Fiji: Musket Cove to Denarau Marina, Viti Levu

Friday night we headed ashore to the Sand Bar for sundowners before returning for dinner in the cockpit. Overnight the wind picked up, it poured with rain and the temperature dropped quite a bit.

Early on Saturday morning the conditions remained pretty horrible – raining, cloudy and a lot of chop in the anchorage. So we decided to abort the diving again. There was absolutely no point paying top dollar for a lesser experience. So decision made we returned to bed and enjoyed a lay in.

Later on we headed ashore (it was still raining) and enjoyed a BBQ dinner with Craig (SV Crocus) and Steve and Mike (SV Kiwi Time). We had come ashore just a little bit earlier to use the showers so I had cheated by purchasing half a rotisserie chicken and some salads from the cafe to take along LOL. Put me to shame when Mike starting sharing home-made smoked fish pate for appetizers and banana fritters with honey for desert. Here’s us with Mike.

We had a very social time of it and then we left the Kiwis to head off (carrying their huge NZ flag) to watch the return match between the Maori All Blacks and the Fijians. We decided not to go with them as we were worried about Morphie out in the anchorage in the worsening conditions and wouldn’t have been able to relax.

Sunday morning and it remained nasty although the cloud cover wasn’t so intense so we hoped it would clear later. We pottered around doing boat jobs and later in the afternoon we headed over to the pool and enjoyed some bobbing time although felt pretty cold afterwards so was disappointed by the lack of hot water in the shower block. Oh well, never mind, at least we were clean. We then headed back to Morphie for a quiet night in.

Monday morning and it was brighter. So we did the same again enjoying our time lazing around the pool, working on the tans, walking the beach and admiring the hotel accommodation as well as bobbing in the water and keeping Ziggy, the pool bartender, busy.

After showering we headed to the Sand Bar and caught up with the crew of SV Exocet Strike so enjoyed chatting with them before heading back (and yes Brexit featured as they are also from the UK). Oh yes and here is Va our favourite bartender.

Tuesday morning we headed in a bit earlier as, thankfully, it was a lovely calm sunny day. So we went to the pool and managed to snaffle a cabana to ourselves…..this is the life. We even had lunch in the hotel restaurant which was very tasty. Was a beautiful day.

After more lukewarm showers, we returned to the Sand Bar for sundowners with the other cruisers and chatted with some participants on the Pacific Rally (who left New Zealand for Tonga on the same day as us). We were pleased to hear the news that SV Squander who had suffered major gear and rigging failure on their second attempt to reach Tonga (the first aborted due to damage in 50 knot squalls) had, thankfully, now been salvaged and was in an Auckland boatyard. They had been airlifted from their liferaft off the NZ coast – it is hard to imagine how distressing that would have been to make the decision to abandon ship.

Wednesday morning we had a lazy start and then went ashore to the resort for a quick lunch in the resort cafe. Then we waited for a small launch and headed out, like proper tourists, to a floating bar called Cloud 9 which sits just inside the reef near the world famous surfing spot. Well, of course, the weather decided to be fickle again (despite the forecast for a fine day) and the wind picked up so the journey out there was pretty bumpy.

And this is what it is supposed to look like in flat calm conditions.

We arrived, managed to get onto the floating bar, and settled down to people watch. As the sea was running with a strong current affecting the visibility we decided not to snorkel either although some brave souls did jump off the top deck.

The music was a bit trancy and irritated us after a while but the horrendously expensive bottle of wine helped! It reminded us of the Willie T in the BVIs without the rude bits LOL. The funniest sight was the young women struggling with their fake eyelashes in the blustery conditions. Seriously do you need to wear them combined with full make up when you are only wearing cossies and cut off shorts?!? Was a fun way to spend an afternoon and we chatted to an Australian family who were in Fiji (in our resort) for a wedding the following day.

