Bula! We’ve seen and done a lot over the last six weeks here in Fiji. It’s an amazing place.
Regatta Week at the Musket Cove Yacht Club, visits from Troy & Maureen and Randy & Susan, Leo’s birthday, exploring the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands, sevu sevu ceremonies with village chiefs, provisioning in Nadi and Denerau, and much much more. Here is a long post to catch up.
We spent a great day anchored at Robinson Crusoe Island, a backpacker resort off the southwest coast of Vitu Levu. Guys in the fire dancing and knife tossing show had fun performing but even more fun teasing each other if they dropped their knives or fire batons.
Afterwards we all picked numbers for the hermit crab races. The kids love building sand castles for them too and trying to keep the crabs from escaping. This has become their nightly pre-dinner activity on the beach.
A 9 year old girl followed Leo everywhere for the afternoon. Something tells me this is going to happen all the time now. I’m not quite ready for Leo to be so popular just yet, but how can he help it with that hair! (He desperately needs a trim but avoids me whenever I bring this up.)
Musket Cove on Malolo Lailai Island is where we’ve spent the most time. The yacht club claims it’s the most exclusive in the world because you can only become a life member if you have sailed to or from a foreign port to here. We’re now proudly flying the MCYC burgee below our SYC one.
People call this the vortex because it’s so easy here. That’s what everyone says, “It’s so easy,” and they are right. It’s a very protected anchorage which makes all the difference in 20-30 knot trades. The resort has a market, coffee shop, restaurant and big pool. We take the kids to the pool almost every day after Sophie School.
There’s an island bar with sandy beaches where the kids can play while grown-ups hang out sipping drinks, cooking over wood-fired barbecues every night. They supply plates and silverware and do the dishes. So easy. We have met so many new yachtie and kiwi friends here.
Every September the Musket Cove Yacht Club hosts Regatta Week, seven days of non-stop festivities from 8am until late night.
We had an absolute blast with Troy and Maureen Batterberry who flew in from Seattle in time for the Pirate Day race to Beachcomber. It was more of a no holds barred water balloon fight than race. Troy constructed an incredible water balloon launcher for Sophie out of a funnel and surgical tubing, but we were down to our last balloon by the time it was finished. He managed one perfect hit to a neighboring boat.
We were greeted by a shuttle boat to shore when we anchored at Beachcomber. It was so hot that most people stayed in the water or in the bar except during tug of war.
Sophie won the best dressed boat and we enjoyed dancing with all the pirates.
Hazel loved hanging with her friend Sophia and managed to find another water balloon. Most of the ones the kids threw from the boat ended up in the water, missed their target or broke in their hands. They loved it!
Afterwards, we had a fantastic spinnaker sail back to Musket Cove.
…and champagne to celebrate.
There were a couple races during Regatta Week. For the next one it was a beautiful day, but we had almost no wind and ended up coming in dead last. Hey, it only took us 2-3 minutes to tack and an hour to finally make it outside the reef to the main legs of the race. It felt like a dead calm Thursday night Downtown Sailing Series race in Seattle. Sophie likes wind.
We had fun competing in the beach events too. Troy and Maureen made it past the first round in the Hobie Cat races.
Below, Jamie is examined by a judge in the hairy chest competition.
Our friend Dave from Lightspeed came in 1st and won a bottle of Bounty Rum that he shared with the crowd.
Maureen, Kathy from Lightspeed and I competed in our first wet t-shirt contest. You needed a 2-piece bathing suit to enter and then the rest was up to you. Given the dozen men with telephoto lenses plus my children on shore, we chose to leave our suits intact.
The winner, by unanimous vote of the judges and the crowd, was a 70+ woman named Hazel. She’s a very cool lady and our little H loves that there is another Hazel here.
We also need to thank our friends on Hydroquest, Orkestern and Ninita for introducing us to the golf course here on Malolo Lailai. It’s an easy 9-holes next to a grassy airstrip. If you miss on the first hole you climb out and play your ball from the runway. Jamie is addicted and we’ve now played 4 rounds.
The kids love riding in the cart with snacks and Leo has played a handful of holes and can sink the ball in 10-12 strokes. Hazel tried a few times too, but it’s hard for a leftie kid to wield an adult rightie club. We may saw off some used leftie clubs in New Zealand for her. Maureen had never played before and she was a natural.
