Monday, August 19, 2013

Surprising Jean

Believe it or not, a bunch of talkative cruisers, gathering in one location from various bays and harbours, still managed to pull off a surprise 60th birthday party for Superted's co-captain Jean. The fact that the party was a month earlier than her actual birthday probably helped! But nonetheless – it was a great party and the surprised guest of honor seemed thrilled. The event, held at the Musket Cove Yacht Club's outdoor bar and grill, was Sunday night. Eight boats gathered from all over and acted like they just happened to be here. It was to be a potluck, bring your own item to grill, night. A crew gathered early to reserve some tables and Matt pre-arranged the bar tab! We decorated with banners, balloons and crepe paper. Two birthday cakes, homemade cards and gifts, and an "Ode to Jean" were part of the festivities. This gathering was fun because so many of us have traveled together for some time and at this point, many of us will be going different directions. In fact, it sadly may be the last gathering for us of many of these folks – some we may never cross paths with again. That's the hard part of cruising – making friends and then having them sail out of your lives – sometimes for a short time and at other times – forever.

The party was fun and festive and Jean, who is generous to all, deserved it!

We remain in Musket for a few days before heading off to the main island for some last projects and reprovisioning before heading on our next adventure. This is a nice spot – we managed a great tide-pooling walk on the sand flats/exposed reef near the boat. The tides are exceptionally low so a lot was high and dry and it was fun to explore. We scared up some eels, lots of crabs, puffer fish and some interesting small tropical fish.

The anchorage/mooring field also has boats coming and going – so lots of people to meet and its always fun watching the anchoring and mooring antics. In fact, one boat tried six times to grab a mooring after failing to anchor! This particular boat sells itself as a teaching boat for offshore cruising (no names will be mentioned) – so we were enjoying the fact that the teachers couldn't manage to secure the boat without help. Ah, but it happens to all of us!

The weather has been wonderful – and its nice to still be amongst our friends before a passage.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back Down the Mamanucas

After enjoying our adventures in Naviti in the Yasawa Group, we made our way back to the Mamanuca group to get some calmer anchorages. Or at least that was the plan and it worked for a few nights – and then we got the roll back at Waya. We moved back to Mololo Lailai Island and the Musket Cove Yacht Club (where we are members in good standing!)

We will settle here for probably about a week to get a few boat projects done and hopefully reconnect with some boats before we all go our separate ways. Some will be heading north to Vanuatu, others toward New Caledonia, some to New Zealand and a group of us, ourselves included, will take the trip northwards to Tuvaulu, Kiribatis and Marshalls. Hopefully we'll be able to have one big gathering here to say our goodbyes. That is one of the interesting things about this cruising lifestyle. You become fast friends with folks and those friendships are often based on some shared experiences – that are sometimes frightening...but bonding. You visit interesting places together; share many meals and evening sundowners or morning coffees; experience adventurous hikes, dives or snorkels and just simply get to know each other quite well in short periods of times. And then you disappear from each others lives – sometimes staying in contact via internet or the radio – and at other times simply becoming a memory in each others' cruising histories. With luck, your paths cross again at some point and the reunions are great fun and quite joyful. But in this cruising world, where we change our plans like incoming tides, you simply don't know if you'll ever see the people again. So that is the sadness of the goodbyes. We have had the pleasure of knowing some people for many years. Our friends on Chapter Two and Chrisandaver Dream are from our time in the Caribbean. Newer friends that we've met in Panama but got to know better in Tahiti and Tonga are the Superteds. Victory we actually met in Panama when JanBart offered us and our guests, Dave and Lorna a freshly caught fish, but we got to know them better in Tonga as well. We anchored very close to the Gypsy Hearts in Moorea (Soby you might remember that catamaran), and have enjoyed getting to know them better while in NZ. So we meet; travel different directions, re-meet and get to know each other better and then disappear again. We recently heard on the radio from the Bamboozles, some great old friends we knew in the Caribbean – but unfortunately don't think we'll actually see them here in Fiji - though we are both in the same country! So many great folks that we've met over these last four and a half years – some still cruising – and others settled into the land life again.

So we look forward to hopefully reconnecting with some friends to be able to say goodbye for now and keep our hopes up that we will see them again in the not so distant future.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

White Sand Beaches of Naviti Island

This is the place that the tourist bureau loves. We had a beautiful sail from Kuata – glad to get away from the island of the evil rock people! We seem to be on a cycle of a good night at an anchorage or perhaps two, and then the rocking and rolling night of no sleep. We had one okay night at Kuata and a great snorkel and the next day was fun for snorkeling, a beach walk and a "spa" beach day (some pay hundreds for sand abrasion treatments – not Barbara and Jean!) under the watchful eyes of the eerie rock people formations.

