It was fairly cloudy when I weighed anchor in Suva harbour but i hoped it would clear later. Approaching the leading marks for the passage for the reef I had a bit of a scare when a big tug that had been on station headed straight for me. I turned the boat around and he altered course to still point at me. Transpired that he just wanted to warm me there was big tanker heading in to the channel and please pass starboard to starboard. I suppose he had tried to reach me on the radio but mine was off, I reason that I can’t be below to respond to the radio and on deck steering and looking out at the same time! The channel through the reef is pretty wide so there was no problems passing the inbound tanker. Once out I could set the yankee, the main was already hoisted and set a course for the start of the Beqa channel about 20 miles away. It was grey and drizzly but the sea was pretty calm and fairly gentle wind of 10 – 14 knots from astern wafted us along. Gradually the weather cleared and the afternoon turned out fine. The narrowest point of the channel between the mainland and the reefs of Beqa is about 1 mile wide, there was a marker on the reefs of the mainland but none on the outlying rocks of the islands. It’s a case of trusting the plotter plus of course careful eyeball navigation. Once through I could shape a course to give me a good offshore clearance before evening. The Coral Coast has a bad reputation for yachts and I wasn’t about to flirt with it too closely at night. I kept a careful eye on a boat far ahead but heading my way. Judging it would cross my bows I was ready to alter course when it was obvious that the Chinese fishing boat was just going to plough ahead seemingly regardless. In the end it passed about 200m ahead of me, I didn’t see anyone in the wheelhouse and no-one on deck and no AIS signal. All rather worrying for the passage at night. With dusk I put my customary precautionary reef in the main and settled down for a long night. Later an increase in the wind called for a 2nd reef in the main so i was glad i already had the 1st in. I saw the lights of a couple of ships one bound west the other east but they were well clear of me.
Just before the dawn I spied the light on the SW corner of the mainland. It was light when I rounded it and gybed to head for my waypoint at the start of the Navula passage. The wind was increasing, now 25 knots and the seas quite nasty so in with a third reef and now just a scrap of the yankee. I was a little concerned about passing through the reefs in these conditions but the entrance is wide and well marked with two massive beacons. As I drew near, now with the boat close hauled, I sailed into the lee of the reefs which calmed the seas considerably and I was pleased I could hold the correct course. Once through I continued on the same line to arrive in Momi bay. It was still blowing strongly but I anchored at 10.20 am in about 8m in the shelter of the bay. 26 hours for the 96 mile passage. Time for cuppa then a short nap.
I stayed here the rest of the afternoon and the next day whilst the wind still blew strongly.
My friends Jan & Richard on Morpheus were in Vuda marina so I made my way there, mostly motoring as no wind. The entrance is a channel cut through the reef, it doesn’t look its supposed 25m wide at low water and with the depth showing as 2m at it’s shallowist I entered with due caution. The marina is in the form of a circle with boats Med moor style bows pointing to the wall, stern lines attached to buoys. The staff help you moor thank goodness. To disembark means climbing over the pulpit to step onto a wooden platform, how hard or easy this is depends on the state of the tide.
Much as I try and mostly avoid marinas it is good once in the while, pretty easy shore access, unlimited fresh water, showers ashore and of course a bar and restaurant. It is relaxing and was good to catch up with friends, not have to cook for a few meals and listen to some live music.
Monday and from the road junction I caught the bus into into Nadi, Fiji’s 2nd town. Here I visited the Sri Siva Subramaniya temple, built in Dravidian and Vastu Vedic traditions, it is stunningly decorated and painted. I ate a nice lunch in the vegetarian restaurant there. A wander around the town and market completed my visit before catching the bus back.
The rope cutter on the propshaft had been making funny noises for a while and I knew that I would have to dive on it to sort it out but conditions at various anchorages had not been ideal, too windy, choppy seas or filthy water with no visibility. Time to do it, I arranged a canvas bag underneath and after repeated dives dismantled the rope cutter. It was badly worn for some reason so I wont be refitting it. The water wasn’t the cleanest here but at least I could nip for a hot shower as soon as I had done.
Whilst here I also took a bus to Lautoka, this is the sugar capital of Fiji. There is a big sugar refining factory here with trucks and little railway carts loaded up with cut sugar cane. It is a very Indian town, busy and bustling.
It is time for me to leave Fiji so in a couple of days I will check out and make for Vanuatu.