Friday, July 26, 2013

Our first cruise in Fiji

After nearly a week of strong winds, we finally had a favorable forecast and motored out of Savusavu Bay. We raised our sails near the Cousteau Resort, and as we rounded Lesiaceva Point, we passed a beautiful yacht named "Alea" that must have been close to 30 meters long.

The wind was not strong enough for our easterly heading, so we fired up the motor and steamed toward Viani Bay, 35 miles away. We had heard a lot about the fabulous diving near this bay, and were eager to experience it. But when we got there, we were disappointed to find that conditions in the anchorage were not so nice - the water was murky, the SW wind kicked up a steep chop, and boats were anchored in fairly deep water, close to a reefy lee shore.

We spent the following day doing boat chores, hoping for better weather, but when a neighboring boat dragged anchor toward the nearby reef in the building wind, we decided to move to a mooring on the other side of the bay. Our second night was not much more comfortable, so we decided to move on the next morning. 
At the navigation class we had attended last week, Curly Carswell had stressed the importance of sticking strictly to known tracks and waypoint, due to the myriad poorly-charted reefs. This did not make for very enjoyable cruising, so we abandoned the suggested path inside the barrier reef, and headed into the more open waters of the Rabi Channel. Across from us, the verdant slopes of Taveuni beckoned, so we headed for a suggested anchorage near the NE end of the island. When we got there, it looked like it did not provide much protection from the freshening SW wind, so we carried on around the end of Taveuni, toward the small horseshoe shaped cove on Matagi Island, protected from wind and seas by the larger islands of Qamea and Laucala. The Tasman Strait kicked up a mean chop that soaked the forward half of the boat.
At Matagi, we found what we had been looking for - a peaceful pond, with the anchor clearly visible and unencumbered by coral bommies. The cove was fringed by beautiful coral formations, and ringed by incredibly lush jungle filled with colorful birds, and fruit bats the size of redtail hawks. This is a private island with an exclusive resort on the other side, so we telephoned the resort to ask for permission to come ashore. They welcomed us to walk the beach and surrounding hillside, but asked us to refrain from visiting the resort. 

We spent two days snorkeling here, and dinghied all the way around the island. We could easily have spent more time here, but we decided to take advantage of calm conditions to head to the Northern Lau islands, about 50 miles away in what is normally the upwind direction.

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