Posted by: catamarantwooceans | August 26, 2010

Tonga to Fiji

22.8.10 – Sunday – This is how we get a forecast. We connect to the internet by our Iridium sat-phone using the Mailasail system. We send an e-mail requesting the weather for a specific area and In a very short time an e-mail containing the requested file arrives. All this is happening at data transfer speed of only 9.6 kb per second and so the message is sent in the form of “grib file” which is small and relatively quick. Once we download this grib file we open it using a program called “View-fax” and get a weather map showing wind direction and velocity plus barometric pressure in the area requested for three days ahead.

So that’s what we did this morning and got the following forecast: Today easterlies 12 knots, tomorrow – same direction 4-7 knots (!) and Tuesday 8-10 knots. Not enough! We’ll see how it goes.

Out of the anchorage we go, arranging the sails wing and wing with the jib poled out. We do around 5 knots over the ground, which is not great but O.K. An hour and a half pass and a fish takes the lure. It seems to be a big one, fighting to get away, pulling almost all the line out and bending the rod.

Fish on!

I work hard taking it in ever so slowly, and then the fish tires and it becomes easier. From a distance of 30 meters or so I can distinguish the flat shape and golden-greenish hues of the Mahi-Mahi. I bring it to the stern, he fights until the last minute but is gaffed aboard and put into the dinghy. Great, beautiful fish!

Mahi Mahi

The day progresses, with wind stabilizing at 6-8 knots, occasionally topping at 10. The going is slow – about 4 knots. We are hoping for better winds.

In the afternoon, as I was dosing in my cabin, I heard a noise of something heavy falling. No worry, Meir is on watch, but then he calls me: “The autopilot is not working!” O.K! Now I know what it is. It happened to me before in the B.V.I; The chain and sprocket that the autopilot uses to drive the steering wheel fell out of place. It takes a few minutes to fix and operations are back to normal.

At dinner we have the Mahi in Thai Satay sauce, the chef’s flag recipe and then start the watches routine; four 2.5 hour watches. At 2300, when Meir wakes me up, a cloud comes, pouring rain and bringing wind from straight ahead. We furl the jib with the pole still connected to it and use an engine.

23.8.10 – Monday – 0040, the cloud passes and the new wind direction, northeast, requires that the pole be taken down. I don the safety harness, go on the fore-deck and do the job.  It is 0100, In half an hour Meir will take the watch and I will go to bed. Right now the wind is 11-12 knots, the boat does more than 6 knots and I am not tired at all!

Normally when cruisers get a forecast they tend to add a certain factor to the wind speed shown, up to 10 knots and even more. With that in mind we hoped for better wind than the 4-7 knots forecasted but alas! The forecast was spot-on. We tried our best to coax more speed, even raising the big spinnaker, which gave us 4-5 knots of boat speed for a couple of hours. However, in the afternoon we had to admit defeat and start an engine.

Evening came. Did I mention the fact that the moon is almost full? The night is magical but the noise of the engine spoils it for me…

24.8.10 – Tuesday – Sailing, some motoring, we pass the day reading and speculating about a possible ETA and a possible change of target. Should we continue to Suva or go directly to Vuda Point marina, where I hope to leave the boat for a yet undecided period? Meir brings up the idea of phoning the different marinas to find out about space for us. Vuda Point comes up with: “We are fully booked” answer. Hey! I called you guys a month ago and nobody said anything about the need to reserve by paying a full month in advance! The royal Suva Yacht Club, on the other hand, is more accommodating. “Come in after Custom’s clears you, we’ll assign a berth for your boat”.

We catch a first glimpse of Fiji as the island named Totoya comes into view 29 miles away. It has the shape of a crater, the tip of an underwater volcanic mountain. It reminds me of Santorini in Greece. I scan it with the binoculars, trying to see whether it is inhabited but can see nothing save for a column of smoke.  Fiji local time is GMT +12 hours. We adjust our clocks, moving them one hour back. Sunset comes very early, simultaneously with the rising of the full moon. As I write this, close to midnight, the boat glides on the calm moonlit surface of the sea making that soothing, whisper–like sound. Tranquility reigns in a veritably Pacific ocean.

25.8.10 – Wednesday – Since morning we are continuously computing our arrival time into Suva. We want to try and use the engines as little as possible but still get there early enough before the people doing the checking in procedures finish their working day. So we ended up motor-sailing in the last 15 miles and anchored inside the port at 1600.

entering Suva

At 1700 a launch with the officials came by. “When did you come in?” “One hour ago” “Oh, we need to check another yacht that came in before first, we’ll check you in tomorrow”.  So be it!

26.8.10 – Thursday – Just a bit after 9 am the officials came. We filled a few forms and were told that we could now get off the boat but we still have to go the different offices: pay the health department, pick up the custom clearance and stamp our passports. Why don’t they do it on the boat?

First we had to bring “Two Oceans” into the Royal Suva Yacht Club. While in some of the sailing internet sites they say that the club is building new concrete docks and is expanding the services to visiting yachts, we found out these were still in the dream stage. We had to go in, drop our anchor, reverse to the pontoon and tie to it and to the work-boat on our port.

Suva yacht club

Next we went to town and finished the rest of the procedures.  I still have to visit customs one more time for the purpose of “signing off the ship” both Meir and myself, as we are leaving the country by air. The Suva market is right by the harbor and customs so we went in to buy some fresh produce. Finally a place with an abundance of fruit and vegetables!

In the market

The second floor of the market is mainly dedicated to Kava products: roots, stems and the pounded powder from which the drink is made. Interesting!

Kava

 

Kava roots

Kava powder

We had dinner at the fashionable “Bad Dog Café” which I secretly named “Bad Food Café” and then joined the crowds walking to the city big park to see the Hibiscus Festival. There certainly was a carnival atmosphere, with hundreds of people milling around the various entertainment and food booths, including a lot of Ferries wheels. From afar we could see a big stage where a dancing group was just finishing there number. “Let go and see that” I suggested. We bought tickets and sat down waiting for the dancing to resume but found out that we entered a beauty contest!

Back to the boat, to which we got right on time to avoid the heavy rain that started falling.

We will be flying out on Sunday. I will return to Fiji at the end of September to go west.

Until then: Adios!    Miki on “Two Oceans”

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