Monday, July 29, 2013

Musket Cove

We untied our mooring lines on July 26th at 11:15 to get away for awhile and take a break from Vuda Point Marina in Fiji. We motored south on a mostly calm day and sailed the last bit into Musket Cove at Malolo Lailai Island about 3 hours later (S17°46.315' E177°11.173'). We were excited to see sailors that we had not seen since El Salvador.

Once again, we discovered a swimming pool at a resort here where we met up with SV Momo. We went for a quick swim one day in the coolish water and then decided to check out snorkelling by the little sand islet in the ocean.

In spite of the not-so-good water clarity, (we are getting spoiled), it was a real treat because there was a prodigious array of tropical fish - even more than what we saw when we snorkelled the Fish Factory at Viani Bay on July 1st. The water was exceptionally warm which I loved.

We saw very long needlefish (45 cm/18 inches) that were not afraid of us and we had to swim right through their masses. And for the first time ever, we saw cuttlefish! Cuttlefish are closely related to octopus and squid, have 3 hearts, greenish blue blood, can rapidly change their colour to match their environment, and have the most developed eyes (with W-shaped pupils) of the entire animal kingdom. They are generally 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10 inches).

The following diagram and picture of cuttlefish were copied from the internet:

Check out the cool W-shaped pupil:

What a treat to see these amazing creatures swimming by us in the water! Wow!

We went to 2 barbecues and it seems that there are barbies every night at Musket Cove. There are many built-in barbies for use by anyone; just bring your own food, and dishes and cutlery are provided by the marina resort - drinks are for sale at the open-air bar.

But on Sunday evenings, a 'salad' barbie is provided. For a minimal charge, a buffet of salads is provided along with untoasted garlic bread, uncooked potatoes, and uncooked sausages, which you cook yourself on the barbies. The meal was delicious (we cooked fish) and enjoyed even more as there was no cleanup afterwards!

Something unusual, at least for us, was to see a chicken being cooked on a beer can. What you do is open a can of beer, put it in a wire holder standing up, take a whole chicken and slide it over the can of beer so that most of the can is inside the cavity of the chicken. Then after one's favourite spice rub, it's placed on the barbie and a metal bucket is placed over top. The beer soon boils, steam cooking the interior of the bird and the barbie and bucket does the rest. In just over an hour, it comes out moist yet crispy on the outside.

Just checkin...looks almost done!

Apparently this is quite a common thing to do in the south belt of USA but it is the first time we have ever heard of it. You can also drink one half of the beer (before you put it on the barbie though) then fill the can with barbecue sauce before topping with a chicken.

I wouldn't do this too often as beer cans are aluminum which is a very unhealthy cooking item. Maybe make a holder for the beer liquid out of stainless steel or something...oh yeah, we're vegetarian so we won't be cooking chicken anyway!

We left Musket Cove on July 29th but stopped at a small island that we were motoring past. The beach looked sandy and there was a boat wreck on shore, probably from last season's cyclone. After anchoring Sea Turtle, we put on our snorkelling gear and plopped into the ocean. We swam towards the beach, disappointed at the lack of nice coral and fish though. We only saw 1 small beautifully decorated fish that we had never seen before and very few other fish.

We reached the shore and walked around the entire island collecting a few shells, seeing nothing but a few picnic tables and the uncompleted construction of a building. The wreck was completely stripped and slowly deteriorating.

Not much left

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Back at Vuda Point Marina

After being home in Canada for a family wedding, we were glad to return to Sea Turtle at Vuda Point Marina (Fiji).

Jordan kept busy adapting the dinghy wheels for our new dinghy that we bought in New Zealand. He also replaced the canvas windvane on our Saye's Rig with a more effective rigid wooden paneled one. He even applied a vinyl stick-on Canadian flag to it. Next, he did some refinishing of the cockpit teak cap rail and painted the interior of the cockpit. I kept busy inside.

