August 2019: Fiji

The good times rolled. We began in the Lau Group. We ended in the Beqa Lagoon. In the middle we circumnavigated Kadavu (almost). And we swiftly resupplied in Suva.

DISTANCE: 370 nautical miles.

LIFE. Our dreams came true. We cruised alongside a beautiful family from California. They surf. They dive. They are fun, funny and all round super nice. It was so lovely floating beside them for most of the month.

Our girls played hard. All day. Every day. They became the best of friends, like cousins really. Friendships move fast and strong on the sea.

Hazel tried to keep up.

Often unsuccessfully.

This happens when three out of four parents are civil engineers.

The fourth parent may have wished she was reading her book. But then, look at these kick arse engineers. So proud.

PUPPIES. Gosh. Puppies. Our dinghy would barely glance the sand in front of a village and the girls would be off, running full pelt, screeching, giggling, searching – from house to house to house – for the freshest batch of puppies.

Fortunately, the villagers always seemed delighted when our smiling, squealing, balls of energy barged into their homes to engulf and inhale their newest members.

SURF. In the middle of nowhere we found waves.

It’s rare for surf to be challenging for Dale. Admittedly he was out of form, the fault of his wife and children, of course. It wasn’t the size of the waves, but the mere foot of water covering the jagged live coral underneath. And, the remoteness – no resorts, no charter boats, no airport, the nearest medical facility was an overnight sail away. Here’s the top of a full moon high tide sucking the reef near dry.

Here’s Dale giving it a shoulder hopping crack anyway.

One day, he gave it a crack, literally.

The girls played dress-up surfers.

And skurfed.

MAKING FOOD. Spaghetti vongole. Life-changing-loaf-of-bread. Papaya yoghurt. Bread. I’m not a cook, as many of you know. Cooking doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t enjoy it. I’d always rather exercise or read a book. But on a boat in the middle of nowhere my hand is forced. There’s nothing to eat if I don’t prepare it, and I have two kids to feed.

MAKING WATER. We have a splendid reverse osmosis machine. It turns salt water from the ocean into fresh drinking water. With 750ml of petrol we can make 120 litres of water in an hour. This lasts us three to four days for drinking, washing, cleaning, cooking and flushing the toilet*. Around 10 litres a day per person. Impressive. If I don’t say so myself. We’re well placed for Armageddon.

*We have a fancy toilet system that flushes with fresh water. It’s gold and our bathroom doesn’t smell funky as do many boats with toilets that flush with salt water. ZINC, our old Spirited 380, flushed with salt water. She stank. I have a strong sense of smell and I couldn’t even cope, especially when I was pregnant with both girls. It’s the little things that make life on board a boat comfortable.

MAKING CLOTHES SMELL LESS. It doesn’t work unless you have a washing machine, and we don’t have a washing machine. See comments below about why this won’t change in the foreseeable future.

DIVING. Grey above.

Bright blue below.

Willow and her buddy can freedive to 10 meters, which is astonishing, unbelievable really. It’s been independently verified of course, by Dale with a weighted line. Sigh.

Hazel can freedive to over 5 meters based on her recovering sand under our anchorage at 5.3 meters. She’s all grunt. Down. And up. It’s amusing. I’ll take a movie to share next month.

HIKING. I always itch to stretch my body on land. I usually drag my family and others along for the stroll.

One particular hike was hairy. Willow and I joined a group of yachties to climb the highest peak on an island in the Lau Group.

It was cruisy and relaxing.

Until it was not.

It was windy.

We made it.

With the help of ropes.

And Brian. Thanks for spotting Willow along with your girls Brian. You’re gold!

The girls encouraged each other through any (hopefully not lifelong) trauma.

SURVIVOR. We anchored near a ‘Survivor’ set.

We were politely asked to leave the next morning. Seemingly, Survivor’s remote-raw-beach-jungle theme is ruined with our wee middle class family boat in the frame.

