Thursday, July 27, 2017

Where are we now? Follow Along & Track KaijaSong

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Musket Cove, Mololo Islands, Fiji, April 20 - Present 2017

   We had a beautiful day and perfect conditions to depart the Yasawas and return to Musket Cove in the Mamanuca Islands.  This is a favorite yachtie hangout.  With Island resorts offering cruisers amenities not normally available including golf, tennis, sky diving, kite flying, surfing and some very good food it is easy to understand why. 


This is still one of Kaija's favorite snorkeling spots out at Sunflower reef where you are likely to see sharks, turtles, rays coral's ALL Good.


    It is also a place to meet old friends.  Such was the case for us when we reunited with Patricia and Allen (Sailing Cat Nauti Nauti), Maria and Maurice (Sv Cattiva)

   We met Maria and Maurice in Isle Des Saints and Patricia and Allen in Trinidad, both in 2010 during our last season in the Eastern Caribbean.  How good to see them and share fond memories and get reacquainted.

    We made a quick trip back to Denarau to facilitate Kaija making her provisioning sojourn to Suva.  There is a Cost U Less….say no more!  And they deliver.  Here in Kaija’s words.

“Had an exciting day yesterday.  For all those who need to do a major provisioning here in Fiji, a trip to Cost U Less in Suva is worth the travel.  So I have done this trip a couple of ways.  Yesterday it was the 6:50 am bus out of Nadi bus station. It was the Sunset Suva Express.

This is a four hour trip with movie.  Very comfortable and relaxing.  Arrive in Suva about 11 am and then a short taxi ride to the store ($7 FJ). All things wonderful are here!

There is a McDonalds next door, if you need a bit of something, there is also a New World in the same complex.

So then you shop and the best of all is they will deliver all your goods ($300 FJ or more) to you in either Vuda or Denarau.  Shopping must be done by Tues for Delivery Thurs.  Then back to the bus station and fresh market for any last minute shopping.

This all took about two hours.  I thought I would be catching a 3:30 bus, but as I was finished earlier, there was) a 2:15 pm express bus to Latoka that stops at Nadi (Express does not mean Express).

So off I went and was back on the boat by 7pm.  The total cost was $15 FJ each way.

The first time I did this was with friends. We stayed overnight at the South Pacific Hostel which was near the museum and very inexpensive, clean and enjoyable.  So if you are looking for adventure and a way to spend a stress free day, this is the way to shop.  Hardest part was putting it all away.

With the Admiral safe returned from her overland adventure we set off again for Musket Cove.

While Kaija has enjoyed discovering the many of the splendid hiking trails on the island, Gary has found a couple of excellent tennis partners. 


Jodi and Svitlana have been playing since they were Juniors in the native New Zealand and Germany.  They are both incredibly fit and very fine ball strikers and with a total combined age less then Gary’s, despite his best efforts to will away the years and morf his game into something resembling the passion of McEnroe, the pace of Nadal and the grace of Federer (which alas a wassa notta gonna aa happen… and given their skillsets there is little chance of him truly keeping it up.

  With an amazing display of power and accuracy these two excellent players take bi-weekly pity on this old man and graciously place their rocket shots within reach and make sport of it.  By the end of the 90 minute workout,  I am happy to say, everyone is sweating equally.  It is great fun, wonderful exercise and a real treat for Gary each Monday and Thursday morning.

We are now in a holding pattern as we await a weather window for our Fiji Departure.  We have really enjoyed this place.

Look for our next adventure chronicle from the lovely French islands of New Caledonia.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Savu Savu Bye Bye…Yasawas here we come. March - April 2017

Savu Savu Bye Bye…Yasawas here we come.

   It was time to move and so we sailed back to Savu Savu, provisioned the boat, said our fond farewells and sailed west to Yadua Island. 


   This has always been a good sailing/fishing area for us and once again it served to offer favorable breezes and biting fish.  We tagged three fat juicy Waloo (a local favorite, much like a Wahoo but with a noticeable Blue line running the length of the fish from shoulder to tail) by the time the hook went down in Yadua.



