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Date: 18 Sep 2012 07:43:00
Title: Fiji to Vanuatu - Day 1 Noon Position 18 35.41S 174 45.17E

We did get away yesterday. It was an early start to sail (motor - no wind) the 4 miles or so from Saweni Bay (where we were anchored) to the commercial shipping wharf in Lautoka where customs are based. They open at 08.00 and like others we wanted to check out quickly to get going as early as possible. Saweni Bay has good holding due to a mud bottom, but when the anchor and chain came up, it was covered in the stuff. Liz was helming for the 4 miles while I spent the short trip cleaning the foredeck! Having cleaned it we had to drop the anchor again off Lautoka, which we found is also mud, so it all had to be done again. (I can see a deck-wash going on our Christmas list!) Fiji Customs and Immigration insist that the boat is visible from their office when you check out, and will issue fines if you turn up at their office having left the boat in either of the 2 marinas on the west coast (Vuda Point and Port Denarau). We went ashore at Lautoka with 3 other boats, all wanting to leave, and Neil on Rutea kindly gave us a lift in his dinghy, so we could get ours all packed away the day before (it's a good couple of hours to pack it away). Having cleared Customs, Immigration insisted in coming out to all the boats and have a look round, before giving us approval to leave at around 10.45.

Once checked out, the pass through the reef out to open sea is about 25 miles. That's several hours motor sailing into a 15kt SW wind, which of course was dead on the nose all the way. (The forecast was for SE winds!) We made it through the pass at 15.30 and the wind changed to slightly east of south, which meant we could sail with the wind on the port bow. We hope it will go more easterly - this is supposed to be a down wind passage!

Having gone through the pass it was good sailing and we've made 6 to 8kts all the way so far. Distanced traveled from leaving the wharf to noon today was 168.7 sea miles. Not bad at all considering it includes the slow progress against the wind to reach the pass.

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