Vitu Levu and Ovalau Island
We checked-in at the west coast of Vitu Levu in Lautoka which is the second largest town in Fiji. It has a busy container port and one of Fiji’s largest sugar factories. Unfortunately this occasionally sends black smoke particles over the anchorage, and the anchorage has bad holding too.
The check-in and –out procedures are very bureaucratic, and you have to have a cruising permit produced in Suva, on top of that you have to check-in and –out of one of the four entrance ports in the particular area in which you are cruising. This is not very practical, because you must go back and check-out plus spend much time waiting and fillin out detailed documents in many copies with the same basic information.
Suva is the capital of Fiji and houses around half of Fiji’s population. Approximately half of the Fiji population is Maoris and the other half are decedents from emigrants mainly from India. This has a significant influence on the food selection in the restaurants which is most Indian and Chinese.
Suva is a busy town with a large natural port and many ship yards. Many Chinese and Japanese fishing vessels seem to operate with Suva as base.
Levuka, on the island of Ovalau was Fiji’s first capitol, and the old colonial stile houses are still to be seen. They give you an idea of the life here when it was at its peak; however many of the houses are badly maintained. Apart from the activity on the big fish canning plant in the south end of town, you strongly get the feeling that this town certainly is from the past and has entered a steep decline.
Mamanuca Islands, Yasawa Islands, and Kadavu Islands.
These islands are very beautiful, and some of them look a little like the Marquesas Islands. Many of them have various sizes of holiday resorts, while others either are uninhabited or only have small villages with the original Maori population. Upon anchoring in a new location it is a firm custom to look up the local chief and ask permission to anchor and visit his island / village.
At the same time he shall be offered a package of cava roots. He will politely ask from where you come etc. and then allow you to stay in the anchorage. Sometimes the chief invites you to participate in a cava ceremony together with some other village people.
In short, the tradition of drinking cava is very old and very much used in Fiji. Cava is a drink made from water and extract from the cava plant roots, and it looks like mud water and tastes like that. It is served in half a coconut shell and has to be drunk out. You can feel the first effect of cava in the numb tongue.
Typically the chief will find a young person to guide you around to show e.g. the school and the church. People are generally very religious, living a quiet life, and are very friendly and hospital.Unfortunately the weather was not with us while visiting these islands, so we did not do as much snorkelling as we would have liked.
The entrance port on Vanua Levu is Savusavu, which is a very protected and nice anchorage next to the town. We very much enjoyed this place after much up-wind sailing in heavy winds and stops in the sometimes exposed anchorages we had experienced before arriving here. In case of revisiting Fiji, my preferred port of entry would be Savusavu.
Pacific passage from Fiji to Samoa (August 2009).
The passage from Fiji to Samoa is against the prevailing wind and currents, therefore we waited a week for a reasonable weather window, but had to motor against the wind, in order to put behind us as many reefs and small islands as possible before dark. Finally when clear of the biggest islands we got the south east wind we had waited for, and it was quite stable in the 15 – 20 knots range most of the passage. The sea was relatively calm with minor swell, so we could sail up-wind on the right course all the way without tacking. Even if we sailed close hauled, the moderate swell gave us good speed, and made the passage comfortable. We lost a lure to a huge fish, and saw no ships on the way. The passage of the 616 Nm was made in three days and four hours, with 5 hours of motoring.This passage was a welcomed compensation for the many hours of up-wind sailing in 30 – 40 knots of wind in Fiji. We anchored in Apia, the capitol of Samoa, in the afternoon after having passed the date line and gaining an extra day. We were guided to the marina at high water the following day, because anchoring in Apia harbour is not permitted due to the frequent traffic of large container ships needing manoeuvring space.