Day 4 - Arrived Savusavu Fiji 16 46.64S 179 20.22E

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 14 May 2012 07:29
We're here! And it's incredibly hot with no sea breeze to cool you down (92F in the boat at the moment and our 5 fans are all on maximum speed). >From noon yesterday we sailed 132.1 miles and arrived here at Savusavu on Vanua Levu, the smaller of the two big Fijian islands, at 10.30. The total distance sailed from New Zealand was 1,252 sea miles and including our 4 day stay at Minerva Reef, the passage took 13 days. It's the evening now and we haven't been ashore yet as Customs and Immigration didn't complete the formalities until 18.00, when it was rapidly getting dark. So we'll get the dinghy in the water tomorrow (we're on a swinging mooring in the Nukama creek) and explore the small town of Savusavu. Once arrived, 4 sets of officials visit the boat - Health, to ensure we're not brining in any diseases, Bio-security to make sure we're not brining in any unwanted pests, Customs and Immigration. Only once they have all come and completed their paperwork are you allowed to go ashore or have anyone else come on the boat.

Fiji is quite a surprise. We expected it to be like Tonga (it's next door neighbour of about 350 miles) which is not that hilly, but it's nothing like it. It's a very green, lush mountainous country, or at least this bit is, with coconut palms down the sides of the hills amongst thick rain forest. It's much moor like the Caribbean island such as the Piton area of St Lucia and the mountainous islands of Dominica and Martinique.

Had much more wind than was forecast overnight, but it eased off after a big squall came through. It struck at 11pm with lots of rain and wind shifts, ending up with a shift from east to north. The moon hadn't come up and it was pitch black - you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, so keeping a sense of direction when everything is going mad is quite difficult. I thought I had gone round with the winds and had the wind back in the right place to continue north, only to look at the compass and find I was now going west! The wind then died and the motor went on for a couple of hours until the easterly winds returned and we were back to normal. The sail from then on was magical - a good wind over a flat sea (protected by the islands we were sailing past), so full main and full genoa making 6-7 kts, with no twisting or rolling. We also saw 3 tropic birds - they are the most exotic of the sea birds and we hadn't seen any since the Galapagos islands back in 2010.

There's a few things to fix after a longish voyage with quite harsh conditions at times. The generator problem was fixed in North Minerva and was out of action for just a few hours. We put in a new impeller, but suspect we had an air lock somewhere after all the rolling and pitching in the big seas. We also fixed our two deck leaks there, but it appears that one is still leaking, albeit much reduced, so we'll have to have a look at that. Also we had both lifebuoy lights come loose and towed behind the boat with their lights flashing, which I had to retrieve in the dark on a rolling pitching deck - not too much fun! We need to have a better way of stowing them. It's interesting that when we came into the mooring area, we passed a guy on a 50ft boat who we had last seen when crossing the Pacific. His first comment was that he had left the boat here in Fiji and flown to NZ for 4 months as he didn't want to break his boat sailing there and back. The passage to/from NZ has quite a reputation for demanding conditions, and from what we saw, it lived up to that reputation! We left NZ on what looked like the perfect forecast and I made the comment that it looked too good to be true. And so it was, with the 15kt winds being more like 20-35 kts and generating much bigger seas. But it did blow from south east to east the whole way to Minerva so we could always make the course. It could have been much worse!

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