Musket Cove Regatta Week

Malolo Lai Lai Island, Fiji

By: Kerry

Irene issues instructions for the Coconut Olympics, Musket Cove Regatta

Installing the new batteries entailed pulling the boat to pieces (again). Since there wasn’t much I could do by way of contribution – and there was nowhere to sit – I jumped ship and went and played with Irene and Lionel on Kiapa for Musket Cove Regatta Week.

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Wild Times in West Fiji

Blue Lagoon, Yasawas, Fiji

By: Kerry

Bula from the Yasawa Islands: the long tail of islands trailing north from the western side of the big island of Fiji, Viti Levu.

While my family (sister Sandra and her hubby Dave; and my niece Lori and nephew Matt) were on board for a couple of weeks, we ventured further afield, sailing north from Denarau (on the west side of the big island, Viti Levu), through the chain of islands as far as the south side of Naviti in the Yasawas.

Our first night out, we stopped in Navadra, an arc of pristine golden sand with a pelt of palm trees and a large volcanic plug dominating one end. The snorkelling was fantastic, with lots of huge plate corals and unusual formations.

The perfect deserted tropical island, at last…well, almost.

There was only one other boat in the anchorage. OK, so it was Dragonfly*, the 73 metre (204 foot) super yacht owned by the ‘other’ Mr Google, which kind of dominated our sunset view.  But they left at 0600 the following morning, and then we had it to ourselves…

Next stop was just off Octopus Resort on Waya Island: another pristine, white sand arc, fringed with palm trees. Conde Nast Traveller readers apparently voted it into the Top 10 beaches in the world. It was beautiful, no doubt, but those CN readers really need to get out more. We all decided there are plenty of others we’d rate higher – but then, we’re horribly spoiled (we all thought Hawks Nest gave it a good run for the money!).

We then headed up to the southern side of Naviti Island and anchored in view of the pass, which is renowned for attracting manta rays. When the tide’s running, they feed by swimming into the current funnelling through the channel, and filtering food in the manta version of eating on the run.  It was an overcast afternoon, threatening the first rain we’d seen in months. The boys jumped in the dinghy and headed off fishing. As they left, Sandra and I pointed to the brewing storm clouds and said, “Don’t go so far that you lose sight of the boat.”

Matt's Big 'un

Matt’s Big ‘un

No sooner were they out of sight (duh!) than the heavens opened and it poured. Complete white out – we couldn’t see more than a few metres. Sandra, Lori and I got out the scrubbing brushes and cleaned the decks in the downpour. Just as we were finishing, the boys returned. Matt had landed his biggest catch ever:

So the storm blew through and we settled down for the night. At around 0300, Damian and I woke as the wind started to get up. By 0600 first light, it was blowing 25-30 knots, had swung around and we were now on a lee shore (i.e. with the reef right behind us, being blown onto it, save for our anchor holding us off). Luckily, we weren’t dragging our anchor, but the swell and chop was getting worse by the minute: we were about to be in the middle of a surf break.

The swells were starting to break around us, and the boat anchored next to us was burying its bow into the waves while it was still anchored. To add a degree of difficulty, one of our engines had decided to quit the day before (now repaired) so we had to try to get the anchor up using only one engine, which is a bit tricky to do on a catamaran. Anyway, as soon as we could see, we got the hell out of there, thankfully without any further drama, and headed back to the only other sheltered anchorage nearby, on the north side of Waya Island.

Lori had managed to get a good dose of sunburn the day before. On the crossing to Waya she emerged on deck, announcing she felt sick. Poor thing was so pale even her sunburn had turned grey! Fortunately it was only a short-ish hop and we were soon anchored in a sheltered bay beneath dramatic basalt outcrops.

There had been no warning of the bad weather from any of the numerous weather sources we monitor on a daily basis – and that’s not an uncommon thing. Together with the lack of, and distance between, sheltered anchorages, not to mention the numerous uncharted reefs, it makes navigating these islands pretty challenging. As Lionel on Kiapa says, “It’s why I have fallen in love with Mooring Ball #14 at Musket Cove.”

Continuing the unpredictable weather theme, we left next morning to head back to Musket Cove, but we rounded the headland and ran into 30 knot head winds and seas so rough we couldn’t distinguish the reefs from the cresting swells. It was clearly too dangerous to chance going all the way to MC so we put tail between legs and scuttled into the nearest anchorage on the west side of Waya and opted for movie afternoon onboard instead!

Unbelievably, the next day there was so little wind, we had to motor, almost gagging in the heat. We stopped at Monoriki Island, where the Tom Hanks movie, Castaway was filmed. The local resorts are geared up to bring punters there and then take them back to the resort to watch the movie, but we had coincidentally watched the film only recently and found it so appallingly awful we’d deleted it from our collection, so couldn’t check the details!