Staying at Vuda has a few idiosyncrasies. Especially at full moon when the tide changes are so dramatic. Some mornings and/or evenings, I couldn't even get off the boat for a few hours! When the tide was really low, I couldn't reach up to the stationary pier; and when the tide was really high, I couldn't drop down to the pier.

Too far for me to drop

Also at Vuda, you have REALLY close neighbours. On windy days when boats are being pushed together, the only thing separating boats are their fenders. On calm days, there is a little more space between boats but usually only about 30 cm (12 inches). But we have enjoyed our stay here and would come again.

Several boats here are resting in the ground to be secure in the event of a direct cyclone hit as they had last season. A hole is dug and lined with tires for protection and the boat is lowered down into the hole. Some older boats appear sadly to have been resting for a very long time, as though floating in dirt.

Dirt moored

We've been checking the news online hoping for some positive news about our lost friends on the historic SV Niña. They left Opua New Zealand heading for Australia (just before we left NZ heading for Fiji) and are seriously overdue, and by officials, are presumed lost. They have long since called off the search. We're hoping to one day read about discovering the 7 missing persons in their life raft, floating along...stranger things have happened and our prayers go out.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

First wedding

Jordan and I caught a cab into Nadi Fiji (pronounced Nandi) to catch a flight to Calgary AB Canada for my daughter's wedding. Our flight was at 22:00 July 11th and we arrived in Calgary 17 hours later, however we arrived on the same day at 20:00 July 11th - two hours earlier than when we left Fiji as we had crossed the International Date Line!

It was a wonderful and beautiful wedding. My daughter Lainey and her fiancé Tim (who had both visited us in New Zealand back in February) did a super job planning everything and had made it a little different and fun, more than what you would expect at a wedding.

It took place at a campground by Rocky Mountain House so guests could camp out and also participate in the week-long jeep and quad off-roading event nearby of which the bride and groom are enthusiasts. Lainey's pink jeep and Tim's green jeep were both decorated for the occasion.

Before decorating

The wedding party each danced a jig to special songs as they came down the aisle of the beautifully decorated hall and Tim danced his mother to her seat. My adorable great-granddaughter proudly dispensed flower petals from a basket.

So what song did the bride dance down the aisle to as she was escorted by her handsome son - my grandson? Another One Bites the Dust! Everyone had smiles on their faces as they snapped photos.

And after so much planning and a stressful day for the couple, a joyous Mr. and Mrs. Chambers exited the building. (I'm so proud of you both! Congratulations!)

Their cakes were also unusual. They had two - one saying The Hunt is Over and the other cake was a jeep (almost identical to Lainey's jeep) and the cake even had working headlights! They also had their 2 dogs outfitted in tuxedos.

Cake cutting - jeep cake on right

The meal, dance, and party continued late into the evening. It was a great opportunity to see my son and parents once again as we see them all too seldom, as well as other family members who were able to attend.

On our return flight, we left Calgary on July 16th and didn't arrive back in Fiji until July 18th as we once again crossed the Date Line, but this time going in the opposite direction, so we lost a day.

Our next wedding will be for Jordan's son sometime in the spring...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Immigration at Lautoka

As Jordan and I had to fly back to Canada for a week, we had to visit the Immigration authorities in Lautoka Fiji, a small town close to the Vuda Point Marina where we were moored. The Fijian airlines will not let anyone fly into Fiji without a booked flight out of Fiji, or some other method of leaving Fiji, unless you are a resident. So on our attempted return, we would be denied entry unless we procured certain paperwork from Immigration before we left Fiji.

It necessitated us to first go to the Marina office where they gave us a letter stating that our boat was in the Marina, thereby proving that we have a boat to return to with plans to sail out of Fiji in the next month or two. Next, we went to Immigration in Lautoka and presented the letter from the Marina. Immigration also typed up a letter that vaguely re-stated the same information as the Marina.

So now we were set. When we return to Fiji after our upcoming trip to Canada, we should just have to present the two letters to the airline officials at the airport to get back into Fiji and to our boat, Sea Turtle.

