Friday, 13th. July
Being moored nestled in at the Copra Shed Marina at Savusavu, on Vanua Levu Island is a lovely place to relax after a long passage. We need to catch up on some sleep.
The small yacht club here is the hub of the marina and activities. An interesting couple join us for a drink this evening as we watch the live entertainment of Fijian dancers which is great and very lively especially when they invite people to dance with them.

A newly published mariner’s guide to Fiji includes an article with accompanying photos of “ The most dangerous species of our coasts and lagoons” of human rubbish which is thrown over board and details of the lifespan of these articles eg. the plastic bottle 300 to 500 years, and glass bottles more than 1,000 years. This information certainly makes us check what we consider as compost on our long legs eg. fruit juice cartons take up to 25 years to disintegrate.

We have an early start this morning so we can go to the market because first thing Saturday is the best time to be there. We enjoy the lively bustle of the place with vendors and shoppers, and many local buses arriving with the people from the villages. The produce is very similar to that in Tonga.
One of the men we speak to has spent all night getting here on his small boat from Suva. He does this return trip twice a week to bring his produce to the market, and is exhausted.
A hike through the Waisali Rainforest with a guide (which is essential) is quite a challenging walk. It has many endemic plants eg orchids, birds eg a barking dove and prawns in the water pools. We are caught in an unexpected downpour but it has been worthwhile because the forest looks at its best after this. The forest is operated by the local village in partnership with the national Trust of Fiji.
We then travel on to be escorted by the head man of a village to a nearby waterfall. It is still customary to present the head man or chieftan with some cava plant, which he seems to appreciate very much. He also takes us into his well kept Vuadomo village which seems to be in an ideal position by the sea. In fact the village life and customs seem very similar to when we were here about 15 years ago. Interestingly this village follows the Methodist religion whereas the previous village discussed is Roman Catholic. there is a small percentage of Hindus and Muslims.
During the day we are aware of slight tensions between the Figians and the Indians. The Indians are more business oriented in comparison to the Figians who tend to live out in the small villages. Our guide this morning has 5 children, no running water in the house and cooks outside. They also walk long distances to get from place to place and use the local bus to get into town to shop. Her children walk an hour to a bus stop to travel which is an 8 hour day before reversing the trip. The men do the fishing, the husbandry and go into the forest. The women do the weaving, cooking and care for the children.

Waisali Rainforest

Our guide and her daughter

An orchid

Berries used in cooking

Walking in to the waterfall

The waterfall

Deciding whether to have a swim

The Church

Sam's 2 boys

Sam has been helping with odd jobs on the boat and sometimes brings 2 of his sons. They are great fun to have on the boat. Sam is very active in the marina because the yachting season is short here so he works very hard and for long hours. He is unable to finish his work with us because tragically his nephew is killed in a horse riding accident so we insist he spends the time with his family.
Sunday for the Fijians is the same as in Tonga. They go to church and have a rest day. The Indians work for some hours on Sunday and have their restaurants, cafes and supermarkets open.

There are hot springs on shore near the anchorage. Some of the locals use them to cook with and some restauranteurs to tenderize their meat


We spend some time with Eelco and Mi-sate, the couple we met last night. He is Dutch and his work is to captain commercial ships. Mi-sate is from Namibia in South Africa. They have a wealth of stories.

Sunday is an overcast day again with many downpours of rain. We have a relaxing day and catch up with emails etc at the wi-fi café. When we call home we realize how close we are to Australia as it is now only a 2 hour time difference. As a friend suggests in an email “we can probably smell Australia in the air!” Also we are seeing more Australian boats now. Two boats have arrived from Tonga who we met while we were there.

Monday, 16th. July

We go ashore very early this morning. Ross has to clear customs, which takes an hour because they have mislaid our papers and need to redo it all. I do a last minute session at the wi-fi café and go to the market for final provisions.

We enjoy seeing the school children looking very well dressed in their school uniforms.

Ross has spent a great deal of time planning our next leg. The weather and the forecasts are very changeable so this is a challenge for him. We set off at 9.45am as planned for plan B. The forecast winds are not suitable for plan A. Big winds are forecast to come and set in for a few days so we take this weather window the Koro Sea. However as we get out past Point Passage the apparent wind has more southerly in it than we expected and our speed dropped to 4 kts. and all the gear is getting flogged. So we revise our plans again and head SW to take a passage through the reef , then along the south coast of Vanua Levu planning to anchor at cocoanut Point still on Venua Levu. As in Tonga we must pay close attention to all the reefs. We use the “Curly weypoints” ( a local identity regarded as a great source of information for yachties) which seem to be more accurate than our navionics chart.

