Before we left Denerau, we sent Jazz up the mast to see if we could do anything about our failing antenna. We were able to buy a replacement, but there was only one option, and it turned out to have the wrong connector. Still, she got the old one off, and looking at the corrosion we felt pretty sure that that was at least part of the problem.
We taped the replacement as high as it would go up the mast, and plugged it in through the door. That decision would, ahem, bite us in the future… speaking of which, Captain was very helpful as we got under way for the hour-long sail up to Vuda.
We stopped by primarily to visit our friends on Waterhorse, who were hauled out and frantically trying to get all their projects done to get back out of the yard. They eventually made it off their boat and joined us in the marina’s restaurant, where we listened to live music, had lots of drinks, and watched the local marina cat expertly bury a big dump right in the middle of the picnic tables. What a cat. This is Eric, who is locally famous, not least for stowing away under a different boat’s dinghy and riding into the Yasawas; this non-cat-owning family had to take care of him until he could get home. Eric now has a tracking collar.
We ended up staying a couple more days, trying to hunt down the appropriate connector to get our new antenna installed up at the top of the mast. We also had a welder come out to the boat and look at re-doing our rudder tie bar, but he never got back to us with a quote. We did eventually find the piece, but not before Captain savagely attacked the end of the antenna cable, piercing the coax and rendering it next to useless. Serves us right for leaving a dangly thing anywhere. Side note: while in Vuda, we saw another boat we’d met in Panama, buried for the cyclone season. Want to leave your boat in Fiji? This is, apparently, the safest way to do it, though side effects may include insect infestations.
Eventually we got our acts together and headed out to the islands again. This time we motored, in flat seas, to Na Vadra. Captain assumed the motoring position.
Na Vadra turned out to be much more comfortable without a northerly swell coming in, and we ended up staying for three nights and going on two dives and several snorkels. When we arrived we had some big and brightly-lit neighbors. We often assume that giant boats are charters, but this 77-foot catamaran turned out to be owner-operated, if maybe professionally crewed. We waved down their passing dinghy, thinking that we’d ask the pros about the local dive sites. They turned out to be an older couple on basically the same trajectory as us, with a couple of friends visiting. We often don’t approach boats that look like charters, as they’re generally well occupied on their short vacations and don’t want company. But recently we’ve been traveling with Acushnet, who said they rarely get approached, and probably for the same reason, so we’ve been trying not to pre-judge so much. They seemed nice, but were gone first thing the next morning.
We also had a lot of flying neighbors: we got to watch a huge nightly release of bats from the adjacent island.
They clearly had plenty to eat, as our boat played host to a number of moths. Moths are Captain’s favorite, though he has not yet gotten the hang of tandem hunting.
Speaking of eating things, Andrew made an attempt at sweet potato cottage pie. After some discussion, Jazz was willing to concede that some good things could in fact be said about the result, such as that it contained the same type of calories necessary to sustain life, and that it was not literally poisonous. Between that and the stems in that day’s can of green beans, this was not her favorite meal on the boat.
Our neighbors changed on the third day, but the sunset remained excellent.
Sadly, our dive tanks were empty, so it was time to move on. We had heard good things about the Octopus resort, so we headed in that direction and brought our tanks into their shop. Very few of the resorts here seem to have docks, which we find a little weird, but maybe it’s exciting for the guests to show up straight on the beach? Certainly it is here, as they’re greeted by a trio singing and playing the guitar and uke. The shop filled our tanks, but when we asked about the dives they do, they answered with such little enthusiasm that we decided we would be better off going on our own.
Searcher’s review had highlighted the curry night, but we were informed on arrival that that was no longer a thing they are doing. Still, we hung around for dinner, and since we were among the first to arrive, we were treated to our first (and what would turn out to be our only) sevusevu ceremony. They pour you a cup of kava, you clap once, drain it, and clap three times. We learned that kava is a relative of the pepper plant, and has a numbing property similar to a Sichuan peppercorn. So that was a fun adventure. Then they tried to seat us with the other boat in the harbor, which turned out to be Salanjo, but we managed to convince them that it was date night and we wanted a private table. When we finally got there, the food was fine but not memorable, though maybe that was the numb tongues talking.
We were on the way back to the boat when we got talking with a young Australian couple, and Jazz ended up giving their kids a ten-minute lesson on how to create your own crow army. She claims she was just answering their questions without being dismissive and got rabbit-holed… we probably should spend more time with children. The next day the mom reported that they talked about it all night long; she seemed to be in good spirits about it. Here we are, proud to have made it out until after 10pm!
We did a dive around the corner of the island, then motored up to the next likely looking anchorage outside the Paradise Cove resort, which turned out to be a sister resort to Musket Cove. We brought out a box for Captain, figuring that since he was going to protest the engine anyway, he might as well do it in a box.
We had dropped anchor and were settling in when one of the resort pangas came up to our boat and asked us to move, as the big ferry was coming through and would like to be in our space. We were about halfway through hauling the anchor when the ferry arrived, which is basically the worst possible timing as with the anchor chain shortened we’re at minimal mobility. But they didn’t hit us, and we got the anchor up and moved to the other side of the channel, where we rewarded Captain for his patience about the engine with a brand new cardboard box.
This is another anchorage with huge numbers of bats. We had a front-row seat to the bat release party for several nights, because wind and rain picked up and basically pinned us down on our boat. This was mostly fine, as we had some internetting to catch up on. Rain wasn’t going to stop them from celebrating Diwali, though, and we got to see some sporadic fireworks through the kitchen window and ducking out into the cockpit in gaps in the rain.
But eventually the skies cleared, and we got great daylight view of the shore, with its lush greenery and big, branchy trees. Of course, the view was slightly blocked, because the leak in Jazz’s closet dripped into our laundry bag, and we had to hang a lot of already smelly laundry out to dry in the cockpit.
And once that dried, we still had to hang out our scuba gear. That’s right, we were able to do more diving! And we found some beautiful shallow coral, and came back through for a mermaid photo shoot. It turns out that posing underwater is much harder than it looks, and we took a lot of pictures of Jazz grimacing or blowing bubbles out her nose… but we learned a lot, and this one turned out.
The resort’s dive shop filled our tanks for us, and while we were in, we stopped for a drink.
But we opted to go back to the boat for dinner, because we had a better view, even with all the dive gear hanging in the way.
Our gear was dry and our dive tanks were full, but our fridge was heading towards empty, and we had word that our furler part had arrived in Vuda, express courier service courtesy of Waterhorse. So, with a bit of regret, we hauled anchor and motor-sailed back towards the main island and its many isolated rain storms.