Posts Tagged ‘futuna’

Futuna Turnaround

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

It seems a silly thing to have to do, but boats sticking around Fiji have to leave the country every 18 months or pay 30% the value of the boat in duty. My 18 months was almost up, so it was time to get out. The nearest country to sail to is the French Island of Futuna a mere 230 miles the the northeast. I’d pressed hard from Vuda Point to make it to Savusavu during a break in the tradewinds caused by a high pressure system. When I got to Savusavu, the forecast was for one more day of northerly winds before the predominant easterlies filled back in. I had a couple of hard slogs against the trades to get east from Savusavu in the past that I didn’t want to relive, so I bought 5 pineapples and checked out of Fiji.

The forecast northerly ended up being a light southerly and I used it motorsail most of the way east to Taveuni. Then things started getting ugly. Sitting atop Somosomo Strait between Taveuni and Vanua Levu was the gnarliest looking bit of weather that I’ve ever seen. At first I thought there was even a waterspout in the middle, but it just turned out to be a particularly dense column of rain. Clouds that looked like a volcanic eruptions, lightning flashing throughout the system with deafening thunder following behind and then for a bit of a meteorlogic irony, a rainbow off to one side.

I dropped sail when I though there was enough wind in the system to form a waterspout and began tracking the cell on radar. I then noticed another, much less scary, lightning filled system coming up behind me. This is the first time that I’ve used my newly installed radar and it worked flawlessly. I threw all my portable electronics in the oven to protect them in case of a lightning stick and then used the radar to keep directly between the two passing systems. I ended up passing through Somosomo with just a little rain and a nice rainbow.

I only know a few boats that have been hit by lightning. I’ve heard of it blowing out through hulls and sinking boats before, but the people that I know just had their electronics fried. Either way, it’s one of the few things that really scares me out at sea. This trip treated me to lightning at sunset every evening.

Once through Somosome Strait, the wind filled in on the nose and stayed there the next two days to Futuna. The wind was light as I motorsailed against it. Unfortunately the seas were not. 2 meter waves greeted me as I cleared Rabi and made my way out into open water. The seas were much bigger then the 5-10 knot breeze should have created. Add to that a contrary current running at .5 to 1.5 knots the entire way up to Futuna. I averaged 3 knots motoring all but a few hours of the trip.

I pulled into Futuna at dawn on the third morning. The one anchorage on the island was well marked and easy to find. It was too early for customs, so I had a little swim, cleaned up and took care of a few boat projects that had come up on the passage. At 8am I rowed ashore to look for the Gendarmarie.

Futuna’s people are a mix of Tongan and Polynesian. The place felt very much like one of the outer islands in French Polynesia. After spending so much time in Fiji, it was hard to not greet everyone on the street with a hearty Bula! As it turned out it was hard to even get enough eye contact to say bonjour. I’m sure the people are very friendly, indeed one of the gendarmes gave me an enormous lei, but after Fiji, the place felt very cold. It also could do with the fact most visitors, like myself, just show up for a few hours and then are off again.

Checking in and out simultaneously with the gendarmes and customs was a breeze. I didn’t have to fill out a single form or pay any fees. It made me a bit sad to leave so quickly, but the wind was perfect for the return trip and the anchorage was notoriously rolly. I decided the prudent thing to do was to sail on.
Just 3 hours after arriving, I hauled up the hook and set off on one of the most pleasant sails that I’ve ever had.

That current that was against me going northbound, was like a turbo boost heading south. With 10-15 knots from the stern quarter, I was able sail at nearly 7 knots most of the way home. The wind finally failed me after getting back through Somosomo, but even then I was able to sail at 4 knots the rest of the way to Point Reef where I finally had to turn on the motor to make the 4 miles north up to Savusavu. Brilliant and uneventful, except for the squalls and lightning that I still had to deal with each evening.

I pulled into Savusavu at 9:30 this morning, just 9 days after leaving Vuda Point and 3 days before my old import permit would have expired. I was worried about getting a good weather window to leave Savusavu, but I doubt that I could have pulled off that turnaround any better. Now it’s time to start getting ready for cyclone season here in Fiji. I’ve identified a number of “hurricane holes” on the charts. I need to explore and lay down track lines into each of them so that I’ll have someplace to run if a cyclone does come along. However it goes down, I feel better about this than leaving my boat to be smashed in Vuda Point again.


Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

I can’t believe that I’ve been in Savusavu for 2 weeks now. How can this happen? Whenever I come to scenic Savusavu on Fiji’s second largest island, I always stay at the luxurious Waitui Marina. By luxurious, I mean all the fresh water showers that you want to take. That’s where my bar stands. Waitui has a rickety dinghy dock off the end of an old pier, a covered little area to hang out, two bathrooms with shower stalls and a freezer where you can make ice overnight and take it out to the boats. The marina part consists of 20 or so moorings scattered throughout Nakama Creek where Asari will be waiting to help you tie up your lines as you come in. For USD$5 a night it’s a pretty good deal. There’s also the Copra Shed marina further up the creek, but it’s a bit more posh and Waitui suits my style.
With that kind of luxury, you could imagine me staying for a little while, but two weeks seems a bit excessive. Well the heavens opened up and it dumped constantly for the first 5 days I was in town. It was hard to get any projects done, but I did get around town and took some good pics. Riki and discussed the possibility of sailing up to Futuna to reset our import permits on our boats.

When you arrive in Fiji you get a permit allowing your boat to stay in Fiji for 18 months. If you exceed 18 months, then you have to pay tax amounting 30% the value of your boat. To reset this 18 months, all you have to do is check into another country and come back. The small French island Futuna is only 250 miles NE of Savusavu. Riki is leaving his boat here for cyclone season and needed to reset his time. I decided that visa wise it’d make more sense for me if I were to go in November, so I let Riki take off on his own while Christian and I stuck around.

With all the rain and the wind, it was hard to get many projects done, but I did pick up a 130 watt solar panel from the local hardware store and replaced the 60 watt panel in the middle of my array. Now I just sit back and smile as I watch the amps roll in. I also got a tip that there was a trail on the island across from town, so I went over and checked it out. It was mostly bushwhacking, but I got some good views, ran into a gnarly looking spider and met some local guys on the beach that turned into a party on Bodhran.

Once Riki took off, it was going to be at least 5 days before he got back, so Christian and I decided to stick around even though the weather had improved, but the real reason that I’ve been haning out in Savusavu so long is my good internet connection and sports. Many of you may not realize that I’m a huge sports fan. It’s one of the biggest things that I miss while I’m out cruising and wouldn’t you know it, I hit Savusavu just in time for the opening weekend of the NFL. I hadn’t found anyway to watch the first Seahawks game, but I followed it on ESPN’s gamecast. Of course it was played at 5am local time and the bars weren’t open. I did hit the bar for the afternoon and night games. Since then I’ve found European sites that allow me to pick up the games on board.

On top of all the great NFL action, I’ve also been able to watch all the America’s Cup races. This years cup has been the sensational. I’ve been captivated, watching 72 foot high speed catamarans match racing on San Francisco Bay at speeds of 45 knots. It’s been amazing.

Riki is back now and I should be moving on, but I sprained my ankle the other day when I was out taking pictures. I can probably hobble around enough right now to sail, but it’d be safer to wait a couple of days, but by then it’d be getting close to next weekends NFL action, so I might be stuck here even longer.