We are sailing with half a headsail and a third of the mainsail averaging 6.5kts, in a 2m. swell. We have a very lively sail with winds in the high 20s. We see Laissez-Faire, who were anchored near us in Savusavu, following us in the distance. They eventually overtake us in the channel under a full set of sails.

They are at Cocoanut Point when we arrive, but are just taking up their anchor to move out. We think they have dragged anchor. We are glad we have a good holding and are happy to be settled before dark. Ross spoke to the other skipper yesterday and he has sailed in the area before, but we certainly don’t want to be out amongst the reefs after dark. We hope they find a suitable anchorage soon.

The forecast is for strong winds building up during the afternoon and even more through the night so we want to track 30 n.miles across Bligh Water as early as possible to get inside the reef for protection. Cocoanut Point is an excellent anchorage but looks a bit bleak to spend another day here unless we have to. We are up at first light and track through the pass in the reef opposite Cocoanut Point.

We sail with one third of a mainsail and headsail up. The strong winds are gusting up to over 40kts. and the seas are rough and short, some of which send sheets of water flying over the boat. Impulsive handles it well. This is the sort of day we are pleased we can stay in the saloon and don’t need to be outside at the helm all day.

Luckily the apparent wind is not too far in front of the beam (if it is more than 50 degrees it is difficult for us) so we can sail at just over 6 kts. even with such a small amount of sail up. We want to nurse Impulsive along slowly without putting the rigging under unnecessary stress.

We track in through Nananu Pass and anchor on the west (leeward) side of  Nanamu-i-ra Island very close to the n. coast of Viti Levu. This has been a particularly challenging sail and Ross has concentrated at the helm the whole way (at least 8 hours) with his amazing concentration. Things can change so quickly out here in these conditions.

The winds are forecast to be even stronger overnight and tomorrow so we plan to stay here another night in this lovely anchorage while the weather abates.

Late  afternoon we go ashore to this tiny, hilly island to walk along the beautiful white beach. We are surprised to see it lined with wealthy holiday homes and their attractive gardens that stretch up the hills behind them.

On Wednesday we are still experiencing very strong winds, as forecast and so are not attempting to leave the anchorage. We have been told about the Wananavu beach resort on the northern tip of Viti Levu just across the passage from our anchorage. We book to go for lunch there but then realize with these extremely rough and confused seas we need a lift to get there as our dinghy is not strong enough. Warren from Safari Island Lodge on Nananu-I Ra island takes us in his strong run-a-bout. We enjoy a very relaxed, delicious lunch there taking in the views across to Nananu-I-Ra island and the mainland’s mountainous coastline. A long walk later and talking to some other guests here and locals makes for a very pleasant afternoon. There is property development beginning here, taking advantage of the scenic views.

Wananavu resort

The topography and landscape is different again here. Many acres have been eaten down hard by cattle and the vegetation is generally much less dense.
Tonight the winds are still very strong. Ross needs to tie the bimini down hard as it seems to be working loose in places.

View across to Impulsive
Thursday, 19th. July

Safari Lodge

We go ashore early this morning to have a scrumpsious and hearty breakfast at Warren’s Safari Lodge. It is on the other side of the island. The walk across to the other side of the island only takes a few minutes. There are no cars here.
The lodge caters for many activities including kite-surfing, windsurfing and diving. It’s exposure to the trade winds makes it an ideal place for this. Unfortunately the winds are too strong today.

We sail SW down the channel inside the reef (“freeway” to the locals) towards Nandi with winds up to 30 kts. with half the headsail starting off with 7 kts. SOG. Later the wind drops to 24 and we have the whole headsail out averaging about 6 kts.
We anchor in a recommended anchorage for good holding at Vatia Bay.

