Family time and Road Trip

Living on a sailboat and anchoring and cruising in places where there is no reliable Wifi makes staying in touch with family a challenge. So going back to the USA and Canada  during the Christmas holiday was special as we got to spend some time with our parents and all of our children.

During this trip home, we also did a fabulous road trip with Denny’s daughter Jenny and hubby Tyler, Jenny’s close friend Kathleen and her fiancé, Jeff and our friends Bill and Ella. As the saying goes ‘Go West young man, go West!!’. It was a 3-day road trip to Deadwood, nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It used to be a lawless wild west town started by the Black Hills Gold rush and it harbored many gambling saloons and brothels. It’s the very place where Wild Bill Hicock and Calamity Jane met their demise.

Jenny planned the whole trip and she was a fantastic hostess. On the way we made a stop in Sturgis for lunch and we tried to imagine what the town would look like during the famous yearly bike rally. Deadwood is now just a modern day gambling town with a lot of history. We tried to re-live the history by dressing up in Wild West costumes and acting out our part!

Deadwood

As far as gambling went, we tried our hand at Blackjack and Roulette and Denny and I can say that we didn’t win or loose but we all had loads of fun and laughter. An afternoon was spent playing shuffle board, drinking beer and eating lots of free popcorn which only made us want to drink more beer. We decided to have a shuffle board tournament with some serious competition. Some of us took it more seriously than others! The pictures tell the story!

Denny 1

Playing with the camera instead of shuffle board

Tyler 1

I can drink beer and play at the same time

Ella 1

I am gonna win!

Barb 1

What is Ella doing that I am not!!

Bill M Deadwood 2017 (32 of 175)

What to do. Wipe them out, hit and stick, how fast to push, where to aim????

But the highlight was our visit to Mount Rushmore. It was a beautiful, cool, sunny day. Even the drive there was spectacular with a stop here and there to play in the snow. Bill M Deadwood 2017 (80 of 175)

Bill M Deadwood 2017 (101 of 175)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill M Deadwood 2017 (115 of 175)We were able to wander around the park and museum at leisure without having to jostle through thousands of tourists that normally go there during the summer vacation. We were told that during peak season an average of 10,000 people a day visit the park. Pictures do not capture the enormity and grandeur of the sculpted faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. I tried to the a selfie of the moment with Denny!! Bill M Deadwood 2017 (138 of 175)Bill M Deadwood 2017 (140 of 175)

Bill, please take the pic!!

Bill, please take the pic!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided that maybe we could make this an annual Christmas Holiday event and next time we would hope that the rest of our children could be there as well!!

Merry Christmas

I guess we should have posted that we arrived in New Zealand!! Some people are still wondering whether we are still out there. We do have a slow boat and we do love sailing but we have made Landfall!!

Denny is now with his family in Minneapolis and I am with my parents in Ontario. I did get a visit from my son before Christmas and I will see Ally in the New year. We will be back together in New Zealand sometime mid January.

We would like to wish all our family and friends a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

Fiji 2016 – Vuda Marina

17 40.873 S – 177 23.213 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb :

dennys-birthday-2016We have been in Vuda Marina since November 1, Denny’s birthday. We celebrated his birthday at the Sunset bar with our good friends Barbara and Michael from Astarte. The bar must have known it was Denny’s birthday because they had half price pizza. Denny didn’t have a birthday cake as we were en-route to the marina and I didn’t seem to have the ingredients to make a cake (not that I am such a great baker anyway). But Denny did get to savor a pack of Oreo cookies!

We have been sitting here at the marina preparing for our passage to NZ. We finally have the weather window we need (at least we hope so) so we will be leaving as soon as we check out with customs and immigration. Check out scheduled for November 8th. We will do our usual en-route postings. We hope to get to NZ by November 21 and then back to Canada/USA for December.

We will be seeing some of you soon!!dsc_7152

 

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 15 – Balulailai

October 28 – 31

16 44.918 S – 178 29.199 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb :

It was a smooth slow sail to Balulailai. This would be our jumping point to Vita Levu and onward to Vuda Marina. When we arrived at the reef pass for Balulailai it looked a little risky. It was low tide and the passage looked very narrow with large rocks jutting out. But we had no trouble getting through and no trouble anchoring although there wasn’t much room. We could see 2 people on shore but they quickly left and we didn’t see anybody for the remainder of our stay.

