The final day into Fiji was actually quite good – despite another equipment failure. We had a downwind run the whole way. In fact, the winds were again stronger than forecasted – which was good because it would have been too light. We had about 18-20 kts of true wind most of the way, sometimes lighter. This is perfect for a downhill run. During the night, there were a few squalls where the wind went up a bit, but again it was no problem. We also had a 3m following swell, which Tahina just used for surfing along at up to 10-15 knots for a few seconds with each wave. Very nice!
In the morning, the winds were a bit lighter – maybe 18kts. It was sunny, and we were making the final turn for the last 30 miles almost directly downwind. So, we took down the mainsail and set up the spinnaker. It went up flawlessly and we immediately took off at a better speed. Karen was at the helm and was trying to get the autopilot to follow our route. I came back to help her and was explaining to her why the route wasn’t linking to the autopilot. Suddenly I realized the autopilot had gone off course and the spinnaker collapsed sideways. I immediately took the helm to put us back on course. But, at this point we had slowed down relative to the wind – I should have put the throttle full ahead to get our speed up first. As soon as we turned back in the wind the spinnaker filled with air too quickly… the next thing we saw were the shreds of our spinnaker! Yep, this was a real blow-out this time!
Well, the sail was about 4 years old and had been sailed for dozens of days and over thousands of miles. So, it had a good life. But, this time we’re not going to repair it. So, we got it all back on board and back in the bag. Then put up the main and sailed it the rest of the afternoon.
As we approached Vanua Levu and the port of Savusavu, we suddenly heard the pleasant sound of the loud clicks on our fishing reel! Matt slowed down the boat while I started reeling in what appeared to be a very active Mahi Mahi. A nice sized one! He put on quite a fight, but we finally got this 12-14kg bull Mahi Mahi on board. Not bad!
We noticed a rain shower coming over the island, and headed our direction, just as we reached the point. So, we turned around a bit and dropped the mainsail. I cleaned the fish while we motored towards the port. Soon, right as I finished cleaning the fish, we were around the point and the rain gave Tahina a nice fresh water bath. A perfect way to clean the boat after a salty passage.
We called in to the port, but there was no answer. As we arrived near the port in the rain, we got a call from a boat who represents one of the marinas. They offered to come out and get us on a mooring. The rain mostly stopped as we approached the mooring area, and a nice sailor by the name of Michael came out and helped us tie up. He told us they had already contacted customs as required. Since we arrived at 5:30 just before sunset, the officials would come the next day. We were surprised they would come on a Sunday – none of the other Pacific Islands would do that. We were told they would be there around 8AM. Wow. Michael explained that the officials get to charge a higher rate on weekends and after hours, so they are willing to do it. We were told we can’t go ashore until cleared – which is normal.
We tidied things around the boat, and then pulled out some beers while Karen prepared some tortillas and cooked up the fish. I checked, but there was no Internet WIFI we could get on. We were hailed on the radio by one of the boats we know (s/v Boree) and they asked how our passage went. After one beer, I was getting pretty tired – once the pressure of being skipper of a passage was taken off, I was suddenly relaxed. We had our dinner and I was soon headed straight for bed!
The next morning, we admired the very pretty surroundings. Savusavu is surrounded by hills covered by lush vegetation. There are a few resorts in the area that maintain nice landscape, and there are some pretty looking houses up on the hills. The town was quite active for a Sunday, and looked well-maintained in comparison to other south pacific islands. We soon had visits from officials. First Health, then Customs and Immigrations. Quarantine would come later in the day we were told, but we were now cleared and could go ashore when ready. The customs official was very pleased when I pulled out the proper form already completed.
Matt and I took the dinghy and visited the other boats who arrived before us. Most of them had left a week before us, and had quite miserable passages with lots of wind on th e nose. We met up with: Boree, Passages, Jerana, True Companions, and Kilkea II. We found out about cell phone service, Internet (not very good and so far only Internet cafe’s – no one had found Internet in the anchorage that worked), market, ATMs/Banks, and we heard that the prices for foods and drinks were great. That’s good news! We also heard there were at least a couple of very decent restaurants.
Soon the three of us went ashore and explored. We got some cash at an ATM and we were pulled in by an aggressive shop owner who sold Karen and Matt some trinkets at seemingly very low prices. We confirmed that prices on goods were going to be very reasonable here. We then walked back and ran into some of the other boaters at a bar and were soon drinking and chatting. We ended up there all afternoon as more and more boaters joined us. While we were there, s/v Dignity came into the harbour around 3:30 PM. They soon had the customs officials on board and after about 2 hours were cleared in and came to join us. An hour or so later, most of us migrated to a restaurant and had a nice feast. Lots of merriment and good cruiser conversation.
We definitely had a proper closing to our passage and great beginning to our next adventure in Fiji. During the passage, we certainly had more things go wrong on the boat than expected, but the passage itself went quite well and we made it in only 7.25 days. Tahina is a good sound boat, and travels at a good speed. All the other boaters were impressed.
Matt said he really enjoyed the experience of the passage, and was amazed by the merriment and entertainment of the cruisers. He has to return to New Zealand by Wednesday though, but he’s wishing he had more time. We’re all thrilled to be in Fiji!