Thursday, October 30, 2014

Willie T.'s of the South Pacific

Approaching Cloud 9 in our dinghy
We have found the Fijian version of Willie T.'s - a floating bar in The Bight off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands! Willie T.'s is an old establishment on a old boat that has been there for years. And oh - if only the the hull and deck could talk! Actually, much of the action and antics have been captured on video that plays continuously in the bar! Adult only ratings! Warning: if you do something risqué or stupid, you may have a role in the video without realizing it until you see the playback!

Nothing better than a Fiji Gold on a hot day!
As for here in Fiji, we went out near the outer reef on the west side off the Mamanuca Island Group to Cloud 9. This is a floating bar and pizza restaurant not too far from the world famous Cloudbreak surfing area. In fact, there was some international surfing championship held here earlier the season. The wave known as Cloudbreak is located just off Tavarua Island and is rated one of the top ten waves in the world! Depending on the swell direction and power, it can be a long wall with tubing sections, or a very long and critical barrel. No, we have not taken up surfing - yet!

The upper deck is full of the young and crazy.
Cloud 9 is newer and well designed as a floating establishment and nicer than Willie T's. There are large mattresses and sling chairs for soaking up the sun - or shade as needed. In addition to eating pizza cooked in a wood-fire oven, there is a lot of beer and spirits flowing. This place is a gold mine on a calm a day. I am not sure what it would be like when it is rough. It is located about 3.5 nm west of Musket Cove.

The wood burning pizza oven makes great pizzas.
I would love one of these ovens. Not on the boat, though.
Aside from drinking and eating pizza, the other main activity is jumping off the rail on the second story. This is similar to jumping off WillieT's but higher. Actually jumping was banned at Willie T's sometime ago, but people with enough guts or alcohol still climb over the barriers and jump. Some of the guys at Cloud 9 landed on their backs with loud bangs. That must have hurt, but they would go right back up top and do it again! Have another Fiji Gold! Beer, that is!

Cloud 9 is surrounded by reefs so snorkeling is also popular here. We found a reef that had some healthy coral along the edges and plenty of small fish, but nothing big. There were several blue starfish. I just love them. Their color is sapphire blue and looks so rich against the turquoise water and white sand.

We had a very relaxing day of snorkeling and people watching. And the pizzas were really good.  I have learned to drink and actually like beer in several of the islands. Here my beer of choice is Fiji Gold, while Dennis likes Fiji Bitter. Back in some of the earlier island stops, the local beer Hinano was a good one. I think Hinano is a Tahitian beer, but we found it all along the way to and in Tonga. All in all, it was another wonderful vacation day in the South Pacific. In fact, we lucked out as it was the most perfect day of the past few weeks as it was flat calm.

Unfortunately, the photographs just cannot show the full beauty of these places. Many times, I think: I just wish our friends could experience this. The natural beauty of the world is amazing. It literally takes my breath away at times.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Another Exciting Day in the Wind

Sea planes land at Mana regularly bringing guests to
the Mana Island Resort on the beach to the left of this one.
The wind is a sailboat's power source. But it can also be its enemy! And the same for planning cruising adventures. Even though we watch the weather and plan our anchorages as best we can, Mother Nature can throw a curve ball - and often does! The winter winds have been squirrely - not the usual Trade Winds and they are up and down and switching direction. This makes it hard to plan our adventures.

With the generator fixed (hopefully this time it is), we headed out to explore another island group here in Fiji. We had seen beautiful underwater reef photos from another World ARC boat taken in the Mamanuca Island Group starting with Mana Island. The weather was perfect and visibility good. This is important when navigating within the barrier reefs here. We really haven't put the sails up inside the barrier reefs.

Mana Island Resort has the better beach and covers an
area that runs across the island for a beach on the other side.
Getting into Mana through the passage was a little tricky and it became nerve-racking when suddenly the depth readout said: 0.0m! That means I have one foot under the keel and I need to get out of there fast. Fortunately a couple of local tour boats guided us through the reef and we settled into the anchorage.

One of the fun events at Mana Island Resort is riding
on this "Oscar Meyer" tube. Not sure what they call it!

Ashore we found the lovely Mana Island Resort and a couple of backpacker resorts. The Japanese own the fancy resort and do not play nice in the sand with the lower priced ones. The guide book states that there is actually a fence dividing the island! Apparently there some bad vibes between the two groups. When we asked about a dinner reservation, we were told we had to register with the resort. So we didn't bother to eat there.

After a nice walk on the beach, a cold refreshment and a rising tide, it was time to return to the boat. Our plan was to return to shore in the morning to walk to the north side of the island to go snorkeling since the visibility was not good on the south side near our anchorage. When the wind blows hard it churns up the barrier reefs and it takes several days for it to settle down again. The wind is coming from the east-southeast so the north shore is clearer.

