Mud crabs

We were just waking up this morning when two fishermen arrived in a longboat with some crabs in a sack.

“Fresh mudcrab!”

“Are they alive?”

“Oh yes! Just boil them till they are red.”

“Ok we’ll take two.”

The drone of their Yamaha Enduro outboard fades into the distance and we return to our cups of tea, quietly contemplating the two large, angry looking crustacea on the cockpit table.

The crabs have substantial claws, but they are all neatly bound up with some plant stems.

I put our largest pan on the gas to boil some water, we’ll cook them now to eat for dinner tonight.  We discuss menu options.

Hearing this, the larger crab somehow backflips off the table, landing with a thump on the deck, severing one of the lashings which frees a snapping claw.

The crab scuttles around under the table and uses the free claw to start untying his other lashing!

Everyone stay calm.  We know how to deal with a crab on Guernsey.  My friends’ young children will fearlessly pull a crab out of a bucket to show me how you simply have to pick them up from behind.

But this thing is gnarly.  The last remaining binding is coming loose and he’s squaring up like they do, brandishing his vicious claw at me.

I put a fishing glove on and reach for a big knife.  The water’s not boiling yet, so to avoid any further escalation I swiftly dispatch him with a blade between the eyes.  This unsettles the second crab, so he is quickly dealt with and they are boiled for a few minutes each until bright red.

Time for a second cup of tea.

Out in the islands

We’re in the Yasawas, a chain of islands dotted off the NW coast of Fiji for 60 miles or so.

This is pretty relaxed cruising, the next island always an easy day-sail, lots of good anchorages to discover.  

We’re only about 60 miles from the mainland, but it’s all feeling a bit more remote as we meander northwards.

No roads or cars out here, a few isolated villages and a scattering of resorts served by regular ferries from Viti Levu.

Those ferries will also deliver our order of fresh veggies from our supplier in Nadi, so no need to travel back to re-supply. 

Children from the villages paddle out on kayaks and surfboards to sell us mangos, papayas, coconuts.  

They all assure me there’s “no school today!” but I’m not so sure, I think they’re playing hooky for the chance to earn a few dollars from me.

Anyway we’re good for fruit and veg, we could stay out here for weeks. 

Escapade has been in Fiji since April. I left her in mid-May, tied up in the inner harbour at Vuda Point so Dawn and I could be home for a Guernsey summer.

We had a few jobs to do on the boat when we arrived back in Fiji early September, then our friends Fi and Kate arrived from Auckland to sail with us for a week.

I was planning to wow them with some glorious cruising off the beaten track.  But we didn’t get far as we were still figuring out a few technical hitches on board.  At one point we lost all instrument data off the island of Mana, so we just stayed put for a few days.  It didn’t matter.  It was so good to have a relaxed catch up with our friends and a great time was had by all.  Eventually we limped back to port without GPS, depth, wind, plotter, anything!   Just Dawn standing on the roof, navigating round reefs with Google Earth on her phone.  We said farewell to the girls, located the instruments-gremlin with the help of local electronics wizard ‘Furuno Phil’.  Basically a corroded connection, easily replaced.  We were very pleased to see the Furuno network re-booted and good as new.  And I’m grateful it happened here, rather than mid-ocean.  Our sextant work is a bit rusty..

So it was a full two weeks before we really got provisioned and away to the islands.

We sailed the short hops through the Mamanucas and the Sacred Isles, up to the Yasawas. 

Past the island where ‘Castaway’ was filmed. Tourists are now boated across for a selfie with Wilson. 

Lots of great anchorages where our sailing neighbours are from everywhere.  European yachts circumnavigating, Antipodean boats here to escape their winters at home, Americans and Canadians on the Pacific circuit, all congregating in Fiji and planning to leave at the start of Cyclone season in November.

Boats are sailing in all directions from here, but most seem to be heading for New Zealand.

For now they are enjoying the last few weeks of cruising.  Lots of boats with scuba gear at the dive sites, boats with surfboards at the wave spots, and in the breezy anchorages, a huge new community of wingfoilers.

We arrived at the ‘Blue Lagoon’ (where the film starring Brooke Shields was made) and almost every yacht had foilboards and wings. 

So many converts to this new sport!  Wing-foiling is making a lot of people very happy.

A few miles north of the Blue lagoon is another gem of an anchorage. Spectacular scenery, we made an early morning hike to get this shot.

Inside that big rock are some beautiful limestone caves, we swam through the first grotto, then dived through a tunnel and emerged in to another chamber, dark except for daylight leaking in through a couple of chinks in the limestone.

One night here the wind died to nothing, the sun set and the full moon rose over the calm sea.  We are getting back into this world. It’s been over two years since Dawn and I had a spell of island hopping like this.  Living at anchor, in the elements.  All kinds of weather.  Wind from all directions, collecting rainwater in squalls to top up the tanks.  Plenty of time for fishing, diving, cooking, Scrabble, strumming the uke, opening coconuts, and my new thing: cryptic crosswords.  Dawn says they will ‘stop my brain from turning to mush’.  Hope I didn’t leave it too late.


We have an app with local pilotage, one of the features for each anchorage is whether or not ‘Sevusevu’ is required.

Most of the Fijian villages expect visitors to come ashore after anchoring and present a gift of Kava root to the village elders.

(We had stocked up on these bundles of roots in the market in Nadi)

On our trips to these villages we are typically greeted by children on the beach.  We start with a “Take me to your leader” and are led to a village spokesman or sometimes a chief.  We are all generally seated on a mat before the ceremony can begin.  These have varied from a simple acceptance speech and a declaration of welcome, to a solemn ceremony, always with meaningful hand claps.  We love it.  It actually seems authentic and we feel we really are being made welcome.  So far on this trip we haven’t been asked to join in the drinking of the kava, which is good because from what I remember of my experiments with it in April, it knocks me out like a horse tranquiliser.

The trip south

We plan to sail from Fiji to New Zealand in November.  Seems it’s a well-trodden path but I’m still a little apprehensive.  Last time I sailed south of the tradewind belt was a long hard sail down to Easter Island with my daughter in 2018.  Here we are discussing weather forecast options, professional routing services, arranging crew arrivals and formalities.  So many boats here are going the same way and everyone has a different view on timing and tactics to avoid bad weather down there.  My favourite piece of advice so far is from our Kiwi friend Tomo, a highly experienced professional skipper: “Get a good 5 day forecast and just send it.”

Outremers everywhere.

When we launched Escapade in 2014, Outremer was a small French yard building about 8 boats a year. 

It was rare to see a fellow Outremer in our first few years of sailing. 

Outremer has grown, now it seems to be the world’s most talked-about, multi-award winning multihull brand and they have been using their enhanced production capacity to build many more boats.

Most of them seem to be here!  Outremer’s parent company ‘Grand Large Yachting’ has organised a 3 year round the world rally.  By chance our paths have aligned, we’re now surrounded by the rally fleet.  Beautiful new Outremers everywhere you look.  They are all headed for New Zealand too.

Clean bottoms.

The authorities in New Zealand take a dim view of foreign barnacles and alien seaweed which could arrive on your boat and become an invasive species in their pristine waters.

We have been advised to remove every trace of marine growth and take an underwater film of the cleaned hulls to show the bio-police on arrival.

Escapade’s bottoms are reasonably tidy but it takes a bit of free diving to clean two 50’ hulls.  It’s at times like this I’m glad we don’t have a bigger boat.

By the way the crabs were delicious.  Do you know why hand-picked crab meat is so expensive?  I do.