Welcome to Fiji! Bula!

We made it to Fiji in a little less than 12 days!  It is green and super pretty as we round the corner to our destination of Savusavu.

First time into a new country requires a lot of paperwork to “clear in.”  We arrive Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu on Friday at 10:30am.  By the time we are safely moored on a mooring with Waitui Marina it is closer to 11:00am. Our agent and the marina coordinate the 3 sets of officials that have to get us through the formalities.  I will walk you through it just so you can get a “taste” of what it is like for us.  Keep in mind that Fiji is truly one of the most straight forward and simple process that we have been through in all of the dozen or so countries we have cleared in.

Savusavu has 3 marinas.  We are staying at Waitui Marina on one of their mooring balls.

Marina Waitui

Marina Waitui

The marina has been around for over 60 years and is a work in progress.  The people are first rate and super friendly! 

Waitui Marina Fiji

Waitui Marina Fiji

Health Officials

The first officials to come to the boat are the health officials.  They administer covid tests to ensure we are “clean.”  After a stick to the brain, we get the all clear.  Then we are handed (2) invoices.  One is for $40F (which is about $20 U.S.) per person for the covid tests.  We pay this to the marina and the nurse picks it up later.  The other invoice is for $163.50F ($82 U.S.) which has to be paid at the hospital which is 1.2 miles from the marina.  Then we can either email the paid receipt to the nurse or we can drop it off at the hospital court office (we emailed it).  Once we email the paid receipt, they email us our negative covid certificate.

The marina comes to pick them up and take them to their next boat.  A few minutes later, Customs and Immigration are delivered to us.

Customs and Immigration

Two people come for customs and immigration.  We have to provide a lot of paperwork to them including our boat registration, passports, exit paperwork from French Polynesia, vaccine cards, negative test. C2-C entry form, crew list, and we sign a few more forms.  They stamp our passports (sweet) and tell us that we need to go to Customs in a few days to pick up our cruising permit.  We are charged $40F because they came to our boat during their lunch break (we did not have a choice in the matter).

The marina picks them up and whisks them to their next boat and then they bring biosecurity.

Biosecurity

Biosecurity is responsible for ensuring we do not bring anything “illegal” into the country.  Are you thinking guns, pets, weapons?  Well that too, but they are looking for honey, seeds, shells, feathers, meats, produce.  Yep, all of that is against the law to bring into Fiji!  We pass with flying colors, mostly because it is Friday afternoon and I think he wants to call it a day.  He gives us an invoice and tells us to go to his office to pay $85F ($43 U.S.).          

The Race

It is now close to 2:45pm and all of the offices close at 4:00pm.  We have to go to shore, find a bank, and pay all of the invoices.    The race is on!  Lucky for us, Fiji makes it easy in Savusavu.  There is only one main road and everything can be found in the small town.

We find the bank, go to a market to buy some drinks (mostly to get change) as the offices want exact payment.  We first hoof it to the hospital as it is the furthest. The guy was super nice and made us laugh.

We manage to hit all the offices in time and then we reward ourselves with some cold drinks.

The next few days are spent exploring the town, finding the fresh market (see photo below), and visiting with a few friends who we met in French Polynesia.

We had drinks and snacks at the neighboring marina, Copra Shed Marina.  Our friends on Major Tom (Anki and Sivert) joined us for many a cocktail.

Can you guess where I am?

View from the boat opposite the marina.

They are building a new marina which they hope to be ready before cyclone season (in 4 months).

New Marina in Progress

New Marina in Progress

They have lots of hot springs in Fiji.  Some of them are right next to the mooring fields. 

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

In our last blog we transit across the Pacific from French Polynesia to Fiji.  Our blogs run 10-12 weeks behind schedule.  This blog occurred mid-June, 2022.

Passage: French Polynesia to Fiji

It feels like we have been preparing for this long passage for months.  Way longer than the actual passage.  But it’s all in the preparations to make for a smooth and easy sail.

Matt posted “live blogs” during the passage (which took place in June 2022) so I will try not to duplicate him, but if you are interested in reading them (he is super funny).  Click here to read the first of his 12 posts during our passage.

We left from Bora Bora and our friends from Askari managed to get a departing photo with the Bora Bora caldera in the background.

