Until recently it’s taken special permission just to enter the Lau Island group in Fiji. This group of Islands is east of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, the two main islands, and when heading west from Tonga you have to zig-zag through all the reef strewn waters and islets to clear in to Fiji. We avoided this scary scenario by entering Fijian waters from the south, north from New Zealand. Not that there wasn’t plenty to run into, it’s just that most of the obstructions are at least marked on the decidedly sketchy charts. Traveling east from Tonga, not so much.
Once again we had to steel ourselves to break away from Jolene at Waitui Marina, up the creek in Savusavu. It seemed a weather window would never come right for us so the best we could come up with was two days that were not too bad. One last listen to Gulf Harbor Radio for weather, which we hear streaming on the Internet since our radio went DOA, and we eased the mooring lines ready for, with any luck at all, 111 miles of diesel drone. This will put us over 20,000 miles traveled so far on Escape Velocity.
We turned the corner at the luckless JM Cousteau resort and found, as expected, light winds OTN (on the nose). With a little fine tuning we realized that we could fly our jib and at least look like a sailboat. Eventually the wind clocked around a few degrees and we were able to actually raise the main and sail for a few hours. We dropped just the mainsail before dark and headed into heavy rain squalls. No stars tonight.
Morning never really dawned, the overcast and fog just lightened slightly and we heard two boats on VHF radio behind us discussing the tricky Bay of Islands pass through the rocks and the reefs. This is the big leagues of piloting folks. Our Raymarine chart plotter has ten year old charts that are off about a mile in parts of Fiji. The GPS isn’t off, just where they positioned land on the chart is off. This is one of those parts.
Several guide beacons are missing on the approach to the narrow pass which requires the pilot to line up twin white poles on shore, quickly correcting any slides caused by the swirling currents. The only problem is that the entire Island of Vanuabalavu is enshrouded in fog and rain. We notice that the IPad is less lost than the built in chart plotter but we can’t go in until it clears up a bit. We’re a little early anyway so we drop the jib and bob around waiting at our waypoint outside the pass.
Thirty minutes later a large white ketch appears out of the fog heading towards the pass and it’s one of the boats we’d heard on the radio last night. Turns out he’d been through here before and graciously didn’t mind being the guinea pig. Finally it clears enough to see the twin range poles and we tiptoe into the pass which has little rock indications scattered all over the chart looking like someone has been eating crunchy cookies over it. It’s not a good visual sun day to be doing this but this is the day we have so we do the best we can.
There are many little coves in this Bay of Islands and after sniffing around awhile, in true Escapee fashion, we wiggled into a pretty little cul du sac that has a white sand bottom in 15 feet of water so clear I could see our anchor digging into the sand.
It didn’t take long before the kayaks, Jean & Frank, were launched and the exploring began. This place is mysteriously beautiful. I had no preconceived notion of what the Bay of Islands was all about. It’s the kind of place that draws you in because around every turn it just takes your breath away and we’ve seen some amazing places. This is all that and more. We may have to revise our schedule.