Fiji in times of covid
21 February 2021
The next few months were spent between Denerau and Musket Cove. It was unwise at this stage to venture too far from Denerau as there is a strong possibility of cyclones at this time of year, which turned out to be exactly what happened. At the beginning of December, cyclone Yasa started to develop in the Solomon Islands, and its forecast track was dead overhead of where we were. This was going to be a category 5 cyclone, and it ended up being one of the strongest in the area for many years.
The marina organised for the boats that were there to go up a nearby river to tie up to the mangroves. It was only possible to get into the river at high tide due to a sand bar at the entrance. High tide was around 7am, which is when I made my way into the river. There is not enough width to be able to manoeuvre around, so the way to do it is to slowly go to where you want to be, drop your anchor from the bow, and let the boat swing round, hoping all the while that the anchor holds. You then put out another anchor from the stern, and then tie the boat with long lines to the mangroves on the nearest side. When all the upstream boats are in position you then take longer lines to the other side, and again tie to the mangroves. There is quite a party atmosphere going on while all this is happening, mixed with a bit of apprehension.
With literally about 12 hours to go, the track of the cyclone changed to take it further north, and the centre missed us by around 40 miles. We had relatively little wind, but a lot of rain. Parts of the country not far away were devastated. A lucky miss. We were to get another cyclone at the beginning of January, but this was always going to miss us, and we didn’t feel a need to evacuate the marina for it.
While all this is going on, covid is ripping through the world, apart from Fiji, which is covid free. There are no masks, no social distancing, we can meet up and eat, drink, whatever we want. Most of the time we don’t give a moments thought to covid from one day to the next. The only exception being when we appreciate how lucky we are to be here. Fiji is beautiful, and the people are all very friendly. When the world settles down again, I would highly recommend a visit here.
The Yasawa Islands
10 November 2020
Got up early to set off despite there being no wind. Obviously in the shadow of the island, as when I got further away the wind picked up nicely, and I had a great sail. Unfortunately the wind kept on picking up, and by afternoon, was fairly strong and right on the nose. What had started out nicely, ended not very nice at all. Still, managed to get to manta ray bay on Nanuya Balavu island, where I tucked in as best as I could. Very windy, and a bit lumpy.
Stayed a couple of nights before it was time to move on. I decided to try and sail inside the reef, but the wind kept coming and then dropping again, which made it a little risky, so I went outside the reef, and had a great sail up to Blue Lagoon on Nanuya Lailai island. Beautiful anchorage,and very calm despite fairly strong winds. A small bar which is open one or two times a week, so a chance to meet up with the other cruisers who are here. Crystal clear water and warm - it’s the start of summer after all!
After a very lazy week, decided to head up to the caves at Sawa-i-Lau island. Strong headwinds made for a very uncomfortable sail, after which the anchorage turned out to be the most uncomfortable for a long time. I work on the principle that if I have to hold on to the grabrails while at anchor then I am in the wrong place, so departed early the following morning back to the tranquillity of Nanuya island.
A few more days at Nanuya and then it was back to Denerau to stock up on food and some small boat jobs that needed sorting out.
21 October 2020
After a week in the marina, Kate left for the uk to catch up with family. I decided that this would be a good time to take the boat out of the water for antifouling, and raising the waterline, and while I was at it I decided to give the topsides a well needed coat of paint, so a haul out in Denerau was booked.
Living on the boat out of the water is never fun, and even more so when it is very hot, so the next 4 weeks were a bit of a struggle, but the end result was just what I was hoping for. In the middle of the month was Fiji’s celebration of 50 years of independence. This was celebrated with a regatta on the nearby island of Malolo, at the Musket Cove resort. I was invited to stay on our friends Ben and Amy’s boat, and had a lovely relaxing few days in a beautiful setting. Great food, lots of drink, and plenty of events for those that wanted to take part.
Finally Friday evening at around 5 I was back in the water with a huge sigh of relief. Anchored for the night just outside Denerau marina, and the next day sailed over to Musket Cove to relax, and get my sailing head back on! Back to Denerau to pay the bill, and stock up with fresh fruit and kava (this is what you use to pay the island chiefs when you anchor. They grind the roots to a powder, mix it with water, and it makes a drink which is alcoholic. Haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like mud).
Tomorrow off to start exploring the Yasawa Islands.
Tahiti to Fiji
05 September 2020
A rather strange final week in Tahiti. We hadn’t managed to fix the outboard, which combined with the fact that we had lost one of the dinghy oars the week before, meant that we were going to struggle to get to and from the anchorage. When the weather was settled it was ok to use one oar as a paddle - slow, but we could at least get back and forth. Unfortunately it wasn’t always settled, when it became impossible. As we had quite a lot of paperwork to conclude before we could leave for Fiji, we begged a space in the (very expensive) marina. We then had a doctors appointment and arrangements had to be made for a covid test. The previous weekend, a French national had arrived to work, took the covid test, but went out partying before the results came in. This meant that by the end of the weekend there were 72 new cases. This meant that suddenly everyone was wearing masks for the first time, including us. There was a mild panic when we couldn’t have an appointment for a test as they were too busy, but we got one the next day, and the result the day after. A last minute stocking up and we were on our way.
Light winds so far, but with the help of the engine, just about managing 100 miles a day. Trying not to use too much fuel in the first few days. Very hot.
