Ovalau – Toberua – Suva

After snorkeling the Giant Clams we left early to Ovalau. We were sailing inside one of the barrier reefs and it was still quite bumpy. Winds were 15-20 kts and the seas were all over the place. What created them, where did they arise from? I don’t know, but the trip wasn’t comfortable.  We reminded ourselves that this move was only for a couple of hours. After that we would be in the lee of Ovalau.  I wanted to visit this island as it was the original capital of Fiji and a world heritage site. We had chosen a well protected harbor on the SW corner.  I wasn’t disappointed with the anchorage but I didn’t get to see the island and didn’t even get to shore. Most everywhere in Fiji we’ve had internet and in the harbor we had nothing. Yet the harbor was one of the nicest, safest we’ve been in here. Four to five meters  of water with a nice mud bottom, protection all around and a mangrove lined shore. In all honesty, I would think in a storm this would be much safer than the creek at Savusavu. The trees knocked down on the shore from Winston demonstrates how much damage a real storm can do anywhere it makes landfall. Rumor had it there was a resort here and it was cruiser friendly. Had we gone ashore we might have discovered it. but we didn’t see an easy route through the mangroves to the resort nor was the wx kind during our visit. We never left the boat!  In the harbor was an extremely weak cell signal and loading any internet pages were nigh on impossible.  Keeping abreast of the weather is a key element of safety for us sailors. 100 m out of the harbor we had good internet and easy wx updates. In the harbor – horrible.  We left Ovalau a day later. I was disappointed.

Ovalau Anchorage
We headed to Toberua. Friends on Quixotic had told us about this stop and it breaks the trip to Suva into two days as opposed to an overnight or long, long, lucky day.  We anchored in front of the resort in 60’ of water. During the last step of securing our anchor chain a boat from the resort came by.  They said we would be better off anchored nearer and to the side of the resort. It was shallower there and in the end we discovered we had been in their transit path.  Anytime; day or night, they received or delivered guests they would have to have gone around us.


View N from the comfort of the Resort
View N from the comfort of the Resort

Safely anchored we hopped in the dinghy and went ashore. There we met the Managers; wonderful people who invited us to use the facilities as we wished. They offered to setup an account for us to use the bar and restaurant if we liked. We liked.  A couple of cold drinks later we had met two other Sunset at Toberau, Fijivisiting couples staying at the resort. One from Australia, and the other returning from Comicon in Australia but residing in California.  Travelers we met seem to have enough in common

that instant bonds form.  We had  lunch and dinner with them sharing the lives of 3 couples from 2 continents. We were the spice -true vagabonds.  All too brief, we needed to leave and

Golf at Toberua Resort
Golf at Toberua Resort

head to Suva while they were flying back to their homes.
Exiting Toberua was nail biting. Channels are not well marked in Fiji and rescues far away or non existent.  We traversed a shallow section said to be about 2 meters deep at low water and

We didn't travel over land but our track and the most current chart puts us there.
We didn’t travel over land!

remember: our draft is 2 meters. Plus, in these areas charts are nothing like the US or even French Polynesia. This is 3rd world.   Once across the skinny water there was a run out to sea with a little deeper water and  a wider channel. The channel was made up of  some large coral patches in the middle with knee high  shallows near the edge.  Those we must avoid.  We left an hour after low tide on a flood. The current was against us but the rising water would assist should we “touch” bottom.  An hour later with nails shortened to the quick we finally made deep water. Seeking some sea room from a lee shore we motored a bit more and I began adding sail. The day was looking to be a good one but Noah had other ideas.
Mid morning  a small squall appeared on the horizon. Damn! Reduce sail, check our position, bring in the fishing line, get the foul wx gear and prepare. We don’t want to be dealing with a fish on the line with extra wind in our sails. The dangerous part is not the fish, it is a fish on the line if we start the engine. Getting monofilament line in a prop is a sure way to lose the use of your engine. All that and being on a lee shore brought my finger tips to my mouth again.  In the end we doused all the sails, fired up the iron genny (the boat engine) and motored towards our destination. Luckily it was a brief squall and 30 minutes later we had the sails out, fishing line out, and the Sun was out.  We were heading to Suva.  The ol’ saying was correct, “Wind before rain, soon to be sailing again”.

Sweet Mahi-Mahi
Sweet Mahi-Mahi

An hour out of the Suva Harbor entrance our fishing gear started screaming!  Maybe, finally, hopefully, a fish we can land and eat. And; it was. A nice young bull Mahi-Mahi.  We dragged it up to the boat and using Lison-Life’s method swung the fish over the lifelines into the cockpit where W/ tossed a towel over it and held it down.  After ensuring that neither of us could impale ourselves with the hook I cut the Mahi’s gills. This  allows him to bleed out and die in peace.  Even dead we could lose him. We tied him to the life lines to ensure that any boat movements would not find him sliding back to the sea. Cleaning would be later, once we had secured our place in Lami Bay.
Suva is a good size harbor and we were heading off to Lami bay next to the Novatel in the NW corner.  Tony; who owns Vuda Marina, has a home here and put in a few moonings that as a courtesy he provides to any sailor. Once there we settled in and cleaned up the boat. There is always work after any passage; even if the passage is just a few hours. We cleaned the fish and froze 90% of it.
The following day we put the dinghy in the water and headed over to the Novatel.  Quixotic had given us a Novatel employee to contact. We checked with the reception on tying the dinghy up by the pool and as so often we heard in Fiji,  “Siga Na Liga” – No worries.  We wandered around and then found Sami who was an extremely pleasant young man. He said on his day off he would help us with the laundry and getting supplies. We tried to beg off saying he didn’t need to go that far but he in the calm, relaxed Fijian way insisted.  In the end -we in the obnoxious, upfront American way paid him for his time and services.  He had insisted that his family would do the laundry!  While it is great to make new friends we didn’t feel that it was fair to accept his kind offer without renumeration and again we made sure his family was compensated.  What wonderful people Fijians are.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long