Berlin Arrives In Fiji

Jun 11, 2016| 0 Comment



Monday, June 6th – 6:14 am – There she is! 13- year old granddaughter Berlin! Walking through the glass doors into the terminal just like a seasoned world traveler. On her own, she had traversed TSA in LAX, located her gate, boarded her plane, and flown to Nadi International Airport where she retrieved her duffle bag and breezed through customs — our confident young lady! We’re so proud of her and of the fact that she wanted to make this trip all by herself to join us here in Fiji.










Done up in bright nautical colors, her berth awaits her,






and ——






speedily, she moves in to make it her own.

We had remained undecided about what to do this first day of arrival. How tired was she going to be after that 11-hour flight? Should we spend a quiet day in the marina? Could we leave in the afternoon to move to a nearby bay positioning ourselves better for the 2-day trip north to Blue Lagoon? Better yet, would it even be possible to leave this morning and sail even further north? She is not tired at all. We learn that our personable young lady had been bumped up to Business Class, and after a movie or two, she had curled up for a comfortably night’s sleep. No problem! She’s eager to set sail.



Before dropping the lines, she wants to explore a bit and sets off down the dock to view the other boats. Avante is not a small boat. At 52’, she is just about as much as 2 people can handle, but compared to the 100-foot plus super yachts down the row from her, she is a midget. Berlin is impressed. How many people do these boats need to run them?

While The Captain (aka: Poppy) attends to things on the boat, The First Mate (aka: Nana) and Berlin browse through the shops in the marina. A bright sarong is purchased for both of them.

0945 – Lines are dropped, and Avante backs out of her slip and into the channel. Kuata Island, where we had spent our last night at anchor before returning to Port Denarau, is where we are headed. This will have us positioned so much further down the watery road to our most northerly destination, Blue Lagoon.

Leaving the marina today, winds are into the high teens and at a sailable angle. Since this is Berlin’s first time on Avante, we decide not to raise the main. The jib will do nicely. Out it comes. Off goes the engine. We’re sailing! At first the tilt of the boat unnerves her. Oh, no, please don’t take after your grandmother! She doesn’t. In no time, she acclimates herself to the boat and its motion.



1430 – Anchor is dropped off Kuata Island below “Baby Face Rock”, so dubbed by The First Mate’s ever-mobile imagination.









Is she interested in exploring a cave just off the beach?  No.  She wants to snorkel, and we soon discover a true passion in her.  She can’t wait to don her gear.  The dinghy is lowered so we can motor over to a coral patch worth exploring.  While The Captain secures the dingy, on goes the snorkel gear and with little hesitation into the blue she goes.




Out to Poppy she swims. She has seen coral and tropical fish in Hawaii and Mexico. They do fascinate, but the most fun for her are the many twists, turns and dives she does underwater. She’s quite the accomplished aqua-gymnast. The First Mate, way back when, was on the Synchronized Swim Team in high school. She can see the talent and ability in this granddaughter of hers. What an asset she would be to any team! And how she wishes she had an underwater camera to capture the acrobatics!



There are many new things Berlin must learn this first time out on Avante. For the owner of any boat, one of the greatest concerns with uninitiated guests is the use of the head (ie: toilet) or maybe one should say the “misuse” of the head. Cruising as we do, a clogged head is a major problem. There is no Roto Rooter to call. A fix usually entails taking the stinking thing apart, and that is just about the last thing one wants to do in the narrow confines of a boat, especially when at sea. Nothing goes down the head that doesn’t come through you, and even toilet paper is to be kept at the minimum. How do we impress the absolute importance of this on a young lady who honestly has other far more important things on her mind? The Captain, with his often weird sense of humor, rallies with the solution.




A warning taped at the point of use,












a separate container for excess,










and on the upraised lid, a little ditty.


We all laugh at The Captain’s humor, but the importance of the matter does hit home. For better or worse, The Captain has imparted a healthy respect of the head. So comically successful was his idea that we decide to keep the can and the notes on hand for all further uninitiated guests onboard.