The wind soon picked up, and with it our speed. The wind continued to pick up speed, and soon we had very strong winds with big seas, and rain. In all, not very pleasant. Had to dig out my wet weather gear, which hadn’t seen action in a while. This continued for a couple of days, during which we both got little sleep because of the motion and noise, so were really tired. However the next day things had calmed down a bit, and for the last couple of days we have had some very fast sailing. Almost halfway.
A few days of lovely fast downwind sailing. Some 140 miles per day, which is very fast for us. Have had to alter course as the original course took us through the islands of Tonga, and we have decided to skirt around the north of Tonga. This is because the islands are closed, and if someone were to approach us to question what we are doing, it would mean that the 14 day quarantine that is needed to get into Fiji, and which includes time at sea, would not count, and we would have to start again. Just not worth it.
Day15 (I think. It’s easy to lose track with the date line not helping matters)
Very nice sailing. Last few days we have made great progress, and should arrive sometime tomorrow.
During the passage we have experienced everything from dead calm to quite challenging and at all times the boat has been great. We have always felt completely safe, no matter what. She is not only the prettiest boat in the anchorage or marina, she is also totally seaworthy. If I had a hat on I would take it off to you, Bill Crealock, the designer of the Cabo Rico 38.
Arrived at Port Denerau in Fiji, where we had to spend 2 further days in the quarantine anchorage while waiting for the results of our covid test, then it was in to the marina for a well deserved beer.
Tahiti and the Society Islands.
03 August 2020
Papeete, capital of French Polynesia.
A bit of culture shock as we arrived in Tahiti, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of boats in the anchorage. With the rest of the Pacific still closed down this is as far as anyone can get and so there is a bit of a logjam! Papeete itself is a proper city with all the bustle, noise and smoke that goes with it. Managed to check in finally, with no problems at all, and stocked up at the local carrefour supermarket which sold everything from washing machines and televisions to fruit and veg. Like everywhere in Polynesia it is all horrendously expensive, but you can get anything you need including parts for the boat.
Soon time to leave as the anchorage was far too crowded.
Cooks Bay, Moorea
After a pleasant 15mile sail we arrived at the anchorage which was much more to our taste. On the edge of the bay was another crowded anchorage which made my heart sink, but further in there were only a few more boats and it was very peaceful. Perfect. Around the edges of the bay were a lot of holiday resorts, which were all completely empty. The economy must be suffering badly along with everyone else in the region. After a night in the next bay along, which didn’t have much to offer, we spent another night on the outside of the bay on the reef. Anchored in 3 metres, and the water was absolutely crystal clear. You could watch stingrays swimming underneath the boat.
An overnight sail, and we found ourselves in Avae Bay on the south coast of the island. A very pretty lagoon, and plenty of room for the dozen or so boats anchored.
First night we didn’t fancy the first place we had chosen, so as it was getting late decided to anchor near the pass where we came in. Very windy, rolly night, so not much sleep! Set off at the crack of dawn to anchor in Hurepiti Bay. Much better.
A rather unpleasant sail, but picked up a buoy at Bora Bora yacht club (which isn’t actually a yacht club but a restaurant). A huge tropical storm that night, but no damage - always a bit of a worry about being hit by lightning, but there’s not anything you could do about it anyway.
So anyway, Bora Bora included one of the highlights of the trip so far. Diving with the manta rays. The dive guide said the best way to see them is to descend and lie as flat as possible on the coral and they will swim right over you as they are feeding! Totally awesome! The guide said that the wingspan on the rays was about 4 metres, and they must have come within about 10 metres of us. 3 of them just following each other for about 30 minutes. The 2nd dive was with sharks, but, they were nothing compared to the first dive.
After that is was back to Moorea to try and get the outboard fixed which had suddenly decided to stop working.
The Tuamoto Islands
06 July 2020
The crossing to the Tuamoto Islands was relatively uneventful. The weather to start was calm, which allowed for some pleasant sailing, but after the first 3 days, the wind died completely, so we had to motor. It had been forecast, so wasn’t a surprise, although never enjoyable. The only incident of note was catching a massive mahi mahi, which at least kept us in fresh fish for the voyage!
The first atoll to visit was Fakarava. Entrance to the atolls has to be timed correctly for slack water, as the tide can rip in and out very quickly at the height of he tide. We had sailed slowly through the previous night to arrive early morning, where there was a flurry of yachts coming out and going in. We waited until they had finished and went for it, and despite quite a strong current against us it was relatively straightforward. We anchored just inside the entrance in very calm waters. There were strong winds forecast for the next few days, so we knew we would have to move the following day, so we would be protected from the winds blowing in from the south. Next day we set off for the south east of the atoll along with 10 other boats. Everybody had gone to get some protection from the winds, so there were around 30 boats in all. The following week we had arranged to do a dive, so we moved back to the north of the atoll. The plan was to do the dive - which was great, lots of sharks, and a huge manta ray being cleaned by other fish amongst other things - and then catch the tide to go out and on to the next atoll. Unfortunately, the anchor chain had got wrapped around a rock, and we had to get the dive school back out to sort it out, by which time it was too late to catch the tide! Back to the north anchorage where we very nearly got the chain snagged again, and then back again to the south, as the weather was turning nasty again, and we needed to take shelter.
After realising that you spend most of your time finding shelter from some very strong winds, we decided it was time to move on. And at the end of the day, even though I know how this sounds, one palm fringed beach is much the same as the next one! It will be good to have a bit of variation, and have a few hills to climb, and a few more people to interact with. So ,Tahiti and the Society Islands, here we come.