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Farewell Good Friends

Now that we’re in Denarau the boat work begins. Helen has ramped up into interior organising / cleaning mode. For the last year the front starboard berth has been used for storage. That has now (almost) all been stowed elsewhere. I have to confess, my project work was not that extensive yesterday. Usually my role, when Helen is cleaning, is to stay out of the way. I did go ashore to drop off rubbish/trash. While there I sorted out our stay here in the port including a berth next Monday. I also arranged a hire car for Friday so we could get out of here for a bit.

At lunchtime we went ashore to meet up with and say goodbye to Stuart and Sheila from Imagine. We met up at Big Mammas pizza with them and the Passages, Screams and Jarana’s who are all here in Denarau right now. There can’t be many more 2010 Puddle Jumpers left in Fiji. Like every family, we eventually go our separate ways.

For a quick flashback on our times with Imagine you can click on the ‘Imagine’ category in the left sidebar or at the top/bottom of this message. I try and keep these categories up to date so our encounters with particular boats can be viewed in one go. I just used the link to take a trip back down memory lane.

As ever the pizza at Mamas was good. We stayed some time and had a few lunchtime beers/wine. The goodbyes were said. Stuart and Sheila are flying back home today and will return next April. They intend to leave soon after needing to get to Darwin by July for the Indonesia Rally. That’s way ahead of the pace we’ll be setting so chances are this was our last goodbye. But somewhere in the backs of our minds we hold onto the hope we’ll run into them somewhere.

After the lunch time libations we were neither willing nor capable of engaging in any serious work in the afternoon.

Today we both get on in earnest. I have some maintenance projects to do while Helen will get on with the inside work. It feels a little cooler today so that may help.

Drawaqa (Manta Ray Resort)

Once we’d downloaded the weather and examined it we came up with a plan for the day. The forecast predicted westerly winds with an further outlook of south easterlies. As we are on the far west of Fiji and the jet stream generally pushed the weather systems to the east I figured the turn to the south east would come sooner for us than forecast was stating for Fiji in general. Our plan was to sail the west coast of the island southward and check out Drawaqa where the manta rays are. Helen hadn’t had a good chance to swim with them last time and was keen to try again. With two layers of light reefs to our west and with the possibility of the westerlies being quite light (we didn’t know before we set off as we had good shelter from them at Gunu) anchoring on the windward side of the island was at least worth considering. Plan B, if Drawaqa turned out untenable and/or the winds too strong, was to continue sailing south down to the north end of Waya where we’d get protection from all the predicted wind directions.

We initially motored out of the north side of Naviti and first encountered the westerly winds. They did indeed turn out to be quite light – about 6-8 knots. It was enough for us to sail although when the boat speed dropped below 3 knots we gave extra pushes using battery power. Behind the reefs the water was indeed relatively calm and we had no obstruction from the wind so we were able to sail all the way with the help of our occasional pushes. On the way down we had line of sight to a cell phone tower and were able to access the internet briefly.

Once we reached Drawaqa we turned the boat into wind and sat there to see if we could cope with the light swell. We decided it was acceptable and dropped the hook backing down towards the reefs lining the shore. No other boats were in the previously crowded patch of good sand. We felt pretty ok where we were. If the wind picked up the anchor would have to be dragged up a sandy slope – next to impossible – to bring us closer to the shallows. If/when the wind shifted we’d have the protection of the island to the south. So even though it was a little bumpy and back to having no internet we were happy where we were.

PICS

After lunch and a rest we took the dinghy south to visit the Manta Ray Resort on the island of Nanuya Mbalavu. We wanted to see what it was like and if they would welcome yachties for dinner. They were welcoming but the thursday night dinner was Fiji food which was not enticing enough, for us, to make for a dinner out. We had a walk around the resort including going over to the west side of the island. It seemed quite nice, well looked after and with lots of polite staff.

I chatted with the dive shop and asked them about when the best time to view the manta would be. We already had an idea this would be in the two hours before high tide. They said they would call us on the VHF when they knew they were about which we thought was nice.

We didn’t have long to wait. We got the call soon after returning to Dignity. We had all our gear ready to go and piled into the dinghy. The entire resort also piled into their two boats and were ferried out to the pass where we all ended up drifting around looking for the mantas. One ended up popping up right by us but disappeared by the time we’d put our gear on. The resort had their spotters too in and out of the water. Soon they had one spotted on the west side of the bay. All the resort guests were now in the water beginning a marathon swim session chasing manta ray sightings. We dinghied a little closer before getting into the water. Before long we had an excellent sighting of one of the largest mantas I’ve ever seen. Unlike the last one we saw here, this one had a white underside and some white markings on top. I managed to take a couple of pretty pictures which I’ll upload when I can.