Departing Bora Bora

Departing Bora Bora

Trip Details

  • Departure Date and Time: Saturday, 4 June 2022 at 12:30pm
  • Miles to Destination (as the crow flies): 50
  • Engine Hours: Port: 4213 and Starboard: 4374
  • Estimated Arrival Time: 19 June 2022 (Fiji is 22 hours ahead of Tahiti so we lost a day)

Shifts:

Matt and I do 3 hours on and 3 hours off for passages.  Basically, Matt works the 8p-11p shift, I work the 11p-2a, Matt is back up 2a-5a and I am up from 5a-8a.  During the day we rotate however we want (sort of light schedule).   Averaging 5 hours of broken sleep a night is challenging at best.

Day 1

We purposely picked this weather window because it had light winds for the first few days.  This is crucial for me because I am prone to sea sickness.  Having light winds allows me to slowly get my “sea legs.”   Weather predictions are really guessing as they are often wrong.  But usually the first 3 days are somewhat accurate.  Four different forecasts had us going way North increasing our cross track to over 100 miles (meaning we went over 100 miles out of our way to ensure we stayed in the wind zone).

Forecasts Routing

Forecasts Routing

We flew wing on wing (main sail on port and jib on starboard) and then tried to fly the parasail.  We lost sight of land at dark, just a mere 6 hours after we started our passage.

Day 2 & 3

Lovely days with light winds.  We flew the parasail for most of the day and managed to maintain a 6.5 boat speed.  Another boat showed up on AIS (radar) called Moondance.  They were mirroring us which was odd.  We headed to port, then they did, we headed to starboard, then they did.  We eventually lost them and left them in the dust.

Parasail

Parasail

We leave French waters and enter Cook Islands territory.  The closest island is Suwarrow which is south and still over 300nm away (2-2.5 days).

Crossing into Cook Islands

Crossing into Cook Islands

Day 4:

A rather large squall came through in the wee hours of the morning bringing over 35kts of wind and super strong, large rain drops.  Just as we finished dropping all the sails, the winds picked up to 35kts and the rain pelted us.  It was a downpour and both Matt and I were soaked to the bone.  We motored during the worse part of the storm and then it left us with no wind when it passed.   Drat, we ended up using the motors for close to 20 hours.  Since it was a motor day, I made chocolate chip mint cookies.  We need all the sugar and caffeine we can get to keep us awake during the night shifts.

Day 5

We finally broke the 1000nm mark.  Yeah what a relief.  In addition, we reduced our cross track bringing us closer to our destination.

Medium Spinnaker 150m

Medium Spinnaker 150m

At night we rely a lot on our instruments.  We are running weather forecasts on Matt’s computer, we have radar on (bottom circular diagram), Vesper Marine, and B&G instruments all running at the same time.  In addition, we have 2 iPads that are running different charts.

Day 6

Two things to celebrate: (1) We reached the half way mark of 832 nm to go.  Of course, that is as the crow flies and does not take into account that we have to sail around islands (vs through them).  The second thing we celebrated was a beautiful pod of whales.  I saw a spout and thought was that a spout or just the wind kicking up sea spray?  It turned out to be a spout.  At least 4 whales played around Sugar Shack for about 20 minutes.  One came alongside our boat and then went under the boat.  Super cool, but holy h3ll that could have been disastrous if he breached the surface while under Sugar Shack.

The photos are not very good as I was frozen in place when they breached.  But they were there, I promise.

Day 7-8

We alternate between our medium spinnaker, the parasail, and the working sails.  Depends on the winds and gusts.  We had particularly calm weather and decided to swap out our sails.  As we hoisted the medium spinnaker a gust came up and made a slight tear at the top.  We had to bring her down to avoid total destruction.  Matt was able to repair the sail and get it back in the rotation a few days later.

On a good note, we caught (2) male mahi mahi in the afternoon.  The first line went “zing” and as we went to pull in the other lines a 2nd line went zing!

These are the winning lures that caught our tasty fish.

Day 9:

We enter the waters of Tonga.  I sure wish Tonga was open but alas she is shut down due to Covid still.  So, we sail on through longingly looking at the beautiful islands from a far.  Kidding we can’t see anything as it is way too far away.  But the longing is still there.

Day 10:

Another beautiful day on passage.  We were changing sails from the jib to the parasail when we had another little mishap.  Matt was raising the sock (with the sail inside) as per usual.  However, I noticed that the sock looked empty so I shouted at Matt to stop, but he couldn’t hear me over the roar of the wind.  I stepped up my vocal cords and got his attention just as the entire parasail came out of the sock and into the sea.  Holy cow!

