Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Overnight Passage to the BIG City

Our time in Ono Island's Nambouwalu Village was indeed special not unlike all the villages we've had the pleasure and honor of visiting. We had a lovely lunch with the pastor, afternoon tea and cakes with locals and other cruisers; Barbara's first kava ceremony; and a specially prepared "lovo" dinner. We hiked around the area and on the last day – the sunniest and calmest, we had a great snorkel with great visibility and beautiful coral. Michael went harvesting Yaqona with Kuru, and then did some printing of forms for him as a thank you. It was indeed a treasured village experience.

But it was time to move on and so we decided to do an overnight passage to the capital city of Suva on the island of Viti Levu It was only a 55 mile or so trip – but that is that funny distance for us to make it there early enough to get through the reefs and anchored safely without worrying. In this case it was just a bit too short a trip for how fast Astarte wanted to move. Even with relatively light winds (10-15), we were smoking and did everything in our power to slow the boat down. We sailed with the smallest possible headsail and still were making too fast a speed and arrived 10 miles from the entrance to the reef at 4 am. We did a few tacks across our line to kill time, avoid some boats and waited for the sun to come up before attempting the reef passage. The channel is a large ship channel, so it is well marked with a bright blue set of range lights (that they turn off promptly at sunrise!) We made it through and wound our way past a few island to an area called Lami where the owner of several of the marinas is Fiji provides some free mooring balls. We snagged one of these and are settled for what promises to be a very busy week of projects. Even though we both got very little sleep on the passage (going so slow meant the boat rolled quite a bit and it was tough to stay in one spot in bed long enough to sleep), we did hit the ground running (or at least walking.) We launched our dinghy and tied up near the police boats. Then we hiked to Lami Town and started the search for a few boat parts and needed items. At one store we were directed to another that was "a five minute walk." So we walked...and walked and walked. After 50 minutes still no beer factory (that wasn't the destination just the landmark). So we decided to skip that project (the inline filter for the outboard), catch a cab and head to Suva to get the fridge thermometer and some carb cleaner. We would also check out a few stores we hoped. We got some projects done and then decided we were exhausted and would catch a local bus back to Lami and do some of our shopping there. We enjoyed a nice Chinese lunch out, did some shopping for some much needed (or wanted) fresh veggies, fresh baked bread and a few more errands. Then we walked back to where the dinghy was anchored and got back to the boat. We are glad we made it in early as two more boats arrived and the moorings were now filled.

After a great night's sleep in a flat anchorage safely moored, we started today's adventures with a bus ride into Suva to get what we hoped was the filter for the outboard (no joy – wrong part) and then caught a cab to the Australian Embassy where we hoped for definitive info on the visa for Australia. After getting there we found we needed to go elsewhere and so our cab driver, Nalish took us to the right spot. He became our "guy" when we needed a cab (and we have an invite to dinner at his house). After the Visa info stop, an internet recharge, a banking stop to change the old Fijian bills to the new ones (the one's with Queen Elizabeth will no longer be accepted), and a provisioning stop at a "Cost U Less" (Costco style store – but it doesn't really cost you less) we had our "guy" gets us back to Lami and the dinghy. At the dinghy dock, all the police officers helped us load our bags to the dinghy! Tonight, we'll enjoy some fresh mahi that JanBart caught on the way here – and gave us a giant filet! We've "caught" fish now from the Chapter Two's (a nice yellow fin meal) and mahi from JanBart – and we managed not to lose any lures!

Tomorrow more projects. The rest of the list for our Suva stop includes jerry jugs of diesel, propane re-fill; find and get the outboard filter; Rx refill; dentist appointments; bank for Vanuatu currency; and some more re-provisioning of paper products as well as food supplies including some meat. Plus we hope to see a few of the sights of Suva and perhaps visit the museum and craft market. So it will be a busy week. We hope to get it all done and be gone (weather permitting) by Saturday morning.

After so long in remote islands with small villages, limited electricity and dirt roads it is very weird to be anchored near a main road with lots of traffic, to see the lights of the homes and businesses all night and to hear the noises of the city – horns, sirens and motors. Good for a short stay and then we'll look forward to another tranquil anchorage.

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