Episode 6 – Fiji, Out and About

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Oceania » Fiji » Denarau
September 13th 2011
Published: September 13th 2011
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Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0

Captains Log:

Distance run 223 n miles. Total distance to date 1480 n miles (2740km).

Date: 20.08.2011 Suva to Tradewinds
21.08.2011 Tradewinds to Lawaki Beach, Beqa Lagoon
28.08.2011 Lawaki to Yanuca Island
28-29.08.2011 Yanuca Island to Western Fiji via Navula Passage to Saweni Bay
30.08.2011 Saweni Bayto Port Denarau
03.09.2011 Denarau to Navadra Island
05.09.2011 Navandra to Mana Island and return

The Bigger Picture:

Leaving Suva and heading over to the Beqa Lagoon in brisk south easterly trade winds we were all pretty keen to start experiencing the Island lifestyle. Anchored off Lawaki Beach Resort was an awesome start to doing this. The Resort itself is not flash, a backpackers haven. You can have a room or pitch a tent. Meals are taken in the communal area and usually in the company of Sam, the brains behind the operation. I had a long chat to his sister, the other big cheese of the resort while Sam’s Swiss wife is away, and she explained how Sam had petitioned for a reserve to be established off the resort. The land is owned by the family (clan) and his vision for the place has been the guiding force for it. With the establishment of the reserve they now have fish coming back into the area, and the coral is improving. The people can see the benefits of the conservation and now want to extend it. Great stuff!

Young Alex was itching to have his first snorkeling experience and was not disappointed with his first foray into this activity. When he got back to the boat he was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to go again. He took lots of photos, and the desire to be on the sea which had been born with the experience he has had with us has turned into a passion. I will not be surprised if sometime in his future he obtains a boat and wanders the world. . . he is a natural sailor.

We had a minor problem during this time in that Little Buckie had to be called into action when the head blocked . . . again!! The Captain was heard to rant quite loudly when he finally found the problem . . . some wipes had been put down the head (not me this time) and it has been discovered that they do not break down and therefore block the toilet, they are no longer welcome on the boat. We are very particular about what we put over the side – only things that will break down or be eaten by bacteria. No plastics or anything that are harmful to the environment or to marine life – the Capt is very careful. So the wipes (I had bought them knowing I would not be able to shower every day thinking they would be a good way to freshen up) are a thing of the past and I will have to find another way to do this. We breathed a collective sigh of relief when he managed to clear the problem and the head was back in business. Little Buckie is now a permanent and valued member of the crew.

Water is another issue, we only carry a certain amount so it has to be carefully conserved. He, who feels he should be obeyed, is also known to rant quite loudly if the water pump is not turned off or if water is squandered on non life preserving activities. Half a cup of water, and some people consider this excessive, goes a very long way in terms of cleaning teeth and face washing. We carry a spray bottle (affectionately known as ‘Squirt’ or ‘don’t point that thing at me Captain’)filled with fresh water that has a multitude of uses, including face washing, rinsing dishes and it has even played an important role in hair dying (the Captain denies it was his hair). The washing of hands after ‘you know what’ is of course allowed, though we have to be very careful because we don’t know when we will be in a place where we can fill up with water again.

The people of Lawaki are extremely friendly and we enjoyed our time there though it blew a lot. The lovely Lorraine did manage to get her feet wet finally (I have terrible phobia about putting my feet in the water – which is ironic given what I am doing at the moment). After much debate between my head and my feet I did manage to take the first steps towards becoming a water nymph like Doug who I swear has gills hidden somewhere on his anatomy. One afternoon, wearing my reef shoes, swimming shorts, t’shirt and all the under garments needed for a voluptuous figure like mine, I stunned the locals with a keen display of water activity by wading into the water up to my knees (in a nice sandy part of the beach with no rocks, or coral, or anything untoward that I could not see), and sitting down in the water in the company of a delightful young Fijian man who, with his wife, was holidaying at Lawaki from Canberra, Australia. He was training to be nurse, and clearly was used to dealing with ‘head’ cases as he was very understanding and supportive of my brave foray into the water. With no attacks by sharks, crabs, lethal jelly fish or any other ‘nasties’ I had the confidence the next day to finally go snorkeling, the Captain in close attendance – it was pretty good too!

