15 May 2020 | Denarau Marina
25 April 2020 | Suva Harbor
14 April 2020 | Suva Harbor
05 April 2020 | Suva Harbor
19 March 2020 | Suva Harbor
14 March 2020 | Suva Harbor
11 March 2020 | near Pacific Harbor
07 March 2020 | Likuri Island, Fiji
27 February 2020 | SFO Airport
09 January 2020 | Denerau or Nadi Bay
01 January 2020 | Vuda Point Fiji
Still in Limbo
21 May 2020
Diane Brown | Fall here so cooler and windy
22 May 2029
In a Good Limbo
Hanging out with other cruisers at an anchorage just waiting for better news on a Covid free Fiji and cruising permits to allow us to move to outer islands. There are really no hospitals and only minimal clinics once you leave the main islands. Viti Levu is a huge island so there are many small bays and local inlets here to enjoy. The weather is a good deal cooler now that their Summer is over (low 80's) and windy with much less humidity in Fall. We actually had to pull out a light blanket last couple nights (mid 70's). I think our body thermostats have been officially been reset.
The resorts at Musket Cove are all closed but there are enough boats out here they have a small yoga group going every other day. I so wanted to hug Terry when I saw him for the first time in months but refrained as we have been around so many people in Denarau doing our shopping. The low tides have been mid day so lots of reefs and locals walking the reef and beaches again with families and dogs collecting edibles along the way. John always puts us out as close to the reef as he is comfortable so I can swim over easily.
We are using the good wifi to work on research and keep up with any new updates from New Zealand and OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) cruisers about the South Pacific "bubble" that may open reciprocating countries to cruisers. They may even allow the time in the passage to count against any quarantine time, if still required within the "bubble". It is all just rumors, surveys and press releases at this point but several governments are working on it as Australian and New Zealanders are a huge portion of the tourist industry here in Fiji and Oceania.
John is learning to play with his drone and I am still working on the under water camera options we have onboard. Our GoPro Hero 3 is quite old as we bought it thinking we would leave over ten years ago but it does still work; if I am just patient. Johnny always asks about what fish we have seen or caught so I want badly to be able to send him some live pictures other than the dead fish we catch to eat. I ordered via Amazon some micro cards and cables we are missing so DeLisha will have a care package to assemble for us soon.
If you are interested further, please check out the "Sea Mercy Ship" efforts here in Fiji and Vanuatu to aide outer islands with staples and simple potable water recovery systems. Many of the expats here do volunteer support work. There is also an excellent article done by CNN.com on the 500+ boats that left to cross the Pacific and are now stranded out there between countries-some with young children. Titled "Trip of a lifetime with no end in sight".
We are grateful to be in limbo in Fiji!
Good Things in this Moment
15 May 2020 | Denarau Marina
Diane Brown | Sunshine!
14 May 2020
Oh the Amenities, We now Appreciate!
We have settled into Denarau Marina to get some work done since there are no cruising permits being approved until the Covid situation resolves a bit more. Last time we were here in November it was just a zoo here as it is the center Terminal for cruise boats and all tourists activities and resorts in the adjacent outer Mamanuca and Yasawa Island Groups. I could not wait to leave. This week it is deserted and sad with just a few business struggling to stay open. Today is Friday and there is a bit of activity in the Terminal as the locals head home for the weekend loaded with goods/supplies. We realize you are all witnessing the same tough stories at home.
Washer/dryers! It is heavenly to have a bank of 3 washer / dryers to get all our sheets, towels, cushion covers and just musty clothes a fresh start. We have been doing laundry by hand for almost three months now. We used to whine when our fold and wash service in Berkeley needed an extra day. What were we thinking; that was luxury!
There are tons of processed snack foods and chips in the South Pacific once you hit the larger towns- some crazy flavors. John has been craving plain old Mission Bell tortilla chips especially now that avocados are in season here. I almost have the ingredients (minus chorizo) to make him nachos a la Maya. We walked into the Denarau Terminal Port Express shop for tourists and front and center in the small grocery was a display full of Mission Bell tortilla strips! We now have several bags (made in Australia??). Not sure how long they will survive as almost out of date. It is a bit scary as almost nobody except for maybe the grocery clerks wear masks and gloves here.
