Passage: Fiji to Nouvelle Caledonie




Fiji doesn’t like us. As we departed, she gave us one last kick in the ass to send us on our way. After 5 months of crap sailing in Fiji, we started our passage to Noumea with a forecast of SE 15 – 20 knots and 2.5m seas both diminishing in strength. Not too bad to lay a course WSW for us. Instead, we had 35 knots of South wind and more than 4m seas also from the S. Those conditions are not good ones for letting the seas sit at your beam *or* for close hauling and so we put the wind on our stern quarter and started sailing NW, 90 degrees off our intended course. In case you are wondering about land effects, we were leaving Fiji West of Mana Island and we had this wind for the first 12 hours of our passage so…not land.


The seas were so steep, so short period, so uncomfortable that after a few more hours of lurching about NW, in a fit of frustration, we hove to (well, we forereached, but whatever) for 6 hours. Funny enough, this allowed us to make our course (very slowly) and so we decided that until the seas abated we would stay that way.


Eventually the seas came down just enough that we turned W and sailed again, and then eventually were able to lay our course. The weather forecasts continued to show SE wind and we continued to have S or sometimes SSW wind which meant we close hauled most of the way to Fiji in stronger conditions that we would have chosen for an upwind passage. Ahhh, the Coconut Milk Run.


With all of that said, once we set aside our frustration, and once the wind became more reasonable, we had some gorgeous weather during the second half of the passage, a minimum of showers and nothing too squally. The last 24 hours were a glorious sail, closehauled, in lighter winds and so we entered Nouvelle Caledonie with perfect passage conditions and in good spirits. And because of the sporty wind, we had a fast passage, making the 660 miles in under 5 days despite spending 1/4 of a day forereaching.


One more passage and we’ve crossed the Pacific…


Below: A wall of cloud approaching on passage


Big City Living in Fiji

photo 31 (2)Perhaps big city living is a bit of an exaggeration but if you spent as much time in French Polynesia as we have, and most of the rest of our time in places like Tonga, then Fiji feels extremely developed.

We found better marine supplies in Tahiti but then again, the French do love their sailing. Other than that, Fiji is more stocked than anywhere we’ve been by boat since Mexico.

We even have cellular internet in a large portion of the anchorages – cellular internet fast enough for video calls and uploading videos, and it’s cheaper than NZ!

photo 21 (2)As cruisers we spend half of our time trying to get away from civilization and then when we are away from civilization we drool about things we would like to have from the civilization we escaped – mostly of the food and drink variety, and occasionally things like movies and internet.

Comforts of big city living we’ve been enjoying in Fiji: cheap eating out including tasty Indian food, coffee shops and pastries, big fully stocked produce markets filled with local goods, butcheries full of tasty locally raised meats, and inexpensive medical and dental visits.

Of course, nowhere we’ve visited thus far has a supermarket as impressive as the ones in Tahiti. We are quite excited to see a Carrefour again when we get to New Caledonia! Oh, did I mention that we are headed there soon?

P1060529 (2)P1060535P1060531P1060534photo 41 (2)photo 51 (2)photo 11 (2)

Best Gear Award: Oil Change Pump

P1070021Carol and I were talking recently about some of the best little things we’ve done to the boat that have had big quality of life impacts. One thing that we put on before we left the dock was a permanently plumbed oil change pump – similar to this but ours is all brass.

The pump is connected to the oil pipe near the dipstick which pulls oil from the bottom of the sump. It probably doesn’t drain every last drop that the drain would get to, but based on our oil capacity in theory and what we can pump out in reality, it is very close.

The hose at the other end can then be placed in any oil container we choose to use (like a bottle or a jar) and the oil pumped directly into that container. Way easier than an oil pan for us, especially when the boat is moving about at anchor.

P1070018On our engine, all of this can be done from the front of the engine although we have to go to the side for the filter change.

After having the loose hose leak drips of oil all over stuff, I whittled down a wine cork to the correct size of the ID of the hose and put a thread through it for easy cork removal.

Logbook: Fulaga, Lau, Fiji


Fulaga is definitely a new favorite place – in the “view from the cockpit” category, our little nook just north of the sandspit anchorage in Fulaga is easily in our top 5 anchorages we’ve been in the South Pacific (so far).

P1060824Why? A lagoon that is essentially all under 50 feet means the colors pop everywhere. We were in 10-15 feet of sand in the four places we anchored which meant that the colors surrounding the boat were vivid (when it was sunny). The lagoon is dotted with limestone islets which made me dream of SE Asia. The water is clear, very clear. The long sandy shallows off the beaches were perfect for long slow stand up paddle boarding sessions. Add to that a pass with live coral and some lovely beaches and…three weeks sped by.

P1060793The pass is what Carol and I would call a “real” pass – meaning that it is, safely navigable, but should be taken seriously. Tip: The common knowledge about the slack tides (LWS 2:15 hours after LW at Moala in WXTide and HWS approximately the same as HW) seemed right to us. The pass is narrow and slightly curved with some eddies and standing waves on the ebb. At flood and slacks, we found the pass flat even in the 20 knots of cross wind we exited the atoll in.

Now that Fulaga is the popular place to go in the Fiji cruising circuit, the remoteness of it still dissuades some boats from making the upwind trek. We didn’t mind the 20 boat crowd in the atoll because it was still easy to find an anchorage to oneself if you wish and with 20 boats the villagers weren’t too concerned if we didn’t show up for every event. Perfect for us.


Passage to Fulaga




As alluded to, we had two unsuccessful attempts at sailing to Fulaga. We left Nananu-i-ra with a forecast of Northerly wind 15 knots and abut 8 hours into our sail we had SE wind at 30-35 knots and so we turned our stern to the wind and flew to Viani Bay. On the second attempt, we left Savusavu with a forecast of light E winds switching to NE and instead they switched to the ESE and so we had a mellow lovely sail to Ono instead of Fulaga. We *could* have made it to Fulaga on that window under power. Indeed, as we talk to people here in Fulaga that is a common passage strategy to get here.


a03The third time was a charm. We left Ono ahead of a front with NE wind. As the front passed, we bobbed about with no wind for a few hours. Then the wind switched to the S and the SSE and we flew the rest of the way to Fulaga arriving at 4 am and forereaching until the morning low water slack which we made a mess of because it turns out that WXTides has TWO stations called “Moala Island” one of which is apparently not in Fiji. The good news is that we have a fair amount of experience reading passes visually and so we could tell that we were at the end of the ebb and chose our timing accordingly. We went in with still a fair amount of current (and turbulent swirling waters) but no standing waves and had a safe transit into another pass (which we never take for granted). We kept Bravo Reef to port – thanks for the waypoint Adam!


And it was so worth the effort. As we sailed into the incredible landscape of Fulaga’s lagoon, the crazy colors and limestone islets dotting the shallow waters of the entire lagoon, we knew it was worth missing out on part of Ono. It was worth the two aborted attempts and having made it here entirely under sail sweetened the landfall for us intensely. Everyone who makes it here, however they do, has earned the right to be here so we don’t mean to sound like sailing snobs. Still, sometimes working for things makes the accomplishment more precious.

Logbook: Naqara Bay, Ono Island, Fiji


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P1060729 (2)What an odd time we had at this place.


Ono is inside Astrolabe Reef – a big dive area. We anchored in Naqara Bay to present our kava root so we could snorkel at the nearby manta spot and perhaps do some diving. When we sailed into Ono, after having left Savusavu hoping to make it Fulaga, we saw a handful of lovely little islands, the kind that spark our imagination as cruisers and we foresaw ourselves staying for a while. It turns out we only stayed a handful of days, and didn’t do the diving we wanted because we saw what we thought (for the third time) was a good weather window to head to Fulaga.


