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Working In Exotic Ports

Cruising = Working on your boat in exotic ports. Or as I like to say paying the price for enjoying work-free cruising to the cruising gods with personal labor and shiny varnish.

The parts that didn’t get stripped to bare wood only have two more coats. The pieces with new varnish still have about 6-8 coats to go. Ain’t nothing, but a thang. And the two rebuilt hatches got their first two coats of varnish as well. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Where is Jilly during all this? Not around any varnish…she sheds. Picking hair out of wet varnish is bad enough, but sanding hair out of dried varnish…….Priceless!

Now it’s time sto sit back and enjoy a few days off to enjoy Christmas. Then it’s back to work.



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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.

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And We Have Arrived

Ni sa yadra (Good Morning) from Fiji!

We arrived in Savusavu at 0630 this morning. We were unable to enter the anchorage until 0800 as we had to wait for the marina to open and provide instructions. It was overcast so we didn’t get the amazing sunny pics we hoped for but we’re sure they will come. Of course it’s even gorgeous here in the rain!

At 0800 we contacted the Copra Shed Marina via the radio. They had us take a mooring and wait for a call from them to pick up the officials. We dropped Sparkle into the water to prepare to pick them up and when the call came around 0930 Dan headed to shore. The first group on the boat was three agents from Health. Unlike the drones who work public jobs in the states, these agents were a lot of fun. We laughed a lot while they were on board and they even let me take pics of them.

Health check completed without issue and Dan was off to take them back to the marina and pick up more officials. Next up, Biosecurity and Customs & Immigration. Three more wonderful Fijian officials boarded us and completed a mountain of paperwork. Again, they all had wonderful personalities and a great sense of humor. All of the officials made this process very easy and painless. It was a nice change from some of the other countries we’ve visited. Thank you to each of you!

All in, the process on board took about an hour and a half. Next we proceeded to phase two. We had to go into town and pay everyone because we didn’t have exact change and they don’t carry change. For any cruisers coming to Fiji, try to have exact change for the officials. It will save you some steps. Either way it was still pretty easy. All fees combined totaled $248.50 Fijian or about $115 USD. Not too bad really. Every place is within walking distance and after four days at sea it’s good to get walking again.

Once the boarding was complete Dan and I headed to town to get some provisions and make the proper payments to the authorities. We also had to work on getting our cruising permit. That required paperwork to be given to the marina who then faxes it to the appropriate authorities to get the permit. Once they receive it back you have to take it back to the Customs & Immigration Office where they will officially sign off on it. As we travel around Fiji we are required to submit movement reports each week saying where we’ve been and where we are going. They can be done via email or radio.

Savusavu is a very busy little place with people milling about everywhere. It was almost sensory overload at first. But, everyone is smiling and it is rare that you pass someone without them giving you a giant smile and saying, “Bula, Bula”! These people could possibly be the friendliest people we’ve met in all our travels. I also have noted that it’s a rather clean place. We saw lots of people working to clean up garbage and you don’t see much of it on the streets.

Once our business was complete we stopped at the Surf & Turf Restaurant for a couple of beers and a light lunch. We’ve been told their food is excellent and it surely did not disappoint. The owners are lovely Indo Fijians and we enjoyed talking with them while we were there. They even offered to allow us to use their dinghy dock whenever we come into town. That’s nice because its at the north end of town saving us a longer walk to get beer and groceries.

Off now to the Copra Shed Marina to check on our cruising permit. Prity, the lovely young gal in the office put a rush on it and she had it waiting for us when we arrived because it’s Friday and we want to take off for other anchorages on Monday morning with our friends, Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn. Permit in hand we head to Customs where we are again greeted by smiling and very helpful agents. It takes just a few moments to get our clearance and we are headed back to the marina. Of course we’re here so we might as well have a beer.

As we are sitting enjoying our cold beverages we see our dear friend, Ernie of SV Patience. His boat is docked right out in front of the restaurant. We met Ernie in México and have seen him all along our travels. The last place we saw him was in New Zealand. It really is nice how cruisers seem to meet up in ports all over the world. We invited Ernie to come sit and have a beer with us while we caught up on each other’s adventures. When cruisers first get together the main topic of conversation is what has gone wrong since you last saw each other. We talked of our gooseneck issue and he told us of engine troubles and sail problems. I guess we all like to hear the other person’s woes as it makes ours seem okay.

From here it was time to start getting ready for an evening aboard SV SuAn. Lutz & Gabi made a point to come back here to meet us so we can do some cruising together and to celebrate our arrival they invited us to sundowners and dinner. And what a wonderful evening it was for all of us! They cooked us a fabulous dinner of steak, salad, grilled veggies and homemade bread. We shared rum drinks and had an evening full of laughs and great conversation. It sure is good to see our dear friends again. Looking forward to our weeks of traveling together.

So far, we love Fiji and can’t wait to see more. Keep checking back to see what adventures lie ahead for the crew of Dazzler.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan