Our Next 30 Years

04 July 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo Lailia Island, Fiji
28 June 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo Lailia Island, Fiji
26 June 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo LaiLai Island, Fiji
23 June 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
16 June 2017 | Robinson Crusoe Resort anchorage, Likuri Island, Viti Levu, Fiji
15 June 2017 | Nabouwalu Bay, Ono Island, Kadavu, Fiji
06 June 2017 | Beqa Lagoon Anchorage, Beqa Island
30 May 2017 | 18 07.3'S:178 25.4'E, Royal Suva Yacht Club Anchorage, Suva, Fiji
28 May 2017 | 20 29.9'S:177 18.2'E,
28 May 2017 | 22 09.9'S:176 41.8'E, Lost
27 May 2017 | 23 43.9'S:175 53.6'E,
25 May 2017 | 25 34.7'S:175 51.4'E,
24 May 2017 | 29 09.3'S:175 31.2'E, Halfway Point
23 May 2017 | 29 09.3'S:175 31.2'E,
22 May 2017 | 31 24.06'S:174 39.74'E,
21 May 2017 | 33 35.6'S:174 21.4'E, Departure from Bay of Islands
06 May 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
30 April 2017 | 35 19.0'S:174 07.2'E, Bay of Islands Marina, Opua, NZ
21 April 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
19 April 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ

Musket Cove

04 July 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo Lailia Island, Fiji
When we left Texas to return to the South Pacific, I knew that we would be faced with a key decision the end of June. That decision would dictate where we cleared into Fiji and where we spent our time before the end of June. When we could get away from NZ and arrive in Fiji also played into things, but only to the extent of how long we had before the end of June. Cindy had made it clear that with me or with out me she would be spending 3 weeks or so in Texas with our new grandson, who was scheduled to make his debut into this world mid-June.

Unfortunately, there are not many Marinas in Fiji where I could feel comfortable leaving the boat at a dock. The logical choice was Port Denarau, but there was no room for us (and it was a bit pricey). As I made inquiries it became clear that I was not going to find a spot where I would be comfortable leaving the boat unattended for this length of time. So the decision then turned to where best for me to spend the time while Cindy was away. With input from other cruisers that had spent time around Fiji, I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that Musket Cove would be the best choice.

Musket Cove is located on Malolo Lailia Island, on the south end of the Mamanuca Island chain in Fiji. It is about 12nm west of Port Denarau, with easy access to Nadi International Airport via a large power cat water taxi. Musket Cove marina includes access to the resort amenities, making it a very relaxing stay. We were fortunate to arrive before the boats from the World ARC arrived and were able to get one of their first-come-first-serve mooring balls. There is also an over-flow anchorage area, which has been pretty full - especially when the larger (80-125’) boats stop by. By virtue of the fact that Cindy and I sailed into Musket Cove from a foreign port, we have become Lifetime Members of the Musket Cove Yacht Club.

Besides the list of boat chores that are always available to eat up time during the day, there are lots of other “fun” ways for me to spend the day, including hiking around the island, paddleboarding, and snorkeling. I have had fun watching the kite boarders ripping it up, and have even thought about heading out to one of the many surf breaks to try surfing on the SUP. I have enjoyed catching up with many of the cruisers we know that are also here, as well as meeting new boats. The only disappointment is that the area is a conservation area and there is no fishing!

Port Denarau

28 June 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo Lailia Island, Fiji
While the Fiji Weather Service was still calling for High Wind Warnings through-out Fiji, we had noted when we went out snorkeling on the reef at Robinson Crusoe Island that the wind and sea-state was not as bad as it had been in previous days. With that in mind we decided to "ignore" the forecast (Cindy felt they had simply forgotten to change it) and make the approximately 30nm trip west along the coast to Port Denarau. Going back out through the pass is always a much less stressful event since you have your original "track" displayed on the chart. All you have to do is follow it back out and you know you are going over familiar water. Once we were out of the pass, we were surprised at just how much the winds had fallen off. We hoisted the main and set the screecher and motor-sailed to keep our speed around 5kts. Seas were less than 1m on the aft quarter, so we had a comfortable (but slow) trip. Around 11AM we entered Navula Passage and what seas there were went away. As we turned more northerly the breeze went forward and came up just enough for us to sail. Smooth waters and light winds inside a reef like this make for magical sailing. We ghosted along at 5-6kts in less than 10kts of breeze. Looking around, we realized we were the only boat sailing - everyone else was motoring!

