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Two Gals In Paradise

The time finally came for Dan to head back to the states for his daughter’s wedding. This wasn’t the first time I’ve ever been left to run Dazzler alone but it was the longest time. He was going to be gone for 16 days! Running the water maker, managing power and all those good things are easy for me. I wasn’t worried at all about that. My concerns were the “out of the ordinary” things that can crop up without notice. You know, like bad weather, a problem with the head, the water maker springing a leak or stuff like that. Dan told me he had faith that I could handle whatever came up and I just needed to relax.

View from the Musket Cove Marina looking out toward the anchorage.

He offered to put her in the marina here at Musket Cove but honestly I prefer the mooring. It’s a lot less crowded and if I want to lay out on the Royal Swan floating off the back of Dazzler I can. Also, you don’t have all the tourists walking up and down the dock looking into the back of your boat. Of course, with this comes the fact that I have to dinghy back and forth to shore. If the anchorage is choppy or it’s raining I just have to deal with it. There’s also the fact that I rarely ever run the dinghy. In fact, prior to his leaving, the last time I actually ran the dinghy was two years ago when he left me alone on the boat in Mexico for the time.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not rocket science and I know that but it is something I take very seriously. Sparkle is our car and you have to be responsible when running her. And, I still am not comfortable with pulling up to the dock or maneuvering in tight places because I never do it. Honestly, I hate looking like an idiot or a newbie. Before Dan left he did try to get me to take control a few times near the dock but I refused. After all, if I’m going to look like a fool I’d prefer he not be there. And, there was the one time it was kind of rough as we were approaching Dazzler and I hit the gas instead of pulling back on the throttle. We went straight into Dazzler bounced off the side. I’m sure you can imagine how that went over…yes, sort of like a led filled balloon. But, he left and it was sink or swim time. Literally!

A couple days after Dan departed my dear friend, Donna, arrived in from New Zealand. Yes, believe it or not Dan left two women alone on Dazzler for a couple of weeks. Oh boy! He’s certainly a brave one.

The day Donna’s flight arrived I took the afternoon Malolo Cat ferry over to Port Denarau then caught a bus to the airport to meet her. Since her flight didn’t arrive until the late afternoon we had to stay at a hotel because the ferry would stop running before we could get back to the port.

Not wanting Donna to arrive and me not be there I made certain to leave very early and actually arrived at the airport about two hours before her flight. No biggie. I stopped in the bar there and had a couple of beers while watching all the tourists come and go. Here’s something interesting…A beer in the airport was just $6 FJD. That’s about $3 USD! It was actually cheaper than anyplace we have had a beer in this country. Who would have believed that?

Donna has arrived….let the fun begin!

Donna’s flight finally arrived and it was great to see her. Of course she brought me some goodies from the land of plenty too. Vodka (much cheaper in NZ than here), hot wing sauce, onion soup mix to make dip and some girlie things like hair masks and facial masks. Yes, it’s the little things that matter. The one thing I had asked for that didn’t make it through customs was canned chicken. You can’t get it here. She brought eight cans but they confiscated it because it was canned in Asia. This is actually pretty funny when you think of the fact that they have more Chinese crap in this country than you can shake a stick at but canned chicken is not allowed. Yes, I was pretty bummed but having Donna here made up for it.

We stayed at a little hotel on the beach called Traveler’s Beach Resort. It was really kind of a dive. It turns out that the photos online were a bit out dated. Don’t get me wrong, the room and sheets were clean but it’s definitely tired and has obviously seen better days. And it turns out it is more of a backpacker hotel. We were looking for a cheap hotel because we were only going to sleep there one night. Well, we got one!

That evening we sat at the picnic tables on the beach and had a few cocktails and a pizza. The pizza was definitely not tasty but the company was excellent. I’ve missed Donna since we’ve been in Fiji and it sure is fun to have a woman around for a change.

The hotel may have been a bust but we did enjoy a nice evening on the beach there.

The following day we took a taxi over to Port Denarau. After walking around the port for a bit we stopped back at Rhum-ba and had some lunch before the Malolo Cat arrived to take us over to Musket Cove. As usual the friendly staff at Rhum-ba took great care of us. They even let us leave Donna’s bags there while we walked around.

Donna loved the “hand” chair in Jacks of Fiji!

Before we knew it, it was time to get on the ferry. Now the wind had been blowing pretty good for the past two days so I was prepared for a pretty bumpy ride and that’s exactly what we got. I was a bit worried about Donna because I know she has said she can get seasick but she just kept her eyes on the horizon and made it with out issue.

As we rounded the northeast point of the island I started scanning the bay for Dazzler. After all, she was my sole responsibility and while I was gone overnight I had a nightmare that I had left on the gas and she exploded. She’s certainly a beauty to behold. I do love her so.

