Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Savusavu to Vuda Point and on to Port Villa 2008

22/05/2008 – Set sail from Savusavu for Laatoka

We got out of bed at 0450 hours still dark and we started to get ready to set sail. I got on the upper deck and started removing the covers and opened up the main sail bag and untied the lanyard on the mains halyard that stops it bashing against the mast in windy conditions. I made sure everything was secure stowed extra fuel and water containers and the portable generator. Then did the final check on engines and hoisted the dinghy. Nancy made a cuppa and some toast and vegemite.

We both checked the sail plan and point the waypoints into the GPS and we were ready by first light, we let go of the mooring ropes at 0610 hours and motored away. Curly came up on his upper deck to wave us good bye and wish us luck. A few other yachties stuck their heads out to wave and we were off.

As we motored out of the harbour there was little wind what there was, was right on the nose, we knew we were going to have west winds in the day but this area is a little protected, we were following a freighter out of the harbour and as it got near the bay access I noticed the smoke from its exhaust changed direction, the westerly was there. I took the opportunity whilst the wind was on the nose to hoist the main sail, I put it at first reef as I did not know what the wind speed was going to be, and I rather play safe. We had a bit of a scare as we were going out of the access we took it a little wider than when we came in, I suddenly saw the ripples on the water and pulled up as the depth gauge went down to 4 metres from 98 metres, a little reef we went around it just to make sure.

Once out we set the course for George the autopilot we motor sailed for a short distance then we were out of the protection of the islands and we were off and the engines were shut down. We still had the main at first reef and the genoa was not all the way out still had four turns on the furled and we were sailing between 7 and 10 knots, that was fast enough for comfort so we left the sail pattern as such. This continued until sunset then the wind disappeared, we had started to get some swell after passing through a pass between Wakaya and Batiki Islands. Just before that time we were passed by a small freighter that had come out of Koro Island. The Captain called me on the radio and wished us a good passage and informed me he would be passing us and crossing our bow at a safe distance and asked if I would maintain course and not swing across his stern as he had fishing lines out. We wished him well and off he went, I had a look as they went passed they had lines out everywhere.
(The freighter had blokes on the quarterdeck and numerous fishing lines out the stern)

We were probably lucky that we had lost the wind as we approached the south east area of Viti Levu (Fiji southern large island), the waves came from different directions, and we were warned by Curly that this is one of the most uncomfortable places to be. I would have hated to be there with some reasonable wind so we were quite happy to motor. We were also in shipping lanes once again and we had not seen it this busy as far as shipping since Caribbean, Panama and some around Galapagos. So micro sleeps were a no no in these areas when on watch, shame that I think I survive on those when at sea. We try and give the shipping lanes a wide berth and we stay a little further out from the coast line but you never know what path they will take.
(Ngau Island)
(Ship going into Suva)

 (The bows cutting through the water)
(Beqa Island)
(Beqa Passage
(Going through Beqa Passage)
(This fishing boat passed us very close obviously just wanted to check us out)
(Another sunset)
We had to be off Suva by first light and we made that, this was so that we would sail through Beqa Passage which is very narrow, it was very pretty going through there even if the wind was right on the nose and we had to motor all the way, in fact it remained that way all the way to Vuda Point near Lautoka. I rolled out the sails a couple of times but had to motor sail.

We arrived at Navula Passage entrance just before 0400 hour this morning (24/05/08), Nancy sailed passed it until it was my time to come on watch (0400 hrs). Naturally it is dark at this time and I looked at the charts for the lights, the passage had lead lights both flashing fast, I had trouble finding the lower one but was able to identify it. Then I looked for the cardinal markers on the refs either side of the passage, I found the port side light, flashes orange 5 second intervals, the starboard one was not working. I knew CMap was correct for this passage and I had the waypoints in the GPS that also agreed with CMap. We had CMap on the laptop so that I could see it from the helm, I made the first approach and all of a sudden I lost the port cardinal light, I aborted and turned around in a 360, looked again, no it’s gone out. It had probably run out of battery, common thing up here is either the lights are not working at all or the batteries run out of life half way through the night.

