September 2019: Fiji

Surf. Dive. Socialise.

We began in the Beqa Lagoon, cruised the Coral Coast and ended in the Mamanuca Islands.

DISTANCE. 220 nautical miles.

BOAT FRIENDS. We said a sad goodbye to RENEGADE.

It was amazing to be isolated and ensconced in surf-dive-sail-girl power world with this beautiful family for over a month. Dale and Brian are the most pro-chick blokes you’ll meet. They are wonderful role models.

We carry cracker memories from our time with RENEGADE. For example, when Hazel wants to call a boat on the VHF radio she says “Let’s Renegade Renegade them.” This is Hazel “Renegade Renegading” RENEGADE.

RENEGADE was the target of the girls’ first independent dinghy mission; an act which will not be repeated in Australia for quite some time. For reasonable reasons, young children are not permitted to drive motorised vessels in Australia. Interestingly however, in our current life on the sea, it is prudent for Willow (and soon Hazel) to know how to drive our dinghy. It could save lives.


RESORT LAND FIJI. Many of you will appreciate the first world problem of selecting the perfect resort for a family holiday in an unfamiliar location. Happily for you, we’ve now assessed numerous resorts in Fiji. We didn’t actually stay at the resorts, which perhaps compromises the credibility of our assessments… Nevertheless, we’re thrilled to recommend the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa to families seeking an aesthetically pleasing, easy access location with beginner surf/dive/snorkel/all round water sports options. It’s in the stunning Natadola Bay, less than an hour’s drive from Nadi Airport.

While not for serious surfing families, the waves are perfect for little ones and learners.

The bay is full of turtles, the passes are pretty to dive and snorkel, and there’s a kids’ club. (And a golf course? Unconfirmed because we’re not golfers, but ‘golf’ is in the name… call me Nancy Drew). I wish I’d known about this resort several years ago when the girls and I flew to Fiji for a mini-break and stayed at the ordinary and overrated Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort.

Dreams came true in the local huts next to the resort. The bogan braids took only three hours to put in. They took three times as long to take out. Sigh.

Robinson Crusoe Island is in the next bay west.

It presents the best ‘cultural’ show we’ve seen in Fiji. My photos don’t do it justice.

CLOUDBREAK. We continued west and arrived in surf city Fiji. Dale was straight out there. It was the first of six weeks of sessions for us all. Willow’s favourite break was Swimming Pools, Hazel’s was Tavi Rights, and mine was Namotu Lefts.

This first day though belonged to Dale. No points for guessing his favourite break; he lived the cliche.

Meanwhile, the girls and I checked the anchor.

Last month I promised a video of Hazel freediving.

She is wearing one fin because she cut her heel.

I love her breath-up focus at the start, and her one arm torpedo ascent. Her new record is 7.1 meters. What a little star (so says her crazy proud mother).

Willow is a natural freediver like her father: stylish and graceful, beautiful to watch. For once I’m not even being ironic. Willow holds her hands exactly as Dale does during the breath-up.

MUTINY ON THE MUSCAT 7. One day shortly after we arrived in surf city, we were anchored near Cloudbreak and the wind came up mid-afternoon: 10 knots. 15 knots. 20 knots. MUSCAT 7 became rockier and rollier; she felt as she does on passage. Dale wasn’t onboard. He’d surfed all morning and into the afternoon, with a short break for lunch.

At around 4.45pm, it became clear our skipper wasn’t interested in arranging a calm anchorage for the night.

Firstly, we were new to the area and didn’t have a GPS track to move in the dark. We have a rule: Do NOT enter a new anchorage in the dark. We enforce this rule strictly, subject to limited previously agreed exceptions. None of our agreed exceptions are in Fiji. Sailors hit the reef here all the time. Charts are not accurate. If you can’t see a reef, you could hit it.

Secondly, generally it takes two people to pull anchor, especially around a reef where the chain or anchor or both can be caught on bombies.

Previously in our sailing life, this scenario meant we’d suffer a sleepless night in an uncomfortable anchorage. Conveniently however, several months ago I taught Willow and Hazel to do my job pulling anchor, and I know how to do Dale’s job driving MUSCAT 7; so with nothing to lose and a good night’s sleep to gain, we gave it a crack to move ourselves.

And we did it! We pulled anchor and set off to seek shelter before dark. We swung past the line-up to see if Dale wanted to join us. That’s him burning full throttle towards us in the dinghy. It seems he was interested in a calm anchorage after all.

Being able to move MUSCAT 7 easily without Dale has changed our lives. Running satellite tender / home boat shuffles to and from the reef means we’ve both surfed more, Dale especially. Nevertheless, I sense Dale is somewhat nervous about the new power dynamic onboard… Game on.

