Monthly Archives: September 2015

Wrap-up and Stats

We’re now in Sydney, Australia visiting Karen’s family, relatives, and friends.  After 10 days we’ll fly back to Seattle where Jacintha will start 3rd grade at Villa Academy, Karen will return to Children’s Hospital, and I will start looking for a job.

Here’s some thoughts from each of us on the overall trip:

Jacintha:
I loved playing with my friends Amia and Alina from Family Circus, Mathias and Luke from Bob The Cat, Ivan from Javelot, and Collie.  Collie was a dog, Steven was a duckling, and I met a piglet who loved to eat coconuts in Fiji. In Mexico there was a place called Paradise Village. It had two pools and three water slides. Then we did the crossing and went to French Polynesia. In Tonga we swam with whales. In Fiji we played with a nice swing. It was my best year!

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Taken in Tahiti

Jim:
I have so many great memories of our trip down the west coast of the US, up the Sea of Cortez and down the west coast of Mexico, and across the South Pacific. Each area was a new experience with different cultures, languages, food, and scenery.  It’s hard to pick a favorite place, but I could think of a favorite thing about each place: sailing under the Golden Gate bridge, cruising the California coast with my dad, swimming with whale sharks near La Paz, eating at the street loncherias in Mazatlan, hanging out with friends in Zihuatanejo, the music scene in La Cruz, the 23-day crossing and making landfall in the Marquesas, scuba diving in Rangiroa, the markets in Papeete, playing ukulele in Huahini, seeing the heiva festival in Bora Bora, buying a Tahitian uke in Rarotonga, standing on Beveridge Reef, exploring the caves and chasms of Niue, swimming with humpback whales in Tonga, and spending time in small villages in Fiji. The beaches and natural beauty, the friendships we made with other cruisers along the way, and the friendliness and generosity of natives will be remembered long after our trip. I’m thankful that Apropos protected us during the 10,000 miles of ocean sailing with only minor breakages. Seeing Jacintha grow and learn on our floating home for a year, even during some difficult passages, was truly amazing. I’m grateful we got to do this at this stage of our lives and hope to do it again sometime in the future!

DSCN1960Taken at Beveridge Reef

Karen:  (see next blog post)

Trip Stats:

  • Distance Traveled:  9,925 nautical miles
  • Length of Trip:  13 months
  • Countries Visited:  6 (Mexico, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji)
  • Islands Visited: 32
  • Diesel Fuel Consumed:  612 gallons
  • Engine Hours:  766 (0.8 GPH)
  • Longest Passage:  2280 nautical miles in 23 days (Puerto Vallarta, MX to Fatu Hiva, Marquesas)
  • Quantity of Water Desalinated: 1,958 gallons
  • Fish Caught: about 12
  • Groundings:  1 (sand bottom near La Paz, Mexico)
  • Equipment Failures: Garmin chartplotter (died), wind vane control lines (chafe), dinghy oar (smashed while docked), Racor diesel filter bowl (cracked), VHF cockpit mic (corrosion), Galley stove ignitor (failed),BBQ grill gas regulator (failed), Diesel tank fill hoses (had to replace in San Francisco), wind vane wheel drum locking mechanism (broken weld), wind van control line blocks (broken weld)

What We Missed:

  • Some Favorite Foods–Sushi, dumplings, salmon
  • Good coffee–I drank mostly instant coffee on the boat.
  • Hot showers–The solar shower bags worked ok but sometimes weren’t warm enough and hard to use on a rolling boat, most marina showers were cold and dirty.
  • Conveniences–washer/dryer, high-speed internet, Amazon.com, Fisheries Supply,

What We Would Do Differently:

  • Pack less clothing–There were large zip-locked bags of clothing that never even got opened.
  • Wind Generator–Our 500W of solar power wasn’t enough to keep our batteries happy. A wind generator would have made a great complement to solar since many of our anchorages in the south pacific were breezy.

