Cloud Nine is a floating bar, pizza restaurant, party spot and diving platform, anchored out by the reef near the Cloud Break surf spot, a few miles west of Musket Cove. We'd never been there, but we'd been looking for a reason to go. Now, with The Fam visiting, we had our reason!
A couple hours after leaving Saweni Bay, we threaded our way through the narrow entrance in the reef around Cloud Nine, and dropped SCOOTS' anchor in 40 feet of the clearest water I'd seen in months. I could watch the anchor drop all the way to the white sand! What a stunningly beautiful place!
With plans for a pizza dinner a few hours later on Cloud Nine, Tara, Eric, Kelly, Daniel, and I headed for a nearby reef to do some snorkeling. The water was calm and clear, there were lots of fish and colorful coral, even a giant clam!
Late in the afternoon, our friend Jose, who'd been hanging out on Cloud Nine, swam over to SCOOTS. During our chat, he mentioned that Cloud Nine closes at around sunset. Seeing as how it was already 4:30, we realized we'd better get a move-on!
Since Eric was net controller for the South Pacific Radio Net that evening at 5:30, and since dinghies aren't allowed to tie up to Cloud Nine, he dropped the rest of us off there at about 5:00, with a request to bring him back some pizza. With friendly shouts of "Bula!", three smiling Cloud Nine employees helped us from our dinghy to the floating platform, where loud electronic music was playing, and let us know that we had about 30 minutes to enjoy the place. Now, what would we like to drink?
After perusing the extensive cocktail menu, and the short pizza menu, we each chose a different, intriguing-sounding drink, ordered pizza, and settled into comfy seats to enjoy the ambiance and the scenery. Kelly, Daniel, and Peyton lounged on a large, cushy mattress at the edge of the platform while they enjoyed their drinks. "This is wonderful," Tara said. "The only thing that would make it better is Fijian music."
At 5:30 pm, closing time, the electronic music was switched off, and Fijian reggae took its place. Tara and I looked at each other and smiled. We enjoyed our drinks, our pizza, and a spectacular sunset. The employees went about their closing tasks while singing along to the music, unconcerned that we were still there. I'd told them that we'd be leaving a little late.
While we'd been enjoying our drinks and pizza, the wind had come up. What had been calm water when we'd arrived, was now choppy waves. It was going to be a very wet ride back, and I was a little worried about everyone getting safely onto SCOOTS' deck from the dinghy. I needn't have worried: everyone arrived back completely soaked, laughing uproariously at every dousing wave (what else can you do?), and managed to get safely onto SCOOTS' deck from the pitching dinghy.
The wind was now blowing more than 20 knots, in defiance of the forecast of calm, settled weather that had been pivotal to our decision to anchor here for the night. When Eric gave me a "WTF?" look, all I could do was shrug. With the prospect of a very windy night ahead, Eric and I, pros at taking down our large sunshade (AKA Bedouin tent) in high wind, because we always wait too long to do it, did so again, grabbing handfuls of the flapping fabric, pulling it down, and stuffing it into its canvas bag while the tie-down ropes slapped at our faces.
A couple of hours later, as inexplicably as it had come, the wind calmed down, and we were treated to a beautiful, calm, starry night, enjoyed especially by Kelly and Daniel, who slept on the dodger roof, with the Southern Cross and Milky Way as their night lights.
The next morning, we made the short trip back to Musket Cove, where, after a lovely morning and afternoon at the resort's beach, and a nice lunch, we said a sad farewell to Tara, Peyton, and Bob - who'd transmogrified during his time with us from Vanilla Chief, through Strawberry Chief, to become more of a Caramel Chief - as they boarded the Malolo Cat IV ferry to Denarau, and would catch their flight back to the States later that night.
