Fijian Finale

Oct 03, 2016| 0 Comment



Saturday, September 24th – Given all the strange-looking boat parts we have in our luggage, we breeze through customs in Fiji without a problem.  Everything is marked for a boat in transit which is exactly what Avante is.  We plan to spend about 10 days in Fiji making sure Avante is ready for a passage, and then we are taking off for New Caledonia.

After sitting in the marina for 3 months, the smartest thing to do before we head offshore is to take Avante on a short test run to make sure all systems are fully operational.  For instance, the water maker is one of those systems that we cannot check in the marina.  Who would want to run it in the gunky water of a marina?  We decide to go to Musket Cove, and if the weather looks good, we will head out Navula Pass and south down the coast to Likuri Island and its resort with the catchy name of Robinson Crusoe Island.  We have wanted to make a stop here, but it really is not on the beaten path.  Much of the cruising area in western Fiji is in a wind shadow created by the mountains of Fiji effectively blocking the wind.  Navula Pass is right at the edge of this wind shadow, and it is here that  the wind can and does accelerate.  The First Mate well remembers the first time we went through Navula Pass on our way out of Fiji back to New Zealand.  We were sailing along quite nicely and peacefully.  She even remarked that this was a wonderful start to a passage, but as we neared the pass, the winds began to pick up.  The wind shadow phenomena was explained to her.  Okay, she understands, but does “pick up at bit” have to mean 30 to 35 knots?  Not in her vocabulary!   Abruptly lulled out of our peaceful sail, we scrambled to adjust sails and raced through Navula Pass not at all the way The First Mate had envisioned.

As a result, many boats do not fool around with Navula Passage until they leave Fiji to head to other countries.  It would be absolutely perfect if one were allowed to check out of Fiji in Lautoka and be allowed to stop at Robinson Crusoe Island on one’s way out of the country, but that is not legal.  After checking out, boats are directed to leave Fiji without stopping anywhere within its waters.

Thursday, September 29th – 0930 –  Provisioned and fueled, we are heading out the channel to Musket Cove.  Winds are light, so we motor.  By 1220, we are anchored in the lagoon in front of the resort.  The weather and winds are looking good for us to sail to Robinson Crusoe Island tomorrow.  That’s the plan.  We’ll know for sure when we wake up in the morning and check the forecast again.

Friday, September 30th – 0900 – Even if the weather had been marginal, The First Mate thinks we would have gone anyway.  It is a place we have not been.  We have the time — so why not?  We start the engine, pull the anchor, motor from the lagoon into the channel and head out.  It’s low tide, exposing that strange white sand bar.  Boats are already out there enjoying the surreal feel of the place.  We remember the fun time we had exploring that sandbar with Berlin in June.

By 1005, winds are up to 15 knots, and now that we are clear of the reefs, we raise sails and turn off the engine.  Soon, we are abeam Navula Point and tacking south along the coast.  The First Mate is a bit leery.  What is this pass going to throw at her now?

Today, it is on good behavior.  Winds stay at a steady 15 knots.  As we approach the pass, we turn on the engine for backup just in case.  The last thing one wants is a problem with the sails or the wind to go fluky when the boat is between two reefs.  1130, we are through Navula Pass and tacking south.  By 1425, sails are dropped, engine is on, and this time we motor through the opening in the reef into the anchorage at Robinson Crusoe Island.  What a great sail!  Winds were perfect and gave us a wonderful opportunity to test the boat.  She passed with flying colors!

Robinson Crusoe Island comes highly recommended.  Not only are they cruiser-friendly, they also put on a feast and after-dinner show that is supposed to be one of the best.  Out here on the water looking toward the resort, The First Mate is not impressed, but she tells herself to be more charitable.  We lunch aboard and then head to shore.

A grand sign welcomes us as we walk up to the main building.  Our timing could not have been more perfect!  Tomorrow night they are hosting their well-known dinner and show.  Of course, we will attend.  At $30.00 per person for both dinner and show, how could we say no?  Besides, we honestly have been told that their dinner is quite good, and their show ranks right up there with the big resorts in Port Denarau.  We are in for a treat — we hope.

A tour of the resort is uninspiring.  We make short work of it and head back to the boat for a swim and a shower.  With the wind up, The First Mate makes showering in the cool air blowing across the aft deck short work.

Saturday, October 1 – The Captain is determined to get all his electronics speaking to each other.  Just because the computer should be reading the boat instruments doesn’t mean that that is necessarily happening.  This has been a nagging problem, and he is determined to set things right.  It  proves to be a painstaking and frustrating project.  The nav station is pulled apart.  Wires are unconnected and reconnected.  While he mutters and grumbles, The First Mate lays low reading some and working on her blog.  “Know when to shut up” — that’s one of the basic tenets of long-standing marital bliss.

Wondering if he’s going to wrap things up in time to head ashore for dinner, she is pleasantly surprised to find him ready when she is.  Best of all, he’s in a happy mood because he thinks he has succeeded.  Praise be!  To shore we go.

