Arrival at Vulaga (19:08.9S 178:33.9W), Southern Lau Group, SE part of Fiji on 14/8/2014
After a 33 hour battle against wind and waves (half under sail, half motorsail) we made it in one go from Savusavu to Vulaga in the SE of Fiji, a 205nm trip. What looked calm upon departure, turned into consistent 15kn winds outside and 1-2m choppy waves right on the nose. Most cruisers had warned us it would not be a comfortable ride, and what earlier seemed a good weather window was definitely less than ideal, but the SE wind was slightly down from its usual 15-20 kn for most of the trip and slightly more E and went to some 10kn for the last 40nm. If we had not taken this opportunity we would have had to wait for at least some two weeks for the next chance to make it to the SE. Aquamante took the hits like a man and it was a good test for the new rig, but it was a noisy and bumpy ride, which we would not have chosen voluntarily, if it had not been for all those cruiser friends who strongly recommended a visit to Vulaga, despite the difficulty of getting there against the trade winds. Upon arrival and quite tired we still had to face our last challenge, which was getting into the tricky pass in the reef, and unfortunately not at the recommended slack water at high tide, but through 1m standing waves in a 4kn outgoing tide, if we did not want to heave to for some 20 hours to enter the next morning. Daph on the bow as a lookout for reefs, bommies (clusters of coral) and what have you to sink a boat and me steering on basis of the waypoints provided to us, as the charts of this area date back some 150-200 years and cannot really be relied upon with modern day GPS. After we mastered the surf and skirted the reefs hiding in the entrance, we had some more reefs and bommies to dodge, but with the sunlight from behind they were all clearly visible and allowed us to negotiate the pass without problems. What then opened up to us, is probably the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen on our voyage thus far. Eroded limestone islands inside a barrier reef with a well-protected lagoon inside the island chain, crystal clear 5-10m deep water, a truly stunning place. Some 6 other yachts are scattered around the huge lagoon, some three boats in clear sight where we first drop anchor, near the village where tomorrow we’ll do our first sevusevu (ritual, where as a new guest to an island you offer Yakona (roots of the pepper tree) to the local chief, you sit down with him, drink kava (produced from ground Yakona), have a story telling session, after which we are the honoured guests of the village and enjoy their complete protection.
After we put the anchor down and were taking in the awesome view, crew from two other boats came to say hello and informed us of the local do’s and don’ts.
Just before dinner a local named Alfreti in a small kayak peddled towards us to say hello. Coincidentally he and his wife Bale had been the host family (every cruiser gets a host family assigned upon arrival, who spoil you to death with their hospitality until you leave) of Larry, Lisa and Ben, our friends on SY Lisa Kay. After leaving two huge fresh coconuts behind, he took off and we agreed to see each other in the morning after our sevusevu.
No pictures as yet, as this blog and those to come for the next few weeks are posted on our website through an Iridium satellite phone which is amazingly slow and even more amazingly expensive.