During their time with us, Tara, Bob, and Peyton had completely relaxed into the cruising life: enjoying an unscheduled existence, a slow pace of life, and freedom from societal pressures such as feeling the need to wear a different outfit every day, to wear makeup, or to shave. Tara had taken off her watch when she'd boarded her flight to Fiji. and she'd left it off the whole time she was with us. She embraced every aspect of her time with us with full-on appreciation and gusto: she loved the colors of the water, the scents of the islands, the friendliness of the Fijians, the variety of the marine life; the songs of the birds on shore. She rose before dawn each morning, capturing the sunrise in a time-lapse video as she sat quietly on deck, and returned each dusk to capture the sunset. It was a beautiful thing to witness.
Now we are Four
After saying goodbye to Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief, we grilled some sausages at the nightly cruisers' potluck at the Island Bar, and talked about what Kelly and Daniel would like to do for the remaining five days of their vacation. On their list: snorkeling; relaxing; a visit to Tom Hanks (Monuriki) Island; trying kava; seeing mantas, sharks, turtles, and fruit bats.
We were joined by Chuck and Lauri from s/v Free Spirit, who'd wanted to meet Kelly and Daniel, particularly since they knew that Kelly had come up with the term "ginner," to describe the heavy hors d'ouevres and drinks that we cruisers sometimes enjoy instead of more "traditional" dinner fare. Having shared many ginners with Chuck and Lauri, this was a fun and fitting introduction.
Keen to get started on Kelly and Daniel's wish list, we left the next morning and motored north to Monuriki Island.
This time, we arrived before the tourist boats, and had the island to ourselves for a couple of hours. We wandered its beaches, tidepools, and jungle trails; Kelly and Daniel posed for a picture reminiscent of a scene from Castaway;
and we spent awhile lounging in the warm, clear water that lapped on the beach. The breakers were much smaller than when we'd visited with Tara & Co., and our dinghy trip back to SCOOTS was much less exciting. Nobody arrived with cruise bruises.
With the sea state so calm, we decided to take a chance and head north to Navadra. One of our favorite places on the west side of Fiji, Navadra is a beautiful lagoon bordered by three curving islands. White sand beckons from shore, and coral from below. The water is a lovely shade of dark turquoise. A flock of goats roams the islands, and who doesn't like goats? The flip side of all this perfection is the tendency for the anchorage to be rolly. When we dropped the anchor, mid-afternoon, the water was calm, and the forecast was for the settled conditions to continue. We decided to stay.
Kelly, Daniel, and Eric answered the call of the coral and went for a snorkel. They were rewarded with lots of colorful fish and coral, and a sea turtle. Afterwards, back on SCOOTS, we played a rousing game of Oh Hell,
our usual evening entertainment. Every now and then, a small swell would lift SCOOTS up a little bit on one side and she would gently roll back and forth a couple of times. This late in the day, we were committed to staying the night in Navadra - no one travels Fiji's reef-filled waters after dark. We hoped that the swells, still pretty mellow, wouldn't get any more insistent.
But of course, they did. By bedtime, SCOOTS had a moderate roll going, which continued through the night. Kelly and Daniel, who by now had their sea legs, rolled with it like true seafarers.
In the morning, we wasted no time in pulling SCOOTS' anchor up, leaving the now-rolly Navadra anchorage for the calmer water of Mana Lagoon, happening to arrive at low tide, just as we had with Tara, Bob, and Vanilla Chief. The entrance to Mana Lagoon snakes through a shallow, narrow cut in the coral, marked here and there with sticks, buoys, and poles as guidance. At low tide, it can be quite a butt-puckering - and yet a really beautiful - experience. Jagged coral lines the edges of the reef cut, only a few feet away on either side. Swirls and eddies in the channel catch your boat in their meandering flow, slewing it first one way, then the other, with the current. If your engine dies, you're toast. Beneath the surface, colorful coral bommies loom up, in water so clear that it's hard to tell how deep they are. Maybe they're ten feet below, maybe only two. Like Tara and Vanilla Chief a week earlier, Kelly and Daniel took all this in from SCOOTS' deck. It's not something you see every day.
As soon as SCOOTS' anchor was set in the sandy bottom of the lagoon, I went kayaking on the flat-calm water, while Kelly, Daniel, and Eric went snorkeling near the pass. Later in the afternoon, Eric dropped Kelly, Daniel, and me off at the pier. We walked to the north side of the island, in search of the turtle sanctuary, fruit bats, a young dog that lives near the backpacker resort, and ice cream. We found three out of four.