We did the usual snorkel, dinghy rides and kayak trips. Our dinghy propeller is not working 100% again. Denny hit another rock in Naviqiri transporting locals back to shore.  Balulailai was a peaceful quiet anchorage. It is freehold land and from what little we could find out about this place it is a 9,999 acre estate owned by foreign owners. So this meant no villages and no power boats. But we were surrounded by goats, cattle and horses. They  disappeared during the heat of the day and didn’t re-appear until the next day.

The plan was to leave by 6 in the morning, pending weather and head to Vita Levu, a 10 hour sail. Every night at midnight the wind would pick up and it would rain heavily. Twice we postponed our departure. The third time we just decided that we would leave although the rain was heavy at times.

This was our last anchorage on Vanua Levu and the end of our cruising in Fiji. We did everything that we set out to do when we decided to do the north of Vanua Levu. We hiked, snorkeled reefs, kayaked, fished and caught fish, visited villages, explored remote places, explored busy cities and tried to learn more about the Fiji Culture. It was amazing that once we left Rabi Island we did not see any other sailboats. It’s this isolation that maybe made the people on this part of Fiji so welcoming and genuinely friendly. We loved every minute of our time here in Fiji.

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 14 – Naviqiri

 

October 22 – 28

16 39.266 S – 178 35.329 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb & Dennis:

We pulled anchor and headed to Naviqiri on a fairly windy day so we had a great sail to our next anchorage.dsc_6884 As we had arrived late Saturday evening we spent the Sunday hanging out in the boat and occasionally we could hear the 4 part harmony from the numerous church services through out the day. On Monday we headed into the village and completed our Sevu Sevu ritual. This was a more animated process with it ending in a chorus of chanting and claps. The kava was quickly pounded and shared with anyone that sat around the bowl. Denny had a quick tour of one of their sources of income; selling of their pine trees to outside saw mill. They were paid $10 per tree and basically did nothing as the trees were cut and hauled out by the sawmill operation.

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Our hosts Freddie and Sera and their grandson!

I had tea and hung out with some ladies for a little while. We were invited to share lunch with some of the locals and it was as a Thank You to me and other ladies  for helping to roll the Voi Voi leaves in preparation for the drying process. The lunch was a bok choy, fish, tomato, noodle and spicy chilis soup. It was so good!! dsc_6882There was lots of activity as they were preparing the site for their once a year Naviqiri Day. We returned to the boat with a usual supply of papaya and lots of mangos as it was growing in abundance. We were invited to the special day which would take place on Thursday. They wanted lots of photos taken.

 

 

dsc_6894-1The next day we were hanging around the boat and Barb yelled that we had company coming.   We watched as we saw three people paddling in our direction.  as soon as it was obvious that they coming to our boat, I jumped in the dingy and drove out to them and asked if they wished to come and visit.  It was three girls paddling using a board and stick to paddle out.  So I towed them back and they came on board and had some Coke and cooks.  They look at everything and are really intrigued by it all.  I think they are more interested in us then we are in them.  It is so fun to share.

dsc_6955We were a little late for the special day thanks to a surprise visit by some young boys from another nearby village. The boys wanted to hear all about USA as it was their dream to someday go there. When we arrived in Naviqiri we were greeted by Sera and Freddie our hosts and given very fragrant Leis to wear for the day. Everybody was dressed in their finest and their temporary sun shelter was decorated with Voi Voi leaves and flowers. We were rewarded with a tapestry of vibrant colors as the Fijians believe in bright, sunny colors. Lunch was the traditional fish with cassava but it also included a very nice spicy tomato salsa and spinach cooked in coconut milk. Everybody, except one particular lady wanted their pictures taken. dsc_9907Denny was often surrounded by kids asking for more pictures. We promised we would send them the pictures of the day. We took about 400 pictures and it took Denny hours to sort and flag the pictures to print and mail. We donated some money to their fund raiser which was flush toilets for the few homes that didn’t already have it. We ate, drank cava and danced for most of the afternoon. And that was the end of our Fiji village experience for 2016. And now just a mere sample of the hundreds of photos we took:

