After a 17 day, 20 hour, 2100 nautical mile trip we arrived in Denarau, Fiji.
We left Majuro on the 25th of August in very light westerly conditions. Taking advantage of an east setting current, we spent the first few days getting into our shift patterns and enjoying the calm conditions. Jo celebrated her birthday and we got Percy the parasail or up for a sweet day of downwind sailing.
We had planned for the trip to take at least 14 days so we could minimise the Fiji COVID quarantine requirements. But one of the things we could not plan for was what weather events may affect our approach to Fiji.
Our Predictwind forecasting for this area is extremely good for about three days ahead, but reliability reduces as we try to look 7 or 10 days out. What we started to see was that ahead of us were some very high winds and seas just north of Fiji. This warranted further investigation, so we spoke with Tim and Sandy, some good friends of ours who are very experienced sailors and were following our journey closely . They had better access to internet and were able to give us a much more detailed forecast. We also got updates from Mark and Angie on Uno Mas and Andrew and Alex on Offshore Haven. Thanks guys!
It turned out that a system in the Tasman was driving some very strong 30+ knot S / SE winds and heavy rain between Tuvalu and Fiji which were due to peak just as we were scheduled to be in that area.
Not wanting to sail into this, we decided to slow DT to let the weather pass. We eventually ended up heaving-to for a day. Even though we had never done this before, it turned out to be reasonably straightforward. We furled up the headsail, reefed the mainsail down as low as possible and moved the boom over to the leeward side of the boat and locked the wheel hard over into the wind. We then sat quite comfortably between 30 and 60 degrees off the wind. Obviously we still drifted on the current and wind, but managed to make 20 miles overnight, all in the right direction – Result!
We came across a lot of commercial fishing boats between Kiribati and Tuvalu which meant we had to be on our toes during the night watches. A few boats showed up on AIS, but there were a lot who were in ‘stealth mode’ and Asian COLREGS can be a lot different to the norm…
3 days out from Fiji, the VHF sprang into life! Terri and Anders on ‘Manati’ introduced themselves and it turned our they were only two miles ahead of us! They had been stuck in Kiribati since December and were very glad to finally be heading to Fiji. It was nice to have some radio company and we shared our waypoints into the Yasawa group with them.
We spent most of the trip close hauled, bashing upwind. We had initially made some great easting to give us a better wind angle for the SE trades that start to fill in south of Tuvalu. However, due to another tricky weather system, we got the back of a trough and for 24 hours had strong northerly winds, which meant wind from astern – no complaints there.
The final 2 days was spent in perfect champagne sailing conditions. Calm seas and a nice 10-15 knot breeze.
We finally dropped anchor at 3pm on Saturday 12th September in the quarantine area outside Denarau marina. The fizz was uncorked and we celebrated our longest passage to date.
The Fiji navy and Fiji health arrived at DT on Sunday morning and we filled out our documentation and got our temperature taken. We then got a visit Sunday afternoon for a covid test.
The test results came back negative on the Tuesday , so we moved into the marina to clear with customs and immigration .
The plan from here is to spend a few days doing laundry and cleaning DT as well as restocking the pantry with lots of fresh veggies. Then we are off to explore Fiji once again!.