A real dock with fingers, power and water: We have not tied up to a real dock since last June in Papette, Tahiti. Originally we came into Denarau Terminal to just get some groceries and find out from Customs what what is happening with cruising permit renewals. So we caught a mooring ball and took the dinghy over to the docks. Once we found out there was not much chance of getting a cruising permit, decided to get the outboard serviced and see about other projects and parts as they have a full service yard here. Giving up the outboard meant we would be rowing the dinghy back and forth daily so we decided to reserve a slip for the two nights while the shop had the outboard. We had to locate a couple extra fenders and inflate them, plus find dock lines that had been stashed away almost a year ago but John brought Tabu Soro nicely into the dock with no drama on either side. Unfortunately due to Cyclone Harold damage to the docks there is no water pressure this far out so cleaning the boat is limited to bucket loads of potable water from other spigots. It has been entertaining watching the welders and marina workers attempt to right the concrete dock fingers that flipped during the storm and restore the infrastructure. We have been told by other boats on the dock that normally in May there would only be super yachts berthed here and no room for small cruisers. Thank you Lord! I did have to practice my dock dismounts as a bit out of practice but have not fallen in yet. Doing yoga on a sloping concrete dock is nearly as challenging as doing it on the foredeck underway!
Showers with rain heads and lots of water pressure! It is possible we have spent as much time in the showers as I have in the laundry area here. Denerau just moved into their new administration building late last year so wonderful shower and head facilities in anticipation of the rush of AC visitors that were anticipated here prior to crossing to New Zealand. Although I doubt the super yachts shower and laundry on land, but for us it was a huge step up from our boat cockpit or the Suva Yacht Club /Dive Shop showers. Awesome!
Restaurants & Talking with people- even from a distance has been a bit of shell shock. Fijian Government restrictions allow restaurants to be open for 20 people or less. We have allowed ourselves meals out to experience someone else cooking after three months. There are two places using very local ingredients that are almost like a cooking schools for us. Both the Rhum Bar/Denarau Yacht Club and Nadina Authentic Fijian Restaurant focus on the local cuisine. Another three, out of 15-20 total, restaurants are open only for the weekends. We took a table well away from the local expats knowing they had no reason to trust we were Covid free but ended up being visited by several people who had spotted Tabu Soro from the Bay Area or in Vuda Marina. We also met the fund raiser for "Sea Mercy Ship" that aides small South Pacific countries with medical and water treatment systems. Our boat is too small for housing health care workers and transport of goods to outer islands, but we plan to support the effort. The Harbor Master here is a multi-hull racer with fingers in local sustainability projects and totally committed to the Fijian way of life- and his employees.
It is a very good place to be just now and just have to wait in faith that the next steps will happen to get us out to visit the more remote islands of Fiji.
My Happy Spaces for Mothers Day
11 May 2020 | Fiji
Diane Brown | Sunny at last!
11 May 2020
My Happy Spaces
Sailing West and North along the main island with hints of blue sky to bless us. No motor all day just wind and swell and sunshine. A great space to be. Hope you are all staying safe and thinking of all our Mothers, soon to be Mothers and future Mom's of all genders that keep the earth a kinder gentler place.
We did get to play with some of the village kids on Beqa off the beach by our anchorage. They usually paddle over early afternoon about low tide on a beat up styrofoam board with short broken off kayak paddle or get towed over by the long boats. Three kids to a board and a bucket and knife to find mussels but mostly they just run and jump in the water. All the kids have been trained to take very good care of their battered boards and paddles and always first secure their equipment up high on the beach turned upside down and place whatever paddle on top before heading into the water to play..
It didn't take long for them to come over to Tabu Soro and hang onto the sides asking questions about the boat and requesting juice and chocolate. We always keep fruit juices like tang juices in empty soda bottles cool in the refrigerator so that one was easy. They guzzled the bottle all around in no time. No chocolate left on board (or I would have eaten it) so we gave them some store bought cookies and a small slinky toy. As the weather deteriorated an older girl from the village kayaked over and took back a couple children and their bucket. The others paddled back in the wind and rain shortly after her. The next afternoon they arrived and wanted to get on the boat and John just disappeared below behind the mosquito net. I let them get on a couple at a time and tried to keep up with all their questions. It was pretty tiring. A squall with lightening was coming so they paddled away saying see you tomorrow. We watched as the tide shot their foam board way north of the village and they tucked in safely along the mangroves making their way back against the tide and wind squalls. I told John it worried me a bit they had no supervision for 5-6 hours and he just laughed and said what did you do as kids?
Friday morning we hear a long boat arrive full of women and children all carrying 3 gallon sized plastic buckets mid morning. They all took off along the rocks the kids we had met waving back at us. They didn't return until the tide was come in again with buckets full of what they call "shells" but each shell had some type of mollusk inside. The tall, strong, young women we had met herding the children paddled over with an older woman and showed us their buckets. The village women decided they wanted a feast of seafood over hot rocks on Friday night knowing that the men would do a traditional Lolo on Sunday for Mother's Day. Meanwhile a storm with lightening looked imminent and all were still on the beach waiting with their full buckets. The young lady paddler started paddling 3 at a time back across the now choppy stretch to the village. She deposited the first group at the village dock and then returned with two large women. She got most of the way back when we heard yelling and laughing as they sent her back to the village with the two late ladies. Meanwhile one of the fishing ladies I had met the day before asked if we could help them get back to the village with our dinghy which was still on deck. John reluctantly agreed (last time he took Tongans to a rugby match the prop spun out) and began to launch the dinghy and put on the outboard. Fortunately we had the dinghy about on and heard a longboat headed into the resort pn the other side of the beach which then came over and picked up the 10-12 people still on the beach. This left it empty and quite for us to swim and shower once the squall passed. Just one of my special spaces!
