Cruising with Becky, Happy Birthday Denny

19 09.248S 178 32.430E

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Posting by Dennis:

DSC_7077Well celebrating your birthday in Fulaga was a real experience to say the least.  It all started a couple of weeks earlier with ‘big mouth’ Barb asking what they could do to celebrate my birthday.  DSC_7097From there the planning started by our host family and it grew into a huge party, Fulaga style, with me being the guest of honor, which I totally hate, and the entire village being there for the full blown kava party.  We arrived in the village around three in the afternoon,  as Ba, Suki and Uni (daughter in Law) were finishing up with the last of the decorations.  Barb contribute some tacky balloons to the decorations which she had saved for such an occasion.

DSC_7146The first thing they did was re-dress me in a flower shirt and a equally colorful sulu, a long piece of fabric that you wrap around your waist and kind of knot in back on itself. This never worked very well for me because every time I stood up (which was often considering the amount of kava I drank) the sulu wanted to fall to the ground leaving me there in my underwear.  They then put a very big lei around my neck of very beautiful, but very smelly flowers and it was massive (biggest I have ever seen). It was made by weaving the different flowers together.  They had constructed a cabana, wrapping all the poles with palm bows and flowers, and at the head of it was a grass mat banner with Happy 55th Birthday Dennis Ommen woven on it.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was turning 56 (Barb thought it was hilarious and she said it wasn’t every birthday that one gets to be younger instead of older).

DSC_7088I was instructed to sit below the banner just in front of the large kava bowl with the other elders of the village.  They then mixed up the kava with water and we were all given a turn to drink from a coconut shell. We were asked whether we wanted a ‘high tide’ (large portion) or low tide to drink. I wasn’t given the option, it was high high tide for me every time! We all sat around talking as three or four of the younger guys played guitars and sang.  Then the elder of the village called out “Taki”  and it was time for another round of kava.

DSC_7150After a couple of hours of this it was time to go into Suki and Ba’s dinning hut and we enjoyed a wonderful meal of local seafood dishes and even a baked chicken which was a real special treat. The Roast chicken was placed in front of me and nobody could take any until I had cut of my share first! DSC_7091I will never forget just how great the seafood was that Ba made. During dinner I was presented with some gifts. A beautiful miniature Kava bowl and a set of woven baskets. The young local that presented me with the Kava bowl also thanked me for the work done on the ‘youth’ fiberglass boat!!

As soon as we were done eating it was back to the cabana for more kava and chatting.  As most of the elders had left they asked if Becky would like to be in charge of saying “Taki”. So of course she did  and she did it often. So she is responsible for the way I weaved my way back to the boat (though Barb will remind me that Becky was drinking ‘high’ tides with me as well but just handled it a little better, young blood). DSC_7080 DSC_7066We sat there talking to the locals and drinking until well after midnight and then we said our goodbyes and  did the mile and half hike back to the dingy and the wet ride back to the boat.  The next morning Suki paid a visit to our boat on the way to their fishing trip to see if I was ok. He proudly said that Becky set a new record as she outlasted and out-drank the music group. That had never happened before.

It was a Birthday to remember, that is for sure ( Barb knows it will be payback someday, some birthday, it’s coming !!). Lots more pictures of my party in our photo album but not any of Barb as she was taking pictures while Becky and I partied.

 

 

Cruising with Pete and Melissa, Somosomo and Navadra, Fiji

September 15 – 18, 2014

17 04.923 S 177 16.752 E

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Posting by Barb:

mel12Our return from the Yasawas back to Vuda Point Marina included a stop in Somosomo. It was just an overnight stop but long enough to do some snorkeling. Surprisingly enough, the choral here was vibrant and alive. Denny did a night snorkel and he spotted a few baby OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcrayfish and some interesting corals that closed like a fern leaf when he shone the light on them. DSC_6591-1None of us were brave enough to go with him but based on his excitement I may consider going the next time. We contemplated going on a long hike to do a snorkel of a WWII airplane that went down close by but we were running out of time. Instead we pulled anchor and headed to our last stop, Navadra, one of our favorite anchors.