Robinson Crusoe Island looks much better under the setting sun.  Picnic tables are set up around what might be called a hard-packed sand dance floor.  We are a bit early and warmly welcomed.  A table right up front is offered to us.  As we take our seats, a tourist boat arrives from the mainland with about 50 people.  

While waiting for things to start, a beer and a glass of wine are ordered.  A very good-looking, muscular young man (from The First Mate’s perspective) walks out on stage to start the evening.  First the traditional welcoming ceremony of Sevusevu must be performed.  The chief solemnly walks out and takes a seat.  The Kava root is offered.  The chant, like a prayer, goes on and on with all of us wondering just what he is saying.  A few claps are offered, and we are now all welcomed to Robinson Crusoe Island.




Next we are invited to walk down to the beach where a bonfire will be lit to start the evening and songs will be sung to guitar accompaniment.   The Captain rates the bonfire a 3 out of 10 compared to the bonfires he sets on the ranch, but the singer more than makes up for the weak fire display.  The First Mate could have listened to him for much longer.









When the fire burns down, we are invited to watch the traditional island underground oven be opened.  Once the root vegetables and fish have been removed, the coals will be exposed.  Then we will see the fire walking for which Fiji is famous.





How they do it we know not, but 4 young men take their turns walking on those coals.  We are near enough that we can feel the heat of the pit, and to fully convince us of the heat, a cup of water is poured over the coals afterwards to sizzle and smoke.  Are the soles of their feet so thickly calloused that they don’t feel anything?  Does the grey ash on the coals protect the feet?  What is the secret?  No one there was telling.

Returning to our tables, dinner is announced.  Two long tables hold the food with room for 4 lines of guests to serve themselves.  How  well-planned!  The food is plentiful and smells really good.  Chicken, beef and fish are served with roasted root vegetables, a green salad and a tasty spinach au gratin.  There is even a very good brown gravy to add zest to the otherwise bland root vegetables.  A separate table holds rolls and butter.  There are even salt and pepper shakers which is something we have never seen served at an island feast anywhere out here in the Pacific.  We are impressed!

Tummies full, we are ready to be entertained, and entertained we are!  A choreographed story of the first peoples to arrive in Fiji follows.  The costumes are colorful, and the dancing is fantastic. 

The type of dancing done by males and females across the Pacific is very differentiated.   Male dancing is robust and energetic while female dancing tends to be more fluid with hand motions playing a prominent part in the interpretation of the dance.   The program starts off with with several routines done by men only.   The First Mate must admit that she could have gone on and on watching them.  All the men are in great physical shape.  Their bodies shine in the light of the torches.  The smiles on their faces — these men are really enjoying themselves out there.  Even The Captain is caught up in the action describing the dancing as “powerful”.



The women are impressive, too.  It’s just that their style of dancing is not as dynamic.

Following the dancing, a truly great fire dancing display is done.  Baton twirling is taken to its limits with fire burning at each end of the long baton.  The program finale features several pyramid routines done with these torches twirling.  We can feel the heat of the torches from our ringside seats.  How can they bare the heat as those flames whirl around their faces so near their eyes?


We think the show is over, but no, it is not. One more act is to follow.  We are asked to stand up and move out and down toward the beach.  The fire dancers are down there.  Torches are relit, and a final Fijian fire dance display ends the evening.  Sparks fly off the ends of their double batons burning brightly against the dark night sky. Fijian Fireworks! How perfect!

Could our last anchorage off a Fijian island have been more perfect? The truly impressive part that The First Mate has so far failed to mention is that these performers are not professionally trained entertainers.  They all work for the resort during the day.  The man who first caught The First Mate’s attention could be a bar tender or the one who takes care of the pool.  The woman who was the best at shaking her hips could be the one we met at the front desk.  Just seeing what this group has done and put together is quite a testament to human creativity and talent.  How she wishes we did not have to leave tomorrow, for she would love to return to the island to meet and greet some of the dancers — especially that one young man!

Sunday, October 2nd – We retrace our ocean steps back to Port Denarau.  It’s another great sail.  Winds were 15 to 20 knots and behind us.  Sails were up, and once again we were pleased with the way Avante performed.  We sailed right through Navula Pass and on up the coast of Viti Levu to Port Denarau.

Secure in our berth by late afternoon, we immediately set to work on final preparations for our passage to New Caledonia.  Hoping to check out of Fiji in 2 days, The First Mate starts on her standard list of passage meals.  The menu  consists mostly of rice or pasta dishes.  Nothing fancy.  Comfort food, one might call these offerings.  Easy to digest and easy to eat.  No knife needed.  If it can be nuked in the microwave, it will be.  By the time Avante leaves the marina, at least 5 dinners will be made and stored with leftovers planned for lunches.  She may not be anyone’s idea of a dream sailor, but she does know how to run her galley!

The Captain — well, thankfully he is the true sailor on this boat.  He’ll have Avante primed and ready to hit the seas.  New Caledonia — here we come!

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