 

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The only lady who didn't like getting her picture taken

The only lady who didn’t like getting her picture taken

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The effect of Kava

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Fundraising Committee

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Preparing the meal

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Hot chocolate break with Sera and family at her home

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Barb Learning local dancing

Barb Learning local dancing

 

 

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 13 – Dreketi River, Nabekavu, Navidamu

October 18 – 22

16 31.569 S – 178 52.474 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb:

We had a beautiful wing on wing sail and anchored in 10 ft of water in heavy mud bottom. The anchorage was not well protected but at least it would be great holding. Even at 10ft of water we were still quite far from the villages and from the Dreketi river. We were nearby 2 villages and each village had about 10 power boats. So for such a small area this meant a sea highway of continued boat traffic and some with large coolers in the middle of their boat. We had the usual ‘bulah’ and drop in’s with invitations to come visit their village.

dsc_9809-1Our first excursion was a dinghy ride up the Dreketi river. It was very different from our last river trips. Very jungle like and we felt more like we were in the dsc_9792-1Amazon. Dreketi is the deepest river in Fiji ( no worries about hitting a rock with our newly fixed dinghy prop). We meet a few ladies up river washing clothes in some pretty murky water but other than that there was very little traffic. On the way back it started to rain quite heavily. It rained heavy enough to set afloat new growth seeds.  We were soon quite drenched. We made a stop into Dreketi to refuel and bought a few fresh tomatoes, bread and a few potatoes.

Our next stop was a visit to Nabekavu village. We brought our Kava and met the head of the village. He accepted our kava but then asked us to show our cruising permit. That has never happened before. We agreed that we would return with the permit. There really wasn’t any Sevu Sevu performed at this village, our Kava just disappeared. On our way back to the boat we were stopped by the Methodist pastor and he asked us to ‘hang out’ with him. dsc_6750And from there local men started appearing all dressed in their finest and we were told that there was a fundraiser to pay their portion of the Methodist district church van. The fundraiser was a Fijian lunch packet which included a whole fried fish and a couple pieces of cassava. While the lunch was being prepared in a gargantuan pot we sat around and drank Cava. dsc_6738Three hours later we left with our lunch packets, papaya and pineapples and we promised to return in the evening for the Youth Church service. It started to rain later in the afternoon and our trek back up the hill to the village turned out to be a muddy challenge as our footwear collected layer upon layer of clay as we made our way to the church. The service started late and it was practically empty. We thought we were in the wrong church until the Methodist pastor made the closing statements (he must have been delayed by the ongoing kava drinking as he showed up late and backup pastor did the sermon). We think that the kava drinking may have affected church attendance. Despite that the 4 part harmony was still beautiful despite the limited attendance and we were made very welcome. Denny even had to get up and say a few words!!

Our fundraiser lunch packet along with some fruit gifts

Our fundraiser lunch packet along with some fruit gifts

Our last stop at this anchorage was Navidamu village. From the beach we were taken to where a house under construction. Considering the minimal tools they had at their disposal I thought they were doing a great job.  The Lay Pastor gave us a very organized tour of the village. Pictures of some our stops:dsc_6758

what would OSHA say!!

what would OSHA say!!

 

First stop - Methodist church. In need of a few repairs but brand new, great sound system

First stop – Methodist church. In need of a few repairs but brand new, great sound system

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Stop 2: Visit to a house to show us how the Voi Voi leaves are prepared for weaving

Stop 3 :Breadfruit lunch preparation

Stop 3 :Breadfruit lunch preparation

Stop 4: The makings of straw brooms.

Stop 4: The makings of straw brooms.

Stop 5; Preparing the Voi Voi for the drying process

Stop 5; Preparing the Voi Voi for the drying process

Stop 6: Weaving at it's finest

Stop 6: Weaving at it’s finest

Stop 7: Hello to a lady who was 114 years old.

Stop 7: Hello to a lady who was 114 years old.