I also took notice of the sea state. Due to two days of 20-25 knot winds and a pretty serious storm the night before it was pretty chunked up in the anchorage. “Great, just great” I’m thinking. I’ve got to get Donna, a non-yachtie, and her luggage in the dink, to the boat and then onto the boat in some pretty rough conditions. Now for Dan this would have been nothing but remember, I’m new to this dinghy driving thing. Of course I didn’t say a word to Donna about being a bit nervous. I just acted like it was no big deal.  

As we turned down the channel into the marina I took note that Sparkle was still at the dinghy dock. At this point I’m batting 1000 … both boats are where I left them and still afloat. My confidence level starts to grow. We arrive at the ferry dock and as usual the staff from the hotel is standing there singing their “Bula” song while a few guys are playing the guitar. I never get tired of watching them perform this little ceremony.

It rained quite a bit while Dan was gone so I spent a lot of time bailing Sparkle. Fortunately we will be getting a new dink in New Zealand. She’s almost 14 and it’s time to let her retire.

We exit the Malolo Cat and start walking toward the dock. When we arrive I see a good deal of water in the dinghy. The storm the night before was pretty intense so now I’ve got a couple of inches of of water in the floor. We have tiny leak into our subfloor from the main floor so I know if there’s that much water in the main floor then the subfloor is probably pretty full. This will make it hard to get up on plane and in the choppy water of the anchorage that could mean we end up getting pretty wet but there’s nothing I can do about it now. When I get back to the boat I’ll have to do some bailing. This will be a problem that haunts me the entire time Dan is gone because I can’t pull the dink up on the side of the boat to drain it like he can. I worried about it the entire time Dan was away.

I get in and situate Donna’s bags over the wheel locker so they don’t get wet. “It’s Showtime” I think to myself as I put the key in and pull the start cord. Success! She fires right up. Now it’s time to get Donna in and get to the boat. The best I can say about her entry into the dink is that she didn’t fall in the water. It wasn’t pretty or graceful but she made it. She’ll get used to it.

We head out of the marina. I can see from the tense look and forced smile that Donna is a bit uneasy about heading out into the choppy anchorage. I’m not super excited about it myself but it’s a part of boat life. I do my best to keep Sparkle from bashing into the chop so we don’t get completely soaked and do a pretty good job of it. Then we pull up behind Dazzler and just as I grabbed the line on the side we got smacked by a wave and both of us get soaked. Of course I’m laughing because it isn’t the first time that’s ever happened but I think Donna was probably wondering exactly what she had gotten herself into.

I tell her to stay put while I get us tied up and get her luggage on board. As I’m exiting the dink I show her exactly what I’m doing, where to grab and how to get on board. Then I get her luggage and tell her one more time what to do. Well, apparently her nerves got the better of her. I turned my back for a second and when I turned back around I saw her flipping herself over the gunnel and onto the deck face first. She just sort of rolled up and over and was laying there wedged between the gunnel and the cabin top. I could not contain my laughter. It sort of reminded me of a fish that had been slung up over the side. In all my years of boating I have never seen a person, even a drunk one, roll onto a boat quite like this. We both laughed and laughed while she tried to pull herself to her feet.

It didn’t take her long to get her sea legs.

Next it was time to get her settled in. She’s been on Dazzler before but this is the first time she’s going to be staying on her so as we do with everyone, I gave her a tour and explained how things worked. You know, like how to flush the head. I also gave the speech on water and power conservation. These are things most land dwellers don’t really think about because on land you turn on a switch or a faucet and there’s an endless supply of electricity and water. That’s not the case here. We have to make water and we are constantly managing power.

Once all the formalities were out of the way it was time to relax and enjoy the rest of her trip. We had a wonderful time together. One day we hiked up the hill and over to the other side of the island. The views from the top are spectacular. Of course Donna thought I was trying to kill her because there was a bit of uphill walking but I told her if I could do it with asthma then she had to be able to do it.

Sometimes girls just have to be girls!

One day it was raining and yucky out so we stayed on board and had a spa day doing facials and hair. That was a fun girlie day that I really enjoyed. Most days we went to shore in the mornings where Donna loved sitting by the resort pool soaking up the sun. I’m not much into swimming in public pools with a bunch of kids but I hung out there a few times and sat at the bar, under the shade, tipping a few beers. I get enough sun just living on a boat. The really great thing about having Donna as a guest is that she doesn’t mind doing some things on her own. We spent a lot of time together but we also enjoyed moments apart.

The ten days she was here seemed to fly by. Before we knew it I was dropping her off on shore and she was taking the ferry back to the mainland. I was sad to see her go but also knew that meant just a few days later Dan would be returning and I did miss him a lot.

