Fulaga to Momi Bay, Viti Levu
Tuesday 28th July 2015
Distance run: 319 nmiles
We lifted the anchor at 09:30 on Sunday morning and an hour later were safely outside the Fulaga pass, where we raised the sails and set a course for Musket Cove.
Sailing along the north coast of Fulaga.
By now it was clear that a stop in Suva, the capital of Fiji, on the south coast of the main island of Viti Levu, was not going to be possible if we were to be in Musket Cove for the birthday celebrations, so we would be going straight to Musket Cove. With the present wind forecast of 20-25 knots for the next few days, it looked set to be a fast passage of around 48 hours, arriving sometime on Tuesday morning.
Well, that’s the theory of passage planning. The reality is that the wind was in fact anywhere between 12 and 22 knots, never anything steady for any length of time, mainly directly from behind, and the sea so lumpy that it bounced the boat around and knocked the wind out of the sails. We couldn’t use the twin headsails to run downwind in these conditions without poling them out, because the rolling would cause them to collapse too often to allow them to draw. And neither of us fancied pole-dancing in the swell.
So we sailed the best course we could, gybing around islands inconveniently placed in our path, avoiding cruise liners, cargo ships and fishing boats that just wouldn’t get out of our way, and added another 40 nmiles to the passage in the process. It was a frustrating and sometimes uncomfortable trip, made bearable by the respite in conditions provided by the lee of the many islands we passed along the way. For some of the time we were within sight of Beez Neez, and Pepe amused herself by taking shots of Scott-Free as both boats rose and fell with the swell – her target was to get a shot of us with the ensign below the swell. She didn’t get it, but we weren’t far off!
Going... going... not...quite...gone!
As dawn broke this morning, it became apparent that we were not going to make Musket Cove before nightfall, but with a bit more speed we could make Momi Bay, just inside the main pass through the reef. Neither of us relished the idea of another night at sea, so we unfurled the remainder of the headsail to get a bit more speed. As Steve looked up at the sail to check it was set well, he let out an exclamation which I cannot repeat in the blog. It would appear that he could see daylight through the sail, about two-thirds of the way up. We either had a horizontal tear in the sail, or the seam had come apart. We furled the yankee away and unfurled some of the genoa which was fine in the winds we now had and gave us some extra speed. We thought the damage to the yankee must have happened during the night, but later discovered, when looking at Pepe’s photos, that in fact it had been there the previous day. In fact, since we had been sailing with this sail reefed since the start of the passage, we have no idea when it happened, but are thankful that we had another headsail all ready to go. If we’d had to stop to mend the sail, or continue under main alone, our chances of making landfall before dark were zero.
The hole in the sail is visible in Pepe’s photos.
Our final gybe didn’t quite get us to the southwest tip of Viti Levu, so we hoisted the iron topsail and motorsailed along the coast until we turned the corner, and then were able to sail the last leg to Navula passage. Not far from the passage, and fortunately in slightly calmer seas, the fishing rod started squealing as there was a fish on the line. We slowed down and Steve landed a skipjack tuna. With time pressing before dark and not far to go to the anchorage, the fish was wrapped in a wet towel and left on the aft deck to await further attention.
Our first catch in quite a while – small, but at least we have broken our dry spell!
We had not seen Beez for the last half of the passage as we had gybed at different times, but as we approached the pass another boat appeared to port, which turned out to be them. A little ahead of us, they had also caught a fish, but theirs was an enormous mahi mahi which needed to be dealt with immediately, and so Bear had sailed on for a while to allow Pepe time to do so, before turning back towards the pass.
300+ nmiles later, we head through the pass at the same time. Scott-Free coming through Navula Passage.
Being the channel through which big ships pass through the reef, Navula passage is well marked and has leading marks, so with an easy entrance we were both soon heading into Momi Bay. We were glad to drop the anchor in this calm and well-protected bay just before the light started to fade. Bear and Pepe came to join us for a fish supper, and we were soon enjoying sundowners and toasting the end of a lumpy passage.
Tomorrow we would do the remaining 12 nmiles to Musket Cove – in time for the birthday celebrations!