We were lucky to get an email back from Port Denarau Marina informing us that a space had come available on a mooring ball, so we were able to go inside vs staying out and anchoring in the open bay. On the way in, we received a Securitee call over the VHF that Reef Endeavour was exiting the channel. I stopped and we held our position as the cruise ship left - there would have been no space for both of us and this was one of those times when the Big Boat has the right-of-way. As we waited, we got a good view of Dragon Fly (a Google Executives) megayacht that was at anchor. Once inside, Ali from the Marina met us and escorted us to our mooring buoy and helped us get hooked up. Port Denarau is used extensively by all the commercial yacht operators and has berthing for the larger megayachts, so it is very busy. They are booked up well in advance and many of their mooring balls are owned, and only available when the owner is elsewhere.

We had heard both good and bad reports, but found the area very enjoyable. The Marina staff were very friendly and helpful. They explained that we could wait until the commercial boats left the commercial dock in the mornings and then take our boat to the dock to wash it down, etc. We just needed to be off the dock before the late afternoon when they came back from their charters. With the commercial operators and large yachts, re-fueling was easy - though we didn't need much. Mary was really helpful helping us get the paperwork from Customs/Immigration (we had to go to the airport to do this) that would allow Cindy to come back into Fiji without an outbound plane ticket - it was obvious that she had done this before! They connected us with Marshall Sails to have a more permanent repair made on our jib, where we had a small tear and delamination from our passage to Fiji. There are numerous restaurants, shops, etc, right there at the Marina. There is an associated resort area and golf course as well, which makes for nice walks. Then there is the dollar buses that take you into Nadi and beyond. Nadi has it's own feel compared to the other towns in Fiji. We enjoyed a day of seeing the sights, including their market. And, Cindy got to go to a Catholic church service in English!

The one downside of our visit was that they were burning off the sugar cane fields. It was an amazing sight at night to see the hills aglow. This meant that the air was full of ash, that covered the boat. Before we left, we washed the boat down in an attempt to get it off. While I was somewhat dreading Port Denarau, it was a pleasant surprise, and I would not hesitate to return if space was available for us.

Robinson Crusoe Island

26 June 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo LaiLai Island, Fiji
While we were the only boat anchored off the resort island while we were there, we understand that cruisers do frequent the island quite often. And we can attest to the fact that the resort and the staff are very cruiser friendly. The resort is not the high-end luxury type, but they have great food, reasonable prices, and their dance show is the best we have seen across the Pacific - hands-down. The quality of the dancing rivals what we saw at the competitions in Papeete, and included in addition to the various dances, fire-walking, fire dancing and sword dancing. Forget about the 10-15 minute shows that are more typical at most resorts, after the first 45 minutes you find that this is only intermission and there is more to come. We had a truly outstanding time. In addition to having people stay at the resort, they bring tourist in as a day-trip for their shows, tours of the local village and activities like snorkeling, kayaking, weaving, crab races, observing their turtle population, etc. The staff go all out to engage you and immerse you in the activities. We were encouraged to join in and participate (with no additional cost to us).

We enjoyed a nice snorkeling trip out to the reef. While we have seen nicer coral, there were lots of different kinds of fish to watch of all sizes. We had fun sitting and talking with the villagers that came in to demonstrate their crafts. The staff adopted us and often invited us to sit with them in the grass as they had their lunch. There is a lot of beach to walk on and a single dog (Tyce) on the island to join you for the walk. Captain Paul, the original developer of the resort paddled out to meet us. Like everyone else he was super friendly and told us about how the resort came to be, as well as the new resort he is developing in the Yasawa Islands.