We met a couple men that arrived early each morning and dropped off one or two men each day to work the "plantation" with farm crops. That Friday they finished work and came down to dive and play with the women and children on the beach prior to walking back through the jungle to another larger village East of us. They told us about their future project of sandalwood trees that are expensive to buy and take 10-14 years prior to harvest the sap for perfumes. They subsidize this project with the day to day vegetables for locals, resorts and main island markets. The laughter and loud giggles and teasing on the beach is a special memory.
We have to get back to Vuda as we no longer have a valid cruising permit so we moved to another village on the West side of Beqa staging ourselves to move back to the mainland which was approved by the Navy. We had been here on our way to Suva before getting locked down and knew the reefs and fish here are awesome. The water is cooler now that the rainy season arrived and lovely to see was new growth on what remains of the coral n front of the village. Another Happy Place!
To Go or Not to Go
05 May 2020
Diane Brown | Some rain cloudy
03 May 2020
To Go or Not to Go
We called the Navy on Friday afternoon and got a confirmation we are okay to leave Suva Harbor and proceed to Vuda Marina or Lautoka so long as we stay in local waters. Saturday we woke early only to find no visibility due to monsoonal winds and rains again. We decided to stay put another day and feed the yacht club cats. We did take down more shade canopies and the rain water collection system as it continued to pour.
Third taxi driver that told us how sorry he was for America right now. Two drivers have mentioned Paw Paw or Papaya root medicinal use for Covid 19 in the clinics here. Too bad you have no PawPaw in New York he said to us.
Sunday morning visibility is better but the seas and pass out of the reef here are at 2 meters and from the wrong direction tide wise for us to exit. We have a four hour sail to the nearest island Beqa which may also have entry reef problems with winds this directions. The surfers are very happily out playing the swells. We start to doubt ourselves and spent a couple hours this morning looking at predict wind and others trying to stay logical about our decision to stay. Our hearts totally want to get going but we need to stay safe. This level winds and chop would not normally stop us. Its more about getting to one location in time and IF it is not feasible having enough time to get to a back up anchorage on the mainland. Anyhow, looks like we stay another day but there are some blue skies between squalls.
Monday morning sunshine greets us and away we went toward the closest point Beqa Island. Turned out all that worry about the swell and surf entering the reef was bogus. When will I learn that the worry is usually just a waste of energy. We had our back up plan should the entry be gnarly but ended up back with our fruit bats behind a small reef guarding a dive resort. It is in very close to mangroves which always means mosquitos, especially in this wet season, but close enough to the entry there is fairly consistent wind to keep the mosquitos at home in the mangroves. Above our anchorage is a "plantation" or farmed area that the locals are desperately trying to replant after TS Harold. We requested permission to anchor here a couple nights and each morning they arrive with bags of taro root starts - or in Fijian daro root. The leaves are huge and edible and the roots are used like potato and very sustainable except when the get blown away by cyclones - much like the chickens. Also noted from our prior visit to TS Harold, the trees along the ridge have been stripped of their leaves, so now the fruit bats are delegated to the lower undamaged trees and quite visible to us. I am working with the camera Mom sent us back with to attempt a better picture than the iPhone's capability.
So thankful to be in these quiet swimmable waters again. Will spend a couple days here before heading back to Vuda as we need to work on our new Fij cruising permit as ours expires shortly. Hard to believe we have been here for six months.
Happy Cinco de Mayo to all! We saved the last of our tequila for today and made ourselves margaritas that don't even come close to Maya Palenque.
Soft re-opening of Fiji Waters Announced
25 April 2020 | Suva Harbor
Diane Brown | Rain and Lightening!
Fiji waters soft opening...
How bored are we??
So the Prime Minister has announced some relaxing of the COVID travel and curfew restrictions to start this week. We had been visited by the Harbor Police and some officials later last week and they had asked some questions and taken pictures of us and our boat with video running the entire time. I'd assumed we would hear about more stringent restrictions--certainly not re-opening. They gave us a phone hotline number to call if we needed anything or information so we will call once things calm down a bit to see if we can move around again. The intra- island ferries and air flights can now begin again but with distancing. Some of this is probably due to the extreme damage in the outer islands and the need to get critical construction and consultants out to prevent the post storm development of dengue fever, leptospirosis (Mom looked it up very scary) and diarrhea.
