|Fiji, October, 2005
|Fiji was a great experience and I hope to return to spend a longer time there. We didn’t stop and enjoy
Fiji as much as you need to. I loved the fusion of the Indian and Fijian cultures. Although there are
clearly problems with this fusion that may never get resolved. When the immigrant class is not allowed
to own property, that makes for a huge problem. Although, there seemed to be more of a problem on
the southern island of Vanua Levu rather than the northern island of Viti Levu.
We landed in Savu Savu on the northern island. We were moored up a river with about 30 other boats.
We did get to go out to see the countryside and got to swim in a refreshing waterfall. But then the rains
came for almost 7 days straight. Emily and I took a cooking class and learned how to make rotis - the
Indian tortilla. They became a staple for the duration of our trip. The kids enjoyed the yard next to the
yacht club. Martin enjoyed learning how to play rugby. Fortunately, the local kids were gentle with
him as he broke all the rules. The kids also enjoyed sailing the Optimist dinghies with the local kids.
Our depth sounder went out on us just as we were approaching Savu Savu. The depth sounder is a
critical piece of equipment in these waters that our strewn with reefs. Lou called our friend Liem of LTD
in Alameda and Liam shipped out the part the same day. We received it within a week—despite customs
playing a little bit of a game with us. We can’t say enough good things about Liam. On the other hand,
we have been very frustrated with any and all dealings with Atkins Hoyle, who made our hatches. They
are the farthest from being customer oriented you can imagine. The other frustrating vendor in our
cruise has been International Marine Insurance Services. Although we selected them because of their
reputation, we have found them to be very disorganized and borderline unethical. They don’t give us a
quote on our insurance renewal until being prompted by us. Then, despite our increasing offshore
experience, our rates just keep going up and going up. And because we don’t get the quote until the
day the premium is due—we don’t have time to shop around. Most of our cruiser friends are not
insured, or what people call self-insured. We preferred not to do this because we’ve experienced how
stuff can happen. Enough of my rant, on to my story…
I loved the market. It is mainly a vegetable place, but you can also buy fish and kava. Most of the
vegetable stands were run by Indo-Fijians. The availability of spices was wonderful. We learned more
about kava and its use as a gift of introduction when you visit villages. The word for welcome and hello
in Fijian is BULA! One of those words that makes you smile when you say it!! That is how you greet the
bowl of kava that is presented to you to drink in one swift gulp with a smile! Emily likens the taste to dirty
dishwater and Martin (The Strange) has acquired a taste for it.
There is a level of energy that goes into travel, to exploring and to meeting people from other cultures.
We found that at this point in our trip, our energy was a bit low for this. I still had the energy for it, but
the rest of my dear family had to be convinced and the kids had to be given guarantees of a good time.
Emily had made cruising friends and she lobbied incessantly to be with them. We found that when we
did invest the energy to meet locals, we were rewarded with rich experiences. Yes, even two hour long
church services—which only I attended. There were several 10-year-old boys that were sitting in front of
me. One had a knife and was carving on the pew. One held the hymnal while I sang (or attempted to
sing unfamiliar hymns in Fijiian!)
As soon as the rains stopped, we busted free of Savu Savu and headed out to meet our friends on
Convergence. We sailed with them across infamous Bligh Waters. These are the waters that Captain
Bligh and his outcast crew rowed through while cannibals were in hot pursuit. Despite this, Captain Bligh
did a good job of charting these reef-strewn waters. We had no problems navigating with our electronic
By this time, we were starting to feel that we needed to head to the south and wait our time to get a good
weather window for a passage to New Zealand. We got to Lautoka and anchored across the harbor
from the town. The main industry in Fiji is sugar cane. There is a sugar cane processing plant that has
a giant smokestack. This smokestack is responsible for dumping ash on the whole town, including our
boat. But despite this, we did enjoy Lautoka. The market is even better than in Savu Savu. They had
okra, which is one of my favorite dishes—fried, of course, in corn meal. Martin (on guitar) and another
cruising kid (on violin) jammed with some local musicians.
Then we headed out to cruising kid heaven - Musket Cove—for the convergence of the kid boats.
Musket Cove is a resort, but they also cater to the cruisers. The kids had the run of the island and
loved the freedom—we all loved the freedom. And we had nightly BBQs where we didn’t have to wash
the dishes—plates and cutlery were provided! The girls (about seven between the ages of 11-16) had
a sleepover one night in a tent on the small island that was the cruiser hangout. Not much sleep
happened, but lots of good times were shared.
Lou and I went diving with our friends on Convergence and Safari. I got my diving groove back after it
was lost in the Galapagos. Fiji is a great place to dive!
We reunited with friends that we had met along the way. Many of them were headed to Australia. Some
would be ending their trip there and some would be continuing circumnavigation and some would be
returning to Fiji. We had even considered staying in Fiji during the cyclone season, but thought we
needed to get back and be responsible citizens and parents (ballet school beckons). These goodbyes
are very painful for the whole family.
Sometimes the intensity of this situation is too much. So, we headed off to another resort away from the
rest of the cruisers. It’s a backpacker resort called Robinson Crusoe Island. It was nice to be just our
family again. We took the dinghy on a river adventure to a village up the river where we waded through
mud. We were welcomed by the chief of the village and partook in the kava ceremony with them. The
kids put on a song and dance for us. When we left, they gave us hugs and instead of kissing you they
sniff you—or I prefer to say inhale you. I like it. So don’t be surprised next time I see you if I don’t do a
French double cheek with a Fijian sniff. Oh the things I have learned!
While at anchor at Robinson Crusoe, Lou was doing an inspection of all the rigging and found a crack in
our anchor roller assembly (which holds up our forestay and thus the whole mast) and so we had to
dash back to someplace where we could find a welder. We headed into the funkiest marina we have
ever been in—Vuda Point.
Vuda Point is right outside of Lautoka. They don’t have docks but you tie up to mooring balls in the
center of the marina and then head nose first into the wall of the marina. The tidal range is about 8
feet. Needless to say, this makes for some creative gymnastics to get off the boat.
We worked and worked preparing Ace for the passage to New Zealand and always at the back of our
mind was the concern that this would be our most challenging passage. In the midst of this we were
saying goodbye (having several goodbye dinners) to our buddy boat Safari. They were heading to
Australia and on to South Africa to complete their circumnavigation. Although we didn’t see eye to eye
on politics, we had a good time discussing the affairs of state.
We did get our weather window and we left Fiji. We knew we would be returning to meet my parents and
siblings at the end of November.
|The local kids in SavuSavu race
Optimists, and Emily and Martin got in
on the action.
|Martin and his partner racing the Opti.
|Though we were anchored offshore,
the resort welcomed us and put on a
great Fijian culture show.
|Waterfall on a farm in northern Vanua
|Emily and new friends in a smal Fijian
village, where we were welcomed by
the chief as honored guests.
|Martin and a resort employee
|Emily and her friend Lauren (off Safari)
windsurfing in Musket Cove
|Vuda Point Marina, where we prepped
Ace for the New Zealand passage.