In Navadra we there were 6 boats already there so anchoring was a challenge. A super yacht was not so happy that we dropped anchor near their stern and waved at us but Denny elected to ignore them. Sailing vessel Huck and Double Diamond were 2 of the boats there so it would be Happy Hours with them. We all gathered on the large Catamaran Double Diamond for Happies and Nappies (drinks and appetizers). For our last night together on the boat we were rewarded with a fantastic sunset. I never get tired of the vibrant, warm colours.

mel13Once at Vuda Point Pete and Mel opted to spend their last night at a nearby resort, ‘First Landing’,  and invited us to join them for dinner there. We had one of the best steaks Fiji has to offer with a fine bottle of wine. Thanks Pete and Mel for the great dinner and great company and see you on board next year when we circumnavigate New Zealand and maybe this time we will catch some fish !! 

Cruising with Pete and Melissa, Yasawairara, Fiji

September 13 – 14, 2014

16 42.143 S 177 34.316 E

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Posting by Barb:

We left Blue Lagoon and made it all the way to the Northern Yasawas to Yasawairara. This was a new sailing destinations for us as well. The anchorage was the prettiest we have encountered in Fiji so far with miles of white sand and turquoise, crystal clear blue water. Within minutes of anchoring Pete and Mel were already talking to a local, John that rowed to our boat , and they arranged for some Papayas to be delivered in the morning and with any luck a fish for the evening meal.

TOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhis would be Pete and Mel’s first experience with the traditional Fijian Sevu Sevu. mel11I think Pete was a little anxious about it. The Sevu Sevu here was a little more elaborate than the last  one as the ageing chief did say quite a few words in Fijian and did some claps in between and then we were welcomed. The kids swarmed us and all wanted to get their pictures taken with us and then help put the dinghy back in the water. They were genuinely beautiful, welcoming, friendly people without the constant requests to buy their ‘dollar store’ trinkets.

Once we were back on the boat, John showed up with a nice size $20 Trevally which we cooked for supper. The first fresh fish meal we have had on this trip despite tour attempt to fish using NZ fancy, colorful lures given to us by Pete and trolled behind our boat during every passage. 

mel4DSC_6658mel5We spent a day exploring the island and taking lots of pictures and talking to the locals who were gathering food for the Sunday feast. We arranged to buy some papayas from one local and when we picked it up it was given to us in a basket woven from fresh Pandanu leaves. The basket held 6 Papayas (6 more than I ever wanted, not my favorite fruit) and some Cassava so I could make Cassava fries. We had a social night BBQ on our boat with our new friends on SV Alaeris with Alex and Iris. They had decided to go cruising after they survived the 9/11 attack while they were living in New York. The experience changed their outlook on life and they traded their complicated, busy lives for the simple cruising life. Part of the blue water sailing experience is meeting fascinating, wonderful people;  lives that will probably never touch again!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur second anchorage was in the large bay, a half an hour motor but far enough away so we could play on land or water without disrespecting the quiet Sunday Fijian tradition. At this anchorage we were invited to share a beach fire with a foursome on a Catamaran. Our first beach fire in Fiji! mel8As we were dousing the fires and getting ready to leave we joked about the possibility of losing a dinghy as the tide had gone up. It wasn’t very funny when we looked at the shoreline and a dinghy was missing, OURS! The captain lost our dinghy. Luckily it had only drifted further down the beach but it was a sobering moment.

Cruising with Pete and Melissa, Yasawas again, Fiji

September 6 – 12, 2014

Posting by Barb:

DSC_6699Allison left on Friday September 5th and Pete and Mel arrived on Saturday September 6th. Pete and Mel are our good friends from NZ. We wondered whether we would still be good friends after sharing the 37 feet of space we call home.  And yes we are still good friends and we had a great time. mel9Pete’s sailing background was a great help and he took over some of my responsibilities but unfortunately Denny had to remain being the Captain and all the work that goes with that. Mel stuck an ‘avoid seasickness’ patch behind her ear and she was good to go, miracle little drug!! She cooked up some great meals in our little galley, not something she may have ever imagined doing!! For a short visit in Fiji the only sailing option that has some daily stops is the Yasawa islands so we ended up going to a few of the same spots that we did with Mike and Allison.

WOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAe started them off with the rolliest anchorage, the famous octopus Resort. Mel survived that although I think that may have made her a little nervous. From there it was to the Manta Ray resort to swim with the Mantas. Luckily it was full moon couple of days again so that usually improves the chances of seeing the majestic fish. We moaned at having to do the dawn snorkel again and but it was worth it to swim with the Mantas again. It is still a thrill for me to be in the water with these huge fish (Denny was running the dinghy for the drift dive) but I get just as much pleasure to see the reaction of our friends who have never experienced such and adventure. 

From there it was northward to a protected bay. The wind was blowing hard on the nose (Mel now knows what that means) so it was nice to duck into the bay. There were 2 resorts there; White Sandy Beach and Korovou Eco tour resort (both resorts looking a little tired and neither had any toilet paper in the public washrooms; supply ship must have been delayed) . Aside from the usual Happy Hour at the resort bar we took a hike to Honeymoon Beach. Who could resist a walk on a beach with a name promising love and romance?  DSC_4438What we encountered there were hundreds of Hermit crabs all nestled and cozy together. Maybe that’s what they mean by Honeymoon beach. As I am fascinated by this little critter, and have tons of pictures to prove it, I did a little research on this. And it is possible that they were gathering for a shell swap. They basically get together and queue up to swap their shell homes for bigger homes. Of course not all end up ‘moving up’ and some become homeless and bury themselves in the sand until they find a home.

The next stop was naturally Blue Lagoon with another ‘on the nose’ passage. The wind mel2was howling when we arrived but the anchorage was quite calm. We did finally meet up with our good friends Steve and Nona on SV Corvidae and had them over for dinner on our boat. We managed to cook a meal to please the Pescatarian, meat lovers, spicy lovers and the non-spicy food lovers with our, slowly becoming famous, Mexican dinner.  And of course there was Happy Hours at the resort.

Cruising with Mike and Allison – Musket Cove, Fiji

August 23 – 25, 2014

17 46.354 S 177 11.090 E

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Posting by Barb:

We finally arrived at Musket Cove and we were looking forward to visiting the famous Marina. Most yachties end up going to Musket Cove at some point while cruising Fiji. So we were excited about being here. Anchoring turned out to be quite a feat as there wasn’t much room between the numerous yachts already there and the various, well marked coral reefs. Our first anchorage was fine until the wind changed and our boat swung within a few feet of choral. IMG_3741Nice to be able to look down from the side of the boat and see the reef fish but it was too close for comfort. Our second anchor attempt landed us too close to a large Catamaran that was not happy about having us so near. The third anchorage attempt was a success! We spent an evening at the renowned Musket Cove bar. I don’t know what happened to the cheap beer prices as written in the Fiji OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcompendium because at $8.50 a beer, Musket Cove turned out to be the most expensive beer watering stop of our trip. We spent a day walking the beach and stopped at all the resorts on Malolo Lailai. I think, at this point, we were ‘resorted out’ which most people would say  is probably not a bad complaint to have. We didn’t make it to the planned Musket Cove Sunday BBQ as we got an invite to have dinner at ‘Huck’. Heidi was an outstanding host and managed to feed 10 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof us with an exceptional feast. Our donation was Denny’s famous Potato Salad which is always a hit. After many bottles of wine, Rum and beer we safely made our way back to our boat. Well truthfully we don’t drink and dinghy so Denny only consumed his favorite drink, diet coke. The next day we spent snorkeling on a nearby beautiful sand bar with some shallow coral. Some of us were feeling a little groggy from the night before so it was a leisurely day in the water. Musket Cove was a little disappointing and we were all ready to sail on. We made a day stop at Kadavu Island so that Allison and Mike could see turtles up close and personal before arriving at their final ‘Cruising Fiji’ destination, back to Vuda Point Marina.