(We have flown home to Canada from several countries that we visited in the past, including Ecuador and New Zealand, and never had a problem returning back into the country where we were anchored. This is the first time that we have had to have proof that we had plans to leave the country after our return.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

First Landing

A few minutes walk from where we are moored at Vuda Point Marina in Fiji is a resort called First Landing. It is called this because according to legend this beach is where the first Fijians landed around 1500 BC. We took a picture of their sign that showed an aerial view of the walkway to the man-made foot-shaped island which is part of the First Landing Resort.

Odd shaped island

The folks at the Resort welcome cruisers to their bar, restaurant, and pool. So we walked over and luxuriated in their pool on a hot sunny day, and of course bought a drink in appreciation for usage of their amenities.

The following view of the area (copied from the internet) shows the foot and at the lower right is the Vuda Point Marina where we have Sea Turtle.

View (copied from internet)

Fiji and the other island nations between here and Australia make First Island Resort a popular and convenient place for both cruising and regular tourists.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Vuda Point Marina

On July 5th, we pulled anchor from Viani Bay where we had a delightful week of snorkelling, diving, feasting, and adventuring. It was time to leave for Vuda Point Marina which is on the largest Fijian island, Viti Levu. The wind was good to us and we had a great sail that lasted all day and throughout the night as we safely made our way from open waters through a couple of passes, with the aid of GPS and radar.

As the morning sun greeted us the next day, we entered an opening on the ring/barrier reef on the north side of the main island of Viti Levu then began winding through reefs which were well marked on our digital charts of CMap, and many were visible as well. We made our way through the Vatu-Ira Channel and into Bligh Water. This water was named after the famous William Bligh aboard the Bounty who was overtaken by 18 crew members in 1789 (Mutiny on the Bounty).

Under sunny skies, we set anchor (S17°25.046' E177°44.727') on the northwest side of Viti Levu Island. Early the next morning, we were off again when we saw in the distance what looked like sand in the middle of the sea. How could that be? So we sailed closer and sure enough there was a tiny spot of raised reef covered with sand out in the middle of nowhere (S17°19.693046' E177°59.255'). I jumped overboard and snorkelled over to check it out. I swam over some coral with a few bright fish swimming around and then I stepped onto the soft sandy island. What a thrill that was! (Jordan didn't feel he could safely anchor Sea Turtle amongst the coral reefs so he stayed aboard.

Judy all alone on sandy island in the middle of nowhere

Our next stop would be on the westernmost point of Viti Levu at Vuda Point Marina (pronounced Vunda - Fijians always include an 'n' before a 'd' when saying the word). At 15:00 on July 7th, we med moored bow first at the Marina (S17°40.831' E177°23.202') after passing through a narrow dredged channel into their unusual circular mooring space.

Vuda Point Marina

We could hear a band playing so after checking in, we wandered over to the Sunset Bar to have a sundowner and listen to the band. The band played steady without any breaks from 15:00 till 22:00! They were very good and played all styles of music. We watched as the sun went down and were surprised to finally see the green flash! Just before the sun drops below the horizon, on the very rare occasion and if you watch closely, you can see a flash of green colour. I tried to catch it on the camera but wasn't quick enough.

Brilliant orange sun setting at Vuda Point Marina

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Wall

A highly praised dive site in Fiji called The Wall was another favourite place to go. But I stayed behind on Sea Turtle as I was still pretty sore from the waterslide antics yesterday. Also, I don't have a diving certificate, and even though I could have snorkelled, I decided to recuperate instead. So off went Jordan with several other sailors and the local guide Jack onboard Gato Go, a catamaran.

Jordan said it was the best dive he has ever had - even better than when he dove the Red Sea several years earlier. As well as the full meal deal of fish and coral, he dove into a cave that turned into a tunnel that came out on The Wall which sported a vast swaying array of white soft coral.

