07 Sep Back to civilization and the mainland, the Island of Viti Levu, Fiji
July 30 – We are on our way to Suva with a planned stop in Gau. When I came on shift at 2100, it was a lovely clear night, the Milky Way was bright with the Southern Cross visible toward the one end. A few clouds covered the stars for a while, but the sky has cleared again, and everything is shining bright. We are currently heading towards the constellation Scorpious, the sea has calmed, and you can see the star trails across the water. The luminescence is streaming out in waves from Maia, and I’ve seen 5-6 shooting stars. Feeling grateful for the calm weather, even though we are motoring.
We found ourselves heading toward the big city of Suva on July 31, we could see a band of clouds that seemed to surround it. The clouds and mist stayed with us, most of our time in Suva. We had heard that there were lots derelict boats and wrecks in the harbour and we found it to be true. It is a rather large harbour, and there are lots of large ships around, and not just single ships but ships that are rafted to each other. (Most of these boats look like fishing vessels.) It is hard to tell which boats are still working or if they are all helping each other stay afloat. There are also large 100 ft cargo boats going in and out of the wharf and the harbour.
Our main order of business in Suva was to go to the American embassy and get my passport renewed. An appointment was made for Monday morning, 0930 with the Embassy. Instructions were given to bring my passport, $110 usd, along with the forms filled out and a new passport photo.
As always, we enjoyed scouting out the city and found grocery stores, mobile phone sim cards and a place to get the passport photo taken. It was a 20 minute walk into town, but also found the taxi’s reasonably priced. On Sunday, we decided to venture around the city, found a nice cafe for lunch and had a refreshing walk, with a little rain and little sunshine along the waterfront.
When we originally arrived in Suva harbour, we noticed a large ship anchored with lots of satellite dishes and thought it could possibly be a hospital ship, but that did not seem quite right. While walking around we saw it tied up to the wharf. Dick saw the name and looked it up, it was a Chinese Military ship.
Our trip to the American Embassy was interesting. We arrived and were buzzed into a small building where we were questioned by security about our business, were required to walk through a metal detector and leave our backpacks and phones. Once we were cleared, we were directed to follow a walkway to another building. As we approached we were buzzed in and entered a large office where there appeared to be local folks waiting to be helped. We were pointed to a closed door and found a small office with a window where our embassy worker appeared quickly. She reviewed the documents and said that we would pay the $110 in the bigger office. Dick took the cash to the cashier, while I waited, in the office. Once the payment was made (this took some time as they had to run upstairs to find US$ change) and the paperwork was deemed to be correct, we were told that within two weeks the new passport would arrive. We decided to have it mailed to the Vuda Marina, as we expected to be stopping thru there in a couple weeks.
Another must do in Suva was to get our B&G chart plotter fixed, it was shutting off at inappropriate times and we could not scroll in closer than 5 nautical miles. After much time was spent on the phone and emailing with West Marine trying to find out how the warranty would work, clever Dick decided to search online for the plotter problem. He found that the last update could be the source of the problems, so he did the latest updates and fingers crossed the problems will be fixed. (This did fix it for a while…)
After our visit to Suva, on August 8, we headed to Beqa, a small island to the Southwest. As we were approaching the island, we saw a boat on AIS heading in from the opposite direction. Once the boat name came up on AIS, we were not all surprised to see that it was Muskoka. After the big city, we enjoyed being in this quiet, little bay. We took a dingy ride to Lalati resort and around to explore the area and decided to have sundowners that evening at the resort. The resort were very welcoming.
Dick took advantage of the calm water and cleaned the bottom of boat. Once he finished, he was very congested. We were not sure if it was from cleaning bottom or if it was a cold. However, he rallied the next morning to go for a little paddle as the kayak was finally repaired, and we were in the beautiful calm bay. Dick continued to not feel well for a couple days.
By August 13, we were sailing along the South coast of Viti Levu, the “Mainland” of Fiji. The winds have been quiet in the morning and picking up in the afternoon. We have had been enjoying some wonderful downwind sailing.
