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Monday, July 19, 2010

July 1 – 4, Lautoka – Ashes Ashes Everywhere & Happy Independence Day!

We enjoyed a beautiful day of sailing over to Lautoka, with the barrier reef to starboard and the mainland to port – it was another of those days we wished we had professional video equipment to capture the stunning beauty of this country that we feel is touched by God's own hand.  Then all too soon we had traveled 8 hours and were entering the filthy port of Lautoka.  The original plan was to anchor at the small island just across the channel, but prevailing winds made that a no-go.  We dropped the hook just off the wharf and had a restful night in spite of the putrid smell of something burning.

Arising the next day, Frank was about to plant himself in the cockpit to enjoy his morning java, when he popped right back down, breathlessly telling me not to bother going up – the entire boat was covered in black ash, ¼ inch thick.  He tiptoed his way to the anchor washdown hose and spent the next hour cleaning Destiny's decks, cockpit, rails and dinghy.  What a mess!  As my vision sharpened I noted that a fine film of ash had filtered down through the screens of our cabin's hatches, covering our room in back dust.  I stripped the bed, cleaned up the interior, and then we finally sat down to enjoy our coffee.  Afterward we went into the Customs office to "clear in".  That done, we took a cab into town and provisioned up.  We then walked over to the salon in which he and Glen had gotten their $5 haircuts last year.  When we entered the salon, the same gal who'd cut his hair previously jumped up offered him a brilliant smile and said, "It has been a long time! Where is your friend?"  Amazing that after an entire year she had remembered Frank and Glen – of course those two are hard to forget. After we finished our business in town, we returned to the boat to find her beginning to turn black again – this we found is soot from the sugarcane factory located at the wharf area.  We decided to get the heck out of Lautoka and find a better anchorage for the night, because it was too late to make it over to Musket Cove now. 

We anchored at Saweni Bay, and decided to have dinner and a movie.  I sent Frank topside to cook some beautiful lamb racks on the grill as I prepared the rest.  He kept swatting at himself, telling me that we had better make sure we have all the screens on because he is getting covered in bugs out there.  Great! The next morning we discovered what all the flying things were that had been attacking Frank.  They were huge bits of burnt sugarcane and powdered ash residue!  We had anchored downwind of the burning fields (they burn the fields after harvest), and Destiny was absolutely covered in the disgusting filth.  This time, the ash had permeated the entire boat, seeping down through the mast, the dorads (vents), the screens, etc.  It was in all of our electronic gear as well.  We just cleared a path to the cockpit and to the bow, enough to get the anchor up and get the heck out of there before it got even worse.  Some of it blew off the boat while in transit, but the inside was just awful.  It took me days to wash everything.

So, we got over that trauma and arrived at a very bustling and full Musket Cove Resort and Marina.  We dropped the hook just beside Avant Garde and Scallywag.  Many of our other friends were there including Mokisha, Bold Spirit, Nomad and Mahurangi.  We were just in time to go to shore for cocktail hour and dinner.  It felt like home.

The next day was our American 4th of July, so Musket Cove pulled out all the stops!  We enjoyed hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, baked beans and apple pie.  There were fireworks on the beach and the music was All-American.  We got a little homesick enjoying this wonderful celebration with our American, Kiwi, German, French, Australian and Fijian friends. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

June 29 – July 1 – Voli Voli Bay and Beach Resort

We left Makongai, shot over to the top of Viti Levu and into Voli Voli
by early afternoon. The day was beautiful and the trip was so
pleasant we were once again enchanted with the beauty of Fiji's
beaches and coastline. Voli Voli Beach Resort stands right on the
point, high atop the bluff, and boasts an incredibly magnificent
panorama. "Just In Time" and "IQ" had also made the trip. Just after
we set the anchor the boys all went to shore for a "re-con" and to
make reservations for dinner. They returned some time later very
cheerful and full of information about the resort. We got dressed for
dinner and arrived on shore in time to share the sunset with resort
guests, and yes (!!!), we saw the Green Flash. It was quite
impressive this time.

The resort beach is very tranquil, facing a crystal clear bay that is
protected on the windward side by mangroves. A short walk up the hill
took us to the heartbeat of the resort. Here we found the restaurant/
bar/pool/activities center. And the best part is: they love and
welcome yachties. A Kiwi family owns and runs the place. It is a
multi-tiered resort and dive center that offers accommodations from
backpacker-level to upscale bungalows, and because the place is fairly
new and is still in the early stages, they are about mid-way to
completing the swim-up pool bar and sports bar. It did not take us
long to get comfy in our new surroundings. We enjoyed a very good
dinner and then spent time getting to know the owners who had stopped
by for a chat. Frank arranged to drop off our leaking dive tank the
next morning, for servicing on our way back out to the boat.

