06/17/2012, At anchor - Likuliku Bay, Malolo Island, Fiji
After a month, yes, that's right, A MONTH!!! at Musket Cove, it was time to move on and see more of Fiji. But before you consider us to be pathetic for indulging ourselves for a month at 5 star resort, just consider this. We're on vacation! We can do what we want. There is no "wrong way" to cruise.
When you look at the chart (click on the map at the right side of this page), it may not look as though we got far, but consider: Fiji eats boats. Every year. Just this year alone, since we have been here, we know of three boats on the reef, one who sunk. This is because Fiji has an enormous amount of reefs and marginal charting. A reef may be shown on the chart, but may not be located where the chart says it is. Or maybe the chart doesn't show it at all. Or maybe a reef is shown, but there is no reef. Given that so many modern sailors navigate with GPS with an accuracy of better that 20 meters, what is the problem? The problem is that the original charts were drawn back in the Captain Cook days (late 1700s). Some have been updated, many have not. The GPS is indeed accurate, and shows you exactly where you are, but the chart is not necessarily correct. So the way to navigate Fiji is to use your eyes and proper lighting. The reefs are remarkably visible when the light is good. This will be a sunny day from the hours of say 10:00 to about 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Before or after, you cannot see so well. A cloudy day, you really cannot see so well. Night? Forget it.
So, this morning after breakfast of local onion bread, fresh pineapple with coffee (doesn't that sound so tropical?), we went to the office, checked out, like at a hotel, showered one last time on shore, said goodbye to friends, got the dinghy engine on to its mount on the transom, dinghy on deck, instrument covers off, etc, etc, we cast off at 11:30. This was so late partly because the sun didn't come out until late - it was overcast and cloudy, and partly because we needed to enjoy a late morning snack. Our friend Sue on s/v Cable's Length from Perth, Australia had just baked muffins and had friends Bill and Sue from s/v Lady Nada, also from Perth, deliver them. Mmmmmm good. They were still hot.
We really thought we were in luck as we left the anchorage. Another boat we had met the other day, S/v Irma from Czech Republic, had just left and was in front of us. Wonderful, we now had a canary in the coal mine to feel the way through the reefs. But, alas, they were perhaps unsure of the way, pulled over to let us by and followed us through the rat maze of reefs to Likuliku. We were quite happy to help out, of course, and they were so nice as to call us on the radio afterwards thanking us. Very nice people.
We then arrived at Likuliku Bay, a mere three miles away at 12:45. Our intended destination is still about 18 miles away, but this was a good anchorage to get us out of the slow going heavy reef section, and set us up for an early departure tomorrow morning. And it is phenomenal. It is only the other end of Malolo Island, but it has a completely feel and view - all of it beautiful. The plan is to leave in the morning for Navadra. Lady Nada and Cable's Length are going to meet us there, but they wanted another day at Musket. Ha! It's a vortex! Possible fly in the ointment is that rain is forecast for Wed and Thur. When will it cloud up? There is no real wind associated with it, or so says the forecast, so if the morning is clear, we will make Navadra tomorrow. If not, too bad, but this place is beautiful.
05/27/2012, Malolo Lailai Island, Fiji
Musket Cove Update
Well, this is going to be a bit of a boring entry, I think. Why? Because we are having a great time, have no worries, etc. We are on a mooring at the Musket Cove Resort on Malolo Lailai Island in Fiji. This is a very cool place, and not like so many other resorts that don't really care or want yachties around. On the contrary, Musket Cove loves the yachties and offers all of their facilities to us - but at a price. That price is one Fijian dollar. Yes, for $1 Fijian (about fifty cents US), you are invited to join (lifetime membership) the Musket Cove Yacht Club. The only requirement for this membership is that you have sailed here from a foreign port. You then get full use of the pool, showers, laundry facilities, access to the book exchange, dinghy dock, the grounds, beaches etc. All for no additional cost.