Once again this country of Fiji amazes me at their ability to respond, adapt and think outside the box. Their post office has expanded their services to include staple food supplies and got it all set up in the last three weeks using their existing delivery and payment systems. They hope this can also help the post office become profitable again. The post offices here are already the school book lending store.
The big excitement last week was our dinghy trip to the yacht club marina store for fuel and to feed the cats daily (and use their showers to conserve our water supply). Oh, and so exciting, was a walk along the sidewalk past the prison walls to the ferry docks to see what was available in the area as far as marine suppliers. Actually we found some very dark small grocery stores with a great selections of goods just off the ships. We may not need to take a taxi into Suva after all.
John was so bored he got to thinking about the disco ball we had stashed for someday to play with kids and has torn Susan's quarter berth (think tool and sail storage) up to hunt for it. Really we also had to put all my sewing machine supplies away which is normally a grueling job in this heat and humidity. Somehow the disco ball made it all worthwhile. It is now hanging to celebrate the opening of Fiji waterways tonight during our cocktail hour.
Another exciting first on Tabu Soro was a Zoom call with the kids and grandkids that Katrina and Jake set up. It took a bit of learning curve and getting up at 04:45 on Monday morning but was the highlight of our week. Johnny couldn't stop asking questions; he was so excited. Also exciting but disturbing was the lightening and thunder directly over the boat the last couple nights. It felt like the hairs on my skin were crackling.
So we will wait a couple days for the new regulations to settle in and then call the Navy and Harbor Police to see if we need permission to begin sailing again. So exciting!!
Clean Up Time
14 April 2020 | Suva Harbor
Diane Brown | Fresh winds with some showers
13 April 2020
Clean Up Time
Now that the adrenaline rush is past and boat is not hobby-horsing in the wind chop, we are getting to the clean-up needed aboard after five days of life in a wet humid closed up boat. I suppose it is a law of nature that boats leak and take on water in the darnedest places. Seems like we just discover the source of one location only to find another spot. John has spent hours adjusting ports, pulling apart instruments, woodwork and caulking nooks and crannies.
With driving winds sideways in that storm, we noticed the smell of mold begin even after opening the boat to air things out. I am usually the first one to call the mold alert but this time John saw fuzzy on his beloved teak interior and called the alarm. This signals a deep clean with bleach water to every surface starting with the ceilings, walls then into all food and storage lockers (removing cushions and spare lines to sun outside and covers removed to dry) and finally the floors. The very best thing we did was line all the locker bottoms with the rubber ribbed liner that Seifer's let us buy off him . The ones he had were bright blue and visually easy to see any dirt, mold or leak issues against the white hull. The liners all got pulled outside and wiped down and dried in the sun. We looked like the boat was trashed for almost two days. I felt better but embarrassed until I noticed the other boaters still out here are doing the same thing.
Next step is to do sheets and towels to get the salt moisture out of them. No small job and it also takes two of us to give these large items several wash, rinses then John strong-arms them over the rails to wring them out before drying on the life lines and temporarily rigged drying lines. This has to be started early in the day so it has time to dry before afternoon rains. I am sitting on deck babysitting the drying while I write this because the breeze is about 15 which is good for drying but the clothes pins keep popping off and we want to keep the items from falling in the water.
We did make a taxi run into Suva to the supermarket for staples and more dish soap and bleach. Easter is a four day holiday here even though churches were closed but the Prime Minister encouraged all to participate in online services instead of congregating and even posted a video of he and his family with bibles open watching the services. So Tuesday morning we went into the mostly vacant town early when they first opened and had no difficulty finding most things on our list. We need to find a recipe or substitute for mustard. John tipped the taxi driver heavily and thanked him for being out working at this time. The driver's eyes teared up. Hundreds of homes, schools and clinics are still damaged or without roofs or power and many are still in the evacuation shelters.
The main source of protein here after the storm where the chickens just disappear is fishing. Despite the curfew and social distancing we are amazed at the creative ways locals fish. Especially at these minus low tides. As the tide starts to go out we see the beach lined with all age groups playing and digging for snails. The older children and adults work their way out with the tide to the large metal wreck closest to shore and work the sides of the hull and some young teens bolo throw fishing lines. Other groups wade out as far as they can walk and deploy a very fine, huge, net in a large circle then work their way inward to shallower waters shouting and jumping with joy. This whole back bay by Royal Suva Yacht Club is very shallow mud bottom so even at high tides you see shallow bottom boats being poled along. No motors, no oars just a very long semi-flexible pole. There is another barge wreck behind us that has regular visits from a family of three on a piece of foam flotation with wood and woven mats and they appear to do well as they turn homeward each afternoon in 15 knots of headwind.
Sorry this is a pretty mundane blog but I am ever so grateful to be out here to experience and appreciate the people of Fiji. Thank you ALL for the words of support, love and encouragement during this amazing journey.