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Crossing from Samoa & exploring Fiji [October 24 – November 6,2004]

Musket Cove, Fiji

October 24, 2004 Sunday, Apia to New Caledonia

Left Apia at 9am, Sunday morning, church bells were just calling people for a mass – we decided to have a mass outdoor, on the open sea. Wind was strong, 30++ knots. Setting one reef on the main and genoa#4. Coming out of Apia on a broad reach beat our speed record – did 16.3 knots! Occasional shower.

Yesterday downloaded a big weather forecast for the following week – according to the forecast in this area for the following three days we should expect good, 20-30 kn SE wind – just what we need to get to Fiji – hope our weathergrib will live up to its reputation!?

Leaving for Savu Savu in Fiji, which is about 530 nmiles away. Going through the channel between Savaii and Upolu. Nice wind, 25-35 kn, making good speed, hardly going below 10 kn.

Once we were in the channel, heavy rain, visibility dropped to 500 m, turned on radar as we do not know if the e-charts are accurate in this location. Have to aim between Savaii and a small island on the Upolu side. Depth decreasing, visibility minimal, quite unpleasant situation, would not like to be in shoes of old-time sailors without navigational tools like e-charts, GPS, radar, depth meter! When closer were able to see the small island that we are supposed to stick close to. Passage was ok but then on the other, southern side of the island the wind dropped and we entered a huge area with absolutely confused sea, big waves, and on top of all no wind! Had to start the engine for ½ hr to get out of this doldrums and enter deep, open ocean and there, SE wind slowly picked up, waves increased and continued to increase .. and wind as well and rain. Night started with strong wind, high seas, and rain, rain, rain accompanied with the occasional thunderstorm & lightning. It rained most of the night. Broad reaching and running, making 10-14 kn most of the time!

At 9 pm had made 125 miles in 12 hrs, our absolute record (this would make 250 per day!).

Short 2 hr watches, no one can stand these conditions much more than that. It was certainly not a comfortable night sailing as under the squall wind was blowing up to 55 kn! Some time around 2 am we broke our speed record again, this time we made 16.7 kn! I must say, it was scary in a way.

One of the wettest & windiest night we had so far!  

Obviously, there will be no more picture-perfect weather like it was most of the time for the past six months – we are obviously entering rainy season (fast).

Monday, 25 October 2004 

At 9 am – we had done 226 miles in water (could say under water, it had rained so much!) our absolute daily record! Wind is down to normal 20+ kn, still overcast but at last, no rain, finally able to dry our wet weather gear. At 10 am clear sky, another nearly picture perfect day with the wind on the beam SE, 20+ kn. Making 9-10-11 knots steadily.

Tomorrow it is supposed to be Tuesday by our Polynesian/Fiu time. However, in Fiji things are different, it will already be Wednesday! Tomorrow, we’ll be crossing the (in)famous date line and we’ll loose one day, loose our Tuesday. So, tomorrow’s log will read Wednesday, 27 Oct. instead Tuesday, 26 Oct.!

Tuesday, 26 October 2004 – this Tuesday is lost in space!

Wednesday, 27 October 2004

At 9 am 460 nm in two days (in water). Very good average of 230 nm day. Effectively, we made approx 400 nm from Apia (straight line) and have another 160 nm to SavuSavu in Fiji.

It was a very nice night – nearly full moon, steady wind at 20-30 kn.

At 2 am this morning genoa 4 started to flap! Not much, obviously not a loose sheet. Halyard got loose – it looks like the snap-shackle opened! To prevent genoa sliding down the foil, furled a few turns and continue sailing with flapping genoa til morning. After the sunrise, ‘all hands on deck’, set the staysail and then lowered genoa 4, hooked it on the spinnaker halyard and hoisted again. Speeding again at 9++ knots. Will have to climb the mast and recover the genoa halyard once we are at anchor.

Beautiful day, SE wind stabilized at 20+ knots and we are sailing very well on the beam/broad reaching.

At 10:15 am our first sighting of a big tanker, portside, approx 5 nm. Turned on radar and was able to see a very clear shadow on 5 nm port – gives us some confidence in radar – so far did not have many opportunities to test it on ‘real targets’!

