On Saturday morning a heavy low is just passing New Zealand, the last thunderstorms go over us in the morning hours, and we have just cleared out of New Zealand.
“Awesome start” we think, both a bit insecure with a strange feeling in the knees and in the stomach and a slight headache in addition.
We let the worst blow pass and afterwards losen the lines with the help of Lydia and Hannes from the Blue Lilly. Not having really sailed for more than 6 months we have to swallow a few times, going out with the wind, the current and the waves against us. What a start!
One hour later as we round the Bream Head we can adjust the course and start to enjoy the seas and wind from behind – that’s a lot better!
Nevertheless we quickly roll back in our larger foresail, because we feel that 8-10 knots speed is a bit too much for getting used to the movement again.
As always enthusiastically I bring out the fishing lines, but Reto just comments “well, if you get a bite, you can bring it in yourself”. After considering this for a while I give in and stop fishing for the next 3 days.
On Sunday and Monday the waves become become a bit rougher and many items hop off their place, we are not used to that either.
Then I see some water on the floor, I taste it and of course it is salt water. But where does it come from in the middle of the hull? I find a wet sofa cushion, trace some drops from the emergency hatch, but that cannot be the amount I am looking for…
While Reto is demounting half the interior I have to deal with a squall outside – luckily, because my stomach is not yet calibrated for long detailed search work “downstairs”.
Reto finds a leakage at a hidden screw of the emergency hatch and fills it up with epoxy. But we still have saltwater running down in the next few days…
We find that the only other through hole is the outlet of the fridge. We hope that this is the reason because otherwise it would mean that we have a crack in the fiberglass…
3 days later the wind becomes less, the waves more comfortable, the temperature a couple degrees warmer and the first of the 3 thick blankets can go off again…The water temperature each day rises by 1 to 1.5 degrees.
Then the last two days before minerva the sea becomes flat and wind goes over into a on/off mode. Within 3-5 minutes it is changing from 5 to 12 knots and we sail accordingly between a slow 3-4 knots with sails flapping around to a speedy 8 knots feeling like on train rails.
Especially nice to us is the moon. After the first few rougher days we have full moon and it really helps for a more easy and comfortable view around.
Once the seas get smoother I also like to admire the sky again, not getting splashed with saltwater while trying to do so.
Also I start the finishing and after 1.5 days the first Mahi Mahi bites into our bait.
The day before being at the height of Minerva we understand our friends on from Vega and Loupan that a depression is expected to reach us, so we decide to stop again at the Minerva reef.
We slow down a bit and go through the pass on Friday, June the 1st at 9.30 with a good view and no dangers in sight.
There are already 5 yachts in the south but we decide to anchor in the east because of the expected winds of the next few days. It doesn’t take long and we are surrounded by another 10 yachts, 2 days later there are 30 yachts in the anchorage around us!
From what we hear it was a good idea to stop here, everybody coming in has their story to tell!!
So we enjoy it, have a good rest and celebrate my birthday the next day by baking a cake and trying to call our parents (realizing again the the Inmarsat Phone doesn’t like it when it is cloudy and a bit shake, great!!).
In the afternoon Ulla and Pelle from Loupan arrive, just in time to celebrate a bit with us. But even with the protection of the reef it is almost too rough to let the dinghy into the water and they arrive on She San saltwater soaked (but wisely wearing the foul weather gear!).
On Sunday morning Lydia and Hannes from the Blue Lilly arrive after having to go through the storm out there.
Looking at the weather forecast we are thinking about spending one more week at Minerva, then the trade winds are supposed to be stable again. The following day though we hear from a nasty low that is supposed to go over Minerva, so we all decide to leave for Savusavu, even Helen and Tommy from the Bonnie who just have arrived in the morning.
At least we are lucky fishing, another Mahi Mahi and 2 litttle Thunas find our baits attractive and give me a bit work to do. The Mahi Mahi is a real fighter though, when Reto grabs it, he jumps right into Reto’s face and for a moment I am not sure where all the blood on deck is coming from.
Luckily Reto gets away with a cut in the upper lip, while the beautiful Mahi Mahi has to give his life….
After 3 days sailing and motoring we are in the middle of Fiji waters, counting 30 miles to arrive in Savusavu. The wind has once again completely turned off but we let the main sail up, hoping to get some more wind later in the night.
When I take over my watch at 9.30 pm Reto already has the Radar running as there is another 6 yachts of friends around (Bonnie, Blue Lilly, Loupan, Vega, Hakuna Matata and somewhere Duplicat).
Then I see a fat squall on the radar, I watch it for a few minutes and see that it does approach quite quickly. So I wake up Reto to get the mainsail down. He just puts on the life jacket, I hardly turn She San into the wind, the sail falls down and in exactly the same second !!! the wind machine turns on and speed up from 0 to 20 knots, next moment 30 knots, gusting even higher. Our wind meter tends to measure a bit less, so friends tell us, that the max was at 46 knots…
It immediately starts to rain horizontally, we clear up so nothing flies around outside, and each time we open the door a whole splash of water runs in and down the stairs…
Luckily the wind comes from behind, so we can run parallel to Koro island until we are safely clear of it. We are doing 5 to 6 knots even without any sail. After 2 hours we start to realize that this is bit more than just a momentary squall. With this speed we have 4 hours to go and we will hit the coast in the middle of the night!!!
Then Reto has the idea to try heaving to, and it works well, even with out a sail out. We drift parallel to the waves with 1.5 to 2 knots and therefore get some more time for the system to calm down and not to arrive at night.
The other worry is not to bump into each other and as we cannot see anything in the rain outside we try to verify the sometimes weak Radar signals and AIS transmissions by asking each others positions on the radio.
After approximately 6 hours it all eases a bit, the rain stops, we can clearly see the others position lights. We round the entrance to Savusavu one hour after daylight and get attached to a mooring boy. “Uff, that is done, now only cleaning up the mess, clearing in…”
We really manage to get an acceptable status on board until the officials arrive, the first being Jona from Health and Quarantine. With a big smile he welcomes us “Bula, welcome to Fiji” and we really feel welcome!
Also Alivina, Lorraine and Eseroma from Customs, Immigration and Biosecurity are very friendly, do an efficient job and soon give us the ok to go on land.
This is what we do, even a bit dizzy from the heat and the night with out sleep. We bump into our friends with whom we share the experience of the storm, it was quite impressive for everyone but luckily no major problems occurred.
At 5 pm we both fall into a deep sleep, probably the best way to end that exiting day! What an exciting trip after all!
The next evening we meet with Blue Lilly and Bonnie for dinner in the Waitui Restaurant where we accidentally fall into a Karaoke party.
Being almost the only guests we have to sing a lot, some songs better, some worse but it really is a lot of fun 🙂
Now we are really looking forward to get to know Fiji, its islands and underwater worlds, but most of all its inhabitants who are seemingly one of the most friendliest in the world!