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We fell in love with Fiji! Viti Levu, the largest and main island is huge: 100 km by 50 km, and the entire country has over 332 islands, 110 inhabited. It's very far west so is close (1300 miles) to New Zealand and Asia, making for short shipping distances. It's large enough for full-sized container ships to dock, making transport easier. It has an educated population for working, and it has a relatively stable government without a lot of the effects of missionaries that plague other island groups. We found the people extremely friendly and welcoming and we feel like we can get some good boat work completed for a fair price. What's not to like?
Beginning on 10 October, 1874, Fiji was part of the British Empire as a colony before gaining independence in 1970. There is a history of military coups beginning with two in 1987, but also in 2000 and the latest in 2007. Fiji has been ousted from several groups of Pacific Islands for its lack of democratic institution but there is a scheduled election in September, 2014. Those of us who are Fiji fans wish them the best. The government has stabilized somewhat and seems to function and commerce has continued.
The Fijians were not the hard workers that the British needed to work in the sugar cane fields since they had no history as field workers, so the British imported workers from India, beginning a source of continuing difficulty. The main population is native Fijian (Melanesian, and not Polynesian) 54%, and Indian 38%.
The national economy is based on sugar cane and tourism, but the island nation also has abundant natural resources of fish, forest products, and minerals, including jade, silver and gold. Gold, in fact, is the second most valuable export. There is also offshore oil development. Fiji exports massive amounts of concrete to other Pacific Islands.
We promised our friend and driver, Ali, that we would be sure to tell all of our Fiji-bound friends to contact him for rides to and from the Nadi Airport. He works for Marina Taxi and Tours, Vuda Point Marina, in particular, and his mobile in Fiji is 924-6579 and his taxi number is LH589. He's dependable and prompt: no worries about your schedule once your appointment goes in his book! Thanks, Ali!
A view of Vuda Point Marina in a tranquil sunset. The tiny platforms protruding from the marina's walls make small landing platforms as the boats rise and fall in the amazingly large tides for a Pacific island. We took to stepping on a bow line to force the bow a bit closer to the "dock" and then leaping across the gap, usually with our arms full of garbage or shower gear. Fresh water and 240 VAC power were available on the dock, and Wings got her first washing since Mexico. We were moored in a harbor on most islands and others simply did not have such abundant water as does Fiji.
Stripping Wings (note solar panels, dodger, and bimini are gone) for storage started while we were in the water. As you can see, we're pretty closely pack among other boats.
As we are lifted from the water by the TraveLift, the operator gave us a big "Thumbs Up" greeting
Conni watches things as we ride the boat on the TraveLift. It was NOT an OSHA approved ride! Our pull was almost at sunset because another boat had sprung a leak below water line and we agreed that their situation was more critical than ours. The crew had to place Wings in the pit using flashlights, but I suspect that it wasn't their first time doing it.
This TraveLift was the largest that we've seen and its size can be imagined by the size of the tires and frame seen here.
While still in the TraveLift slings, the crew gives the boat a power wash, using a high-pressure water system. The hull is cleaned of all soft growth and some hard growth and the effluent is caught and filtered in the concrete containment basin below the boat.
We are welcomed into our resort cabin with this message. A new message was spelled in flowers and leaves each day. Do not dismiss a large, stable bed in an air conditioned room for improving your sleeping! Being clean of sweat and grime, and a good cocktail also help.
Conni posing in front of our cabin. While hot and muggy outside, inside we enjoyed air conditioning, running hot water, and a small kitchen for creating cocktails. Conni's cocktail and Advil got us through our decommissioning. The mast behind the cabin is Wings'.
A view of the verdant grounds of the First landing Resort shows the care and planning that went into the place. Crews worked tirelessly to keep it in this condition. Tradition has it that the site was where the first people actually landed on Fiji some 1500 years ago.
Another view of the resort, showing some of the cabins closer to the beach. Since we hadn't made arrangements we took what we could get. It was too large a cabin for two, but it was available, was very close to the boat for easy transport of gear, and had a breakfast included.
The two lovely women here are Conni at left and Mildred Wade at right. Mildred is the manager of Yacht Help, a clearing house for several workers and speciality companies. One can contract with Yacht Help and gain the services of a professional sail maker, mechanics, joiners, and others, while Yacht Help oversees the work and provides liaison among everyone.
Conni at the masthead, removing all of our wind instruments so that they are not damaged by birds, high wind, or UV. She cleaned the mast and checked for loose fittings on her way up. I hoisted her and cranked the winch by hand, hence the need for Advil.
More Cruiser's marks: this view through a galley port shows the white line of salt deposits from constant dousing of saltwater from weeks at sea. The knobs at the bottom lock down and make the port watertight.
Wings in one of the famous Fiji pits shows how stable and safe the pits are. She can't fall over!
This is a good view of Wings' skeg-hung rudder and propeller, showing how she's protected while in the pit. The skeg is the hull-part that protrudes forward of the rudder and protects it from impact.
Conni emotes with her lovely drink and an appetizer of Kokoda Salad, a Walu ceviche with coconut milk. Walu is known here as Spanish Mackerel, a firm white fish.
Too beautiful to drink! The cocktail is a ChiChi with vodka, pineapple juice, and coconut milk.
After we consumed the Kokoda, we began carving on the coconut "bowl". The server showed us how to carve out the meat and we ate the entire thing. The small bowls at left are sea salt and local pepper
My lovely Conni sits and enjoys the ambiance of the First Landing restaurant. It was the best fish preparation that either of us had ever enjoyed. Conni's meal was Walu, and mine was Mahi-mahi, both perfectly cooked and presented.
We leave Wings as prepared for her ten months ashore as we can make her. We've erected her sun cover, and stripped sails, lines, and deck gear. As long as a typhoon doesn't hit the yard, she'll be fine. We miss her already. She has carried us from Alaska to Mexico, and deep into the South Pacific. She's a superb sailor, and can handle an enormous variety of conditions with grace. Thanks, Wings.
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