Return to Blue Lagoon – the Fijian adventure continues.

One of the countless things I have loved about this journey, is the rich array of crew that have made Squander home... The 25 or so Squanderers (defined as having spent at least 1 week sailing on Squander) have hailed from Australia, Russia, Spain, The Netherlands, Poland, England, America, France, Iran and Argentina. Whether they stayed 2 weeks or 14 months, each crew member has added an extra stitch or two to the complex fabric that we have weaved since starting our journey in early 2010..  Food has always been an important thread and our newest Squanderer has already thrown in a few keepers. IMG_4065 José (pronounced Josie) rushing around organising lunch. IMG_4068 Lunch is served. IMG_4070 We motored out of Port Denarau, where we had said goodbye to Simon who finally made the decision to return to Australia, after his 8 week holiday that started back in April 2010. It's possibly the longest holiday extension in history... it lasted one and a third years and involved sailing across the Atlantic twice, a good part of the Mediterranean and most of the Pacific.IMG_4088 José settling in on Squander. Having spent a bumpy night anchored off Beachcomber island, we set off early pointing at the Northern Yasawa islands. We had good breeze and covered the 60 or so miles easily. IMG_4107 We managed to hook three tuna along the way, one I lost whilst being lazy and not gaffing it properly, one got eaten by a shark as Andy was trying to reel it in and the third one we got to keep and eat for dinner! IMG_4109 if we had any doubts as to whether there were sharks in these waters, we don't anymore. All that was left of our tuna once Andy reeled it in. IMG_4116 We soon arrived in Sawa-i-Lau, home to some famous caves, deserted beaches and crystal clear waters.  IMG_4119 We relaxed and watched the sunset having the entire bay to ourselves save for a small cruise ship anchored in the distance.  The next day was somewhat gloomy and overcast so we watched movies, caught up on emails, finished the blog and read books.  IMG_4131 3G Internet is available just about anywhere in Fiji - Jose catching up on emails thousands of miles from home. IMG_4136 Ready for some DIY hairdressing IMG_4138 A joint creation for lunch, Sashimi, salad and Sushi.... The next day we all got up early and headed to the beach to find the Sawa-i-Lau caves. IMG_4202 The early morning caving team is ready to go.  IMG_4143 The first cave is easy, you basically walk into it and jump in the crystal clear water. Jose and Sofi ready for some exploring. IMG_4145 Enjoying a moment of solitude. Jose contemplates the second cave. You have to swim underwater through the hole in the bottom right of the above picture. IMG_4152 Eel cam - yep apparently there are eels in these waters - ready to swim into the next cave? IMG_4154 Taking deep breaths, torch in hand... let's do it! IMG_4160 Andy and Jose pop up in the pitch black cave. We explored the second cave for a good 15 minutes before diving back under and into the main chamber. IMG_4174 Hey Andy what are you up to....?? IMG_4170 Andy spots the entrance to "pregnant woman's cave" so named as the fissure in the wall is so skinny that pregnant women cannot squeeze in. The entrance is above and to the left of Andy.    IMG_4185 the girls relaxed as I followed Andy into the Abyss. IMG_4187 Once inside, it's an amazing (and very dark) maze of tunnels that makes you feel like you're about to tickle some monster's tonsils. We had luckily borrowed two torches at the last minute which made the exploring of this maze possible. Andy spotted a small pool of water and reasoned that he may be able to swim out of the cave rather then backtrack the way he came in. It took him two attempts, returning the first time for some extra air but eventually he negotiated the longish underwater tunnel and popped out back in the main chamber. Left alone in the small pool, I figured what the heck, took a deep breath, sunk to the depths and searched for the beam of light that would indicate an exit was in sight, I swam around the first corner and soon spotted my guiding light.... IMG_4181 Popping out in the main chamber.... With the main activities ticked, we weighed anchor and headed for our next destination - Blue Lagoon - the setting of the eponymous 1980's movie about a ship wrecked young couple....  IMG_4213 Dropping anchor in Blue Lagoon. Despite still being relatively un-spoilt, Blue lagoon is no longer deserted. In fact one of the reasons we came here was because of a little boutique resort called "Nanuya island resort" which is widely reported as having some of the best food in Fiji... we were ready to treat ourselves to a night out.   