Monday afternoon we arrived at Musket Cove, on the island of Mololo Lailai, dropped anchor and then, after tidying up a bit we sat down to a lunch of pork chops. Just before leaving New Zealand, and of course just after we had fully provisioned the boat, the Fijian government issued an edict prohibiting the import of pork products from New Zealand. Just that week 10 university students had returned to Auckland from Mexico, testing positive for Swine Flu, hence Fiji has determined that all pork in New Zealand must now be infected. Makes perfect sense – right! Well, we have been eating up our pork products since then in an effort not to import them into Fiji. I'm getting a little "porked-out".
Normally, when arriving in Fiji a yacht must check into the country at one of 4 designated ports – all of them dirty, congested and teeming with bureaucracy, "they" say. Musket Cove is not one of them, however; the ICA (Island Cruising Assoc.), made special arrangements with Fijian officials to come to Musket Cove on Thursday, May 14th to process the boats participating in the rally. Nice. Unfortunately, most of us arrived 3 days early and were sitting in an unauthorized port of entry, flying bright yellow "Q" flags – a definite and glaring violation of Fijian Customs Regs. But what else could we do? We were just following directions. Both the ICA and Musket Cove were in contact with the officials so we let the powers that be duke it out while we grilled our steak dinner, kicked back and read books and waited. Until we were released from quarantine there was really not much else to do. Eventually a representative from Musket Cove Marina came by to tell us that we must leave here and go check in at Lautoka. OK, fine. We would do that but not this day. Fiji's reef system is abundant, complex and dangerous to boats, hence it is inadvisable to move about the waters unless the sun is relatively high (generally between 11 AM – 2 PM), and the dangerous areas can be spotted. It was now 3:30 PM. We agreed to go to Lautoka on Tuesday, assuming that no official inspector would be creeping around this late in the day looking for violators. Then later in the evening, we received a call on VHF informing all rally boats that Customs, Health, Quarantine and Immigration would be arriving on the first ferry in the morning to get us cleared. Great! We slept well knowing that we didn't have to move after all.
Tuesday morning we all waited and waited. No word from Musket Cove or from the rally leader, "Different Drummer". Finally at mid-day we were told that the officials would not arrive until Wednesday, but that we were (now) OK to remain at anchor as long as we did not disembark our vessels. We were in "Time out!" Again, no problem. At 5:30 PM we received a call on VHF alerting all rally boats that beginning 6 PM, officials would be boarding us and conducting clearances. "Destiny" was 2nd in line. I would say "unbelievable", but it really isn't. So it goes that at 7 PM, a longboat full of giggling and jabbering Fijian officials came aboard. There were 5 of them: 2 from Customs, 1 Immigration, 1 Health Dept., and 1 Bio-security/quarantine. They were the friendliest folks yet. They looked at our food and other supplies, saw that we still had some prohibited and restricted items aboard but told us as long as we didn't take them ashore while in Fiji all was well and good. We got our stamp of approval and away they went, giggling and jabbering into the night.