So we passed a very nice few days off Lawaki Beach before heading to the Western part of Fiji. While we were sailing across Beqa Lagoon the Capt put out the trolling lure and low and behold a Spanish Mackerel or Walu (as they are called locally) leapt upon it, eager to provide us with fresh fish meat, something we were all hanging out for. What a fish! It was thought to be about 11kg, and the meat was absolutely delicious. I would have to say it was one of the nicest eating fish I have ever had. We ate it for lunch, dinner, breakfast and I made Kokoda (my favorite Fijian treat) which was simply delicious. As you will see by the photos, the lads were extremely pleased with themselves – I think I have mentioned before that young Alex just loves to fish.

We did a night sail to travel along the southern coast of Veti Levu, the Capt having timed the trip so that we would be in daylight to pass through the channel in the reef that gives access to Western Fiji. The trip was awesome. We had wind, though not too much, and watching the lights along the coast was great. However, daylight found Ethelred looking worse for wear. She had not ridden the conditions well, and was looking very deflated (literally). When we finally anchored in Saweni Bay, just south of Lautoka for the night we were able to pull her aboard to assess the situation and found she had been attacked and bitten by a cookie cutter shark and the resulting hole had taken the wind right out of her.

Coming through the reef into the West is amazing. Not only did the sea become flat calm, the temperature changed instantly as well. Where we had had fresh winds, showers and it had been quite cool for days, we were suddenly really in the tropics on a glassy sea. The metamorphosis was amazing.

With Ethelred incapacitated, plans to go directly to Lautoka were curtailed and we discussed our options sitting in Saweni Bay. Young Alex was due to leave us in a few days, and John and Sharon were expected to join us. Young Alex needed to be taken off the crew list with the Immigration people and we were basically stuck on board with Ethelred out of commission. While the Capt had begun the painstaking process of patching Ethelred, a process that needed at least 24 hours to work properly – the first patch did not take so we had to wait yet again - (Frustrating? Yes!) we decided to head into Denarau and try and get into the Marina. That way we would be able to get off the boat, get laundry done and we could get some fresh provisions – you just don’t realize how much you love fresh vegetables until they start running out!!

So into Port Denarau we came. Unfortunately we were unable to get a berth on the marina, but were able to secure a mooring within the harbour and that turned out to be just awesome. It was frustrating being able to see all the comings and goings and not be able to get off the boat initially, but once Ethelred was back in the water it was awesome – that first shower was heavenly!!

Denarau has come a long way since I first drove around it back when it was first being established. Wow. It is like being on the Gold Coast in Australia in a lot of ways, except that it is a small port and all the ferries and tourist activities out to the Mamanuca and Yesawa island groups stem from here. It also is widely used by the rich and famous. There have been some huge super yachts berthed – amazingly big craft. I watch the crews working on them for hours, and then the ferries come and go. One day a P&O Cruise ship sent in most of their passengers to be taken off to various land based activities. Buses awaited them and a huge movement of people took place as it does each day. They do it very well, we are really impressed. I was sitting gazing at a super yacht one day thinking quite enviously that they must be very well off and clearly were amongst the very privileged people on the planet . . . then I looked around me. Here I was sitting in this awesome location on a yacht that has taught me how to live again and I realized that I was amongst those I was thinking to envy.

Once we were able to get off Hakura, with Ethelred trying to hold it together though we think she has taken a mortal blow and is slowly dying, we were able to enjoy the cafes, and get the local bus into Nadi to visit the markets and supermarket. That in itself is an experience, the local people are just lovely. We have made friends with many of them while we have been here – last night one of the crew from the Hard Rock Café raced up to me and gave me a hug . . . bless him!