As we have been making our way along the coast it has been captivating to watch the swell crash against the reefs. As the swell reaches the reef it arches up and shoots up in a jade green color before exploding on the reef in great clouds of white ‘soup’ that are 2-3 times higher than the jade green swell! Up ahead we see a white haze that almost looks like smoke or a halo coming off the surface of the water, it is the crash of the waves.
One night we stopped at Likuri Harbor, which had a beautiful white sand beach and the Robinson Crusoe resort. That evening we enjoyed the traditional Fijian feast (they even had special gluten free chicken available) and show. The fire dancing was spectacular.
We had heard a lot about Musket Cove and we were not disappointed when we arrived on August 14. As we pulled into the mooring ball area the wind freshened and we had a little difficulty picking up the mooring line. As we were making our third approach, we noticed a guy rowing a small dingy and were thinking, where is this guy going? He is going to get in our way! Well no, he was rowing out to help us! He was able to hand up the line and we tied up to the only open mooring ball.
Lots of Fun was had at Musket Cove. It was awesome reconnecting with Connor, (Sea Casa, now Crazy Love). Jennifer’s (Starlet) birthday party was super with a live band (consisting of cruiser friends), wonderful food, dancing, catching up with old friends and meeting new. We also had a date night at Dick’s Place Bar & Bistro, we enjoyed a fabulous buffet sitting by the pool with a sunset view over the beach.
One day we decided to head out to Mana Island with some others to go snorkeling. To get there we motor sailed past Castaway. Once we arrived, I bailed as I realized I was not feeling well, I had caught the cold!!! (Dick had had a cold!) We spent an uncomfortable bumpy (mostly wind choppy) night at Mana and headed back to a mooring ball at Musket Cove.
While tied up, I was feeling pretty miserable, Dick noticed we were not getting any charge into batteries, something was amiss with our electrical system. As it had been a couple weeks since we had applied for my visa and Dick was pretty sure we had a problem with the alternator, it appeared to be a good time to head to Vuda Marina. August 20 we had a nice afternoon sail to Vuda.
Dick worked with Summer Electrical, while I tried to be as low key as possibly as I had definitely caught the cold. Once I was feeling a bit better and the alternator was being re-wound, we took a taxi ride with Gail & Tony (Cetacea) into Lautoka. We had a great day exploring the town, enjoying lunch at a tiny Indian food restaurant and picking up a few “necessities” at the hardware, grocery and liquor stores.
As much as we were enjoying Fiji, we were ready to start preparing for our departure and sailing further West to the islands of Vanuatu. Once the alternator was back and re-installed, we made another trip into Lautoka, purchasing Vanuatu dollars, buying more food, as we would have a 3-4 day passage and were not sure when we would be in a real town to shop once we arrived.
As an appropriate weather window to start a passage was not apparent, on August 29, we sailed back to Musket Cove to wait for the weather to clear. Dick ended up coming back down with the cold, this time he got it even worse. I was able to play with others (I had several fun sailing and snorkeling days with Harlequin). While Dick recovered, he also worked on boat projects. It was a surprise to come back to the boat and find another project completed. Dick never ceases to amaze me!
Our final stop in Fiji, was Port Denarau. As we had been out another week or so, we took the bus into Nadi to do our final provisioning before checking out of the country. We also enjoyed spending time with Harlequin and Starlet, it is always hard to say goodbye. The check out process was a little confusing as we could not get a clear answer on how things were going to happen, before they happened. Mid-morning on September 7, Dick dinghied in from the anchorage and ended up bringing the customs guy all the way out to Maia. Clearance forms were filled out, he checked our alcohol stores, stamped our passports and we paid $105 fjd. He let Dick know that we could have come into the Marina and anchored nearby for the clearance. However, in reality, I think he enjoyed the dingy ride, especially the ride going back to the office, as he asked if the dingy could go fast, and fast Dick did go!