On our return to Musket Cove we paid our mooring ball fees, showered up and headed to the Sand Bar only to come across the wedding party who were having quite a raucous time of it downing cocktails and tequila shots. Hope they recovered OK for the wedding the following day LOL. We also enjoyed Craig’s company and hope our paths will cross again, perhaps in Vanuatu.

Thursday morning we got ourselves ready to head back towards the big island Vitu Levu the destination this time was Denarau Marina. We had, amazingly, managed to get a reservation for one week on a mooring ball within the marina. This apparently is pretty unheard of so felt quite smug! Of course the wind was stronger than expected – the forecasts really can’t be relied upon in this area – and it was pretty cloudy so spotting reefs wasn’t as straightforward. On the journey we came across the superyacht Senses doing some sea trials at 28 knots even with the helicopter on board.

We arrived around 1pm and were told to go around in circles as the boat on the mooring ball had not yet moved off (despite the deadline being 12 noon). OK so we stooged around and had a sandwich while we waited. The anchorage was actually pretty nice – wide open with only 15 feet of water in sand.

At around 2pm we were told to come into the marina and to come alongside a floating pontoon while they tried to resolve the problem. Well, the people on the mooring ball were not answering their phone and were off the boat. So we waited…and waited….and waited. This was frustrating as I had wanted to make use of the facilities in the afternoon to do the laundry etc but as we couldn’t leave the boat this wasn’t possible. We also knew that we could not stay on this floating pontoon overnight as it was where the tour boats docked. Finally the people on the boat came back and then there was an argument as they said the office had double booked the ball as they weren’t leaving until Friday. So then there is the question of what to do with us? Well some of these docks have permanent owners/residents and one of them had just headed out for a trip so we were moved over there for the night.

We were grateful to be finally secured so headed in for (lovely hot) showers and then walked the waterfront and also visited the shopping area. Port Denarau is a major tourist hub with many people being transported from the airport to here and then onto their tourist resort by ferry. So it is pretty lively.

We also watched some entertainment while we were having a look around.

We had happy hour drinks in Hard Rock Cafe (BYGOF) followed by a fantastic curry in the Indian restaurant. Was fab food but phew was a bit spicy, glad we had only ordered the medium varieties, as our lips were numb by the time we had finished LOL.

Moving on we were hailed from a table at Lulus, another hostelry on the waterfront. To find Paul (Bay of Islands Marina Manager), Nigel and Amanda (organisers of the Pacific Rally) who were in town to do a talk to cruisers on Friday about cruising to New Zealand. So we joined them for a beer before saying farewell and headed back towards Morphie. We had a final pontoonie in the Rhum Bar which overlooks the docks and then straight to bed. Had been a long and tiring day.

This morning, Friday, and I was up early and headed to the laundry room to snaffle the machines before anyone else turned up. I got lucky and managed to get both of the washers. I have just finished the laundry and we heard that we can’t stay on the dock but that the mooring ball will be vacated for us by noon today. So just after 12 we slipped from the dock and moved across and picked up our allocated mooring ball, our home for the next six nights.

This afternoon we will probably attend the cruisers chat and then take it from there. We hope to do a bit of exploring of this area before heading off towards Vanuatu. Port Denarau is closest to the shipping channel to leave Fiji and also has a customs presence so it makes sense to re-provision and leave from here. We are now watching for a weather window so this is potentially our last week in Fiji.

Bye for now


Fiji: Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, to Musket Cove, Malolo Lailai Island

Sunday morning we had a relatively slow start but soon got into the swing of things. It was time to give Morphie a proper spruce up. We had already washed her down and got all the salt off, so this time it was a thorough clean followed by a wax and polish. It took us most of the day but she sure looked lovely and we were getting lots of complimentary comments from passing traffic. In the evening we headed into the bar for sundowners and enjoyed chatting to some fellow cruisers.