IMG_4224 Andy and Sofi exploring the local reef as Jose and I went to make dinner reservations. IMG_4226 the dive shop next to the resort. IMG_4237 Tying up the dinghy... ready to book ourselves in for a sumptuous dinner! As it  turned out the resort had recently introduced a "No Yachties" rule - you can imagine our disbelief when we were told that not only we weren't allowed to dine there, but we were requested to leave the premises immediately... when I asked why (there was a big sign saying outside guests welcome!!), we were informed that a "Yachtie" had recently sexually harassed a guest and as such ALL yachties were banned. It was obvious that the new rule had come from above, and the ground staff were visibly uncomfortable enforcing it... but there was no point arguing, they were just doing their job...  IMG_4232 Thumbs down to this joint....! Tomorrow is another day... we enjoyed a great home hooked BBQ aboard Squander and were greeted the next morning with a pearler of a day. Andy jumped in the dinghy and soon returned with a big smile... He'd found a near perfect kiting spot across the bay.   IMG_4247 Nice work Andy... My ankle was till far from good, so I was happy to take photos and keep Sofi company. IMG_4253 Perfecto!  Sofi all smiles.  IMG_4254 Speaking of smiles, Jose pumping up her Bandit ready to carve up the lagoon. IMG_4260 Is that Sofi's twin sister??? or is Sofi doing exercise...??! As the morning turned into afternoon, we were all famished and decided to pack up the gear and head back to Squander for lunch and an afternoon photo shoot. IMG_4288 We met the local family who lives next to the resort in some traditional Fijian huts. IMG_4280 They grow their own fruit and veg and offered to sell us anything we needed. We bought some limes, bananas and oranges from them. I also asked if they knew where the Blue lagoon film was shot as we needed to recreate a scene from the poster...      IMG_4287 the lady pointed us up the hill.... IMG_4299 we discussed it amongst ourselves, our actors were looking nervous. IMG_4298 Soon some help arrived as the original location scout from the 1980's classic arrived back on land and pointed us to the correct spot. blue lagoon, Fiji spot the difference - Return to the Blue Lagoon! Having some new found Street cred, Andy managed to shake his Yachtie status and was allowed to order drinks for us at the resort as we hid behind a tree - but alas still no dinner!     IMG_4301 A quiet evening followed as the wind was predicted to be even better the next day. IMG_4315 the girls were up early cooking up breakfast in anticipation of another great kiting day. IMG_4328 and we were in for a treat. A super low tide, 18 to 22 knots and crystal clear flat water. IMG_4321 Sofi working hard on her suntan following an early rise... she may also be contemplating how to make it up to Andy after accidentally letting go of his kite the day before... kite ended up in the trees and has since had a successful trip to the kite doctor to patch up the four large holes!     IMG_4332 I stretched my ankle as best i could, taped it up but it was still feeling very tender... IMG_4333 "Andy you may as well take my kite..."   and stop bashing that poor innocent tree! IMG_4337 Andy back in good spirits riding the black Wainman!  IMG_4342 Jose and Andy charging up and down the bay. IMG_4404 Sofi was on Dinghy driving duties, as we chased out protagonists of the day trying to get the money shot.  IMG_4347 Jose was pulling some nice tail grabs... IMG_4353 Whereas Andy was working on his back rolls. IMG_4378 looking for a landing....preferably the right way up! IMG_4417 getting some good lift. IMG_4372 Josie commences launch sequence.... IMG_4373 .... launch successful.... IMG_4374 ... grab and land!     IMG_4396 Andy was spotted trying a new "no board - feet only" maneuver!  IMG_4402 Jose Wipeout!    IMG_4435 before long the photography team was back in position to enjoy the spectacle from afar.  IMG_4439 beach dog! The next morning we sailed onto Manta Ray bay, where you can occasionally swim with Manta Rays - as it turns out September is not that time of year and all we got was a torrential downpour and a rolly night's sleep as the weather came in. IMG_4443 We anchored Squander three times in an attempt to get a comfortable night's rest. First we dragged anchor and almost ended up on the rocks, then we got the shaken not stirred anchorage as squander bounced around in the swell and eventually we moved around the corner and anchored on the west side of the island facing out to sea with a stern anchor to keep our bow into the swell.    