Sunday, July 21, 2019

Passage to the Yasawas (Fiji)

[Kyle]Just after first light, we retrieved our stern line, pulled up our anchor and weaved our way out of the Bay of Islands. Once we were out of the pass, we shut down our remaining engine, which slowed us way down, even though we had a nice ten-knot tailwind. Then I had an idea: we should put up a sail. We got the biggest one we had and put it up. Maryanne pulled on the sock halyard, the sail crackled, caught the wind and filled with a low pop. The wake trailing past our sterns started hissing. That’s more like it! It’s been a while since we have enjoyed being pulled along by our spinnaker.

For the next day and a half, Begonia slid across a gentle sea, being led along by a rainbow-colored balloon. We crossed the Koro sea at night and arrived at the notorious gap between Fiji’s biggest two islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. This is a zone where the winds regularly blow at double the forecast. It is also completely strewn with poorly charted reefs, so there is little choice of route. You have to go down the deep middle and take what you’re given.

Our wind did blow at double the forecast, but the forecast was for one-knot tailwinds, gusting to two. That let us hold out a little longer than we otherwise would have, but eventually the spinnaker wasn’t doing anything except trying to drag itself in the water, so we pulled it down and started the engine until the wind came back.

It never really did. We ran it most of the day. Maryanne shut it down late at night when we were finally close enough to drift the rest of the way by daybreak. I got what would ordinarily have been a terrible night watch. The wind died, then it rained really, really hard. The rain stopped, the wind came back, but it was from a totally different direction. Then it did a march all of the way around the compass – twice.


Scenes from a calm and gentle passage
including one of the many pilot whales on route

This would custimarily be very frustrating, but we only had eight miles to go and six hours to cover them. As such, I didn’t care if we were going the wrong way at seven knots or the right way at two. When it rained, I set up our water catchment and went and hid inside until it stopped. I left everything double reefed and made the best I could of any wind I had at the time.

An hour after sunrise, We entered the Qio Channel, a narrow gap through the reefs separating Bligh Water from the Yasawas. Then the wind came in from the south and started blowing harder and harder. An hour later we were reefed down and rolling uncomfortably and counting the minutes before we could cross the pass and enter the relative protection of the harbor at Sawa-i-lau Island.

It was still pretty choppy inside, but nowhere near that out in Bligh Water. We tried to find a spot between the three other anchored boats there (one of which was Muse, last seen in Savusavu), but could not find anywhere that wasn’t either too deep or too close to the reefs to leeward. We thought we'd found a spot, but then we dragged trying to set the anchor. We ended up giving up entirely on that area and went half a mile over to anchor just off of the village. There, we were all alone, so we were free to put out all of the chain we had to keep us in place.

Two of the other boats gave up on the anchorage and headed over to the windward side of the bay for better protection for the night. We toughed it out where we were, but it wasn’t the most comfortable of nights. At least the anchor was holding well and we didn’t have to be out sitting watches in it.

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