P1060730 (2)This was our first experience giving the village kava in what is called a sevusevu ceremony. Historical information from cruisers waxes on about how to appropriately dress and behave in a sevusevu, and how to clap, and how to drink the kava.


Our sevusevu experience is very, very limited but even in moderately remote places like Ono and Fulaga the ceremony we experienced was low key, no one was uptight about how we dressed or whether we knew when to clap, and in neither ceremony did they prepare and drink the kava with us.


P1060741What made the experience odd in Naqara was not the sevusevu experience, but it was the very first time we had multiple villagers coming to us, ashore and on the boat, asking for things from our stores. Not asking to trade, just asking to have. This is something we had expected to happen before we sailed to the South Pacific, that really hasn’t happened until now. A difference from the Eastern and Western Pacific perhaps? Who knows- we don’t.


We were asked for snorkel masks, floating rope, super glue (twice, this is a hot item apparently), gasoline (they offered to pay for the gas but we couldn’t spare any because we were heading to an even more remote location), fishing hooks and whether we would trade our personal snorkel fins with a local (his were child’s fins).


P1060742The snorkel and mask was asked for by the village elder to support their pearl farming project and we had an old snorkel aboard that we happily donated. The rest we politely said no to except the fishing hooks which we had aboard as a good giveaway item because helping people feed themselves is always a warm fuzzy feeling. We also had planned to give away some old charts to the school (which we did) and some frisbees we’ve carried across the South Pacific without using.


TIP: We didn’t have much time to explore the area before we headed to Fulaga but we did swim with mantas again (approx S18°51'53.70" E178°30'50.19"). This is always amazing to me and even though we have swam with mantas a dozen or so times, every time is otherworldly.  We showed up during a sun break in the middle of an otherwise cloudy day and immediately saw mantas including one huge, all black (even on the belly) giant. Then, we went for a surprisingly amazing snorkel (approx S18°51'53.99" E178°30'49.84") through scattered coral heads some not so great, but many loaded with soft and hard corals and swarming with fish. We were very surprised at the liveliness and even more bummed that we didn’t dive outside the lagoon. All thwarted by our desire to make it to Fulaga.

For some people, cruising isn’t all about the people

P1060742A common theme in cruising writing is the idea that cruising is all about the people you meet. For a lot of people, I would say the majority of cruisers we’ve met, this is true. For most cruisers, cruising is all about the other cruisers they meet, or it is all about the local people they meet, or both.

I don’t know the right way to put this so I’ll just say it bluntly – for us , it’s not. It’s kind of difficult to explain so bear with me while I do my best. Meeting people (cruisers or locals) isn’t our main reason to cruise. Neither is experiencing local cultures. We LIKE other people. We LIKE experiencing cultures. But…

Our primary reason for being in the S Pacific is the amazing landscape, the amazing seascape, and the opportunity to live and to play in both.

We set off cruising with a love of the outdoors, a love of natural beauty, and with adventure in our hearts. When we went to the Grand Canyon, no one found it weird that our primary focus was to view and experience the Grand Canyon, not to meet local Americans and get invited to their daily functions. However, we get some weird looks when we try to verbalize the fact that this is also why we are here in the Pacific Islands. In fact, until recently we just didn’t mention it because we didn’t want to a) have to explain ourselves and b) get labeled as anti social by other cruisers when we are not. We are very social people, but although we’ve met wonderful, life-long friends cruising, we didn’t need to go cruising to meet great people. Quite the opposite - we left some of our favorite people in the world when we left to go cruising.

Now that we are coming out of the closet as nature cruisers, we are meeting many others like us. Carol likes to blurt out “We don’t really like people” (which isn’t true, but it is priceless to watch others react to this statement). Once we admit that we are nature cruisers rather than people cruisers, a number of other cruisers have come clean as well. We are actually a fairly sizeable minority.

Of course, it is not an either-or subject and many cruisers are super into people and super into nature rather than favoring one heavily over the other.
We reserve the right to change. We change cruising plans and destinations like we change shirts so maybe we’ll change our vibe and cruising goals as well.


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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