Like what we saw at Rivers Fiji, Robinson Crusoe has developed a healthy relationship with a local village. Many of the staff are from that village and they take the tourist to the village for an outing. On Sunday, we followed the staff boat in our dinghy over to the river mouth and up the river to the jetty (about a 30 minute trip), where they pick-up and return their guests. They had arranged for a taxi to meet us and take us to the village for church. The cab driver immediately pronounced that we would go to church with his family and then return to their house after church for lunch. He explained that it was his son’s 14th birthday and that we could help celebrate. Once again, Cindy and I were overwhelmed with the openness and hospitality shown to us by these happy, kind and generous people. Church was all in Fijian, but the music was as always outstanding. After church we met the village Chief and he invited us to see his new Fijian Buree that the village had built for him after Cyclone Winston destroyed his home. Lunch was a true birthday feast. Our hostess was a great cook and we enjoyed the fish, chicken curry, lamb curry, beef, etc. We learned that driving the local taxi was but one of our host’s businesses. He also ran a horseback riding and massage concession on the beach by one of the larger resorts on Viti Levu. Finally, it was time for us to return to the river. Our dinghy had been looked after while we were gone (as the folks from Robinson Crusoe had promised). We had a great ride back out the river and into the bay out to Robinson Crusoe Island where we were at anchor.

As has been the case where ever we have visited, there are beautiful sunrises and sunsets, overwhelming vistas, and amazing experiences with nature, but it is the people that have made the difference and are what we will remember the most.

Return to Viti Levu

23 June 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
With the weather outlook continuing to call for Strong (20-25kts from the E-SE) Wind Warnings through out Fiji, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were not going to get a chance (this visit) to go out to some of the more exposed islands in the Kadavu group to snorkel and explore. With the wind direction we could sail directly downwind to our next destination on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu - Robinson Crusoe Island (Likori Island). The trip was too long (about 90nm) for a day sail (in the Southern Hemisphere winter we have less than 12 hrs of daylight), so we decided to do a “slow” overnight passage. The trick is to not arrive until the sun is up so we can see our way in through the reef. If we kept our speed to around 6kts, that means we could leave around 5PM and arrive around 8AM. With the wind and seas from behind, we set the self-tacking jib and left the main-sail down. We got a few passing tradewind showers, but no squally conditions and for the most part had a pleasant sail. We did have two issues to deal with.

The first came early morning before sun up. We had evidently gotten close enough to the coastline that Cindy’s email started chiming. One of those emails brought the disturbing news that our friends on SV Kiaora had lost their boat after running onto an uncharted reef off of the southern shores of Vanua Levu. Their story of running aground, receiving aid to re-float the boat after two tide cycles, and anchoring in a bay overnight only to have their boat sink beneath them was heartbreaking. The only good news was that another yacht (our friends on SV Il Sogno) happened to anchor in the same bay that night and was there to take them and what they could grab aboard. It is hard to express the feelings when you learn of a friend loosing their boat (their home). Unfortunately we have known people that dealt with this experience each of the last three years.

The second came as we closed on the coast and the barrier reef that we would have to enter, I realized that we were earlier in the morning than I would like to be. I tried to find a balance between enough speed that the boat motion was still comfortable for Cindy, yet slow enough that we could let the sun come up some more. As we closed on the passage through the reef, what I was seeing was not matching our charts very well. There were no navigation aides visible, so there was no clear point of entry other than the breaking surf (6-8ft) telling me where we didn’t want to be. The Cruisers Guides had commented that the resort on the island was friendly to cruisers, and would send boats out to lead you in safely. Given the situation that we had just read about from our friends, I decided that we would not try to come in to the anchorage by ourselves given the fact that I had just stayed up all night, the sun angle, and associated lack of good visibility. At 7:30AM I decided to see if anyone was manning the VHF radio at the resort. Luckily we did get an answer back. We were told to stand by and they would send a boat out to lead us in.

