Monday, August 17, 2009

Crossing from Viti Levu Island to Vanua Levu Island

August 17, 2009--The past week has been one of unsettled weather. We did not leave Vuda Point Marina on Monday because of a poor weather forecast. Instead we went into Nadi with Christine and Jamie from sv Morning Light in order to have lunch and do a little shopping. The owner of the boat next to Morning Light, Owen, was kind enough to drive us into Nadi. We ate lunch at an upscale bistro and then caught a taxi to take us to the meat store and then to the grocery store.

Our driver was quite nice and waited while we shopped for meat. He then drove us to the Morris Hedstrom grocery store for some provisions. Just few stores away was a Hot Baked Bread Shop, so we all loaded up on fresh bread. They even had whole wheat loaves. We returned to the marina, put away our stores, and prepared to leave on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday morning the weather forecast still did not look great; however, we decided to just go ahead and leave. We were tired of sitting in the hot marina and not seeing more of Fiji, so we checked out and took just a short time to motor to Lautoka. We quickly anchored the boat and then got the dinghy off the deck and the outboard on it. Steve took the dinghy in to Customs to check us out of Lautoka district while I stayed on the boat. Before I knew it, he was back so we reversed the whole process--outboard off, dinghy on deck, hoist the anchor--and were on our way east inside the barrier reef headed for Nananu-i-cake.

We had come this way from Levuka to Lautoka, so we had a track in our GPS to follow back to the east side. Tuesday evening we anchored behind Tavutha reef, which has a small, sandy island lined with mangrove trees, so that we could get some protection from the northeast winds. Because the weather forecast for Wednesday called for stronger winds in the afternoon, we left at dawn so that we could arrive at Nananu-i-cake by lunch. The winds were mild and the seas relatively calm for most of the trip. We went through a brief rain shower but arrived at Nananu-i-cake right after twelve o'clock. We dropped the anchor in 50 feet of water, put out as much chain as we could, and hooked up our Anchor Buddy to help keep the anchor in the mud. We were ready for the winds to pick up.

The wind blew that afternoon and evening at about 25 knots with gusts up to 35 knots or more. The boat was dancing at anchor, but the GPS showed us holding our position just fine. We did not get much sleep since the wind created noisy rigging, and the waves were slapping against the hull. Short rain showers went by several times, which made us happy as the boat was quite salty.

Thursday gave us more of the same weather. It was a good thing that we were in such a lovely anchorage. We did not go ashore as Nananu-i-cake is a private island, but we enjoyed relaxing and reading. Friday the bad weather continued. Finally on Saturday the weather started looking better. On Sunday we decided to leave for Yadua Island across the Bligh waters from our anchorage.

Yadua Island is a small island on the southwest coast of Vanua Levu Island. The trip was about 25 miles long and took us across the Bligh waters. Yes, they are named after Captain Bligh who sailed through them after being put off the Bounty. We had to leave Nananu-i-cake through a pass in the reef that turned out to be a little nerve racking. Once we were out of the pass, we were in open water and sailed on our jib across to Yadua Island. The entrance into Yadua included sailing through two small, but still dangerous, reefs that were not visible at all. We were entering at almost high tide but at least we had the sun to help us see any reefs. We got through the reefs and relieved because we were sure that once we got into the lee of the island, the wind and waves would calm right down. Boy were we wrong.

As we rounded the southwestern tip of Yadua Island, the winds actually gusted even higher, and the waves wrapped around the point and continued right on. We turned to enter Cukuvou Bay and had to steer between two reefs extending from each side. The gap in the reefs is about 100 yards wide, which is usually plenty. Unfortunately, with the wind blowing like stink and the waves pushing us to port, I had to watch carefully that we would not be pushed toward the reef to that side. We made it in with Steve directing me from the bow and dropped our anchor in 55 feet of water. Again we put out plenty of chain and the Anchor Buddy just to be sure. There was one other sailboat in the anchorage to our port side, but that was all.

The island is beautiful and deserted on this side. The water in the bay is very clear and there is a coral head that should be good for snorkeling. We tried this morning to walk across the island to the village to offer our sevusevu (giving kava to the chief); however, we looked for two hours and never could find the trail. For right now, we will simply enjoy our surroundings and be grateful that we are out at anchor again.

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