There is also a nice dive shop here and some of Fiji's best dive spots are accessed from right here. The restaurant is good and reasonable, a grocery store, and Yacht Club gives half price access to a ferry that goes back and forth to the mainland Viti Levu for airport and shopping access. It is all a cashless arrangement, in that you just give your credit card once and then you have an account running. Easy peasy.
Musket is a social place with many moorings for a reasonable price or one can anchor for free. There is a beach bar where yachties from all over the world meet in the evenings and share the warm evenings. The bar is staffed by some of the coolest and friendly young women you could ever meet, AND they are frighteningly smart. I believe I mentioned their amazing memories in my last entry. It only gets better.
So, we have been swimming, paddling our kayaks, hiking the reef at low tide, hiking around the island. We have met some wonderful people, who have us over for dinner, hosted happy hour on board Proximity. We are playing music - our friend Bill plays trumpet - there will be a jam with him soon! We took the ferry to the mainland for shopping and an evening with our friends Jan and Eli on Jenny. It's all good and just gets better. We will be here for a little while longer then we will head north and explore the Yasawa group of islands. Meanwhile, we are living in our swim clothes, and wishing you were here to share the fun.
Best to all of you from "Your Rock and Roll Argonauts".
05/16/2012, Musket Cove, Fiji
Checking in at Lautoka was very interesting for us. Checking in is always a bit of a bother, sometimes a simple and easy formality, sometimes it can grow into a painful bureaucratic ordeal. Lautoka had some qualities of each, but ended up being quite a whole lot of fun.
You remember that we entered the reef at about sunrise. We then had one of the most wonderful and beautiful sails we have ever had crossing the remaining 20 miles to Lautoka. While hove to, we spotted another yacht and talked on the radio together. It was a Dutch yacht named Aletis and was single handed by a very nice guy named Maarten. We became friends in Lautoka.
We arrived about noon, got the dinghy in the water and rushed to Customs. No one there. Lunchtime. They'll be back at 2:00. Ok, so eventually 2:00 came along, forms got filled out for Customs - "How much liquor stores do you have on board? I see. There will be a small tax for those", Immigration "You are permitted a four month visa. How long will you be in Fiji?", Biosecurity "We will need to see your food. Can you take us to your boat?" Upon looking at the food, "Yes, that is food, all right. Everything is in order. Can you take us to Alteis?" Of course. It was a pleasure. They were delightful. The next step was to go into town to obtain the cruising clearance from the Tourism office. Only then can Customs give us the cruising permit that we need.
Problem was that this was Friday. Tourism closes at 4:00. It was now 4:00. We would have to wait until Monday before we could go to Tourism office. "But no problem getting the permit on Monday, is there?" "No problem, but Tourism office cannot give the clearance. That must come from Suva. It will require an overnight fax." "Hmmmm, I see, so it looks like Tuesday before we can get our cruising permit?" "Well we will have to see how eficient they are.."
So then, it was to be a little holiday in Lautoka. Lautoka is an industrial city, second largest in Fiji. It is home to the Port of Lautoka (where we checked in) and this is the very port where the Fiji Water is loaded and shipped abroad to the US and other destinations. It is also home to a sugar refinery right at the water side, and always smelled great, like a candy factory. Additionally, Fiji has a distillery very close that makes Bounty Rum, winner of numerous awards. There is a huge open air veggie market, lots of hustle bustle in the business district with many wonderful (and cheap) places where Fijians go to eat.
There is NO tourism in Lautoka. For the most part, ours were the only white faces we saw in Lautoka. People, not being used to foreigners, did not see us as "dollar signs", but as people, and they were very interested in who we were. So, it was a very cool weekend. We walked around town, attended a local rugby game, shopped for some wonderful fresh veggies, and bought some Bounty Rum and a case of Fiji Bitter Beer. Lunch in a very crowded Indian restaurant - delicious, lots of it and $4.00 Fijian (exchange is about half US).
We met some local people, hung out into the night with Maarten. And then on Monday, we found that the Touism office was actually pretty efficient, and got our clearance that afternoon and our cruising permit first thing Tuesday. I love Fiji. And we had a great time in Lautoka.
