Saturday, 1 August 2015

Western Fiji

Musket Cove Friday 3 July – Monday 6 July

We arrived at Musket Cove on the Friday afternoon and managed to get a space on the small jetty, opposite the bar. So we spent the evening catching up with the everyone and having dinner with Barry, Caroline, Andy and Emma. The next morning it was very sad to see people leave, we had really enjoyed their company and we had shared a lot of experiences together.

Catherine and I stayed another couple of nights to enjoy some rest and relaxation. I even played on their 9 hole golf course – played may be too stronger a word for my performance as I managed to lose three balls on a small golf course. Need some more practice!

Viti Levu:  Denarau Marina Monday 6 July – Friday 17 July

Denarau Marina
Denarau Marina is like Port Solent in the Solent except 10 times bigger.  Lots of restaurants and tourist shops but also a major port for boat repairs. It is also the main terminal for holiday makers to get the ferry across to the other islands on the west of Fiji so very busy.

I had been arranging the work with a local company, Yachthelp, for 4 weeks to line up the work to fix all the problems that needed specialist skills.  In four days we managed to get the rigging sorted out, the mainsail recut and the other sails repaired, the bimini repaired, the gas regulator changed and the water maker overhauled.

We were exhausted each night after undertaking the repairs and eat out at the yacht club most nights. The staff were delightful and knew our names from the first night, stopping for a chat if they met us in the town. The food was very good, well presented and the atmosphere was very good as well. The only downside was the menu did not change while we were there and even the catch of the day was always sword fish.

On the Saturday of that first week we moved off the marina berth onto a buoy so that we could refit the sails ready to go off early the next morning. At 7am we slipped the mooring and managed ten yards before the depth sounder stopped working. At first I thought it was a loose connexion and I stripped the boat apart to find it. By lunchtime we resigned ourselves to the fact that the sender would need to be replaced.  We could not get a direct replaement in Fiji and had to wait 4 days to have a new part flown in from New Zealand. We hired a car to do some sightseeing in the meantime.


We wanted to go and see an inland village since we had seen only coastal villages on our travels so we set off up the mountain to one of the less remote villages. The made road quickly gave way to a dirt road and then deteriorated to gravel track for the rest of the journey up the mountain. We traversed the river and drove up the steep path for 45 minutes, thankful that we had 4WD – we would not have made it otherwise. We stopped to pick up a guide at the village and drove the final miles up the path to where we would leave the car.

The Village

The final mile was the most challenging as we went up a steep slope at a 45 degree incline with deep ruts. After 4 attempts at the first part of the track, backing back down to have another go, and encouragement from the guide to “go faster” we managed to get 100 yards before getting stuck with all four wheels spinning. Two men on horses stopped, tied up their horses and said they would help get us up the 30 yards we needed to get back onto more solid ground. Fifteen minutes later, and after a lot of burning rubber, we made the 30 yards onto firmer ground and could continue. The guide explained that this was all very normal and it happens all the time.

The guide

The guide took us on a three hour tour through the forest along an unmarked path up to the waterfall- not a path you would take without a guide. The waterfall was not the best we have seen but the walk was enjoyable. The guide was very good, showing us the vegetation which only see in packets in the UK but do not see growing in the wild such as coco, vanilla and nutmeg. We even had fresh mandarins picked from one of the trees on route.


We went back to the village for lunch at one of the houses. A

The Kitchen and wood stove

single room with a couple of beds and no other furniture with a separate building for the kitchen. The stove was a couple of bricks supporting a cooking pot with wood burning underneath.  Water was from the stream and there is no electricity. The villagers take it turns to feed guests who come up to the village as a way of earning some currency. Otherwise, the only income is from the women selling their fruit and vegetables in the market in Lautoka, getting there at 4am in the morning. The village has one car which is used to transport the produce to the market three times a week.

View from the village

As the village is so inaccessible, the children stay in Lautoka to go to school from the age of six, coming home only for the holidays. The village own a house in Lautoka and the parents take it in turn to spend a week in the house looking after the young children during term time. The older children board separately in Lautoka for the secondary school. It is hard for the children since they speak Fijian at home but all school lessons are in English from the age of six – hence why everyone here speaks such good English.

The next day we drove 4 hours to Suva, the capital of Fiji. The road was very good and wends its way through countless villages with speed humps through each one which are very effective in keeping the speed down. It does make for a slow journey to Suva but it gives you the opportunity to see the villages on route. Every village has a rugby pitch and on the journey home every pitch was being used by teams playing or practising – it underlined how important rugby is in Fiji.

We had decided to follow a route from a guide book around Suva, taking in the historic sights – we had no interest in shopping. The description of the route was somewhat oversold as we walked along uninteresting roads and side streets with nothing to commend them. The good part was the Fiji museum that explained a lot about the history of Fiji and we spent two hours there, reading about Fiji and how it had come under the protectorate of the UK before independence.

