Bula… Fiji turns it on!

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As we approach the 1 month anniversary of our arrival in Fiji, I find myself seriously wondering if life is in fact fair? the fun times have not stopped, and despite a few reality checks here and there, we have been blessed with rewarding experiences at every turn…. so if life is fair, how will we be expected to repay all of this good fortune?…. for now we’ve put that question to the back of our minds, and are concentrating on enjoying Fiji – possibly the most perfectly suited playground we have found to date! Sharing with as many new and old friends as possible and ignoring the tide of time as it pushes us closer and closer to the end of the cruising season in the South Pacific and the inevitable return home to Australia.

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Speaking of old friends, Virtuo Michael steers squander into Fiji.

We had a fast run to Suva from Tonga, arriving late on a Sunday night. It was blowing 25+ and the swell was building as we negotiated a night entry into Suva harbour… our charts were spot on and with an added help from the leading lights and some waypoints sent to us by MAD who had entered earlier in the day, we had it well covered.

Our stop in Suva had a number of objectives – firstly to clear in to Fiji, secondly to get a good dose of civilization (shops, banks, traffic, restaurants, bars) and most importantly to pick up our latest crew member Sofi who was carrying some important cargo for us – Chocolate!

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The Cargo was delivered safe and sound!  IMG_3096

trying to find the customs office, Sofi, Andy and Brent.  IMG_3105

….ahhh nope, not here either – Brent cracking up at our interpretation of Fijian directions!

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we entertained ourselves observing the myriad of buses as we wondered the back streets of Suva Port to find customs.

we eventually found what we were looking for and managed to complete the paperwork some 24 hrs after first starting the process.

Next was Food and soaking up some civilization…. IMG_3107

The Suva Markets kaleidoscope. IMG_3142 IMG_3143  IMG_3145    IMG_3108

Rob and Hanna had told us great stories of the Suva fish markets from their previous trip ten years earlier, but very little remains of the old fishing fleet and their catch seems barely legal.

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Fanning the local catch – are the Chinese fishing out Fiji’s waters too?? IMG_3114

Then it was time to hit the big smoke, complete with malls, Cinemas and traffic!

The novelty soon wore off and we completed our shopping at the local spice market before planning a midday escape to Yanutha island.   

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The curry ingredients isle! 

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Brent and Sofi sampling the local organic rice! IMG_3126

So who is Sofi….??? For those of you that have been following our travels for a while, you may recall that back in March 2011, we stopped in Colombia and went to the three day Barranquilla Carnival – it was there that we met Sofi, she was on holidays from Argentina. Thanks to the modern wonders of Facebook, the rest is history!

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Step back in time, March 2010 (past, present and future Squanderers drinking Medellin rum in Colombia)   L to R – Sofi from Argentina, Caitlin and Andy from oz, Simon the International man of mystery and Kirsten from Holland who sailed with us in Spain in 2010 and happened to be in Colombia when we were there in 2011.

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…back to Fiji… the weather had deteriorated significantly in the three days we had been in Suva and I quietly wondered how Sofi, our newest crew member was going to handle the bumpy 30 mile journey to Yanutha island…?!

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Backbeat leading the charge out of Suva

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Chasing Backbeat in 30 knots (2nd reef and twin headsails)

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As it turns out we had nothing to worry about, Sofi seems to have been born for the sea, instantly slotting into her favourite position and being more worried about taking pictures then the 2-3 metre swells and 30+ knots of wind.

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Backbeat hiding in the trough of a passing wave..      

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Yanutha island is a tiny spec about 10miles offshore from southern Viti Levu.

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As soon as we dropped anchor, the weather started improving…. we were in high spirits and ready to explore. I swam ashore to see if anyone was living in the small hut on the beach. At first it seemed abandoned, but then i heard a whistle and minutes later met Aseri and his wife and baby daughter. Aseri and his family were the sole inhabitants of this part of the island.

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We spoke until sunset, me mostly asking questions and listening and Aseri and his wife explaining the layout and history of Yanutha. Amongst other things Aseri invited us to make the 20 minute trek across the island to the village where a big feast was being put on the next day.

