transited navula reef into the sunny west side after 18 hrs

tony zwig
Sun 30 Sep 2007 22:06




Transited navula reef into the sunny west side after 18 hrs


Well, here we are; in the Fiji off story book and pictures; sunny, hot, beautiful green hills.  We are now sailing around the west end of the main island of Fiji enroute to this area’s main town; Lautoka.  The lady at the marina nearby said we should come down here because it always rains in Suva but never here.

It was another glorious sail; broad reach with 3 reefs and one third jib speeding at 9 knots in a 25 knot breeze.  The evening was again beautiful; three quarter moon, clear sky to show stars, wind with a new light humming in the rig, and of course the ever present sounds of water whooshing and trickling along the hull.  Your body gets into a rhythm so it anticipates and moves with the boat motion; so even while  sleeping last night during some big rollers, I managed to sway in peaceful swinging, as if in a tree.  We feel good about successfully crossing this reef as there is no land to mark it; the danger is all under water.  There is one mark but the narrow break in the reef is one third of a mile wide and 2 miles long so it is critical to have the precise and correct angle of approach; made a little more challenging with side waves whipped up by the 25 knot wind.   And of course, I loved the note on the chart that mentioned that the reef is moving and narrowing the opening from what is shown.  Another cheery note on the Fiji chart near Suva, is the one that says, aircraft photography has revealed pinnacles of coral  that are uncharted.  No mention of where; I guess the idea is, if you bump something, you will now know what it is.


Some other thoughts on our approach to Suva a couple of days ago.  We had been having a good ride downwind in the omnipresent 25 knots, but all of a sudden fog and rain descended destroying all visibility.  When we were 11 miles out, we radioed port control to get clearance to enter and they mentioned that another boat, Marita, had just hit the reef so advised us to be careful and use the leading lights.  I didn’t want to spook the crew so didn’t mention the news of Marita, but not able to find the leading lights, at 8 miles out, we turned into the wind, which was now measuring 33 knots with normal big rolling waves.  We would slowly make progress south to windward of the lee shore for about 19 waves; and then a 20th would push us backward.  For 4 hours we clawed ourselves away from the shore, motor sailing, until we could time an entry at first light.  I felt a little guilty for Ken and Dick because this evening was not the kind of sun and sand trip they signed on for.  But we took good care of everybody and everything.  As I mentioned before, I am so impressed with the good humor with which they came through the night. 

It was very sad going by Marita on the reef on the way in and out.  Humbling, you think, but for the grace of god.  On the way in, it was very apparent that the charts are off; we had to adjust a quarter mile to stay in the entrance channel.  We heard the couple looked stricken coming ashore with their possessions.

Last night at 2am I thought I had lost it and put the boat into a reef when all of a sudden I saw this repeated flashing white light directly ahead.  Just on the verge of spinning the boat around without taking time to release any sails, I realized Ken was standing up through the forward hatch taking pictures with his flash.  I didn’t need any coffee to stay awake the rest of the night.

And of course, another treat of the evening was sleeping amidst the whooshing water; last night I dreamt of floating under a waterfall, with the water rushing all around me but without touching.

More later