August 31, 2020 ; 6:14 PM
17°61’S, 177°04’E – Monuriki, Fiji
After 2 days in the quarantine anchorage and the rest of a week in the marina, we’re finally out sailing/exploring Fiji.
Don’t get me wrong, a few days at a marina after a passage like that were AWESOME. Port Denarau has brand new facilities with HOT SHOWERS, DO-IT-YOURSELF LAUNDRY, FREE WATER, and STEP-OFF-BOAT-TO-LAND access. If you’re hanging out at home, that might not sound like much. But on the boat it’s luxury.
Upon arrival I immediately laced up my Asics and ran as far away from the sea (and my parents, I mean way, way further than 46 feet) as possible. I’m sad to admit that was only about 2.5 miles after 2.5 weeks of little leg use at all (yes, my muscles are pathetic), but that doesn’t mean it didn’t feel AMAZING. I was happy to walk the 2.5 miles back, and over the next few days, my legs started to feel normal again and my runs got longer.
Port Denarau honestly looks a lot like St. Petersburg, FL- where the Captain and Admiral live. It’s obvious there is a lot of wealth here. Houses are gorgeous and well-maintained flowers bloom everywhere. The things to do are shopping, eating, spa, mini-golf, regular golf, tennis, water parks, etc. It’s a lot more built up than most of the places we visit, and the “things to do” I mentioned are actually closed for now because of the lack of tourists.
Still, there were a couple restaurants open. We attended them over and over again, after weeks of eating on the boat and promise of more to come in as we plan to sail many uninhabited bays. Luckily, Fiji prices are much more comparable to Dallas prices than those of French Polynesia. And 2x per week even the hair and nail spot was open. Can you tell we were pampered with pedicures and haircuts? THE LIFE OF LUXURY.
We met back up with the rest of the bitter enders who are hanging onto the Lost ARC with everything we can (Influencer, Maximillian, Amari), as well as our friends on Serenity First. For my non-sailing friends, the bitter end is both the spot in the Caribbean where the Captain and Admiral honeymooned and the 6 fathoms of line on the boat-end of an anchor chain that connects it to deck (inside our anchor locker).
I GOT MY BURGER, and we ate lots of Indian food. There’s a big Indian influence here in Fiji, because Indians were originally brought here as indentured laborers to work on sugar cane plantations in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Where French Polynesia had Chinese food influence, French Polynesia has Indian. Luckily, we love Indian food.
We had a birthday celebration on Amari, where I lost miserably at hearts and Admiral Anne successfully shot the moon. We had a blast out at dinners out and aboard each other’s boats. We sat with our agent who helped us get into Fiji (Yacht Help- 10/10 do recommend) and he took us through all the places we shouldn’t miss as we sail around the islands. Captain Dave and I ogled at the 3-masted sloop at the end of the dock.
But the real reason we were in the marina for a few extra days was to get some work done. We checked the rigging, had the bit of the main sail we’ve been patching fixed professionally, fixed the grill, brought down our code zero, scrubbed the rust off Gracie Girl with a toothbrush (yes, that was a first mate job- we have got to get some more crew…), fixed the bimini, provisioned, did laundry, bought more fishing supplies, etc. etc. Pretty soon, Captain Dave had a posse of workers yelling “bula, bula” at Gracie Girl each morning to update him on parts and more jobs he could do if he wanted…
But boats aren’t meant to sit in marinas. Our friends on Max are always saying the longer a boat sits in a marina, the more presents she asks for. So as soon as we got our sail back and our final piece for the grill, we set sail for Musket Cove.
Musket Cove yacht club is world famous for its $1 membership fee available to any skipper who sails in from a foreign port. Yet another thing to check off Captain Dave’s bucket list!
It’s a nice spot to hang on the beach, swim off your boat, kayak, etc.
I had 3 highlights.
- BRUNCH: All-you-can-eat Sunday brunch at the yacht club was just under $25/person and TO DIE FOR. I’m talking seafoods prepared like we’d never had them before, a full bar of deliciously prepared veggies, stuffed pork and cracklings, beef with pepper sauce, all the breakfast foods you can think of, a coconut to drink from, etc. etc. Every single thing on my plate was INCREDIBLE, until we got to desert, which was a little eh. Not a problem, I happily had my first “iced coffee” in 9 months for desert. It was blended and perfect (yes, I am aware of how basic I am, feel free to not comment).
Brunch entertainment was football taught to the Kiwi and Aussie at the table, courtesy of Captain Dave. It was seriously hilarious, and featured mimosa glass line men and parfait receivers. Of course, we followed it up with a showing of the Blind Side. “Highlight” reel below…
- ZIPPY: He’s the best fish friend that anyone could have!
Naturally, at anchor with Influencer, Admiral Anne and I had an 8 am swim workout date. I love me a workout to a reef. There’s nothing quite as cool as a long swim over fish and coral, and the underwater life here in Fiji is as different from French Polynesia as the landscape. But why was this swim so special? An adorable, 1.5-inch, lime green with black stripes fish named Zippy 100% thought he was a remora and I was a shark. He swam with me for a half hour! I played with my speed, and when I went just the right pace, he would swim just in front of my goggles to surf my wave. His little body was wiggling SO FAST as he tried to keep up for the adventure. I choked on salt water more times than I could count because I was laughing so hard. When I swam too fast, he would sometimes attach to Admiral Anne, but when we stopped he would always come back to me. Even when we treaded water and chatted for 10 mins before swimming back, he hung out just an inch from my suit.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure he’ll ever find his family again (fingers crossed he has a dad like Marlin), but MAN did he make my day <3.
- BEACH BAR HANGING: Musket Cove has the most adorable little rustic beach bar. The young ladies from Amazing Grace, Amari, and Serenity First took full advantage. We stood at the bar and talked for hours, read on the beach, and met some new people. It was nice to have some bonding time and hang out with…. Not my parents (love you, guys!)
So, overall, Musket Cove was a great, few day stop. We bonded and ate good food (bonus was Amari teaching us to make their coconut curry) and got back into the swing of being at anchor. But after a couple nights it was time to begin our real adventure into the much lesser known areas of Fiji.
Fiji reminds us of the BVI because the islands are so close together. You can go for one last swim in the morning, sail to a new island for a snorkel and lunch, and then be in at your next anchorage before dark. It’s the kind of sailing we remember from chartering when I was young, and it’s awesome.
Our first day of that took us from Musket Cove to Honeymoon Island for a lunch stop. Best snorkeling for things that aren’t big game (sharks, mantas, turtles, etc.) since South Fakarava. The coral is vibrant and so many different colors. We swam all the way around this (very small) island and became one with the fishies. Seriously, Finding Nemo could have been based on this reef. While there were some small spots where coral was dying, we mostly swam in shallows and off a drop off where the world was popping with oranges, greens, and purples in every direction. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the underwater camera. I wanted to get back to total immersion in the underwater world. But I’ve been told we’ll find similar spots along our tour of Fiji, so stay tuned.
Now we’re at anchor in a bay just off the coast of Monuriki, the island where Castaway was filmed. Tomorrow, we explore!
First mate, Amazing Grace
TLDR: WE’RE BACK TO LIVING THE DREAM. This is exactly how we envision the pirate’s life (which by the way, is for us): Wake up, swim, sail to a new island, have lunch and a snorkel, sail to another island, sundowners, dinner in a gorgeous cove, rinse, and repeat. Miserable parts of passages are so far in the rearview mirror they’re just amusing anecdotes 😊.