Bodhran anchored off Lautoka Fiji
Saturday May 1st was the ideal day to leave New Zealand. Unfortunately about 40 other boats thought so as well. 30 some of them were part of the Island Cruising Association rally to Tonga and had cleared customs the day before, but there was still quite a line at the customs office in Opua. By 10am we had cleared customs and immigration and by 11 we were on our way, killing the motor and setting sail after we cleared the Opua ferry lane. The wind was fresh and favorable, but the clouds were threatening. A rainbow shown over Pahia to send us on our way. Too bad the rain part was also there as I actively sailed in the rain for maybe the 10-12th time in my sailing career. I’ve really been a pretty fair weather sailor for years now. The only time I get caught out in the rain is at sea where I button up the boat and hang out down below until it drys out. We were still in the crowded Bay of Islands waters and had the rally driving hard behind us to catch up, so a soggy captain dawned his foulies and kept a watch, but he wasn’t happy about it.
Leaving New Zealand with the ICA rally close behind
The weather window leaving New Zealand was great with fresh south westerlies turning to southerlies for the first 36 hour easing to moderate south easterlies for another day before the wind died and we had to motor for 8 hours before we started getting some light easterlies. A low was passing over the north island compacting the isobars in the trades. So we got a few days of reinforced trades blowing out of the east at 25-35 knots with 10-12 foot seas. It was a bit uncomfortable having the waves right on the beam, once in a while a cresting wave would time it just right and fill the cockpit with water, but generally the new combings did an admirable job keeping the cockpit dry. As that low passed further to the east it killed the trades and brought the wind around into the northeast and eventually the north. The wind stayed mainly in the 10 knot range and we had made 120 miles of extra easting in the first 3 days, so we were able to still able to point Fiji during the last 300 miles of light wind.
Here’s a little video Johnny took mid passage
We slowed the boat down the last 36 hours or so to make sure that we’d arrive at Nuvula Pass south west of Viti Levu at first light. Even though we were trying to make 3-4 knots, normally a bit slow for pelagic fish, we caught a nice 20lb mahi mahi around sunset our last day at sea. The wind died completely that night and we had to motor the last 4 hours to arrive at Nuvula Pass at 7:30am. The pass was wide and easy to navigate even though the thick cloud cover made it impossible to see the reef. On the other hand the 10-12 foot swell running did a nice job of pointing out any shallow spots on the approach. The 20 mile motor up to Lautoka was uneventful and we dropped the hook 10 days to the hour after leaving Opua.
Johnny with the mahi mahi he pulled in a day out of Fiji
Sunrise landfall at Viti Levu:
Fiji is an interesting country with about a 60/40 split of native Fijians to Indians descended from laborers brought over by the British to work the sugar plantations. The cross cultures sometimes clash but they make for a unique atmosphere with amazingly intricate Indian garments hanging in shop windows and the smell of curry in the air. The customs folk were friendly and clearing into the country took about 5 hours with not too much of the old run around, though the heat was oppressive for someone who has now been out of the tropics for a year and a half. The highlight of the checkin process happened when I came out of customs and found the my skiff had been carried under the small bridge to the wharf that it was tied up to and had been trapped amongst some gnarly girders and pipes by the rising tide. There was nothing to do for it, but to jump in the foul harbor water and swim under to bridge putting all my weight on one portion of the skiff or another to free it from whatever it was pressed up against slowly working it out. Fortunately nothing punctured, but it took me a good 20 minutes to work it out of there.
With customs cleared we went off looking for some cold drinks and internet. We found the internet for a ridiculously cheap 50 cents an hour, but drinks in Lautoka at 4pm were nowhere to be found. Oh well, Johnny ran into his buddy Jeremy on Facebook. Jeremy was a helicopter pilot down in Franz Josef and is now flying tourist out to all the resorts out of Nadi here in Fiji. So we spent the next day with Jeremy heading out to a reef not far out of Lautoka to do some snorkeling. After that we motored down to Seweni Bay for a night where we met an old Aussie sailor, Bob on Serenity and then took off the next day and had a very slow sail the last 3 miles down to the Vuda Point Marina where Bodhran will reside for the next 4 months while I go home and work for the Summer and attend Tate and Betsy’s wedding in September. I’ll be back here in Fiji right after the wedding and should be able to get a month and a half of cruising in before cyclone season kicks off again next December.
Motoring out of Lautoka on a windless day:
Another video Johnny took trying to navigate in close to the reef off Lautoka:
Snorkeling in Fiji:
Johnny and Jeremy on a little resort island we got kicked off of: