Big Birthday in Fiji

Jun 19, 2016| 0 Comment

Saturday, June 11th – What a full day we have planned ahead of us!  First to Manta Ray Pass where we hope this time to see and swim with those very large and  graceful creatures and then onto Paradise Cove where we have Birthday dinner reservations at 6:00.

By 11:00, we are anchored and lowering the dinghy.  Looking out to the pass, we see two long boats with tourists clad in snorkel gear.  It looks like we are in time.   Motoring out quickly, we circle near them.  An attendant is standing in the bow of one boat obviously scanning the water.  Suddenly, he points and yells.  A manta ray has been spotted.  The tourists quickly dive in the water.  We are too far away to be part of 

that action, but we get ourselves in the water anyway.  Where there is one manta ray, there must be more.  And there are!  We make a number of circuits through the pass, motoring out to the front of it and drifting back through the pass.  Several times we spot these impressive creatures gracefully gliding through the water.  One time, we are super lucky to have one actually swim towards us for a brief moment before the creature registered our presence.  A flip of his wing, and he is off in another direction.

What perfect timing!  We stay there with the manta rays until there are no more sightings.   Returning to Avante, a quick lunch is served, and then we weigh anchor to head to Paradise Cove.  Anchored once more, we spend the rest of the day snorkeling and relaxing on the boat.

1730 – We are dressed and heading ashore.  With time to spare before our dinner reservation, we sit by the side of the pool enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail.  Of course, the obligatory pictures are taken to commemorate this special 70th birthday of The Captain’s.  Note:  his birthday is actually the 12th, but due to scheduling restraints, it is being celebrated a day early.

                The First Mate and the Birthday Boy





Berlin and Poppy  


Our drinks finished, we are led to a dining table  – front and center, overlooking the pool.  It is a delightful spot.  A guitar ensemble with several vocalists is playing in the background.  This is perfect — just what The First Mate wanted for her Captain.  Thank you Janet and Tom Schmitt for so highly recommending Paradise Cove to us.  To our great surprise, a bottle of wine is waiting which Janet and Tom had ordered for us.  We toast them with our first taste wishing that they were here to enjoy the evening with us.  So very far away, they gave us a touch of home and friends.  We will be seeing them this summer in Telluride, and a special hug they will get at that time!





The Captain, for whom lobster rates as his most favorite food, fully dissects his oceanic creature enjoying every delectable morsel.  He is not distressed to see that neither The First Mate nor The Crew can fully finish theirs.  Lobster salad for lunch tomorrow!











Our 5-course meal is almost finished.  Dessert has arrived.  As we look at our treats wondering if we can take in another mouthful, the guitar ensemble and singers anti-up the volume and begin to stroll among the tables.  A detour is made, and suddenly there they are encircling The Captain.  “Happy Birthday!” is sung.  The Captain beams.  What a surprise!




The end to a perfectly perfect 70th Birthday Dinner is the cake.  What a thoughtful addition the hotel management had made to our evening!  Too full for another mouthful, the cake is packaged for us to enjoy tomorrow.  Little do they know that tomorrow is his real birthday and how thrilled The First Mate is to have a cake for the day.  Baking in Avante’s minuscule and erratic oven is not one of her culinary feats.


This year’s birthday is a time for reflection.  Not only has a milestone be attained, but 10 years ago, when we bought Avante, we had devised a rough 10-year sailing plan.  By the end of those 10 years, The Captain would be 70 and The First Mate not far behind.  70 seemed a long way away then, though we did think that by that advanced age, 2 sensible old timers ought to be turning in their sails — at least from blue water sailing.  Well, as our sailing plan has evolved and changed over the years so has our plan to call an end to the meandering.  So very thankful to be sound in body and mind and still eager to explore and adventure, there are no thoughts to cease cruising now or in the near future.  On we sail!

Sunday June 12th – To Octopus Resort we are going today. We are not pleased, however, with the force or direction of the wind, for it may make anchoring in the bay in front of the resort untenable.  The only way to find out is to go there and see.  Off we go. Arriving, we motor in and anchor, but the boat is rocking and rolling way too much for comfort.  We had had a rolling anchorage when we were here a week ago scoping out the resort, but this time is far worse.  What to do?  There is some interesting snorkeling on a nearby reef which has a steep wall on one side. The First Mate declines, but The Captain and Berlin take the dinghy over to check it out.  Back on Avante and after a quick lunch, we decide to move around the coast to the other side of the island where the winds will definitely be blocked.  It proves to be a quiet and pretty anchorage with small town running along the shoreline.

Monday, June 13th – Assisting in the raising and lowering of the anchor is an interesting task for our Crew.  Counting the colored ties as they go down tells how much chain has been lowered to the bottom.

After days of viewing rugged Waya Island from the distance, today we are going to visit the village of Yalobi on Waya.  This little town holds a special meaning for us.  It was here, 5 years ago, that we met a sophisticated Fijian gentleman named Tui.  What impressed us about him, beside his gentle manners and British-accented English, was his request for books.  He is the only adult in all our travels across these Pacific islands who has ever asked us for books.  Any kind of reading material would do, but adventure novels are a favorite.  At that time we canvased our ship’s stores giving him any reading material we could spare and vowed that if we ever returned, we would come loaded with books and magazines.  We are returning with crossed fingers that he is still there to accept the books and magazines we have brought.




Yalobi is a pretty little village sheltering beneath Waya’s thorny peaks.








Anchored, shortly after noon, we launch the dinghy to head ashore.  A woman greets us as we start up the path to the village.  We ask her if she knows Tui.  Is he still here?  Yes!  Can she tell us where to go?  Better yet, she grabs her toddler and leads us down several landscaped paths to Tui’s home.  Yalobi is one of the cleanest and best maintained Fijian island villages we have seen.  The sense of pride in ownership is evident in every direction we look.

As we approach Tui’s home, the call goes out for him.  Shortly, he appears from around the corner.  He does not remember us which is not surprising given the many cruisers who have come and gone in his life over the last 5 years.  As gracious as we remember him to be, he invites us to come and sit on his porch.  We tell him about the books we have for himand he is delighted.  We explain to him that we would like to do the traditional welcome ceremony, Sevusevu, with the village chief.  Though he says that it is unnecessary since we had done one on our first visit, we explain that this is a part of Fijian culture we would like Berlin to experience.  He nods agreement and smiles.  Tui is delighted that we have our granddaughter with us.  His granddaughter, Pauline, is also 13.  Right now, she is at school.  He then proposes that we come back at 4:30 when Pauline would be home and then we could also do Sevusevu.  Great idea!  We go back to the boat for a swim and snorkel.



Returning at 4:30, Pauline is there.  All children are taught English in school, and the 2 girls easily understand each other.  A shy little boy proves to be another grandchild named Tom.







Tui then asks Pauline to take us to the chief’s house for Sevusevu.  Last time, the ceremony had been performed by the chief’s daughter since the chief was away from the village.  This time the old chief is there.  So is the daughter whom we recognize.  She is sitting on the porch floor weaving a mat just like she was when we first met her.  The chief comes out.  We all sit in a circle.  The Captain presents the kava and requests permission to visit the village and the surrounding waters.  The chief chants his response, claps a few times and we are accepted into the village.





After the ceremony, The First Mate opens her computer to show the photos of their last visit.  Everyone gathers round, and the chief’s daughter is delighted to see photos of herself.







We follow Pauline back to Tui’s where we give him the books and magazines.  It’s not hard to see how much he wants to look through them right now!  Noticing several very pretty bead and shell necklaces on a table, we learn that Tui and his daughter make and sell these items.  The females aboard Avante are intrigued.  These are the prettiest and most skillfully made necklaces we have seen, and we tell a proud Tui so.  We buy 2 necklaces each, and then Tui tells each of us to choose one more.  The choice is hard.  We ponder and try on — 2 women with a fashion decision to make.  A patient Captain looks on and waits.




When Pauline learns that Berlin is collecting shells, she offers to walk with her along the beach.  While the adults slowly walk down to the beach, the 2 girls walk ahead.








Upon their return, The First Mate asks to take a picture of the 2 girls and offers to send a copy to Tui and Pauline when we return to the States.  They are delighted.  All are pleased with this image of two very attractive young ladies.












Tuesday, June 14th – Our cruising days are winding down, for our flight to the States is in 4 days.  One last anchorage before we go remains.  Pulling anchor early in the morning, we have a 6 hour trip ahead of us to reach Musket Cove.  It’s a long day.  Berlin keeps herself occupied for a good part of the time cleaning the many shells she has collected.  Any shell with dead or dying sea critters is going to smell really bad after spending something like 30 hours smothered in a suitcase.  