   Kaija was hoping to see and photograph the rare and elusive and indigenous to this island the Crested Iguana is one of the rarest and to some one of the world’s most attractive lizards.  It is endemic to less than 10 of Fiji’s 300 islands.


   We did find one of the healthiest reefs, no doubt because of this isolated location and the fish and corral were abundant and beautiful.







 However, she did spot a Blue Angel, snorkelling in the adjacent reef.  She was thrilled.

   After three quiet peaceful days alone in this quite remote little hurricane hole we departed for our final visit to the Yasawa Islands.  First stop was Champagne Beach, a 5 mile stretch of white flour fine sand. 


We spent time ashore with the Chief and his wife presenting them with fresh Fish instead of the traditional Kava as he is a Assemblies of God Pastor on the Island.  




We enjoyed a couple of fun days with many of the locals as they prepared for a local cruise ship to bring a few hundred tourists to their small village to by their local wares, a real boon to the economy.

   The weather was cooperating and gave us perfect conditions to head south to revisit Blue Lagoon.  We enjoyed the snorkelling from our previous visit and set off to see some familiar sites. 

We weren’t expecting to have a visit from a lovely, lively Coral Snake who was quite determined he wanted to slither up the side of the dingy, and it took a little persuading to send him on his way.  Coral snakes are venomous and should be handled with extreme care.

   After stopping for a night at Manta Bay Resort we carried on ri Musket Cove as the Rays were not resident.  Apparently the best chances to see them on a daily basis is during the months of September and October.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Viani Bay - Taveuni Jan - Mar 2017

This was our third and final season in Fiji and we decided to spend as much time sailing and diving as possible.  Some of the best sailing conditions occur during the Cyclone season and we had as of yet not taken advantage of that.
   Our first season we spent in the Pit at Vuda Marina which facilitated getting a lot of boat worked done and providing lots of time for land touring.  Last year we sought safety in Savu Savu which is a well-protected anchorage when Cyclone Winston was circling Fiji.  We were there when the local weather station blew away at 300 + km/hr.
   This year we left Savu Savu just as the January rains began and spent the following 6 week out on the Rainbow Reef and adjacent anchorages.

   It was spectacular.  We spent time with friends Eric and Lynne and their two wee doggies Chui and Scrumpy and they are just as cute as they sound, on their sailing cat Amarula.

   Lucky for Gary, Eric and Lynne are both accomplished sailors from South Africa and excellent divers.  Gary loves to dive and when he meets fellow divers (and especially ones with their own air compressor) let the fun begin…we had a lot of fun diving this spectacular reef.  We saw a range of sea coral, some bleaching, but mostly healthy and we were encouraged to see the abundance of sea life.    
   One day we were especially lucky to end up in the middle of a pod of Giant Manta rays.  Of all the creatures we have seen in the diving, these gentle giants bring a dimension of ballet to the ocean.  They are so amazingly graceful as they glide effortlessly thru huge swooping turns feeding all the while and without any apparent fear of our presence.  They stayed with us for some time, but aside from their intentional passes, they are much too fast to swim with.  We quickly took turns in the water, each of us trying get that elusive camera shot, and like your automobile mirror says…objects may appear closer than they are. 
    Regardless, it is something special to see these 10 foot wide   sea creature swimming toward you with his 3 foot mouth wide open and into which you could easily fit…and so thankful that you know it is only filter feeding on plankton, the smallest of all marine animals.  What a treat! 
   While anchored in the new bay…we met Chris and Scott who had just purchased 40 acres of property fronting on this beautiful bay.  We were reminded again of how small the world is when we learned they are fellow Canuks from the same province (BC) where Kaija and I lived before our Nomadic Cruising Lifestyle began. 

   We dove the adjacent reef to their property and discovered a large number of Crown of Thorns.
   These nasty starfish are as prickly as they sound.  They also destroy the reef.  Kaija and I spent many days scouring and removing these predators of the coral life.


   Our new friends Chris and Scott had never sailed, so we took a quick day trip across to Somo Somo on Taveuni Island. 
We were so close to the 180 meridian we hired a cabby to get us there and he got lost…but we had fun and a lot of giggles. 