We watched as a guide boat appeared - on the exact opposite side of the passage where I would have approached from based on our charts. We changed course and motored toward him, and he began leading us in - directly over the area our charts showed as reef - but we had 100 ft or more of water below us (see the picture of our track coming into the pass and to the anchorage). Several boat lengths to starboard we had breaking waves! Well to port was calm as could be - this was the area where I would have expected us to approach from? As we continued toward the island, we crossed over areas where the charts showed drying flats. I had been glad to see that it would be an incoming tide as we arrived, both allowing us to better see the shallow areas, and float the boat if we did bump. The lowest depth we saw was 9 ft. When we got to the northern end of the island the boat captain told us that this would be the deepest area and best place to anchor. We were in 15-20ft of water at that point. We thanked him and he went back to shore to prepare for the days activities. Once we got settled (and I had eaten and slept) we went ashore and and talked to the boat captain and found that indeed the charts show this area all wrong. Part of the problem is that 2 rivers dump into the bay and the shoaling is obviously different than as shown in the charts.

It is good to remind ourselves that Fiji is a country of over 300 islands. The charts for the area will only be close to correct where there is commercial traffic, and even there, you can’t expect the navigation aides to be present after last years cyclone. Be careful out there!

Kadavu and the Great Astrolabe Reef

16 June 2017 | Robinson Crusoe Resort anchorage, Likuri Island, Viti Levu, Fiji
We got an early start on the 35nm passage from Beqa to the Kadavu group of Islands south of Viti Levu. The reef surrounding these islands is referred to as the Astrolabe reef and is one of the better dive spots in Fiji. Since we had light NW to SW winds forecast, I had planned to motor the entire 7hrs, but had hoped that we would be able to motor-sail a bit. We did get some help from the wind - not enough for the main to be hoisted, but we did fly the screecher for about 5hrs of the trip. The good news was that the sea-state was calm, making for a very enjoyable ride. Around 2PM (just as the SW wind picked up to 15kts) we entered the reef at Usbourne Passage (we have found that most all of the nav aides shown on our charts are missing - assuming from Cyclone Winston) and carefully made our way to Dravuni Island. As we were approaching we could see one of the island ferries coming from the opposite direction. While we were anchoring off the beautiful sand beach they came in, anchored, unloaded people and supplies, and left again - quite an efficient operation.

Our first trip ashore in the dinghy was full of surprises. First, we had a bit of a shore break from the swell created by the westerly component winds. That always adds a bit of excitement to a beach landing - and usually makes for a bit of a wet exit. Next, as we got to shore we were surrounded by children who promptly found places to grab on the dinghy and began pulling it up onto the beach. This was great except the sand was soft and they went faster than I was going. I fell onto my backside and they ran over me with the dinghy - which they found very funny. With nothing hurt but my pride, I was up brushing off sand and saying Bula Vinaka to all the kids. The village school teacher came down and introduced himself, then he and the kids returned to their chore for the afternoon - pounding the kava root for the evenings drinking. Cindy and I changed into our sevusevu “dress” and proceeded to the Chief’s home. Unfortunately the Chief was away tending his farm at the other end of the island, so our sevusevu was performed with the Village Mayor and the Chief’s family. We were welcomed to the island and invited for church and lunch the following day. They explained that we had access to all of the northern islands in their area.

We had a great time in Dravuni. We accompanied the Chief’s daughter Dua and her baby Gracy to church where we were recognized by the pastor and welcomed. The singing was magnificent, and it was fun to watch all the kids sitting together with the parents using long sticks to tap them on the shoulder when they weren’t behaving to their standards. Lunch was amazing - the Chief’s wife Mariani is a great cook and asked for recipes from Cindy. We had brought in some of the fish we caught, that she prepared as ceviche or poison crue. They were disappointed that we only had the meat and not the head and bones, so they augmented with the head and bones from another fish. We had also brought some fresh pan bread, but the Chief evidently decided that it would be great for his breakfast, so there was none left for lunch. We also had freshly picked casva (like boiled potato) from the Chief’s garden, along with fresh coconut milk to pour over everything. It was really nice to be included in their family Sunday lunch. After lunch Cindy and I took a walk up to the top of the mountain (hill) overlooking the island. We found ourselves accompanied by one of the village dogs who made sure we both found the way, and were protected every step of our journey. Coming back we walked along the beach laughing the whole way as the dog chased the sand crabs from our path.