That night the wind and roll picked up and the boat was creaking and groaning. The next day as we tried to pull the anchor up, we would find out what all that groaning was. We were well tangled on a big rock 50 feet down – close to the boat so we didn't have much catenary on the line and were really pulling hard. We wouldn't be going anyplace tangled like we were. With the help of Matt from Superted who directed our movement and chain retrieval, we finally got off the evil rock person holding us in place. After that morning stress, we had a beautiful sail around some reefs and up to Naviti Island. Two lines in the water – but no fish to bring in. It was about a 30 mile run, but we made good time sailing downwind. The islands we passed were idyllic – white sand beaches, turquoise water and palm trees.

When we turned the corner into the bay, we were greeted with more white sand beaches and about four boats already in the anchorage. Though the beach was very long, the area to anchor was a lot smaller as there were reefs on each side. We found a good spot on a nice sandy bottom in about 30 feet of water. Superted came in soon after us (we only beat them because we left easily two hours before them (and they arrived within a half hour of us!)
We had a good adventure yesterday as we headed across the island to the windward side in search of the sunk World War II Grumman Hellcat fighter plane. The story goes that the plane could not make it back to its carrier and ditched after running out of fuel in the shallow water. The pilot was thought to be dead because nobody knew where he or the plane went down. His brother years later came to Fiji in search of his brother's remains to take back and instead found his brother alive, having gone "native" in one of the villages, tended to by several village women! Better than fighting in a Hellcat!

The search for the plane started with finding the track across the island. The description in the guide book is that it is in the middle of the beach. We thought we found one trail and bushwacked our way through for a bit but then lost the trail. We finally gave up and Jean asked some local women who were gathering "sea grapes" seaweed if they knew where the track was. They pointed us much further down the beach (certainly not in the middle) and we easily found a well worn trail. We meandered through several different ecosystems – tall grasses, wooded area to another beautiful beach. Tide was well out on the other side so we could actually walk across to another island on the tidal flats. We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the little island and kept looking for this plane. We couldn't spot anything though it was a sunny, crystal clear day looking into bright clear water.

So we made our way back thinking we took our snorkel gear for a nice walk! But, again Jean asked some local women walking by if they knew where the plane was and they pointed to one of the two floating buoys. We thought they were fishing boat moorings – but one indeed did mark what remains of the small plane. We walked out and snorkeled around the plane which is in about 12 feet of water. There was a very strange looking resident puffer (Striped Puffer – though much whiter in color than the description in the fish ID guide- perhaps the ghost version!) This puffer just sat on one high remnant of the plane and didn't move no matter that four people were all over the area. It was his territory (and he had a Remora attached as well). There was also a large beautiful lion fish and several pretty Fiji Anemonefish (think Nemo).

Then we hiked the path back. It was one of those great days! Michael even was more ambitious and snorkeled off the boat to the nearby reef. Barbara did it the next day and it too was spectacular. Lots of fish – more bannerfish than we'd ever seen – and a nice collection of hard and soft corals.
Last night the wind and roll picked up again (one night good two nights bad perhaps!). We'll stay here though one more day at least and move when the wind switches to a more northerly direction as we plan on heading back south. Hopefully the wind will calm enough for another snorkel or at least a beach walk. We've collected some nice shells including a really pretty pure white egg cowrie that Michael found snorkeling.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

No Rugby...But Good Snorkeling

We left the comfort and resort-style living of Musket Cove on Malolo Lailai in the Mamanucas and headed north to the Yasawa Group of Fiji Islands. We had heard that there was some local rugby that was played weekly on Waya Island in the village of Yalobi. The wind was stronger than expected and more northerly so we had to motorsail the entire way (some 32 miles). We anchored near the school in 52 feet of water – but the holding seemed good. The next morning, we went into the village to check on the rugby match. Unfortunately, we were a week late – they played last week and now were on a different island to play. We could stay and watch some of the kids play some athletics – but decided to head instead to Kuata – just outside the bay of Yalobi. We really wanted some good snorkeling time and this sounded like the place that offered some.

We anchored, again in very deep water, but it was very clear and we could actually see the anchor and chain on the bottom in 55 feet of water! Our friends Matt and Jean were already at anchor here for a few days so they had scoped out the various reefs for snorkeling. They sent us to one area that had very good visibility and great topography. Deep cuts, like roads int the corals, with a nice variety of both coral and fish. The water was also warmer here than we had yet had in Fiji – so we could spend a bit longer in the water without freezing. We enjoyed the spot and Barbara only left the water when a big shark cruised by!

The rocks on the island of Kuata are quite ominous looking – great for a Halloween sight! A few look like they have a carved face because of growth in them or lighter stone against darker rock. When the sun hits them at sunset – they are particularly eerie. The night was a bit rolly at anchorage as the wind had totally died leaving us to deal with the tides and currents and sea swell. But it was not unbearable, especially if you looked up at the night sky and saw more stars and planets than we'd seen for some time. Between the lack of artificial light and the clear skies – it was a dramatic night sky filled with clear constellations and several bright planets.

This is a pretty place and we'll probably spend a few days here before moving up the Yasawa chain a bit. It is in this chain that the movies, "Castaway" and "Blue Lagoon" were filmed. Hope we don't adopt a coconut as our best friend!

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