From Tonga to Fiji was bliss. There was a few days where the wind was a little light but most of the way we were able to sail along at about 8kts. Most of the other yachts we departed Tonga with had to motor most of the way with the winds being to light for them.
We made it into Savu Savu in just over two days and with a freshening breeze from the SE the last few hours were fast. It was really nice being able to sail along the Lau Group of Islands to the East of Fiji during the day and we managed to tack right up the coast of some those islands and along the reefs making for some awesome scenery. As we'd never been to Savu Savu or Fiji for that matter we had no idea of what to expect. It turned out to be a super protected anchorage in Savu Savu and the matter of clearing-in with customs and immigration turned out to be painless. Although there is a lot of paper work to be done if your organised and just happen to arrive the prior night you'll find that first thing the next morning they are onboard and within an hour you should be all done as we were. It was great!
We had a few days looking around Savu Savu got the boat cleaned up and did some provisioning. We also caught up with all the yachts that arrived in the following days and had some nice cheap meals at the local restaurants. It's a very cheap place Fiji but the northern Island is even cheaper than the southern Islands where most of the tourism is located and the prices are higher.
John's birthday was celebrated while we were there with a few beers had at the local yacht club.
Ollie departed Spirit and headed to New Caledonia onboard another small trimaran while we were in Savu Savu. It's a great place to swap crew the local Immigration and Customs agents are awesome and helped us a lot with info while we were there.
With Savu Savu being on the east coast we found it rained quite a bit. It's also the exposed and windy side of the Island so getting in and out can be fun as you can experience a lot of wind against tide in the local costal areas. When we came in it was at around 2000 and we found that none of the lights worked. We used the radar and iPad and found the electronic charts we used to be very reliable and correct, which is something other yachts had complained about.
There's a lot of talk about the reefs and how hard sailing can be in the area. We found it to be no worse than anywhere else we'd been that has fringing reefs and shallow waters. After waiting a few days for the wind to drop we headed out to an Island on the top of Viti Levu called Nananuira where the kiteboarding is known to excel as the wind gets squeezed between the two Islands. With the help of google earth we found a great looking route through the reefs with a much more direct path to Nananuira. It cut about 20nm off the normal path yachts use and meant we could do it in good conditions in about 6 hours instead of the 2 days that most yachts do it in. We left early in the morning and headed straight out. With a nice fresh 15kts of breeze we took off sitting comfortably on double figures. With the sun high we glided through the reef area and were happy to find nothing in our path that wasn't charted. After a great sail to Nananuira we stopped off for four days of relaxing and kiting. It was well worth the stop as the area and Islands around offer great protection and some beautiful beaches and walks. With our good friends on the big 55ft Outremmer "Kappa" we enjoyed some nice walks ashore and enjoyed a few meals at the local restaurants.
It was time to depart Nananuira and as Kappa were heading South to Port Denarau we decided to leave together. We had an awesome breeze from the SE and with a full rig up we took off. I imagined it dropping off as we got around the Island and into the lee. I wasn't correct with my forecast. And we found that the wind really bends around the Island and for the whole 60nm trip down we flew with good pressure all the way. We were able to sail until we were about 5nm from Denarau and again we had the sun high and found the electronic charts we had to be incredibly reliable even when we passed close to the reef edges.
From Denarau we went out to Musket Cove where we hung out for the next three months. I was able to find some work doing a weeks charter on a motor yacht. After this we headed up to the Yasawas with a couple of friends for two weeks.
Musket Cove was great they really make the cruising yachts feel very welcome. Sophie at the yacht club is incredibly welcoming and helps with anything she can even taking over the importation of my new solar panels, which she did with pure efficiency!
The scenery around Musket Cove is to die for and it's easy to see how people keep coming back to this place for more each year. I would have been happy to spend the cyclone season here but with more work being offered I wasn't happy to leave Spirit in the water while I wasn't there to keep an eye on her.
My parents popped out to Musket Cove for the regatta in September and had a ball while there. We took part in some of the races and I'll follow this up with some photos and a report in it soon.
After the charter on the motor yacht I was asked to delver her down to New Zealand. While we did this we put Spirit into the marina in Musket Cove. It's really well protected and with some friends on boats in the area to keep an eye on her she was fine.
The four months we spent around Fiji was not nearly enough. It's such a huge chain of Islands and as they stretch over 200nm from the NE to SW it would be a couple of good years before you could say you'd seen Fiji. I hope to be lucky enough to get back here sometime soon.