One of Chris and Scott’s workers in a nearby village invited us to his son’s 4th Birthday Party.  Kaija made her famous Chocolate Pound Cake.  Being from Finland she grew up with a tradition of hiding money inside the cake.  So she did this with the little boys cake, and then had explain to the parents what she had done…which at first they did not understand, but quickly grasped the concept  and told the children they had to be careful eating the cake…who did not quite grasp the reasons why and so you could see their dilemma in their faces trying to figure out whether to just dive in and eat the cake or whether it was going to harm them. It all turned out well, once the money was discovered and the candles were gone, the happy kids demolished that cake.

   Meanwhile Gary, Scott, Chris and Kaija had joined the village menfolk who were busy enjoying their traditional Kava ceremony, which is what they call this weekly, or nightly (if they have enough Kava…a root that is pounded to powder then added to taste to water, giving a mild gum numbing affect…but is cumulous and the affect increases with usage) otherwise to the 4 newbies it was a rather tasteless watery gritty favorite like drinking a cup of water with sand in it.  It is apparently an acquired taste.  
   Once again we were faced with the parting with new friends.  We said our goodbyes to Scott and Chris with an invitation extended for Kaija to visit them at their ranch in BC.  We had a beautiful day for a perfect sail back to Savu Savu for provisions and more good byes.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

KaijaSong Christmas – Savu Savu – December 2016


A Wonderful Life


It’s Christmas Time Again and most likely by now most of you are overwhelmed with last minute shopping, running to and fro trying to find that special gift…baking, wrapping, putting up trees, lights, bobbles and decorations, and basically going just a little crazy.  Somewhere along the way you are doing your best to find that elusive Christmas Spirit and make this Holiday Season the best possible for your family and friends. 

Ok, I’m almost exhausted just writing that paragraph.  Am I the only one, or does it seem to you that Sometime, Somehow, Somewhere the real true and lasting meaning of Christmas got lost in the hustle and bustle of the Santa Shuffle.

I know it doesn’t seem right to not to participate in the ongoing commercially acceptable traditions of buying more.  More Stuff, More than last year, More Bigger, More Better,  and More often than not, Way More than will fit under the tree just to provide the required and mandatory allusions that we are all living a Wonderful Life.   Do we really need all that stuff???  Is this really the meaning of Christmas?? We know Better!

I don’t wish to come off as the Grinch who stole Christmas, and I understand the inherent guilt that goes with this view point, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just stop the Rat Race, Get off the crazy Treadmill, Stop this spiraling cycle of Guilt, and get back to the values that were intended to be Christmas.  Aside from what we all know and have heard since birth, there was a Child Born who grew up and gave the Ultimate Gift so that we might all Live the Good Life. And even if your religious beliefs differ, we all have the wee small voice of Goodness within reminding us that to Give IS Better than to Get…reminding us that the values that were so beautifully portrayed in that terrific old classic Jimmy Stewart movie, It’s a Wonderful Life are values not to be set aside and forgotten, regardless of how busy and frantic our lives become.  For those of you who may never have seen this movie, if you really want to get in the Christmas Spirit it really is ‘Required Viewing’ and a must see.  It portrayed the value of True Giving, of yourself, your time, your love. When a single gift, wrapped with love was enough.

While I am doing my best not to rant, or sound like an old Fogey, or a wayward preacher who lost his congregation, I know I am too late, but when you spend time away from the ‘Rat Race’ as Kaija and I have for these past 13 yrs, and when you live among folks who humble you daily with how little they have and how happy they are, it is almost embarrassing to remember our life living in the Land of Stuff and the need to have More…just for the sake of having it.  We have learned that you can live with less, much less and still be Happy.

As stated, this is our 13th year living this wonderful Cruising Lifestyle.  It is now our second year here in Fiji waters.  We have visited almost every island in this South Pacific Paradise.  Certainly one of the biggest events in our year was surviving a major Category 5 Cyclone Winston.  Believe me when I say…Once is enough!  In the past months we have been places and seen sights that seemed otherworldly, but thru it all we have been reminded time and again of the resiliency of the human spirit.  It has been a year of sadness turned into Joy.  In short it has been a Wonderful Year for us.

