Wednesday, August 10, 2011

escape from Lautoka customs, Vuda Point Marina, and Musket Cove, Fiji

After wrapping up repairs and errands in the Lautoka area, we made a series of attempts to check out of Fiji.
The first was last Friday. Dave went in and spent an hour waiting in line and going through the entire check-out process with customs. Near the end customs asked when he would leave Fiji and unfortunately, Dave replied honestly and said ‘tomorrow’. He was told that we had to be out of the country within an hour and that he would have to come back tomorrow and pay $95 overtime to check out, or wait til Monday.
Consequently we spent another couple days at Vuda Point Marina, and Monday took the bus to Lautoka once again. We got to customs at 11 and were told to come back after lunch, at 1400. At 1400 there was an hour-long wait in line, and a second run through the customs process. The started by telling us that today we could check out now and leave tomorrow, an offer we declined. They finished by asking to inspect the boat. The boat being at Vuda Point, we wound up stuck in Fiji for another day.
Tuesday we brought the boat east to Lautoka and checked out for the third time at 11. We then sat in the harbor as they had instructed, waiting for them to come out and inspect us, until 1500. Finally we reached someone on the radio, who asked that we re-inflate the dingy, which was stowed for passage, and come back in to the office. After a frustrating radio exchange, they backed down from this request and let us leave.
It was far too late to make it out the reef channel before dark, so we ended up hiding out in Vuda Point Marina for the night. In the morning we headed west, but the wind was against us and we took refuge for one last night in Musket Cove Marina.
Musket Cove was very nice, with a broad well-marked passage in to a $15Fiji/night mooring area. There were about 25 other boats but plenty of free moorings still. To the east, north, and south curved the sandy, resort-covered beaches of the Malolo Islands. These had a nice communal atmosphere, and yachties and guests seemed welcome to wander between the various bars, restaurants, boutiques, pools, and hammock-strewn beachfront areas of various resorts. There was a little 10 or 15-slip marina dug out of the coral, with a popular yachtie bar sitting ona sandy island at the end of the dock. A couple of shops here had some of the best bookstores, book exchanges, and groceries with European/American products I’ve seen in Fiji, though at fairly high prices.
In the morning we headed out through Malolo passage. It had some big steep swells washing through but was wide, deep, and easy to see. From there we set a course for Vanuatu…

The very popular Vuda Point Marina

Narrow entrance to Vuda Point Marina

Fiji landscape and town

Dug into the ground for hurricane season

Vuda Point Marina

Lautoka landscape

Musket Cove

Musket Cove

Musket Cove drumming ship

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