Three fantastic weeks of cruising with Mike and Allison and a lifetime of memories and to sum it all up:

  • Sailed and motored over 250 miles including a day with 35 knots of wind
  • Experienced 10 different anchorages on 9 different Islands
  • Enjoyed the amenities of over 10 Fijian resorts
  • Walked many white, untouched by footprint, beaches
  • Snorkeled and saw many reef fish and colorful corals
  • Swam with 2 meters large Manta rays
  • Fished and caught a Dorado, skipjack Tuna and 3 Spanish Mackerels
  • Ate in countless, fine restaurants
  • Had a few, more than a few socials (Happy and Nappies) with other cruisers
  • Hiked a fantastic , ‘lookout’ hike
  • Enjoyed a Popcorn and movie night on a big screen outside in the cockpit thanks to our new palm size, energy efficient movie projector.
  • Cooked gourmet meals in a little galley
  • Visited the big town, Latoka on a local open air bus
  • Toured the open air local fruit and vegetable market
  • Participated in a Sevu Sevu ceremony
  • Drank Kava
  • Had a good time in 37 feet of living space called home on Landfall

Cruising with Mike and Allison – Qalito Island, aka Castaway Island, Fiji

August 22, 2014

17 43.891 S 177 07.485 E

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Posting by Barb:

We left early and headed for the famous Musket Cove Marina. It was a beautiful, calm day. We decided to motor away from the reef and head to open water for a safer, easier motor sail without the constant worry of reefs and rocks. The wind slowly started to pick up and as it got windier and wetter in the cockpit, Allison and Mike decided to head down below. Well the winds continued to increase to 35 knots on the nose so we had to tack to our destination. Denny and I had to don our rain gear and triple reef the main. The reefing resulted in us tearing our main again! Allison was curled in the salon and Mike was doing air time in the v-berth, unable to get out of there. Neither of them could understand how we were still able to move around the in the boat (call it old age and experience). Denny shut off auto pilot, fired up our brand new engine and navigated us through the reef pass with a ship wreck looming next to the opening to remind us not to make any mistakes.  We had a pod of dolphins swimming around the boat as we saw white water crashing on the reefs. The dolphins seemed to be there to offer comfort and distraction. I wasn’t worried as it was a large pass and we have a reliable brand new engine and Denny at the helm.  Once we passed the reef the swell was smaller but the wind still howled. We knew we couldn’t make it to Musket Cove  so we managed to anchor off Castaway Island, just in time as the sun was setting and the wind was settling down. It may not have been a pleasant sailing experience but it was an experience. I think Mike and Ally got a new appreciation for what sailing is about and it is not all fair winds!!

Castaway Resort turned out to be a great anchorage spot. We went for the lunch buffet and went back for seconds, thirds, fourths…. It had a great salad bar, BBQ meat, pastas and a variety of meat casseroles and desserts including cheesecakes. So we ate and ate and then relaxed by the beautiful pool. Even Denny had a little snooze by the pool!IMG_3716IMG_3713 

Cruising with Mike and Allison – Navity Island, Botaira Beach resort, Fiji

August 18

17 07.055 S 177 12.927 E

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Posting by Barb:

 

 

IMG_3600From Blue Lagoon we made our way south and anchored at a little, tired resort. It offered a great deck for the sunset views. The resort may have been a little run down but the staff working there made up for it. They played with

 

 

the children of the resort patrons as if they were their own children. We loved the bartender ‘Missy’ who was full of life, love and laughter. He didn’t even flinch when we inadvertently left without paying and had dinghy back after we realized the tab had been

 

 

left unpaid. The highlight for Mike and Ally was the Kava ceremony. Sadly, they weren’t going to experience Kava through any Sevu Sevu ceremony so they were invited to participate along with resort patrons. There wasn’t even a glint of concern that we were not staying at the resort but they welcomed our presence. DSC_6372DSC_6369Mike and Allison hung around the kava bowl for second, thirds, fourths… It did numb the lips and tongue with the

 

 

initial drink. Other than that I felt no other side effect until we went to sleep. Yes, we all had a fantastic sleep full of dreams and Allison was lethargic all of the next day. Kava hangover!!