For the next few days I worked on blog stuff, editing photos and putting together videos. One day I spent the majority of the day chilling in my hammock and floating on the Royal Swan behind Dazzler. I did enjoy a little alone time as well. All in all it was a great two weeks and when Dan returned he found the boat was still floating and all systems still worked. I guess I did a good job after all.

Until next time,

Jilly

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Port Denarau & Nadi Adventure

After spending some time getting to know Malolo Lailai and the Musket Cove Resort we decided it was time to head into Port Denarau. After all, our beer supply was exhausted and it was time to get some edible provisions as well. We took the short cruise over to Port Denarau. They have the Port Denarau Marina there and also have mooring balls but unless you have a boatload of money or know someone you won’t get either. Fortunately there is also a place to anchor just before you go through the pass into the marina. That’s where we dropped the hook.

The anchorage here can get a bit rough when the wind comes from the north northwest but it’s good holding in mud so we haven’t had an issue with the boat sliding. Although, we did have a boat slide right past us on one occasion. We had taken a nap and he slid close to a half a mile. Fortunately we noticed and Dan got on the radio to issue a pan pan (Notice of Hazard to Navigation). Then we called the marina and they were able to find the owner. He came racing out in his dink and was able to get his boat moved and re-anchored before it landed on the reef behind him. He brought over a bottle of wine as a thank you.

The following day we were headed to the marina and this same guy was in front of us in his dink. Suddenly our dink stopped running. Dan couldn’t restart it so they gave us a tow into the marina where we were able to get the tools to get it started again. It always pays to take care of each other out here. You never know when you will need a little help and positive karma points are a good thing. That evening we took the same bottle of wine back to Colin only we wrote on it the reason & date he gave it to us and the reason & date we returned it. He invited on board and we drank it. We made a wonderful new friend that night.

View from the anchorage back toward Viti Levu

The water in this area is really nasty looking. It’s that sort of puke green that happens when muddy rivers run into the ocean. I certainly wouldn’t swim in it because you can’t see more than a few inches down! But, we aren’t here for swimming. We are here to provision. And, this anchorage does provide some absolutely beautiful sunset view. We enjoy sitting in the cockpit watching all the boats come and go from the port so it’s a good enough place to hang out once in a while.

Port Denarau is most definitely a tourist spot. There are restaurants and shops all along the wharf here. There’s even a Hard Rock Café on the waterfront. On the docks are dozens of charter boats, sightseeing boats, ferries and a couple of cruise ships owned by Captain Cook Cruises. Yes, this place has tourist trap written all over it! With all of the people coming and going we decide to lock up the dink here. We don’t do it everywhere but sometimes you feel like it’s just the right thing to do so Dan puts the lock cable on and we head up to the wharf to see what this place is all about.

Anyway, back to the day….With our anchor down we immediately hopped in Sparkle and headed to shore. As we traveled through the pass we could see the mega yachts at the dock in the marina. According to several sources MV Senses which is at the end dock is owned by Larry Page of Google. It’s a pretty sweet looking ride. We also see MV Suri. It’s owned by Tom Cruise. Note that it’s named after his daughter. We’ve seen this one before in Papeete, Tahiti and in my honest opinion it’s one ugly boat! Of course, that’s just my opinion.

Our first stop is the marina office to gather a bit of intel. You know, things like where to take our trash, do laundry, how to get into Nadi (prounounced “Non dee”), stuff like that. The young lady behind the desk is incredibly friendly and gives us all of the information we need so we set out on our adventure into Nadi.

We decide to take a bus rather than a taxi. It’s always a bit more adventurous and, of course, cheaper. The buses here don’t accept cash so you have to get a card in the little store next to the bus stop. You can put whatever amount of money you want on it. What they didn’t tell us is the card is only good for 30 days. That ends up costing us a few dollars down the road but you know what they say, “live and learn”. Bus fare is really cheap. It literally costs $.50 USD per person to get into Nadi. When the next big yellow bus stopped in the port we hopped on. 

I have to stop and mention something here just for my mother. She’s always worried about us on the ocean traveling days or weeks at sea. I’m sure she blames all of her current gray hair on the two of us. The truth is, however, I think what she should be more worried about are the buses and taxis we ride in. These guys drive like maniacs on the narrow, twisty turning roads. And it’s not just here. It’s in all of these third world countries. So, mom, stop worrying about our passages and pray for safe adventures once we make it ashore.

Crazy bus driver and all we made it into the town of Nadi just fifteen minutes away. Much like many of the larger towns in Fiji this is full of chaos, dirty streets and more Chinese owned stores full of crap than you can imagine. There are blocks upon blocks of these stores that sell tons and tons of plastic junk. If the world politicians really wanted to do something about the environment they would boycott all of the plastic junk coming from China! Sorry but sometimes I just have to say what’s on my mind.