One of the things that was special about Dravuni was that Mariani (the Chief’s wife) asked if we had any old reading glasses. Cindy found several old pair that we took in so she could see if they helped. The look on her face was priceless as she put on the glasses and she looked at the Bible her daughter had brought for her to read. She was so happy, and we were happy to have been able to help.

We left Dravuni with the idea of anchoring at Nagara Bay so we could snorkel off one of close by small islands that people had said had mantas. Unfortunately the SE winds had come up (20-25kts) making getting out to the area a “no-go” for us in the dinghy. The next morning the winds were now blowing straight into Nagara Bay making it a hazardous anchorage, with no protection from the wind or chop, so we left and went around to Nabouwalu Bay. There we found a well sheltered anchorage in these strong SE winds (unfortunately we didn’t find the strong wifi signal Cindy had in Nagara Bay). We also found Nick and Sue, another sailboat (SV Alba) who had also come here in search of protection from the weather.

We did sevusevu with the Chief and his wife. The Chief complimented my sulu and asked where I had gotten such a fine, gentleman’s sulu. He told us about his days in the Army where he served in Lebanon as part of the peace-keeping forces. The chief’s wife was weaving a new large mat for their floor. Cindy had decided to include some instant coffee with our gift of kava, which was a big hit. The Chief’s wife noted however that she liked cocoa instead of coffee. She asked if we had any bottles, explaining that they used glass bottles for the coconut oil and plastic bottles for the kids to take water to school or the adults to take water to the fields when they farmed. She also asked if we had any crayons, books, etc for the young children. This was one of the smaller villages we had been to and any families with older children had already moved away so the kids could go to school. The next day, we returned and brought a trash bag full of glass and plastic bottles (I knew there was a good reason why I drank all that Pepsi), some crayons and coloring books that our friends Andy and Megan (SV Wairua) had given us, and of course some cocoa mix for the Chief’s wife. This was all met with great appreciation.

While the strong winds that were blowing limited what we could do on the water, we had fun exploring the village and talking to everyone. We had a nice hike around the tidal flats and a scramble up the hilltop (about halfway up I suggested and Cindy concurred that she might sit this one out) to look out over the island. Another boat (SV Plastic Plankton) arrived in the anchorage. After they recovered from the tough passage, they joined us for some snorkeling in the sheltered bays. We had fun and saw lots of fish, shells and coral species.

Dravuni will always hold a special place in our memory since we were at anchor there when we got the messages of the birth of our new grandson - Henry. Cindy has pretty much one thing on her mind right now and that is making sure she gets to the airport so that she can go home and see Henry. I’m sure she also wants to see the proud new parents (our son and daughter-in-law), as well as our other kids and grandkids, but right now Henry is all she can talk about. Unfortunately the weather forecast continues to call for strong SE Winds (20-25kts) over the next week, which will limit what we can do out here. So, it is time to make the trip back to Viti Levu.

