It was very difficult to leave Savusavu, one of our favorite South Pacific ports, but we needed to get to Vudu Marina as soon as possible as we had a lot of work scheduled for the boat.
|Red line shows our direct southeasterly route to Savu. The small blue arrow on the western coast is our final destination, Vudu Pt. Marina.|
At 11:30 am on Aug. 2nd we departed Savusavu, sailing along the long protective reef to Point Passage, across the channel, and then southwest zigzagging between smaller islands and reefs on our way to Suva. We really didn’t want to sail this route as we’d be passing the most dangerous and difficult-to-navigate reefs in the middle of the night, but because of the distance there was really no way to avoid it.
|As the wind calmed down a bit we got to fly our beloved Code Zero sail wing on wing.|
As we approached the tricky part that night, the wind lightened up a bit and I was glad to see that the lights on all three islands, Wakay, Batiki and Cakau Momo were functioning and their positions in agreement with our MaxSea charts and Ovital / Google Earth overlays. Still it was little unnerving to be threading our way through these narrow passages at night and I breathed a huge sigh of relief as we put them astern.
As we were approaching Suva the next morning, I was forward getting ready to lower the main sail when I heard Meryl gasping and making ohhhs and ahhhs sounds. I rushed aft only to see her pointing abeam the boat where, less then 100 feet away, two huge humpback whales jumped in perfect unison completely clear of the water and landed with a huge “whump” in the water. It would have been the picture of a lifetime, but I couldn’t get to my camera quick enough. They continued to breech as they grew more distant from us and we were both “gobsmacked” as the British would say.
We entered Suva between two huge reefs (typical for all Fijian ports) and were struck by the number of derelict Chinese fishing boats rafted together in the harbor. We tried to hail the yacht club for information on mooring buoys but got a garbled response and decided to just anchor some distance off the club among the tug boats and fishing boats. We were pleasantly surprised to see two boats we hadn’t seen since the Panama Canal, Lady and Il Sogno.
|Downtown Savu with Dixon, our phone repair store, on the right.|
We roamed around the shopping area, the smaller diverse stores reminding us a little of Hong Kong in the early days, and then over to the air conditioned McDonald’s where we celebrated with a hot fudge sundae.
The iPhone’s were fixed when we returned (about $US 40 per phone) and we were like two giddy kids having our phones functioning again. We took a taxi (US$ 2) back to the yacht club and headed out to Il Sogno to have a beer with Craig and Corine. Craig was the chief cameraman for NBC News in New York and has the most incredible stories to tell. He was one of the first journalists embedded with a combat unit in Desert Storm and was with Donald Trump for several months working on a documentary. His stories of Trump and family only confirmed my worst fears.
|Reunited after two years (from L to R): Charlie, Meryl, Corine, and Craig.|
|Charlie modeling his sulu skirt that Fiji men wear as a matter of respect when around village chiefs.|
|A great lunch of BBQ port sliders and turmeric fish dish at Governor's Museum Restaurant.|
|These two beautiful Indo Fijian women didn't mind us peaking over their table to look at the historic photos on the wall.|
|The restaurant also features posters from all the famous movies filmed in Fiji, along with the film location.|
|Large Fijian sea-going canoe.|
That night we met the crews of Lady and Il Sogno for drinks and dinner at the Royal Suva Yacht Club (RSYC). The RSYC is not a blue blazer and yachting tie type of club, but one favored by locals and yachties alike for it’s great food and friendly staff. It was fun to be out under the palm trees on a balmy night enjoying the company of long lost friends.
The next day we took our faithful, but non running Yamaha 2 hp outboard to James at the yacht club for repair. He’d been highly recommended and we had high hopes for a fully functioning outboard in the next few days. But we later found out our trusty outboard needed a new impeller, housing, and other hard-to-find parts, and found that a brand new motor from New Zealand (thanks to the exchange rate) could be purchased and shipped to Fiji for just over US$ 500. Was a no brainer decision since we can easily sell it when we get to Australia.
We then visited the Handicraft Center in downtown Suva, feeling like we’d been out sailing for almost six years and had little in the form of handicrafts to show for our time. There were long rows of stalls, extremely friendly and helpful vendors. After visiting all 70 stalls (if you’ve ever shopped with Meryl you will understand this) we settled on a kava bowl, a cannibal fork, and some nice tapa purses for gifts. I would have loved to get a face mask or a Fijian war club but we have nowhere to store anything on the boat.
|Amazed at the modern equipment in the Fijian dentist's office.|
|Using state of the art software the dentist reviews Meryl's teeth with her. As he moved the cursor the area would be magnified for an excellent view.|
|It was difficult to chose among the wide variety of food offerings at the top of Tupo Center|
|The Suva Market had a huge variety of fruits and vegetables available.|
|Here Meryl is negotiating for bundles of kava root (pepper plant) that we will offer to village chief on the various Fijian islands we visit. The kava is processed into a mildly narcotic drink favored by the Fijians.|
Fiji is an interesting society, with the native Fijians and a large population of Indians who were brought in to work the sugar cane fields in the late 1800’s. The Indians eventually gained their freedom and opened a myriad of small shops and other ventures. Similar to the Chinese, the Indians are excellent businessmen and it was a pleasure to be somewhere with attentive service from the shopkeepers. There is still a level of animosity between the very successful and hard working Indians and the local Fijians, but things seem to be at a point of peaceful coexistence right now.
Nearing our departure date, we headed out to a large Cost-You-Less store on the outskirts of town. Like a mini Costco it had a good supply of various foods, including some American brands, so we stocked up on as much as we could carry. We then had our taxi driver wait while we visited the huge downtown market where we bought kava roots that we will present to village chiefs as we visit the more remote islands later in the month.
It is interesting that some yachties don’t like Suva, but we enjoyed our time there and wished we could have stayed longer.