 

 

 

We did some snorkeling here as we have done at most all anchorages but here we saw the large clams. That was a treat as well!

 

Our large clam

Our large clam

Arrival of Mike and Allison

August 9, 2014 – August 11, 2014

Vuda Point Marina

17 40.842 S 177 23.204 E

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Posting by Barb:

DSC_6540As Denny will attest to, I have been working myself up to a frenzy of excitement as the BIG day approached. And it finally arrived!! We picked up ‘my little girl’ and her boyfriend at Nadi airport and we had them all to ourselves for 3-4 weeks. We gave them a couple of days at Vuda Point Marina to get some rest and climatize to the beautiful Fiji weather. They spent a couple of hours lounging at the ‘First Landing’ Resort next to the marina. IMG_3348They came with us on the open air local bus to the big city ‘Latoka’ to help us provision for the couple of weeks. They enjoyed the wining and dining with , Heidi, Joe and Joe’s  son Mark, the crew of Huck (another Shannon yacht). DSC_4329On Sunday ,August 10th we pulled out of the marina and headed for a couple of weeks cruising in the Yasawas. It was a delight to see the wonder and pure joy on DSC_6147Allison’s and Mike’s face as the boat left the safe harbor and out to the island strewn sea of Fiji. Blue, turquoise water peppered with the small white, sandy islands of the Mamanukas. It would be a 6 hour sail to the first anchorage and it would just be a quick overnight to our next destination. Unfortunately Ally did get a little seasick but she conquered it and got her sea legs after 3 to 4 days of sailing. DSC_6142-1DSC_6139      

 

Yalobi Bay, Waya Island, Fiji

July 30, 2014 – August 3, 2014

17 18.608 S 177 07.289 E

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Posting by Barb:

DSC_6012-1The village of Yalobi perfectly fits the quote “an island of calm in the sea of craziness that can be the modern world”. As we brought our dinghy to shore we were greeted by a couple of young children with big smiles. They brought uDSC_6059s to where their mom was sitting with a display of her local art spread out on a mat. She encouraged us to buy her sea shell necklaces and made us promise that she would be our guide if we wanted to do any hikes near the village. She was very forthright and made it very clear that visiting cruisers was a large part of their income. After a cup of tea and a chat with French cruisers the 3 pre-school children led us to the chief Tom’s house. They were fighting to hold my hand, happy with the “Lollies” that I had pulled out of DSC_6062my backpack and given to them. The Sevu Sevu with Chief Tom was a repeat of the Daliconi village. It appears that the traditional Kava drinking ceremonies are slowly vanishing. Maybe we will get to experience this in the more remote villages.  

While in Yalobi, we did two hikes with different guides and with a few of the other cruisers. Of course one hike took us to another lookout, the other hike took us to a cave that the locals use to take shelter in during cyclones. It wasn’t a deep cave but well protected. During the last cyclone, the locals squeezed themselves into the cave for 2 days! After each cyclone the locals go back to the village and start the rebuilding process and this is something that they accept as a way of life.

 

The highlight of our stay in Yalobi was the visit to the Primary school. The school is attended by the children of Yalobi and two other neighboring villages. The 200 + kids that range from ages 6 -14 stay in dormitories near the school. The kids start school at 8 in the morning and after school they all have to do ½ hour of chores which includes washing clothes by hand. On Friday afternoon’s they go home and come back on Sunday. Each village is responsible to provide the funds and or food for a year. The families of Yalobi each take turns preparing the food for one week. There are about 50 families so each family would have a turn at least once a year. As we left the school grounds some of the children followed us and wanted us to take pictures of them as they did handstands. They would run back and gather around me as they all tried to look at the pictures on my camera. They would each squeal as they spotted themselves in the picture. Such joy from such a simple act!!DSC_6072DSC_6070DSC_6094

