Some might think that a tsunami warning followed by two days of thunderstorms would be the best way to start out what for Bonnie, Greg and myself is sure to be our toughest sailing passage to date. Turns out that things have been going swimmingly, but it was a bit rocky to start. Whilst drinking our coffee the morning of departure from the Vuda Point Marina we were minding our own business listening to the local 80s rock station when the DJ disrupted a Duran Duran song to inform us that a 7.7 magnitude earthquake had just struck neighboring Tonga and that it was possible a massive tidal wave was bearing down on Fiji. The news quickly spread around the marina and much debate ensued as to whether or not the wave could get through the reefs and curve around both islands to hit us on the West side of Viti Levu. For our own part we doubted it, but figured that we’d have enough warning on the radio when the wave hit eastern Fiji to get Willow out of the marina and into deep water. Turns out that the wave never formed and the warning was called off. Still it’s the kind of thing that gets the adrenaline flowing.
After the tsunami warning was called off, we topped off Willow’s diesel tanks, said our goodbyes to everyone in the marina and set off on the 10 mile motor up to Lautoka. I’d already been to Lautoka with Bonnie on a provisioning run and was prepared for the insanity. The city is dominated by the descendants of Indian laborers brought over by the British. The shops are filled with impossibly elaborate saris and the smells of curry waft down the crowded streets. Our stop in Lautoka consisted of anchoring off the big commercial wharf in the company of three freighters. Greg spent his time delving through the bureaucratic red tape of a country just over a year into a military government and with a long history of corruption. Meanwhile Bonnie and I failed in our mission to find some outdoor cushions and bought a few more provisions.
We were required to leave Lautoka within an hour of clearing through the officials, so we crossed to a nearby island and anchored for the evening. Ever since I’d been in Fiji, there’d been daily rain and thunderstorms and that day didn’t disappoint. The next morning when we tried to take off around the north end of Viti Levu, the sky was black and lightning was flashing every few minutes. Normally that would be enough to keep anyone in port, but it’d been doing that pretty much every day so we took off anyway. It only took an hour and a sky growing even more ominous to turn us around and send us back to an even more protected anchorage. It was a good call, as we were soon hit by a squall that had Willow dragging anchor at 3 knots across the bay. Fortunately the next day found us with good visibility and building westerly winds that we used to make it the 150 miles to Savusavu on Vanua Levu.
We pulled into Savusavu yesterday morning after a beautiful sail through the night. We’re having to skip lots of places on this passage, but I’ll be back on Bodhran next year and it’s nice to be able to scout things out a bit. Savasavu is the main cruiser base on Vanua Levu and it’s easy to see why with it’s beautifully sheltered harbor right off of a bustling small city. As per the norm, we already had friends here on Lotus and Malaika and were quickly clued into the local scene. So Bonnie and I had a productive day in town while Greg spent a miserable day cleaning out Willow’s black water system. Fortunately cold Fiji Bitters were at hand, but Bonnie and I had to stay off the boat until he was done. Now it looks like a new cyclone is forming over New Caledonia. It shouldn’t hit us here in Fiji, but it will effect our weather and probably keep us in port for a while. The minute the forecast calls for light and variable or anything not out of the east, we’re out of here and on our way to Samoa.