The second leg of our journey
21 November 2015 | Vuda Point Marina, Fiji Islands
After safely getting to SavuSavu, we still had the second part of our run hanging over our heads, the sail to Vuda Point Marina.
While this only encompassed two narrow reef passes, we still had a level of anxiety, much less than the prior trip, but still worried about silly sailing errors. Some of this was made easier by brainstorming routes, and possible "temporary" fixes to the stern issues.
Joao is an awesome Brazilian sailor who spent his whole life at sea fishing, prior to singlehanding this far around the world. He has crewed and delivered numerous vessels and even saved one from sinking. When we described the cutlass/shaft problems to him, he came up with a technique the Portuguese fishermen use in a pinch. He told us to take some seat foam, impregnate it with axl grease, and spin it to the right width to fill the gaps between the shaft and the hull. This would both keep the water out, and potentially give us a minute or two of using the prop, in an emergency (running aground). Tom spent a day underwater with the snorkel doing this. When he could jamb no more in the cavity, we felt a little better, knowing we should be a little safer.
We decided our routing options were to either head for the gutter run around the western side of Viti Levu, but other than towing through 40nm of numerous reef passes, we couldn't resolve this as a viable option. The second choice was to head east into the Koro sea to the eastern side of Viti Levu, pass Suva and around the south side to the Momi pass. We chose the second option, and then reviewed the idea with Moondance, Interlude IX, and Zazoo (Joao). They all felt the route was solid, if we could get the right winds, thus the waiting began.
We only had to wait a couple days and the right window of 10kt forecast breezes appeared. We arranged some help from Moondance to give us some bumper boat assistance as we sailed off the mooring in an extremely tight mooring field. When they came over to assist, they also recruited Doug from Renegade to help bump us straight. All went well and we were off without incident.
We had a nice 6kt sail out of SavuSavu bay and punched right out of the reef pass with no difficulty. Once we set course we realized the weather forecast was off by about 20kts and 30 degrees. Thus we had 30kts of wind on the nose with some pretty heavy seas on the bow, keeping our speed to around 2kts. It was slow going but once we reached the lee of Koro, we were able to turn a little more southerly and maintain 5kts. Then the winds dropped and we were back to fast drifting along at 1-2kt. It was slow, but we had lots of space.
The next day we had very light air 2-6kt, so we tried to keep Tanga trimmed well and keep getting south, between Gau and Viti Levu. It was slow going all the way to outside Suva.
When we were outside Suva, about 15nm offshore, the Duwali celebration was going on and the whole skyline was lit up with fireworks, a very pretty night scene.
The whole night was spent making around 2kt and we felt we would never get there. Our intent from Suva was to get out towards Kadavu Island to pick up some wind. This added about 60nm to our trip, but to run the pass would require a healthy wind for about 10hrs, and we couldn't count on that happening. So each mile south put us further away from Vuda, but we were hoping to get the wind back to make it up.
About halfway thru the Kadavu pass, the winds indeed built. 20-25kts just aft of the mast for a very fast broad reach pointed straight at Momi pass. Once we hit the pass, we rolled into a wonderful beam reach and zipped through the last pass!
When we hit the main lagoon around noon, we had a tremendous sense of relief. We know these waters well, and know the hazards and winds "like the back of our hands". The greatest challange we faced at this point was to not let our guard down, as we weren't tied up yet.
We called Adam of Vuda Point Marina and he said he would have his staff standing by until we arrived, to facilitate the tow into the marina. He mentioned that if the winds were to strong that he wouldnt be able to tow us. At this point the winds were pretty strong so we decided to sail around, thinking the winds would lay down in the late afternoon. So instead of heading straight for Vuda, we turned off and headed more westerly. And dont you know, about 30 minutes after doing this, the winds died completely. We drifted around at about 1 knot, watching and hearing our sails slap as the small swell knocked us side to side.
Feeling a bit frustrated, we tried tacking one way, than another, trying our best to make some momentum north to Vuda, trying to keep the small amount of air in our sails to keep them from slapping and banging. Then we felt a puff of air, then another puff of air, and the wind had changed direction and started filling in from the northwest.
We got really excited because if this wind could hold for just another 3 hours, we could make it to Vuda! We weren't moving fast, but at 2-3 knots, we were making headway in the right direction.
As we neared Vuda, Tom called Adam and gave him an update of how far away we were. We began prepping the boat for the impending tow with fenders and lines everywhere.
As the sun began to set, Adam called and asked how far away we were and what our speed was. At this point, we were about 1 mile away from Vuda, but going about 2 knots. He said he would send the boys out to us to help us move along a bit faster.
Two of the guys came out and tied up to the side of Tanga and with our sails up and their engine, we started moving along. Once we were outside of the channel, Tom dropped the sails. At this point, the outboard on the long boat stopped working and we all laughed! What timing! The guys got it working again, and the we were towed in the marina. All the staff at the restaurant/bar came along side and yelled Bula Tom and Monica, the band stopped playing and welcomed us back. We were met at the visitors dock by Adam and a two other guys. They tied Tanga up and we hopped off the boat with champagne in hand. We gave Adam bigs hugs and thanks, then Tom shook the champagne bottle up, popped the cork, and poured it over himself, myself and Adam, then we all drank the rest of it pretty quickly. What a feel of excitement and accomplishment we felt. We were exhilirated and so happy to have made it to Vuda!
The night of celebration began with another bottle of champagne for myself, a few fingers of Jack Daniels for Tom, and a wonderful steak dinner. After some food, the real party began with lots of shots, drinks and laughter.
After doing both legs, we feel we have used up all our boat Karma points, so if anyone needs a hand, let us know, so we can start refilling the jar!
The picture above is Team Tanga sailing through the mooring field in Savu Savu.