It was close to sunset before we finished the fifth hole, so the manager asked us to come back the next day to finish up. We did, and had so much fun that we decided to play another round before dinner.
Seeing our friends happy makes us so happy.
To top off the day we ate dinner on the beach at Ananda’s Restaurant.
In the middle of all this we followed the America’s Cup and had the opportunity to watch races with about a hundred kiwis on a big screen at the poolside restaurant. They weren’t set up on the first race, but luckily we had our tablets with us and huddled around the small screen to watch live.
The first race was typically scheduled for 8:15am Fiji time so Sophie School started late on race days. The kids hung out a lot with new friends Harry and Jackson from Touché M’Dear on Sophie and on land, and patiently waited for races to finish so they could all jump in the pool.
Harry and Leo have the same birthday so we celebrated a few days early with cake one morning right after the Cup races. Breakfast of champions.
Although we were having tons of fun at Regatta Week, we also wanted Troy and Maureen to see more of Fiji, so we headed north to the Yasawa Island Group. Dolphin put on a great show for us.
And happy day, the fish were biting again!
Troy caught his first pelagic fish off Waya Island.
Not only did he catch dinner, but Troy was on a mission to fix our broken ice maker. What fun is Sophie without ice? The problem turned out to be a tiny motor that turns the ice tray that dumps out the cubes. That solved, cocktail hour was back in business and Troy took over as bartender.
We anchored with ten other boats off Drawaqa Island in the Naviti Group, right around the corner from the channel with the manta rays, near a cool backpacker resort that had a wood fired pizza oven at the beach bar. We read that the best time to swim with manta rays is an hour after high tide, so the next morning Jamie went out in the dinghy on a recon mission and came back in a hurry to get us. All of the tour boats were leaving as we pulled up and at first we thought we missed out, but after five minutes drifting in the strong current, we spotted our first manta ray, then another and another. Wow!
Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga was unbelievable, and this was a close second. We spent over half an hour watching them do what looked like a graceful ballet of flips and turns while they fed. There is an abundance of food in the channel, but rather poor visibility as a result.
It’s a little scary to have a pack of manta rays swim right towards you and then at the last minute circle around you. They did this over and over again, and it was a thrill every time.
We expected a dead calm motoring day up to Sawa I’Lau to see the caves, but by the time we got outside the reef the wind kicked up to 20 knots on the nose so we decided to duck in to Blue Lagoon instead. Yes, that Blue Lagoon. We even watched the movie the first night and then found a few of the locations nearby.
We did our first sevu sevu ceremony with the local chief who welcomed us into the village. It was quick and easy. We were surprised and a bit relieved, given Jamie’s description that kava tastes like tea brewed from cigarette butts, that we didn’t have to drink it this time.
After days of non-stop activity, it was refreshing to just hang out and relax for a while. We explored Nanuya Lailai, swam and snorkeled, and continued Sophie School.
With only one day left for Troy and Maureen’s vacation, we decided to take a tour boat up to Sawa I’Lau for a quick morning swim in the caves.
En route, the longboat’s outboard sputtered and choked until our guide finally stopped on a reef and attempted to fix it. He managed to get it going again, barely, but we limped along until the motor died again. So much for our quick morning trip. After another hour of sitting there watching all the other tour boats zoom by, we finally persuaded him to give up and call another boat. A fast one this time.
Zipping along at over 20 knots, it only took a few minutes to reach the caves. The main chamber opens up to the sky and contains a blend of fresh and salt water.
There is an opening a meter underwater that leads into a neighboring pitch black chamber called the Spitting Cave. Our guide went first so we just had to follow his flashlight, but I’ve never done something like this before and was pretty scared going into the dark unknown. Leo, of course, dove right in and was the first one through, so I took a deep breath and followed. Luckily it was low tide so we only had to swim a few meters underwater. It was so cool. We swam through the dark to the very end of the cave where there is a narrow tube that goes up 30 feet. From directly beneath it you can look up to a small circle of sky. Our guide explained that this is a sacred place and for hundreds of years, villagers hiked up to this opening and spit down into the cave. Then he told us they decided this was a bad habit from their culture so they don’t do it anymore. Plus that wouldn’t work so well in a tourist brochure.