I checked the leads with the GPS and the CMap for lining up and they did and we made the approach for entry, Nancy stayed up made me a cuppa whilst I concentrated on the job, she was also checking the CMap track and keeping me informed on depths that I should experience on entry. I said to her, this is our first night port entry and we had to pick Fiji the country with the most dangerous reefs in the world. We entered and I saw the dark sticks as we passed that should have had lights working on them. We still had a few hours before reaching the marina at Vuda Point, an interesting marina it is a round marina with yachts stern or stem to the wall, it has a narrow passage into the marina which all has been man made. The entrance is marked incorrectly on CMap and on the latest chart.

(Chart showing Navula Passage)
(Sunrise heading for Vuda Point)

 (We need that sun for some warmth)

On arrival we called the marina on the radio CH16, they said to enter, and their security staff would meet us at the yellow buoy and assist us in berthing. This is the only tricky part is missing the stem or stern lines anchored to a centre point in the middle of the water. Once secured we tidied up went for a shower and then to the yacht club for lunch and the usual well deserved coldie. We sat there and relaxed for sometime had a nice lunch then came back on board and had a nanny nap.
(Entrance to the marina between those post markers)
(It looks narrow)
(Entrance at low tide)
(Inside the marina passage)
 (Fire in the sky from the sunset)
 (Sunset from the Yacht Club)

Nancy cooked a nice dinner, we cracked a bottle of red, and I think very soon we will hit the sack and die until six in the morning.

27/05/08 Vuda (Vunda) Point Marina

 (Sunrise in the marina)

After having a rather easy relaxing weekend yesterday we got down to business. First we had to catch a taxi to Lautoka to clear in with Customs, by rights we should have sailed there on Saturday and cleared in with Customs before coming here. Some said we would be in trouble some said everything will be alright. The latter won. However, it can depend on who the customs officer is; I believe there is one officer that is not so nice. The officers we dealt with were most obliging, we did tell them that we had mechanical problems which helped and I had the receipt of the spares that I purchased at the marina, we will have to sail up there to clear out they told us sternly.

Yachts clearing in and out of Fiji are being watched all the time, when clearing in details of the yacht are taken down even to colours of all parts of the yacht. Each island has a radio network that reports back to customs within their region. There are three regions they are Lautoka, Suva, and Savusavu. We have found out recently that if you are passing one of these ports in your voyage you are supposed to go in and report to customs a thing we did not do passing Suva, if you enter one of the three regions you are to sail in to the appropriate port before going elsewhere.

It definitely pays to research each place before leaving the previous port, we do this but sometimes the information is not available or it is out of date.

Next thing on the agenda was to check on the parts for the stbd shaft clutch assembly, unfortunately Melbourne has sent some wrong parts, the part number ends in 90 and the parts they have sent end in 80 although the invoice indicates the correct part number. Brian Smith is trying to get the parts flown up by Wednesday which will be OK we hope to sail on Thursday. The weather looks alright to go then but we will watch over the next few days for changes that may hold us up. There is a storm north of New Caledonia that appears to be moving down the east coast of Oz over the next week, but it indicates around 14 knots SE winds for us between here and Vanuatu.

After this it was cleaning duties, I scrubbed the upper decks, cockpit, and transom and Nancy cleaned all the inside, heads, showers, and cabins after we had a little rest and then got cleaned up and went to the yacht club for dinner.

We have a few other Aussie yachts here, next door we have a couple in their mid 40’s, Neil is an Australian with a very strong Scot accent, Weighing is of Asian decent but a Sydney girl, they never had children and they invested wisely and are retired, they are building a house on the Fijian Koro Island, one we passed on the way here.

Another Aussie catamaran pulled in yesterday “Chaotic Harmony” they have been sailing around here for many months and have to leave soon or pay tax on the boat.

There is also a large motor sailing boat that has three Aussie crew aboard, they brought the yacht over sometime ago for the owner and are now taking it back to Brisbane.

