Saturday, June 23, 2012

Passage from Tonga to Savusavu Fiji

June 18-21 (still catching up)

The nasty weather finally cleared from Tonga, and we left our nice quiet anchorage at Hunga at 0945 on the 18th of June.

We had waited an day to let the wind, rain, and swells die down after the frontal passage, but as we got clear of Hunga, we could tell that the swell was still pretty large. But the wind had died down to 15-20 knots, so it wasn't bad. After a few hours the big waves were down noticeably.

It took 48 hours of fairly nice downwind sailing to make it to our first waypoint--Katafun1 just outside the Katafunga Passage through the Lau Group of Fiji. We had timed our departure to hopefully arrive and transit most of this part of the passage during daylight hours. Fiji is very reef-strewn and the charts are still largely inaccurate--in some places they can be off as far as 2 miles (we are told). Even though we had pretty good waypoints (from Curly's Neiafu to Fiji briefing charts), we still wanted to be able to see the reefs. It turned out to be a 'cakewalk'. The passage was several miles wide conditions fairly benign by that time.

Once we got inside the reef area, the waves died down completely and we enjoyed a really nice sail for the afternoon. But on the evening of the 3rd day, when we were fully within Fiji's reefy waters, the wind died completely.

We were already running the engine anyway. We were having some battery problems--I had noticed that our battery voltage was down in the 10 volt range while the fridge was running the night before. With the big swell and lighter winds, we were working the autopilot pretty hard. We ended up having to haul the Honda generator out and start it up to get the engine started!!

Without the battery issues, we could have sailed in at about 3.5-4 knots once we got through charging, but we were also racing an approaching front and needed to keep our speed up above 5 knots to get into Savusavu before the next bit of nasty weather arrived. So we just kept motoring through the night.

We arrived in Savusavu at 2:01pm Fiji Time (UTC+12). Our original ETA was 1:30pm, but we were reading about the check-in process on our approach, and discovered that the official lunch period in Fiji is 1pm to 2pm, and (small) overtime charges may apply. So we slowed our approach a little. (Later someone told us they'd never heard of anyone being charged for arrival during lunch--they just wait til lunch is over to do the formalities).

Our friends on Sea Flyer had arranged a mooring for us with the Copra Shed Marina--good thing too, because 2 or 3 other boats arrived before us, and we would have been without a mooring otherwise. As we picked up the mooring, of our friends called us on the VHF that we already had reservations for dinner at the Indian restaurant for 'Curry Night'.

We finally got finished with the volumes of Fijian paperwork around 4:30pm (3 officials representing 4 different agencies, about 10 pages of forms, and over $250 FJD to clear in). The officials were ferried out to our boat by the Copra Shed Marina launch, and all were very very nice. (We didn't actually have to pay the fees until the next day when we had money).

We are anchored in a small creek-like area (but not really a creek). Picture something like the anchorage area by Dragon Point in Indian Harbor Beach. Someone told us there were 79 boats here about 2 weeks ago, but things have cleared out a lot since then.

The Copra Shed Marina is a nice facility with a bar, a snack bar, restaurant, showers, laundry, small chandlery, travel agent, real estate agent, and a 'yacht club'. They have dock space for 6-8 boats and about 20 or so moorings. I was skeptical about the Yacht Club part until I saw a bunch of Opti's and Lasers stacked up next door, and sure enough this morning (Saturday) all the kids were out in the Optis. Feels almost like home.

We finally have decent internet for the first time since we left the U.S. in January, so as soon as I finish the urgent issues, we'll try to get some photos posted.

At 06/22/2012 4:23 AM (utc) our position was 16°46.67'S 179°20.05'W


  1. This is the second try at leaving a comment. Disregard the first if it made it thru. We're in Morea planning to head to the marshals this year. I saw a pdf where you are planning a similar but more ambitious route which comes back through the solomons. I'd like to discuss the options for returning to Samoa/Tonga/Fiji.. But thats better suited for email so try me at

    s/v Island Bound

  2. Glad you are safe and sound and all of the paperwork is behind you. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures and seeing your pictures!