There isn’t much of an economy in the Yasawas except for tourism and some agriculture. There are no grocery stores or ATMs. The village that runs the caves makes all its money from cave entrance fees and selling crafts to tourists. This was Leo’s birthday so he got a couple souvenirs from the craft tables and a big kiss from the woman who sold them to us. It was well past lunchtime by the time we headed to Sophie. We devoured all of the pringles and cookies I brought for Leo and we were so grateful the fast boat made it back in 20 minutes.
We celebrated Leo’s birthday and Troy and Maureen’s last night with a traditional Fijian lovo (feast) and dance show at a nearby resort.
Troy and Maureen opted to fly back to Denerau from the Yasawas so they could maximize their time with us. You can catch a float plane that shuttles people to and from the Blue Lagoon at Turtle Island, a 5-star resort on Nanuya Levu Island.
We took the dinghy over to drop off Troy and Maureen. Hotel security greeted us at the dock and asked us all to wait out on the dock while he checked on the plane eta.
We stayed out of the rain on covered benches and they brought us fresh squeezed juice. After about an hour we learned that the plane had been diverted due to bad weather, but they were sending a helicopter instead. It landed right on the beach in front of the resort. Not a bad finale for the week.
Thanks for a fabulous time Troy and Maureen! We loved every minute with you.
Sophie Adventure Cruises
After a quiet week of Sophie School we returned south to the Mamanuca Islands and made our way to Denerau to provision and await Randy & Susan’s arrival. Denerau is a manmade island with resorts and marina near Nadi that feels a lot like Fort Lauderdale, complete with US chain restaurants including a Hard Rock Café. There is an awesome Italian store and we splurged on a big leg of Parma ham, wedge of parmesan cheese and 1.5 kg of pesto. Randy & Susan joined us and we made a trip to the vegetable market and meat store before heading out.
Later, we dropped a hook at Beachcomber for drinks and to circle the tiny island fringed by a white sand beach that takes less than 10 minutes to walk around.
We had planned to get lunch on shore, but it turned out Beachcomber’s generator was broken so they weren’t really open except for beer, which they have to shuttle back and forth 10 miles from Denerau every day in coolers. They plan to reopen in November after the new generator is installed. Back on Sophie Jamie made us an awesome Italian spread instead.
The wind kicked up in the afternoon as we motored back to Musket Cove and we were glad to pick up a mooring and show R&S the Island Bar and DIY barbecue.
We sailed, swam, paddle boarded, snorkeled, played golf and went tubing. Randy and Susan even ran around Malolo Lailai. Jamie is quite the activities coordinator, and adopted the phrase “Sophie Adventure Cruises” as we packed in as much fun as possible each day. Sophie Adventure Cruises now includes drinks in fresh coconut shells thanks to a new cleaver we found at the grocery store in Nadi.
We made a couple trips to Cloud 9, a cool floating restaurant and bar anchored near Cloudbreak, one of the top 10 surfing breaks in the world.
They said the surf was relatively small when we were there, clearly not for beginners.
It was fun to lounge, watch the surf and eat some of our recently caught fish prepared by the Cloud 9 staff. Delicious!
Randy and Leo even dove off the roof.
Hazel loved wearing Susan’s hat and sunglasses.
Sophie Adventure Cruises never disappoints, and we had another dolphin show on our way back.
Randy joined the fisherman club with his first tuna.
There’s nothing like fresh sashimi. Pickled ginger and wasabi are a staple on Sophie.
We enjoyed some spectacular sunsets on the water too.
Happy 20th anniversary Randy and Susan!
It was an incredible visit. Thanks for joining us.
And finally, congratulations to the Red Sox advancing to the ALCS. What a nail biter at the end of game 1 today! Sophie School has of course been rescheduled around all the games. We have to stream the WEEI radio broadcast, then catch up on post game video highlights because we can’t get the MLB live video stream to work over our Internet dongles. Listening to the radio reminds me of when I was little and we’d listen to blacked out home games on days Fenway wasn’t sold out. I love the nonchalant “wicked awesome” in the Shaws commercials too. Go Sox!