We invited Jock, Leanne, Bill and Val over for brunch the next day,
and then after spending a good bit of our morning eating, drinking
coffee and visiting we went to the resort to spend the rest of the day
at the pool. Yes, this is what we retired for – to laze around the
pool with good friends, although we don't actually get to do as much
of that as most people think. We stayed around to watch another
sunset with the guests and were treated to another brilliant Green
Flash. Wow!!!!! Frank went to the dive center to pick up our tank,
which they were able to repair for us, and when he asked what we owe
for the work they refused to take any payment. They were just happy
to help us out. What wonderful PR! They know we will either be back
or will send others to this wonderful place. I kept thinking how much
I would love to bring Jennifer and Trace here. Maybe someday.

Next morning we grabbed a cab into the little village of Raki Raki,
which was about a 30-minute ride inland. Our driver excitedly
informed us that this is the last day the village will be a village
because tomorrow it will become an official town. There would be
parades and celebrations all through the new town to mark this
historic and monumental event. We noticed a flurry of activity all
around as we neared the main street. Raki Raki is shockingly larger
than SavuSavu. It had the familiar dusty, dry and tired look of many
other villages yet the fresh market was incredibly large and
overflowing with a good variety of fruits, vegetables and spices. We
walked around a bit, browsed the shops and then settled on a place for
lunch. It was the only restaurant that appeared to be the least
likely candidate for the spread of some kind of God-knows-what
disease. It was an Indian restaurant. We have learned to be wary of
ordering beef, pork or lamb because what we often get is gristle and
fat. We also have learned that ordering fish at a place that is not
near the water may be risky as well, so I settled on chicken curry.
When ordering this dish it is often prudent to order boneless chicken.
So I did. The waiter looked at me oddly, so I asked him, "does your
chicken curry have bones?" He answered, "Oh, yes! We like the bones!
They are nice to eat – very crunchy!" Now I understood why unless the
menu states "boneless chicken" you will no doubt get your chicken
hacked up bones and all in the dish. Live and learn.

So we ended our day back at the resort for a final short visit, then
back to the boat for an early (boneless) dinner. We bid farewell to
our friends and promised to meet up again down the way. Frank and I
were heading to Lautoka while the others were sailing up into the
Yasawas. We hit the sack early because we had a long day of sailing
ahead of us meaning anchor up at 6 AM.

Monday, July 5, 2010

June 24 – 28, 2010 Makongai Island (Former Leper Colony), Fiji

We made another early departure to sail west to an island called Makongai.  We were cruising with "Just in Time", Scallywag" and "Northern Winds".  Everyone had fishing lines in the water and we followed suit.  The going was rough for the first hour or so until we were about ½ mile out of the pass. Just about that time I looked back to check our line as a large Mahi Mahi took flight.  We had hooked a beauty! Frank was just getting up to out of the cockpit to bring the big fish in when all of a sudden it was over – the fish and our rig were gone.  It happened so quickly, we were stunned. When the surprise wore off the realization that we just threw more big money into the sea hit us.  This fishing is costing us a small fortune.  Not much could be done about that.  So we settled in for the 8-hour sail, on a port tack.

About 30 minutes afterward I told Frank that I smelled strong raw diesel fumes wafting up the companionway. We went below to check the locker that houses the fuel fill hose, and sure enough the bottom of the locker was sloshing with fuel.  Once again I cursed Island Packet for not only their poor design and installation of the fuel hoses but also for putting our refrigerator and freezer compressors in the bottom of the locker that was now swimming in diesel. I gathered old towels and handed Frank a bucket.  Without going into too much detail, the vent hose had been breached letting fuel literally flow out of the line and pour into the locker each time the boat heeled to starboard.  Frank spent the better part of the passage trying to stay the leak.  He was successful, but by the end of it all we both were suffering extreme nausea and terrible headaches from the dense fumes. Arriving at our destination we were still cleaning up when Jock dinghyed over to bring us a large tuna steak from their catch.  We thank him profusely and I quickly whipped out a large batch of Poisson Cru. By the time it was ready to eat, I could not.  I was so sick from the fumes I nibbled on a couple of crackers and watched Frank gobble down a large bowl-full.