Kaija and I have been blessed beyond measure.  We are fortunate to enjoy good health.  We have wonderful friends and we are Truly Living Our Dream. 

This will be our last year in Fiji.  We look forward to visiting the Lau Group of islands before setting our sails and sights for destinations west as we continue our adventure and quest to see as much of this small world as we can.

We send out our Best and Warmest Wishes to each of you, regardless of your persuasion, creed or religion for a very Happy Holiday, a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a very Happy Healthy New Year.


Kaija & Gary


Thursday, December 08, 2016

Futuna - Cousteau – Namena – Savu Savu Oct 29 – Present

The ‘run’ (sail) to Futuna is a requirement for those of us who enjoy Fiji enough to wish to extend our time past the 18 month visa permitted for our vessel.  Our time had already been gratuitously extended last spring courtesy of Fiji customs who granted us a 6 month extension due to Cyclone Winston.  Our time was up and so off we sailed.
The trip is 300 km and waiting for favourable conditions is not always an option.  Our Visa was expiring on Oct 15 and we checked out of Vuda on Oct 13.  Lucky for us the winds were favorable being sufficiently south of east to make it pretty much a beam reach all the way. Upon arrival on Sunday we chose an alternate anchorage to the main harbour which is completed exposed to the ocean swell. 

We put our hook down on the west side of Alofi Island the eastern island of the two island grouping known as Futuna.  It wasn’t long before we had locals swimming out to the boat to wish us a friendly Bonjour and chat about their picturesque little islands isolated out in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.  With the current running fast and the occasion roller coming thru we pretty much did donuts on the is a pic of our track at anchor.  Do you see anything in the Pic?....Kaija sees a Troll...I think he looks like an old Rastaman :o)


As described in the Lonely Planet South Pacific Guide Wallis & Futuna (and who?) two little volcanic specks lying smack in the middle of Polynesia/Melanesia far from the modern world and it’s Claymation comedies.  Wallis and Futuna’s French-funded economy allows islanders to drive flashy 4WDs to and from their taro fields and enjoy satellite TV at night after their evening meal and Kava, but the culture and its intricate customs have remained remarkably intact. 

The population is equal parts proud and protective of their way of life and, as long as the airfares and cost of living stay as high as they are (this place makes Tahiti seem cheap), it’s not likely to receive heaps of honeymooners or package tourists any time soon.  Movements for independence are few: the hospitals, schools and highly paid government jobs are all welcome enough additions and the people don’t mind putting up with a few handfuls of French-expats.

Wallis and Futuna, which lie 230 km away from each other (with Futuna approx. 300 km northeast of Fiji), are linked through French colonialism, period.  Wallis has ancestral connections with Tonga, while Futuna traces its roots to Samoa.  This is evident in the languages, which are quite different, although mutually comprehensible, as well as the Samoan like tapa designs of the Futunans and the Tongan influenced designs found on Wallis.  The two islands remain competitive with each other, but Wallis, being more populous and the centre of government, retains the upper hand.

After a couple of rolly nights at anchorage we made our way into the open roadstead harbour of Leava.  Everything of note is concentrated in Leava, Futuna’s major centre, on the south coast. There are a couple of supermarkets, the island’s administrative headquarters (there’s even a library) and a wharf…well kind of.  We were the only boat there, thankfully, but we are told they have had as many as 7 boats in that tiny anchorage at one time…which seemed to us highly problematic.

We rowed to shore as quickly as possible and literally thru out our dinghy hook, walked thru the mud and very old looking traditional Ulu andmade our way to customs. 
We must say, despite the inconvenience of anchoring and landing, once ashore the folks there are about as friendly as you could want.  The customs lady was very nice and presented Kaija with a lovely and very aromatic Lai and no sooner had our paper work done which included not only check in but check out after telling us we were welcome to stay as long as we liked.  She then drove us down the road to the local Gendarme for immigration stamping and again we were treated very kindly. 
With our paperwork out of the way, we hitchhiked back to town and availed ourselves of the wonderful French baguettes and French cheeses at the supermarket and with our arms full, we made it back to the boat.