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Early the next day eight of us set out across Yanutha, hiking up the hill, through the school, which doubles as a tsunami shelter and down to the Village.  IMG_3189 IMG_3192

Andy looking down towards the village of 200 or so inhabitants. IMG_3199 

Hanging out with the local kids… IMG_3202

We checked out the original church which has now been replaced by a more modern building. IMG_3209

Andy and I took up the invitation to eat some local food and were well rewarded with a  feast of local Taro leaves in coconut milk, chicken and lamb curry, Cassava, and Taro – yum!  IMG_3214

With the afternoon nearing, we decided to leave Raffa and Andy behind as they were getting stuck into some Kava and the rest of us headed back to our anchorage.

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Brent, Sofi and I went for an afternoon snorkel in the anchorage

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Backbeat and Squander with no one else around at Yanutha island IMG_3255

We all woke up early the next day, left Squander safely at anchor and took Backbeat for an explore offshore towards Frigates Reef, where Fiji’s most under rated wave was to be found. IMG_3257

From the minute we got up, there was a feeling that today was going to be a special day – Sofi watching Brent wax up a new board!   IMG_3266

With Yanutha island only 4 miles behind us, we had a double strike pulling in 2 great Big eye tuna….

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Girl Ash showing off Lunch!  IMG_3268
Yeahaa Boy… Raffa stoked with his work!

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soon after we had Backbeat safely tied to a mooring off the edge of the reef 
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the tuna were bled and hung to set.  IMG_3273

And we jumped in the dinghy in search of our maiden waves in Fiji. 

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conditions weren’t perfect, but we could see the potential of this place.

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Brent going for the inside position as Andy paddles out on the left and I contemplate a drop in! IMG_1903
Great to be surfing again!
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Andy picks off a nice little one! 

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and the swell starts building as day one comes to an end.

We motored back to Yanutha island – it was the 27th of August and Australia was due to play the tri nations decider against New Zealand – the local village didn’t even have electricity, yet we had ambitions to watch a live Rugby game… we set our minds to it and through the wonders of Virtual private networking, managed to create a VPN connection between Squander and Brent’s Sydney office in order to do a live stream of Rugby….

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Edge of the seat stuff as Australia played the best game of Rugby I have seen in years, defeating NZ and winning the 2011 tri nations cup…  IMG_3278 

Live Rugby streaming on Squander… WTF???  

By the time the game finished we were all super tired after a long and rewarding day… a blissful sleep followed. We woke up the next day pumped to do it all again…

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Early rise and everyone was all smiles as we left Squander behind and headed towards Frigates for day 2 of fun.

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Backbeat was back in her favourite position, and the news was all good – conditions had cleaned up significantly.

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There were 4 other guys out from WA

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Andy wasted no time getting his name on the board

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Not too many pics were taken as everyone got more then their fair share of waves.

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By the afternoon, the breeze started building and one of the WA lads pulled out his kite and put on a show.
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As the sunset we yet again returned to Yanutha island.                     IMG_3344 IMG_3347
One week anniversary of being on Squander – I think Sofi is enjoying herself!

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Happy days!!!  Gav, Ash, Brent , Girl Ash, Raffa (upside down), Kate, Andy and Sofi.

The next 2 days were spent relaxing, sitting out some bad weather and running the inaugural 2 day GADI course with Sofi and Brent partaking and passing with flying colours… your certificates are in the mail… 

For anyone wondering GADI (Gav n Andy Dive instructors) course is a serious alternative to PADI.

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Brent and Sofi – GADI qualified. IMG_3356 
Brent and his Instructor, Andy – first boat dive.
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Girl Ash playing in the coral garden.  IMG_3381     IMG_3408 
Ash playing underwater Air Guitar. 
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Ash and Ash in the deep blue
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Not sure what, but pretty cool…!
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Ash doing his HOT LIPS trick with his flippers. IMG_3450    IMG_3490

That evening we headed ashore to Batiluva Beach resort for dinner

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Brent enjoying his last few days in Fiji. IMG_3491

The original Squanderers, circa 1784… IMG_3493       With the diving complete, it came time to say goodbye to Brent, who had to shoot back to Sydney after a short , yet fun 3 weeks onboard Squander… Brento – you were missed the minute you left – great times!!!

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Sofi and Brent – asta la vista Brento! 

We left Brent in the capable hands of the local longboat driver and headed out for day 3 at Frigates… the wind had dropped off and the swell was on the up!

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Andy and Raffa – warpaint on and ready to charge!

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Raffa leading the attack!

Ash jumped in the water and took this series of photos – with easily one of the best day’s surfing I’ve had to date!