Today doesn’t start out as planned. Very strong winds wake us up at 5am and Ross gets up to check the lapping sound of the water on the hull of the boat. We have apparently dragged anchor and are on the edge of a reef. Our hearts sink As the sun slowly rises we can see the deeper water dropping off right beside us but realize the tide is still going out so will have to sit it out for several hours. Ross puts out our second anchor so we don’t go further onto the reef. The wind is still clocking over 30 kts at times. Slowly Impulsive heels over until we are walking around at 45 degrees!
We call several people to try to organize someone to bring a powerful boat to help get us off at high tide to help prevent damage. This is a complicated business and we are very grateful when a local fisherman comes by to offer assistance. He has just dropped some women off nearby to catch crabs. He says he will try with his 40 HP engine and if that doesn’t work he will bring another boat from his village.
Waisake Beni from Vatutavui in Tavua Province tells us about his village life. Every week day he takes the women from their village in his boat across to catch crabs at low tide. Each woman gives him one crab for their payment. The crabs are sold on a stall by the road.
The children go by bus each week day to school. The government pays for their bus tickets.

Ross and Wais
Waisake pulling up our 2nd. anchor

Wais pulling the stern off the reef

The tide turns and when the boat is level again Waisake tries to tow us off the reef. Impulsive slides off easily and we are floating again. We are very grateful for this lovely man’s help.
The only problem now is we haven’t got enough cash to pay him. Waisake decides he would like to come to Nandi with us on the boat even though we offer to come back to his village by car tomorrow (which we would have enjoyed doing). He has never sailed before so we are happy to take him. It doesn’t really suit us because we would like to reach Nandi in the light.  We have to wait for sometime for him because he has to pick up the women and take them back to the village and then get a lift out to the yacht.. We have waited nearly 2 hours and decide he must have changed plans so start to get underway. Just then Ross spots him coming out in his boat so we pleased we waited. His engine ran out of fuel on his way back in with the women, so hence the long delay. Waisake tells us later it was just luck he saw us this morning because he doesn’t usually bring the ladies to Vatia Bay to catch crabs on Friday.

It is very calm this afternoon with hardly a breath of wind tracking along the north coast of Viti Levu . We try to average 7 kts. to get as far as we can in the light. This coastline is very attractive with its mountainous lands down to the sea. Waisake Beni tells us there are many large cattle holdings here. Some areas have been eaten out and look barren. Other areas with better soil look very green. Also it is time for their burning off so we see many fires enroute. There are many villages along this coast.

We want to be in Nadi this afternoon to organize boat issues before the weekend. Our friends Kerrie and Michael are joining us on Wednseday so we need to be ship-shape by then.
It is dark by 6.30pm so we arrive at Vuda marina using our instruments ie. the chart plotter, GPS and radar. Ross called the marina earlier and it is fine go in and tie up on their buoy.
Our excitement for the day isn’t over yet.

When we arrive at our final waypoint we realize something is wrong.  We are at the entrance to a small and shallow boat harbour and looking at many huge oil tanks. We wend our way through numerous big yellow mooring buoys for large ships. Ross checks the marina’s waypoint again in the Fiji handbook and the entrance is on the reef. This we find is correct but it does not show the channel.
It is nerve racking coming in. The entrance to this very narrow marina is marked by 2 unlit poles. We are glad to have Wais on board with an extra pair of eyes for spotting.
Also his Fijian language is a great help talking to the boat man now helping us in with his large torch. He wants us to tie up at the fuel dock which Ross isn’t happy about so we go into the mooring as planned in the centre of this circular marina. The marina was built for hurricane protection, and the boats on the hard stands have their hulls on tyres and buried in the ground.

View of channel entrance
We are pleased we studied the plan of the marina earlier because the first leading light is on the groyne directly in front of the channel.
I have never been so relieved to be moored safely. We go ashore for dinner and a few drinks.

Many people congratulate Ross on our entrance, especially as we haven’t done it before. Evidently there is a problem with people coming in here even in daylight.

Yacht leaving via the channel
Ross fixes the bow thruster switch
View into circular marina
Saturday, 20th July

Wais dives under the boat for us (Ross still can’t with his finger) and there is no damage  -  just a few scratches.
We enjoy our few days here. The boat needs a thorough clean and there are a few boat issues to deal with but it’s the weekend so we just organize to see different people on Monday morning.
The Fijians are so welcoming and friendly, always with their happy smile. Fellow sailors tell us about the regular Sunday lunches here with a live band from noon to 7pm. It is a wonderful event in the Fijian style restaurant perched up high looking over the channel and with lovely sweeping lawns. The band is terrific – we even have a dance!
The highlight of the day is when Kerrie and Michael arrive late afternoon.  They are staying at Denaru (a nearby island) for 3 days while we prepare the yacht.
Michael is keen to play golf so we have a game which is great fun and the course is in excellent condition.
The market in Nadi

Ross and I visit Lautoka to check out the market and supermarket. It is a very attractive town with wide palm tree lined streets. Another day we meet Kerrie and Michael and venture into Nadi to the Aussie butcher and the market and the well stocked New world supermarket. The Aussie butcher also stocks excellent frozen fish. We are wary where to buy fish here because there is a problem with sigutara here with the reef fish.
Sugar cane is the main produce here. We see long sugar cane trains and men in the fields cutting it. We also see many trucks loaded with it coming in from the mountain areas. There are also many cocoanut plantations.

