2013, 06-02 Here and Gone Again
The kids visit flew by so fast that my mom and nieces three week visit seemed like it would be long and luxurious. But no matter how much time you have before you know it all the planning and preparations are behind you and you’re back to the tears of goodbye.
My youngest niece Katie accompanied my 78 year old mother Mary for the 11 hour flight and three week visit with us here in Fiji. It was the first time we have ever had guests on the boat for that long and the only time we have had so many weeks dedicated to visiting. Their extended visit gave us enough time to really slow down and meander our way through the Mamanuca Islands and then northward half way up the Yasawa chain. We spent three nights at anchor near Musket Cove Resort and helped re-christen the BBQs at the recently reopened Five Dollar Bar which had been out of business since cyclone Evan rampaged across Fiji in mid December. Everyone began to settle in and we soaked up the sun and shared a few snorkeling lessons.
One of my favorite experiences to share with visitors is snorkeling and if you have never snorkeled a tropical reef you’ve missed out on one of the great wonders of our world. Katie took to snorkeling easily and did splendidly on two of the reefs right off our anchorage at Musket Cove. Hoping to see more wildlife and better coral we decided to step things up a bit by taking Island Bound out to one of the outer reefs for the day but managed to have a bit of extra excitement thrown in. She and I took off in our Walker Bay dinghy and left mom and Bill on the boat. The plan was to drop our little dinghy anchor and swim against the tide along the coral that edges the pass. We’d swim against the tide -the hard part first- and then across and over towards a tiny island for a simple and easy drift back to the dinghy. Unfortunately the tide was going out not coming in and things didn’t go quite as planned. I did an almost immediate regroup as I discovered the tide difference but felt safe enough simply working towards the island straight off then we would work against the tide in shallow water back to our starting spot at the dinghy. The running tide however had other plans.
It was tough going across the tide towards the island but we were not being sucked out to sea so we kicked and paddled and fought along in about six feet of water. Katie was doing a great job of staying right on my tail and I kept a close eye on where we were in relation to the dinghy and the pass and as we slowly kicked our way along. We were making progress but slowly and we were certainly not fluttering along enjoying any beautiful scenery. At one point I looked back and saw Bill in the RIB out in the pass and assumed he was fishing as we just kept on towards the shallower water around the island. When we finally made shallower water we stood up and took a break. Standing up gave us a place to rest with no worry of losing ground but even that was a chore so we began walking –in flippers and against the tide back towards the dinghy. That’s when Bill came roaring to our rescue. Turns out mom had been keeping a watch and then lost track of us and sent Bill out to find us. As soon as he got in the dinghy he discovered the tide mix up so ran the pass expecting to find us flushed out to open water. I’m not sure how worried he was when he didn’t find us anywhere in the pass but thankfully he finally spotted us trudging along in the island surf and came to the rescue. Oddly if we had just drifted the pass into open water he would have found us straight off but that hadn’t seemed like the right move to me –and I knew Katie wasn’t exactly comfortable with deep water yet so was trying to keep her out of the actual pass from the get go. Katie was a champ, never panicked and simply followed along trusting her salty Auntie and once Bill showed up she was still game to give it another try.
This time Bill joined us and we moved to the pass proper. He kept a hand on the painter for the RIB and we drifted the 2-3 knot current trailing it along behind us. The water was 15 to 20 feet deep and a lovely crystal clear blue with tons of fish, beautiful coral structures and even a Moray eel. The warm water rushed us along over the top like we were flying and we viewed the whole pass in just a few minutes. The second try at a first run was so beautiful that she must have decided the deep water wasn’t anything to worry about that when we asked if she wanted to run it again she grinned and pulled herself into the dinghy for another go. We were never in real danger and in fact did just the right thing of swimming across the current but it was a bit more adventurous than I would have chosen to do with a novice snorkeler. For an extra bonus experience when we headed back towards Island Bound in the two dingies found ourselves surrounded by thousands of reef fish. The iridescent blue and yellow fish were swimming all around us on the surface for as for as far as the eye could see. We shut off the engines and watches with wonder as thousands of the fish swarmed around the boats flipping and wriggling and splashing in the crystal clear water.
Our next stop was Navandra Island. We had stopped there once before with cruising friends and I knew mom and Katie would love it. There is a snug little anchorage where you feel like you are surrounded on three sides by white sandy beaches and swaying palm fringed islands. There is no village there, no residents and no close neighbors so it is quiet and feels wonderfully remote. The snorkeling is excellent on pristine reefs that are swarming with tons of fish and colorful coral. We spent two full days there lazing away the heat. The only connection to the real world came when Captain Cook Cruises dropped their anchor for a few hours to let their guests explore the reef but by lunch they had moved on again and left us to our deserted island oasis.
We did however encounter one problem: jelly fish. We had all jumped in to the deep water surrounding the boat trying to cool off from the heat. Within minutes I was feeling the telltale tiny zing that tells you there are annoying transparent jelly fish about. Surprisingly they were only in the deep water around the boat. When we went ashore to walk the beach there were none in the shallow water right off the beach and none in the mid depth water around the reefs. But it only takes a few zaps to decide that jumping off the boat isn’t quite the experience your hoping for. Different people experience the after effects of jellies differently. Mom thankfully didn’t get any stings, Bill also got none or wasn’t bothered by them, Katie had a mass on her legs and I got them on my wrists and forearms and across both knees. Generally they have an initial sting and then hours later they develop into hot itchy spots similar to a mosquito bite. Some (me but not Bill) experience a secondary blister which can itch and sting for days after. Treating them with white vinegar takes some of the bite out of them and then topical treatment with an anti itch product like Paw Paw ointment (made with papaya enzyme) helps lessen the symptoms but once the damage is done it’s there to stay for awhile. We have experienced them everywhere the water is especially warm -Fiji in late summer and fall and the Sea of Cortez in the hot summer months. With my over the top reaction it sure puts a damper on my primary cooling off technique of spending hours floating around just off the boat wherever we happen to be anchored.
