After a brisk 40 hour run north, we arrived outside the harbor in Futuna at 3am. We hove-to, to wait for sunrise to enter the harbor between the reefs. The harbor is very small with room for maybe 5-6 boats to safely anchor.
When we arrived, the swell that helped us get there quickly, also ran directly into the unprotected anchorage. This created a ridiculous 6 foot roll in the harbour, making the dingy and outboard launch challanging. When we got the dingy in the water, we moved it to the stern with Tom in the dingy, ready to grab the outboard and mount it to the dingy. Normally, this is a very easy task and takes a couple moments for us to do, but with Tanga rolling and pitching wildly, Tom had to manage the outboard with one hand and keep the dingy out from under Tanga's bum with the other. Once that was done, we got to shore and proceeded to find the customs office for our clearance paper and immigration stamp.
On the way to the customs office, the gendarmine (French police/immigration) stopped us and asked us where we were headed. We said "we're on our way to customs". They said, "there's nobody there, they're on strike!" We explained that this is a very big problem for us since we need this paper to re-enter Fiji, to which they said maybe wait for a week or two for the strike to end. After much broken language discusion, they stated that they would attempt to find the customs worker and ask them if they would mind helping us out for a few minutes. After 10 minutes of anxious waiting, and discusions of possible scenarios, the gendarmine returned and said the customs officer would help us after her social hour was over. True to her word, 20 minutes later, she walked out and told us to head for the customs office. Once she arrived, we helped untie the wires on the doors they put in place for the strike and followed her in and got our paperwork.
**Future Cruiser Note** The Gals on S/V Interlude did not have any issue getting their paperwork, and we only had to mention that "bad weather was coming" to get a response. The strike is not expected to end anytime soon and also applies to Wallis Island. Your results will vary.
Getting the dink and outboard loaded back on to Tanga was a much simpler task as the swells did all the lifting, we just had to time them well. Once we strapped the dink onto the deck, we pulled anchor and headed back to sea, as we were trying to stay in front of a trough of weather coming at us from the NW. Total time in the country of Futuna, 3 hours! Our shortest visit ever to a foreign country!!!
The ride home was much more brisk than the ride up. As we said, we needed to stay ahead of the weather, so we had our sails up and the motor running to keep our speed up during the lulls in wind. We arrived for clearance back into SavuSavu at 0730 ready for the 0800 meeting with Customs and Immigration. This took only minutes since we had advised them in advance of our arrival and filled out all the paperwork prior to our departure. Thus, the same agents who cleared us out of Fiji also cleared us back into Fiji. They both enjoyed our reply to the question "How long do you intend to stay in Fiji?", our response: "Till you kick us out". Kidding aside, should we want it, we can stay another 18 months now that we have made the Futuna run.
The downtown area of Savusavu
After the run, we visited several islands and anchorages around the northern island while waiting for a weather window to make it back across the Bligh waters.
The Bligh waters is the pass between the two largest Fijian Islands that is notorious for rough wind as it accelerates due to the venturi effect of the islands. On the way north, we had settled weather and a very easy crossing, but the way south had no foreseeable window of settled weather, so we were stuck looking for the least windy day. We decided to hop on a day forcast to be from 15-20kts with some friends of ours.
They took off an hour before us. When we attempted to leave, our engine wouldn't start. We were able to quickly determine it was the starter battery, but since it was Sunday, no shops were open. Thus, we planned to miss the weather window and wait another week till the next chance. During dinner that evening, another friend of ours walked up and said he was leaving the next day around 11am, and he had a more protected route through the reefs of the northern island that would minimize our exposure to the heavier weather and swells. We voted to take his track and advice instead of waiting in SavuSavu for a week or more. Monday morning came and we dropped in the new battery and were off by 1030am. It was a boisterous passage and lulls in the wind were not an issue. We were back in Saweni bay, a mere 12 miles from our base at Musket, in 17hrs on sail, over two days.
*Cruisers*, the gutter track across the top of Viti Levu is nicer, but the Nananu-i-ra pass was quicker, if that is your intent/desire.
Also, SavuSavu is a nice place with a wonderful town, but there are many more cruiser friendly locations around Fiji that have more services and ammenities. Opinions may vary. Here is a list of our pros and cons of Savusavu.
Cons: VERY Limited anchorage space, Very tight mooring field, limited fueling capability, rains often.
Pros: Very nice town and people, the Customs folks are awesome, Beer and dining out is cheaper, due to the tight mooring field the dingy rides are only 30sec long, nicely protected from the weather.
Hiking in the Waisali Rainforest on Vanua Levu Island
Hiking in the Waisali Rainforest on Vanua Levu Island