Beqa Island Lagoon

15 June 2017 | Nabouwalu Bay, Ono Island, Kadavu, Fiji
While Suva is a great place to re-provision, it isn't why we came to Fiji. Since we were here in the SE corner of Viti Levu (Fiji's big island), we thought that we would take advantage of our easterly location and visit Kadavu and the Great Astrolabe Reef. To get there from Suva requires winds that are more easterly than SE. While the forecast called for east winds, it wasn't happening as we exited Suva Harbour, and so we had to accept that today we weren't going to Kadavu. Our "Plan B" (you always need to be flexible and have a Plan B) was to fall off and head to Beqa Lagoon. Three hours later we were approaching one of the passes into Beqa Lagoon. Our AIS showed a target at the mouth of the pass and as it updated from an MMSI (identifier number) to a boat name we recognized our friends from SV Il Sogno. They saw us on AIS as well and called on the VHF. They had been diving at the pass and were on their way back to the anchorage. They waited for us and we followed them in the pass and around to the lee-side of Beqa Island, to an anchorage off of the Beqa Lagoon resort and the Village of Rukua. While the anchorage provided protection from the swell and wind-waves, there were gusty winds that came down over the mountain (hill) tops that kept the boat moving a bit while at anchor. Happily we were anchored well in sand and stayed put.

The next morning our friends left to take their guests back to the international airport. We went ashore to the village with our traditional gift of Kava roots to present to the Chief and ask for his permission to anchor and enjoy the area - a process called "sevusevu". When we arrived at the village we were directed to the "Mayor" (no Chief here). Cindy and I had followed the traditional guidelines, and I was dressed in a "sulu", while Cindy had on a skirt and blouse. We took off our hats and sunglasses and carried vs wore our backpack. The ladies that we met when we came ashore took us to the Mayor's home and introduced us to him. He invited us in and we sat on the floor. He took the time to explain how much he appreciated the respect that we were showing by honoring their traditions. He explained that he would go through the traditional ceremony in their language and then we would talk. After the short sevusevu "ceremony", he accepted the Kava and told us that we were welcome to anchor, explore the village, snorkel the reefs and take fish from the lagoon. He introduced us to his young son who was in Kindergarten (Kinde) and told us that he had 3 other children in primary school. He explained a number of the projects that were on going in the village and the visitors that they were welcoming from Australia in the coming days. The Village has a great working relationship with the resort, which employees a number of the villagers. Finally, he asked a favor of us. He explained that his children saw the yachts come and go and had asked him what they were like on the inside. He asked if he could bring them to see our boat. We said of course that they were welcome to come visit our home. Several days later they did finally make it out to the boat. We were glad that we could do something special for them.

The Beqa Lagoon Resort is primarily a dive resort. While we were there a large dive group from the US were there. We went in for the local entertainment and dinner one evening and had fun talking to the divers and seeing all the pictures of their dives. This area is known for their shark dives, and Cindy and I were amazed at the number and different species of sharks. The divers all commented that they had never been any where else that came close to what they experienced here. While we had heard that some resorts can be ugly to cruisers, we were welcomed and made to feel at home.

Unfortunately, the weather didn't exactly cooperate and we had mostly overcast and rainy days for our stay in Beqa Lagoon. That said, we were able to catch-up quickly with our water maker and fill our freshwater tanks, as well as catch rainwater for rinsing swim trunks, etc. We did get to snorkel one of the local reefs. There were beautiful coral and lots of fish. The timing of our swim resulted in lots of current, and with the opposing wind a bit of chop, so Cindy was pooped when we finally got back in the dinghy. And we had both gotten more than one mouthful of saltwater.

As we watched the weather a passing trough was forecast to bring a day of light NE to SW winds. We saw this as an opportunity to get out to Kadavu, so we left the Beqa Lagoon anchorage and motored around to Malumu Bay on the other side of the island for a quick start the next morning for the 7 hr trip to Kadavu. On our way, I decided it would be a great time to drag my new red and white Rapalla lure behind the boat. Within an hour we had caught not one, but two dog-tooth tuna, doubling the number of fish we have caught while underway! Ceviche for lunch and grilled tuna for dinner - its great to be back in Fiji!
Vessel Name: Full Circle
Vessel Make/Model: 50' cruising catamaran designed by Garry Lidgard
Hailing Port: Austin, Texas
Crew: David and Cindy Balfour
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S/V FullCircle

Who: David and Cindy Balfour
Port: Austin, Texas