Dale thinks the contestants are sleeping rough on the beach. I think they’re lounging at resorts between takes. In any case, the region is neither remote nor rough. Survivor sounds like a holiday to me. The contestants should try ‘surviving’ on a boat in the outer islands with my girls. Now there’s a reality TV series for you: families with young kids on yachts – what a nightmare… negotiating little people on a boat is as tough as it gets. We’ve done it (we’re still doing it to some extent with Hazel) and we’ve seen many others do it. We’re yet to see anyone who is as happy and relaxed as you can be with little kids on land. Pre-teens however, now this is a golden age for boat kids. It’s unsurprising most boat kids are between six years and twelve years old.

THE GOOGLE BOAT. We joined our friends in a stunning anchorage near a sweet village on Kadavu. We were the third yacht to visit this season, our friends were the second.

Two small boys befriended the rad double daughter dads.

We awoke one morning to this monstrosity in the anchorage, the fourth yacht of the season.

Their seaplane flew in mid-morning with avocados / cheese / champagne / who knows? Willow and Hazel think ‘McDonalds’ – apparently ‘McDonalds’ is the most exotic thing they can imagine. Sigh. The most exotic thing I can imagine is the ability to do laundry. I’d do anything for a load of clean laundry.

The weather was crap. However, when you’re chartering a superyacht for US$110,000 a day, you don’t have the luxury to be precious about weather like we do, you must play in the wind and the rain. Money still can’t beat weather, only time does, and happily for us, cruising sailors win on time, every time.

In the windy rain, the two families chartering the superyacht shared some of their toys with the village. They kindly allowed our boat kids to play too.

I met one of the mums on the beach. She’s a former Vogue cover girl. She smelled divine. I’m certain she didn’t experience the same about me…

I dreamed about sneaking on board her charter boat to do load after load after load of laundry using a full sized washing machine and dryer. As alluded to above, regular clean laundry is the only thing I want for in my sailing life. And no, a crappy little boat/caravan washing machine won’t cut mustard. I’ve crunched the numbers around power, water, load size, efficiency, cost and time and I’m unable to convince myself, let alone present a proposal to Dale to acquire a washing machine. Therefore, it’s outsourcing and laundromats for me for the foreseeable future.

MORE SURF. We found fun family waves in Kadavu. At one spot, a pesky shark shortened several sessions.

At another spot we suffered a hideous anchorage for Dale to surf King Kongs. It was perhaps the worst anchorage we’ve experienced in all our sailing years. There was a pretty beach on the leeward side.

And a spooky deserted surf resort to explore. Spot the washing machine!

KAVA. This is kava in the field.

This is kava in the market and in the home.

SEVUSEVU. I have mentioned the Sevusevu previously. It’s a traditional Fijian ceremony where you offer the local chief a bundle of kava and seek permission to anchor, surf, dive, fish and spend time in the village.

The ceremony varies from village to village and from island to island, but always involves clapping – hollow claps, with cupped hands – and solemn nodding. Usually, photos are not permitted.

We try to avoid the kava drinking part whenever possible. I’m a bit of a germ-a-phobe and drinking a beverage strained with a dirty dish cloth from a communal vessel doesn’t rock my boat. Nevertheless, on several occasions, we’ve been inadvertently roped in to drinking kava, to be polite. Even the girls have had a go on the ‘grog’. Willow: “It tastes the same as old brains and socks, like water with dishwashing detergent in it.” Hazel: “It’s disgusting. It tastes like soapy water with medicine in it.

During one extended kava session, the men broke out in the most beautiful chorus.

We’ve also witnessed several ‘tourist’ kava sessions at resorts. These are completely different to the traditional sessions we’ve experienced in the villages. Funny staged shows for the sunburned frothing touros.

Now, here’s a titbit for you hip Aussies/Kiwis. Apparently kava bars are on trend in Europe and North America, perhaps trending in Australia/New Zealand sometime in the next decade… think hookah lounge with a dirty dish cloth. Get on it. Yeew. You’re welcome.

TROPICAL FRUIT AND VEG. We didn’t find enough. In the eastern islands of Fiji, life is predominantly white. White sugar, white flour, white rice, white fish, white root vegetables (yams, cassava, taro), white fruit (breadfruit, bananas, coconuts). Diabetes is rampant. Fijians get the double whammy – hereditary AND lifestyle diabetes. Oh and due to recent economic forces (mentioned above), fields are full of kava (and marijuana, in Kadavu, allegedly). Never did I think I’d crave the variety of a market in Sumatra. Gosh even tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage are unheard of in the Lau Group and Kadavu. The outer islands of Fiji are by far the unhealthiest places I’ve been, fresh food wise. I did find a few tomatoes (and chives, random!), but only because I picked my own after befriending a lovely lady and helping to weed her vegetable patch on the mountainside near her village.

Large papayas were always plentiful.

As were coconuts.

The girls even smashed some cocoa fruit.

Towards the end of our time on Kadavu, we visited an earthy resort and were granted permission to pick from their garden.

It was incredible. Hazel helped me to pick a variety of green deliciousness.

And Brazilian cherries! We had these in our front yard when I was a kid. My sisters and I may have thrown them at cars from behind our front fence… They are delicious, in a strange tangy zingy way. I hadn’t tasted them in say 30 years. Amazing.

AND MORE SURF. The surf break ‘Frigates’ is on an outer reef, five miles from a comfortable anchorage, and there’s nowhere convenient to anchor off the break. It all seemed too hard, but then the stars aligned and our friends joined us. It was an amazing day.

We arrived early and grabbed a mooring buoy. Dale and Brian had the break to themselves. Their six biggest fans hooted them from the MUSCAT 7 front deck.

When the local surf and dive boats finally arrived, Robyn and I did our best: “Oh gosh shucks our Captains are surfing and how could we women possibly know how to move this boat off this mooring?” It worked. Though I’m not convinced it was their mooring to kick us off anyway. I’ve since heard the moorings are owned by the local village. Nevertheless, it was nice the surf and dive boats didn’t bully us off, they would have for sure in Indonesia. I’ll need to up my game if we sail that way again. I’m out of practice. We’ve been spoiled sailing in a country with kind, generous and non-scheming locals. Unfortunately, the surf is not as good. Dale keeps saying: “If only Fijians lived in Indonesia, and Indonesians lived in Fiji.” Dreams.



It was another month of cracker reads for me. I can recommend them all, to the right people.

The Goldfinch is for all of you. It’s about coming of age, family, death, morals, choices, addiction, love and art. The Pulitzer Prize Committee didn’t get it wrong. I couldn’t put the 771 page brick down. It’s a behemoth, perhaps read this one on your e-reader.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is for those of you who are interested in biological science or medicine, and for those of you who know/have known anyone with cancer, so yep, actually, it’s pretty much for all of you. Thank you Laura for this gem recommendation.

Me Talk Pretty One Day is for those of you who enjoy a laugh and are not easily offended. It was my joyful (re)read for the month. I adore David Sedaris and this book was as funny and inappropriate the second time around.

A Voyage For Madmen is for those of you who are interested in life at sea, human achievement or mental health. It’s the true story of nine men who set out in 1968 to race each other around the world in sailboats. Only one made it back. I sobbed my way through parts.

Reckoning has an international setting, however, I think it’s mostly for Australians who enjoy Fast Forward and Kath & Kim. For some reason I expected it to be light and funny, but it was mostly dark and heavy. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting and inspiring read by one of Australia’s funniest women. It’s about father/daughter relationships, pressure, love, creating comedy and public life.

Ghost Empire is another stellar read, albeit hefty – physically and mentally. It’s for those of you who love Conversations with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio and who are fascinated by the history of Istanbul / Constantinople / Roman Empire / Byzantine Empire / Ottoman Empire, so, perhaps only my dad? Dad, you’ll love this book!


Smart chicks, bunny rabbits and Enid Blyton magical wackiness, what more do you need to be engrossed as an eight year old?