* Dragonfly bills itself as the fastest, ‘most economical’ super yacht afloat: it burns a mere 400 litres per hour. I guess ‘economical’ is a relative thing. As is speed. Our boat uses around 3 litres an hour and our top speed under power is around 10 knots. We tracked Dragonfly, going from zero to 17 knots in very short order. Top speed is 27 knots. If the idea of a super yacht holiday appeals, you and 11 of your besties can charter her for $773,000 per week. Or if you REALLY like the idea, the asking price last time it was for sale was $85 million. Bargain. It is a sexy looking beast, though.

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Musket Cove, Malolo Lailai, Fiji

By: Kerry

Since the end of August, we’ve been using Musket Cove as a base to explore the Mamanuca Islands and the southern Yasawas and enjoying quite a hectic social life, for the first time in forever!

There’s a constantly changing roll call of playmates as boats come and go. We’ve caught up with quite a few cruising buddies from last year and NZ, as well as meeting lots of new people.

Mornings start with yoga under the palm trees, led by our friend Lionel, from Kiapa. That’s followed by coffee and the hardest part of the day: deciding what to do next…

If it’s low tide, the sand bank at the entrance to the bay is exposed: a swathe of white sand, perfect for anything from weddings to kite surfing, so long as you can do it within an hour or two, before the tide comes back in.

Lionel and Irene are both expert kite surfers and Lionel has been teaching a few of the yachties to kite, including us. We have only just started – using a tiny training kite and flying it on land (i.e. the exposed sand spit) but it’s great fun and I’ve  had a taste of what the ‘real thing’ is like when I’ve been lifted off my feet when I’ve dipped the kite into the wind’s ‘power zone’.

(Here’s some photos that Damian took of Ray, Lionel and Irene’s friend from Perth, who clearly knows what he’s doing…)

There’s a nice little snorkelling spot just off the sand spit that’s been christened the Clown Fish Hotel: the top of one big bommie is a high-density colony of Nemos, as well as lots of other curious little fish that come when they’re called! I discovered that if you extend your hand and rub your fingers together you are instantly buzzed by dozens of hyper-coloured, hyper-active tiddlers. (I assume they’re used to being fed). The best thing is that all this happens in about a metre of water: you can just float on the surface and all the activity goes on right under your nose.

A little further out, on the edge of the reef, is Cloud Nine, which takes the concept of a ’swim up bar’ to a new level. It’s essentially a two-storey pontoon, anchored on a sandy patch amidst the reef, with shady day beds, cocktails and smoothies and a wood-fired pizza oven. We take Sel Citron out and anchor just nearby, go for a snorkel on the coral reef and then go for a drink….

There’s another little island nearby, Namotu, which is close to the famous surf breaks (Cloudbreak, Restaurants, Wilkes and Swimming Pools) and is also a great kite surfing spot. We’ve been out there a few times and, on a couple of occasions, we’ve shared the anchorage with one or other of the Google founders’ two super yachts. ‘Senses’ is 50-odd-metres long, with a helicopter on the back and multiples of every water toy you can think of on board: kite boards, jet skis, surf boards, etc.  It’s owned by Google founder, Larry Page and word had it that they booked out the whole of Namotu Island, which precluded any yachtie rabble landing on the island while they were in residence. But it didn’t mean we couldn’t anchor off and surf the same breaks, which goes to show, money can’t buy you everything!

Damian and I aren’t (board) surfers, but on a couple of occasions, our friend Irene shared a wave with Mrs Google and on another day we were out there, Layne Beachley was there – we think she may have been hanging out with the Googles as their tutor. Tough gig, huh?

We have also accompanied Irene to some of the local villages to conduct reading glasses clinics. Between Kiapa and us, we carried a number of boxes of reading glasses (just the standard +1.0, +1.5, +2.0 etc) to Fiji, that had been collected by the Lions Club in NZ. We usually get around a dozen to 20 people turning up to each ‘clinic’. Irene (whose initiative this project was) devised a rudimentary testing procedure: look at a page from a magazine and see which size type you can read. Then we match the person’s magazine-reading ability to a pair of reading glasses. Many villagers can’t afford specs, or their old pair has been broken or is no longer strong enough, so it’s fantastic to see people’s faces light up when they put on a pair of glasses and can see properly again – sometimes for the first time in years.

Later in the day, we might swim a few laps in the resort pool, before heading to the Island Bar to meet up with a few friends and throw a steak on the barbie. All the plates and cutlery are provided; the staff do the washing up, and beer is cheap.

It’s all pretty hard to take.

Every now and again (for about a nanosecond) I feel a bit guilty – like we’re copping out: we should be exploring more intrepidly, getting more involved with the local villages, going farther afield to less-visited cruising grounds. But after all we’ve been through in the last couple of years, it’s quite nice just to stay in a nice, safe anchorage, take it easy and have a ‘holiday’!

Calm morning in the anchorage

Calm morning in the anchorage

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