It is 3am and raining.  We are both at the bow trying to pull in the sail.  Just as we got the sail onboard, the sock goes under the boat.  You’ve got to be kidding!  We manage to salvage both the sail and the sock and bring them back to the cockpit. What happened?  Well, there is a shackle at the top of the sock that holds the sail inside.  That shackle opened up and we nearly lost the sail.  Lucky for us, an easy fix.

Day 11

We make our first land sighting at 122nm to go.  Super cool to see land after being at sea for 11 days.  The islands are far off in the distance, but you can certainly make out the beautiful mountains.  We had a very squally and rainy day today which makes it hard to fly the lighter sails (spinnaker and parasail) which make us go faster.  But we continued on averaging 5-6kts for the day.  Today was my last day as net controller on the Poly Mag Net an SSB radio net that I’ve been volunteering for over the last 2 years.  It was hard to let go.

Day 12

We arrive into the island of Vanua Levu and go to Savusavu bay to clear into customs.  We arrived around 10:30am which was 11 days and 23 hours after we picked up the hook in Bora Bora!  Not bad, not bad at all!  We had anticipated it taking 2 full weeks and we made it in 12 days.

Trip Details:

  • Miles to Destination: 1,664
  • Actual Miles Sailed: 1,777
  • Average Speed over 12 days: 2
  • Max Speed: 9
  • Engine Hours: Port: 4233 and starboard 4384

We motored about 20 hours with the majority of that time being right after the large squall on day 4.  The rest of the time we were able to sail.

Here is our track from French Polynesia to Fiji.

French Poly to Fiji Track

How did I entertained myself?

I read 3 books, I watched Season 2 of Bridgerton and S1 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and watched 2 movies.  Of course, there were lots of games of solitaire and word puzzles too.

Some beautiful moon pictures.  The moon came out during the second half of our passage and lit our way through the darkness.

And a collection of sunset photos during our passage.

Sunsets during passage

Sunsets during passage

We prepare to vamoose from French Polynesia in our blast blog.  Events from this blog occurred in early June.  Please note that our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual events.

Tauna, Gambier

We Vamoose from French Polynesia

There is a lot we need to do before we vamoose from French Polynesia and head to Fiji.  This will be the longest passage Matt and I do solo together.  We sailed 18 days with 2 other people which split the shifts up nicely.  We sailed 11 days with just the two of us (from Easter Island to Gambier), but this passage will be between 13-16 days.

So, you might think…what do you do to prepare to be at seas for up to 16 consecutive days in a row?  Drink heavily?  No, well, not really.  There is lots of paperwork to do to clear out of French Polynesia and to clear into Fiji.  We also have to prepare meals, return items, and ready the boat to vamoose.

Sugar Shack, Matt and I have to legally “clear out” of French Polynesia prior to vamoosing.  We cleared into the country 11 April 2019 (over 3 years ago).  Can you believe we have been here for that long?  We certainly did not anticipate staying here this long, but it has been a wonderful adventure!

Requesting Permission to Enter Fiji

Before we can depart French Polynesia, we have to receive approval to go to Fiji.  Easy enough for us as we hired a local agent to help us with the clearance process.  We technically did not have to hire an agent but since we had engaged with one prior to the “hiring of an agent requirement” was lifted we decided to continue to use her services.

It seems like we have to jump through hoops, but in reality, it is no different than any other country.  We submitted:

  • Copies of passports (all crew)
  • Vaccination cards (all crew)
  • Arrival health declaration form (each crew to complete)
  • Photo of Sugar Shack
  • Arrival Immigration Statement
  • C2C Form (which is 18 pages!)

The clearance approval usually takes 3 days, but since we have an agent it only took 3 hours!  We have friends who did not use an agent and they waited weeks for their approval.  So worth the $350 to use an agent!

We remain in contact with our agent and tell her when we depart.  Then again, we alert her of our impending arrival 72 hours in advance.  She then arranges for all completed paperwork to be sent to the local authorities as we are not clearing in at Denerau where she is located.  We are clearing in at Savusavu on a different island.  Let’s hope that process goes smoothly too.

Clearing out of French Polynesia

Technically, we have to vamoose immediately after we get approval to leave.  The hiccup lies in the weather.  We want to leave on a “good weather window” not because we are being asked to leave the country.  It takes 3 days to clear out, so we take our chances and start the paperwork.

Most boats clear out of Tahiti as that is where the main customs, immigration, and Douane offices are located.  But since covid restrictions have been lifted we can now clear out of Raiatea, Huahine, and Bora Bora.  We decided to clear out of Raiatea.