We caught the bus into Lautoka this morning, what and adventure, we waited at the bus stop just outside the marina at the ‘T’ intersection, a local Fijian woman joined us and introduced herself, Lilette, we asked her what the bus fare was and she said it is F$1 for locals they charge more for you, but she said give me F$2 and I pay for you which she did. She works at the marina cleaning the inside of yachts when she can get the work. She said she had sailed herself between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand on her husbands yacht. He was a Kiwi, she said it was sad they married in 1992 and he died in 1996.

Once on the bus it travels down the road passing the marina and onto a dirt road, it travels for about 2 kms before turning around. The bus is an old Leyland with a crash gearbox and probably would not pass the mildest roadworthy inspection. The turn around point is at the end of a housing area mainly of Indian decent. The people are not very well off I would say boarding on being poor. The houses are not very good condition.

On the way back towards the marina the bus suddenly comes to a halt and leaning towards the left. The dirt road had some recent works and they had not compacted the dirt at the edge of the road very well and we had dry bogged, both wheels well down. He tried to get the bus out with no result. We all get off the bus for a look and the driver approaches a farmer with a tractor to pull him out. The farmer obviously wanted too much money as he came back without a tractor. He hopped in the bus and gave it a good rev up and went for it and the bus came out of the bog, probably because everyone was off the bus with the exception of a few who happened to be the Indian decent people that had just got on the bus. The buses here do not have side windows they have openings all along and if it rains they pull down covers.
(The bus dry bogged)
(These are the people that would not get off the bus)

Lautoka city, they call the Sugar City as this area produces sugar cane and has a sugar mill. Lautoka is also a major fuel depot for Mobil, Total and BP fuel. The other produce they have is woodchips, there is a large storage area, and a dozer works there constantly pushing the woodchips in a high pile whilst the trucks come and go unloading. The woodchips are exported to Japan.

We walked around town and had a look at the shops then we had lunch. After lunch we did the big supermarket shopping and then caught a taxi back to the marina after unloading the shopping Nancy put the stores away and started cooking meals to be frozen preparing them for when we are at sea whilst she did that I went over the side in the dinghy and washed the hulls of the boat. Once we had both finished we declared it beer-O clock time and went to the Yacht Club for a short time, had a couple of coldies watched the sunset and came back on board for dinner. 
 (Lautoka city)

 (Shopping areas)

Thursday 29/05/08 – The morning was a little trying as we were told the parts we were awaiting would be there by 0900 hours and we were ready to sail straight away. Well they did not arrive until 1100 hours; we left the dockside at 1130 hours not without a little drama. I had singled up the stern lines so that I could let go quite easily and we had to get one of the staff to release the forward lines that were connected in the water to common buoys that the neighbouring yachts also use. Timing is crucial as we had a stiff wind on the stbd beam. We let one fwd line go first then I released the stern lines and motored forward whilst the helper released the second fwd line. I had motored clear of the neighbouring yachts but we had a problem with the helper releasing the last line, the wind pushing us toward the securing lines of the catamaran next door, he finally got the line free then had to push me away from the lines with his dinghy as I could not use the props in case of catching the lines in the water. Once that little drama was over we motored out of the marina and headed for Lautoka which is around 5 Nms north.
 (Yachts are left for the cyclone season, they dig a pit to fit the keel in use tyres to hold the yacht snug in the hole and tie it down using stakes)
 (The yacht club at the entrance of the marina)
 (Alana Rose in the marina)
(Our neighbour)
(How would you like to sail the world by yourself in this little yacht, one man from Europe is doing just that).
(Don't think this one will fit in the entrance, it turned to go to a fuel installation)

We arrived at the entrance of Lautoka Port around 1300 hours called the port authority for permission to enter and were directed to anchor north of the wharf. When we reached there ‘Chaotic Harmony’ Cantana catamaran owned by Gavin and Catherine LeSueur was anchored there and Catherine gave us a big wave as we arrived. Once anchored I lowered the dinghy to go ashore and clear out with the authorities. I had just got in the dinghy when Gavin pulled up in his, he told me that the office was closed for lunch and would re-open at 1400 hours and not to rush in. He said they had decided to sail to Musket Cove for the night and leave the following morning for Santos Island one of the Vanuatu’s northern islands we made a times and frequencies for radio schedules as we both crossed the sea. It is always nice to have a contact in case anything goes wrong.
(Sailing to Lautoka from Vuda Point)
(Arriving at Lautoka)
(Gavin and Catherine Lesueur's catamaran)