I did have another smallish adventure while here. To date I have sat like her royal highness and been taken into shore or out to the boat in Ethelred by Doug who does all the work. It’s easy that way. I had not really spent any time learning how to use the outboard motor and while I had come to terms with the oars, I had done little rowing either. Well that all changed in Denarau when one morning the boys had to go by bus into Lautoka to get Alex taken off the crew list. I was left behind to deal with the mountain of washing we had accumulated (only three loads this time) in the marina laundry. The Captain had strung up lines for me all over the boat so that I could get it all hung out in the sun to dry, BUT I would have to get it out to the boat from the shore in Ethelred then get her back to the tender berth to pick them up! So the time had come to learn how to use her. I did fairly well for a first time I think. Once I had loaded all the bags of wet laundry into her, I managed to scramble on, without getting wet. All the bits that have to be twiddled to get the outboard going were twiddled, and it started. Then there was the minor issue of getting the mooring lines untied and maneuvering her out of the area around the other inflatables tied up there. A very nice Fijian gentleman, who was sitting in his commercial boat on the other side of the pier came to my aid (he almost managed to hide his amusement) by untying the mooring lines and handing them to me. I then put the motor into gear and the next few minutes were something like being caught in a pinball machine as I richocheted off anything in my way until I got into clear water. Having managed that, Ethelred settled down somewhat and we headed fairly sedately out to Hakura, where another minor problem posed itself. I am not the tiniest or the most flexible of people, (although that is quickly being reversed I can tell you!) I was sitting on the outside of Ethelred and I needed to make contact with and become attached to Ethelred. After approximately six attempts of motoring in, bouncing off her and drifting out again I knew that several hundred pairs of eyes were now fixed firmly on me from every vantage point in Port Denarau and a quiet tide of glee was beginning to rise as the bodies attached to those eyes began to snigger. There was nothing for it – I cut the motor, engaged the oars and rowed in eventually making the required contact and managing to get all the linen on board, not to mention myself. You would have thought I had climbed Everest! By the time I took her back to the tender wharf to pick up the boys I was a veteran and now nimbly clamber on her and off her, engage the motor or row into shore if I want the exercise. (Ye gads – I think I am becoming a boatie!).

The time came for Young Alex to leave us. Difficult for all of us I think . . . he was an awesome member of the crew and given the age difference between us he was amazing. (Thanks Alex. For the awesome photographs, many of which enhance the blog, for the pancakes – a treat we thoroughly enjoyed, for the nightly card duels and the good grace in which you both won and lost and for so many other things I cant put them all into words. Having you on board was an absolute pleasure.) We will stay in touch with him and wish him well with his studies . . . and hope he realizes his dream of sailing his own boat one day.

After he had left us, and with John and Sharon due in a few days, we headed out to Navadra Island. It is uninhabited by humans, though is host to goats, chickens, fruit bats and a huge assortment of hermit crabs that crawl around in the bush making the ground look alive. While there we meet another couple from NZ on their as yet unnamed catamaran and enjoyed some social time with them and their guests. Then it was time to pick up John and Sharon from Mana Island, a five hour sail from where we were situated, with the wind right on the nose – so we took the scenic route and saw many of the islands in the Mamanuca group as we passed. We picked up John and Sharon and headed back to Navadra , three hours with the wind behind us.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


13th September 2011

enjoyed again
HI Doug and Lorraine Your update came thru again in time for my morning coffee - there has to be esp or something there!!! Glad to hear little buckie is so reliable. Also so pleased for you that you have had some lovely times up there. Great to hear that some parts of the reef are being restored to their former glory. Poor Ethelred and what a nuisance for you all. But I am very impressed at your efforts to take control of her Lorraine. All talk down here needless to say is all blacks and rugby - we don't seem to be getting the overseas news like normal times. And Te Puke of course is still full of PSA stories with many orchardists and Zespri waiting to see what the bud burst brings. If it is all bad news then we are going to be living in a very sad little town. I hope you continue to enjoy your travels. Love to all Janet
14th September 2011

Great writing, superb descriptions of the trip, and I especially enjoyed the solo Ethelred experience Lorraine!
15th September 2011

....and you are certainly making plenty of those! Lovely to read about so many places I have been - and those I have not (yet) been. The trip sounds wonderful and as you bid farewell to one crew member and welcome two 'new' old crew members, I wish you all safe travels, tummy-rumbling laughs and memories to last a life-time.
15th September 2011

Sounds like you are haingh a great time, but i guess there is still a lot of hard work required to keep things running have a grea time and safe sailing

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