Monday morning we decided to get a taxi into Lautoka (the second largest city in Fiji) armed with an optimistic shopping list. On the trip into town we were offered a touring half day out by the Indian driver but thought the price tag was a little steep so we declined his offer.

As we drove into town we went very close to the port and saw lots of commercial activity – from the rum distillery; the piles of sugar cane harvested and loaded; to the huge pile of pine chips that get exported to Japan to be made into paper. The town itself was interesting with the main area having four places of worship along the main road: a Mosque; a Sikh temple; a Methodist Church and a Hindu temple.

The Indian population is large here as originally they were imported to work in the sugar trade and is why Lautoka is known as Sugar City. The shops were bunched together along the roads, seemingly by industry. So we headed to a recommended auto store and managed to purchase a flexible hose for our grease gun – that will sort out that pesky squeak! One unexpected surprise was the amount of traffic, often in dual carriageways, and how the majority of the shops were operating behind prison bar-like grills. Makes you wonder about theft and security?!?

We then walked to the large supermarket and picked up most of the things from our list. I then left Richard sitting outside with our goods and crossed the road to the municipal fruit and vegetable market which was huge. I really liked that they had price tags on many of the goods on offer so I knew I was paying the correct local price and not an inflated ‘gringo’ one which had been my thought in Savusavu a couple of times.

We then picked up another taxi which appear to be the most normal way of getting around as there are certainly plenty of them parked up.

We got our new Fijian driver (most of them appear of Indian descent) to take us to a local bottle store and wait – then, fully provisioned up, we headed back to Morphie. The cab took us right to the dock and there was just the difficulty of getting the bags back onboard as it was a very low tide and the bow was almost five feet below the dock. We managed somehow, phew!

In the late afternoon we headed into the bar for sundowners and witnessed a boat dragging in the anchorage and the panic of everyone from that boat running for their dinghy and motoring fast out of the marina towards the last known position. We never heard the outcome, fingers crossed it was recovered undamaged. We then returned to Morphie and had a quiet evening back on board.

Tuesday morning and we were doing more boat jobs – this time Richard finished the cleaning and waxing of the transom while I cleaned down below. A top up of the water tank and we were all sorted to depart from Vuda Point Marina. We had a lazy afternoon and then went to the bar / restaurant and had a nice dinner as the sun went down.

Wednesday morning we were up early and I paid the (very reasonable) marina bill while Richard did engine checks. We then disconnected the power and water and stowed everything below. We then waited for the marina guys to come help us, as we were tied underwater to two mooring balls at the stern and needed to be released as well as for the balls to be moved out of our way as we reversed out of the tight spot. Come 11 am we were on our way working our way through the channel cut into the reef at low tide – and being met with a surprisingly strong current – but we got out safely.

Again it was a low wind day so we motored out along our course eyeballing for unexpected hazards. It was absolutely flat calm and we enjoyed spotting some beautiful tourist islands along the way.

After about five miles the wind picked up (from the wrong direction of course) and the sea became a bit lumpy, which meant that it wasn’t so easy to see the shallow areas, and slowed us down considerably. But we managed the turn through the multitude of reefs into Musket Cove and picked up the last mooring ball – that was a relief because it is almost 18m deep here and the anchoring spot would have been either a long way from land or just in front of a reef, neither option really appealed to be honest.

We quickly wiped all the salt off of Morphie and headed into the marina not spotting where the dinghies were supposed to be tied up. A friendly local helped us out – the entrance to the back of the pontoon which is used as the dinghy dock had been masked by a large monohull. We tied up and headed into the office, they gave us forms to complete and we then wandered the complex. We walked along the beach, visited the pool, the surprisingly well-stocked store, the coffee shop and the dive shop. We then went to the sand bar and enjoyed a few cold ones as the sun went down before returning to Morphie for a quiet night on board.

