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Crystal waters, beautiful people and kava

Adventures, Edition 8 - 2020

Crystal waters, beautiful people and kava


When avid divers Jason Squire and Caitlin Harvey ventured to the South Pacific aboard their Riviera 6000 Sport Yacht The Silver Fox, they found just as much to appreciate above the water as they did below.

“In most places you need to bring your passports. Here you need to bring kava.”

This was the sage advice from a village elder on Fiji’s Sawa-i-Lau Island, one of a string of islands that make up the Yasawa group north of the main island of Viti Levu, when Jason Squire and Caitlin Harvey came ashore from their Riviera 6000 Sport Yacht The Silver Fox in 2018.

Waya Island

“When you land at any village, you ask for the Turanga ni koro and he presents you to the Chief,” says Caitlin. “The Chief welcomes you in a ceremony and extends his protection.”

Kava is a liquid made from the root and stems of a small shrub native to the islands of the South Pacific. While it is non-alcoholic, it has been used socially and ceremonially for hundreds of years and is psycho-active, resulting in a feeling of relaxation and euphoria. 


Jason and Caitlin arrived in the Fiji islands after a voyage of more than 1,000 nautical miles that took them from Queensland’s Gold Coast to Noumea in New Caledonia, and then the islands of Vanuatu and Fiji.

“The planning for this adventure began during the build of The Silver Fox at Riviera’s headquarters on the Gold Coast,” says Jason. “We are avid divers so the idea of exploring the Pacific islands was irresistible.”


Diving at Ile des Pins in New Caledonia.

Legendary dive location

Jason and Caitlin expanded their plans after taking delivery and a shakedown cruise that took The Silver Fox north from the Gold Coast to the Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef and then out into the Pacific and Osprey Reef, a legendary dive location about 100 nautical miles off the far north Queensland coast and 60 nautical miles into the Pacific Ocean east of the Great Barrier Reef.

The following year the pair took The Silver Fox on an extraordinary circumnavigation of Tasmania, both to explore and to test the onboard systems and the fuel bladder.

“We took The Silver Fox from home in Adelaide to the Gold Coast for a service and further systems check in April and set off on our voyage in June,” says Jason. “We kept a close eye on weather forecasts in the weeks before our departure and chose a perfect window. It was the first true blue-water cruise we had ever done and the crossing was perfect, the smoothest trip we had ever done.

“We travelled to the Isle des Pins, a stunningly beautiful and pristine island just south of the main island and within the barrier reef. Great diving, clear waters and clean, white sandy beaches.”

Caitlin Harvey

“As our first such voyage, we decided to bring a skipper along for this leg of the voyage, partly for the knowledge and experience he could provide and also to ensure we all had enough sleep. We operated four-hour shifts throughout the four days.”

“It was incredibly exciting as the land slipped below the horizon and we were alone on the ocean,” says Caitlin.

A special passenger – the red-footed booby

“Then we fell into our routines. I slept, cooked for everyone, served and ate meals and read during my time off.”

“On the second day, a red-footed booby landed on the bow. It sat on the bow for about 18 hours. We watched it fishing; it would jump off the railing, skim over the water hunting fish and come back. We cheered if it got a fish and commiserated if it didn’t. At night I watched it on the yacht’s camera screen while it slept on the railing, managing to stay upright – mostly.”

“While on watch, I would read or watch Netflix for a few minutes, then look up, check the navigation screens, see if anything was on the radar, see if I could see any lights on the horizon and then go back to what I was doing. “

Narovorovo Maewo Island

“At night we all swore we saw UFOs. Our eyes were moving with the roll of the boat and it made the stars and any plane lights jump around in the dark, which makes them look like UFOs. All interior lights were off, so the stars and the bioluminescence were magnificently pronounced.” 

New Caledonia was a surprise.

“We understood the diving was not the best, but the main island is fringed by the world’s second-largest coral barrier reef. It provided some fascinating dive spots.”


Fresh baguettes every day

“We also loved the French cuisine – and the fresh baguettes every day. 

“We travelled to the Isle des Pins, a stunningly beautiful and pristine island just south of the main island and within the barrier reef. Great diving, clear waters and clean, white sandy beaches.”

The Silver Fox then ventured beyond the protection of the reef for the brief voyage to the Loyalty Islands, part of New Caledonia east of the main island and a stop-over on their way to the islands of Vanuatu, some 200 nautical miles further north-east.

Champagne Bay, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

They topped up the fuel tanks from their bladder and ran at an easy 20 knots for the 180 nautical miles to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.

“We were surprised at how beautiful Vanuatu is,” says Jason. “We decided to explore the islands further on our return voyage, but we were eager to reach the Fiji islands as soon as possible. So, after a couple of days we set off again for a three-day voyage across the Pacific to Port Denarau on the west coast of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.

“Caitlin’s birthday fell during that voyage, so I had to make it up to her after we reached Denarau.


The people have a powerful sense of community. They share everything.

Jason Squire

“We alternated our speed between eight and 20 knots for a comfortable crossing. Our gyro made a great difference at sea, whether we were running at eight knots or 20. It smooths the yacht’s motion superbly.”

Jason had been warned to avoid staying at the marina in Denarau during weekends because costs jump.

“Our timing was not quite right so we had to pay the extra,” he says.

Denarau is thick with superyachts during the winter.