Helen had the dinghy this point so I took it off her and let her chase the manta through the pass. I zipped the dinghy wide around the pack of swimmers chasing Helen and the manta and managed to get back in the water ahead of it and take a few more pictures although there, the water was murkier.

We’d both now had good sightings so we retired to the dinghy. The Jaranas were now here. They’d anchored round the east side of Drawaqa along with a couple of other boats including Safari who’d been up in Gunu with us. They’d been in the water but missed the manta. We decided to hang around and help try and spot the mantas again. While doing so we ran into a couple on a kayak from another nearby resort, Mark and Dee. They were Brits who’d moved to Australia (Manly/Sidney) a few years ago. Dee turned out to have grown up in Islington where Helen had grown up and where I’d first moved when a went to live in London when I was in my teens. We had a lot in common and ended up inviting them over to Dignity for a beer or two.

We really enjoyed their company for the brief time they could stay. We had a beer each and Mark and I took a dent into the G&T supplies (which incidentally put the nail into the coffin of our plans to night snorkel the nearby reef). They had to return for their evening dinner by 6:30 so we parted company. Perhaps we’ll meet up when we get to Sidney next year.

By then the winds had shifted to the south. The slight westerly swell was now broadside to the boat making for a less pleasant motion but this soon died down. Overnight the winds have shifted more to the south east. We hope the boats on the east side of the island are ok.

We learned yesterday that Stuart and Sheila from Imaging are already out of the water and flying out of Fiji on the 15th. There’s a possibility of meeting up with them next Wednesday at Denarau. We’d like to be there to see them even if it means a few more days in Denarau than we first planned. We’re going to have to take a good look at the weather today to see how we might make it in time. It may mean motoring into wind at some point but if we can cut the distance between now and then then that will make it easier. We’ll see.

Return to the Blue Lagoon

As sun rose on the morning of Helen’s birthday we were treated to a beautiful ‘red sky at morning’. According to the rhyme, it was time for us to take warning. However, according to the weather forecast we should be able to put some sailing in before any adverse weather should hit us.

By 8am we were off. We had the wind right behind us so we popped out just the head sail while we made our way out of the anchorage and through the area patched with small reefs and bommies. Once we were in deeper water we furled the headsail, turned the boat into wind and raised the main. Turning back down wind we set the boat wing on wing and ran down wind.

There was little swell so the ride was very comfortable and we had no fear of accidentally jibing the main which is always a worry when running wing on wing. We could tie a preventer but that takes extra time and we weren’t planning on running in this configuration for too long.

As ever we had a couple of lines out. Before long the reel was zinging with a fish on. It had a bit of fight but I knew it wasn’t huge. It turned out to be a moderate sized wahoo. I landed it without using a gaff and got a line around the tail to secure it to the boat. The fish had chomped off the entire skirt of my lure before getting the hook caught through the top of it’s right eye socket and out the top of it’s head. When I removed the hook the poor things eye came out with it. The fish really fussed at that moment and as it thrashed it managed to gouge a deep cut along the back of my finger which began to bleed freely. I cut the fishes gills and dumped it’s head back into the water to bleed out while I looked after my hand.

I offered the fish to Helen as a birthday gift but this didn’t come over too well. Near the Blue Lagoon there is a farm where fresh produce can be bought. I suggested we may be able to trade the fish for veg. This idea was better received.

The winds turned out to be quite light for most of the journey. After the fish was cleaned we turned the boat and put her on a broad reach as we sailed down to our destination. With the land shielding us from the wind the direction and strength of the wind was quite variable but we managed to sail all the way to the end before turning on the engine for the first time and motoring in. We picked a spot to anchor with plenty of room to swing as we’re anticipating more change.

On arrival we broke out some fresh bread rolls Helen had made on the way down, some cold meats and cheese for lunch. As it was Helen’s birthday we broke out a bottle of red to go with it. After lunch and one glass each we stuff the fish into a plastic bag and dinghied to the farm. We first stopped off at a village to ask the way and then a school for further instructions. We eventually found the farm up a creek which could only really be accessed at high tide. There we met Tocky (sic) who was very pleased with the idea of trading our fish for vegetables. Tocky took us down to his farm and picked fresh tomatoes, cabbage, spring onions, sweet corn, radishes, peppers, cucumbers and bananas for us. Unfortunately we forgot the camera so no pictures of the farm.