What Worked Well:

  • Fleming Self-Steering Wind Vane–Aside from a few minor issues, our wind vane (Ian) was worth his weight in gold!
  • Spectra Water Maker–Made the trip much more comfortable by not having to lug water in jerry jugs. It just worked with no problems!
  • Dickinson Galley Stove & Oven–Used daily for boiling water for coffee & tea, made many pizzas, crepes, stews, noodles, etc. The electronic ignitor failed, but a lighter worked well.
  • Forespar Whisker Pole–An addition we made in San Diego, the whisker pole was invaluable for downwind sailing. A little bit difficult to set up and take down (takes 2 people), once up it allowed us to sail wing on wing with either the main or mizzen.
  • Lock-N-Lock Containers–Great for organizing food in the refrigerator,  dry food storage, small electronics, etc.
  • Glacier Bay Refrigeration–I was worried about the 10-year old compressor failing, but it survived. Even though it was our biggest power draw, it kept our food and beer cold.

What Didn’t Work Well:

  • Freezer–The boat freezer cycled way too much and drew too much power from the batteries. We ended up shutting it down in Mexico and replaced it with a portable Dometic freezer.
  • House Batteries–Our 660AHr AGM house batteries were already 6 years old when we left on the trip.  During long distance cruising, the high energy demands from refrigeration, laptops, and navigation electronics are hard on batteries. Apropos is a 120V boat, so the last time we plugged into shore power was in Mexico since the South Pacific uses 240V.  Also marina docks are few and far between in the South Pacific. For 6 months we relied on solar panels, the engine alternator, and the Honda generator to charge the batteries, so they never got fully charged. Batteries go through 3 phases of charge–bulk, accept, float.  The bulk and accept stages get the batteries to 80% charge, then the float stage takes many hours for the batteries to reach 100%. Therefore, it’s not economical to run the engine or generator for so many hours to get the batteries back up to 100%.  When the boat was in the pit at Vuda Marina in Fiji, I borrowed a 240V to 120V transformer and charged the batteries overnight to 100%. I can’t say for sure whether the batteries are the problem or if it’s the way they were used and charged.
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Goodbye Fiji and the South Pacific

Final Week
Karen and Jacintha flew to Sydney while I remained in Fiji for another week to finish prepping the boat.  I had a very busy 7 days doing most of the work myself and finding more tasks that needed done along the way. The remaining tasks to be completed (from the last blog post) mostly got done:

  • Change generator oil, STORE BELOW.
  • Remove BBQ grill, STORE BELOW.
  • Remove dodger and bimini canvas, STORE BELOW.
  • Remove jacklines.
  • Remove solar panels and STORE BELOW.
  • Run trace lines through masts and remove halyards.
  • Polish and wax hull.
  • Fix bilge pump leak.
  • Fix gelcoat dings, bubbles, and scratches (hire out).
  • Drain water tanks and hot water tank.
  • Remove everything on deck and STORE BELOW.
  • Polish stainless steel stanchions, dodger frame, bimini frame, bowsprit, wind vane.

The hull polishing/waxing didn’t get done because of the delay in the gelcoat repairs (see below), so the workers promised to do that after I left. Some of the stainless steel polishing got done and the rest will be done when I return.

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Crowded cabin–4 sails, 4 solar panels, cockpit cushions, generator, dinghy, outboard motor, dodger & bimini canvas, lines…..and much more!
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Above deck cyclone-ready–4 sails, solar panels, dodger & bimini canvas stripped and stowed below, anything loose put away.

Gelcoat Repairs
Ten years worth of docking and maneuvering and hoisting the dinghy into and out of the water, along with the new bubbles caused by the tropical heat, had all taken a toll on the once pristine gelcoat on the hull. I decided to have the repairs taken care while Apropos was in the pit and before I flew out. They first opened up the bubbles and found they were only in the gelcoat, not the fiberglass, so that was good news. These were mostly near the waterline and for some reason the majority were on the port side.  After grinding and filling all the defects with a poly filler, they hand-sanded to get a smooth surface. Next they tinted the gelcoat and sprayed or brushed it on.  After drying for 24 hours, they wet-sanded the gelcoat to blend in the edges. Unfortunately, the new gelcoat turned out to be way too bright which made all the repairs stand out. Apparently the gelcoat was not tinted enough for a good match, and the only way to fix it now is to gelcoat or paint the entire hull! My flight was leaving in less than 24 hours so there was not much I could do about it.  I’ll have to have it re-done either when I return to Fiji or when I get the boat back to Seattle.

