Greetings from the dry, western side of Fiji where it actually feels like we're in the tropics! Yay! Finally some sun. On our last day in Suva, we played. We went to the museum of Fiji and a rainforest park called Colo-i-Suva with Mark & Anne on "Blue Rodeo". We crossed the Pacific with them last year but didn't really get to know each other until we were in Whangarei. We have the same interests and since they're both retired pilots, I can fire off a lifetime's worth of questions about flying commercial jets that they politely answer. Jon seems to see planes in our future (like he wants to learn to fly them!) and I'm on the fence. Seems we already have one money pit- this boat. But it would be in line with other nutty things we've done. My question is... can we live in it?
The trip from Suva around the bottom of Viti Levu to the western side took 2 ½ daysail days. There was no wind, so it was a calm motor and even though we dragged lines the whole way, no fish were interested. We heard this area of Fiji is pretty fished out. Also, we probably weren't moving fast enough since we motor at a little less than 6 kts most of the time to save fuel. A pair of pilot whales swam right up to the boat which was nice since we don't usually see them. Fiji doesn't get as many whales as Tonga but they're definitely around. On the first night, we came inside the barrier reef to a large anchorage, got settled in and went over to Mark & Anne's boat for dinner. It's always nice to have someone else cook for you! After the second day of travel, we pulled in to Robinson Crusoe Island which is a small cruiser friendly resort on a cute little sandy islet just inside the barrier reef. We walked around the islet on the beach and then sat down at the beach bar for sunset & I saw the most believable "green flash" that I've ever seen as the sun ducked behind the horizon. We also saw a lot of not-so-beautiful bodies on the beach! We were hoping the resort was doing their popular nightly "meke" (Fijian dancing entertainment) but we were a day early. Although it was nice at this resort, Jon & I were chomping at the bit to finally get to the famous cruiser's icon, Musket Cove, so we left the next morning to cover the last 20 miles or so.
In Fiji, there are so many isolated reefs, curvy anchorage entrances through ledge and generally iffy charts that more and more people are utilizing Google Earth charts for navigation. We've finally gotten a program (they're free online) that takes a Google earth image and creates a chart that is accurate for lat & lon and places our boat on the moving image in our charting software. Wow! What a lifesaver. This picture is of the entrance to Musket Cove (which is actually easy in good light along with being beautiful!) just to give you an idea. We've really been enjoying having these charts and they go a long way toward making reef strewn entrances a little more relaxing. I'm always up on the bow watching and Jon is steering using these charts.
Musket Cove is a beautiful anchorage formed by reef, one large island and one smaller pure sand island where the resorts & marina are. The water colors are enticing, the facilities on shore are good and they have cheap moorings. They even have a BBQ island where you can bring up your own food to cook along with all your friends. And on Sunday's, they do a yachties BBQ where they provide the food. It's a really nice spot and we have a good group here, although there are plenty of people we don't know as well since Fiji is Australia's version of the Bahamas. They have a heck of a tougher passage to get here but there's plenty of Ozzie's here!
It's SO great to have the dive compressor working again. It was a sparkling, calm day yesterday and we headed out for a dive with Mark & Anne, just a couple of miles away from the anchorage. Not expecting much, we got in at a site called the Pinnacles and descended to 70 feet. There wasn't much around except that one rock pinnacle. At first it seemed like it would be a boring dive, circling round & round the thing but actually, it ended up being a great dive! There was one swim through tunnel, which was cute, but really, the big plus were all the tame fish & the fantastic sunlight that lit it all up. If we'd only had this on our previous dives.... We got some colorful pictures even with our crummy camera and we even saw a reef stonefish which is a rare thing. You can hardly even make it out up close, let alone in a photo. The clown fish anemone "neighborhoods" were so pretty and the fish were used to divers so they stayed out for my camera. After the dive, we went to another spot to snorkel, just enjoying being in the water with the sun warming our backs. The water is much warmer on this side as well.
We're having a really hard time figuring out where we're headed this season. Many boats will diverge this year, unlike others where the path is pretty much laid out on where you should go. Talk to someone (including us) one day, and they're planning to return to NZ and on another day, they're headed to Australia, or the Marshalls or some other faraway place. Neither destination seems like a clear answer for us since they all have their pros & cons. We loved NZ so much that we'd like to go back but it leaves next season sort of confused. Go to Australia and be prepared for high costs and fewer boats to hang out with, not to mention it's really hard to sail back east if you want to have more time in Vanuatu or New Caledonia. We're not sure whether to stick around here or continue moving onward. We'll have to decide soon. We flip-flop nearly every day as our emotions swing back & forth between loving this sailing lifestyle to missing family. We miss the camper, running & backpacking too. I miss the smell of evergreens. I miss fresh raspberries, waffles and clam chowder too! You can't be two places at once. Like my dad always says to me, "Heather, it's all a trade-off". How true!