Tuesday, June 7th – By 8:30, we are underway. It will take us another day and a half to reach Blue Lagoon, but it is an interesting trip. A good part of today will be spent sailing up the west coast of Waya Island whose rugged landscape always catches the eye.







We have a good sailing day. We put out the jib, not feeling a need to raise the mainsail. Much more acclimated to the motion of the boat, Berlin is moving around with ease.









As a general rule, we don’t go out of cockpit when under sail, but sitting on the edge is perfectly acceptable. What better way to feel the wind in one’s face?













We drop anchor in Natuvalo Bay. Our inflatable kayak, Sharkie, is unearthed from the bowels of the sail locker. It is quickly pumped up, dropped in the water and off they go.







Getting back up on Avante without turning turtle is a challenge, and it is readily accomplished by both old and young.









The Captain uses a system of plastic ties to mark off every 50 feet of anchor chain as it is lowered. These ties only last so long and need to be replaced periodically. Crew mate Berlin is a much-appreciated helper.







Wednesday, June 8th – Our final push to Blue Lagoon — With the wind on the nose and not a whole lot of room to maneuver as we wend our way north through a series of reefs, today is a motor day. It’s a typical south Pacific island day — blue sky with puffy clouds leading to occasional cloud cover. The sun can be ferocious out here, but the cloud cover brings relief. Thankfully, there is almost always a spot of shade to be found on the boat under the awnings or in the shadow of the sails. All 3 of us monitor our time in the sun, but sometimes it is just plain wonderful to hang out there enjoying the view.








Tonight the Fiji Rally boats of the Island Cruising Association directed by New Zealanders Lyn and John Martin are holding a Pirate Party at Nanuya Island Resort here in Blue Lagoon. Though not part of the rally this year, we have been invited to join the fun. Those on the rally, having had advanced warning before leaving New Zealand, are out in very clever costumes. After a few drinks and a lot of meeting, greeting and laughter, the resort puts on a presentation of the techniques involved in a Fijian dish called Kakoda, that ubiquitous lime-marinated delicacy made wherever warm climate and fish abound. Each region has its variation. Even The First Mate has hers, though she is more than eager to see how this one is made.




The fish used here is walu which will be tossed with diced onions, tomatoes, a bit of hot pepper, the juice of several limes and coconut milk.






Before any tossing gets done, the milk of the coconut must be procured. For this, The First Mate would grab a can and a can opening. Here, the coconut au natural and a lethal-looking chopping knife are used. We are shown in which direction to hold the coconut so that when hit sharply, it will split neatly into 2 cups. Holding the knife with the blunt side down is important, too. The coconut water is drained into a bowl.







Then the coconut flesh is shredded into the bowl of coconut water. Mixed together, then strained, coconut milk is the result.













The juice of several limes and the coconut milk are mixed in gently with the fish. The dish is then set aside to “cook” for about 20 minutes. The chemical action of the lime juice is what cooks the fish turning it from a raw consistency into a delicate, edible texture.

The Kakoda is delicious. The First Mate has never added coconut milk to her variation of this dish, and she is pleasantly surprised with the smoother, more delicate taste it imparts. She will definitely use coconut milk from now on.


Berlin, less interested in the preparation of Kakoda, has headed off to the beach with two girls from the Rally boats.

At the party, we hear about that there is a Tea House on the other side of the island which serves the “Best Chocolate Cake” in Fiji. The fact that there is a trail over to the other side of the island intrigues, and with a Tea House to welcome our efforts, this we will have to do.




Thursday, June 9th – As the Tea House is only open in the afternoon, we set off after lunch well protected with sun lotion, hats and sunglasses. The hike up from the resort is interesting. Considerable landscaping had been done to the hillside with both edible plants and ornamentals planted in neat rows. Water pipes strategically located show careful planning. As we near the top of the rise, small workers’ houses can be seen. We had been informed that the big house at the top of the hill is not the resort owner’s home as we had assumed. It is the resort manager’s home. What a setting with its sweeping veranda overlooking the gorgeous Blue Lagoon!