We bought ice cream in one of the resort shops, saw the turtles in the sanctuary, and found the dog, but the fruit bats never made an appearance. Not even one! Just a few days before, when I'd been there with Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief, dozens of them had flown over, or landed in the trees near the pool. We'd watched them for an hour. Today, not a single one flapped across the sky. We couldn't check that one off Kelly and Daniel's list. Along with mantas. Oh well, something for next time.
The wind had come up while we'd been on the island, which meant that we all got soaked by the choppy waves on our way back to SCOOTS. Like Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief before them, Kelly and Daniel also took the dousing in stride, laughing as each wave drenched us with salt water. Because what else can you do?
The next morning, Kelly and Eric went snorkeling near the pass, where they saw a black-tipped reef shark. After they returned, we pulled up SCOOTS' anchor and made our way back to Musket Cove. It was Thursday, the day of the resort's weekly kava ceremony and Fijian feast; there'd be no better opportunity for Kelly and Daniel to try kava and taste some traditional Fijian food. To make things even better, our friends on Gone With the Wind and Rewa were now at Musket Cove!
During the kava ceremony, the four of us each had several cups of kava, while learning some of the culture and history of Fiji. It was fun to experience this Fijian tradition with Kelly and Daniel.
When the kava ceremony ended, we joined our friends, Annie and Liam from Gone With the Wind, and Dave, Tessa, Nick, and Heike from Rewa, at a long table in the restaurant. Smiles, hugs, and introductions were shared, and then we all enjoyed a lovely Fijian feast together. Eric and I were happy that Kelly and Daniel and our cruising family finally got to meet each other.
The next morning, Daniel untied us from the mooring and we left for Castaway Island, where Kelly and Daniel would spend their last night in Fiji. After dropping the anchor, we dinghied around to the beach - staying much drier this time, than we had with Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief - for a nice lunch
and a hike up the hill, oohing and ahhing at the spectacular vistas.
Kelly and Daniel really liked the vibe of Castaway Resort, with its winding paths and cute bures tucked among tropical foliage; it was their favorite of the three resorts that they visited in Fiji.
Our last night together - like all our nights with The Fam - was a delight of card games, stories, and laughing. Lots of laughing.
In the morning, Kelly, Daniel and Eric went snorkeling one last time, and then returned to SCOOTS to begin collecting their things, and packing. Mid-morning, we pulled up SCOOTS' anchor and began heading toward Denarau, where we were expecting to anchor outside the marina and dinghy in. SCOOTS had been on the waiting list for a slip in the marina for a couple of weeks, but none had come available. We decided to call the marina, and check one last time, while we were on our way there. A slip had come available, last minute, that we could take for the night! This would make things much more convenient!
After tying SCOOTS up in her slip, we walked around the shops at Denarau, where Kelly and Daniel shopped for souvenirs and Bula shirts, and took in the vibe of the busy tourist hub. Shopping accomplished, we enjoyed a very tasty lunch at Indigo Indian Restaurant, which never fails to please. While we were there, Kelly and Daniel said that they felt as if the ground were swaying, and asked us if we ever feel that way. Yes, we do, we said, but you get used to it. It just comes with the lifestyle.
The hour of their departure looming, Kelly and Daniel packed their new purchases, and were ready to go. Their ride, Joe, met us in the parking lot in his taxi. After lots of hugs all around, Kelly and Daniel loaded their bags into the trunk of Joe's taxi, got in, and waved goodbye as he drove away.
As I watched them go, I teared up. I missed Kelly and Daniel, Tara, Peyton, and Bob so much already. We'd been looking forward to their visit for so long, had such a good time with them, enjoyed their company so much...and now it was over. Eric, noticing my expression, and maybe feeling the same himself, put his arm around me. As we turned to begin walking back to SCOOTS, he leaned his head toward mine and said, "How about a shot of some good rum?"
PS. I explain the origin of "Full Masti!" and "Vanilla Chief" in Part 1.