The Pearl

Royal Suva Yact Club
Royal Suva Yact Club

I wish we could have stayed longer in Suva. The time required to return to Savusavu robbed us of time on our return leg.  A few days was all we could justify.  We visited the Royal Suva Yacht Club, we went to the “big mall” and walked around the center of the metropolis.  Our main goal in Suva was to locate some new printer cartridges and stock up on hard to find food stores. Four shops later we came across one that had the correct cartridges.  Unfortunately they were out.  The clerk called a sister store. They were out.  Ok, we decided that’s a bust. We asked how to find the bus station and she almost took us there. Everywhere in Fiji I am amazed how pleasant and friendly the Fijian people are. Out of the shop and down the block a bit we bid her good bye, we could find the station.

Back at Lami we relaxed for one more night; the following am we would head to Pacific Harbor. Our next stop was  fair hop down the coast.  The sail would  be off the wind and since as we were protected by land I felt we could tow the dinghy. There is a set of towing eyes glued onto the side tubes. There is also an eye in the fiberglass bottom of the hull. A 3/8” 3 strand nylon painter I use is attached to the hull  and the 3/8” braided  painter to the towing eyes.  I to place the major load on the 3 strand believing that the eye in the hull is the strongest point of attachement. With the stretch of the 3 strand the load is eased on the lines splitting to the towing eyes.  So far this method has worked well. I’ve tried towing the dinghy close and tried towing it farther aft. I can’t see any difference.  When we are towing any distance we remove the engine and store it on the push pit. Obviously, if our move is less than a nm we don’t even deal with it.

It was a wild ride. Our dinghy raced down the waves running up to Elysium’s stern only to turn aside at the last second falling back on her painter.  The ocean was rough enough I didn’t put out a fishing line. There was no way I wanted to deal with a fish while riding this horse; oops boat. 🙂   Besides, we still have several meals of frozen Mahi-Mahi.  We made Pacific Harbor and the Pearl about 3 hours before we expected. Yes, it was not only wild ride but fast!  The Marina Manager said that we ought to enter on a high tide.  We anchored in  lumpy water 100 m from the harbor entrance.  There we sat and read as long as we could. An hour off of high tide we called and he felt there would not be any issues entering. We raised anchor and slowly motored in. Our depth sounder bounced down to 6’ and then back up to 8’.  As we cleared the shallow spot at the entrance we breathed easier.  Once in and secured to a slip I talked to a local tour boat. The captain said that even at low tide there is close to 5’ in the channel and that the low spot is all mud, no rock or coral. That means that about 2 hours on either side of low we ought to be able to enter or exit the river / channel.

The Pearl Marina
The Pearl Marina

For the most part we enjoyed the Pearl. While the marina part of the business is new  they had difficulty accepting that we were a guest at their facility. I asked about the physical fitness room, they told me that was for “in-house” guests. It took their activity directory a few moments to deal with that. However, the gym wasn’t for us. There were very few machines.  W/ wanted to see the “China Girl” beauty pageant and savor the buffet.  At the front desk they again said the price was for in-house guests and we would need to pay double the cost. I had

China Girl Beauty Contest
China Girl Beauty Contest

to visit the desk and seek the manager.  I never saw the manager but they did accept that we were guests and could pay the guest rate. The marina has no shower or laundry facilities. We did enjoy the restaurants and walking the grounds out to the village. We took a dinghy  trip up the river but I should have checked out Google Maps first. After a fork in the river it joins back together farther along. We chickened out early.

We needed to watch the tide to exit the river and we needed to leave early in the am. The following day was a looking good, almost 60 nm from anchor up to anchor down. Our goal was Robinson Crusoe Island. There are two fall back anchorages but the information on them is pretty lame.  We spent a morning cleaning the bottom of our dinghy and loading it aboard. The following am some of the staff came to assist in helping Elysium clear of the docks.  The turning basin was quite small and I feared we would need to use some lines to control the boat.  Remember, we are on a river and there are currents here.   Fresh and salt water don’t mix well and I was concerned that under the surface there would be movement, movement we couldn’t see. Fortunately we were near high tide and the current was negligible.  With the aid of the staff we were able to back Elysium out and rotate her for the 500 meters run down the river and out the entrance.

The breeze began a wee bit light and I was watching our ETA closely. At this point we would be lucky to arrive before dark and in Fiji one only enters harbors at night if one is a gambler. We are not gamblers.  As with many large islands they can effect the winds and a sea breeze bolstered by the trades filled in. A short time later we were flying along in lumpy seas. Our arrival would now be well into the afternoon. Whew!

We pulled into the harbor in the late afternoon.  Two other boats were there. We anchored in 3 m of water. Sweet. That is a first in Fiji, to have water that shallow.  That evening was their Fire Dance show; said to be the best in the South Pacific. However; as we had the dinghy stored for traveling offshore we would miss this one and catch the Saturday show.  It takes time to set the dinghy back up for local use.  Tomorrow would be soon enough. As with any passage of almost any length we were tired.

The following day we setup the dinghy and I noticed the water was crystal clear. I followed the anchor chain to the anchor and saw that we had floated right on top of it. For all intents and purposes the weight of the chain was keeping us in place. I had heard that this anchorage was dirty and full of debris. The anchorage is at the mouth of a river but still effected by tidal flow. On a flood tide the ocean water enters the anchorage and the water is crystal clear. On an ebb tide the river water fills in and the water is has the color of tea. I am planning on running the water maker and will watch our tides saving a bit of wear and tear on our filters.

At night we had sounds of fish striking the boat bottom.  I don’t think it was flotsam as every once in awhile I would hear a fish splash along with it.  I am guessing that some of the predators trap prey between them and the hull before they strike.  I don’t think they hit the boat from lack of sight. The sounds were what we fell asleep to.

During one lay day W/ encouraged me to try the massage.  She likes to use me as a tester. I don’t mind. I tried it and wasn’t all that impressed.  W/ chose to skip it. And finally Saturday arrived.

( A Fire Pyramid– A movie) The show was for the most part free. However, we (mostly I)  don’t like “free” stuff, there always seems to be a cost in the end greater than I wished. So we paid for dinner and hung around for the show. We were not disappointed.

While few of the performers were prefect, and we had been to shows with other fire acts; as a whole this was the most extensive.  They created pyramids, fire breathing (not for me), and basic spinning of batons with both ends blazing. They would light their hand with flame and transfer the fire to the other end of the baton never burning themselves.  Again, not for me.  And like most islanders; none of them appeared to have any fear of fire yet they all respected it.  I  seem to have more fear. (The Grand Finale’) 

Sunday we awoke to overcast skies and rain. Damn, we were hoping to leave. I watched the radar from Nadi and we both felt the need to get moving. After all, our next stop was only 3 hours away, easy peasy!  An hour outside the reef and two hours in well protected waters. We could even pull the dinghy engine and tow the dinghy.  We talked about it, we waffled a bit, we saw a break in the clouds and the radar appeared to show little rain. We’ve been wet before and a couple hours wasn’t going to kill us. We left.

It was a motor boat ride all the way. By early afternoon we had arrived back at Musket Cove, on Malolo. We have completed our circumnavigation of Viti Levu. Yeah.  We had a few days to hang out here and then on to Denarau where we will begin our prep for the trip to NZ.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long