Family Time

Yasawa Islands, Fiji

By: Kerry

Fiji 2015-1338Just as we bought Sel Citron in 2012, my mother Corinne was diagnosed with secondary cancer. Consequently, our plan was to get the boat to the tropics as soon as we could so that she could come and stay with us while she was still well enough.

Sadly, her health deteriorated more quickly than anyone anticipated. Being a boat and water person all her life, she’d have loved to come cruising, and it was terribly sad for all of us that she never made it.

So having my uncle Graham, Mum’s only sibling, on board was the next best thing and we had a lovely time with him, my aunt Pat and cousin Katrina cruising the Yasawas.

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Learning to Fly

By: Kerry

Fiji kitesurfing-7483The second time I hitched myself to a kite, I made the mistake of glancing down to see where to place my foot. In the split second it took me to look up again, I’d made a Superwoman-like leap about four metres into the air – much to the amusement of all onlookers.

As I hurtled about 10 metres forward, I had time (in that slow-motion vortex you experience in the grip of an adrenalin rush) to look down and hope, helplessly, that I wouldn’t land on the coral below, before I face-planted into deep water.

With the wind blowing a little over 20 knots, the kite took off with me attached, being ‘body-dragged’ through the water: just as I was supposed to do. Woo-hoo!

Whenever we’ve been in Musket Cove and the tides (exposing the sand bar) and winds (15 knots or more) have aligned, kitesurfing guru Lionel has been giving us kiteboarding lessons. We started out with a one-square-metre training kite on land. Damian then sustained his golf wound, and couldn’t progress to the next step, so the class came down to the girls: Michelle, Suzie and me.

Suzie started earlier in the season and bought her own gear. She’s a step ahead of Michelle and me and, in the last week before we left, managed to crack it, getting up on her board and tearing across the bay, flat out.

Michelle and I are still at the body-dragging stage, where we fly a seven or nine-metre kite and get dragged through the water without the board attached to our feet and the added complication of having to steer the board as well as the kite.

I’d tried body dragging only once before my Superwoman act. This time – once I landed and the kite took off – I quickly steered the kite into the fly zone, lay on my back with my leading arm extended to act as a keel, and managed to body drag up-wind, with (according to the guru) perfect form. I was quite chuffed.

The interesting bit came when I tried to tack and the kite momentarily passed through the power zone, launching me into the air again…

Maybe next season we’ll get board-borne.

*Thanks to Graham Keating, Maunie of Ardwell for additional pix.

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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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Mayhem in Musket Cove

Musket Cove, Malolo Lailai Island, Mamanucas, Fiji

By: Kerry

After all the navigational challenges and a few sleepless nights in windy anchorages, it was a bit of a relief to make it to Musket Cove, on Malolo Island off the west coat of Viti Levu, and to pick up a mooring rather than anchor. MC is a bit of a yachtie Mecca – lots of boats come here each year and just stay the whole season. Hard to argue with the idea: there are world-renowned surf breaks (Cloudbreak, for example) a dinghy-ride away; great kite surfing, snorkelling and diving nearby and for F$10 you can get life membership of the Musket Cove Yacht Club – the only requirement being that you must have sailed here from another country.

As a member, you have access to the Musket Cove Resort facilities: swimming pool, lovely outdoor island bar, free use of the BBQs; banana lounges, hot showers; restaurants – all very laid back and casual.

The other major attraction is the annual Musket Cove Regatta, now in its 30th year. It runs for a week and the emphasis is definitely on fun rather than serious racing, largely because most entrants (cruising yachties) are racing their homes and aren’t that keen on denting them.

‘Official’ events included Pirates Day, where everyone dressed as pirates, sailed (‘raced’) to nearby Beachcomber Island and drank loads of rum before sailing back again; Crazy Olympics (think blindfolded kayaking); and of course the ubiquitous wet t-shirt competition. I actually thought those went out with the eighties, but apparently not. In supposed ‘fairness’ to the girls, there was a hairy chest competition, but most of the hair was supported by beer bellies and middle-aged moobs. Eeeeew.

Of course, where there’s a yacht race, there’s an egotist and a local boat (i.e. not a home) got a bit carried away in the Round the Island Race and t-boned another boat (i.e. someone’s home) and put a sizeable hole in it. Fortunately, the damage was above the water line. We weren’t racing our ‘home’, but Damian was invited to sail as part of a boys-only crew on Kiapa – another 52-foot cat that’s light and fast and owned by friends of ours, Lionel and Irene. The egotist had already forced Lionel to do a radical gybe to avoid hitting either the egotist’s boat or the reef and Kiapa recovered just in time to see the dude pull the same stunt on the next tack…but this time collect the other boat. Pretty scary stuff.

Meanwhile, all the girls had a much more fun day: we booked out the spa, had massages and facials and a girlie lunch by the resort pool!

In other Regatta events, Irene and I were the only all-female crew to complete the Hobie cat race course: our heat was the last of the day when the wind was peaking and we had a wild old ride. (We didn’t make it to the next round, though…).

We had better luck in the Dress the Dinghy competition, but by general consensus, we was robbed: we dressed our dinghy up as the Vaka Vinaka (Vaka being a traditional canoe, and Vinaka meaning ‘thank you’) and dressed ourselves in grass skirts (Michelle, Irene and I, as well as Lionel and Ray) and even had a hula dance routine (see photos). But the ‘Kid Factor’ won the day: as a last minute entry, a bunch of cruiser kids threw their teddies out of the cot and into their dinghy and rowed away with first prize.

The last night was ‘Dress as anything starting with M’. Fancy dress is always a challenge when cruising, since you don’t tend to carry a lot of batman suits or belly dancing outfits on board – you just have to make do with what you have. Our whole motley crew (ten of us) went as M&Ms: we made cut out Ms and eyes from contact paper and stuck them on bright t-shirts (thanks to our friend and fellow-cruiser Laura for making the trip to Nadi for the tapa print fabric for the ‘vaka’ and the contact paper). We made it to the finals, but the competition was fierce: in the end, Mrs Doubtfire won, followed by Mahatma Gandhi and Freddy Mercury.

I reckon this photo sums it up: it’s the winning photo from the Musket Cove Regatta Photo competition (taken by yours truly – I won a bottle of wine) and shows Jack, the regatta organiser, umpiring the Hobie Cat Races. Like I said, no-one was taking the racing tooooo seriously!

Musket Cove Regatta-6397

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