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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,


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Loving Life At Musket Cove

So you’ve surely noticed that we haven’t been writing as much as we usually do and that’s because we’ve settle in here a bit in the Mamanuca Islands. You see Dan had to make a trip back to the states to walk his youngest daughter down the aisle so we needed to be in a place that was close to an airport and one that was a good spot for me to stay on the boat while he was away.

Where did we decide to stay? Musket Cove. We chose it for the above reasons but also because there are other islands nearby that we can cruise to for a few days at a time so we didn’t have to stay here the entire three months. We took several trips to the other islands and enjoyed some great times in the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. We can say too that choosing Musket Cove as a sort of base turned out to be a great decision. It has great, safe moorings, wonderful restaurants & bars, clear waters, amazing people and it’s pretty well protected.

When we arrived here at Musket Cove we were greeted by some friends of Dan’s from Mexico. Bob & Joyce of SV Chara have been in the South Pacific for a couple of years so it was nice for them to catch up again and they were a wealth of information with regards to the area. We met at the island bar that first evening and they gave us all the ins and outs of the area while we tipped a few brews and ate a wonderful, very spicy pizza.

Musket Cove Resort & Marina is located on Malolo Lailai Island, which is a two and a half hour motor trip from Port Denarau on the western side of Viti Levu. There are three resorts on the island but the one the yachties prefer is Musket Cove. There’s a marina and resort at Musket Cove and they cater to the cruising community. The island is 800 acres of beautiful palm trees, vibrant flowers and lush, rolling hills. It’s just big enough to do a little hiking and exploring. In fact the day after our arrival we took an early morning hike around the island with Bob & Joyce. There’s a dirt road that takes you out of the resort, up the hill and across to the other side of the island. When you get to the top the views are simply spectacular! And, the hike isn’t too strenuous so even a person like me who has asthma can do it in the heat.

A little recent history about the island would probably be appropriate here…In the early 1960s, the island was bought by three men, Richard “Dick” Smith, Reginald Raffe and Sir Ian MacFarlane. The three men each decided to develop their own part of the island. They built an airstrip in the middle and in 1969 Reginald Raffe opened Plantation Island Resort with just six rooms. Dick Smith built Musket Cove and opened it in October 1975 with twelve bures. At the time it was called Dick’s Place. Sir Ian MacFarlane eventually sold his share of the island to Smith and Raffe and it is now divided in half by the airstrip. In the early 2000s Raffe’s children opened an adults only resort on his end of the island. It’s Lomani Island Resort.

Dick Smith has now passed on but he is buried up on the hill. On the marker it says, “I took the road less traveled and it made all the difference.”

Each resort has it’s own feel. Plantation Resort is more geared toward children with playgrounds, kid’s pools etc. They allow yachties to visit, eat at their restaurant and drink at their bar but they don’t make it overly easy. You have to go in to the main office and buy a gift card of sorts because they don’t take cash at the restaurant or bar. Their food is okay and a little cheaper than that at Musket Cove. If you love kids you’d probably enjoy the atmosphere. For us it’s a bit loud and chaotic with throngs of kids running around while you’re trying to eat or have a beer.

We haven’t been to Lomani Resort but understand it to be a quite posh and rather costly couples resort. We also understand that they are not too keen on having non-guests visit their resort so we can only go by what we’ve heard and seen on the internet. It certainly looks like a beautiful place and at $800 to $1300 FJD per night plus food it definitely isn’t for the budget minded traveler. 

We’re really enjoying Musket Cove. They have three restaurants here. There’s the Island Bar…our favorite spot and the place where the yachties like to gather for sundowners and share an evening meal. They have grills there where you can bring your own meat to grill or you can purchase meat them and grill it yourself. They also have one of the best pizzas ever! It’s called the Volcano pizza and it has bongo peppers (really hot Fijian peppers), jalpenos, onions, ham and bacon. We have this about once a week. 

Chillin’ at the Island Bar

They have a small café at the resort reception area that serves sandwiches, pizza, roasted chicken and smaller breakfasts and then there’s also Dick’s Place. It is the resort restaurant that surrounds the pool right along the beach. They have a wonderful seafood buffet every Saturday night that includes all you can eat lobster and prime rib. Well, who doesn’t love that?

Yes, our time here has been delightful and getting to know the locals is what’s made it so. The local Fijians who work here are just wonderful, welcoming and amazing people. We have learned since we’ve been here that resort work is good work but also hard on Fijian families. You see, most of these workers live in Nadi or somewhere on the “mainland”. They work out here for as long as 25 days at a time and then take the ferry home for five days. While here the resorts provide them with lodging but those with children are often forced to be away from their families for long periods of time. While they are on the island working their families, parents, grandparents etc…take care of their children. It’s definitely not an ideal situation for them at all but the money is usually better than what they could earn on the mainland so they do it. There’s no doubt the Fijian people are a hardworking lot.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our favorite bartenders, Va & Josie who work at the Island Bar. They take such excellent care of us and always greet us with a beautiful smile, hearty “Bula”and a frosty cold Fiji Gold. Having been in and out of here so much in the past three months we feel like they are family. In fact, when we come back after a few days or week cruising the nearby islands, it’s almost like coming home.

Yes, we’ve truly enjoyed our time here at Musket Cove and while we would have liked to have spent more time cruising the Mamanuca & Yasawa Islands, this year it just wasn’t in the cards. Oh well, there’s always next season.

If you’re coming to Fiji whether by boat or plane and you’re looking for a great place to get away yet still be just a ferry ride from the mainland then we’d highly recommend Musket Cove. It has everything you need for a great Fijian getaway.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. As you can see from the feature photo Grape Ape is really loving it here too. He enjoys the freedom of running around the island, climbing trees and swimming in the clear aqua waters.