At the marina, there were day-laborers for hire at an hourly rate of $6Fiji (only $3US), so I hired Bruce to polish some of the stainless steel. There’s a lot of stainless steel on Apropos–stanchions, bowsprit, turnbuckles, pushpit, wind vane, etc. And to think I almost had it done in Mexico for $200US. He did a great job and got about 1/3 of it polished and it only cost $18US, talk about cheap labor!

Finally, I hired Moses as a caretaker of Apropos while I’m gone for 6-1/2 months. He will stop by once a week and open the hatches to air out the cabin, wash the decks, check the battery condition, and inform me of any problems.

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After grinding the gelcoat bubbles and scratches, they filled them with a poly filler
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After sanding the poly filler
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Spraying on the gelcoat
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Wet-sanding the new gelcoat
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Bruce polishing some of the stainless steel

Some Final Thoughts on Fiji
We enjoyed spending over a month in Fiji. The people are so friendly and everyone greets you with a smile and cheery “Bula” (hello). From the remote and poor village of Nasea to the urban area of Lautoka, the Fijians are very welcoming and generous. Some of the best diving and the most beautiful beaches in the South Pacific are in Fiji. The cruising is more challenging here then in other South Pacific islands because of all the reefs and narrow passages, so we were more conservative with our planning and did no overnight passages. We saw and heard about several boats running aground, most escaping with little or no damage, but one that was a total loss.

As I was about to step onto the airplane to leave Fiji, an airport employee saw me carrying my ukulele and asked if she could see it. I listened to her play it while finishing my coffee, thinking about  how lucky I was to spend so much time in Fiji!

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Fiji–Weeks 4 & 5

Musket Cove
We ended our year-long cruise with a nice relaxing stay at Musket Cove on Malolo Laila Island. Only 20 miles from Lautoka, we found the anchorage and marina full of yachts waiting for the big regatta coming up in a week. We spent 3 days there enjoying the resort pool and restaurants and for $5, became life-time members of the Musket Cove Yacht Club–the requirement to join is that you must have sailed here from a foreign port!

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Apropos on a mooring at low tide
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Ahhh, bubble gum flavored ice cream!

Vuda Point Marina
We hauled out Apropos at Vuda Point Marina on September 4, 2015, a little over a year from when we left Seattle.  The travel lift took us to the wash-down area and the bottom paint looked better after a good pressure washing (we’ll re-paint the bottom in 6 months before departing Fiji).  Next was the drive to pit #40, where Apropos will remain for the cyclone season. The workers were very meticulous with adjusting the tires to keep the boat upright and level. It was a bittersweet moment–on one hand we realize a direct hit from a big cyclone could severely damage Apropos, but on the other hand we are ready for a break from living on a boat and looking forward to visiting Sydney and returning home to Seattle.

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Haulout at Vuda Marina
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Pressure washing the bottom
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Delivery to the cyclone pit
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Final adjustments to the pit
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Apropos being lowered into the cyclone pit
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A low-tech but effective and proven solution!

Vuda Point Marina
But first, there is a lot of work to do! Not that sailing and maintaining a boat for 10,000 miles is all play, but we did get used to a slower pace of life while visiting lots of cool places and meeting lots of nice people. Now we had a long list of things that needed to get done in a short amount of time. I decided to spend an extra week after Karen and Jacintha fly to Sydney so I could get everything done before leaving Apropos for 6-1/2 months. Here’s the task list (strikethrough denotes completed):

  1. Sort through a year’s worth of stuff that was added on the boat and decide what to keep.
  2. Remove all 4 sails, fold, and STORE BELOW.
  3. Clean, deflate, pack up the dinghy, and STORE BELOW.
  4. Change engine oil and filter.
  5. Empty and clean Racor diesel filter bowls, replace filters.
  6. Flush engine with fresh water.
  7. Drain water from lift muffler.
  8. Flush dinghy engine with fresh water, STORE BELOW.
  9. Repair dinghy chaps canvas and genoa sail chafe areas.
  10. Remove, wash, and dry weather cloths, STORE BELOW.
  11. Clean refrigerator, stove, microwave, freezer.
  12. Remove and service windlass (hire out).
  13. Pickle water maker.
  14. Wipe interior with tea tree oil & vinegar solution.
  15. Remove wind vane paddle and vane, STORE BELOW.
  16. Find a caretaker to look after Apropos while we’re gone.
  17. Change generator oil, STORE BELOW.
  18. Remove BBQ grill, STORE BELOW.
  19. Remove dodger and bimini canvas, STORE BELOW.
  20. Remove jacklines.
  21. Remove solar panels and STORE BELOW.
  22. Run trace lines through masts and remove halyards.
  23. Polish and wax hull.
  24. Fix bilge pump leak.
  25. Fix gelcoat dings, bubbles, and scratches (hire out).
  26. Drain water tanks and hot water tank.
  27. Remove everything on deck and STORE BELOW.
  28. Polish stainless steel stanchions, dodger frame, bimini frame, bowsprit, wind vane.