Sea Turtle at fabulous Viani Bay

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Waitavala waterslide

On July 3rd, several sailors boarded SV The Rose for an excursion to Taveuni Island (Fiji) with Jack, the local guide. Taveuni is about 1.5 hours across the strait from Viani Bay. Destination on Taveuni: the natural rock waterslide in the rainforest. After a quick cab ride, we hiked to the flowing water.

I thought it looked pretty intimidating but all the young children were doing it. So I figured if they could do it, then I should be able to. Right? I was brave enough to try it once but that was it. It flowed extremely fast, dunked you a couple of times, and bounced you all around from one rock side to the other. I ended up with a bruised tailbone, knee, and foot. But it was an exhilarating ride! Jordan went down a few times, with no injuries of course, and loved it.

Nature's funland

After everyone had their fill of excitement, we hiked back to the seashore. On the way, Jordan and I stopped at a minimum security prison where the inmates grew vegetables for sale. While we were there, we talked to one of the guards who explained that the inmates were singing, which we could hear. It was a very nice sound.

Then we walked further to where the school children were having a game of rugby outside. They all came running over to say hi, with smiling faces. In the background was the Wairiki Mission.

Wairiki Mission by school

Our last stop of the day was to buy scrumptious roti, an unleavened Indo-Fijian bread. There was a little shop that made them on the spot and we ordered a few vegetarian ones, and also several bara filled with chickpeas for only 10 cents each.

By the time The Rose sailed back to our anchorages, everyone was tired after a long thrilling day at the natural rock waterslide.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Viani Bay

On June 27th, we left our anchorage at Savusavu and spent one night anchored in front of Cousteau Resort (S16°48.628' E179°17.228'), also on Vanua Levu Island of Fiji. We did not go ashore but we heard that it was extremely expensive to stay or eat there. This was just a quick stopover on our way to Viani Bay.

Making our way through some breaks in the outer reefs, we came into Viani Bay and anchored (S16°44.980' E179°53.995') with about 6 other boats, most of which we knew from previous confluences. Viani Bay is on the east end of Vanua Levu Island.

The next day, Jordan and I took the dinghy out and snorkelled around a small reef that had some pretty coral and fish. But on the 30th, we dinghied out to an area called the Cabbage Patch where SV Merilelu was anchored with several other sailors aboard. What an amazing area! The so called Cabbage Patch coral looked just like the oversized leaves of the vegetable cabbage, only rock hard coral. It covered an area of about 75 square metres (800 square feet).

We did not take any photos so following is one copied from the internet...

Cabbage Patch coral

On July 1st, Jack (a local guide) took several sailors to an area called the Fish Factory. It is called this because there are so many fish here. And the prolific abundance and wide variety of coral included hard coral and also soft coral that was waving in the ocean current. The kaleidoscope of colours of beryl blue, orange, red, lime green, and lilac do not show up in our photo.

Polychromatic aquatic wonderland

Jack takes sailors (aboard their boat) to different dive sites, snorkelling sites, and also to other nearby islands if so desired. He does all of this for 10 Fijian dollars per person (which amounts to around $5 Canadian) for each site that you wish to go.

Then on July 2nd, all the sailors were invited to Jack's family's place on shore for a traditional Fijian dinner called a lovo. This meal is cooked in the ground. They swale a pit, line it with stones, stoke a fire for a few hours, usually using leftover coconut husks, then the food is placed on huge tropical leaves, covered again in leaves and tarps, then finally sand. It's left for about 2 hours then opened up for dinner time.

Removing the hot leaves

Some of the feast beginning to be exposed

As well as fish, there was a pig, food wrapped in taro leaves and delicious coconut cream, breadfruit, and accompanied with a delicious cold veggie salad. Jack also demonstrated how to quickly husk a coconut using the point of a sharp short pole sticking out of the ground. Several people tried to copy but could not do it as fast as Jack!

Jordan and Chris (SV Ladybug of Victoria BC) played the violin and ukulele and the day was topped off with Jack and his family singing a beautiful acapella "Thank You" song in Fijian.

Jordan with his husked coconut and Jack