Final stop: Lunch of cooked mango with our tour guide and family

Final stop: Lunch of cooked mango with our tour guide and family

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 12 – Nasea

October 17 – 18

16 28.139 S – 179 01.749 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb:

Our return anchorage to Nukubati was to visit the village Nasea. We waited for the school boat to pass by and then we followed them into the village. dsc_9745 A little girl asked if she could ride with us and she proudly stood at the front of the dinghy as we arrived idled into the village. Nasea was a little disappointing. dsc_9741-1We handed the Kava and they quickly did a mock Sevu Sevu and then went straight to pounding the Kava. We did understand that it was ‘freehold’ so Sevu Sevu was not necessary. They progressed to preparing and drinking the Kava and invited Denny to participate. But they continued to talk in their native tongue making Denny feel a little unwelcome. We understand that it’s probably because they could not speak very good English. Tino, who works at the resort, was probably the only one that made a genuine effort to make us feel comfortable but he was on the way to work.dsc_9755

dsc_9751 dsc_9752I was given a little better welcome. I was introduced to the oldest lady of the village who was 109 years old. She had a little trouble waking up from her nap and felt a  little shy with me being there. The ladies who gave me a tour of the village. They had much better English Language skills so were much chattier than the men. One of the young boys scampered up the Papaya tree and they loaded me up with papayas! They showed me the Kava that they had harvested but from what I could understand very little was sold, it was mostly consumed.dsc_9761-1

dsc_9773Tino dropped by the boat early next morning to say good-bye. He was returning from the resort after a Kava night with the wedding guests. He was tired from the late night affair but he made the special effort to drop by and say he appreciated our visit and was sad to see us go. When we asked if we could take his picture he quickly pulled out his Bulah shirt and got dressed up for the occasion. I guess Denny should have done the same!! He was actually teary eyed when he left.

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 11 – Luvaibulu Reef

October 14 – 17

16 19.218 S 178 58.692 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb:

View of Kia Island from our anchorage

View of Kia Island from our anchorage

We left Nukubati early in the morning and the first thing we did was put out our fishing line. And Voila we got a bite but unfortunately Denny lost it. He was sulking most of the way to the reef. It was a hunt for a good anchorage at the reef. It either had too many reef bommies or it had a steep ridge where we needed to drop the anchor.

Dinghy ride to our snorkel adventure

Dinghy ride to our snorkel adventure

We finally anchored quite a distance, 1 1/2 miles, from our intended snorkeling spot.  But our outboard prop was fixed so it was a doable dinghy ride. Our first attempt at the snorkel was a bust. A variety of fish but nothing spectacular.

Watching Denny take reef pics

Watching Denny take reef pics

Our second attempt at snorkeling was a success. It was a little easier as we just had to go where the resort wedding party were snorkeling and we mingled with the 50 other people there. It is probably one of the best snorkeling that we have done in Fiji. We returned the next day when there was nobody there to do some more exploring of the wonders of this reef with it’s vibrant colours and a huge selection of reef fish.

We had our usual visit from a local boat. They were fishing at the reef pass and dropped by to say Bulah on their return to their village, Yaro, on Kia. Denny invited them on board and we made our apologies for our quick exit out of Kia. They invited us to return to Kia and stay for a month. They would be very busy on Monday with installing flush toilets with the help of Australian Aid. It was hard to say no to such an enthusiastic invitation but we were running out of time and needed to continue along the coast. Yaro’s main source of income was fish and their diet was mainly fish and Cassava. But they did understand the importance of fish conservation and did not practice night time fishing.

Denny caught the fish but I get the picture

Denny caught the fish but I get the picture

We made our return to Nukubati anchorage and this time when we dropped our fishing line and Voila again, another bite. This time Denny brought it on deck and we first thought it was a Tuna. We later learned that we had caught a Giant Trevally or GT. It almost ran out all of our line and I had to turn the boat towards the fish so Denny could reel it in. Denny worked hard to get that BIG one on board. He definitely wasn’t going to loose another one. This fish had the same texture as a Mahi Mahi, white meat, but it was a little fishier tasting. So now in our freezer we have remnants of a Dorado, Wahoo, lobster and now a Giant Trevally.

