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Day 1,241 - Monuriki, Fiji (17° 36S 177° 02E)
16:53hrs - October 23th 2010
Summertime

It's that time of the year again. The South Pacific cyclone season officially begins in a week, and cruisers here, from all around the world, are planning their passages - watching, analyzing and enthusiastically discussing weather systems at every opportunity; comparing theories and all quietly wishing for an obvious 'ideal' weather window, one that it will remove all doubt as to when we should sail, and guarantee a perfect passage.

Many have already left and are now enroute to New Zealand, Australia or other safe havens across the Pacific. Half the mooring buoys at Musket Cove Marina lay empty. Some are choosing to stay in Fiji, hoping, perhaps, that the cool La Nina weather system will push cyclones further west and spare the islands from assault this summer. Others have reserved space at Musket Cove Marina, Port Denarua or Vuda Point, a few even choosing to have their boats hauled-out and buried in a hole up to their boot top - a unique Fijian practice developed because the islands lack any sort of natural hurricane hole, (so they dig
their own).

We'll eventually be sailing back down to New Zealand, but we plan to squeeze another 2 -3 more weeks out of the season before looking for our window south. So we've spent the last three days anchored off Monuriki Island (filmed in the movie Cast Away), and along with our anchor and a 60lb riding weight to increase our limited scope, have settled in to a relaxing routine of snorkeling, reading, exploring the surf-swept beaches on the islands western shoreline, and laying in the glow of beach fires in the evening. It feels a little like it's coming to the end of a summer holiday... but we're not quite ready to leave
just yet.

 

 



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Day 1,236 - Mocia Island, Fiji (17° 43S 177° 09E)
08:27hrs - October 18th 2010
Sorry Australia, You'll Have to Wait

We've been exploring Fiji for over four months and regrettably the cyclone-free cruising season is coming to an end. Decisions have to be made - where do we go from here?

Originally our plan had been to end the year in Australia, but the thing is, we're not quite ready to leave the South Pacific behind yet. Sure, there are plenty of islands over on the western side - Solomon, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and we'll get to those... eventually, but we want to do another lap first. So we've decided
to sail back down to New Zealand for another summer of kiwi-cruising, and then next year, rather than continuing our migration west, we'll sail east, back to French Polynesia!

To get there we'll have to endure a 2,200+ nautical mile passage in less than favorable conditions - in relatively high lattitudes and winds more on the nose than we would like, but the lure of another season,
or perhaps even a year, in the Australs, Society Islands and Tuamotus is just too appealing to resist. And then, after a season in French Polynesia we'll sail west again, but with the opportunity to visit a whole new chain of Pacific Islands - Suwarrow, Samoan Islands, Wallis and Futuna...

We're looking forward to cruising around Australia in Dream Time, after-all, Australia is where my cruising dream began over 15-years ago, and later exploring Asia - Borneo, Vietnam, Thailand... but the thing is, we're not ready to wave goodbye to the South Pacific islands just yet.

So Australia, we're terribly sorry, but we'll see you next year.





   
 


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Day 1,231 - Mana, Fiji (17° 41S 177° 06E)
18:04hrs - October 13th 2010
Another Year

Birthdays generally come around with a fairly predictable frequency, but these days about the only predictable thing about them for me, is the date.  Since leaving New York three and a half years ago
I have had 3  (about to have the 4th) birthdays in 3 (soon to be 4) different countries.

2007 was USA, 2008 was Guatemala, 2009 was Tonga and 2010 will be Fiji. It used to be that around the middle of October  I would be pottering about somewhere in New York reflecting on the past years happenings, usually in terms of family, friends and career, but now I get to look back on a year of life and sailing firsts with new countries, new friends and new experiences to add to my life list. Its true there’s nothing quite like a New York birthday, but this sailing version comes a very close second. 

An odd aspect to sailing birthdays is I never know exactly where I’m going to be on the actual day which usually makes for a bit of an adventure, but this year Neville decided to cheat a little by taking advantage of the proximity of a snazzy hotel with its own equally snazzy spa, before the official birthday date.  So last week when we were in Port Denarau, the ever fabulous Neville arranged for an extravagant day of Spa indulgence, followed by a luxurious hotel suite complete with balloons, flowers, chocolate cake and a huge fluffy towel filled bathroom.  Oh it was pure unadulterated perfect exquisiteness.

We are back on Dream Time now, up in the islands again so I’m not sure where we’ll actually be on the actual birthday day, but if I’m lucky, it will include a romantic campfire on a deserted island beach with lots of marshmallows, a lovely Fiji birthday.

 





   
 


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Day 1,219 - Navadra, Fiji (17° 27S 177° 02E)
18:41hrs - October 1st 2010
Legend of the Sacred Islands

Perhaps it's the fixed stare of a face carved out of volcanic rock, aged and weathered by a million years of erosion; or the wild, untamed beauty of these uninhabited islands that somehow feel forgotten by time, but when you first approach Navadra, it awakens a primeval emotion within. You sense a presence at these Sacred Islands, one that feels as ancient and mysterious as their history.

Three thousand-five hundred years ago, the first settlers arrived in Fiji. They sailed from Indonesia, a mixture of Micronesian and Melanesian explorers, on a journey that today would be the equivalent of flying blindly into space to discover an unknown planet in another solar system. The intrepid explorers, after spending months at sea, raised the western island chain of Fiji, landing their giant fifty-man war canoes on an island group known today as Mamanuca-I-Ra. And although the party chose to settle on Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island and one with an abundant fresh water supply, Navadra and her neighboring islands,
to this day, are considered sacred, and according to local Fijians, haunted.

Perhaps it's the spirit of the first chief who was buried in the cave here, where visitors are expected to leave a gift of kava in his honor. Or it's the ghosts of the tormented missionaries who, after arriving from Tonga in the 1800s, were slaughtered in the same cave after making an unsatisfactory offering. One tale, which I'm sure was created by the local Fijians who collect the kava, tells of yachts that have been capsized by the spirits - disgruntled by the measly kava portions.

We've been anchored off Navadra for almost a week, a gentle but relentless swell rolling in from the southwest has kept other cruisers away leaving Dream Time alone in what has become one of our favorite Fijian anchorage. The stern anchor is set in forty-feet of clear water along the reef's edge, holding our bow into the swell, and we've settled into an easy routine of snorkeling, beach walks, kayaking, bonfires and exploring. We plan to stay here as long as the weather, and spirits, will allow, so we left an extra-large bundle of kava wrapped carefully in plastic. So far the spirits have left us alone.

We did discover a human skull pierced by a spear hidden in a recess along the cliffs edge, perhaps a warning to visitors not to venture further inland? Or perhaps a prop left over from the Treasure Island or Survivor TV episodes that were apparently filmed here? Either way, we've decided to spend more time
on the beach.