The LeSueur’s seem to be very nice family we only got to talk to them for a short time but they gave that feeling that you could become friends with them very easily. It wasn’t until they gave me their card that I realised who they were. Gavin and Catherine would be the most experienced catamaran sailors in Oz. Gavin wrote a book on multihull sailing and has written many articles for Multihull magazine. I have a copy of his book back in Oz, one of the first books I purchased when we had decided to buy a cat. They also had a nasty experience of hitting a whale sailing from NZ to Oz destroying the catamaran they were sailing. Gavin is a doctor but he does not mention that but talking to other sailors if someone is ill he soon pulls out his doc’s bag to assist.

Well back to us, I decided to go straight into the authority’s office and be the first there when they reopen as there were two other yachts waiting to clear in or out. Once cleared out we set sail just behind ‘Chaotic Harmony’ we had decided to make way to the Navula Pass and hope we got there before dark, however, we did not make it before dark. As we sailed across the bay back passed Vuda Point the wind picked up and so did the seas, we had a close reach and was sailing at speeds up to 11 knots this gave us hope in getting to the pass before dark but we had 20 nms to cover and we did not leave the port until 1500 hours.
(The sun sets before we get to the Navula Pass)

Fortunately as we got to the pass it was sheltered from the so we decided that we would go through it and out to sea and set a course for Port Vila, Vanuatu. We entered this pass in the dark and I still had the track on the GPS from that, we had the leads behind us and we knew CMap was accurate and this time we had two working lights on the pass that were not working when we came in. The alternative was to anchor in the bay for the night and go through the pass at first light.

We got through the pass no worries and we were off again we figured a 5 day passage to Port Vila, once outside the passage we got the lumpy seas from the southeast around 2 metres winds were between 13 and 20 knots from the east-southeast. Sail pattern for the night was mainsail second reef and genoa first reef which gave us a steady 5 to 6 knots. The weather was cold and out came the tracksuits.

The voyage across was the most uncomfortable that we have had although it resembled the seas we had when we tried to sail from Rangiroa to Tahiti, the only difference was this was coming from behind where the latter was head on.

We had the first radio sched with Gavin the next morning we told him that we had headed off and he was leaving that morning, we kept the radio scheds up and are still doing the same. The first afternoon we tried the old sched with ‘Cosmos’ Suni and Charlie, it was good to talk to them again. They are still in French Polynesia at Mapilia a small atoll.

02/06/08 - Arrived Port Vila - Vanuatu

Arriving Port Vila, as we entered Port Vila the trip was rough all the way but we were making good headway considering most the time the wind was from behind. Gavin made better headway, he had his sails wing to wing, this is where you pole out the foresail one side and pull the mainsail out the other, he was making up to 11 knots. We do not have that capability as we do not have a pole to pole out. In addition to this he has a lot more sailing experience than I and can handle the situation when it goes pear shaped, which I believe it did the night before last when they were hit by a squall, he said on the radio sched that it had them jumping.  

 (Seas have calmed slightly but still heavy winds)
 (Island Efate we have to round that point to start the entry into Port Villa)
 (Yes I am smiling, I can have a beer tonight and a good nights sleep)
(Anchored at the Quarantine Buoy had to wait three hours before the official arrived and he took all the meat from the freezer, well his family will eat well tonight)

They arrived last night in Santos and they like us had a very rough trip. We knew it was going to be rough but we had to take the weather window that gave us the wind in the right direction, there was a nasty low to the southeast of Fiji and there was another between New Caledonia and Australia we wanted to get here before any low pressure came our way so we rode the back of a high pressure system. We had a few rain squalls but the winds only increased to around the 28 knots not like previous squalls in the high 30’s and 40’s.


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