Musket Cove and the Yasawas
Written by Cathy Siegismund
July - August 2003
Tami, Ken and I returned by bus from our dive trip out of Suva aboard the
Fiji Aggressor. The rest of the group was heading to the airport, but we asked
the bus driver to drop us off at Port Denarau where we could catch the ferry back
to Felicity, which we hoped was still safely on the mooring at Musket Cove.
We had a few hours to kill before the 1400 ferry. We had lunch, and then
while Ken watched our luggage, Tami and I did a whirlwind trip through Nadi. We
picked up some fresh meat from a good butcher there, and a few items
at the grocery store not available at the small grocery at Musket Cove.
We got back to Musket Cove in the late afternoon and found that everything
was safe and sound on Felicity, the solar panels had kept up with the fridge, which
we had left running. We did notice for the first time how close our mooring put us to the reef
at low tide. But after being away from the boat for
a week, we figured we were safe enough.
View from the cockpit of the very close reef at low tide
Tami and I went in to tackle a weeks worth of laundry, including our very
ripe wetsuits and dive booties. We finally finished at about 2030. We were all
quite tired, and went to bed early. Since Tami only had a few days left in
Fiji, we decided to stay at Musket Cove and enjoy the sun and resort. Tami
and I went to the beach on the sunny days, and had manicures and pedicures at
the resort salon.
Tami and I working on our tans on the beach at Musket Cove
We had had nice weather for several weeks, and had forgotten how cool and
rainy Fiji can be. After a windy day on the beach, the clouds rolled in and we
had quite a blustery rainy day and a half as a front passed over us. Tami was a
little bummed about no beach time, but we had fun doing lazy stay-on-the-boat
things. We all read, I was immersed in re-reading the first four Harry Potter
books, as Tami had brought us the fifth. Tami and I also had some great fun with
my new beading kit that Vernita had given me for my birthday. We drank wine, ate popcorn and made anklets, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Since Tami
had added to her sulu collection in Fiji, we had to get her a few anklets to
complete the cruiser look. Maybe on her next visit we'll see if she'll get a
Tami pouring rather larger glasses of wine on our beading
Cath and Tami beading, and Tami modeling her new anklet
As Tami was still among the workforce back in Seattle, we had to introduce
her to the cruiser's pace of life. We often call it "the one thing a day" pace.
On this particular day we beaded and read -- so actually we did two things.
The weather cleared for the last day or so of Tami's visit, so we had a few
more beach days. Paul and Suzette from Altair had flown through Nadi on their
way back to New Zealand and their boat and got a layover to come out
to Musket Cove and see friends. Nik and Jenn from Green Ghost and Garth and
Wendy from Velella also had made it Musket Cove by now. These were all cruising buddies from the season we crossed the Pacific to New Zealand so it
felt like old times. Every night at Musket Cove, there's a beach bar and BBQ
pit with wood and plates and utensils provided. We all arranged to bring a side
dish and our own meat to BBQ and met for a fun night ashore, where
Tami got to get a taste of the cruising community.
The dock at Musket Cove Marina with the small bar and BBQ
area at far right
Tami's flight home left Nadi at 1300, so as Ken and I had errands to run we
all took the morning ferry into Denarau. We went to an air freight
and packaging company at the airport and shipped our enormous collection of
Fijian woodcarvings home. We had lunch with Tami at the airport, and then said a
sad goodbye. We encouraged her to visit again soon. It was great having a
visitor, especially someone who is so laid back and willing to share our very
cozy 31 foot space with us.
We spent another several weeks playing at the Musket Cove resort with
Jenn, Nik, Garth (the head in the pool), Wendy and Ken from
Sunbow hanging out at the Musket Cove pool
Nik, Jenn, Ken & Cath at happy hour, before heading to
the weekly pig roast at the resort
We swam in the pool, ate at the BBQ, played Mexican train dominoes and drank fruity
overpriced umbrella drinks in the afternoons -- basic cruiser stuff. At one end of
the pool at Musket Cove pool, they have placed a boat, which had been wrecked on
a nearby reef. We hope never to see Felicity as a pool decoration!
A wrecked cruising boat, now a pool decoration
We were having great fun enjoying the resort, but we were also waiting for
parts and Ken was doing projects. Our friend Drew was helping Ken find parts
and ship them to us. Our watermaker was still producing slightly salty water, and
the water pump for our engine needed replacing. We also were waiting for a West Marine
order of various items. Musket Cove is a good place to have parts shipped, with
most orders arriving from the US in five to seven days if shipped DHL or FedEx.
Ken and I also made a trip in Nadi to pick up a new engine starting battery, which had
died as we were leaving Suva.