It is hard to get to shore at low tide.
Then after dinner aboard, we noted that the wind had kicked up into the twenties again. This meant an anchor watch throughout the night. We had a good hold, but there were reefs on three sides of us and we wanted to make sure we stayed put. Dennis loves his 320' of stainless steel anchor rode! I stayed up until 2 AM and everything seemed fine, so I crashed. Dennis got up a couple of times to check things during the rest of the night.

Morning gave us the opportunity to rethink our plans! The wind was howling and the waves we crashing across the reef in front of us and slamming the hull. It took a nano-second to say, "we're leaving!" We did not want another three days of sitting at anchor watching the position. Our plan was to head to Musket Cove Yacht Club on Sunday, so we moved it up a few days.

This little guy grabbed my camera and started
taking pictures. Then he wanted to see them.
I had trouble getting it back from him.
Unfortunately, while we were eating breakfast, we heard a loud bang on deck. Dennis went up to investigate and discovered the port sidelight of our dodge had exploded. Since it is tempered glass, it stayed in place. He quickly covered the whole area, inside and out, with duct tape. Good ole duct tape! What would we do without it?!

At the native end of the beach, the local women have a
small market set up with their crafts. No fruits or veggies.
This is now totally covered with duct tape until
we can get a new one from Sweden!

Once again it lives up to its reputation! But now we need to have a replacement glass shipped from Sweden to somewhere in our future itinerary. And we pray the tape holds until then. When be get back to Vuda Marina, we will try to find a piece of Plexiglas to strengthen the area. Without something there, we will be doused with sea water on our passages. Not to mention the wind. The same thing had happened to the starboard sidelight back in Herrington Harbor, MD. No one knows why it happens. It could be the sun or wind or both. Or there could have been a scratch on the tempered surface that weakened it. The glass is slightly curved so it is under tension. At least we know it wasn't a stone!

Once the window was secure, we weighed anchor and set off for Musket Cove Marina on Malolo Lailai island. The less than five mile trip was a game of reef-dodging and fighting the current and wind.

There was a loud BANG! Then this!
We made it to Musket Cove Marina, but there were no mooring balls available as no one was leaving in this wind. We were offered a stern-to berth at the dock, but we had the dinghy in tow and could not put it up in the wind. We were also concerned about trying to back into a space between boats with the wind direction and force. So we dropped an anchor outside the mooring field and waited for an opening on a mooring ball.

The wind here in the anchorage is hitting 27 knots at times. That means another night of anchor watch as there is a reef in front of us and one behind us. The kite surfers are loving it, but not the rest of us at anchor. At least, it gives us a good reason to lay around the boat and relax. Sometimes we forget to do just that!

S/V Trillium at anchor on Mana Island
Now I am sitting here in the anchorage at Musket Cove watching a motor yacht, M/Y Senses anchored a few hundred yards away. It is  57 meters long and has a red helicopter on the stern! I figure this owner can say, "When I've come to My Senses!" Really! I wonder what his other toys are? There is also a large red seaplane that landed just short of motor yacht, it might be another toy! We have seen some amazingly expensive and huge yachts here in the South Pacific. Japanese? Russian? Chinese? Unfortunately I can not see the vessel's flag.

Actually, someone just informed me that the superyacht belongs to Bill Gates! And it is for sale. How many million dollars was that? I wonder if it is listed on Hey, I think I helped pay for that!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vacationing in Fiji

Some  R& R on Nananu-i-Ra island at the Safari Island Resort
I am sure you must think we are always vacationing. However, that isn't quite true. You see just because we are living on a sailing yacht, it doesn't mean we are vacationing. There is a lot of work to do just to maintain the boat, keep communications working, manage finances from afar, and much, much more.

When sailing with the World ARC, we are on the move a lot. By the time you reach the next port of call, check in, do maintenance and provisioning, there is a little time left to sightsee and enjoy the nice events they have planned. But then it is time to move on as the schedule is predetermined by the world weather patterns.

Just hanging around the beach.
It was always our plan to drop out and spend at least a year in the South Pacific. There are so many places to see here. It is also beautiful with great weather. Yes, we have had some cool days and downright chilly nights because it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. It is like going to Florida in December and January: warmer than Michigan, but not really beach weather everyday.
Other World ARC friends are also at Musket Cove Yacht
Club: Donna & Jonathon, Joyce & John and Elizabeth &
Martin. We will all be heading to Vanuatu soon.
Right now we are spending a lot of time in Fiji. It is a great place. Wonderful people and many islands to visit. Currently we are at Musket Cove where there is a marina and lovely resort. As members of the Musket Cove Yacht Club, we can use the resort facilities. And we have an open account for charges at the restaurants, bars and activities center. It is a great place to hang out.