Wednesday 24th. July
The new pump for the toilet is delivered as promised early this morning, and fitted. Kerrie and Michael arrive to leave late morning as planned. It is lovely to be underway again.
Leaving Musket Cove
We need to be vigilant looking out for reefs here. They are not well charted and it is a cloudy day which makes it difficult to spot them. We track 15 n. miles south of west in the Mamanuca group of islands to Musket Cove on Maliolo Lai Lai Island. The tide is out when we arrive but it all looks more attractive the following morning at high tide with its white sandy beaches lined with cocoanut palms, turquoise to aqua waters and well cared for gardens surrounding the few resorts along the beachfront.

Motoring over calm seas

The Sandy Cay
Michael spots a turtle as we set off this morning.  The sea is flat and calm and has a silvery light over it. Enroute we stop at a sandy cay to snorkel. There is an abundance of fish here as we swim along the edge of the reef but unfortunately a lot of the coral is dead. A few people have taken an umbrella and a picnic ashore to enjoy this tiny place to its full.
We track the 18n.miles to Navadra Island and find a lovely anchorage here where there is only one other yacht in this cove. The snorkeling here is excellent in azure coloured water. There are so many fish Ross can lean over the side of the dinghy with goggles on and can see many fish through the surface of the water.
Ross and Michael going over to speak with Andreas
We speak with Andreas, the skipper from the other yacht. He says he is taking extra care even though he knows this area really well because there is a lot of cloud around with the recent weather. Today the navionics chart did not even show an island that was directly on our course which is an example of how tricky the navigation is in this region.
We plan to track 10 n.miles to Waya Island but the wind comes up from the north and makes the anchorage untenable, so we go instead to the west side of Drawaku Island.

There are several other yachts here so not much room available. We actually see 1.4m depth at one stage so back off quickly.  We go ashore to the Mantaray resort across the channel on Narara Island. There are mainly young people here for water sports and mantaray watching. We decide to have dinner on board which is a good decision because the dinghy motor plays up and with tide against us it is very difficult. A kind yachtie, Neil, sees us and gives us a tow as we are edging up towards Impulsive.

Early this morning Neil takes Michael and me across to swim with the mantarays. Un fortunately we don’t see any but the drifting in the channel is fantastic. We have never seen such a variety of fish and so many. The coral is lovely too. They swim in large schools all around us and come right up to our goggles.
We track up the west side of Naviti Island to anchor at Somosomo. The wind is consistently against us and tacking is not really an option with all the reefs so we motor most of the way.
Our visit to this village is a highlight for us. Ross and I hired a yacht here 20 years ago with Moorings sailing. Because of the reefs here we had to take a skipper with us. He was a charming 19 year old Fijian, Osea. He offered to take us to his village and to introduce us to the Chief who was his grandmother. We had such a wonderful time and many memorable experiences, including Ross having a game of rugby and joining in a cava ceremony. We sent Osea a Trinity rugby jumper and he sent us a lovely Christmas card. Of course we wanted to catch up with him again but I couldn’t find his details at home. All we had were a few photos.
Sarah dancing
Watching the dancing
The entertainment - the singing was voluminous and they do the harmonies really well
The men's ceremonial dance

Kerrie joins in!

Meeting the Chief
When we go ashore to offer our gift of cava someone mentions the Chief is a woman and is the only woman chief in these islands. I inquire about her grandson and we discover he used to skipper for Moorings. We recognize the Chief’s house when we offer our gift of cava.

Little girls in their pretty dresses for church

This is just amazing. We are told that Osea will be at Church the following morning so we can meet up with him then.

The actual church service is very impressive, particularly the magnificent singing. Afterwards the Chief invites us back to her house and this is where we meet up with Osea. He actually recognized Ross in Church. This is a very special time for us all. The Chief is now 87 and still very sharp and active.
The beach scene
Young boys keen to learn about motors
Locals fixing the outboard motor

Little girl playing on the beach
We meet many members of the family including Osea’s wife and son.
We decide to spend another night here. Wati, another kind Fijian, fixes our outboard motor which the skipper is very pleased about. We are invited to their entertainment put on for the visiting team of students from the U.S. who are living here for a few weeks and helping with projects in the village and at the school.The owner of the camping resort where they are staying is paying rent to the village under a 30 year lease.