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 10 – Nukubati

October 10 – 14

16 28.139 S – 179 01.749 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb:

As we headed to our next destination the wind started to increase and it started to rain. At first we were both excited as we hadn’t seen rain since we started our cruising around Vanua Levu. The decks and everything on deck had layers of salt so a good rain was what we needed. By the time we were near our intended stop it was a torrential rain and we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of the boat. We nearly t-boned a local power boat that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. We had to wait and do circles with a constant eye on the depth until the rain stopped or lessened long enough for us to pull in and anchor. By the time the anchor was finally buried in good mud we were quite drenched but the boat was clean. We arrived near the Nukubati resort on our first anniversary day so we were in a good spot to enjoy a tropical drink at a nice bar. But that would have to wait until tomorrow as Denny felt ‘done in’ after a stressful passage.

dsc_9731The resort was beautiful and we enjoyed a couple of evenings chatting with the owner and some guests. But the staff were all very pre-occupied preparing for the weekend Fijian wedding of the owner’s son. Family were arriving every day and on Sunday the official Fijian wedding would take place with 400 guests invited. On the menu was a pig cooked on the spit and beef. Extra locals had been hired to prepare all the food.

dsc_9726We stayed out of the way and finally managed to put a coat of Teak Oil which was long overdue. Denny had to stand in the dinghy and float along while carefully brushing on the oil. I had to do the portion accessible on the deck, easier but damn hot with the deck radiating heat absorbed by the sun.

We had a visit from the school boat driver and his family. They were amazed at how good our de-salinated water tasted. They would cautiously take a drink expecting salt water. They were amazed at how our salon chairs could be pulled out and turned to a bed and the topper was Coke made by our Soda stream. dsc_6722They liked the taste but we knew it wasn’t something they had before when they proceeded to dip their cookies in their drinks! I made paper airplanes and boats with the kids and they left with extra sheets of paper so that they could show their friends. They left with lots of invitations to come visit their village.

dsc_9732We did a little bit of snorkeling but the coral was dead. I did however see my first close-up look of a turtle. It was feeding below me and it took a little while before he realized I was hovering over him then he disappeared pretty quick. We did a little exploring of the outskirts of the resort. We found some pretty large Mangos which Denny decided to devour. He was sorry he did once he realized he had no way to clean his sticky hands until we reached the salt water edge.

It was a busy anchorage with lots of locals going to and from the resort, probably as a result of all the wedding preparations, with the constant wave or ‘Bulah’ yell. We decided it was time for a quiet reef anchorage but we would return to do a visit of the nearby village Nasea as we promised we would. On a final note we would like to say that despite the busy, special family wedding celebrations, the Bourke family, owners of the resort, made us feel very welcome.

 

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 9 – Kia Island

October 8 – 10

16 13.966 S 179 05.974 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb:

This was our Murphy’s Law anchorage. We attempted to go to Kia mid day with a plan to anchor on the reef mid-way. The chart showed some areas where it may be possible to anchor. When we did arrive there were just to many coral heads for anchor chain to wrap around even if we did float the chain. So we had to make a quick decision to continue to Kia and arrive in the dark or go back to Malau and head to Kia Island early in the morning. We opted for the safer choice and headed back to Malau. When we finally made it to Kia we decided to anchor on the east side of the island where there was no village.  As it was late Saturday evening we didn’t want to be in front of the village on a Sunday.  At least on the other side we could play in the water without being disrespectful of their day of worship.  After 7 tries to set the anchor it finally grabbed something!!

If you look very closely you may see Denny on the top of the knob!!

If you look very closely you may see Denny on the top of the knob!!

On Sunday Denny climbed the nearest knob to get a good anchorage picture. He came back with a few, very itchy spider bites (no poisonous spiders in Fiji). The wind was starting to pick up but I decided to do a kayak trip to a nearby small rock island where Blue Footed Boobies seemed to be hanging out. I hoped to find an interesting nesting ground. Half way between the island and the boat I managed to roll the Kayak. The swim back to the kayak was a long one and of course it would be the only time I chose not to take the VHF radio. I made it back safely without any shark bites and got right back in the kayak to try again (Denny was oblivious of my peril still nursing spider bites). I managed to circle the island which did house a lot of birds but by the time I got close the only evidence of any life was the stench of years of well-aged seabird poop.

Denny's picture from the hill of our anchorage

Denny’s picture from the hill of our anchorage

The wind continued to grow and by Monday morning instead of heading to the village to do Sevu Sevu we decided we had to leave our not so protected, not so great anchor holding spot and head to our next destination.