A common theme in the above tasks is STORE BELOW, the problem is, there is only so much room for storing things below! With the rainy summer season in Fiji approaching, humidity and moisture become an issue. If things are packed too tightly, air flow gets reduced and mold could grow on things. We ended up donating a lot of things (clothing, food, toys, etc) to different people working at the marina. We also filled up 6 duffel bags to carry and check in on our flights out.

With 4 days left before I fly to Sydney to join Karen and Jacintha, 16 of the above tasks are completed. Should be a fun 4 days!

IMG_6085Jacintha’s friend Polly from a liveaboard boat at Vuda Marina

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Fiji–Week 3

Namea Island
A long 1-day sail took us to Namea Island, a small island with a surrounding barrier reef and a small resort. Namea is a protected marine reserve and is one of the top dive sites in Fiji. Only one other boat was anchored off the sheltered west coast of the island when we arrived. We dinghy’d to the wharf and climbed the steps leading to the resort. A fee is collected from all cruisers and goes to the village that owns the island as compensation for not fishing inside the barrier reef. The island is also a bird sanctuary with a huge population of red-footed boobies, who gracefully soared a few feet overhead our dinghy as we went ashore. There was only one couple staying at the resort that day, so they told us we could use the resort beach for a few hours. It was the ideal beach setting, what one dreams about when thinking about the South Pacific—soft-fine sand, warm-clear water, hammocks hung between palm trees, and not a sole in sight! We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there.
Namea Diving has a hut near the wharf, so we booked some dives for the following day. We joined the couple staying on the island who were honeymooning from the states for two reef dives. I went on the first one while Karen stayed with Jacintha on the boat, then we swapped for the second dive. Namea is well known for it’s soft coral and healthy reefs. They have over a dozen dive sites around the barrier reef. The first dive went to Manta Mount off the south end of the island. A Manta Ray cleaning station (where they go to get cleaned by reef fish) is located on the outside of the reef. It was a great dive even though we didn’t spot any Manta Rays. Went down to 80’ along the wall and saw spanish mackerel (Whaloo), white-tipped sharks, and lots of soft coral fans. The dive boat dropped me off at Apropos and picked up Karen for the second dive at Neptune Mount off the west side of the island. She also enjoyed the dive and saw lots of soft coral and reef fish.

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Dive sites around Namea Island
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Steps leading to the resort
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Resort Beach
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Ideal South Pacific Setting
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Resort Beach
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Playing Marco-Polo
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Relaxing on the beach
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Climbing a coconut tree
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Red-Footed Boobie
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Red-Footed Boobie
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Red-Footed Boobie
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Humpback Whale swimming through anchorage
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Evening sunset at anchorage

Makogai—A Former Leper Colony
The passage to Makogai Island was a 25 mile beat into 20 knot winds.  We motor-sailed the entire way to keep a better heading and made it there in one tack. The bay is well protected from SE winds so the anchorage was nice and calm. In the morning, we did a quick sevusevu ceremony—the spokesman for the tribe accepted our waka, said a few words in Fijian, and it was over in less than 5 minutes. This is a more typical sevusevu in villages where lots of yachts visit.