At 3 pm heavy clouds in the west .. will we get another shower today? Wind still with us, steady 20 to 35 kn SE, on the beam.

6 pm wind increasing to 40++ knots, a squall? Still sailing with Gen4, staysail and main with one reef. Only 21 m to Welangilala atoll, South of Nanuku passage.

Thursday, 28 October 2004

1 am still nice wind, SE 20 kn, nice sailing, overcast, still good visibility as Moon is almost full and illuminating clouds, occasional rain shower? Radar is on, passing close to Tavenui Island.

4 to 7 am wind still SE 15 to 20 kn, sailing downwind. Overcast & drizzling again, approaching Savusavu bay in Vanua Levu– 20 miles to go.

Arrived in SavuSavu and moored to a ’pink’ buoy as recommended by ‘Takapuna’ The pink ones belong to Waitui Marina. The other marina is Copra Shed and there is a friendly competition between the two. The Marina helped us clear in and everything was done in a couple of hours.

We found Music safe & well in SavuSavu and caught up with all their news.

SavuSavu in stormy weather SavuSavu bay

In this channel here in SavuSavu both Marinas have installed ‘cyclone proof’ moorings so quite a few boats are planning to stay here through the season. They are organizing themselves into a little community with all the good and the bad that that entails. Good for the children, with activities and involvement of the local community too, some conflict though with such a diverse group of people trying to agree on everything. It will be interesting to follow on Noonsite.com for example, and eventually go back there next season.

Friday 29 – Sunday 31 October 2004, SavuSavu, Fiji

The next few days were spent eating in very cheap restaurants, some shopping, doing the gas refill which turned out to be the fastest yet – it took less than an hour to go to the gas factory, top up our bottles and return to Fiu.

The marina had organized a Halloween night mainly for all the children, but it was a good night too for all the adults. The kids went around the yachts for trick & treats, all dressed up as witches and wizards.

Trick or Treats in SavuSavu Halloween party at Waitui marina First Prize! Halloween party

Ivo decided to go for an all or nothing hair cut – the result was a very short haircut!  

We went walking around the village and to some hot springs just near the one and only hotel in SavuSavu. These hot springs are regularly used by the locals to slow cook food.

Music left on the Saturday to meet up with another boat, some friends of theirs from New Zealand and we arranged loosely to try to meet up again in Musket Cove where we knew the other boats probably were too. This would be our last stop before they went onward toward New Zealand and we continue toward Australia.

Ivo eating a papaya after a Fijian crewcut. Sunset in SavuSavu

Monday, 1 November 2004, from SavuSavu to Musket Cove

After clearing and many other ‘small’ jobs, left Savusavu at 11:30 am with a nice SE wind, 15 to 25 kn. Sailing with the gen4 only. Our planned destination that evening was inside the Namena Barrier reefs on the South side of Vanua Levu near Vuya Point.

We entered through the Nasonisoni passage and tried to anchor in Navave bay but found it very unsafe with many shallows and coral heads and it was already dark. Eventually decided to continue sailing and go all the way to Viti Levu through the night!  Wind was on the increase, dark night, imprecise charts,  absolutely crazy situation! But we both agreed it was still safer than trying to anchor and stay the night in Navave bay.

We sailed through the reefs at night using the e-chart with GPS plotter and a keen eye on the depth sounder, knowing that there was some variance between true position and chart position.  Ivo was outside steering and Susan inside navigating. After several hours of hair raising moments every time the depth decreased, we finally sailed clear of the reefs and were at last in deep water again. These were possibly the most frightening moments of our entire trip!

Tuesday, 2 November 2004, Viti Levu

6 am approaching Yayena passage on the northwest side of Viti Levu. We were on our way to Musket Cove via Lautoka, the second biggest town in Fiji where we would need to register our presence and also where we would need to clear out of Fiji. The route along the northwestern side of Viti Levu was yet another risky passage, and again we felt lucky to have the e-charts and GPS. The water was very murky, and only a few of the coral patches and shoals were marked, so we were again sailing blind! No wonder there are no charter companies here in Fiji, they would be losing too many boats.

14:00 passing by Lautoka town, from a distance quite a sad small town with huge sugar mill/factory that dominates the town. Susan calling Takapuna & Music on VHF and Holly B replied!

