14 September 2010 | North Viti Levu
We are making our way westward across Fiji toward Musket Cove on Malolo Lalilali Island where we hope to spend a couple of days snorkeling and exploring the nearby bays. Fiji is tricky to move around in as there are many reefs. Many, but not all, are well marked. Another challenge for us is that you can't go ashore in most bay unless you get permission from the village chief (typically by offering a gift of kava). It is not always clear where the village is that owns a particular beach we see, so unless we stay multiple days in a bay it is not possible to seek permission. It is very hard for the kids to see a beach but not be able to play on it. The Malolo area is more liberal and more accessible to cruising boats as an expat bought the area for 50 muskets and some gold long ago.
Our first day out of SavuSavu we hugged the southern coast of Vanua Levu, and anchored off Coconut Point. This leg was our initiation into Fiji sailing. We are limited to sailing during good daylight due to the reefs and channels. We are typically sailing near land and inside the main barrier reefs. Sometimes the channels get narrow, but we have consistently had an easy time seeing the reef in daylight, as they reef areas tend to be less than 5 feet deep, dropping off quickly to 50 plus feet deep. These passages are like a maze, and without a chart it would be exceptionally difficult to find a path through and not continually backtrack from dead ends. We have relied on local knowledge for bays providing good anchorage, as with the reefs and mountains it is not always clear which spots have good protection and holding.
The second day we crossed Bligh Waters to the northeast corner of Viti Levu. Today we followed coastal channels on the north side of the largest island to a bay near Lautoka. It was a tiring 48 mile trip zigging and zagging through channels. Tomorrow we will have an easier day, 25 miles to Malolo, much of it more open water. While it might seem easier to sail near land, it is land that sinks boats, not water. I have more peace of mind when I know ships and debris are my main risk.
During our trip across Fiji the landscape changed dramatically from the windward to leeward sides of the islands. SavuSavu was lush, while Lautoka is arid. The hills here in northeast Viti Lev remind me of the Methow valley in Eastern Washington.
I am keeping my mechanics skills sharp with unplanned projects like fixing the transmission control cable. When anchoring the other day I found that I did not have access to reverse. After setting the anchor without it I discovered the cable was loose (and worn), I have fixed it enough to engage reverse with just the right gear shift bump - I will fix this properly in Oz. I have a growing list of such items. As I have said in a past blog, most of the people I know out here are getting by with some broken gear - cruising is hard on boats and parts are hard to come by. While I brought many spare parts, space, cost and weight imposed limitations. I have gotten more relaxed about not having the boat in perfect working order. Still I am looking forward to entering a well stocked marine store.