July 12, 2012

Suva, Beqa Island and on to Musket Cove

We spent the day motoring in calm seas when we left Gua Island (Great diving day!) and arrived in Suva Harbor mid afternoon. It was nice not having to go through the clearing in process since Fiji just adopted new regulations that only require you to report position weekly instead of the old system that required clearing in and out in each region.

Suva Harbor is a dirty place with at least seven old boats that are sunk and abandoned scattered around the bay. The outer reef had a new wreck on it this season, a 75 foot fishing boat that just about made it home last season. The town wraps around the bay and is the largest city in Fiji. The Suva Royal Yacht Club is located in the far right corner and we anchored in between two sunken ships for the first night one of which did a nice job blocking the waves during the storm that blew in that night with 35 knot winds.
The yacht club has seen better days but did have a endless supply of ice cold beer and soon to be open restaurant was just a week away from a total renovation. We asked where a good place to eat in town was and it generated snickers and rolling eyes by most we asked. Apparently good food is hard to find in this part of the world and our search proved so after a few days. One place that at least had a nice atmosphere was the Novotel Hotel just a short cab ride away.

We had a few things to get accomplished in Suva one was to get Daria a visa for New Caledonia at the French Embassy. We called up and we given an appointment first thing in the morning and Isabelle did a wonderful job helping us process the $12 application. Te next step would be a waiting game with the French Government….. The second issue was to get a alternator rebuilt on Downtime. While in New Zealand I paid over $250 to have it repaired at Snow Brothers in Whangarie and it lasted 15 minutes! I took it to Fiji Motor Winders and they said it needed a total rewind and could get it done in two days for $400 Fiji dollars (about $220 US) These are the same guys that fixed our water maker motor last year and they do really good work. While in town we decided to go to the cinema and saw Ice age 4 in 3D for just $3 US.
Meanwhile we had a few days before the visa would be ready (wishful thinking) so we went to Beqa Island just 20 miles south of Suva. Beqa has 8 small villages and a few resorts on the 6 mile long island and sits inside a 15 mile across atoll (Sunken volcano crater surrounded by reef). Our timing these last few weeks has been a few days off with the weather. When we wanted to sail the wind would not blow and the days we wanted to dive it rained and blew….quite frustrating.

One day we took SD for a tour around the area and visited the Royal Davui Resort. Unlike the Royal Yacht Club this place was amazing and we were greeted at the dock by Darryl the manager and he welcomed us to take a look around his island. A staff member gave us the full tour of this island paradise where you can stay in one of 15 secluded bungalows (in Fiji bungalow is called bure) that all have amazing views. This is a beautiful place to get away from it all and later we returned for a wonderful dinner with Darryl and Julie who met us at the restaurant.

The day we wanted to do the famous shark dive it rained and the day we sailed back to Suva the wind did not blow….so the bad timing continues.

We motored back to Suva in anticipation of picking up the visa and the alternator on Monday. No big surprise the visa was delayed but the alternator was done and like clockwork the propane cooking gas ran out the morning we arrived so at least we were close to a place to fill the tanks!

And we found some Heineken from Holland in Victoria wine... Life is good! And met our friend Bob on Braveheart, he treated us to dinner at one night…Thanks Bob!

Who knew how long the visa would take at this point so we made a second attempt to do the shark dive and made a reservation for Saturday and motored our way(no wind) down the coast to Pacific Harbor.

While we were there we had lunch at the Pearl Resort and took a river-tour and a few pictures.

The next morning Daria took a bus ride up to Sigitoka and visit the Kula Eco Park (zoo) and  the Outrigger Resort I spent a quiet day reading a great book.

We were there three windless mornings waiting for Saturday to come around and finally woke up Saturday morning to grey skies, rain and 25 knots wind! Will the bad timing ever end?

We cancelled the dive again and decided to put all that wind to work for us and set sail for Robinson Crusue Island 25 miles away. We finally had it all together and even caught a nice Walloo on our way there. We anchored next to the island and had from row seats for the night of dancing and singing on the island.

The wind continued the next morning so we sailed on to Musket Cove to meet our friends and do a few days of kite surfing.

Musket Cove is on a private island off the west coast of the south island of Fiji and is a favorite spot for cruisers and kite surfers to hang out. The resort provides a bar and afternoon Bar-B Q for the everyone to enjoy.

Sadly our first morning at Musket Cove there is NOT ENOUGH WIND TO KITE!! Will the bad timing ever end????

Waiting patiently for a breeze…..Pete and Daria

July 2, 2012

Lau Group, Fiji

We set sail the next morning for the bay of island anchorage in Vanua Balavu (Explorer Island Atoll) 8 hours away. I was excited and had all the fishing gear out since we would be crossing the exact spot we caught the big marlin last season. Conditions looked good and flying fish (bait) were jumping all around the boat but we never saw birds working bait (this means no fish feeding either) and we disappointly wound up the lines 50 miles later at the pass without ever getting a bite.

The pass was actually pretty close to the ones marked on our electronic charts and by 5:00 pm we had the hook set in 50 feet of water in a secluded anchorage all to ourselves. The bay of islands is pure amazement with hundreds of jagged volcanic limestone islands you can explore. The limestone turns the water turquoise blue as it erodes away and the contrast of the blue water next to the black rock is pure beauty.

The winds had turned south and we spent Sunday hanging out on the boat relaxing. Monday we drove SD around to the village and met with the chief and presented him with our gift of kava and participated in the ceremony while they received it. (pretty cool) On the way back we stopped and visited a few boats that were anchored in other bay and made some new friends.

The next day Daria got her paddle board on and in an hour was doing a great job paddling around while standing up. My problem with the paddle board is that the guy who sold me the board did not actually tell me the truth on the weight rating and when I get on it it turns into a submarine board….so, I either need to get smaller or get a bigger board!

Vanua Belevu is the second most populated island in the Lau Group with around 1800 people living in 14 villages and this is the first full season of being able to visit the group without special permission. The group sits about halfway between Viti Levu (north island of Fiji) and Tonga and its proximity to Tonga has had significant influence on the groups cultural development. Southeast trade winds made it easy to sail from Tonga to Fiji but difficult to return. Tongans and Samoan’s began settling and intermarrying in the early 1700’s leaving their influence in architecture and physical features.

In 1855 the Tongan prince Ma’afu invaded Vanua Belevu over the death of a preacher and conquered his first Fijian conquests he then controlled much of the area until his death 15 years latter.

Farming copra (coconuts) and gathering b`eche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) is the main source of income and each village has several small boat to go out fishing with.

After a few days we made our way back to the south island to do a few repairs and obtain a visa for Daria to visit New Caledonia (always a long process) in Suva the capitol city. On our way we spent a night at Gau Island but did not go ashore since the guide book told about the chiefs son robbing a boat while the owners went to present him kava . (bad Boy)

In out next adventure we will visit Suva and Bequa Island.

Until then live your dreams!!
Peace! Pete and Daria