IMG_4453 the next day, the calm seas had returned and we sailed on to Waya island.IMG_4463 Approaching Waya on the right   IMG_4488 IMG_4572 By early afternoon we were anchored off Yalobi Village and decided to pay them a visit. IMG_4511 Our united nations diplomatic mission heading ashore. IMG_4520 We happened to arrive as one of the families was moving house to another island where they had got jobs. Many of the villagers were by the shore waving goodbye and helping pack the small  aluminum boat with their belongings. Eventually we were invited to visit the village and taken on a guided tour. IMG_4514 First the local gym, sport and rec club. IMG_4535 Then a stop at the local bakery to buy a  chocolate cake IMG_4539 The baker hard at work waiting for her cakes to boil. IMG_4523 we bought a cake and proceeded with our tour.   IMG_4530 Our host showed us her home... IMG_4532 and garden....complete with pineapples, Cassava, sugar cane, bananas, papaya and taro. IMG_4525 She also introduced us to her granddaughter... and promised that when her fisherman husband returns she will bring us some fresh fish to the boat. we spent half an hour talking and buying some fresh supplies before being welcomed to continue our visit on our own. IMG_4541 Muuuummm, there are strange people taking photos of our house! IMG_4542 the village coconut husking station. IMG_4555 Our favourite piece of real estate - complete with great views and outdoor kitchen. IMG_4564 Sofi found her own favourite house and was ready to stay. Before returning to Squander, we visited the local school where the kids were busy building new steps from the beach to the playground.   IMG_4577 Busy collecting sand IMG_4580 A quick photo break when the teacher's not looking. IMG_4582 Sofi getting involved... "what can i do to help?" IMG_4585 Is this little girl the future prime minister of Fiji ? she didn't stop working and was always smiling! IMG_4588 Jose ready to return to Squander. IMG_4591 Sofi and Andy ready to roll too... Squander awaits in the distance. IMG_4601 As promised, before sunset, our new adopted grandma delivered us her husband's catch of the day!IMG_4603 Happy days - that will be $10 bucks thanks!! IMG_4607 We woke up early the next day with the news that our spreaders (broken part of our rig that helps hold the mast upright) had arrived from France and were being held by customs until we returned to Denarau. Our taste buds were still dancing from the previous evening's BBQ fish feast , when we sadly weighed anchor and left Waya bound for Port Denarau. IMG_4620 Sunny where we were - a small island cops the brunt of the rain from this awesome cloud in the distance. We arrived back in Port Denarau, and as is often the case in these kinds of ‘hubs', soon ran into people we knew... Sarah and Stoff from Takalani whom we'd last seen in Tahiti, the Onghiara crew (whom we'd last seen in Bora Bora) was also in town ready for a charter and the biggest surprise of them all - Rebecca from MAD had returned from Norway that very morning to deal with the ongoing issues with putting MAD on the market - not to mention La Pelicana was getting ready to set sail for the non-stop 1800 mile journey to Bundaberg in Australia and the girls  were here too. DSC02311 Trouble personified - The girls (AJ , Gabi & Ashley) were ready for a night out. As you can imagine, with the social crowd easily swelling to over a dozen people a night out was inevitable.... I guess the spreaders would have to wait. DSC02262 Pre-dinner drinks at the pool bar - living it up in Fiji! DSC02272 Nikita happy with her chili mud crabs! DSC02279 Sofi, Jose and I, joined Nikita and Kyle for a great dinner at the Hilton, before re-uniting with the boys who had managed to make short work of  a case of Fiji gold and a few other chasers on Squander... DSC02293 Nikita, Sofi and Kyle befriending the dinner show performers. DSC02298 Sofi completed the awesome troublesome foursome! The decision was made - time to check out the infamous Ed's bar.... it was way past midnight before we left the marina...  and aside from a few sensible souls who chose to not go out, most of us returned home in the early hours of the morning ready to not do that again for a while! DSC02332 Andy and Kyle suffering from the effects of one or two Vonus... DSC02349 Speaking of Vonus, seems they have  positive relationship mending qualities! DSC02340 Andy demonstrating one of his secret weapons - the sympathy card !  DSC02337 Kyle and Nikita strutting their stuff!   