We have safely arrived on the lovely island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. It was a passage of almost 11 full days (261 hours). As passages go, it was one of the better ones. There were lots of days of very light wind sailing/drifting – but with nothing big and bad in the forecasts, we were happy to sail instead of burning the fossil fuel. We hit one relatively short spell of winds on the nose and a few hours of really hearty winds as a front passed on Day 6 and the last 24 hours of the trip were quite boisterous with steady 20-25 knots and pretty large seas from behind. Of course, that happened when we were actually try to slow down to arrive in daylight – but we simply couldn't get the boat to go slow and still retain steerage.
Here are the numbers for the trip. Miles made towards destination by day: Day One: 130; Day Two: 145 (might be a new Astarte record); Day Three: 109; Day Four: 116; Day Five: 100; Day Six 70 (this was the day with head winds so we did several long tacks and probably covered well over 100 miles but only 70 towards destination); Day Seven: 97; Day Eight: 94; Day Nine 108; Day Ten 128.5; Day 11 (21 hours): 97.5.
We ran the engine for 36 hours only – not bad out of 261 hours of passage. We could have run it more as we had a few very slow nights – but they were pleasant and comfortable so why run the engine? We would have motored more if bad weather was on the horizon.
The fishing score: One striped marlin (got to the boat and released – saved the lure, but the billfish fish has a token piercing); one good sized mahi mahi that we got to the boat but it shook itself free right before the gaff...and we were kinda glad as its mate for life was circling around. One skipjack tuna – quite a good size and big fighter that we got on board. Not knowing at first it was a skipjack, Michael did filet half of it (then we read it is best used as bait!) All in one day and all on the same lure. On board the boat we had a flying fish, a houndfish of some sort (a long pointy spear and it flopped around our inflatable – not a good thing!) and some type of weird looking parasitic creature.
We didn't see much in terms of marine life. Michael heard dolphins around the boat one night but didn't spot any other creatures other than some seabirds – mostly boobies and petrels.
We had great weather most of the trip with little to no rain except the last 24 hours where we had pretty steady squalls with lots of rain and low visibility.
There were a few ships we passed along the way and our new AIS unit works great (except at night where the LED masthead light interferes.) We ran optional navigation lights so that the AIS would still work at night. We called a few of the ships to check on how our AIS was working – as well as the new radio.
We left Marsden Cove in New Zealand on May 27, 2017 at 1100 and arrived Savusavu, Fiji on June 7, 2017 at 0800. About a dozen boats left with us that day and even more from other ports in NZ so the route had lots of cruising yachts underway.
Michael hosted an ad hoc radio net each night at 1700 (with a different name of the net each night). It was good to follow the progress of the yachts that left Marsden together on the same day: 360 Blue, Freycinet II, Cables Length II, Scoots, Tregoning, Randivag, Roundabout II, Silhouette, and Avalon. A few boats got tangled with line or nets along the way, it seems the waters are getting more and more garbage floating about. Many of the boats headed to Minerva Reef where at one point the count was 21 boats at North Minerva and about 9 at South Minerva...that's a lot of boats in the middle of nowhere. We chose to continue to Fiji and not stop in that "taboo" to us territory!
Upon arrival in squalls in Savusavu, we proceeded to the Q dock at Copra Shed marina and awaited the officials for clearance. First came Matai the Health official. It was old home week as he was the same person who cleared us in last season. We had a nice visit and catch up with him as he did the paperwork ("Did anyone die on passage?") Then it was Kumar, the biosecurity man (again, same one as last year so we caught up on his family etc.) Next came the two women – one from customs (Camari) and one from immigration (Alivina). With formalities completed and stamps in our passports we were free to get off the boat. We were number 41 so far this season. We then checked into the Copra Shed with Preeti on hand to greet us.
We took a walk into town to get some Fijian money and meat pies from the "Hot Bread Kitchen." Michael got all the sim cards and gear for local phone and internet set up. Then we left the dock and headed out to a mooring ball (the same one we occupied for a few weeks last season). After a good nap, we went out for a few beers and pizza and to watch some of the rugby game on TV (The Lions (British Empire team of best of English, Irish, Welsh and Scots) vs. NZ Blues) from Auckland).
Now its getting the boat back in order from passage and deciding what we are going to do this season in Fiji.
Special thanks to all the folks who sent us messages while on passage (we enjoy them) and to Gulf Harbour Radio's David and Patricia for the daily weather forecasts and YIT site. Also hanks to Tony's Maritime net and all the net controllers for keeping a watch on us. Those contacts certainly help us on the passages.
At 6/7/2017 10:39 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°46.66'S 179°19.94'E
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