Thursday morning and we headed into the resort mid morning. We completed our check in with the marina and organised to become Life Members of the Yacht Club. This gives us access to free showers, garbage disposal, laundry facilities and the facilities of the relatively up-market resort. Great deal for only F$20 a night for the mooring ball (around £7). We also booked ourselves in to do a two-tank dive on Friday morning.

We then went to the coffee shop to meet John who runs the Go West Rally and is also in the anchorage. We purchased the Rocket Guides to Vanuatu and New Caledonia from him, which he loaded and authenticated straight onto my computer. So we can now start planning the next stage of our trip. We also need to check out the entry requirements for Vanuatu as, apparently, it takes a while to get the authorisations back.

Afterwards we took up residence by the pool and lounged around before we went bobbing – the first time for a long while.

We thoroughly enjoyed the pool (although it was a tad chilly when we got in the first time) and chatted to some Australians who are here for a wedding. Later on we picked up some fresh provisions from the store and headed to the sand bar which is where the cruisers hang out watching the sun go down. We enjoyed catching up with some people we had previously met on our travels and then returned to Morphie calling it a day quite early.

During the night for some reason I barely slept at all so decided not to go diving as I felt too weary. Richard went ashore very early this morning (Friday) to let the dive shop know and rebooked us for Saturday instead. As a resort they are presumably used to this and they were very laid back about it all. So that was a relief. Really looking forward to getting back in the water again.

The wind has dropped significantly today so we are just floating around our mooring ball and we are having a lazy time of it. Will probably go and try the beach later, depending on the tide, as it dries out quite a long way. Enjoying this period of R&R right now!

Bye for now


Fiji: Exploring the north coast of Viti Levu

Sunday morning we were up really early and ashore by 9am and were met by Joe on the foreshore of Navuniivi Village. We walked up to his house and met a few visitors from other local villages who come together for Church on the first Sunday of the month. We also met their Reverend. This visit we took some simple toys for the kids and some hair slides for the girls along with some material for Mrs Joe (everyone called her that or Auntie which is clearly a term of respect). Then we headed out to wander around the village….these people are very poor but are very welcoming and happy.

We then headed to look at the original church which was damaged by Cyclone Winston. Although the Government generously supported villagers in rebuilding homes and donating food supplies for three months, all communal facilities have had to be managed by the villagers themselves. So it has taken time. But it is nearly finished and they have even decided to have proper pews rather than woven mats on the floor (as some of them are getting old and finding this a struggle). The church use drums to call villagers to service so here is Richard having a go the following day (and yes, he’s still wearing his sula).

We then went to the Community Centre (which also serves as the villagers’ cyclone shelter and the church right now) and met all the kids who were attending Sunday school. Mrs Joe had certainly worked fast giving out the hair slides as all of the girls were proudly wearing one and thanking Auntie Jan for the gift. Such wonderful children, beautifully behaved and no begging or requests for things. Truly humbling how they were so excited about very small inexpensive things.

We then returned to Joe’s house before heading to church. We were given a Methodist bible (written in English) and walked in to lots of Bulas (hello) and sat on the matted floor behind the choir who were all dressed in white. The kids were seated ahead of us and kept a close eye without getting into trouble for not paying attention LOL. One lady swiftly joined us and gave us the rundown on what was happening. When it was time for the hymns we stood up along with everyone else and listened to the beautiful harmonies. She then passed us a Fijian hymn book and showed us the words….we recognised the tune….and bravely attempted to sing along. It was surprisingly simple to follow and we were getting silent claps from the kids and approving looks from the congregation. What fun!

After the service we returned to Joes and left the other villagers to their communal feast. We had a simple but tasty lunch and we played with Joe’s nephew Ben who is five years old and showed him how to blow bubbles (part of the small gifts we had delivered). He was so excited and concentrated really hard on how to do it properly. Everyone walking past laughed and smiled enjoying Ben’s pleasure.