Documents to Clear Out:

  • Entry paperwork (original clearance documentation)
  • Boat registration
  • Passports for all crew
  • Vaccination for all crew
  • Extension letter (we got a 3-month extension to do some work on Sugar Shack)

We arrive at the gendarmerie, perform some hand signals to tell them what we want and are handed 5 more documents to complete.  30-minutes later we hand in all the paperwork and are told to come back in a few days.

Two days later we inquire about our status and are faced with several confused faces.  Oh dear.  The Gendarmerie search and search and low and behold they finally find our approval email and are able to stamp our passports and documents. 

They hand us one document that has to be mailed to Papeete and one document to hand to Fijian officials.  Then they tell us to vamoose quickly. We are officially a boat without a country!

Up Next

Now that the paperwork has been submitted, we start working on other preparations.  We anticipate bad weather and prepare accordingly.   In bad weather, it makes it challenging to cook.  So, we, well really Matt, prepares a lot of meals and freezes them.

Matt has precooked 2 meals for 2 people of the following dishes:

  • Butter chicken with bow tie pasta
  • Chicken Rotti
  • Pulled Port
  • Tuscany Chicken

Plus we have pork chops and loads of sausage and pasta we can easily prepare.

I made an army of gingerbread men (thanx to my grandma’s recipe) to take care of me and help prevent sea sickness.

We fueled up the boat with diesel and gasoline.  Got to make sure we have fuel in case the wind dies.  We hand off our Polynesian propane tank to our friend Eve on “Auntie.”  Sugar Shack have two American tanks which will keep us going until we get to Fiji and can purchase another local tank.

We have a local Vini (cell phone company) contract with a small router that we purchased 3 years ago.  But in order to cancel the contract to get our deposit we have to live without internet.  Normally not a big deal, but we want to stay connected before departure in case there are any issues with our clearance paperwork.  So, it looks like we will walk away from our $100 deposit (suckage).

The cases of beer come in a plastic 20-bottle case. There is a deposit on the bottles and case of about $40.  We turn in our last 2 cases to get that deposit back and are able to apply that credit to our provisions!  Sweet

Hidden Gems

Fiji does not allow a lot of items into the country.  For example, all meats, cheeses, dairy, fresh produce (fruit and veg), seeds (including popcorn), and honey are forbidden.  So, we have to eat all of this prior to arrival.

In addition, they do not allow sea shells, wood, feathers, and sand/soil.  You probably think that these are not a big deal, but I live on a boat and have collected these items for the past 12 years!  We have sea shells (found on the beach) from the Caribbean, Bonaire, Galapagos, Easter island, and of course French Polynesia.  I have a small feather head band from a Marquesan Heiva, a sand and soil art piece created just for me and lots of wood décor.  Oh dear!

I did manage to bring an entire bag of sea shells to my sister (thank you Kimberly). I do not plan to take any of these remaining items off my boat.  Some of these items are stuck to the boat so they don’t fall over while underway.  Those items that are double sticky taped are still out in the open – too hard to remove them and I am hoping they see they are truly décor with no living creatures.  I then did the unthinkable…I hid a few items.  We are talking about carved oyster shells, carved drift wood that have been painted and shellacked, and other items that clearly have no critters.  Fingers crossed 🙂

Safety First

The last thing that we do is prepare the boat for a long passage.  We install jack lines which are a strong tether that goes from the stern of the boat to the bow.  If we have to go to the bow while we are underway, we tether ourselves to this line so we don’t fall over and get lost at sea (slightly important).

We take out our ditch bag and first aid kit.  These items have emergency items (flashlights, water, some food, batteries, water bottle, mirror, etc…)  We also set out our foul weather gear and PFDs (personal floatation devices).  Everything has to be easily accessible.

We stow any and all items that have the potential to fall or break. Secure all cabins, cabinets, and closets. Create a snack basket that is easy to access during night passages.  Check all EPIRBS, put in fresh batteries in them and the hand held GPS.  We double check our Iridium and sent out texts, emails and a phone call.

Check, Check, Check.  Now we just need a weather window!

Stay tuned for passage details coming up next..

Do you remember Marvin Gaye’s album cover “Sugar Shack?”  It sold for close to $15 million!

Marvin Gaye's Sugar Shack cover

Marvin Gaye’s Sugar Shack cover

Did you read our post on the Liward islands?  Be sure to check it out as we say goodbyes before we vamoose!  This blog occurred in late May. Our blog runs 10-12 weeks behind actual events.