From on high, we have a pretty nice view of Avante, too.











The trail meanders across the top of the ridge before narrowing and cutting into dense foliage.







Descending to the beach where the Tea House is located, we pass a small grouping of native huts. The predominate plan is that of a single enclosed room with an attached open-air porch. Pieces of corrugated metal and scrap wood are the predominant building materials. Cooking is done either inside or out depending upon the weather, and most living and gathering is done on the breezy outside porch. Given this climate, that is a perfect arrangement, thinks The First Mate. We wave and say “Bula” to everyone we meet.



We reach the Tea House on the beach. A nondescript shed witha sign on it saying “Lo’s Tea House” beckons us a gaily decorated room. A rough wood table with plastic chairs runs down the center of the room. While we wait for Lo to arrive, we look around. There is a shelf where handmade bead and shell articles are displayed. A sign tells us that all sales go to help fund the local school.

Lo arrives. We order a cup of tea, 2 sodas and a slice of chocolate cake. The tea, made from the leave of a local tree, is quite good. The sodas are warm, but the chocolate cake is delicious. We enjoy our repast and conversation with Lo. Upon leaving, Berlin choses a delicate shell necklace




We walk along the beach for a while dabbling our feet in the surf. Always on the lookout for an interesting shell, our eyes scan the beach. Though this is not a great shell beach, Berlin does manage to find a few.








Retracing our steps, we start the hike back over the top of the island. As we walk through the small enclave of homes, Berlin stops to take a photo of a rustic chicken shed. A green water tank is to the left while various pots and cooking utensils are drying on a nearby table.








Friday, June 10th – Days are going way too fast. It is time for us to head south. Wending our way through the southern reef- strewn channel out of Blue Lagoon, we pass the sand spit off which the 3 of us had snorkeled several times.









Looking in the opposite direction, a local village hugs the shoreline. We had been told by one of the resort workers that this village had been fortunate and suffered little damage from Cyclone Winston while his village on the other side of the island had been devastated. His house and many others had been washed away with the receding storm surge.




Further down the channel, Turtle Island Resort can be seen nestled along the shore. This is one of those exclusive, luxury resorts which does not welcome cruisers. In the many times we have sailed pass this place, we have never seen any activity. Maybe they could use a yachtie or two!






We sail to Naviti Island and anchor in Narewa Bay as close as possible to where we had anchored a week ago avoiding the many coral and rock mounds. Around the corner of the wide and pretty bay is the village of Somosomo. Dinghy launched, we are in the water snorkeling in no time.

Upon returning to Avante, a small boat approaches with a couple and a young child. After a polite exchange of pleasantries, the man asks The Captain if he knows anything about engines and could he take a look at his. His keeps cutting out and losing power. The Captain says that he will give it a try. He does, but a quick look shows him that a lot of strange fixes had been done to this motor. There is not much he can do other than attempt to adjust the carburetor. It seems to have helped. They also need a little more fuel to get home. could we spare some? With candy and stickers given to the child by Berlin, they set off with a farewell wave back around the reef separating us from the larger bay of Somosomo.

Shortly, we observe that they appear to have stopped out there. What to do? The Captain heads out in the dinghy. In the distance, it is hard for Berlin and The First Mate to discern what The Captain is doing to help them. Is the boat being towed? It looks like someone has been dropped off onto the reef. What are they doing? Finally, boat and dinghy disappear around the corner, we surmise, on the way to the village. In about an hour, The Captain returns. Yes, their engine had failed again. He had had to tow them to the village, but towing their much longer and heavier boat with the dinghy had been difficult and ungainly. It just took a long time. For us cruisers who are doubly cautious about just about everything we do and where we go out here, it amazes us that these island people will set off in leaking boats, with failing engines and without oars or paddles when all else fails, but with limited resources, what else can they do?

Our first days together on Avante have been magical, and we hope as much for her as for us.  Eight more days are left, and one of these is a very special day. Read on to see!

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