MUSKET COVE.Musket‘ the weapon. Not ‘Muscat‘ the capital of Oman or the grape. There was confusion. Musket Cove is a renowned hub for yachties. It’s less than five miles to five cracker surf spots. It was the perfect base for us.

At this magical place:

*Anchor lights appear as stars.

*Parties only end when the tide comes in.

*Boat kids negotiate the big issues: where to swim today?

*Parents you’ve recently met are thrilled when their fun-loving, adventurous daughter enjoys a joy ride on a random kitesurfer’s back on your watch. Khiimori you are a rad bunch. We miss you.

*Boat kids sneak in to the neighbour resort and dominate the slide.

REGATTA WEEK. Gosh, I can’t even believe we were in Musket Cove for Regatta Week. We were aware of the dates and had planned to avoid the chaos, but for various reasons, we arrived the eve of opening night and stayed. We loved it all*.

*But for Pirates’ Day and the sailing races.

Unfortunately we missed Pirates’ Day because the surf was nice and we went to the reef instead. Willow and Hazel may never forgive us. But they do alright.

And the sailing races… well, these just aren’t our thing. Dale would have kittens racing our family home. He’d yell and bark orders and carry on like a pork chop as he does when he’s stressed. And I’d of course yell back and refuse to comply with his orders until he found some manners and asked politely in a calm voice. Sigh.

Aside from this unpleasantness, I struggle to think of a worse way to spend the day: Sailing for three to four hours. Navigating shallow reefs and other boats at close range. If the wind is light perhaps even travelling slower than five knots and not being allowed to turn on the engines. Ending where we began. Blah. Sailing is a means to an end for me, a lifestyle, not a recreational pursuit. I enjoy perfect conditions and progress. And I always prefer surfing or diving or cleaning the tender or doing a load of washing, or two. It’s true.

We did get amongst it by burning around the start line in our fast tender. Obviously this brought joy and happiness to the purist sailors.

Dale was a boy racer in a previous life for sure. Sigh.

Regatta highlights:

Boat kids.

Yachties gone wild…

Coincidentally, we met our Burleigh friends’ family on the dance floor.

Hobie cat challenge.

At some point Hazel wrestled control of the hooter.

Fun run.

Beach games and competitions.

Willow and Hazel were disappointed they didn’t ‘win’ anything. “Mummy, why didn’t YOU help us build the most amazing sandcastle?!” they whinged at me afterwards. “Ummm… because it was a kids’ sandcastle building competition and I’m an adult. Derrr.”

RENEGADE. We were reunited sooner than expected!

It was a special treat to surf, dive and sail with our dear friends for another week or so before saying another goodbye until next year.

SURF. We surfed a lot. We have no photos to prove it. Dale took this clip of my first session at Swimming Pools.

And this is Willow at Swimming Pools.

Happily there were always kid boats at the reef.

Head count. Head count. Head count. Such play would not be conceivable with civilian children.

CASTAWAY. We watched the movie. We visited the island (which is not to be confused with the nearby island named Castaway Island, obviously).

Willow and I climbed the peak.

We didn’t make it to the top. I bribed her with a can of Fanta (her first) to get this far.

The view was lovely.

The guide on a tourist boat shared Wilson for a photo.

VISITORS. Coincidentally (thanks to Facebook) I discovered my dear friend from high school, Kristy, and her family were staying at Plantation Island, the resort next to Musket Cove.

I am the Godmother of Kristy’s eldest son. Sadly it had been some time between photos… Here’s a then / now flashback. The photos on the left were taken over ten years ago as we sailed north along the Queensland coast in our first boat ZINC.

We had some catching up to do! We enjoyed sunset drinks and dinners…

And a day trip to the reef on MUSCAT 7.

It was so lovely to spend quality time with old friends.



I finished only two of these books: The Rosie Project and The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down. I enjoyed both. The others didn’t grab me and I’m too old now to persevere with books I’m still battling a third to half way through. I’m disappointed I didn’t finish Life in Feejee. It is written by “A Lady”, who turned out to be Mary Wallis, the wife of Captain Benjamin Wallis a sea cucumber trader in the mid-1880s. Unusually, Mary joined her husband on his voyages and the book is essentially her diary. It is very good, but soon becomes repetitive: Feud. Murder. Cannibalism. Feud. Murder. Cannibalism. Feud. Murder. Cannibalism. Et al.


Seems there was too much playing this month… Lionheart was Willow’s first biography. She says her favourite part was when Jesse crossed the finish line and that she loved learning about his adventurous life. Apparently The Witches of Benevento was good too, but she wouldn’t recommend it because there are better stories out there, unless you are really, really into ghosts and witches.