Anyway, as we exited the bus at the bus station we saw a nice Fijian lady and as we walked toward the market we chatted with her. He name is Ana. At first she seemed like just another nice Fijian but soon we found she had an angle. She wanted us to stop by their shop where they have carvings made in a nearby Fijian village. Of course we’re always on the lookout for quality merchandise made by the locals so while this was not our plan, we followed Ana down the crowded streets to a small store a few blocks from the bus station.

That’s Vinny on the left. The man in the middle carved our names on the statue. DIdn’t get his name though.

As we enter the store she introduces us to Vinny. Vinny is a nice young man who greets us with a warm “Bula” and then asks us to sit on the mat in this alcove. He’s going to do a kava ceremony with us. It’s about this point we both are realizing they are trying to suck us in and get us to buy a bunch of carvings. We just played along with them knowing that we are not the kind of tourists to be easily coaxed into buying something we don’t want.

After the ceremony we are invited to view their merchandise. They definitely had some beautiful and unique things in there but we only have so much room on Dazzler. We did purchase a statue…sort of like a tiki. It’s of a man and woman. The symbols on the statue mean “one heart, one love, one life”.  Now for you men out there thinking I encourage Dan to buy this I want to be perfectly clear. I was in the other part of the store when he chose this statue and had them carve our names on it. Yes, he can be a romantic one every now and then.

My man is a very romantic guy when he wants to be.

Of course Vinny tries to persuade us to buy a lot more but we found what we wanted and that was all we were willing to buy. A couple of weeks later was when we really learned about Fijian carvings and while are fairly certain this one is genuine, we do know one thing…we paid a lot more for it than we would have paid the carvers in Lau for something we know beyond a doubt is genuine. We even found a similar statue in Musket Cove for about $80 FJD less and that one we know was carved by the men who sit at the woodcarver’s hut. Oh well, we have it now and it looks nice on the boat.

With our new statue in hand we head out to the open market to see about picking up some fresh vegetables. The open-air market is like so many we’ve seen in our travels. There are lots of people and just about every person is selling the same things. One thing that is different here is the part of the market where they sell kava. They have an entire section solely dedicated to the sale of kava. You can find ground kava and kava root and there are actually designated areas for drinking kava. In these areas you see mostly older men all sitting around drinking the muddy water while looking completely and totally looped. It’s like a Fijian flop house. It’s really interesting.

Picking up some kava to take to the villages in the islands.

Before heading back to the port we stopped in a grocery store and picked up a few groceries. It’s always interesting shopping in third world grocery stores. Sometimes you luck out and find really great stuff and other times it’s a bust. Fortunately for us we found most of what we wanted here today.

Time to hail a taxi to head back to town. Taxis are everywhere in this country. It seems like it’s one of the main professions for men. We found ours near the main bus station. You always need to ask what they will charge because some use meters and some charge by the trip. We prefer the metered ones but sometimes you have to take what you can get. We needed to stop at a liquor store on the way back and this guy knew the closest and best place to go. He turned out to be a great guy who took care of us. Dan tipped him accordingly.

A note for those who may be traveling to this area…There is one thing to know about Taxis here. Port Denarau has a strict taxi policy. You can’t call a taxi from town to pick you up in Port Denarau. If you want to get a taxi there to take you to town or the airport you have to take one of the Port Denarau taxis. They are not cheap! A ride to the airport in one is $45 FJD. That same ride back from the airport in one of the city taxis is $25 FJD. The city taxis can bring people in but cannot take fares out. This is the reason we typically take a bus into town and then a taxi back. The trip back from the center of Nadi is $15 FJD.

Once back in the port it was time to get a bite to eat. We chose a place called Rhumba. It’s a bit away from the real touristy part of the port and it has a wonderful view. It’s located right over the water at the marina. They serve the coldest beer in the area. It’s ice cold and served in a frosty mug! AHHHH! Having a beer there takes me back to the days when my Nanny & Pop had a keg tapped into their kitchen. They loved their beer and they loved it ice cold so you were always sure to find a frosty mug in their freezer. Yes, I was instantly in love with Rhumba!

But we don’t just love this place for their beer. They have a wonderful staff that is absolutely top notch and their food is outstanding. My two favorite meals here are their Cuban Pork Sandwich with bongo mayonnaise and their Kokoda (pronounced “Con Kodo”). This is the Fijian version of ceviche and they serve it up right in a beautiful pineapple. Dan also likes their club sandwich and fish & chips. So far we haven’t found anything here we don’t like. 

A few of the wonderful staff at Rhum-ba!

After a wonderful lunch it was time to head back to Dazzler for an afternoon of relaxing in the cockpit while we watched the boats comes and go from the port. It was another successful adventure.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

We’ve been to Port Denarau and into Nadi several times now and there’s more to it than we wrote in this article. For some pointers on the area, click here.