Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BULA (hello, in Fijian)

Astarte and crew have arrived safely in Savusavu, Fiji. It took 11 days, almost to the hour, from the dock in Opua, New Zealand to a mooring ball in Savusavu, Fiji. We covered close to 1300 miles of the Pacific (with some tacking and a weather detour); sailed all but 20.5 hours, and had a variety of conditions. We had three hours of REALLY bad weather and the rest was either perfect sailing or drifting with no wind. The bad news: no fish on board (not counting the flopping fish on the bimini). We lost two lures and another has a big scar and no hook.
As far as a passage, it was a good one. We needed that or we may have given up on long passages. We are now at a dock, waiting for an available mooring ball, at the Copra Shed Marina. It is a pleasant, small place and it is season, so it is packed. As we came into the bay it was great to see some old friends and we felt honored with lots of hoots, hollers and hellos.
Upon arrival, the Copra Shed arranges for the various officials to come to the boat for the clearing into country process. First we had the health inspector on board. Then, soon after came customs and immigration. After he finished (lots of paperwork to fill out) we were officially allowed to take down the yellow Q flag, leave the boat and be in the country. We received a four month visitors' visa and the boat gets 18 months. Later in the day, the biosecurity officer came on board and a bit more paperwork and money and we were done. We just had to walk up to the hospital at some point to pay the health fee.
We were tired after the passage, but earned a hot shower (so very welcomed) and then cold beers with friends at the Savusavu Yacht Club. Our first Fijian beer – quite good! We called it a night and slept very soundly. It is hot here – and we'll be happy to get out of the harbour and into the water soon. We are awaiting a cruising permit.
Day two in Fiji:
After a really good night's rest, we hiked several miles to the hospital (after exchanging US and NZ dollars for Fiji dollars) to pay our health entry bill. It was nice to walk again, though hot. Then we roamed through the little town and checked out some of the stores, got hooked up for internet, and just spent the day relaxing and catching up. More cleaning and organizing is needed aboard, as we did get some salt water in the galley cabinets. A leaky hatch was the culprit and we have some water in the bilges to clean out. But we will give ourselves today to still rest. We will go out tonight for Chinese food with our friends Chris and Dave from Chrisandaver Dream (old friends from the Caribbean!).
We are still awaiting a mooring ball instead of the dock (cheaper and better breeze).
It is good to be in a new country. The people are incredibly friendly. Really, really friendly! Simply say "bula" to them and you'll end up in a conversation and get the most sincere smile. Everyone is helpful and it seems very safe and honest. We asked about cab fares and someone said, "you won't be ripped off here – people are fair."

More on Fiji as we get to know it and get away from the town. There are hundreds of islands to explore – we won't see them all but are looking forward to seeing a few in a few different groups.

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