The British introduced indentured labour from India whereby Indians could have a free passage to Fiji in return for working for five years in very hard labour. If they wanted to return to India, they had to work another five years so most of the 300,000 people bought across stayed and now the Indian population is almost half of the entire population of Fiji.

We were glad to leave Suva and we certainly had to leave before sunset – even the locals take taxis at night since the streets are so unsafe. This is such a contrast to everywhere else we have been in Fiji. While we were disappointed with our trip to Suva, we would have been more disappointed if we had not made the effort.

Mana Island Friday 17 July – Sunday 19 July

With the depth sounder fixed on Thursday, we set off to Mana Island the next day. It was the closest island where we could spend a few days at anchor before returning to Denarau to have the solar panels and additional battery fitted.

The highlight of the visit was the snorkelling off the reef with beautiful coral and a vast number of different fish. There is something very relaxing about being at anchor, snorkelling off the back of the boat and finishing off the day with a BBQ in the evening. It enabled us to really relax after the trials and tribulations of the last two weeks at Denarau.

Back to Denarau Sunday 19 July – Saturday 25 July

Our last week at Denarau was spent getting the solar panels fitted, doing odd jobs and provisioning the boat. Catherine hired a car for a couple of days so she could get away from boat which his always upside down while we are doing work. And with people working outside and me working inside it means there is no-where that is not in a mess.

One of the people working on the boat, Vikash, invited us to his house in Nadi for dinner and some Kava. We started the evening with some Kava which he grinds himself from the roots of the plant – better stuff than the packets you can buy in the market. In fact, you need to take the root to the villages since they do not like the packaged powder stuff – it is inferior quality, mainly served in restaurants for tourists but it is the only stuff we had drunk.

Vikash lives with his daughter, wife and his wife’s cousin in a house a couple of miles from Nadi town centre. Very quiet and a lot of Fijian Indians live in the village. While the three men sat round drinking Kava cross legged on the floor of the porch, Catherine and Vikash’s wife ate the curry and other local dishes in the kitchen. Once we had finished the Kava, we got up to eat and it was only then I noticed how difficult it was to stand up and walk. After eating and more chatting on the porch, we left with Catherine laughing at how I was swaying as we walked. And we only had one beer apart from the Kava.

I was relieved to get back to the boat and go to bed, feeling like I did when I had drunk cider when I was fourteen. No hangover the next morning but I was very tired and managed to do almost nothing the next morning. And most men drink the stuff late into the evening every night. Not sure I am up to that and will stay with beer next time!

By Saturday lunchtime the work was finished and we finally had the boat back to ourselves, ready to head off to Waya Island in the Yasawa group.

Finally a (brief) visit to Yasawa Group Sunday 26 July – Tuesday 28

With no wind we motored the 40 miles to the southernmost island in the chain, Waya. The first anchorage was provided good protection from the wind which had started to build but perversely the swell was coming from the opposite direction. After 15 minutes at anchor being rocked violently we hauled up anchor and moved to the next anchorage, some 4 miles away around the top of the island.

Another hour with Catherine on the bow shouting out when we came into unmarked reefs which there were many with depths dropping from 50m to 5m in less than 50 yards. All heart stopping stuff but we did finally manage to get into the next bay and drop anchor after some very tense moments. The swell was still prevalent in this anchorage but we were not going anywhere else, particularly as night was falling. So we spent a couple of days at anchor, snorkelling on the reef and BBQing off the back of the boat before heading back to Musket Cove to meet up with the ICA boats, whose rally we are joining to New Zealand.

Musket Cove Tuesday 27 July – Monday 3 August.

Catherine and I in the canoe
The swimming leg
We took part in the ICA rally triathlon which was a swim, a run (or walk) and a canoe race. Stella from Exocet undertook the swimming leg (we would have drowned),  John from Exocet and myself did the walk and the idea was that Catherine would do the Canoeing. However, there were only double handed canoes left when we had finished the walk and so Catherine and I did the final leg together. We came in 9th (I won’t say how many entries there were) but it was great fun. Good way to get to know some of the other boats other than over drinks at the bar.

We have met a few people on our travels and had dinner and drinks with them over the last four weeks. All very friendly, mostly from NZ and Australia except for Chessie who are from Germany who we have got to know quite well. On Saturday night together with Exocet Strike we went over to Chessie for drinks before dinner.  After three hours we all decided it would be a good idea to get back in the dinghies and head back to our boats after a very convivial evening. Stella (who does not drink much normally) was a little worse for wear and managed to miss the dinghy entirely and fall the 2m from the deck into the water in the dark. I jumped off the boat into our dinghy and managed to get her back but it was a nasty moment. Made us all think we need to be more careful.

We are waiting for a break in the weather as we are having the first rain for months with some strong winds associated with this. Up until now it has been 30 degrees during the day and now it is only 22 degrees and feels surprisingly cool. We are getting soft. The front is due to pass on Monday and we will be setting off to Vanuatu after that.

Our position can now be tracked on YellowBrick at

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