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Fish perspective as a set of fin zooms past Ash underwater.

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yours truly racing down the line

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Smiles all around as Backbeat pokes her mast out.

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Andy loving life…!

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Raffa tucking in for a hair wash!
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Andy duck dives a set heading out for more fun.     

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THIS DAY CLICK HERE

The next day was even better, although there were a few more bodies in the water.

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Wide closeout set.
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Raffa charging as always.    IMG_3633
Gav puling off another long left…    IMG_3646
Raffa launchoes of a closeout.
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In between surfing, eating and lunch and afternoon surfing, we managed to Squeeze in two incredible drift dives. IMG_3650

Ash giving the newly GADI qualified Sofi a few last minute tips for her first open water boat dive. IMG_3653
Gear is ready.

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Sofi giving the GADI approved OK sign.

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Dropping into the abyss

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Crack in the wall

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Andy Squeezing into a vertical crevasse.
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Andy and Girl Ash testing gravity theories.   IMG_2086 big school of fish sneak past a sleeping shark.
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Despite all of the fun we were having, we decided it was time to move on to the west coast of Viti Levu… we set off early in the morning and pointed Squander and Backbeat at Robinson Crusoe island….

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Conditions were perfect and we soon realised that if we pushed on, we could make it all the way to Denarau in the one day – and so we sailed past Robinson Crusoe island…. IMG_3660

…and by sunset we were safely anchored off Port Denarau!

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The next day we got Squander into a marina – only the third night in over 5 months that we had the luxury of unlimited fresh water and shore power – it was great!!  IMG_3666

No sooner had we tied up that we ran into Moji and Rebecca – incredibly they had decided to head back to Norway and were leaving the next morning…. an impromptu night out was organised and we celebrated almost 10 months of cruising together, crossing the Atlantic and most of the Pacific in company – we miss you already ladies!!
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Pre going out drinks on Squander….

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Ash, Simon and Andy in fine form as always! IMG_0116
Scott from Scotland gets a hair transplant
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Sofi gets her party face on…. IMG_0149

Laila, the owner of Lulu’s gets the dancefloor started with Simon demonstrating the one handed beer dance.   

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Like bees to honey…!IMG_0218

It had been a long time and will be along time again before I drink tequila like we did that night – ouch!IMG_0235

The Persian princesses and I! IMG_3669
We all had a few hours sleep, before waking up to say goodbye to the girls and help Rebecca pack her bags!
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Sofi pointing at the enemy!
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Happiest Scott we’ve seen for a while…

Whilst we were in Denarau, I caught up with Keith and Leanne and their daughter Chloe, who were in town for a few nights – we had a quick catch up on Squander and a long afternoon/evening at their hotel but somehow managed to not take any photos – great to see you guys and look forward to catching up in oz!!

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A quick trip to the local markets for a re-provision…

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Nice melons Sofi…. boom boom!!

with Squander fully re-provisioned it was time to head to Musket cove for Fiji Regatta week… There were about 65 yachts entered, including Squander and Backbeat and events during the week long Regatta were due to include anything from Dinghy racing, Beer drinking competitions, tug of war, round the island racing, Pirate day race to Beachcomber island, hairy chest competitions and all sorts of shenanigans… it also happened to be within a stone throw of Cloudbreak, Namotu and Wilkes – three of the most famous surfing spots in Fiji… and it was one of the bet places for kiting…. still not enough reason to go… well Foz , one of my best friends from OZ, was dropping in with his wife Anna for a 4 day holiday to say g’day and celebrate his 40th birthday!! Anybody got any Berocca!!?

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Squander got a polish and a solid wash whilst we were in Denarau marina.

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The sun sets over Musket cove as we spend night one of 12 in this little magnet of a place.

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Checking out the Fiji Regatta week program. Hmmm… given the average age of the yachtie crowd is well over 55, the wet t-shirt competition was one event we wanted to avoid!

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Unbeknownst to Sofi, her replacement credit card  had been delivered to Musket cove…. an she’s also happy to be here!
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the island bar was a nightly event, with cook your own BBQ, a $3 salad bar and well priced drinks….

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Ash, Andy and Simon discuss some serious business at the island bar.
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Gotta give it to Freddy – he built himself a floating Bure and takes it from Party to party… seen here beached at the island bar!  IMG_3711
Sofi and Ash have become besties!