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Makogai Island
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Sevusevu Offering

The sevusevu offering granted us access to the island, which has a very unique history—Makogai is a former leper colony. Lepers throughout the South Pacific were brought here for treatment and to get away from the social stigma they faced at home. A young, educated Indian marine scientist who does research on giant clams gave us a tour of the former colony. The island was divided into wards to segregate people of different nationalities. If you were not too sick, you would live in one of these wards. Otherwise, you were admitted to one of several hospitals for treatment. We saw the remains of an outdoor movie theater, a hospital, a surgery building (where they performed amputations), a jail, and a large cemetery of mostly unmarked graves. Leprocy is a bacteria-infected disease that causes skin lesions and nerve damage. The nerve damage blocked pain so injuries were often not treated and got infected, which would result in amputations. In the 1950’s when leprosy cures were finding their way to Makogai, the survival rate improved. Eventually the lepers were moved to a bigger hospital in Suva on the main island of Fiji, and the colony was disbanded in the 1970’s. There are still a few survivors from the Makogai leper colony who return to visit this small island.

 

 

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Tour of the Leper Colony
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Former jail for Leper Colony
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Graves from former Leper Colony

The other thing Makogai Island is known for is the research on giant clams. They have concrete tanks where the small clams grow for a few years before they can be transplanted elsewhere. We snorkeled around some mature giant clams next to the wharf in 10 feet of water. The color of the lips are from different types of algae. They also have a turtle rescue program for injured sea turtles. One of the large ones being treated was shot through the head with a spear gun, and lists to one side as he swims around the concrete tank.

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Young Giant Clams in tank
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Mature Giant Clams in the bay
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Sea Turtle Rescue Program
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Recovering Sea Turtle

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During our stay on Makogai, we also had a great time with the children. They were shy at first but it didn’t take long before we were having fun on their rope swing, throwing frisbee, playing touch-rugby, and volleyball. Jacintha handed out a large bag of colored pencils and when she finished, they traded among each other for their favorite colors. We also left them with a nerf football and a frisbee. We traded some cans of meat, toothpaste, and toothbrushes for coconuts and bananas.

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Rope swing from coconut tree
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Playing Volleyball
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Playing Rugby–I didn’t tackle him–honest!
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Handing out colored pencils
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Some of the kids from the village

Transiting the Reef
The north coast of Viti Levu is full of dangerous reefs and narrow passes. We covered 90 miles over 2 days to go from Naingani Island to Nananu-I-Ra to Lautoka, the majority of it under sail. This type of sailing is quite opposite from blue-water passages, where you go hours or days without changing course. We used multiple electronic charts (Garmin, OpenCPN, and Navionics), known waypoints, and a good bow watch to get through safely. Having the sun behind you makes it much easier to see the color changes for spotting reefs. Each day we planned to leave a few hours after sunrise and arrive at our destination by 4pm. We also had a backup destination we could anchor at in case we couldn’t make it to our planned stop.  Most of the maneuvering around the reefs was uneventful, but a few places provided more excitement than wanted! Along the way we caught 2 small fish, keeping one for dinner and throwing the other back in. As we moved around the top of Viti Levu, a change in climate and landscape was noticeable. Lautoka, on the west coast of Viti Levu, is warmer, dryer, and sunnier that the windward east side.

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At this zoom, our path (yellow line) around the top of Viti Levu looks easy

 

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But this zoom shows the reefs and narrow passages
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Not sure what fish this was, but it tasted good (although very bony)

Lautoka and Bekana Island
After a long day of motor-sailing through the remaining reefs along the north-west end of Viti Levu, we anchored off Bekana Island near Lautoka. An outdated cruising report said the resort there was friendly to cruisers, so after taking the dinghy into Lautoka for lunch, we pulled up to the resort, only to find it closed. The new owners, Chris and Ashwin, took over the dilapidated resort 6 months ago and are doing a wonderful job restoring it. They invited us in for tea and to share their vision of what they plan to do with this resort and possibly others throughout Fiji. Instead of 5-star resorts that cater to the rich and famous, they want to build comfortable, green resorts that involve the communities they are near. This one, called Haven at Bekana, will be opening in a few months. I look forward to checking it out when I return for Apropos next year. Two of their children (Dave and Sarah) entertained us with singing and the guitar while Jacintha played with their grandchildren outside.

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Chris and Ashwin, the new owners of the Haven at Bekana Resort
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Dave and Sarah entertaining us
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Carved wooden drum in lobby
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Jacintha playing with their grandchildren
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Sugar Mill near Lautoka
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View of Lautoka and surrounding hills
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