After lunch we said farewell and took Joe and Ben with us to visit Morphie. OMG the little boy’s face just lit up but he suddenly went really quiet and shy although that didn’t stop him trying out the helm seat. All children in the village have to board at their nearest school during the week so we were glad to be here at a weekend and got to meet them all. At the end of the visit we gave Joe some fish for his dinner (as we had returned with a local ‘pudding’ and ‘custard pie’ from Mrs Joe) and a citronella candle explaining that it deters the mosquitoes as he was fascinated by the concept. When Richard returned them to the beach he was met by all the other small boys and Ben was centre of attention regaling them with stories of the boat. We then had a quiet night onboard, feeling pretty tired from the heat of the day….not to mention our aching legs from sitting on the floor LOL.

Monday morning we returned to visit the lady from church as requested. She is Fijian (and is Joe’s sister) but worked as a missionary (with her Pastor husband) in Papua New Guinea for years and has since settled in Tasmania where her children were schooled. She built this house in her home village for her mum (who has since passed)and keeps it as her holiday home to return to her roots each year. Fascinating stories and the conversation flowed. Again it was Auntie all the way. She told us that everyone loved our singing (really?!?) and were very impressed by our pronunciation, apparently we were the talk of the village at the feast. We took tea with her (and gave her a small gift of some tea, noodles and biscuits) and had a lovely visit. We then headed over to Joe’s and chatted for a while before heading up the hill for a walk to see the view down into the bay.

Along the way we spotted ladies doing some mat weaving (which are sold elsewhere) and also spotted a baby wild pig tethered. Apparently wild pigs are a nuisance as they rut up the crops in their small plantations so the dogs are reared to kill them – and this baby must have been captured afterwards, probably to be fattened up for a special occasion. Joe had explained that the villages didn’t really eat reared pork, but they do eat wild pig.

Returning to Joes we were told that we were invited to lunch over the road with Auntie so we headed over there. To refuse was really not an option as the food had already been cooked and Mrs Joe joined us too. Afterwards we went to say goodbye to Joe, who was very sad. We promised to send photos to him and left….with Auntie and Mrs Joe in tow. We had to drag the dinghy into the water (as we had misjudged how far the tide would go out that day) and took them out to Morphie. We thoroughly enjoyed their visit and there were big hugs all round when they left. That evening we got dink up onto the arch and plotted our course to VoliVoli Beach Resort for the morning.

Tuesday morning we picked up our anchor and blasted our horn (as requested) as we left around 10 am. People popped out from lots of village doors and we got a royal send off. Felt quiet emotional, these warm and welcoming people had really touched my heart. The sun was up so we could see the reefs along the route. We arrived at the resort at just gone 1pm (it was only 15 miles away) and tried to anchor in the 30 knot wind that had suddenly blown up out of nowhere. We weren’t happy and couldn’t really get set properly in the 20m depths in very windy conditions so decided to retrace our steps to Nananu-I-Thake where the anchorage was more sheltered. We got a great set in mud in this remote uninhabited bay and had a quiet afternoon and evening watching the sun going down. I was disappointed though not to get that promised dip in the pool!

Wednesday morning we picked up anchor and headed out towards Vatia Point. Again eyeball navigation through the reefs was necessary. We had our anchor down by 2.30 pm. There was whistling onshore from people trying to get our attention so we dropped dink and went ashore.

Although this is an Eco Lodge there wasn’t any services that day as there were no guests and people mainly use the facilities for picnics on the beach.. Richard found out that there was a store nearby (30 mins allegedly) so headed out with his minders, Joe, Joe and Jim (who all worked at the resort for their Auntie). I took a seat in the shade and enjoyed watching the kids play in the sea but only after the eldest had scoured the water for jelly fish and given them the all clear.

Eventually Richard returned, laden with beer supplies having persuaded a NZ guy to give them all a lift back as the walk there was actually almost an hour and he was concerned to get back before dark. So we all sat on the beach chatting and watching the sun going down having a cold long neck each (that’s the name for the larger size bottled Fiji Gold beer). It was a lovely day and we had met some really nice people.

