10 June 2009 | Savusavu, Fiji
Yes, they said it couldn't be done but we finally made it to Fiji.
Our passage from Opua, New Zealand was fairly uneventful and at times even pleasant(!) Oh sure, at times the wind was too light to sail, but we had no qualms about firing up the "iron genny" (that's the engine, of course) to keep our speed up. After all we didn't want that nice weather window slamming shut 200 miles from Fiji. And yeah, sometimes the sea was a bit rolly (as Glen on Tin Soldier likes to say, "A bit of a rock and roll show") but it wasn't bad enough to drive me crazy. And the rest of the time we were sailing in 10-20 knots of wind with relatively flat seas, so you really can't ask for better than that. We even managed to catch a couple of Mahi Mahi's along the way. We really feel that we got off easy because boats that left before us got beat up in heavy weather and those that were just a little bit behind us ended up with winds of 25 knots right on the nose- that doesn't make for a comfortable ride.
So after nearly 8 days of this "mixed bag" we were approaching our destination and we realized that at our present speed we would arrive at the pass into Savusavu Bay during the night- we felt it wouldn't be prudent to enter until daylight so when we got in the lee of Koro Island we hove-to (sort of) for about 10 hours. (Heaving-to means setting up the sails and rudder to oppose each other and is a way of essentially "parking" the boat mid-ocean. Heaving-to is most often employed by sailors during heavy weather as a way of giving the boat and crew a break from bashing around in rough conditions but in this instance it was just a way to stop for a while.) Because we were close to land (and to Tin Soldier!) and not in the open ocean we had to watch our drift. Even though Meridian was no longer sailing, we were still drifting south along the length of Koro. After a couple of hours we would turn the boat around and sail back up to the northern tip, then heave-to again and slowly drift down for another couple of hours. As Marilyn on Tin Soldier remarked, our chartplotter track looked like an "Etch-a-Sketch". Around 3:00am we started sailing again and sailed the last 30 miles into Savusavu Bay on the island of Vanua Levu.
Fiji is an archipelago comprised of over 300 islands and islets. The two largest islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. About half of all Fijians are indigenous Fijian, a mixture of Polynesian and Melanesian. The other half are Indo-Fijians: fourth- or fifth-generation descendants of indentured laborers. Regardless, whether indigenous or indo- we have been happily impressed with how friendly the Fijians are. As we walk down the street we are often greeted with a bright smile and a hearty "Bula!" which means "Hello! Cheers! Welcome!" all at once.
So we've been here for about a week, trying to acclimatize to the heat and humidity (my sweat glands have been going into overdrive!) and enjoying very inexpensive meals ashore. Marilyn and I have declared to Glenn and John that since we can eat ashore cheaper than on the boat we don't believe it would be wise to use up our provisions cooking meals aboard until we are out at some deserted anchorage. I think they bought it.
Our plan was to leave Savusavu today or tomorrow and make our way west to Yadua Island and then to the Yassawa island group. But guess what? Some friendly local cruiser just told us about this low pressure system that is due to hit the islands in the next couple of days, possibly bringing up to 50 knots of wind with it. Can you believe it?!!! Here we are waiting for weather AGAIN!