We are now at Musket Cove. It is very touristy. We are not a curiosity. It is (relatively) expensive here (much cheaper than NZ or the US). But it too, is wonderful, and we do not mind being tourists for a little while. There are many yachts, and the place really does many wonderful things for us. For instance, we joined the Musket Cove Yacht Club. Lifetime membership for a dollar. This entitles us to free use of the swimming pool and grounds (they are beautiful) half price fare on the ferry to Denarau on the mainland and more.
Although, I did say that we aren't curiosities here, listen to this. Maybe we are. Last night in the yachtie bar on the beach, we were talking with the two young Fijian women tending the bar. They asked our boat name, our names. They asked us if we knew so and so, or bla bla bla. Turns out that we did know one that they asked us. We also have some friends who passed through Alameda a couple of years before we set out cruising. They wrote to us once from Musket Cove and told us how nice it is here. So I asked the women if they knew the yacht Argonaut? Their immediate response was "Yes! Mike and Liz!" We couldn't believe it. This must have been four years ago, so my advice is to never underestimate the impact you may have on someone. It may surprise you.
Tuesday morning, we
05/11/2012, At anchor - Lautoka, Fiji
First, let me correct that yesterday was Thursday. Today, is correctly Friday, and the eagle has now landed. The anchor is down, we have checked in with the local officials, and now we can rest. And it feels good to rest. After a long passage, the idea of simply resting or sleeping for more than just three hours seems to be a treat beyond imagination. It's a wonderful feeling. So, please excuse me for not saying more, but I'm going to take advantage of the moment and savor it with my Schatzi. We both thank you for being along on this passage, a tough one to be sure, but so gratifying because of it.
05/10/2012, South Pacific Ocean - Passage from New Zealand to Fiji
Well, then. It's midnight. My watch. Elisabeth is getting a well-deserved sleep. We are hove to just about 15 miles out of the entrance to this side of Fiji - Navula Pass. At 0300, we will make our way to that entrance and arrive at daybreak. But for now, we are just keeping watch for traffic. Elisabeth had her share of contacts to keep track of. Big ships, easily tracked with the aid of AIS, and a fish boat to track the old fashion way - eyes and binoculars. Fish boats are always a bit difficult. The have position lights, of course, but they also have about a million bright white lights completely drowning out the position lights. I got up and lent a hand. I believe we were seeing his starboard side, but Elisabeth thinks she saw the red lights of port. He was reaching our comfort distance of two miles (thank you radar) so we changed "tacks" and are now drifting back toward the shore at 1.8 knots.
Today was interesting. Remember that there was a very light northerly wind of about 5 knots that we had to motor against. The morning was a beautiful blue sky with wonderful flat sea. The air was warm, well it felt hot to us being used to the New Zealand climate by now. While Elisabeth slept, I took the opportunity to refuel the boat using the jerry cans we carry on deck. Afterward, we both enjoyed our first cockpit shower in a long time. This is a big treat. I don't know why it is so nice, but it is. After the excitement of last night, it was nice to enjoy with this relaxing treat. (Tell you about the excitement later.)
About half way through the day, we didn't need to motor any more. The wind started filling in from the south. Pity it wasn't here a little earlier - I would be writing this from a nice anchorage. But was it ever nice, the sea was gentle, the day was beautiful, and the two of us sat like a couple of lovebirds back at the helm. It was one of those magical moments where we just get thankful for each other, for the past ten years we have enjoyed together - we have a ten year anniversary coming up this year. Elisabeth was wearing a little blue beach dress that I bought her on the beach at Cabo San Lucas back on the 2005 Baja Ha Ha. What year is it now? Hmmm.. I guess we've been doing this cruising thing for a while now. Funny, we still feel like babies. Happy ones at that.
Ok the excitement of last night. Many people ask us to write about the exciting adventurous stuff. Storms, big wind, pirates, sea monsters. Etc. We know a few people who do this kind of writing, and after a while, one comes to believe that these people are very lucky to be alive. It seems that they narrowly escape death and disaster every time they go out. Life is not full of calamity for us. It does have its challenges and sometimes we have to work pretty hard. For us, we find value and satisfaction in that. What did someone say? That the difference between adventure and ordeal is attitude?
