Cruising the South Pacific with Tackless II
Tackless II, along with her two captains, Don and Gwen, cruise from Fiji to Australia
Sunday, September 2, 2007
25-28 August 2007- Musket Cove
Musket Cove is the best known anchorage in all of Fiji, if not in all of the Pacific. It has earned this distinction through the hard work by one resort to provide all the things yachties need and enjoy, and then to promote all that with an annual Regatta Week in mid-September. That resort is, as you might guess, the Musket Cove Resort.

The anchorage itself, wrapped around by the islands of Malolo Lai Lai and Malolo as well as a maze of reef, is well protected once you find your way in. Yet it is not a remote spot. Malolo Lai Lai has at least three other resorts that overlook the anchorage – Lomani, Plantation Island, and Malolo Beach(?) – and there are others around the bend! This makes for a lot of boat traffic, pangas from the various resorts bringing staff to work from the village on Malolo and then carrying guests out for snorkel and dive tours, Hobie cats in novice hands, and ferries to and from the mainland. With all this going on there is still plenty of room to anchor between the reefs should you not want to take advantage of either the 27 maintained moorings Musket Cove Resort provides for a modest fee or the further twenty med-moor spaces available inside their little marina. This little marina is up an inlet in the reef along floating docks with a fuel and water dock at its innermost end. They even have hurricane storage in a man-made lagoon doglegged in to the center of the resort itself.

But what really distinguishes Musket Cove from many another stop is how the Musket cove Resort treats their marine-based guests. Instead of a grudging permission to land, at Musket boat-based visitors are granted virtually equal rights as resort guests. For the modest fee of $12 per yacht, we get a life-long membership to their Yacht Club entitling us to open an account with a credit card and then use that account at any or all of the facilities – the restaurants, the dive shop, the beach rentals (kayaks, Hobie cats, windsurfers, bicycles), the ferries to the mainland, the grocery store, and of course, at the bar.

Cruisers do love a good watering hole, but this is a department in which the Pacific has proved woefully thin. So to have one conceived exclusively for us, on its own little man-made sandy island, complete with beach, thatched palapa bar, picnic tables with lights, and wood-fired barbecue grills is the proverbial "died-and-gone-to-heaven" for sociable sailors. And if we are all seeking a place where "everybody knows your name", we've found it here where the two Fijian lady bartenders somehow manage to do just that! Even Savusavu's hospitable Yacht Club, at which we spent so many fine evenings, seems uptight and formal compared to Musket's super friendly Ratu Nemani Island Bar.

It was into this paragon of summer camp for cruisers that we brought Uncle Bill for his last few days in Fiji. We arrived Saturday afternoon, picked up mooring #1, (which looked, and turned out to be, brand spanking new), and launched the dinghy so the boys could go in and reconnoiter. They got us registered as Musket Cove Yacht Club members (each with our own laminated membership card), signed us up for a dive package shareable by all members of the crew at the dive shop, and inaugurated our association with the Ratu Nemani Island Bar to such a degree that the lady bartenders smile the moment they see Don coming over the bridge. Uncle Bill plunged into the crowd ever in search of an unattached female sailor who might want to go cruising in the Bahamas, and while I don't think he found one, but he sure seemed to have good time trying!

Where was the Admiral in all this? Well, in very poor hostess fashion I managed to get myself an article assignment that had to be turned around within the week, so for most of Bill's last days aboard I could be found chained to the computer.

I did come out for happy hour and dinner (never fear), and, as our first real night at Musket was Sunday, that meant we were in time for the traditional Musket Sunday night BBQ. It's BYO meat for the grill (or purchase a BBQ pack from the little store) and then the resort brings the fixings – baked potatoes, green salads, pasta salad, coleslaw and garlic bread – that you can buy for a modest fee. We ended up sharing a table with the crews of two Voyage catamarans –Rick and Robin of Endangered Species and Paul and Lei Ellen of Gato Go – plus Lee and Jan of the monohull La Bohème (who were on the dock at the same time we were in Raiatea!) – all of whom, it turned out, are, like us, home-based in the Tampa Bay Area!

Monday the boys spent the morning on boat projects (specifically installing the new circuit breaker for the windlass), and then in the afternoon they made a one-tank dive with Musket's Sub-Surface dive shop. The dive was a shallow one on some scattered bommies that didn't measure up to what we'd enjoyed the week before in Savusavu Bay, which was a bit disappointing. With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear they should have gone for the morning two-tank dive for which the dive boat runs farther out to better sites. However, you have to reserve a day ahead for an 0800 departure and the weather forecast for the morning had been bad. With nature's famed capriciousness, the weather, of course, was fine. That evening they lured me out from my lair again with happy hour which led to Curry Night at the Resort's main restaurant with Dick and Lynn of the other Voyage cat in the anchorage, Wind Pony.

Tuesday was Uncle Bill's last day aboard, and it was spent – as far as I could see over the screen of my laptop – with those usual last day activities: packing and weighing of suitcases and last minute reviews of watermaker installation procedures (one of the projects awaiting Bill when he gets back aboard his own boat Geodesic.) Ironically, I finished up my article and sent it off about ten minutes before it was time to take Bill ashore to catch his ferry. This ferry, on which Musket Cove Yacht Club Members get a big discount, runs three times a day into Denerau marina on the mainland which is a hop, skip and a jump away from Nadi airport. There is also a busy airstrip here from which small planes regularly fly, not to mention a seaplane service and helicopters, but being nautical (and cheap) folk, the ferry was more our speed.

Uncle Bill left mid-afternoon in fine weather, but the forecast front finally rolled in about sunset filling the sky with clouds and pretty well knocking out our chance to see the red eclipse of the moon. We consoled ourselves with dinner aboard and the last three weeks of the Dancing with Stars season, which Tiffany had sent out with Bill on DVD. Hopefully, Uncle Bill got to see the eclipse from the plane.

PS: My nephew John Wells is participating for the eighth time in the Annual Multiple Sclerosis Society MS 150 in South Carolina the weekend of Sept 15-16. This Bike-athon is a fund-raising effort to raise money for the fight against multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects million including members of our family. I include a link here for any one who might want to pledge a donation in his name.

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Blogger geodesic2 said...
Bula 2C's,
As my friend Bill Shakespeare says 'parting is such sweet sorrow'- I had a fantastic time and can never thank you both enough for 'the trip of a life time' even the seasickness and "beating to weather" on Tii is fondly remembered. I am looking forward to reading about your further adventures and am only sorry I am not there. But Geo was glad to see me and we are briskly at work getting her ready to go East - ah and then west to ???
Uncle Bill,

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