As we are pulling in, we see a boat we recognize from the Rally group in Blue Lagoon.  It’s s/v Quick Start with one of the girls Berlin had met at the Pirate Party.  Millie is her name, and how Berlin wishes they were staying.  We watch them leave, but then it looks like they are changing their mind.  Are they returning?  Yes!  We don’t know why, but Berlin is happy.  Nana and Poppy are okay, but after a few days, someone near your own age is welcomed.

They grab a mooring ball, and soon the radio is crackling.  They had to return due to a problem with their anchor windlass.  We know all about those problems!  Do they need help?  No, but would Berlin like to come over for the afternoon.  You bet!  Bring your bathing suit.  No problem!  The dinghy is quickly lowered, and The Captain and Berlin set out.  The First Mate, otherwise involved in her activities, looks up about the time she expected them to reach Quick Startbut they are nowhere near their destination.  Instead, they are drifting rapidly downwind from Avante!  Something has gone wrong with the outboard.  Berlin has an oar in hand while The Captain is fiddling with the engine.




Unable to get the engine started, The Captain ends up rowing up current and up wind to Quick Start where Berlin eagerly climbs aboard.








A while later, the radio sounds again.  Could Berlin stay for dinner and a movie?  Pizza and brownies.  How neat is that?  No way could we say no to that invitation.  Berlin has a great time with Millie and her brother, Matt.  This is a family from Sydney who are taking a year off to cruise the south Pacific.  A year, they say, but if they all like it, maybe they will stay out longer.


Wednesday, June 15th – With their windlass fixed, Quick Start leaves the next morning, but we all think we may meet up at the final Rally party being held this Saturday night at the Rhumba Bar in Port Denarau.  With our friends gone, the three of us head ashore to look around the resort and enjoy a nice lunch on land.  Musket Cove has had a face lift since we were here 5 years ago.  There is a very nice open-air room for lunch where we sit enjoying the view and the breeze.  




Later, while Berlin one last time scans the beach for shells and enjoys the feel of the tropical Pacific sun on her face,







The Captain shelters in the cool shade of a thatched roof.

One last snorkel trip in the afternoon takes us way out to a reef we had never explored.  Holding on to the Dinghy painter we drift over the reef.  The First Mate is quite happy to hold on and be pulled along, but not Berlin.  She’s off on her own spiraling and diving in the deep.  Both of us are amazed at her strength and swimming ability.  Though under a watchful eye, we never have to worry about her not being able to get back to the dinghy.  With flippers together, she moves through the water like a mermaid.

When the reef holds no further fascination, we motor around and out to a sand bar that mysteriously appears at low tide.  This is no brown, yucky strip of mud, but a long, gloriously white narrow stretch of sand.  So quick and steep is the drop off that boats can anchor within mere feet of it.  On the dinghy, we motor right up to the sand bank and stop.  What a neat place!  Out in the middle of nowhere, this pristine sandbar surfaces at low tide. With the surf crashing over the reef in the distance, it is another one of those surreal experiences we have witnessed in our sailing adventures.

Thursday, June 16th – We return to the marina to prepare Avante for our 3-month departure and to pack up ourselves to leave.  It’s a busy time for all of us. While The Captain and The First Mate are involved with their usual departure chores, Crewmate Berlin is assigned the task of cleaning  Sharkie for storage.  Done with that job, she sets about exploring the marinas and manages to get invited on one of the really big yachts for a mini-tour, something her grandparents haven’t finagled.  She explores the shops in Port Denarau deciding what and who she wants to surprise with a gift.  She makes friends with the gal running the SUP class and goes on a bio-tour of the mangroves with her.  She’s a busy gal.

Saturday, June 18th – Our flight is not until 11:30pm.  We have all day and even into the evening which is time enough for us to attend the Rally dinner party at the Rhumba Bar.  Millie and her family are there which, of course, makes the evening for Berlin.  We all have a fun time, and too soon it is time to catch our taxi to the airport.

Berlin’s first adventure on Avante and in a new South Pacific island country was a success.  We so enjoyed having her with us and seeing the world anew through her eyes.  She enjoyed it and wants to come back.  Maybe she has caught her grandparents’ restless wanderlust bug.  We certainly hope so.

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