Thursday morning we picked up anchor around 9am and headed out again through the reefs. Destination was Saweni Bay almost 30 miles away which was another eyeball navigation passage and with no wind, we were motoring again. There was a strange contraption along our route which, apparently, is dredging for material to make magnets. Would have thought that a hazard to shipping like this would at least have had AIS? We enjoyed the sights along the way of the barren hills fronted by mangrove with the occasional village and resort dotted along the foreshore.

We arrived at Lautoka and sailed through the commercial port, checking out the dry dock as we went through, and then into Saweni Bay.

We anchored in mud and got a good set. I went to have a wash and found no water coming out of the taps. What the heck? Checked the tank and it was down to 45% from 90% the day before. So we checked everything and realised that the pump was continuously working and where had all the water gone as the bilges were dry?!? So we swapped the main water pump out (in another pretty inaccessible area under the back of the stern cabin berth) and the taps worked again, but we were now down to 10%. OMG what now? Richard checked all the system and found a loose hose to the new hot water tank so fixed that. Everything was then working as it should but virtually a whole tank had been pumped out – but why hadn’t we heard the bilge pump?!? All we can think of was that as we were motor sailing all day with Richard on the helm and me on the deck spotting the reefs and markers, we were so engrossed we didn’t hear it. Certainly that’s the only explanation at this stage but it was clear we needed to go into a marina while we trouble shoot it (and fill up of course). There are three nearby but two were full because of the World ARC boats so we rang Vuda Point marina to get a berth. Thankfully they could fit us in so that was that. No hot showers for us just strip washes – of course we could have had a salt-water shower but didn’t fancy that as there are huge purple jellyfish around (and a few turtles too as that is their favourite food). Another reason to love turtles LOL.

So we had a quiet night in this peaceful anchorage and admit to having a few long necks before bed.

Friday morning we had breakfast, picked up our anchor, and motored around to Vuda Marina where we’ll stay for a little while. If you have been checking the tracker you’ll see that we have crossed the top of Viti Levu and it all looks so simple – see the image below.

Now compare this with the image from Ovitalmap showing our route through the reefs. Pretty scary or what?!?

At Vuda we went straight through the narrow channel (having been told it was clear) and was taken to our berth. Bows to a tiny dock with two long stern lines tied to lazy lines. Kind of Mediterranean mooring with a Fiji twist! The space was relatively small but we got in easily enough between two unoccupied boats so we were all set. I checked us in and Richard got the water hose sorted. He started to fill the now almost empty tank (but no further leakage thankfully) and we then connected to the power. Afterwards I headed to the laundry area laden down while Richard continued to check out the plumbing….finding a leaky connection to the new pump and changed an o-ring which completely solved the problem. Yay!

We then washed Morphie down and climbed off her (which isn’t easy at any stage of the tide) and having had a busy day we went out for sundowners and had an enjoyable dinner in the marina’s Boatshed bar and restaurant. There was live music too which was nice.

This morning, Saturday, we were up early and headed to the resort next door for the weekly market hoping for fresh fruit and vegetables. But it was really an ‘artisan’ market more aligned to a visiting cruise ship than for cruisers. Never mind…. We then returned to Morphie and I’m blogging while Richard is cleaning the transom. This afternoon we are heading to the bar to watch the rugby – the Fijians are playing the Maori All Blacks (here in Fiji but sadly too far away for us to get to see the game live). So that should be a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

Bye for now


Fiji: Vanua Levu, Makogai Island and Navuniivi Village, Viti Levu

Sunday night the rain eased so we headed ashore to listen to the band. We ended up joining a big group of people and had a really nice social evening.