Sunset with The Silver Fox at anchor in Port Vila, Vanuatu

“We found ourselves in a berth next to Dragonfly, the 73-metre long (240 feet) superyacht reputedly owned by Google cofounder Sergey Brin,” said Jason. “We are 63 feet overall and we looked like her tender!”

Other than the superyachts, Denarau had a special attraction.

Caitlin explains: “Every Friday evening, a guy comes down to the marina with a trolley and makes up cocktails – right on the dock – for all the superyacht crews and cruising people like us. It is great fun.”

His name is Nelson. At Havannah Harbour, Vanuatu

The company of friends

Friends joined them throughout their time in the Fiji islands as they explored and dived.

“We went out to the Mamanuca islands, west of Denarau, for a week with friends and took another group to Vanua Levu, the second largest of the Fiji islands,” says Jason. “At Savusavu we refuelled from 44-gallon drums – gravity-fed! The fuel looked odd but it was fine. We decided that this would be as far east as we wanted to explore because fuel was scarce. We did reach the International Date Line.

“We spent some time diving, but there is no soft coral in that area now. Cyclone Winston smashed through here in February 2016. It was the most intense tropical cyclone on record in the southern hemisphere.

Fijian hospitality at Navaqiri Village, Fiji

“We spent some time in a village called Naviqiri. You won’t find it on any map. They have no electrical power, while running water became available only a year ago. But they all had mobile phones!

“The people have a powerful sense of community. They share everything.

“We were also given some instructions. Do not wear a hat or sunglasses. We would be seen as competing with the chief.

Kith offers kava at the Maskelyne Islands in Vanuatu

“We made an offering of kava to the chief and were given a tour of the entire village. They are very proud of their school. We stayed for dinner and took photos of everyone. Fortunately, we had a portable colour printer on board, so we returned to The Silver Fox, printed the photos and handed them out. They loved them.

“They did wonder why we declined to sleep overnight in one of their huts. Mats on floors are a little less attractive than the beds on board The Silver Fox. They even promised to cook us a breakfast if we stayed.” 

Jason explains that the trip was not entirely devoted to diving and visiting villages. 


“While we spent many nights in little bays, we did visit resorts occasionally,” he says. “The cook went on strike every time we came near a resort, so I had to take her out to dinner!”

Business called and Jason and Caitlin returned to Denarau and flew back to Adelaide for a few weeks, returning to turn The Silver Fox west again and back to the Vanuatu islands.

“We took time to explore the northern islands of this group,” says Jason.

Filling water containers for the Maskeleyne Islanders

Sharing with the locals

“In the Maskelyne Islands we met a man selling fresh vegies from his small boat,” says Caitlin. “We began talking with him and found his name was Kith and that he had a little farm – hence the wonderfully fresh food. One day he brought us kava and we chatted on board The Silver Fox. He mentioned the islands were in the grip of drought. They were running out of water.  

“We explained we had a water-maker and would be happy to help. Next day about 20 canoes arrived all piled high with 20-litre containers. They were very sceptical – we could not be giving them salt water. They even brought a priest to make sure it was all bona fide. They tasted our water from a hose in the cockpit – and they loved it. We had 800 litres in our tank and just about emptied it for them.”

Another highlight was diving the wreck of the SS President Coolidge off the island of Espiritu Santo, by far the largest of the islands of Vanuatu. It is one of the most famous dive sites in the world, mainly because the ship is so large and accessible.

Malolo Island Resort. Fiji. Cait gets a day off cooking.

“She is nearly the size of the Titanic,” says Jason. “She was designed to take about 1,000 guests in luxury but during the Second World War she was pressed into service as a troop carrier. As she arrived at Espiritu Santo, she struck two US-laid mines and quickly began to sink. The captain tried to run her ashore and managed to save all but two of more than 5,000 troops on board. She rolled on her side and now lies in between 20 metres and 70 metres of water just off the beach. A fantastic dive.” 

Jason says they also dived another fascinating World War II spot close to the Coolidge wreck.

“After the end of the war the US army dumped military equipment into the ocean at Million Dollar Point. Apparently, the Americans tried to sell jeeps, tanks, trucks – all kinds of equipment – but they failed to strike a deal. So, they simply pushed everything into the sea. There are even Coke bottles that wash up on the beach today.”

The Blue Lagoon

After the thrill of the dives, Jason and Caitlin crossed to Pentecost Island.

“There was a massive party on the beach,” says Caitlin. “And just behind the people on a nearby island was a huge volcano glowing in the dark. It is on Ambae and the volcano has been spewing ash for some time, killing crops and polluting the water supplies. The government was evacuating everyone from that island. It was a scary and fascinating sight.” 

All great adventures must end, and Jason, Caitlin and The Silver Fox made their way back to Queensland.

“We were incredibly tired but elated at having achieved a wonderful voyage with so many experiences,” says Jason. “The highlights were meeting people in the villages of all three island nations. They were all so generous and welcoming.”


If you are considering any extended coastal or offshore cruising, it is strongly recommend that you first consult your insurance company as there will be restrictions and guidelines that they will impose in the interests of your safety and that of the vessel and your crew. It is also strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced Master 5 Captain or the equivalent international qualifications to seek their advice on vessel preparation, safety equipment, training, safety procedures and suitable crew experience to assist you in your voyage.

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