DSC02353 Mixing it up with the local crowd! DSC02255 The next day was all about the Hilton swimming pool, watching Australia play Russia and enjoying the cloudy day - both literally and figuratively speaking. IMG_4634 One of these girls didn't go out last night.  IMG_4638 Nothing like sneaking into a resort and charging it to room 2345... another banana smoothy please! IMG_4649 Sunday was all about replacing the broken spreader. I managed a solid 5.5 hours suspended up the mast - but the job was finally done! We had heard of an incredible shark dive you can do on the southern coast of Viti levu.... observing at close quarters up to 10 species of sharks being hand fed in the wild - The brochure promised tigers, bulls, black tips, white tips, lemons, silver tips and greys... it didn't take long to sign us up! We hired a car and left at 5:30am on Monday morning bound for Pacific Harbour some 2 hrs away. IMG_4651 By 8:30 am we were on our way.... IMG_4655 Andy's not one to be shaken easily, yet he was spotted looking into the distance, murmuring a few words under his breath with hands tightly clasped... IMGP2618 Sofi and Josie managed to sneak into the pilot house and got a ride to the dive spot with the captain and his daughter. IMGP2623 We soon arrived at our dive site and two full size SULO bins, filled with fish guts and massive TUNA heads, were lowered some 25 metres to the ocean floor... IMG_4724 the remora sucker fish arrive at the scene first IMG_4727 followed by the rest of the gang... IMG_4828 trying to keep a lid on things until we reach the bottom. IMG_4742 The punters follow. Hmmmm....throw buckets-full of dead fish in shark infested waters and then dive down 25 metres to see what happens... what a great business idea! IMG_4698 Breakfast is served. Let the feeding frenzy commence. IMG_4744 As oxygen consumption from the punters (us included) goes up to max 10. IMG_4658 A couple of the friendlier giants of the deep... A 1M+ Napoleon Wrasse and a giant grouper on the bottom right. IMG_4691 Is that divemaster looking nervous?? IMG_4665 Here sharky sharky....a BIG grouper follows an even bigger shark. IMG_4675 Outta here!! - Hey tough guy, where are you going...?? oiii... come back here and feed the sharks! IMG_4681 ahhhh ok... now hold that tuna head in your hands like a man!'s his first day on the job and he had a mild panic attack - wonder why?!   IMG_4671 Somebody say Tuna head?? IMG_4678 tuna head???!! IMG_4706 What do you do if a giant tuna head is being quietly transported towards your own head  by a bunch of small fish.... Do you A: Act cool and pretend like everything is OK. B: Push the Tuna head away thus saving your head, but most likely losing your right arm to the shark that's just spotted it or C: Ruuuuuuuun!! IMG_4679 option D: punch the shark in the nose and let the little guys enjoy their breakfast! IMG_4704 One for the little guys.   IMG_4684 the Napoleon Wrasse. IMG_4748 With the sharks well fed, they took off as fast as they came - unfortunately no Tiger sharks, as a consolation Andy and Miss "yellow lipstick" seemed to have struck a connection - seen here caught in the moment staring at each other for what seemed like an eternity. IMG_4755 a remora sucker fish checks out a piece of fish skin as it drifts towards me. IMG_4754 Here fishy fishy....want some fish skin?! IMG_4779 Andy loses his girlfriend in a crowd... IMG_4782 hey Big guy.... she's gone, but I"M HERE...! IMG_4777 Yellow lipstick's the go in these parts! IMG_4702 Following a solid 20 minutes in 24 m of water the food ran out as quickly as our oxygen and it was time to slowly head back to the surface            IMG_4730 the remora sucking up to the SULO bin - literally. IMG_4739 The fish heads are gone and us humans are left on the bottom.... let's say, for arguments sake, that one of the big sharks missed out on a feed - what happens next?? IMG_4719 Some questions are better left unanswered, let's go and explore the ship wreck.      IMG_4820 "hanging up" - The remora suckerfish equivalent of looking for a parking spot after a hard day's work. Meanwhile whilst we were busy diving, the captain entertained the girls by letting them fish for the highly dangerous, killer Remora "Sharks" IMGP2635 IMGP2641 IMGP2657 IMGP2660  IMGP2671 We returned to Denarau on Monday night. Tuesday was all about getting Squander ready for the 700 Nautical mile journey to New Caledonia - Jose and Sofi went shopping, where as Andy and I took  care of important things like updating our facebook status, filling the water tanks, paying the bill at the marina and topping up on Diesel. IMG_4831 too late to leave... Our planned departure got delayed and we stayed an extra night