We were still awaiting for some parts, but decided as the weather looked good
we could make a quick trip up to the Yasawas for a week or so. The Yasawas are a
group of islands that run northeast from the west side of Viti Levu. They are
full of white sand beaches and turquoise water, and range from uninhabited to
exclusive luxury resorts. We would return to Musket Cove to finish our boat
projects and check out to go to Vanuatu. We provisioned and were ready to go,
only to be held in Musket Cove by two days of fairly strong winds. We kept
hearing how rolly many of the anchorages were in the Yasawas when the wind was
howling, so we decided to wait for more settled weather. Green Ghost took off a
couple of days before we did, as we needed to get fuel and needed settled
weather for that as well.
We finally left Musket Cove late morning, picking our way through the many
reefs that claim cruising boats each year in Fiji. To navigate, we checked two sets
of paper charts, one printed in Fiji and a DMA chart, as well as our C-Map
electronic charts, and drawings and descriptions in Michael Calder's book A
Yachtsman's Fiji. It is a little disconcerting when all of these sources seem to
tell you something different. The advised method for winding through these
hazardous reefs, some of which appear from nowhere in the middle of deep water,
is to sail toward a hazard you can see because of breakers or visible land and
then make your way to the next visible hazard. This method is knows as "rock
hopping" and worked well for us.
We would see some breakers or an exposed rock and then often have to eye-ball
the halfway mark between the visible reef and our guess of the location of an invisible one, threading
between the two. Although the distances among the Yasawa islands are relatively
short, the sails can be tiring and a little stressful. Most of the time, we both
had to be on deck looking for reefs with our polarized sunglasses and binoculars,
sometimes one of us was on the bow. We also needed to make sure we had the sun
above or behind us if we were entering a particularly tricky part, as the lighter color
water covering reefs is invisible with the sun in your eyes.
Our route from Musket Cove up to the Blue Lagoon in the
Despite it being fairly windy, we left and had a short 14-mile motor inside the
surrounding reef on Malolo then out into the open water to the lee side of
Yanuya in the northern Mamanucas. We anchored off the beach in a small bight, which was protected from the SE swell. We
left the next morning at about 0900, as soon as the sun was high enough in the
sky to see the reefs. We had a 27-mile trip the next day to make it to Naviti.
Naviti is in the Yasawas and was supposed to have a nice pass to snorkel where you
could see manta rays. Nik and Jenn were there, and we were looking forward to
catching up with them. We had a lovely sunny sail with brisk 20-25 knot winds,
with a few gusts higher. Although the seas were not too big, there were white
caps, which made seeing breakers on the reefs more difficult. It was such a
beautiful sail, we even decided to throw out a fishing line, and to our utter
amazement caught a little fish.
Cath pulling in the hand line after our shock at having a
fish on the hook
The hook pulled loose as were just getting him to the boat, but as this was
our first try at fishing in Fiji and our fist catch since Mexico, we were more
excited about the possibilities of successful fishing. Our last cruising season,
we rarely threw out the line, as on long passages I don't feel like bothering
with fish and our fishing attempts on day hops were unsuccessful.
We arrived at Naviti at about 1400. There were only two other boats in the
slightly rolly anchorage, one of them being Green Ghost. We had talked to Nik
and Jenn as we were approaching, and they were going to try for a third
attempt to see the manta rays in the pass. As soon as we got the hook down, Ken
took a nap and I started doing some cooking. We were going over to Green Ghost
for dinner, and I was bringing dessert. We had only been anchored for
about 30 minutes, when I heard shouts of bula!. When I looked out I saw a 20
foot open boat with a large outboard and three Fijians coming along side us. I
quickly got Ken up, so we could throw out fenders, as they seemed fairly intent
on tying up to us. They were shouting that there was some sort of "big problem."
The first thing we thought was that we were in trouble for not immediately going
ashore to sevusevu with the chief, and therefore didn't have permission to
anchor there. We were a little miffed by this, as there was no village at this
end of the island and we had been told by Nik and Jenn as well as others that
you didn't need to sevusevu unless you went to the bays on the north end of the
We grabbed lines from the little boat and one of the Fijians jumped aboard;
and after introductions in rather sketchy English kept saying there was a big
problem. We were rather tired and didn't even have our dink in the water, so
were trying to say we would visit tomorrow. We finally got the idea of what he
was saying. He and his friends were fishermen for bêche-de-mer,
sea cucumbers, which the Fijians fish and sell to Japan and other Asian markets
where they are considered a delicacy. These fisherman come out to the Yasawas
from Lautoka, over 20 miles of open sea, in these small open plywood and fiberglass boats
with no radios. They stay in small fishing huts on the beach for a few days,
scuba diving for sea cucumbers and then returning to Lautoka. We were amazed
they had been out in the 3-foot short chop and 20-25 knot winds in these little
open boats. Our new friend's big problem was that he had holed his boat on the
reef on the other side of the pass just south of Naviti. He was asking us for
supplies to fix the hole in his boat.