Ok. Well hopefully this hasn't been over-billed. Last night we were motoring along before the moon came up. It was dark. It can get dark like you can't imagine out here. No stars, no hand in front of you face. No reference about which way is up on a pitching boat. We had that. Until the squall with the lightning storm. In the distance, I started seeing bright flashes of light. Lightning. We hate lightning on the boat. A quick look on the radar, showed that we were being engulfed by a rather sizable lightning storm. A few drops, then and intense rain started, so down below we went - the chart and radar would be our eyes. Using the radar, we tried making turns (we can steer from down below) to get out, but it was simply impossible and we resumed our original course. Soon, lightning bright enough to be painful to see was happening with frequency. Bolts shooting down to the water. All very dramatic and quite frightening. The thunder was unbelievably loud. We had never been so close to such an event before. We turned everything off that we could. Radar off, transponder off. Anything that might attract an electrical charge. We were on edge and yes frightened. "Your Rock and Roll Argonauts" are not immune from seas sickness or properly applied fear. I don't remember how long we were stuck in this little event, but eventually, it just simply dissipated. Vanished. The sky went clear. The moon was there, and life was good again. We did not get struck by lightning. We did, in fact, escape disaster, just like those people I told you about. Elisabeth said this afternoon that the lightning hurt her eyes so much that she found herself thinking that maybe she would be well served to wear her sunglasses for protection.
See you tomorrow!
05/09/2012, South Pacific Ocean - Passage from New Zealand to Fiji
So close, yet so far away. Your Argos have worked their hearts out with very little to show for it today. Very sad after making such good time up until now. We started the day just like any other. Good wind for sailing, ahead of the beam so Proximity was powered up and going well. The big seas were the same as they have always been. A bit of a nusance, but very beautiful and impressive and no real worries. Then the wind shifted. At first our course was close hauled, about as close to the wind as we can sail - yes, even beloved Proximity has a limit. As the morning wore on, the wind pointed us further and further from our destination. It looked as though Manila might be our intended destination. Unacceptable, so we tried the other tack. It was worse - it made Buenas Aires look pretty promising. Yes, of course, we could actually do the back and forth tacking, but we calculated that this would make the actual distance we needed to travel much higher, possibly making it such that we might not make the reef pass before dark.
Now, remember that we were now only about 100 miles away, so hey, let's just try motoring. We did, and with 20 kts of wind directly on our nose and those big seas that poor Proximity would have to climb up like hills on the highway, there was no forward speed. What about motorsailing? For you non-sailors, this is when you can point the boat further into the wind with the help of the engine. Not today. Well, we could point her up, but not enough to make a meaningful course. All day long, we tried. Then the squalls came, and we just had to deal with them. The warm rain was nice, and the wind was forecast to go away after the rains made their way through.
Eventually, the squalls were gone, and by some magical occurrence, the seas had gone flat enough that we perhaps could motor up to Lautoka. But by now, it was late in the afternoon. There would be no way we could make the pass through the reef, and meander our way up to Lautoka by dusk on Thursday, and we do not do night arrivals, especially in Fiji. Fiji is reef city. Made a big impression on us last time we were here. So then, what would you do? We calculated how slow we would need to motor and get to the pass by dawn on Friday. Well then, here we are. Motoring at 3 knots, on a benign sea - a little, but not too rude. It is spectacularly beautiful. The sunset was quite something. We will get to do it again tomorrow.
Our progress for the day was minimal, but that is part of being a sailor. One works with nature rather than against her. "So why are you motoring, you hippocrite?" You may say? Well ..good question! I'll get back to you on it.
In the mean time, we enjoyed some outdoor time today. Things have been so rough that we have been "house bound" unless we fancied sitting in our full foul weather gear being pasted by big cold splashes. Today, we found ourselves out in the sun enjoying the incredible beauty of the sea. A pair of big brown boobys hunted along side of us for a while. And whats this? I think I see a veggie stir fry in our future tomorrow!