Seaplane landing in front of Fiu and near Sheraton Hotel !

They are only 15 m south, on the anchorage near Sheraton Hotel! We thought they had already left for NZ. An hour later we were anchored next to them, set the engine on the dingy and few minutes latter were sitting with Tony and Jane on Holly B. It was nice to see them again, at 5pm Ivo went to the hotel for a stroll and to see the Melbourne cup on TV. In the evening we all went back to the hotel for a drink or two. Ivan showed up as well, had a good chat and at 9+ went back to our boats

Wednesday, 3 November 2004, Vuda Point Marina to Musket Cove  

We sailed just a few miles north to Vuda Point marina to check out. Very strong wind, SE 20-25 kn, sailing with the jib only. Marina is new and deep enough for us ~ 3m+. But we did call on the VHF to ensure that the entrance channel was also deep enough! The charts were not up to date. Topped up the fuel, took 160 l and 5 l petrol for dinghy - all for 180 F$.

Susan went to Lautoka to clear-check-out/custom and immigration/ and bought some fresh veggies and fruit.

The Internet café is very slow here at Vuda Point, but at least there is one! After 1 pm decided to go further down to Musket Cove where we met Takapuna and Alexander III. It was nice to see them - had dinner together on the common BBQ grounds of the Musket Cove Island Resort. Found Musket Cove to be very pleasant and yachtie friendly place.

Thursday, 4 November 2004, Musket Cove

Fishing on the outer reef with Julian and his ‘crew’: Caroline, Julian’s mother and a friend of hers. Caught two nice Spanish makrels, (5-6 kg each) and Julian spearfished a big (ugly) grouper – some 12 kg and few smaller coral trouts – very successful fishing day! Sold to the shop and local people one Spanish makrel and grouper to a group of indian workers. The rest will be for farewell BBQ party on Friday.

Catch of the day! Beautiful corals Alexandra 3

In the evening we all had dinner at the resort by the pool. It was their weekly ‘Pig on a Spit’ BBQ, so could not give that a miss!

Musket Cove, Yachtie Paradise Thank you Julian! Pig on a Spit

Takapuna left for Vuda Point to clear out and prepare their crossing to New Caledonia next week and to meet up with Music who had arrived there and were going to haul out their boat to finish the repairs to the damage from the reefs in Samoa.

Friday, 5 November 2004

Sailing with the two boats (Alex3 and us) to the northern part of the island – nice beach and we found on an isolated shoal the best coral so far in the Pacific! Spent about two hours snorkelling there, it was really great!

Will definitely come back to Musket Cove next season. Very yachtie friendly resort and the resort is just like picture postcard resorts, the snorkling is great, fishing good, surfing good for those who like it, the sailing will be great along all the other small islands that are there for us to yet explore (downside - imprecise charts)!

Alexandra III crew, Caroline and Julian Holly B crew, Tony and Jane Farewell BBQ Susan & Ivan

Return to the base by 5 and at the same time Holly B arrived. Getting ready for our farewell BBQ party in '3$ bar' - for most of us, this is our last night on Fiji for this season! 

At 7 pm we were all at the ‘3$ bar’ winding up for the BBQ. there was a lot of fish on the BBQ, salad, vine, beer and Jane had brought some fire crackers, which the security people did not like. We nearly got banned from the place but all had a great time.

Saturday, 6 November 2004, Muscat Cove to New Caledonia

Time to leave Musket Cove – according to the grib-weather a nice SE wind will blow only few more days – so we better go as soon as possible to enjoy a ‘free ride’ to New Cal.

Last minute preparations and Ivo talking to the lady in charge of Musket Cove sailing activities and mooring in view of Fiu returning next season. By 4 pm ready to go, wind changed from strong SE to moderate NE – just right for us to get out of the coral reef - sail up, only gen4 and by 5 pm we were on the open sea. Julian and another guy were surfing on the outer reef together with some 10 other surfers – crazy bunch!

At about 5 miles from the coast, NE wind dropped and SE trade wind picked up – the sea was boiling and extremely confused. Later SE stabilised and we had good sailing all night – short/2-3 hr watches both of us feeling sea sick!! Why?

Blue water sailing

[To follow our journey and read about the crossing & arrival in New Caledonia  please click here]

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