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Fiji 2007

Sailing under spinnaker in the Yasawas

It was hard to leave our friends in Vava'u, but our visas had already expired, and we had crew to meet in Suva, so we set sail on our first downwind passage in years (literally!).

Sunny days, blue skies, gentle swells and sailing under spinnaker part of the way, it was a gentle friendly passage. We sat on sail bags on the foredeck without getting soaked and Dylan happily watched the seas rolling underneath us. I realized passage making with an almost 3 year old wasn't too bad after all.

Danielle skurfing behind the dinghy on a windless morning

Fiji boys around the kava bowl

Dylan wouldn't get any closer for the photo... but Brant was happy to pose for a pic!

It was a shock to be in Suva after 7 months in sleepy Neiafu. I'd forgotten what a busy modern city Suva was. It was great to go out for a cheap curry, write home on the cheap fast internet, and stock up our wardrobes from the $1 racks of 2nd hand clothes stores. But the constant noise and bright lights from the port were so different from our calm starry anchorages in Tonga that we soon were longing to be in the villages again.

Connie and Christian, newly married (and Connie also newly pregnant) joined us from Germany, along with Brant from the States for our trip down to Kadavu, the Southernmost Fiji island group. I love Kadavu and it was nice to go back and have a few weeks to explore. It's rugged and lush and beautiful. Great hiking trails, friendly villagers who insist on drinking kava with you every visit, really amazing snorkeling, and huge empty surf breaks - Brant and Frans were happy!

Brant, Connie and Christian joined us for the trip to Kadavu

Nic, Georg, Scott and Danielle just before boarding their tiny aeroplane off Malololailai island

The forecast was for SE25 so we warned everyone to expect bumpy seas, spray and a reasonably rough trip - but when you only have a few weeks to spare you don't want to wait in the city too long. Connie, Christian and Brant spent the entire 15 hour trip curled in the cockpit, too sick to move or go down below. We felt terrible for them! Especially Connie, because it's doubly miserable to be seasick and pregnant! But they perked up quickly when we got into calmer water protected by the lagoon and found a sheltered cove in the Astrolabe reef. We all jumped in for a swim.

The fishing in Kadavu was excellent, best we've ever had - almost too much fish at times! Fish pie for breakfast, fish steaks for lunch, and sashimi and fish curry for dinner was the menu for one day! Now we're back in NZ up the river near town and I wish we could have Kadavu fish again! Brant and Frans had to jump in the dinghy to haul one big tuna in as we were sailing too fast to tackle it from 'Moet'. That tuna was the biggest fish caught on board over the last 8 years, and Brant did well for the team - best fisherman we've had on board - despite losing a few lures in the process!

Anchored in the yasawas and straight in for a swim; making fire on uninhabited navadra; back in the dinghy after a snorkel; Georg and Dylan chilling out on the boom while sailing

We had a series of engine dramas this season and basically spent the last few months in Fiji engine-less. Fiji can be tricky to navigate between the reefs at the best of times, but fortunately we are a little familiar with the area (parts of it at least), and 'Moet' maneuvers easily under sail - as long as there's wind. Which we were in short supply of at times! Still, I really enjoy leaving anchor and anchoring under sail. It's quiet, and the timing of the process is very satisfying. In an area where nearly everyone motors in and out of the bays, and many yachts often motor between islands, it felt good to be 'purist' sailors! And we got to use the spinnaker nearly every time we went somewhere!

the early education of Dylan: kite flying, dinghy sailing, snorkelling and hoisting the main!

We had guests for over 4 months in Fiji, and some of our family came out for the first time. Dylan was happy to have his cousins on the boat with him and maybe we have stimulated a new generation of young sailors! Certainly Simon (age 6) took to the dinghy sailing and skurfing and Natalie (age 10) loved the snorkelling. For Myrthe, besides the sailing I think the best part was the parties on shore in the evening! Frans's brother Peter brought his travel electric piano out with him, and along with a Romanian violin duo we met in a backpackers, scored a few performances in the fancy island resorts, playing classical music to the guests. Most of the Fijians who worked at these places had never heard live classical music before and they all gathered round to listen. My Dad and his partner Margaret also came to visit, it being their second pacific trip on the boat with us. Dylan spent much time in the sea and in various pools splashing and jumping in to Grandad, and got treated to a ride on a coral viewing boat.

Family time! Frans's sister Erica and her daughter Natalie; Frans's neice Myrthe; Dylan and his cousin Arthur; and Dylan gazing up at some of his bigger cousins!

And after all his practice, Dylan finally got swimming by himself! Which made him so happy, just to see how free he could be in the water, and soon he was diving down to the bottom of the pool, and diving in off the side. 3 is a good age to be on the boat, because now he can really become involved in things a bit more, we can take him snorkelling on the shallow reefs, and Frans is already keen to get him learning to surf and kite! He happily swam in to shore with Danielle (with lifejacket on of course, he can't go that far by himself yet) in one anchorage and always wanted to be in for a swim off the boat when we all were! Now we are back in NZ that is the thing I miss the most - jumping off the boat in the morning. And I think that goes for all of the crew! We managed to catch up with Georg and Scott here in NZ, and after the month they spent with us in Fiji it seems they caught the sailing bug! Georg rented out a small 22ft yacht in NZ and Scott has been getting on some evening races, so we are waiting to see who will write and tell us they have bought a boat first!

One of my favourite moments this year was when Scott and I were snorkelling and a huge turtle came swimming right up to me. It stopped there in front of me and gently moved its feet up and down and we looked at each other for almost a minute. Then it turned and swam alongside me for a while before swimming away. It was really special. We stopped in many wonderful bays and one starry night had a beach party with Namibian friends Steve and Toya, complete with fish, guitars and candle lanterns, and everyone got to sleep overnight on a deserted island, which doesn't happen often in a lifetime! The island life of Fiji is wonderful and I feel priveleged we have been able to enjoy the hospitality of the lovely people we have met there, who are always so welcoming and inviting. It must be one of the happiest and healthiest places on earth.