 Being exposed to the ocean swell made it a very uncomfortable rolly anchorage and we decided to weigh anchor and set sail for our return to Fiji.  Our passage back was uneventful other  some snotty weather  and ocean swell, but the wind stayed on the beam and we made good time.
Two days later we were back at Savu Savu Fiji, checked in and ready to begin our final season in this enchanted South Seas island chain.

We have enjoyed that past month anchored at the Cousteau resort, then a couple of weeks diving the reefs of Namena, exploring some of the smaller sheltered hurricane/cyclone holes along the south coast of Vanua Levu and now reuniting with old friends here in Savu Savu. 

We are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas as we enjoy the local fair.  There is a wonderful mixture of traditional Christmas music and the traditional Polynesian/Indian sounds of Fiji in the air, the streets and shops are bustling and just when you thought people couldn’t be any friendlier, you are stopped on the street by locals who shake your hand and say Bula Bula, Welcome to Fiji.  It is cyclone season and this weekend was our first reminder as a tropical depression came close but has now passed us by.  It is quite warm and the rains are falling…but even so…this is a beautiful country with smiling happy people and warm clean waters to sail and enjoy.  A true sailors delight and perhaps Paradise on Earth.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Return to Vuda Marina – Sept 11 – Oct 14 2016

Coming back to Vuda Marina is a little like a family reunion.  We have spent enough time there now we know most of the numerous staff members by name and in some cases their families.  Fijians are typically very warm and friendly and when you add familiarization to the mix it is a very comfortable situation.  In particular we are quite fond of the two front office gals, Nikki and Maria who seem to always find a way to make our stay a little more comfortable than the last. Add to that the friendly restaurant staff who not only remember your names but also your favorite foods and just how you like them.  The yard staff of Joe and Moe seem always willing to go a little extra to accommodate any request and all under the fine leadership off young Mr. Adam Wade who is doing a terrific job managing the yard. 
The place is always hopping with activity, the slips and cyclone pits are full and this year with the addition of their catamaran hauling capabilities they are truly a full yard facility.
One of the highlites is the open market held every second Saturday with homemade breads, jams, fruits and a wonderful assortment of local crafts.

We needed to have our hull touched up from a few minor scratches and our friend Vincent and his crew chief Kitty made short work of it.  Once again, Alan of Marshall sails and his crew were right there getting the job done on our canvas work.  The only hiccup we had was using a contractor we had not used previously, Yacht Help, who did not do a satisfactory job and we would not recommend them.  The Owner David assured us that the persons responsible would be replaced and did provide us a minor price reduction but would not stand behind the poor workmanship or repair damage done by his staff. He did ask that I not ‘trash’ his company on the internet, and do not feel by writing this honest appraisal that I am doing so.  I did pay the bill and believe I am entitled to share my opinion of their work.  Enough said!

With our work behind us it was time to say goodbye to the many friends we have made and Vuda and despite not knowing if or when we will return we are grateful for all the help and friendly service they provided us.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Blue Lagoon South to Musket Cove Resort – July 23 2016 – Sept 11 2016

After a restful stop in Blue Lagoon replete with visits to the Tea Shop located on the far side of the island, getting our Vodaphone sim card and new Wi-Fi unit delivered by the Yasawa Flier we headed south to the Manta Ray Resort. 

With luck the Manta rays swim daily thru the channel located adjacent the Manta Ray Resort, thus the name.  However, unfortunately for us, they had not been seen for a week and they did not appear on demand.  After spending a couple of nights in what proved to be a very rolly anchorage we decided to move on.  We sailed south to the island of Waya only a few short miles away.  The northern most anchorage was poorly protected in the prevailing conditions and we opted to continue farther south to the most southerly anchorage.  This was a very nice stop in quiet soft water with only a few other boats in the bay.  We enjoyed a couple of quiet days before heading off to Navandra. 