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The next day we headed out for a surf at Wilkes Rights – Tavarua island on left and Scotty O’connor’s Namotu on the right  IMG_3723

Raffa pumped as always – we miss ya mate!  IMG_3733

The surf was OK, but nothing to write home about – everyone got a few waves and we returned to backbeat famished – Ash, Kate and Sofi had chicken Burritos waiting…. you’re the best girls!! 

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that evening Anna and Foz dropped in from Sydney !!

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we had a customary catch up on Squander and everyone got to meet each other… by midnight, Anna went to bed and Foz and I sampled a couple of rums and caught up on life till the early hours of the morning. P1020066
It was thumbs up the next day, as Foz and Anna came to check out Squander in the daylight!

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That evening we organised a birthday Party for Foz, who was turning 40…

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 Happy Birthday to meeeee,…. happy b….! 
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The following day, the sun finally came out and we jumped on Squander for an afternoon of Snorkelling and lunch at the sandbank – a small islet that only appears at low tide.
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Squander at Musket Cove marina.
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Foz and Anna as we anchor off the Sandbank.

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The annual Musket cove Pirate day race to beachcomber island was the following day… Anna and Foz checked out of their hotel and we all jumped on Squander and ‘raced’ to Beachcomber…. within 30 minutes of the start the wind had died and we turned our attention to motor racing whilst having fun…

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Andy, Foz, Anna and Sofi

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Backbeat comes in for an attack… IMG_2105

and cops a Squander Spray….

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Unbeknownst to us, the real pirates were on a catamaran called Kapai – making wet toilet paper munitions….

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They took us by surprise as we were about to hoist our spinnaker

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Squander was coming off second best, however Squander’s captain noticed a particularly interesting booty that he thought ma be worth ‘looting’!   IMG_9835

the attack continued, and the booty wasn’t giving up….  IMG_9846

We had to go to our secret weapon – the Spinnaker!! IMG_9847

the pirates were baffled as they couldn’t penetrate the shield we put up! IMG_9855

Two of the pirates take a break from the onslaught – they definitely won the battle – but the war had just begun!  IMG_2108

With Kapai taking off to target others, we were left to entertain ourselves yet again… Andy scurfing behind Squander!

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Captain Gav had a go, with a great idea of wearing sailing gloves… hmmm… slippery when wet… ended up in the drink and needed to be rescued by backbeat… IMG_2115
and transferred to Squander, with Foz doing some fine dinghy driving!
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Squander crosses the finish line at Beachcomber

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When the cat’s away, the mice will play – The boys on MAD anchored in prime position.

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before long we hoisted our Flying Kangaroo and were ready to attack Beachcomber! 

2011_0311Fiji50019    IMG_2124  Anna, Ash and Sofui getting into the spirit!

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Discussing tactics with one of the offending pirates!

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As the rest of the pirates get into the groove.

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Before long the sun was setting yet again…. and Anna and Foz’s 4 day stay was coming to an end. The next day we sailed back to Denarau and dropped off our guests, before returning to Musket cove for another week of Fun!

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More fun times at the island Bar…
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The Italian connection – Fraumeni and Vissani! IMG_3786
The Happy crew of MAD.

With a solid 10 days of partying under my belt, I woke up and decided it was time for a few days without a drink – I already managed over 24 hrs and was on a roll, so i called up Simon on the radio and suggested a long kayak paddle instead of kicking around Musket cove where the beer drinking, wet t-shirt and hairy chest competitions were being held.

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After a 30 minute paddle we arrived at the Sand bank where we planned a solid work out followed by a sprint paddle home…

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what we HADN’T planned on is the fact that the day’s festivities had been moved to the SAND BANK!! IMG_2131

Everyone was here… even Freddy had brought his floating party palace! 

Before we had time to protest, someone had yanked the water bottles out of our hands and informed us that we had just been nominated to represent Australia in the beer drinking competition… we tried protesting, but it was to no avail….

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Each team (Australia, NZ, USA and rest of the world) has three women and three men…. The women stand at one end and each have a full beer between their legs… they must hobble over to their respective partner and without using hands fill up the Man’s Beer glass… see below

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Once the Beer is full, the man must skull it and put the empty glass on their head which signals that the next woman can start making her way across the field.

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…. yep, we took the crown away from team NZ and won a case of beer in the process – I guess fitness day will have to wait!