Monday morning and it was time to do last minute jobs….so we filled the water tank, I headed out for some last minute provisions, and Richard did his engine checks etc. We then headed into town for lunch with Karen and Paul (SV Gigi). At 4pm we said sad farewells to Karen and Paul and waved them and Savusavu goodbye. It is unlikely we’ll see them again any time soon but hope to cross paths with them at some point, perhaps in Australia. Fingers crossed as we had really enjoyed being back in their company again.

So on a lovely blue sunny afternoon we slipped away from the dock and motored towards Passage Point where we anchored for the night behind the reef. It wasn’t so easy to spot the reef at high tide so we were thankful for our previous waypoint to keep us safe. About 30 minutes later JP and Julie (SV Eleuthera) turned up and we spoke on the radio and made arrangements for the following morning as we were buddy boating to the next anchorage. We turned in really early enjoying being back on anchor again.

Tuesday morning – at 4am – we picked up anchor and headed out in the dark following our tracks through the reef and into the Koro Sea. Here’s Eleuthera underway in the early morning light.

The sea was pretty flat but sadly there was little wind so we motored on and around the Namena Barrier Reef before we turned towards Makogai Island which is part of Fiji’s Lomaiviti Island Group.

And Richard caught a fish!!! He was very happy so I quickly filleted it and shared the good news with Eleuthera on the radio.

Nearing the island we worked our way in through the pass between the reefs and then into the anchorage to find it was 70 feet deep. We dropped our hook but it really wouldn’t set so we picked up and moved again. Then we dropped in 60 feet but this time got wrapped on a coral bombie so we tried for the third time and, thankfully, got a good set. Had been a long day as we weren’t settled until 2.30 pm having covered 51 miles.

We didn’t fancy going ashore at this stage but were invited to Eleuthera for sundowners (and to enjoy the ceviche that JP had made out of some of our catch earlier that day) so we headed over there at 5pm. Was a nice evening in the cockpit and was the first time we had been on their boat – she is huge in comparison to Morphie. I was particularly jealous of the washing machine on board!

Wednesday morning and we picked up JP and Julie from their boat to go ashore. Was a bit dodgy going to the land through all the coral bombies as the foreshore was full of them. Finally we made it and quickly donned our sulas (over our shorts).

We were met by Paul who, with due reverence, accepted our gift of kava (but no formal sevusevu ceremony) and then took us for a guided tour of Dalice village.

It really wasn’t a proper village more like a few houses for the workers who worked for the Government doing conservation work at the Marine Research Station. They are rearing leatherback turtles for release into the wild and also breeding giant clams to be repositioned back onto the reefs. This was fascinating in itself seeing the process, especially when we realised that the giant clams take up to 40 years to get to a decent size.

The island itself has an interesting history as this was a leprosy quarantine colony and housed the Makogai Leprosy Hospital from 1906 to 1969. The patients were segregated according to their gender and, if they were found together, would face time in one of the many jails. There are ruins around testament to this fascinating history especially when you see the graves of the Sisters and Fathers that undertook this difficult work (and who often then succumbed to the disease themselves). But it didn’t appear that life was perhaps all grim as there was even ruins of the original cinema building. And in fact they called this the Island of Hope at the time.

After the hospital was evacuated (with the patients moved to the mainland) the army came in and bulldozed the majority of the buildings making the island deliberately uninhabitable for 30 years before the research station was allowed to move in. In 2016 Cyclone Winston (a category 5 storm) hit the island and it was devastated with the few workers running for their lives across the top of the hill to avoid the storm surge which came above the tops of the houses. We found this a really interesting visit.

Afterwards the workers helped Richard and JP lift our dinghy over to deeper water to avoid the bombies. Assistance was very gratefully received.

In the evening JP and Julie came to us for dinner – only a simple pasta meal – but was good fun.

Thursday morning we were joined in the anchorage by SV Dazzler and we said hi to them as they headed ashore. We decided to stay aboard and have a lazy day which was really nice. Later on we headed over to Eleuthera for dinner (which was fantastic including cakes for desert, thanks Julie) and said more sad farewells as we were now heading off in separate directions. Hopefully one day we’ll see each other again.

