I was going to just write about the passage from Tahiti to Fiji but I have let time slide by and Fiji is much more interesting so a quick note on the passage then onto the good stuff.
The central Pacific is a surprisingly different proposition to the eastern Pacific. Weather systems are much more complex and trade winds less reliable. Because of this we employed the services of a weather router, Bob McDavitt
. This definitely helped keep us in reasonable conditions but it still proved to be quite challenging. When we crossed the eastern Pacific from Panama to French Polynesia we basically set the sails and did not have to touch them for eighteen days. This time we had a bit of everything, upwind for a couple of days, about eighteen hours of motoring through calms, a few horrible days when big, confused seas and high winds made being on the boat feel like being inside a piñata and then a lot of fast bouncy sailing anywhere from dead downwind to on the beam. With Bob's help we managed to avoid very squally conditions and we had no serious convective activity.
We finished the passage with several sublime sailing days on a beam reach in twenty plus knots of wind averaging 6.5kts. We sailed the 1,900nm (3,800km) passage in fourteen days using only ten gallons of diesel so we were pretty pleased with the whole experience but very glad to have it behind us.
Arrival in Fiji was a delight. We were helped to the quarantine anchorage by smiling and friendly young men from the Fijian navy. They asked us if we needed any supplies, which we didn't, then they returned shortly after with a welcome pack in a hand-made bag containing information brochures, sunscreen, insect repellent, coffee, lotions, masks AND a data SIM card. What more could you ask for?
Because the passage took fourteen days we only had to stay in quarantine until our arrival test, taken by a delightful couple of nurses bought out to us by the navy, showed negative, then we went into the small marina for a couple of days to complete the formalities and get the boat cleaned up after the passage, prematurely as it turned out.
The embrace of the Fijian people has been remarkable. To a person they have been smiling, welcoming and helpful. Away from the town everyone we pass greets us with a smile, a hearty wave and cries of "Bula Bula". No subtle western nods here. Workmen stop to wave, drivers reach out of the window, kids run to the street. It really is remarkable. The last time we met people as spontaneously friendly as this was in Newfoundland. Anyway, back to the story.
We spent a couple of days in Savu Savu reprovisioning and getting used to the country. SS is a fairly typical island town, dusty and bustling. There is a strong Indian (sub-continent) presence here so it felt like a less frenetic and crowded version of India. There is a good market and a pretty wide range of general shops so it was not hard to get what we needed.
We had crossed with a couple of other boats and Fergus and Nev on Two Drifters
had arrived shortly after us so we decided to travel together to Paradise Resort
on the adjacent island of Taveuni. The weather conditions were not ideal but how hard could 40nm be? WAY too hard as it turned out.... The wind got up to 25kts on the nose accompanied by short, steep seas and it quickly turned into some of the nastiest sailing we could remember. It became obvious that we were not going to get to Taveuni in daylight - or one piece - so we decided to head along the coast of Vanua Levu to Viani Bay to wait out the bad conditions. Even getting there required tacking and we were cutting it fine for entering the reef before dark so Fergus identified a small reef break and inlet called Nasasobu a couple of hours nearer and we headed there.
This turned out to be a very fortuitous decision. What a delightful place! It is a small and wonderfully protected inlet with superb anchoring, in heavy mud with no coral bommies to worry about. The entire bay is lined with mangroves, capped with a mixture of forest and grassland. Apart from the birdsong it was utterly silent, far from the crashing reef, no roads, flat calm water. AT dusk large fruit bats flew overhead. After the sail from hell it was an almost surreal experience.
There was one occupied group of buildings at the head of the inlet so we went over to say hello and make sure they were happy with us anchoring in their bay. Happy was a slight understatement. They were delighted that we were there and more delighted that we came over to talk to them (apparently not everyone does).
Anyway, they pretty much adopted us for the next few days. They walked us through the Kava ceremony
A couple of the young men took us on a boat ride through the mangroves then a hike up onto the ridge
There were wonderful views from the ridge.
We (mainly Fergus) put some fiberglass patches on a couple of their kayaks and I had a go at repairing their inverter/charger. Unfortunately it had turned into a hornet's nest which was clearly not good for electronics but also discouraged diagnostics... In between this we sat around drinking tea, eating pancakes and playing with the delightful kids. It was a fabulous experience.
The weather was improving and we really wanted to do some diving so we somewhat reluctantly moved on to our original destination, the Paradise Resort on Taveuni, promising to return.
Paradise Resort is turning out to be another slightly surreal experience. Fiji is closed to tourists so the resort is keeping the staff employed and the lights on by catering to us cruisers. They are providing free moorings, good food, spa services and very reasonably priced diving in a delightful location. We will happily spend more here than we intended to.
We did a couple of nice dives on Vanua Levu before we left and a few snorkels enroute and the undersea life looks amazing. I will write more about that later but this little jem is a good taster.
For anyone with even more time to spare here
are a few of our first look underwater photographs.
Take care and stay safe.