We had our first meal of crayfish and  shared a few happy hours and meals with Robin and Jennifer on Katydid and Zig and Barbara on Sorceress. It was great to share an anchorage with these special people!DSC_6018-1

Vuda Point Harbour,Viti Levu, Fiji

July 12, 2014 – July 24, 2014

17 40.842 S 177 23.204 E

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Posting by Barb:

The route from Mbavatu Harbour to Vuda Point is about 200 nautical miles so we expected the passage to take about 2 days. The first day was a beautiful sail. We did throw out a fishing line but did not catch any fish. Maybe the full moon had something to do with it?? The second day was a motor and we had to be more vigilant as we traversed through a recommended narrow channel, Bligh Water, North of Viti Levu. DSC_4266This part of the passage could only be done in daylight as there were points where we could see waves braking close to the boat on both sides. We trolled two fishing lines through the channels. We did not catch anything that we could bring on board but the plastic X-rap Dive bait that we were trolling suddenly started skipping erratically through the water. When I pulled it in, there were deep gouges in the bait made by the teeth of some large fish. Maybe it was ok that we did not hook that fish. The bait hook that we were trolling on the other line was snapped off. I started to imagine all kinds of large fish living in the lagoon underneath the boat. Maybe not a good place to fall in.DSC_4252

I was able to do a Facetime call with my daughter Allison using my Ipad as I had cellular internet near the big island. It was such a treat to be able to talk to her as we motored along the island. We had to anchor in saweni Bay for the night as it was getting too late and we needed daylight to navigate through the narrow channel into Vuda Point Marina.

DSC_5873Once in the marina we had to grab the large orange buoy in the middle and wait for assistance from the dock boys to get us into a slip. DSC_5879We basically had to motor glide into the slip only big enough for our boat with just enough room for fenders between boats (Denny did some amazing navigating) . Can you spot our little boat next to the large power boat. This marina also offers haul-out service and the boats can be stored in pits so as to protect them from cyclones.

Once safely tied, it was straight to the showers, that’s always a treat after being living off the grid for a while. I also managed to do a load of laundry which was relatively inexpensive.

 

The marina has a great Bar-Restaurant, the Boatshed, that offers daily specials. We especially liked the 1/2 price pizza on Tuesday and the Thirsty Thursday which offers local beers for $2.50 Fijian (that’s about $1.38 US). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a great time at the sitting outside at the bar on Sunday afternoon listening to a local band. The female vocalist did a great rendition of Adele’s song ‘Someone Like You’. It gave me goose bumps. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe sat there and enjoyed the entertainment with our new friends from Australia, Rocky and Inge from S/V Island Girl. There is a neighboring resort that cruisers can visit. It has a swimming pool, another bar/restaurant and a small white beach. On Saturday night, Rocky, Inge, Dennis and I spent a lovely evening sipping fancy tropical drinks and watching a Fijian dance/fire OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAacrobatic show. Rocky and Inge left for Vanuatu a couple of days ago. They were serenaded by the local staff as they prepared to leave. Inge was crying and overwhelmed by the wonderful gesture by the yacht club staff.

We also did a couple of trips to the second largest town in Fiji, Lautoka, using the local bus. Because of the bus schedule we always seemed to be on it at 3:00 o’clock and we have had to share the bus with dozens of school children, all dressed in spotless uniforms, with lots of smiles and Bulah’s (hello) for us. Lautoka has a very large fresh fruit and vegetable market with very reasonable prices.

Other than having to fix the diesel tank, we have been having a great time in Vuda Marina. As the diesel tank is now fixed we will be heading out tomorrow for a beautiful clean anchorage with white beaches, great snorkeling and resorts we can visit on Mana Island. We plan to stay there until the first week in August and then it’s back to Vuda to pick up Allison and Mike. Woohooo!!