Cannibals 1 – Audentes 0

In the waning days of summer in the northwestern hemisphere and of winter in the southeastern hemisphere our fearless battle to secure permission to visit the Lau Islands of Fiji reached its climax. Or, more accurately, the tiresome episode came to an appropriately feeble conclusion. Having received word from the police on Friday that our approval was sent via the mail on Wednesday, our dim hopes congealed into eager expectation. We vowed to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. By Thursday, we yielded. Our heroes set out on Monday brimming with unwarranted enthusiasm. The chimera that enveloped us spurred dreams of an unparalleled cultural experience. We envisioned that as soon as we received our approval, we would proceed to the village market, where we would purchase a gift of kava, known as a sevusevu, to present to the village chief. Donning our traditional Fijian wardrobe, Anna dressed conservatively in a long-sleeve shirt and flowing dress and I sporting a sharp dress shirt and Fijian skirt called a sulu (a wrap worn by many men in Fiji and Tonga), we would meet the villagers, sharing our experiences and learning from their odd way of life. A meaningful cultural exchange would ensue, supplemented by swimming and kayaking around the beautiful caves dotting the calm, pristine anchorage. The unrealistic simulacrum was temporarily stymied on Monday as we were informed that the approval had not yet arrived in the mail. Still sanguine over the life-altering experience ahead of us, we assiduously returned on Tuesday to be told that our approval was awaiting us at the police station and that it could be picked up on Wednesday morning. Surely, nothing could stop us now. Overflowing with confidence, I arrived on Wednesday morning to be told that a signature was needed to validate the authorization and I was instructed to return in the afternoon, only to find that no one was available in the office and that I needed to return yet again on Thursday morning. Thursday morning arrived and, after waiting in the lobby for an hour, I was told that I should proceed to the Lau Office. Once there, the woman in the Lau office was baffled as to why I was told to go there and a phone call to the police department soon produced the absurd answer that “the approval will be sent in the mail.” Huh? My will now broken, I gave up on my effort to visit the Lau group and we prepared to depart Suva as soon as possible. Was the three weeks of waiting without any satisfactory reason or noticeable progress the result of incompetence or was the police department inexplicably trying to annoy me? Could the unbelievable inefficiency be due to a cultural desire not to say “no” to a request that was intended to be denied or did I miss some necessary bribe that should have been contributed along the way? I may never know the answers to these questions and I have little in the way of recourse for the irritating and unproductive delay. I considered going back to the police department and demanding to have my money reimbursed since I did not receive anything in return for my payment. After all, what exactly did I pay for? However, foreseeing further frustration, increased annoyance, and undoubtedly nothing to show for the effort, I was limited to sending a strongly worded letter. Although we enjoyed Suva, three weeks was longer than we intended to stay and we were eager to move on. Our impatience to depart led us to break the widely-held sailing superstition of not leaving harbor on a Friday. On Friday morning, we left Suva and embarked on the roughly 100 mile passage to Malololailai, in the Mamanuca Island group in the western part of Fiji. The passage was wet, bumpy, and uncomfortable. Fortunately, as Axl Rose reminds us, nothing lasts forever, even cold September rain. On Saturday morning, we motored through the maze of reefs surrounding Malololailai. The island of Malololailai is dominated by the Musket Cove resort and we arrived at the tail end of “Fiji Regatta Week.” In the past, Regatta Week was built around a yacht race from Musket Cove to Port Vila, Vanuatu. This year, the race was scrapped and the events instead included a cross-dressing night, various drinking games, and a wet T-shirt and hairy chest contest – all of the classy activities that one normally associates with the yachting class. After our long stay in Suva, Musket Cove offers a nice change. The small, hilly island is surrounded by light blue water and is fringed with shallow reefs. Ashore, beaches stretch around the island and the resorts offer all of the luxurious amenities imaginable. Chubby, pale-skinned Aussies raced across the anchorage on windsurfboards while sunburned couples explored the reefs in kayaks. In keeping with the generally accepted stereotype of the residents of Oz, all the tourists are slightly drunk, entirely unattractive, and always enjoying themselves. Since we took a mooring for the week, we became lifetime members of the Musket Cove Yacht Club, which allows us to use the showers, laundry, and swimming pool. Sadly, they did not offer reciprocity for Audentes’ home yacht club, Point Independence Yacht Club in Onset, Massachusetts. Still, almost half a world away, we fly the PIYC burgee proudly. As we adjust from the congestion, pollution, and poverty of Suva to the spaciousness, cleanliness, and affluence of Musket Cove, our days are no longer spent traipsing through urban environs, but are now consumed by an assortment of water sports such as snorkeling and kayaking. Boat repairs remain a constant and the battle to complete my list of repair projects is a losing one. Thanks to the popularity of Regatta Week, we have been able to reunite with many of the boats that we have met throughout the Pacific. For many cruisers, Musket Cove offers sailing paradise – clean water, friendly staff, plenty of services, and an active social life. The more granola cruisers may choose to skip over this touristy resort environment for more authentic and less trodden traditional villages, but Musket Cove does satisfy a specific section of the blue water sailors. As for me, I am happy to experience a healthy mix of exposure to local culture as well as to appreciate the comforts of relaxing in a lovely anchorage. Meeting chiefs and dressing up in a skirt is nice, but some times it is great to simply play in the water. We are looking forward to a nice week enjoying the beautiful waters and good life that Musket Cove has to offer.

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