in the marina - early on Wednesday morning we motored up to Lautoka, where we had to go through Customs and Immigration.... IMG_4841 by midday our passports were stamped and we had the necessary clearances - we were underway - sailing downwind in a steady 25 knots towards the reef pass into the open ocean, at 1:00pm we caught a fish just in time for lunch, all was going to plan.... at around 4:00pm we had one of our first setbacks... as we were exiting the reef pass, a 40 knot squall caught us unaware with a full main up... rooky error... some quick thinking and we soon had all sails down and narrowly missed leaving our mark on the reef. We probably should have turned back and anchored for the night, but we're just not the type of people to turn BACK... We made it out through the reef pass in one piece, hoisted sails and were away again.... but soon the wind started dying and shifting to the WSW - the direction we were trying to sail in.... we were in less then 10 knots of wind and sails were starting to flog, when in a matter of seconds another squall hit us - 25 knots or so, then 30, 35, 40.... we ran away with it for 10 minutes - heading towards South America - then as suddenly as it had arrived, the wind dropped off to 8-10 knots. We pointed Squander at New Caledonia yet again, motor sailing, bashing into a sloppy sea.... BIG Black clouds everywhere.... then as the sun began to set I had a brilliant idea.... we don't have to be out here.... there's a a perfectly good anchorage only 8 miles back.... And so as the sun set we sailed back to Fiji for one more night's rest before trying again in the morning. The following day was gloomy, but the forecast looked good - we pointed Squander at New Caledonia and boldly motored away from Fiji. IMG_4859 Some 10 miles offshore we spotted a vessel powering towards us, black smoke billowing from its engines. Soon after, the Navy boat captain called us up on the VHF and requested that we stop as we were going to be boarded for a routine inspection.  IMG_4853 The boys came over and it soon became apparent they were indeed just doing a routine inspection of our papers, we made a few jokes and before long the cameras were out and the conversation had turned to discussing who was going to win the Rugby world cup. Gotta love Fiji!  IMG_4855 Good on ya fellas - I wonder if they would be this friendly had we gone ahead with our harebrain idea of not bothering to check out properly??!IMG_4858 I have a distinct feeling that the Patrol boat and all associated equipment may have been a fairly old , ex-Australian donation to Fiji.... either way, I hope these boys don't have to catch anyone trying to actually get away from them. soon after the clouds parted, and the wind kicked in - we were underway - sailing. IMG_4864 A nice Wahoo caught on Day 2. IMG_4869 Introducing Sofi to the Squander Spa - note the extra safety device around Sofi's stomach, cleverly engineered by Andy. IMG_4873 With the "Pacific salt water spa treatment" out of the way, it was time for some hairdressing.... IMG_4875 Jose ready for her first night watch - sailing from Fiji to New Caledonia. IMG_4878 the passage has been one of the smoothest and calmest we have experienced to date, allowing the girls to establish command of the galley in great comfort! IMG_4880 José ordered the deluxe package at the Squander Spa - it includes unlimited supply of water buckets without having to lift a finger.IMG_4881 She seemed satisfied! IMG_4889 The multipurpose transom! IMG_4899 Night 2 was a cold one, with some fresh winds blowing up from NZ. IMG_4906 Day 3 - the Mahi Mahi was a highlight!! IMG_4909 Happy days... it's been a while since we've landed one of these! IMG_4914 Sailing into the sunset, as Australia plays South Africa in the Quarter finals of the Rugby World Cup.... We hoped that Radio Australia would transmit the game, but instead we were left listening to an American sounding guy who received a Nobel prize in Canberra this week... seriously, how un-Australian!! IMG_4923 Thanks to the wonders of technology, we were kept updated via Satellite phone text messages... it was a nail biter to the end..... IMG_4924 The excitement as the above email arrives in my inbox - through to the semi finals by a whisker - well done boys!! IMG_4926 Yes, we are at sea, sailing at 7 knots in the South Pacific, during the night.... possibly the longest stretch of calme seas I have witnessed in the Pacific whilst still having enough wind to sail. IMG_4929 keeping ourselves entertained on the last Day.... wind finally drops out as the sea glasses out and we motor the last 100 miles to new Caledonia.