Next stop Octopus Resort: my birthday had arrived and I was hoping for a night off from cooking so the plan was to make the short hop to their beautiful anchorage. It turned out to be a day filled with excitement. First a pod of dolphins came to play in the bow wake, the first in the wild dolphins Katie had ever seen. They stayed with us for just a few minutes but as always it was enchanting. Even after all of our years aboard and all the encounters we have had with wildlife dolphins and whales never cease to thrill me and sharing them with visitors is always a highlight. Then just as the last dolphins departed our bow wake we hooked a fish on our port fishing line and were soon hand over handing a 2 ½ foot Wahoo up to the boat. A few minutes later a glance behind us showed a second fish, this time on our starboard line. The second fish was an even bigger Wahoo –a lovely three feet of thick and tasty mild white fish. In fact we now had more fish than we could eat and my little freezer was already full. We wrapped them in towels and kept dousing them with fresh cool sea water with the hopes of trading them for part of our dinner at the resort. When we arrived at Octopus Bill took the dink in and made a trade with Jojo and Peter the couple who manage the resort: less one fillet Bill traded the fish for four of the nights curry dinners worth $45 each!!! A night off from cooking and free to boot.
It was a warm and near breezeless night ashore and we enjoyed our dinners but offshore there was a lighting storm moving our way. Having been caught out off the boat in a lightning storm before we decided to run for home before any rains or winds could reach us and so ~sigh~ decided to skip desert. As soon as we arriving back at Island Bound we started preparing for the storm cell still headed our way -chart plotter, lap top and back up GPS in the oven (a working-mans’ version of a faraday cage) for lighting strike protection –when a local long boat came charging our way. Wondering if there was some mix up with the bill we met them at the rail and watched amazed three local Fijians circled a small chocolate birthday cake and lit a single candle.
After birthday night we moved northward again to an anchorage off Naviti Island near Manta Resort where we had heard the manta’s had returned for the season. Despite three attempts to find them we eventually ran out of time and headed for Blue Lagoon for more swimming, the Saturday night cultural show at Coral View Resort and the famed Banoffee Pie at Nanuya Resort. The cultural show was fun and if you contact the resort they will send a long boat to get you which allowed us to transit the reefs safely in the dark. Three lazy and relaxed nights at Blue Lagoon brought a weather report of high winds and heavy rain so we would weighed anchor and head back for Vuda two days early. But first, finally the Banoffee Pie.
After talking it up with guests the timing was finally right. For you who have never even heard of it Banoffee pie it is a banana and toffee flavored cream pie with a crisp cookie crust and a whipped cream top –sweet but not too and very cool and light. And even at $15 dollars a slice it’s worth every dime. We discovered this wonderful treat at Nanuya resort but alas it is not always available. But finally on our last afternoon in Blue Lagoon the resort not only had it they had four pieces! $60 worth of pie later I couldn’t wait to get back to the boat and google a recipe. So for those of you with a sweet tooth:
14 oz of crushed cookie crumbs or graham crackers
7 oz of butter melted
1 tin of sweetened condensed milk (or one tin of Nestles caramel)
1 pint heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large bananas (ripe but still firm and pale)
1. Melt butter and add to cookie crumbs in pie pan and press into place. Bake at 350 for 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. In a sauce pan boil the can of condensed milk –being sure to keep can completely covered or you may be scraping toffee off of your ceiling- for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Set aside to cool. (You may also substitute a tin of Nestles caramel to save time and trouble.)
3. Spread ½ of the cooled toffee over the crisp cookie crust, top with sliced bananas and the remaining toffee filling.
4. Whip the cream until fluffy and then slowly add in the vanilla and the sugar. Spread whipped topping over pie and chill before cutting. You may substitute with Dream Whip, Cool Whip or canned whipped topping. I’m on a boat and am ALL about substitutions.
5. If desired you can grate a small bit of dark chocolate over the whipped topping.
The next morning we set off for our return trip to Vuda Marina. The weather forecast was calling for heavy rains and big seas so we made the entire return trip in one day to beat the worst of it. It rained for most of the 50 mile passage back to Vuda but the seas remained light so at least it wasn’t a rodeo ride for our guests.
I felt bad robbing Mom and Katie of their last few days on the outer islands but the few extra days of land based vacation time turned out to be a fine way to spend the last few days of their vacation. It gave us time for to Lautoka and the botanical garden and also a few simple days of visiting, swimming and relaxing. We did manage to work in pizza and pasta night at First Landing Resort as well as the Friday night BBQ and a native Fijian meke -a dancing and singing production put on by the locals from the village of Viseisei.
The goodbyes are still hard on me. We are always so excited when guests arrive but there is an end to every visit and yes I still cry whenever family leaves but I guess you just can’t have the great hello’s without putting up with the goodbye tears too. A neighbor once told me that having guests is interesting because you’re so happy the day friends arrive and so happy again the day they leave because then you get your boat back, your routine back and your quiet time back. And Bill and I are excited about the next chapter. We will soon sail away from Vuda Point and spend the next four months cruising around the other big island of Fiji Vanua Levu. It will be great to be out exploring new areas again. We are especially excited about the world class diving around Taveuni Island and Savu Savu and the opportunity to cruise the Lau Groups in the eastern part of the country where the islands have only been open to cruising yachts for a short time. So, it’s time to get to work, laundry and a good boat scrubbing is calling my name. I’ll write soon. Till then, write when you can we always love to hear from you. Kat and Bill