Friday morning at 6am we picked up anchor (heaving a sigh of relief that it hadn’t got wrapped around a bombie during the time we had been there) and followed our track back out through the reef. As we motored out of the anchorage the sun came up and we found that the reef was just visible with waves breaking over it but the depth of the water was not possible to gauge in the poor early morning light.

The wind was almost non-existent to start with so we motor-sailed towards Viti Levu (the main island of Fiji). We took the opportunity of making water as we went along. About 11 am we started to cross into the narrow passages and chicanes through the reefs.

Some of these reefs are marked and we had waypoints from Curly combined with some from Karen and Paul but we kept a good lookout as we knew that the charting here isn’t complete. We topped our plotter up by using Google Earth images on Ovitalmap as another check. One uncharted reef was on Google Earth so we knew about it. But a second wasn’t on either device – luckily we got quite good at spotting the different hues of the water!

Finally at 3pm we had anchor down opposite Navuniivi Village, Viti Levu Bay.

Safely on anchor we were able to pick up a Digicel signal for the first time since Savusavu so caught up with all the news. Sadly we found out that a close and dear friend had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away whilst on a sailing trip – RIP Chris, you will be sorely missed by everyone who knew you. Glad you got to meet Morpheus and spend some time in the BVIs with us before we went cruising. We have many happy memories of our times together. In the light of this news, feeling a bit stunned, we decided not to go ashore and raised a glass in his honour instead.

Saturday morning we got ourselves dressed up and headed across to the village. We were met by a couple of guys on shore who dealt with our dinghy for us. The shoreline here dries out completely so they were very kind in allowing us to not get wet, then took dink out and tied him to a re-bar which had been embedded in the black volcanic sand. This meant that we would not be stranded high and dry later at low tide. That was a lovely welcome!

We then were escorted up to meet the chief Joe and his wife. We were also joined by his nephew. We passed over the kava and they made up the bowl and so we had our first formal ceremony sitting on the floor of the outside verandah to their property. The kava (its real name is yaqona) is the traditional ceremonial drink made from pounded roots of a local pepper plant mixed with water in the tanoa bowl and is consumed from a communal coconut shell. There are also chants and claps that you have to do and, thankfully, we managed to get through our first sevusevu without a hitch!

We also gave over some small foodstuffs to the Chief’s wife who reciprocated with three large papaya picked from their tree and some oranges. The Chief decided Richard was the King so he ended up drinking four huge bowls while I managed to get away with just a single small ladylike bowl LOL.

We chatted for a while and sent Paul and Karen’s best wishes to them (as they had told us about their times here in the village) and, lo and behold, they got out some photos of them all together. They are clearly looking forward to seeing them again at some point this season.

The nephew showed Richard how they mash up the kava roots into powder to make the grog and revealed that they often don’t have the roots as they are so expensive, using other parts of the plant instead which they purchase in a cheaper powdered form. They were delighted with our bunch as it was ‘good quality’. Phew! Bit worried about that.

Whilst we were talking to the chief some kids came along to see us appearing quite fascinated by us (and it was clear one of them got a ticking off for not looking me in the eye when I asked them their name!). We were certainly glad we were dressed appropriately for the occasion although I have to say a skirt over the top of a pair of shorts is not the most comfortable attire (but needed for the dinghy trip / landing).

During the conversation we were invited to go to the village on Sunday which, in Fiji, is a great honour. So tomorrow we are going in to meet the Chief, go to church as his guest, and then join his family for lunch. We will also be given a tour of the village as everyone will be home on Sunday to welcome us. Really looking forward to the experience, these people are just so friendly.

So we came back to Morphie and quickly changed and rinsed our clothes out ready for another wear tomorrow as this is our Fijian finest attire and the only things we have suitable for the events planned.

Bye for now