Dockside in Denarau

**No under-aged children consumed
alcohol in the taking of this photo
"Would you eaten by a shark or a crocodile?"
"Would you rather... eat fish eyeballs or fish liver?"
"Would you rather... be lost at sea or left on a deserted island?"

Last night, we sat around a table with our friends, Theo and Wanda, playing a game of 'Would You Rather' with the kids.  It made for some good laughs and very unusual Happy Hour conversation.

If you ask any sailor the question, Would you rather... be tied up to a dock or be out at anchor?, most, if not all of them, would say, "Out at anchor," without missing a beat.  There are a lot of reasons for that.  When the boat is at anchor, it faces into the breeze, providing free air conditioning through the overhead hatches, even in the warmest of places.  Privacy is another real perk of anchoring out, as is peace, quiet, less bugs and plenty of space.  Docking is definitely not high on the list of favorite, stress-free boating activities, and just watching another boat come into dock can be quite stressful (but highly entertaining) even for the onlooker.  Marriages have ended as a result of docking squabbles, I'm sure of it.  However, there are times when one needs to tie up to a dock, and for us, that time came last week, as Mark was expecting a battery delivery.

Field Trip nestled alongside the dock
On the dock, most of the perks of anchoring are turned into negatives - no privacy, no breeze, no peace and quiet, tight spaces, and possible pest infestation.  However, as we were tied alongside the dock in Port Denarau Marina, I tried to focus on the positive side of things.  After all, we've been in marinas where people have been docked for YEARS!  Creating their own little floating neighborhoods with dock parties instead of block parties on Saturday nights and full blown vegetable and herb gardens growing beside their boats!  Being dockside isn't all that bad!

Our neighbors on the dock - a booze cruise out to an island, always ending
with a parade of drunk tourists weaving down the dock by sundown.
Keeping a log of voltage as we charge lithium batteries
Our reason for coming alongside was primarily to pick up a shipment of lithium batteries and remove the lead acid batteries we'd be replacing.  Mark (with Michael's help) has been working non-stop on getting the boat ready for the lithium installation.  To say he's been obsessed would be putting it mildly.  I've attempted to listen attentively as he shares the ins and outs of it all, but I have ultimately had to ban the "L" and "B" words from the dining table and Happy Hour conversation.  It's felt a bit like living with Rainman.  "I'm an excellent driver... Dad lets me drive in the driveway on Saturdays... 5 minutes till Wapner!"  I am in awe of all that he has learned, but what I wouldn't give to talk about something besides batteries, voltage, amps, and lithium!!

Maze of wires that only Rainman could decipher!
My two trusty electricians!
The mad scientist checking voltage to ensure equal levels in each cell 
All of this might be the reason I created a very long to-do list while docked!  I wheeled my little rolling bag full of laundry back and forth to the marina laundromat over and over for our first three days on the dock.  Bed mattresses got vacuumed, mattress pads and pillows got laid out in the hot sun to air out, spice drawers and cabinets were organized, and food inventory was taken.  Maybe Mark should incessantly talk about boat projects all the time!  It seems to get me quite motivated to be busy!!
Organizing and inventorying spice drawer
While the boys were twisting wires, the girls were learning how to twist soft pretzels!
(I guess the spider was supervising. You never know who'll be in the kitchen offering a hand!)
From Port Denarau Marina, I could catch a yellow bus into the city of Nadi for $1FJ to do grocery shopping at the supermarkets and the vast fresh market.  Then I could take a $10FJ cab ride back to the marina instead of hauling everything back onto the bus.  This was the perfect opportunity to stock up on the heavier items we needed such as boxed milk, juice, drinks, canned items, etc.  One afternoon after teaching school, I hopped on board the bus alone to get some of the bulky provisioning done.  I also needed to buy large bags of rice, flour, and sugar which I'd be dividing up into 1 kilo bags to give to the people of the Lau Island Group.  Once the batteries arrived, we'd be looking for the first weather window to sail southeast to the remote islands.  Many of our friends had spent weeks anchored near these same villages and say it was some of the richest experiences in all of their Pacific travels.

Usually, the bus goes straight into town, but I had inadvertently hopped onto one that was taking the more local route.  In our travels, we've learned to just go with the flow.  I knew I'd get to the markets eventually, so I sat back to take in the experience.  As I glanced out the window, we passed many of the high end resorts - Westin, Radisson, Sofitel, and Wyndam.

