in. They could not have been nicer, more efficient and helpful; one official even asked Tyler to his house as he has a son is age that he would love for him to meet as he has never met an American before. Soon we are soon checked in and secured in a slip at Copra Shed Marina.
Let me explain a little about what I mean “checked in”. We are arriving into the country as a foreign vessel and foreign visitors. So we are met on the boat by officials from, Immigration, Customs, Health and sometimes Bio security. In Fiji it was all of above. Also prior to your arrival many countries ask for a 48 hour advance notice of arrival. Now you ask, how you can do that you are sailing in the open ocean, how will you know when you arrive. Luckily they just want the notice “at least” 48 hours upon arrival. So prior to leaving Tonga I had the necessary documents scanned and emailed to the Fiji government.
When we arrived in Fiji they already had most of our information. So what the officials do is check your boat for contraband, (sometimes usually you just fill out a form with your estimated amount of alcohol and cigarettes on board). Then you have a form asking is anyone sick? No. How long are you staying? About 4 months, (your boat can stay 18 months; you on the other hand can stay 4). Do you have any meat on board? Yes. Where is it from? All beef and chicken are from New Zealand, and we have fresh caught fish in the freezer, would you like some? Why yes, thank you.  Do you have any garbage? Yes. There is a small fee for bringing in garbage (this is the Bio Security official), make sure you only dump it at the Copra Shed marina ok? Yes I will. While the process is a little nerve racking it is usually fun, and can be an indication of the personality of the people in your new country. Here in Fiji they have set the tone and soon we find that like the officials the Fijians are a very welcoming, friendly people. 

We are all anxious to get off the boat and explore our new “home”.  Savusavu  is the largest town on Vanua Levu. We soon discover how cheap things are here in Fiji as compared to Tonga and New Zealand, helped by the favorable exchange rate. It is cheaper to eat out than cook on the boat, hey I am not arguing about that!
Unfortunately our time in Savusavu is short as we need to be at Musket Cove off the main island of Viti Levu to meet Matt, Sherry and the rest of the Grandson’s. While I know Tyler has enjoyed his adventure he is missing his family and can’t wait to see them.
In preparation to our cruising in Fiji we attend a “cruisers” seminar put on by Curly. Curly is an ex-cruiser who now resides in Fiji. He runs the morning radio net and is the unofficial mayor or Savusavu. Weekly he puts on a seminar and sells chartlets with way points to avoid the many uncharted reefs in Fiji.  This is very valuable information as we have read and heard that cruising in Fiji can be challenging and best done in good sunlight to spot the many reefs. As part of his fee he will also help with route planning throughout your time in Fiji, very helpful.

As we are preparing to leave we receive a visitor. It is the custom official who wanted to have Tyler to his home. He invites Tyler to lunch at his home. So while Tyler goes to his house for lunch we finish the preparations to leave. When they return we get to meet his son as they visit and tour our boat. Too soon it is time to head out. 

With our route planned we check out of Savusavu for our trip to Musket Cove. It will take about 3-4 days to get there as we will only be traveling during daylight hours. Our first milestone is to cross the Koro sea notorious for high winds and choppy seas. It will take most of the day to cross. Our plan then is to tuck into the reef protection of Viti Levu island and hop-scotch our way over the top of the island to our destination on the west side. We figure our best bet is to start the crossing early so we can be as far across as possible before the winds and seas kick up.
The Koro Sea lives up to its reputation and in the late afternoon the wind and seas pick up, luckily we were nearly across so we were fine, and soon we are anchored off a very pretty island. It takes us three more days to travel through the reef channels, good thing we had those waypoints as the weather proves to be raining most of the time, not good  visibility for reef spotting. The way points are right on and soon we are around the top of and on a mooring ball at Port Denarau.
Port Denarau is just a few miles from Nadi, the second largest town on Viti Levu. Denarau is also where many resorts are located and is the jumping off spot for many tourists to the outer island resorts. There is a marina, shops, and restaurants located here. It is here that we are reunited with our friends, Doug and Carla from Moondance. We left them in Samoa last season. They were heading here to Fiji, we were heading to Tonga and New Zealand. I was fun to catch up with them and get the local “scoop”.

Musket Cove        
Musket Cove, a marina and resort located on Malolo Lailai Island a short sail from Port Denarau. We arrive the day before our Son Matt and his family are due to arrive. Musket Cove Marina is home to the cruiser friendly Musket Cove Yacht Club, where for a small 10 dollar fee you become a card carrying member. There is a lovely thatched roof bar overlooking the bay and anchorage.
We are soon welcoming Matt, Sherry, Matt Jr. Joshua and Benjamin to Fiji. Our first night finds us celebrating Tyler’s 14th birthday with a BBQ at the Yacht Club and cake on the boat. Our family will spend 10 days in Fiji with us and boy we jam-pack a lot into the trip.
As you see from the pictures we enjoy, SUP, Fishing trips, snorkeling, fire-dance performance, swimming, and a relaxing afternoon at the Cloud 9 floating restaurant. Too soon we are all on Mazu and sailing back to Denarau to say goodbye. Here we will part ways as the family will enjoy a few days in a resort here and we will provision and head up to explore the Mamanuca group of islands before we return again to Musket Cove for the famous annual Musket Cove Regatta.

Sailing in Fiji can be tricky best done in daylight hours with the sun shining. There are many uncharted reefs and unmarked channels, and few cruising guides to help you. We plan our route to Navandra and I keep a close look-out for much of the 4 hour trip. Soon we are anchored in one of the prettiest anchorages we have been in.  The anchorage is between two uninhabited islands. The white sandy beach is beautiful and the snorkeling through the reef between the two islands is spectacular, with lots of colorful coral.  We are so impressed with the beauty that we spend several nights here until it is time to return to Musket Cove. 

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Musket Cove Regatta

We are excited to return to Musket Cove for the annual Regatta, we know we will catch up with many or our cruising friends here. They expect at least 50 boats to participate in the races and fun shore activities.
The first night we are not disappointed, with an opening party and BBQ. But first there is the tradition of the “singing of the national anthems”. All countries represented are encouraged to participate. The Regatta committee finds the background music and the representing cruisers take to the stage to sing. We had representatives from, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, and England. The USA was one of the largest and I have to say we did a great job. It was a fun night of drinks, music and dancing with new and old friends.
The rest of the week whirls by. There are sailboat races, dingy parades, a costume party, beach games, and the anticipated Hobie Cat races. This takes place in the shallow bay in front of the resorts. Over two days teams of 2 race each other (two boats on the course at a time). I am asked to team with our friend, Doug on Moondance. We have a great run but do not win our heat. The last night there is a banquet and awards, and door prizes. I even win a fuel voucher! Too soon the fun and games are over and people start to go their separate ways. It is time for many of us to think of making plans for cyclone season. Many boats are continuing to travel west to Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Australia. Many boats will go south to New Zealand as is our plan. But there is still over a month to explore more of Fiji. Our next stop is back to Pt. Denarau. Mel is returning to Oregon for his 50th High School class reunion. I will stay on Mazu in the marina. My girlfriend, Glenna will join me here. I am looking forward to having some girl time, and to share Fiji with her, I have a full week planned for us.