What happened next is something that many a male dreams of… Simon and I were asked to be judges in the wet T-shirt competition… now it all may sound good, but with the average age of contestants being slightly over 59, we both had very mixed emotion about our newfound roles…. the categories were as follows:

1. Heavy weight division

2. Sheerline division

3. Experienced division

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In the end we negotiated a happy compromise, we let the more mature judges do the judging and we would do the prize giving
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the heavyweight finalists…. 

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To our great delight and her pleasant surprise, Ash from Backbeat won the “sheerline” division.

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Not to be outdone by the ladies, the Hairy chest competition attracted a formidable field….first prize…. you guessed it… a set of clippers!  IMG_2147

and another day drew to a close, as Musket cove settled in for a quiet night before the following day’s serious round the island race.  
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Here’s one for reality corner…. amongst all of the fun, I spotted another broken spreader…Sparcraft have been really good about it and have sent us two brand new spreaders for free from France.

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That evening Musket cove was abuzz as everyone was talking about the surf forecast for the following day.

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The next morning we all jumped on Backbeat and headed out early …

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Shay pointing out Cloudbreak in the distance as Andy, Trent and Ash look on.

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Namotu lefts.      IMG_3815

In the end the swell didn’t quite materialise, and the wind was into it… IMG_3820   IMG_3834

wiping out in bumpy conditions at “Restaurants”  IMG_3846 With most other breaks blown out by the wind, the crowd gathered at Restaurants.

The following day, Andy got up early and headed back out for waves… I had a rest day and chilled on Squander… by the afternoon, the wind had picked up and kiting on the Sandbank was definitely on…

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the people you run into…. The pirates turned out to be keen kiteboarders…. interesting!

Conditions were perfect, and we couldn’t wait to get into it… I did two runs with an ear to ear grin, when disaster struck… still not sure what I was thinking but i found myself in mid air, out of control and doing an involuntary 180 mctwist with cheese – or something like that…. what followed wasn’t pretty… but suffice to say that  two weeks on I’m still hobbling…. although my ankle and hammy are getting better by the day… not to mention my ego!

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On the upside, that evening was the Regatta closing party and we agreed to meet the Pirates for a final showdown!

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the Fiji Police band provided the entertainment.

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and dinner was served at dusk…
 

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the Ashs, with Andy getting a two for one happy hour deal!  

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Trent from jarvis Bay in Oz, came up with a plan to round up the Pirates for a final showdown.  IMG_2179 Meanwhile back at the Table….

The night ended early, and there was a suggestion or two that someone spotted some guy dancing on one leg till the end, but don’t believe everything you hear…

The next day the boys were out surfing again, whereas I was searching for anti-inflammatories for my ankle…. by the afternoon the situation was under control and we enacted the final part of the plan – there were two prizes up for grabs…. a berth on Squander and a second to none, one of a lifetime experience offered by Trent who drives whale watching boats in Jervis Bay, Australia….

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the stage was set….   IMG_3860

Pirate 1 – AKA Cindy…. ready to impress the Judges…  IMG_3863
Pirate 2 – AKA Jose is a kiteboarding instructor and was going to be hard to beat
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Mum kites as Dad babysits the kids….   IMG_3894

Jose got into it straight away, impressing the judges with some fine aerial maneuvers.   IMG_3902

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Busting out everything she had, Jose easily secured her position on Squander….        IMG_3938

Meet the newest Squanderer…. Jose – pronounced Josie, from the Netherlands.   

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Cindy took the other prize and is currently holidaying in Jervis bay, Australia.    IMG_4018 another one for reality corner – discovering one of the lockers had salt water in it….

That evening we sailed from Musket cove to Denarau for yet another goodbye party. Kate and Raffa were leaving the next day, flying to NZ to start a new life on land after sailing to Fiji all the way from Panama.

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Good luck guys!!

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We had a great dinner at BoneFish in Denarau – Thanks Ash for shouting the table!!

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complete with the biggest pepper grinder in the world!
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After dinner, we finished up with a customary night cap on Squander…. Simon also flew back to Oz soon after and we’re awaiting parts for Squander and all going to plan should be leaving Fiji in early October bound for New Caledonia.

until then, we’re in the Yasawa islands relaxing, settling into the new configuration of 4 crew and enjoying as much of Fiji as possible.

until next time – thanks for getting this far!!


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