Davina and Neil

Denarau, Fiji

By: Kerry

As a belated 50th Birthday present, Damian’s sister, Davina and her partner, Neil, came to play on Sel Citron for a couple of weeks. They couldn’t have travelled any further: we are exactly half way around the world from home.

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The End of the Season

Leaving Fiji

By: Kerry

It’s the end of the season: the first tropical low is starting to spin up to the northeast of us, heralding cyclone season, so it’s time to head south, back to New Zealand. We started looking for a weather window a week or so ago and now, as we sit here in Musket Cove, dabbling in ‘analysis paralysis’ – the cruising yachtie’s affliction brought on by looking at weather maps for too long, trying to decide the ideal time to leave – it’s an opportunity to finally catch up on the blog. It’s been a while…

I last wrote from Blue Lagoon, where the name ‘Brooke Shields’ is still on everyone’s lips, though just where and how much of the film was shot on location there is not really clear. It’s not so much a ‘lagoon’ as a sheltered waterway between several quite substantial islands, but on a sunny day, it lives up to its name, when the water practically glows in every shade of blue.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

We anchored off one of the sheltering islands, Nanuya Lailai (or Nanuya Sewa), which nestles up against the very upmarket and yachtie-intolerant Turtle Island, and circumnavigated both islands by kayak.

As we hugged the edge of the beautiful white-sand beach on Nanuya Lailai, a young whippet-sized dog, that we’d met the day before, trotted down to the shore to say hello, and followed us around the shoreline. When we got to a patch of mangroves, we thought she’d turn back, but she jumped in and swam after us.

There was no dissuading her, but there was nowhere for her to land, either, so when she eventually tired, I hauled her up on my kayak. She fell off a couple of times as she squirmed and tried to stand up, but then she settled down and happily sat between my knees as we headed out into the open water on the windward side of the island.

It took us an hour or so to get around, and it was a bit choppy at times, with waves coming over the kayak, but she seemed to quite enjoy it and only jumped off and swam ashore when we were rounding the last corner and headed for home.

A week or so later, we were further north in Sawa-i-Lau and I was talking to Abraham, the village chief, and I mentioned we’d been kayaking in Blue Lagoon. He suddenly stopped and said, “Was that you with a dog on your kayak?”

He’d happened to be on the windward side of the island the day we’d paddled past and laughed his head off when I admitted that yes, I was the crazy white woman who takes stray dogs on open water sightseeing cruises.

Meeting Abraham was yet another slightly baffling sevusevu experience. We’d arrived the day before and had been taken to see the ‘chief’ of the village, and were introduced to a smiling elderly lady who spoke no English. She took our kava and thanked us, but once again there was no suggestion of doing the full ceremony.

I was impressed that the chief was a woman, but next day, we met Abraham and heard that, in fact, he was the chief and he asked us to advise our fellow cruisers that they were obliged to do sevusevu with him, rather than with the caretakers of the ‘famous’ caves, which are the main attraction of Sawa-i-Lau.

Seems there is a bit of competition for cruisers’ kava…

To date, we haven’t done a full sevusevu ceremony anywhere, despite presenting bunches of kava to village chiefs on half a dozen occasions. It seems the locals in this part of Fiji are happy to receive the grog, but aren’t that fussed about ‘tradition’. In fact, our friends Di and Graham even did a ‘drive by’ sevusevu, when the said cave caretakers came up to their boat in a panga, asked for the kava to be handed over and then sped off.

So much for our fear of breaching protocol…

The ‘famous’ flooded limestone caves at Sawa-i-Lau were decidedly underwhelming, but the bay they are in is lovely, and we spent a hedonistic afternoon lolling about in gin clear water on the edge of a golden beach, drinking chilled wine with the Citrus Tarts.

The Mamanuca and Yasawa chain of islands extends for around 80 miles, south to north. We didn’t make it all the way to northern end of Yasawa, the top island, but we did find plenty of lovely anchorages along the way, quite a few of which we had to ourselves, including the beautiful, broad bay of Somosomo, on Naviti Island.

Yasawas-7076

One of my favourites was just off Yalobi village on the south side of Waya Island, which lies about halfway up the chain. Waya is geographically the most dramatic island in the Yasawas, with steep green hills rising from the shoreline and crowned with massive basalt outcrops – the eroded evidence of its volcanic provenance.

Yalobi village sits on an arc of golden beach, embraced by rugged hills and fronted by a clear aqua bay. We hiked up above the village from where we could see all the way down the island chain – and look down on Sel Citron looking like a rubber ducky in a bathtub.

We spent several relaxing days kayaking and snorkelling, then we headed back to Denarau, with the intention of leaving for NZ to be back in time for friends Ian and Sue’s wedding on Pittwater. But once again, it was just as well we’re on the No Plan Plan…

Of course, there’s never a dull moment in our lives… In the course of a game of golf seven weeks ago when my family was here, Damian came a cropper while retrieving a ball from the beach ‘bunker’ at Musket Cove. He fell on a sharp rock on the shoreline and gouged a divot out of his shin. He went to the nurse at nearby Plantation Island Resort, who cleaned it, dressed it, and dosed him with antibiotics.

He stayed out of the water for three weeks, kept it clean, had more antibiotics and three penicillin jabs in his derriere – basically did all the right things. But it stubbornly refused to heal, developing an infection/abscess as coral-type cuts infuriatingly tend to do.

To cut a long story short, he eventually had to go to the doctor in Nadi, who took to it with a scalpel and ‘debrided’ the wound, leaving him with an elliptical hole the size of a 20 cent piece and about an inch deep. Even the doctor admitted it looked just like a bullet wound (he was worried about osteomyelitis, but an x-ray proved negative).

Since then, we’ve been hanging out in Musket Cove, while Damian has had to make weekly trips back to the doctor in Nadi to have it checked and dressed, which has rather stymied our travel plans, both here in Fiji and for heading back to NZ.

Who knew golf was an extreme sport??

It’s still a long way from healed (it’s probably only about a centimetre deep now!) but he’s been given the all-clear to travel. So we’re off to NZ!

This time we have a friend and extra crew member, Peter Verdon (Verdo) along for the ride – very experienced sailor and all-round good guy. The weather forecast is looking good, so we’re hoping (just for a change) for a nice, easy trip!

We are already underway, en route. I’m typing this as fast as I can before we lose internet, so might have to ‘edit’ it at the other end… We should be in Marsden Cove by next Friday.

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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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