Ken started pulling out our repair kit of epoxy and fiberglass and was trying
to assess what would be needed to fix the unseen "hole." We
pulled a chart out to make sure we knew where his boat was and that Ken
wasn't going off to an island 20 miles away. The boat was just a couple of miles
around the corner of the island, and after Ken grabbed more tools, supplies
and our handheld VHF he jumped on the boat with the Fijians and headed off at
Nik and Jenn had just returned from snorkeling, and were asking us on the VHF
what was up with the little Fijian boat. They stopped at Green Ghost, and Nik
joined Ken in the repair operation. Jenn and I told them we'd start to
worry if they weren't back by dark. The guys finally returned at about 1900,
after dark, covered with epoxy and sand. The boat had a hole with a 12" gash from
hitting the reef. The guys made a patch using some plywood from a seat in the
boat held on with thickened epoxy and galvanized nails. Over the patch, they
also put on one layer of fiberglass cloth. Ken and Nik did most of the epoxy
work, with about 15 Fijians crowded around observing the process. The Fijians
pitched in to prep the surfaces for the epoxy. Ken and Nik said the patch job
wasn't pretty, but it should hold until they got back to Lautoka.
After Ken and Nik cleaned up, we headed over to Green Ghost for some dinner
and compared notes on the anchorages we had visited so far. Nik and Jenn had
seen mantas in the pass on their third try, but said it was so rough, the dinghy
ride to the pass was rather extreme, and the current was so strong that they really
only got a fleeting glimpse of the manta rays. It didn't really sound worth it to
us. However, the next morning was sunny and calm, so we decided to give it a try
with Nik and Jenn anyway.
Jenn on manta ray lookout in the pass
We unfortunately, didn't see any mantas, but stopped about halfway back to
the boat for a nice snorkel.
We found a few clown fish, which are one of our favorites, so we took some
pictures and watched the fish dart in and out of their anemones.
Nik on the left and Cath on the right playing with the nervy little clownfish
Jenn has been bitten by the shell collecting bug, so as she was off looking for
empty shells for her collection, Ken and I were looking for the little creatures
we had really learned to appreciate since starting underwater photography. We
saw a school of squid, which was a first for us. We are always
finding them dead on the decks in the form of squid-jerky on passages, but had
never seen them snorkeling.
School of squid
After about an hour of snorkeling, we were getting a little chilly and decided
to head back to the boats.
Heading back to the boats anchored off Naviti
We again had dinner with Nik and Jenn and played cards. We had decided to
head off the next day after spending several nights in rather rolly anchorages.
We decided to head north another 20 miles or so to what was supposed to be the
most protected anchorage in the Yasawas.
We set off the next day for Nanuya-sewa anchorage. It is an area
extremely well protected from almost every direction as it is nestled in the
middle of the islands of Matacawalevu, Nanuya-sewa, and Tavewa. We decided to
try our luck at fishing again, and after a couple hours of trolling, we had
caught another small fish. This time we got him aboard, we think it was a sort
of mackerel. The fish we caught was small, but was a good size for two for dinner.
Ken gaffing and me cleaning our small but tasty catch
We pulled into the Nanuya-sewa anchorage in the early afternoon with about 10
other boats. The bay was pretty with sand beaches on all the surrounding
islands. A huge yellow cat-hulled ferry that docked on one side of us and the
small cruise ship that was usually on the other side of us, did detract a bit.
However, we went ashore and did a sevusevu with Nik and Jenn and met the family
that lived on the island off which we were anchored. They gave us permission to
walk the island, snorkel around their beach and another beach across the
channel. They also would take trash and sell fresh bread for a modest fee. We
periodically had the open fiberglass boats usually with a man and several kids
stop by to ask if we wanted to buy fresh produce or in one case a boat loaded
with lobster. We spent the days snorkeling and most evenings having dinner and
playing cards or watching movies with Nik and Jenn.
We were planning on heading south in the next couple of days, when I was hit
with a rather nasty cold that had been making the rounds at Musket Cove. Our
refrigerator had also just stopped working. I had a
fever and a very sore throat, however, the weather was very settled and we as well
as Green Ghost decided to leave the Yasawas. When the usual tradewinds are
blowing, it is often a rough beat all the way back to Musket Cove. We both left
a little after noon the following day, and stopped again at Naviti. Ken went
over to Green Ghost and I laid around feeling sick and watching movies.
The next day, we both left early. We were going to try and make it all the
way back to Musket Cove and Nik and Jenn were headed for Lautoka to prepare to
leave for Vanuatu. We had a calm, sunny motor most of the way back to the
A patch of sand barely above water, sitting atop a reef out
in open water, is one of the more visible hazards Fiji
Just as we had entered the surrounding reef of Malolo, the wind started to
pick up and the sky got very dark. We motored the rest of the way back to
another mooring at Musket Cove in squally rainy weather.
We were back at Musket Cove in a bit of a holding pattern. I was down with a
cold, we were waiting for parts, had decided to order a new refrigerator from
West Marine in the US, and had a laundry list of boat projects to do before we could leave