The luxurious pools of the Westin.  Under the thatched roof is a hot tub!
At each stop, local folks wearing their resort uniforms, just coming home from work would board, saying "bula" to friends sitting nearby.  Once past resort alley, the driver turned off onto a bumpy, dusty road.  The scenery changed dramatically.  There were no more pristinely kept flower beds or grand hotel entrances.  No more palm tree-lined golf courses.  Instead, set back from the streets were the homes where the workers lived.  Laundry hung on the lines.  Small children played among chickens and papaya trees.  Flowered fabric hung in glassless windows of one room huts.  The air was pungent with the smoke of outdoor cooking fires.  This is where the people of Fiji lived.

Daily life in a Fijian neighborhood
Dust billowed into the bus windows at each stop, and I felt privileged to have this glimpse into true Fijian life.  I listened to their Fijian language - friendly greetings between neighbors, the giggling of ladies as they shared gossip, the quiet murmurs of a sleepy, sweaty-headed toddler on his mother's lap.  Suddenly, I was in no rush at all to get to the markets.  

In contrast, Port Denarau is a touristy area.  Tour ships come in early to pick up jet lagged visitors then return them a few days later, always sunburned and exhausted.  The marina is surrounded by souvenir shops, tour operator stalls, taxis, buses, and restaurants that cater to the tourism industry.   Yes, there is even a Hard Rock Cafe.  Did I mention it was touristy???

Again, this negative also has its positives.  A stage is situated in the middle of the shopping area, and each night various performers offer a cultural show to the resort guests.  We've gotten to see fire walkers, fire dancers, hula dancers, and traditional Indian dancers!  Each night is free entertainment!

Fire dancers twirling kerosene-soaked torches
We've also enjoyed having restaurants so close by.  I've been spoiled with not having to plan and prepare meals.  Of course, we don't eat out every meal, but after a long day of cleaning and wiring, Mark and I welcome the option of picking up a pizza or sitting down to a hot Indian curry!  For lunch, we've found fantastic $2 FJ beef or chicken roti and $4 FJ spicy chicken pies.  Can't beat that!

Everyone pitching in to take advantage of the dock water!
"Mom, are we tourists?" Elizabeth asked as we zigzagged between vacationers, rolling our laundry bag behind her like the others were rolling their suitcases.

"Hmm.  I don't know.  What do you think?"

"I don't think so.  Because we kind of live here.  I don't think we're tourists.  We're cruisers."

"Yep.  I think you're right.  We are cruisers, but it's nice to be tourists sometimes, too."

So, now it's your turn.  Would you rather... sunset or sunrise?  Here's a Fiji view of both.  You choose!

Sunrise from the dock
Sunset at anchor in Blue Lagoon


  1. Sarah, I can understand Mark's enthusiasm for the switch to lithium (LiFePO4) batteries. Your kids will be adults before these cells need to be replaced. The first time you pull a heavy inverter load and discover almost no battery voltage sag, you both will be smiling. The only drawback, that starts as a positive, is the charge acceptance of the cells. The positive is you will harvest more energy from your solar panels and when you run an engine the output of the alternator won't taper so less engine run time to charge. The negative is this does tax the charging system and unless Mark addresses this by de-rating the output via the regulator ("belt saver" setting), it could overheat the alternator. A way around this is to top off instead of trying to charge to full a depleted bank.

  2. I love the sunset picture. I also enjoy your good writing, so we "landlubbers" can live the travel life vicariously through what you share. I look forward to the book you may eventually write.
    God Bless!
    Michael and Lisa Peel

  3. You're such a good writer, Sarah! Thanks for yet another post that transports me right into your experience. We will be sailing to the South Pacific in 2017, so your blog posts are also inspiring and helpful for our preparation. Cheers, Ellen, A44i hull 34, Golden Glow

    1. Hi Ellen, apologies for the delayed response. We just met our first Pacific Antares (sv Rehua) here in NZ, and hope we get to meet you all somewhere out here, too! If you have any specific questions about anywhere along your route, please don't hesitate to ask. We are in NZ until late April, then up to Fiji and plan is to head to Indonesia this year. Trying to get my head back in long term provisioning mode to start making lists of lists of lists! Enjoy the Pacific!


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