The next morning we were to go into shore to present our sevu sevu, but I got hit with a serious bout of stomach cramps and could not leave the boat, so Frank joined the others for a trip into shore. He returned late afternoon with a full report of the adventure.  Makongai Island is a former Leper colony. It is now a fishery, turtle preserve and giant clam farm.  The current inhabitants of the local village are all paid employees of the Fijian government.  The head guy gave our little group a tour of the now abandoned hospital and leper colony facilities.  They had some very impressive amenities, which I suppose were incentives for getting workers to come live at the place.  By 1965 leprosy was no longer an issue (cured maybe???), and the entire place was abandoned until 1982 when the Fijian government decided to install a clam farm and to establish a protected environment for the sea turtles.  Because it is protected the snorkeling is unbelievable – the diving even better.  The soft corals just explode with colors we've never seen anywhere else.  Even the clams are incredibly beautiful and absolutely huge.  One was at least as large as our dining table.  Because the corals are so healthy here great numbers of fish are happily swimming about, completely non-threatened by our presence. And the variety and colors of the fish are mind-boggling.  We could have stayed for weeks and not have dived the same site twice.  Had we not set ourselves a schedule to fly home we probably would have remained there for at least that long.

This is certainly a stop worth making again – at least for those returning to Fiji.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

June 17-23rd; Back to SavuSavu for a great week!

Although the snorkeling was fantastic at Albert Cove we were getting itchy to move along and start heading east, and besides we were out of fresh rations.  Weather reports did not look promising for the next few days, yet if we didn't go now then we would be socked in.  By the time we had our coffee, we figured we'd rather face a possible rough ride for 5 hours than just sit doing nothing in a soggy bay.  "IQ", "Scallywag" and "Just in Time" had all reached the same decision so off we went in a little caravan. Surprisingly, the sailing was very good.  We made fast tracks to the leeward side of Vanua Levu where the wind dropped completely leaving the waters flat calm for the last hour of the trip back into Viani Bay.

Frank and I just spent one night at Viani opting to shoot straight to SavuSavu early in the morning.  "Ivory Quays" joined us.  This leg was surely the rougher one.  We had winds of up to 35 knots on the beam and 3-meter seas astern, making it a fast ride.  Happily we arrived in SavuSavu just at dusk.

Our friends, Ian and Julia ("Moasi") had arrived from New Zealand, via Tonga so we made the best of our time with them while we could.  Many of our Kiwi friends were also in the anchorage making it a very festive week.

Julia told me about a lady named Una, who does the best massages she has ever had, so of course I booked an hour for the next morning.  It was pretty darn good – and even better when Una charged me $30 (Fijian).  I scheduled another for the next day.   During my second massage, Una told me about her 1-½ hour body treatment for rejuvenating the sun abused skin cells, using lots of fresh fruits and veggies.  I was intrigued, so of course I booked one for the following Monday.  I have to describe it because it was so amazing.  She met me at her door with a large bag full of goodies fresh from the market.  As I disrobed behind the curtain I heard her shredding, crushing and grating cucumbers, pineapples, watermelon, ginger – it smelled heavenly! She started out with a sugar/ginger/coconut scrub.  After that she smeared me with crushed pineapple and cucumber.  She placed cucumbers on my eyes and then gave me a watermelon/cucumber facial.  Then she wrapped me up tightly while I fermented into a fruit cocktail.  After she rinsed all of that off, she gave me a honey/ginger/lime "polish."  Oh my!  I felt like a gooey dessert.  When I prepared to pay her she told me the cost was $35.  I told her NO WAY.  I paid her $60 and told her I would not consider giving her less.  The poor woman nearly cried!  I can't begin to imagine what this would have me in a spa.  So of course half the anchorage began booking treatments with dear Una.  She probably made her annual income in the few short weeks that is high season for cruisers in SavuSavu.

We don't know where the time goes, but Frank and I spent most of the rest of ours getting on the internet making travel reservations to fly home in July.  One of his friends from the States is getting married in St. Louis and my daughter has just purchased her first home giving us at least two good reasons to go back for a visit.  So now that we have decided to fly home we have a lot of planning to do.  We spent a considerable amount of time doing that, shopping for food provisions and other necessities and getting together with cruising friends. 

All too soon, a week had gone by.  We said good-by to Julia and Ian and several others, and in the 23rd departed for Makongai Island.