After 4 weeks of visitors on board our She San seems empty and lonely. But there is not much time to be sad, we spend two days of washing, cleaning and filling everything up and head out northeast direction Savusavu.
In 3 small hops sailing upwind we plane through the channels of the reefs on the North coast of Viti Levu. The water is totally flat, we just have to pay attention not to hit any of the numerous surrounding reefs on the way.
Since the forecast shows a serious depression approaching over Fiji we chose to take the passage over to Savusavu even though we expect 25 knots.
At 6 am the anchor is up, we engine against the wind to the east of Navolau passage and then sail in a bit better angle over and out through the Vatu-i-ra channel. Once outside the sailing against the waves is quite rough but we are fast!
At 1 am we take the sails down to safely engine through the Nasonisoni passage. Like in all passes I take my place in the look out standing on the lower steps of the mast. But right in the middle of the pass a white wall from a squall hits us.
I am happy to wear my foul weather gear and sunglasses protecting my eyes from the rain and just manage to peer out from below my glasses to the edge of the reef…
After 10 hours and 72 miles we most happily attach to a mooring in Savusavu, now almost anything can come…
In the next few days it accordingly rains quite often but where we are we are not affected by any strong winds. We use the time in the nice small city to get our last shopping done and enjoy the nice little Indian restaurants once again.
The only sad thing is that the nice Waitui restaurant has moved to town and the new one doesn’t have Indian food, is a lot more expensive and closes down at 5 pm, at least in low season…
The last 4 days there is not so much more to prepare so we can enjoy the mountains behind Savusavu to hike up and down every possible road or path we can find. We are aware that heading north we will not find any more hills in the atolls…
Also of course the provisioning in the market we do in the last moment. We do two runs each of us carrying heavily as we know provisioning fresh stuff will not get easy in the islands north.
On Tuesday the 20th of November we release the lines after 5 1/2 months in Fiji, it was absolutely amazing for us!! But it is time to go, the cyclone season is approaching rapidly… First target is the atoll of Funafuti in Tuvalu.
We have a perfect weather window to head up north, the first day we have light southerly winds so we can easily sail over to the east to Taveuni, then we engine a few hours through a flat Somosomo strait and pick up the Southeasterly winds on the other side of Taveuni in order to head up north.
The wind is coming from the right direction, the waves are not very high, the moon is almost full and gives us light the whole night through, it is just absolutely beautiful.
After 4.5 days and 557 miles we arrive in Funafuti on Saturday afternoon relaxed and happy, with only half a day of running the engine.
Foxy Lady and Moki are already there, we immediately celebrate the welcome on board of Foxy Lady.
On Monday morning we start the run to the officials which is literally a run through the whole town of Fongafale, the capital of Tuvalu. Actually it is more a lively village with some government offices, but about half of Tuvalu’s 12000 inhabitants live here. We immediately like the place, it is clean, well kept, the people are very friendly and everybody has a nice “Hello” or “ Talofa” for us.
After the first stop at immigration and then Biosecurity in the Government building we continue to visit Health in the Hospital some 15 min up the road, then further 20 min we find customs close to the wharf at the northern end of town and on the way back we step into the town council who would like to let us know that we have to buy a permission if we want to anchor somewhere else in the atoll.
Two things we have heard already about Funafuti -- it is supposed to be a rubbish dump and it has an interesting airstrip right through the town.
The first point we feel is pretty under control nowadays, we feel it looks quite clean everywhere around town at least. A local tells us that there are also still repeadetly clean up days where everybody participates instead of going to work 😉
The other point with the air strip is really a curiosity. In the afternoon the airstrip is used a football field, in the evening for picknicks, in the night people bring their mat and sleep on it under the stars. Reto finds it especially interesting that many people sit on the white stripes in the middle as if it were softer there or something like that…
We get to know Neta and Wini and come with them and their mother and sister to look at the evening show of the “Tuvalu Trade Fair”.
Neta’s mother is carrying a mat, and once there we all sit on the mat on the air strip (instead of the comfortable chairs in front of the tribune…).
I find it really special but after a few hours my back and butt and everything hurts from sitting on the asphalt, of course the thin mat doesn’t help me much in this…
The highlight of the trade fair this evening is competition about the best dress from rubbish, full with expectation I wait to see what comes.
Unfortunately the dresses are rather producing another heap of plastic rubbish, but maybe I do not get the point because I do not understand what they say in Tuvalu?
On Wednesday we see a weather window coming up for our way up north, so we decide to check out (this time only immigration and customs) and leave on Thursday morning. Next target is the atoll of Tarawa in Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas).
This is quite sad, since a lot of atolls of Tuvalu and of Kiribati are in between, but we are not allowed to stop in any of them without having cleared in to Kiribati in Tarawa…
Our weather window promises a few days wind coming from a little low going through from east to west, then lighter winds for the following days.
The first morning we put up the parasailor and glide over the water. Just before noon a huge school of dolphins discovers us, they come and accompany us excitedly. After one hour another delegation of dolphins comes up from the north, they jump all the way until reaching us, it seams like a big party with everyone going wild. It goes on for another hour, then they are gone all of a sudden.
Have a look at this little video and enjoy together with us and the dolphins 😉
The next two days the sky turns dark, it is raining and full with lightening but we mostly have some wind to be able to sail.
On the fourth night the wind is gone, and just as I want to take over my watch Reto takes the sails down and sends us both to bed. We have an excellent sleep until the morning when the wind slightly picks up again and we move (not fast but nevertheless).
But the weather forecast changes daily and not to our favor… In addition we get a current that takes us up to 2.5 knots to the east, whereas we should go to the northwest…
Either we drift in direction east and wait for the wind which isn’t yet in sight for the next 5 days or we turn the engines on and engine the rest of the 250 miles all the way up to Tarawa.
Since the first option isn’t really smart either we opt for the engine one…
But we cannot complain, the sea is calm, we have time to relax and enjoy. While I do my daily exercises, read a few books and clean a few corners Reto finds time to immerse in a few technical problems and finally builds a wooden teaser to catch more fish. Therefore we catch two small big eye tuna and start eating the finest sushi.
On Wednesday evening we approach the equator for a second time (first time last year from Panama to Marquesas).
While Reto makes a movie I am supposed to make a screenshot of the I Pad and in order to get it right I even do a few test runs… In the important moment though I push the main button a bit too early and instead of the screen shot I get “switching off”…
We celebrate the event by pouring a nice shot of Tequila for Neptune and another one for Reto.
The following afternoon we are within a few 100 meters of the atoll of Tarawa, I am just about to take my position in the mast as out look as one of the fishing rod rushes out. Reto hurries to the rod, I gather the gaff, knife and bucket.
“Oh no, not again a Barrakuda” Reto complains disappointedly. I hurry to get the gloves as well because the barracuda teeth are super dangerous and have a look at the course so we don’t hit the reef in the meantime…
“Oh yes, it is a Wahoo!! How cool, our first big Wahoo”. A few seconds later the poor guy has a cut throat on our platform and a few minutes later I start to filet the fish.
The sun is burning hot, I want to get it as fast as possible into the fridge.
In the meantime Reto steers our She San the last mile to Betio (spoken Beso) on Tarawa, Funafuti, we arrive an hour before dawn 😉
The Free Spirit and the Foxy Lady are already here. Together with Rick, Remco and Jeniffer we enjoy the evening with BBQed Wahoo, beer and wine and afterwards fall into a deep sleep, how good that feels every time after a passage!!!