We ended up with two bags full of fresh vegetables. Helen was very happy with her trade in for a birthday present. Tocky was pleased as he had planned to fish in the afternoon to feed his family and now he could spend his time on the farm. In talking to Tocky we learned that he doesn’t drink cava like most native Fijians. Perhaps this is why he is so industrious.

Back on the boat we polished off the lunchtime bottle before retiring for a lazy afternoon.

In the evening we went ashore for a very delicious meal in the great setting they have here. On the way in we popped by and said hello to the Jaranas who are here in the anchorage. We had spring rolls and samosas for starters and each had a filet steak with garlic mash and fresh veg for our main. We retired to the boat for bubbly and desert. Helen’s final present involved plenty of moisturizer and finger strengthening exercises for me.irthdayt

Big thanks to all who sent Helen birthday greetings via email, comment and Facebook.

Last Day in Denaru

A week in Denaru is about 4-5 days too long. We will be leaving today. No doubt about it.

During the day, yesterday, we made a final trip into Nadi to pick up fresh food and eat lunch. In the evening we met up ashore with the Leu Cats, Sea Misters and True Companions for drinks followed by dinner at Cardod. We bumped into the Jaranas again and the Passageses joined us at the table.

For the Leu Cats and Sea Misters it was a final, final farewell as we are off today and so are they, to Vanuatu. They are on sailing plans which will be impossible for us to catch so again this was a little emotional. While cruising one makes some terrific friends but at some point there is a last goodbye. Sometimes you know when it is. Sometimes paths simply never meet again.

This morning I’ve been out and about in the Dinghy. This did involve going over to Leu Cat to drop off some butter and to pick up some hot peppers. This was a chance for a final, final, final farewell. Sea Mist was nearby so final^3 farewells there too.

Next stop …. Not here.

Lautoka and more Au Revoirs

We’d agreed to meet up with our taxi driver at 8am and were at the meeting point on time. Around 8:05am another taxi driver came by and offered us the trip for less. We’d heard of others whose drivers didn’t show so rather than take a risk we took the new taxi driver. I kept an eye open for ours along the way out of Denaru and didn’t see him so I didn’t feel too bad.

Apart from a brief stop to replace a flat tire we made it to Lautoka in good time. We’d asked to be dropped off at the customs office and be picked up in town later on. It turned out we needed to be in the customs office at the wharf (obvious really) rather than the one in town so we walked the approx mile between the two. We’d been advised by many to tell them our boat was nearby when asked where it was. I find it difficult to tell a bold lie so when it came down to it I said we were in Denaru. No problem. Soon we were out with coastal clearance for just about everywhere around here so we’re sorted on that front.

Next stop was immigration to extend our visas. It turned out it was in the unmarked building next to the first customs office we’d been to. So we walked back. It took a while and few Fiji dollars to get our extension. They required proof of our ability to sustain ourselves while here. In the end they were satisfied by taking copies of our credit cards and conceding on the need for copies of statements.

So now, unless we decide to go back to Suva or something like that, we have no more paperwork to do until we leave Fiji.

Next we walked around town. I bought a couple of shirts. The experience was a lot more pleasant than in Nadi where the shop keepers campaign heavily for your custom as you walk down the street. In Lautoka there was none of that. On the downside, the supermarkets with international produce were fewer and less well stocked than Nadi.

By the time we’d eaten lunch we were already a little late for our rendezvous. We didn’t lose our taxi as we’d bumped into him a couple of times already. We picked up a few more provisions before heading back to Denaru and the boat.

We didn’t do a great deal more in the afternoon. John from Sea Mist popped by having just arrived in the anchorage. He’d been invited to the evening out with the Leu Cats. That was great as this may be our last opportunity to see them for a while at best, if ever at worst.

The evening went well. We met up at Lulu’s having a round of cocktails together followed by dinner at Indigo’s – an Indian Restaurant – where we briefly bumped into the Jaranas who were just leaving. The evening was excellent and somehow we managed to stay out quite late, at least for us.

At the dinghy dock we said our emotional Au Revoirs. It’s never goodbye as one never knows how or when we’ll meet up again.

The answer to that is probably here and today as the weather has turned out crap and looks to stay that way today and tomorrow. We’re not moving on and when we do it looks like it’s out west.