Yup! That's the Captain getting his sea legs on the board.

Dennis has taken up the sport of wind surfing. And he is doing quite well. He goes out for an hour each day and his progress is impressive. I have a feeling there will be a wind surf board at Pointe aux Barques when we return! The nice think is that he can do it alone as my back just would hold up to it.

The beach here at Musket Cove is beautiful. There have been two weddings already this week and it is only Wednesday. At the other point to the South, there is another resort so not only does it give a place to which we can walk, it also has several restaurants and beach bars. Variety is good. After awhile, the menus all start to look alike!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nadi: The Big Town in Fiji

The temple is very colorful.
One Saturday we hired Ali, our regular taxi driver, to take us to Nadi so we could do a number of errands. We had been near there once before with a rental car and found it challenging to drive, park and figure out where to go. For the same price as renting a car, we could have a driver all day and he knows where to take us. That alone saves a lot of frustration for us.

Paintings on the Temple ceiling
Of course, he also takes us to the places where he gets a little incentive! We don't mind because it doesn't cost us anything, although I think I was taken advantage of in one shop and intend to tell Ali about it next year. I will also warn other cruises.  

He wanted us to be sure to visit the Sri Siva Subrahmaniya Swami Temple before going into the town to shop. It is the largest  and finest of its kind in the South Pacific. Erected by the local Hindus in 1994, it is of colorful South Indian style with sculptures on the towers. The temple is dedicated to Muruga, the mythical general who led the devas (divinities) to victory over the demons.

We had to don sulas and remove our shoes and our shoulders needed to be covered. The worshipers purchased gifts of special foods that they offered at various places within the temple. Photographs are not to be taken inside the temple, although allowed outside. Our guide explained the various parts and symbols throughout the temple. He also said the foods that are left as offerings are used to feed the homeless. The temple also has a large garden where they grown foods to feed the homeless, as well.
We couldn't believe this sign on the property adjacent to
the Hindu Temple. Really!

Of course, we went to the market in Nadi to get fresh produce. Everything if reasonably priced - in fact, it is so inexpensive that I feel guilty paying so little for such fresh good quality! If we had markets like this, I would shop everyday!

The fresh eggplant here is wonderful. We
eat it several times a week just sautéed in
coconut or olive oil.

Everyone has a little bit of something to sell.
Always interesting things for sale. I don't know what they
are, not do I know how to cook some of them.

The market in Nadi (Nandi), Fiji The mandarin
oranges are wonderful, but the season ended
before I was able to stock up on them!

Interesting thins from the sea. I am not eating any of this!
You can find almost anything here in the markets from fruits and vegetables to seafoods and kava. It is just a matter of what is available. The markets seem to have fixed pricing as each stall or table - or mat on the ground - is run by a different person/group and the prices are identical from one to the other. More baby bok choy than we in a week is $1 per bundle! I feel bad when we don't use it all before it is beyond us, but it is so plentiful and cheap. It is easy to overbuy so I have to remind myself of how little refrigerator space I have. It is wonderful eating such fresh and organic produce regularly.

More sea creatures for your dining pleasure!
I find some of the creatures from the sea quite disgusting to look at and would never consider putting them in my mouth! I have seen them in the sea and don't even like them there! Dennis loves anything that swims or crawls on the bottom of the ocean. I don't even like handling some of it so I don't offer to cook. He can order it at a restaurant!

Things are a little pricey here!
And this is the large supermarket.
We do go to the supermarkets as well to buy staples - especially Sunshine powdered milk. We have found that it lasts longer than the boxed milk (fresh milk doesn't last at all!) and we can make it in small quantities. Actually, I wish they sold it in the USA as it would be good to have in the pantry.

Handcarved wooden bowls: Beautiful!

We also went shopping for some Christmas presents and clothing items. I needed to buy a new waterproof camera since the second one has died on this trip. They just seem to stop taking a charge. I have tried to contact the manufacturers by email, but have had no response.

Our one souvenir: a carved and inlayed Kava bowl

Nadi is a larger city and very busy on a Saturday.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Saturday in Lautoka

Well, we are back at Vuda Marina with the fickle generator! You know when you have spent too much time in a marina when the staff says: Welcome home! Fortunately, it does feel like home and we love the staff here! They're the best we have seen in all of our stops.

We decided to spend a day with the locals in the town of Lautoka. Of course, Saturday is the busiest day to go there so we were in the heart of it all. Our mission was not to provision, but rather to soak in the atmosphere of the city, the market, the shops, the people and the food. And we were not disappointed!

The portions look small, but it very filling - and HOT!

