Sunday, December 18, 2016
Saturday, December 17, 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
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 hook...here 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
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
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.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Blue Lagoon -
This picturesque anchorage is as good as it sounds and is the location of the Movie of the same name. The anchorage itself is actually located in front of the Nanuya Resort. This property was purchased 2 yrs. ago from the original owners who developed a laid back getaway. Under new management, this has become a world class resort.
Aside from upgrading the entire facilities they have completely modernized everything from power, installing 125 Kilowatt of Solar panels to water supply utilizing a large desalination facility for unlimited fresh water. They are very concerned with keeping Fiji Green and it is evident not only in words but with their pocketbooks. Congratulations on a job well done.
We met the head gardener Mesu who was warm and friendly (as are most Fijians) and delighted when Kaija presented him with planting seeds for regular beans, long beans, tomatoes, lettuce and chard. Under his supervision the resort has many acres of pineapple, casaba, pumpkin, banana, okra and tomatoes, mango and papa (papaya).
They are very cruiser friendly and offer a wide variety of amenities including laundry service, garbage removal, internet, and convenience store. The bar/restaurant provides a varied menu with excellent Cheeseburgers, fish & chips etc. For more formal dining make a reservation in the main dining facilities for a white table cloth, champagne and caviar experience.
The resort is very accessible by a variety of transportation including the daily South Seas Cruise Catamaran from the big island, Blue Lagoon Cruise lines weekly, The Fiji Sea Bus daily and daily flights from to and from a variety of locations in Yasawas and the main island of Viti Levu
The island is surrounded by a plethora of reefs for excellent snorkeling.
The fish are plentiful and widely varied.
Kaija was in her element getting up close and personal face time with as many as she could.
One small reef head no more than 8 ft square, we counted 34 different species, all in wonderful abundance.
It is wonderful to see the reefs alive and doing so well.
We enjoyed a leisurely hike across the island to Lo’s Tea House.
Lo is the wife of the Chief of Nambukeru Village which is the closest village to the Caves which we visited last week. Lo offers a variety of teas, soft drinks, and sweet treats. We enjoyed a lovely cup of tea and wonderful Chocolate cake. Lo was being ably assisted by her very charming and sweet granddaughter Millie.
En-route we met Grandma who has lived on this island since birth and now spends her days handcrafting shells she finds on her daily walks. She is so affable that you could not resist buying something…you had the sense you were in the presence of a very old soul and one of God’s angels.
We depart tomorrow to swim with the Giant Manta Rays who are presently feeding at the south end of Naviti Island. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we will get some good photos.
Life continues to bless us daily with amazing scenery, warm and friendly people and experiences that fill our cups to overflowing.
We Love This Life and all that it is. We are reminded of our friends Tory and Barb who named their boat LITBE (LIFE IS TO BE ENJOYED).
We encourage you to find your dream and LIVE IT!