Monday, October 16, 2006

Departure from Fiji

After a few more days enjoying Savusavu our new belt for our autopilot arrived and we headed out on route to Lautoka on Vitu Levu the main island in the group. The route to Lautoka took us back out into the ocean for a few miles, then in through a reef pass to a route behind the reef along the south side of Vanua Levu where we made our first stop in a huge mangrove bay. We met up with Chris & Jim on 12th Night here but they stayed put when we left early the next morning. The reef routes are fairly well marked but when a marker is missing it really through's you so we had to pay careful attention. We had to cross a wide expanse of water called Bligh water where the wind really whipped up but we had a fast sail across right on the wind. The reef pass on the other side had our hearts in our mouths as we could only find one marker so had to feel our way in with depth readings and gut feel against a 3 knot current and 25 knot winds - very relieved we put into the nearest anchorage. We took a rest but were woken by a German boat calling us on the radio to say our anchor was dragging, this was all we needed but off we went to reset it putting out all 80 metres of our chain this time. We invited the Germans for a drink but just as we were expecting them R2 was off again, the mud was a bit too gloopy and the gusts were pretty strong 40 knots plus matched with a current setting us side on in between gusts, so drinks on standby we had to reset the anchor, launch the dinghy and set a second anchor. We finally got a good holding but it still leaves you a bit nervous for a good night sleep. Next morning we were off again, now running along the north coast of Vitu Levu with green hills rolling inland and reef all around with occasional little atolls on the outer reef. The autopilot decided to fail again, Andrew quickly realised the gearbox was broken which must have been what caused the belt to snap before luckily we had the right contact and immediately arranged for it to be sent to Lautoka. This meant the next two days of hand steering as we were under motor - not tough just boring. The next night we found a lovely little creek to anchor up in, just us and birds - a bit like Newtown Creek on the Isle of Wight. We managed to find an unmarked coral clump right in the middle of the bay which we closely missed after 'full engine astern'! We sat and chilled with a G&T that night all relaxed - only 30 miles to go. Another early start, and before we knew it we worked our way through the outer islets and into Lautoka. Wow how completely horrid it was - I'm sorry but it really was just minging, we took one look at the anchorage with smoke from the Sugar Factory pouring out and oil floating all over the water and immediately headed further south. A low was forcast to pass over the island group so we decided we deserved a treat and headed into the Marina at Vuda point - this was more like it! A white lie to customs - 'yes, the boat is just out there' when we went to Lautoka to clear in and all was well. We had four lovely nights at Vuda, which had a great little yacht club. Next door was the First Landing Resort where Prince Charles stayed earlier this year - good enough for him then we thought we ought to pay a visit so in we popped took full advantage of the facilities (for free of course) and they were so kind to us we decided to stay for dinner. It was lovely, all lit by lanterns - really romantic. That was until we got chatting to some locals on the next table who it turned out worked for customs when we said we were leaving for Vanuatu next morning and they'd see us to clear us out - oops we already did that earlier in the day.... a quick exit with no further chat and we left Fiji next morning. The trip started in flat calm, within the reef, clear skies all was well. As we approached the pass we could see lots of white stuff - on we went and found surfers having alot of fun, but we were trying to go the other way. Progress was slow but we made it through and got out into a pretty big ocean swell as we left the island behind the wind got stronger and stronger until we had a steady 40 knots with gusts on top - heavily reefed down we speeded along holding on very tight - we stuck with it as the forecast showed reduction which eventually started just after midnight. It was probably some of the roughest conditions we've been in and don't want to go back in a hurry. Now we are gently rolling along with just over 200 miles to go to Vanuatu. Position 0140 GMT Monday 16 Oct 17 degrees 58 South 171 degrees 55 East


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