We met a couple from Singapore at the marina and rode with them, sharing what we had learned about Fiji over the past ten weeks. Then we took them to a good shop where you can purchase reasonably priced sulas. Dennis bought a traditional man's sula in black and I bought some of the colorful ladies' style for gifts. Since we gave away thousands of dollars worth of "stuff" when we sold our house, I have been very good about not replacing it with more "stuff" from this trip. We have only purchased a couple of souvenirs. And I refuse to buy stuff for the grandchildren as my mother always returned from afar with stuff that had no meaning to the kids! Her intentions were good. But now someone else is enjoying those "treasures."

Keith (R) is the bartender at the favorite hangout: Boatshed Bar
We spent the day wandering around the city, in and out of shops and people-watching. Dennis decided that I needed some "fun" clothes since I am always in shorts and tee shirts. So we shopped for them and he picked out a couple of things that I should wear. Okay, but how do I climb on and off a boat in them? He found a couple of what are known as "bula" shirts for him. NO, they are not wild tropical prints. The culture is much more conservative in Fiji! He was encouraging me to purchase an outfit in one of the Indian clothing stores where the fabrics were beautiful and sparkling. It could be a fun dress to wear to something special, but I just don't see it on the calendar in the near future. AND I am not sure I could get myself properly into it and wrapped in the beautiful Sari fabric.

Catherine, Keith, Linda, Mike and Dennis
Needing a place to rest and eat, we found a vegetarian Indian restaurant. Of course, the special of the day is always worth a try - especially when you see all of the natives eating it. We like to find places where the locals eat rather than tourist ones. I asked the gentleman behind the counter if the food was real spicy. "No, no it is mild", he said. NOT! Maybe mild to his palate, but my mouth and lips were on fire! But is was really good so I kept eating and drinking lots of water. A cold beer would have been of great value right then! I now understand why the Indians drink beer with their food.

Vuda Point Marina market
Before heading back to the marina, we made a brief stop at the supermarket and the market to get a few items for the week. I can't resist the pawpaw (small papayas) that are four for two dollars Fijian. They are so sweet! We eat one a day. And the same with the small pineapples that are three for two dollars Fijian! Apples and oranges cost two to three times more than these. Remember: a Fijian dollar is like 60 cents USD!

Many homemade goodies here. A lot of gluten-free treats, too!

Marina Manager Adam and his wife make
coconut oil and coconut products for sale.
Being very tired, it was time for dinner out with some new friends and "neighbors" in the marina. Catherine and Mike from UK and France are next to us. We joined them with Keith and Linda for sundowners at the Boatshed Bar. These couples have been cruising for seven and 20+ years, respectively. It is easy to see how and why cruisers just keep cruising! We will probably meet up with Mike and Catherine in New Caledonia before we go our separate ways to New Zealand and Australia.

We had a group of 14 or more
for Merc's birthday dinner at
First Landing Resort!
One evening it was sundowners on Mike and Catherine's boat, S/V Falabalac, where the conversation was in multiple languages with the common language being French. Except for Catherine, others struggled with grammar and tenses, but were able to keep a conversation going for hours. Their guests were from Italy, UK and South Africa and all but the Italian spoke English with some form of accent. It was most interesting to hear it all. That is what we love about cruising: the people we meet from all over the world!

The Italians serenaded Merc and entertain all of us!
That is Sandra and Tom from S/V Sweet Pearl
(Switzerland) looking on. Such a fun night with
special people celebrating with our special friend!
Vuda Marina offers many activities: Monday night moonlight movies on the lawn, Tuesday night half-price pizza night, Thirsty Thursday Happy Hour, live music on Friday (Reggae) and Sunday (Jazz) evenings. There is a Makers and Growers Market every second Saturday of the month, as well as cooking and cocktail classes upon request. So being here is not a bad thing! One of the best perks is that you can clear in and out of Fiji here, which is much easier than sailing over to Lautoka or Suva or SuvaSuva.

And we love the music performed by Emily and the guys!
Earlier in the year, we could access the First Landing Resort next door where we often ate, drank and swam in the pool. We were told we could swim there for $5 or buy a meal. Recently upon returning to the marina, we found the gate between the two properties has been locked. There are two stories: 1) the resort didn't like their guests coming to the marina restaurants for less expensive meals and 2) they no longer wanted us using the pool. It seems they could work out something like Musket Cove Marina where you buy a membership that allows you to use the facilities of the resort. Trust me, they are losing out on a lot of money since we had several big dinner groups over there plus our individual lunches, dinners and happy hours. Sometimes I just don't understand the lack of entrepreneurial thinking in most of these countries. Maybe that is why they are so laid back and relaxed and we are not in the USA!