We followed Serge and Joanne aboard Spirare, another Canadian boat, out of the Whangarei River. For the first few hours we motor-sailed keeping the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand in view. As the wind dropped, we were forced to motor for a day or so. Finally, the wind kicked in and the screecher (code zero foresail) was unfurled. It kept us nicely on track for a day.
No, our average cruising speed was not 10 knots, but the boat got up to 14 knots in some strong gusts! As the winds began to build, Monty decided to role up the screecher and go with the genoa. Monty and Ron had a bit of excitement getting it furled as the furling line jumped off the drum. We had to leave the sail up for the night. As soon it was light out, they got the furling line back in the drum. It was not much fun doing ballet on the bow sprit in 3 metre swells. Finally we could reduce sail!
We sailed with the genoa reefed for the last four days in 25 to 35+ knots from the SE in seas about 3.5 metres high.
As we approached the southern islands of Fiji, the wind dropped and became more easterly. We fought to keep on course. With the swells coming more on the beam, it got a bit more rolly and noisy as the waves hit the side of the hulls.
Monty did almost all the cooking on passage. He was comfortable below in the galley, even in the heavier seas. We enjoyed his variety of french toast, muesli and yogurt, weiners and beans, sausages, pasta and even rack of lamb! Ron assumed the roll of chief dishwasher and guarded that responsibility with zeal! I really appreciated them taking on those chores, especially when the seas kicked up. Never leave port without Stugeron! Magical stuff. Thanks to our various family and friends who kindly bought us a supply while traveling in England!
We did have a bit of stewing when one engine acted up, but Monty and Ron figured it out, changed an impeller and it came back into action. Turned out it was just an airlock in the raw water intake system, but the experience was valuable.
The fishing rods were put out every morning and taken down at dusk. We had a strike and attempted to land what clearly looked like a tuna, but, sadly, it got away.
We had some fabulous views of the sea, the moon and stars and enjoyed a variety of stunning sunrises and sunsets.
We did not see any boats for about 5 days on our radar or AIS. It was remarkable to be so alone out there. I thought our AIS was out of order, but there were just no ships nearby. When we got closer to Fiji, some targets showed up again, which was reassuring. We needed to raise our level of alertness on our watches with other boats nearby. You never know which boats are fishing or transiting. Some boats don’t have AIS (Automatic Identification System) and some turn their AIS off and then you can only see them on radar. We did radar sweeps through the night and had a good 360 look around to confirm nothing was out there in the darkness and it was dark! Sometimes the moon was up, which helped with the visibility, but in the heavy seas with the full enclosure around the cockpit, it was hard to see much. Having a target to follow during our watches provided entertainment. On a few occasions, we called a nearby boat to make sure they saw us. We probably woke them up!
As we approached Savusavu Bay, a pod of dolphins, maybe 20 or 30, danced in our bow wake. What a wonderful welcome to Fiji! It reminded us of chartering in BC waters.
It was June 13th, and we had logged about 1400NM in eight days and seven hours. Our passage had been a fairly close to the rhumb line.
We rounded the point into Savusavu Bay and looked at anchoring by the Cousteau Resort. There were lots of rocks and coral heads on the charts and several boats were already anchored there, so we decided to carry on to Savusavu Harbour. We got into the harbour around 1630, just before sunset. We were planning to anchor if we saw an open spot but the harbour seemed pretty full of occupied moorings. We called the Copra Shed Marina several times but they did not answer, probably long gone for the night. Russ on A-Train, another BC boat, called us and advised us to call Waitui Marina, which we did. The manager, Aseri, came out on his skiff and hooked us up to a mooring. It was dark by the time he putted away. We were relieved to be settled in for the night and celebrated with our first glass of wine since leaving New Zealand!
We thank Christian for spending almost 2 weeks with us in March going over the boat systems and inventory. Also, thanks for the fishing rods and fully equipped galley!
More on Fiji and Savusavu soon!