This whole week has seen a high wind warning posted for Fiji, a warning confirmed by all the various GRIB files calling for 20-25 plus a few boats that have straggled in. It has been hard to believe tucked into our anchorage off the Jean Michel Cousteau Resort on Lesiaceva Point, where the water has remained nice and calm throughout. There are quite a few boats waiting like us to make the trip down to Makongai and then around inside the reefs to Lautoka, on the west side of Viti Levu. When we do all leave, it's going to look like a departing Armada!
On the afternoon of Don's birthday, we loaded up the dinghy with dive gear and zipped out to Savusavu Bay's outer reef to do a dive on a site Curly gave us the lead on called Nuggets. This first dive – a small area centered on two tall coral bommies with crisp hard corals, swarms of bright tropical fish and bright yellow soft corals hanging profusely from the roof of an undercut -- was a real gem, and it set the mood for an active week where "we" dove most every day.
By "we", I mean Bill and me. Unfortunately, we are down to two sets of dive gear on Tackless II. For some reason (perhaps just being a gentlemanly host), Don has insisted on snorkeling instead of diving. (Then again, ever since we left his hunting days in the Sea of Cortez behind, he just hasn't had the same eagerness for diving to sightsee.) My enthusiasm, on the other hand, has been reborn since the dives at Viani Bay, and to our surprise, the sites right here along the reef reaching out to Point Passage Light are almost as impressive. The incredible variety of beautiful and intricate hard corals here never ceases to amaze me, with the bright orange and lavender basslets swarming among them, and the spectacular soft corals come in such an array of brilliant colors. I do not understand what gives these soft corals their purples, oranges, yellows and pinks. Until Fiji most the soft corals have been dull tans and greens.
It turns out there are three buoyed sites from Nuggets to the Light itself, and despite some wind chop, Bill and I managed to dive all of them this week. Although I have a soft spot for the soft corals of Nuggets, the most dramatic is definitely the series of reef buttresses marching seaward along the wall below the lighthouse itself.
Meanwhile, we have renewed our friendship with the vigorous young couple – Tricky and Jane – aboard the Tayana 42 Lionheart. About our kids' age, Tricky is English and Jane is Australian, and they met, wed and bought their boat the past year or so in New Zealand. This is their first cruising season, and their enthusiasm and greenness is balm to our crusty jadedness. There have been several cockpit happy hours (a tradition much dimmed by the expense of liquor here!) diagnosing alternators and chargers etc, and Thursday afternoon, the young folk persuaded Don and Bill to leave me to my writing and go off with them on a tramp up in the hills.
Apparently this was invigorating for Don, because the next day he persuaded Bill and me to join him on the 6k walk to town. I think we about killed Bill (who insists there must four miles to every Fijian kilometer). I must confess by the time we reached town I was pretty stiff myself. But then, Saturday morning, Don was up and afoot walking to town AGAIN with Tricky and Jane! Think maybe we have a case of birthday-itis?
The walkers got a ride back to the anchorage yesterday with another young couple, Paul and Jo on their boat Overdraft (good name!). Clearly there was some conviviality on this run, as they all arrived in a highly sociable frame of mind. This led to a group of nine yachties (with addition of Bob and Margaret from the Nordhavn 46 Suprr) descending on the Cousteau Resort for their overpriced cocktails.
I haven't said much about this resort in my writings, which is hardly fair since we've spent so much time a stone's throw away. Although still called the Jean Michel Cousteau Resort, rumor has it the resort actually changed hands several years ago. It really is a handsome facility, with 25 luxury bures nestled on 17 acres of sand-fringed point, all shaded by thick stands of the lovely red-trunked coconut palms. Don and Bill managed to finagle a tour on their Thursday afternoon walk, and were particularly impressed that this resort, unlike many luxury resorts, not only welcomes families with children, but has a whole special play area set aside for them. They obviously are well-known as a dive resort, and still keep an actual marine-biologist on staff. They also market traditional Fijian weddings to the honeymoon crowd, and earlier in the afternoon we were able to spy on one as the bride and groom were poled from the beach to the jetty in a raft bedecked by fronds and flowers and powered by four bare-chested Fijians in grass skirts to a chorus of singers. Hopefully, they weren't offended by the line of laundry we had just pegged out!
The resort does not come across as particularly yacht-friendly, understandable since their priority must be their own guests. They probably needn't worry too much about being overwhelmed by yachties, since their prices are quite stiff and somehow the fancy drinks never wholly satisfying. Still it makes a nice setting for a special evening, especially if you can restrain yourself to one drink! The main pavilion is really handsome, with cushy seats and lounges in warm colors the bar area, and red-clothed candlelit tables for dining divided into family and "quiet" sectors, all around a lovely pool in which the nighttime torches reflect and flicker. They had a local string band playing, and there was kava in the tanoa, and the Fijian staff is always friendly. In May when we came ashore, business was quite slow, but this week the place seems packed.
It was raining when we returned to the boats last night, and the rain kept up much of the night. Sunday, however, dawned sunny and breezy, and the group, less the Overdrafts but plus Wind Pony's Dick and Lynn, shared out dive gear and went for a group dive back out to Nuggets. Things were quite choppy on the surface, and it seemed like every dive boat in town was making for the same spot! Fortunately, the one on the mooring made us all (four dinghies) welcome to tie off to their stern. Although conditions were nowhere as nice as they were when Bill and I first dove it, it was a big success with Tricky and Jane and Dick and Lynn, all fairly novice divers who were grateful to have Don and me shepherd them. All in all T2s dive compressor has been kept working pretty hard.
Tomorrow, Don plans a trip into town (by foot or taxi?) to get our circuit breaker (which has FINALLY arrived 10 days after shipping from the US) through customs, and it looks like I will have some of my newbie divers hankering for one more dive. The GRIBs and Fiji Met both promise a drop in the wind and sea state by Tuesday, so tomorrow afternoon we will haul the dinghy aboard for an early departure Wednesday.
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