Children off to school

2 of the children in the village

Osea and Sarah outside their house

Camp resort

Kerrie and Michael at the camp resort

Visitors from a neighbouring village leaving

Ross and Osea

and the resort provides employment so the village is quite pleased about the arrangement. It is a great sight to see the children leaving in the local boats for the school on the other side of the island. We visit the kindergarten in the village which is well organized.
We all enjoy the beautiful children in this village with their lithe bodies and big brown eyes.
Osea and his wife farewell us with a large gift of fresh fruit and a pumpkin out of their garden. We plan to keep in touch now.

We sail in  good winds,up to 25 kts but a lumpy sea to Waya Island into Nalauwaki Bay at the northern end of the bay but this is untenable so we track around the n.west cape to Likuliku bay to anchor off the Octopus resort. We are very relieved to find this is an excellent anchorage otherwise we would have to keep going back to Musket Cove which would have meant arriving in the dark which is not a good idea with no reef watching.
We all enjoy this beautiful place. Kerrie and Michael decide to stay here for their last few days in Fiji. We are looking forward to hearing about their experience here as their first night here the resort is booked out and they have been invited to stay in the village on the other side of the island at Nalauwaki Bay with a lovely young couple and their baby daughter.
Kerrie and Michael were exuberant as usual. They really enjoy the sailing and are keen to be involved with it. We have had great fun with them.

Kerrie and Michael going shore with Ross at Octopus resort

We return to Vuda marina via Musket Cove where it is lovely and calm. The lights in the water at sunset were spectacular, particularly the steely blue reflections, and we have a good meal ashore at Dick´s bar, the yacht club's restaurant/bar. We need to check a few issues with the boat before heading off to Vanuatu to meet Heather, Paul and the children which is an exciting prospect.
We are pleased to find there is a berth for us at the marina for 2 nights as it is now the height of the season and it is full most of the time. We have booked but are not sure how long they would have held the place for us. Again everyone here is very friendly and welcoming.
Not long after Ross fills our water tanks we discover a major pipe in the water supply between Latouka and Nadi breaks and the water is off for 2 days at least. This is very disruptive for the area.

We hear many stories of problems with boats up on reefs but are surprised we don’t see any. Fiji is a very difficult area to sail in and it is necessary to be on watch and concentrate at all times. Night sailing is extremely dangerous here because you are unable to spot the reefs.  Also there is no morning sked. run here which is always helpful.

Friday, 2nd. August
The weather report from Bruce suggests we should leave this afternoon if possible because there is a double trough forming near Vanuatu early Tuesday morning which will produce thundery squalls so it’s desirable to get there by Monday afternoon.
We need to get through the Mololu reef before dark so must leave by 3.30pm. We are advised to go through Wilks Passage. There are the usual delays in trying to leave with the last workmen finishing on Impulsive at 3.15pm and then having to wait for the boat boys to get us off our mooring (they are unable to start their run about). We get to the Pass just in the last light. We can see the reef either side and Musket Cove off our starboard side.
It is a lovely calm night and we motor through to 5am when we can put the headsail up, and the mainsail up by 8am. There is little wind so we motor sail averaging 6.5kts with a short sea.
We try several times to rely on the sails alone but each time the wind drops out so we motorsail with these conditions through to Sunday evening and then as Bruce predicts the winds swing between the SE and ESE mostly in the 12/17 kt. range. Tonight my 2am watch is a rare time I don’t enjoy it. There is not quite enough wind to fill the sails so there is a lot of banging and crashing happening. We decide to leave the sails as they are because we are expecting the wind to come round to a better angle. This doesn’t happen so when Ross changes over the watch we bring the headsail in for a few hours until the conditions are better. Then we motor sail with the headsail out again to Tanna Island, Vanuatu at 1530 hours.

Favourite recipe this leg
Mahimahi with sea grapes:
Barb-e-qued mahi-mahi, marinated in lime juice. Light sprinkling of chermola.
Seaweed grapes – rinse twice with cold water, in a sieve
Small head of fresh cauliflower with grated parmesan cheese sprinkled over it
Serve with wild rice and salad