As dawn broke on the final day of our passage to Fiji, our anemometer showed 3-5 knots of wind from the south east. I awoke the crew, and soon we had the asymmetrical spinnaker up for light air sailing once again. We left the main folded on the boom, since the seas had built to 9 feet. Light air sailing in large swells is a bit of an on-again, off-again affair. In the trough between the swells the spinnaker collapses, only to fill again as the boat rises to the top of the next swell. The main would have slatted viciously, so we spared it the thrashing.
When the wind filled in to a respectful 5-8 knots apparent, we snuffed the spinnaker, raised the main, and re-set the spinnaker for an epic spin run. Anson claimed the helm, smiling larger as the wind continued to strengthen and our speed climbed into the 8 knot range. We jibed for a better angle on our course, heading now for the Navula Passage on the West coast of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. Soon the wind was blowing a steady 12 knots apparent, almost 20 knots true. The helm was still light with the only work coming from navigating the forces of surfing. Helming in these conditions is like a dance, with the sea as your partner; you anticipate the next step and follow the lead of the swell by adjusting the helm to prevent the boat from rounding up and broaching or falling off and jibing.
Looking behind us, the white caps were like icing on the waves, long and thickened from the steady breeze. We were hovering at the limit of the wedding vow that Mark made – never to fly the spinnaker in more than 20 knots of wind. We never clarified whether that was apparent wind or true wind speed, but fortunately Mark and I were in agreement that it was time to douse the spinnaker and unfurl the jib. Anson was accepting of the decision, respecting the vow, but he would have been happy to carry it further. With preparations for dousing underway, a gust powered up the spin and claimed the helm. For the first time in five hours at the helm, Anson had to work to keep Anthea on course. That gust put us over the limits of the vow, but as we had already decided to snuff the spinnaker and were in the process of doing so, all remained peaceful on the marital front.
Under main and jib we flew towards the pass into the protected waters of Viti Levu. We pointed higher as we followed the coast, the wind now at the beam and blowing a steady 20-25 knots, and reefed down to keep the ride sane. The waves were crashing on the barrier reef, sending spray towering into the sky. The pass is exceptionally well marked, and over ¼ of a mile wide, but the powerful surf pounding the edges prompted unwelcome fantasies of Anthea being carried by a rogue wave onto the unforgiving coral. (Not far from this pass is the famed Cloudbreak surf site, which had once- in- a- decade waves only two days later, as the swell that brought us in continued to build to towering heights.) We beat through the pass close hauled with reefed main and jib and then found ourselves in flat waters, ruffled only by wind waves. We had finally arrived! We anchored at Momi Bay, in Fiji at long last, and checked in on Monday, the 28th of May at Vuda Point Marina. The depression which was forecast passed over us with only a drenching of rain; sweet weather after a journey made long by unwelcome weather news.
We’ve re-provisioned and bought data sim cards for the phone, allowing us to post this blog with ease. Devon tackled the mountain of laundry today, while Anson has spent hours at the top of the mast measuring and then removing sheaves so we can replace them with ones designed for our Dyneema line halyards (instead of the old wire halyards of yore). A sail maker is giving us a quote on the spin repair – the good news is that it is reparable, we’ll soon find out whether the cost is too dear. I’ve unearthed all our warm clothes and unneeded gear, and we’ve packed that up for shipping, freeing up much needed space aboard. Mr. Perkins has had his oil and filter change. Soon we’ll be ready to cast off the dock lines and head for kiteboarding heaven.
In the meantime, we find ourselves stunningly at home as we provision and run errands in the port town of Lautoka. Indo-Fijians, many of them descendants of indentured laborers who arrived 150 years ago, have recreated India in Oceania. The shops lining the streets around the central vegetable market could have been transplanted from any town in North India. We’re speaking Hindi again, eating delicious curries, and beginning to learn about the tumultuous histories of this land.
We are grateful to have arrived and are excited to experience life in Fiji during these final two months of our cruise. Kim
Vuda Point Marina
Viti Levu, Fiji