We are safe and sound in Suva, Fiji
03 October 2007 | 18 07.50 S, 178 25.24 E
We arrived in Suva, (major port on the southern island), around one am this morning. Yes, we came into port in the dark, through a channel with reefs on both sides and inaccurate local navigation lights. We normally do not enter harbors in the dark, but beforehand when we looked at the paper charts, it looked like a straight forward approach with range markers.
We made it just fine, but had a difficult time locating the navigational lights, some of which were missing and some the wrong color per the charts; for example, the range markers which should have been 'fixed red' were actually blue.
Attesting to the fact that this harbor can be tricky is the faint outline of a sailboat out on the reef, tilted over, obviously grounded. Steen noticed it this morning, while surveying our new surroundings. The customs officials who came aboard Radiance this morning said the boat had been there for a few days.
As I write this, Steen and Malou have just returned from the local 'yacht club', mostly a restaurant with some outdoor access showers and a bulletin board. While there, Steen ran into a Finnish cruising couple we met in Tonga, who have been cruising for nine years; a very nice couple in their sixties, whom we were hoping to meet up with again here in Fiji. As Steen asked them how their trip went, they said it was pretty rough and that while trying to enter the harbor in the dark, the entrance lights didn't make sense, a rain squall had come up, their computer navigation had gone out and within a minute they had gone onto the reef.
Realization dawned on Steen and all he could say was "I'm so sorry."
The situation was bad; the boat was holed on one side and was completely flooded. While they were calling the Fijian Navy for help, the waves washed the boat even farther onto the reef. Their dinghy had fortunately been inflated on deck, so they were able to get it in the water, but the waves capsized them at least once while heading off the reef toward shore. They are now waiting for both insurance and salvage companies to take care of retrieving the boat. They were able to go back out and get some of their clothes and they've spent the last few days at the laundry mat washing out the sea (and bilge) water.
Most importantly, neither were hurt, and their insurance company has been good to them so far. It's a fairly small community, this cruising fleet, and although you don't want Anyone to lose their boat, it is heart wrenching when it happens to someone you know and someone you've spoken to and smiled at just a few days ago.
The fleet would be more than willing to help them with anything they needed, but since they were insured, they are doing alright and are in a hotel waiting to take care of the business portion. So, the rest of us will go on with our plans, hopefully remembering to take that extra precaution the next time we enter a new harbor, during the day or night.