Passage from Vava'u Tonga to Vuda Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji
Position 017:36.00S 177:26.30E Lautoka
Date 1000 (UTC -12) Monday 30 June 2014
Distance run to Vuda Marina – 562nm over the ground, 560nm through the water
Including the 16nm miles extra going to Lautoka for clearance and back to Vuda
Time from Vava’u, Tonga to Lautoka – 3 day 21hrs
Having cleared out of Tonga late in the day on the 25th we moved round to Port Maurelle to overnight. Passage time was calculated so that we would arrive at the entrance through the Navula Passage in the reef for Lautoka, Fiji at first light. Well that is the theory but with 500 odd miles to play with it was anyone’s guess. Still we had three boats setting out at the various times that we individually thought would get us there; we were the last to leave. Now we are not much into racing or competition but getting somewhere to a time is rather fun.
Somewhere along the line we went from West to East but we did not hear the bump as we went over the line and the duty watch, no names no pack drill, did not notice that we were on our way home!
Our route from Vava’u took us through an area of volcanic activity with many suspected hazards being plotted from an email, over the existing charts, south of the Lau Group, up north of the island of Kandavu and in full daylight, bright sunshine and with a brisk breeze between the islands of Mbenga and Vatulele towards the south west corner of the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu. Our destination of Vuda Point Marina, Lautoka lies at the North West corner. But whoops, we are going too fast. Whilst it may be difficult to go quickly in not much wind it is just as taxing trying to go slowly with a good wind. Hourly calculations of the average speed required to arrive just after 0600 were made and at times we had hardly any sail set to keep the speed under the required 5 knots.
Well we won and the reward was watching first light and the pre-dawn glow over Viti Levu as we transited the Navula Passage. The others followed during the next 30 minutes so there was not much in it.
With the dawn came the hardening of colours and our first closer up view of Viti Levu.
We thought that we had it hacked and arrived off Vuda Point Marina at 0900 to be told that Customs were not coming to Vuda that day as it was the first day of Ramadan (aka for UK readers - leaves on the line and the wrong type of snow?) and we would have to go the extra 8 miles to the port of Lautoka, known as the sugar capital of Fiji due to the large cane processing factory, and consequent smut and dust.
That we did and anchored in the quarantine area north of the port off a yellow buoy that confusingly had “Bathing Area” written on it – an example of recycling perhaps?
The three boats skippers went ashore to inform the health authorities we were there. Eventually a guy appeared in a taxi, told us we should not be ashore, we answered ‘How else was you going to find out we were there”, he gave in, understood and we gave him a wet dinghy ride out to the boats to be inspected, sprayed and charged US$100 for the privilege.
That done it was back to shore to deal with Customs, Immigration and the all new singing and dancing Bio-Security. We got to Bio-Sec just as they closed for lunch so waited 90 minutes for their return. Eventually all was well, nobody from Customs wished to get wet and inspect the boats and we up anchored and sailed back to Vuda to enter at 1700.
As usual it was great to stop and we were made very welcome by the Vuda staff – a good sign of things to come.