We had heard much of this tiny island but found the reef in poor shape.  Kaija did manage to find a rare Turban shell ashore and a Crown of thorns Starfish and Juvenile Angle fish in the shallow water.  The anchorage was gunwale to gunwale rolly and we left the following morning.




We decided to make for the quite popular Musket Cove Resort where we were looking forward to reconnecting with a number of our sailing friends.  The day sail was brisk thru reef infested waters and we were happy to have the CruisingFijiBlogspot routing available to follow.


Blue Lagoon to Musket Routes


Musket Cove Resort and Marina is a veritable cruisers haven.  It has all the amenities. Hiking is great on the island and it is easy to find world class surfing, snorkelling, diving, tennis, golf and enough eateries and drinking holes to satisfy any desire.  Also it has a market as does the adjoining Plantation resort who makes the best cheese buns and fresh bread daily.  For a small fee anyone can partake in the daily offering including watersports, basket weaving, and misc. activates. There is also a local airport and a total of three resorts owned by different members of one family.  In short there is something for everyone and it is a great place to spend a lot of quality time while exploring the adjoining island including Tom Hanks Castaway Island which is only a short sail away.
During our time here, Gary enjoyed tennis a couple times a week with an old acquaintance from Cartagena, joined with a couple of cruising buddies to do some diving and we typically enjoyed a daily regimen of snorkelling Sunflower and adjoining reefs which we found to be some of the best snorkelling we have had here in Fiji.
Gary even managed to find a new buddy...albeit he was a little standoffish...a lovely Leopard Shark allowed him to swim up close and personal.

Kaija as usual had great fun finding all manner of underwater wildlife to amuse her including a very happy Coral Snake and dancing Octupus.
Gary along with friends Alison and Greg explored the Pinnacle a very nice dive indeed!
especially swimming thru the cave
It was during one of the dive/snorkelling expeditions that we had a new experience and we were quite happy that it was not on our boat.  We had been invited by Alison and friend Greg aboard Alison’s sailboat Cachalot to join them for a day sail to Mana Island.  It was a pleasant sail and fun day.  We dove the Supermarket and Sunset Wall and then traversed to the Sandbar where we explored the Cabbage Patch and saw schools of large fish including one very big grouper.

The day was fast waning and we headed back to Musket.  We were within site of the anchorage and it was just past 6pm. The light was fading and Alison had just commented that she was just slightly off her track when we went CRUNCH!  This is not a sound you want to hear EVER.  We were on the reef.  And the bad news was…we were on a falling tide.  Despite our best efforts to heel the boat, pull ourselves off with the dinghy and help from two local boats…we were stuck fast.  As darkness fell, so did the water and boat ended up on a rather uncomfortable 45 degree heel.  This is how we spent the night.  Thankfully good friend Don Salthouse Sv Caro Vita, came out from the anchorage at about 10pm.  With the aid of a flashlight he packed some old sail cloth under the boat topsides to protect the gel coat from the coral.  It was during this exercise that he noticed the prop had fallen off.  A note to those buying a boat with a sail drive.  Please be aware that the prop is only held on by a single small nut which is easily displaced when the drive is in reverse.  This is what happened when Alison was attempting to reverse drive back off the reef…it is no wonder we didn’t get anywhere.  To make matters worse, the prop could not be put back on in the water and so we were going to have to rely on a tow back into the anchorage.  When morning broke, and the tide started rising we were able to refloat the boat and tow her back to Musket.  It was lucky for Alison that the wind was down that night and she suffered no real hull damage and other than her bruised pride survived the experience virtually unscathed.  As for me, it was a reminder to not transit Fiji waters in the dark.  There are just too many reefs and many of them uncharted.

After spending nearly two months enjoying this fabulous location and all the amenities including a wonderful Sunday all you can eat buffet it was time to say goodbye to good friend Greg who was leaving Sv Cachalot and Skipper Alison to return to New Zealand. 
It was also time for our return Vuda Point to complete some unfinished work on the boat and see if we couldn’t lose a few pounds.