We left Tonga with a mild forecast of 15 knots of wind for the first 12 hours, decreasing when we approached Fiji. As we sailed through the channel, past the few islands and caves that we explored, we lamented that we did not do Tonga properly. We only saw one of the four groups of islands and only caught one fish. We had high hopes for Fiji, a mere 400 miles away.
My dad’s friend Jim was still with us, and although he is a strong sailor, he hasn’t done bluewater sailing for several years. Not long after we left the protection of Vava’u, the seas got confused and Jim was sick for his first watch. Fortunately, he rallied and was a huge help the rest of the trip. Since we had an extra person, we switched from four hours on, four hours off, to three on, six off, allowing my dad and I to get much more rest than normal.
The winds once again built throughout the passage, but this time only to a maximum of 35 knots. Unfortunately, the wind was from the southeast and we wanted to go northwest, and boats aren’t comfortable when you go dead down wind in six to ten foot seas, so we bore off and went where the wind took us. Additionally, the strong wind made it impossible to slow down when we hooked fish so we had four bites and caught nothing, particularly frustrating for me. After sailing an extra 30 miles,we gybed and eventually got to Savusavu in time to clear customs and lucked into getting a mooring without a reservation.
Rains and strong winds were forecasted for the weekend, so we hunkered down and looked for fun rainy day activities. We called the health services and scheduled a spa day, something that I have never done, especially with two other men. The place had one large Fijian woman masseuse and three stone hot spring fed tubs. Each tub could easily fit three people, but since they opened solely for us, we each got one. We all received one hour massages while the other two crew relaxed in their tubs and read or in my case, practiced French and listened to a podcast.
The massages were fantastic and the rain on the metal roof just added to the relaxation. By the end of it, we all were loose but famished from delaying our usual lunch hour. Next on the agenda was food.
We stopped at the Waitui marine, which was also where we were moored. We all ordered fish and chips and a beer, which they only sell in ¾ liter bottles. The fish was yellowfin tuna, common in sushi restaurants around the world for its great quality, but here they fry it because it is more common and cheaper than cod. The cost of living in Fiji is low as well, with each meal coming out to about $3 US, and it was in the top five best fish and chips of my life. As we finished our meal, the rain turned into a downpour so we had another beer and hoped for a break in the storm. The beer options are limited and local, with Fiji Bitter being the most popular, followed closely by Fiji Gold. I wanted to try both, but when I ordered the gold the waitress called me a girl and said men drink the Bitter. I stuck with the Bitter from then on, even though the gold was quite good.
The bar and Waitui marina did not look like much, with the white paint flaking off the outside and an uneven dinghy dock, but for what it lacked in ascetics, it made up for with price and convenience. We knew it had to be good because the locals hung out there. One such local was intoxicated and talking to us when we were waiting out the storm. We did the cheers of “bula”, which also means hello, and the local man decanted his beer from the big bottle to a shot glass before shooting it. We did the more traditional method of drinking from a glass.
The bar had an old wooden steering wheel and compass installed and my dad wanted to take a picture with it, driving the bar. As he was posing, the local guy ran over and photobombed him.
Eventually we made it back to the boat and took naps. The weather cleared for sundowners and we were treated to a spectacular sunset. Although the last week or two lacked the excitement and adventure of the rest of the trip, we have been having fun and it was a nice break.