12 June 2014 | Musket Cove Yacht Club, Fiji
We've been in Fiji now about 2 1/2 weeks. The first week we stayed at Vuda Point Marina (pronounced Vunda) and recuperated, caught up with friends we made along the way and repaired the auto pilot hydraulic Piston.
The marina here is very pleasant. There is a boat yard with many pits that sailboats rent for the cyclone season while they are on the hard. The pits are deep holes that the keel and rudder drop into so that it is almost impossible for a boat to tip over. Here they use several old tires between the boat hull and the side of the pit to keep the boat comfortably upright. I've never seen tires used this way but it seems to work well and it is certainly cheaper that a metal frame or jack stands.
The marina is a large circular pond with a single mooring ball in the middle. When boats come in they pick up the mooring. The marina then sends out a dingy/tugboat to help you into the dock. All the boats form radials with mooring appropriately placed to position the bow or stern. Many boats are med moored with their sterns adjacent to the circular dock. During cyclone season all the boats unfasten their anchors from their anchor chain and the marina takes the end to a common huge submerged cyclone mooring. Once attached the boats move out from the dock some and must use tires
between the boats as they are almost contiguous. (The tires must be tied underneath the vessels so they don't ride up). It is a pretty ingenious method for keeping boats in the water during cylcone season. They even have a boom that closes the tiny harbor entrance to minimize the wave action.
Lautoka town is small and busy. One can buy most items but it is definitely 3rd world. We hired a cab to take us in the first time for about 15 Fiji dollars (worth about 8.50 USD). We visited the grocery store, market and Vodafone to buy internet SIM cards and Telephone SIM cards. Using the phone is expensive but surprisingly the internet functions very well and is reasonably priced. We took a bus back to the marina for 1.60 Fiji and were the only whites ....it felt like the dollar busses in the Caribbean.
After all our paperwork was completed it was time to go and the most frequent next stop was Musket Cove Yacht Club and Resort about 12 miles away. We left in sunshine and could read the water easily but we had waypoints and a route that we followed that was dead nuts! We also downloaded Kap charts of Fiji prepared by previous cruisers using Google Earth photo transparencies superimposed on the electronic nautical charts. GE photos are dead on so that one can ascertain the accuracy of the standard charts which are sometimes as much as a half of a mile off.
Navigating here in Fiji is by far the most demanding and difficult location that we have cruised. When one has less that ideal conditions it's safer to stay put because you can't read the water accurately without good and high sunlight behind you. If fact even with sunlight I ran the boat onto a reef just after we arrived. It wasn't that I was not paying attention! I was! I mistook a concrete structure which I believed was a mooring for large commercial vessels for a channel marker. The structure had no markings and only in retrospect did I see a green lens suggesting a green buoy. We got off instantly and had no real damage but I know of two other boats that arrived at about the same time as we who needed to be taken out of the water for repairs for similar mishaps. Just a few days ago I dived on the boat to inspect the keel and found that I had scratch marks 2 feet up from the bottom and most alarmingly had a scratch on the last 2 inches of the skeg. We were extremely lucky I see.
After joining Musket Cove Yacht Club for 15 Fiji we became lifetime members and were given full privileges including use of the pool, laundry, dinghy dock, restaurant, bar garbage facilities and grocery store.
It's a great harbor and many find it hard to leave. We had a destination though. About 5 miles from there was a world championship surfing competition held in one of the top ten surfing reefs in the world. It was just starting so we and a "buddy boat" (yes we now have a buddy boat) motored over to "Cloudbreak"
We anchored behind the reef and were treated to 3 days of competition between the top 30 surfers in the world. Some amazing moves were to be seen but it was also quite trying to avoid contact with the other spectator vessels. We were herded by the officials but it was still worthwhile. At the end of the day we went back to the boat and using our telephone hotspot were able to replay the live feed from the competition with narration.
After if was completed we sailed to "Cloud Nine" which is an anchored floating bar behind a beautiful reef about 5 miles from where we had been.
Now we are back in Musket Cove for a few days and then we'll be off to visit Robinson Crusoe Resort that sports a fine fire dance performance.
So far the snorkeling has been disappointing as we have seen only
damaged coral. The water quality is fair compared to what we have read but we haven't been many places yet. We hope to sail to Kandavu where the fourth largest reef.. the Astrolabe reef exists with virgin conditions. We'll have to see!
From the crew of Always Saturday