We absolutely adored Fiji, mostly because everyone we met was unreservedly welcoming and friendly. From the port officials and tuna fishermen who invited us to drink kava in the port offices in Levuka, to the sugar cane train drivers who invited me into their cab for a breakfast kava drink.
We made landfall in the old capital of Fiji, and cleared in with friendly officials. The old capital is a World Heritage site and preserves its old colonial buildings combined with a clean, fresh painted laid back feel.
From there we sailed north around the main island of Viti Levu for four days, anchoring in various bays but, in the end, never engaging with a village in the sevusevu kava ceremony. We spent one night anchored at the little island of Nananu-I-ra where we went ashore and enjoyed the peaceful low key resort, which was a few modest bungalows, without hot water. However there was a bar, which enabled us to watch the sunset through the palm trees in the approved manner.
We went snorkelling on the reef and found an amazing landscape of corals and fish, unlike any before. Phil was always fishing and consistently hauling in a wide variety of colourful reef fish by day and great long scary fish by night.
A huge fire was burning in the hills, and the thick smoke had been irritating us all the day. Eventually we arrived at Lautoka City, and anchored off the wharf, out of the smoke at last,mouth suddenly beneath the plume of the sugar refinery, which covered us in black ash overnight, from the burning bagasse. Our anchor kept dragging in a strong breeze, and Justin and I stayed aboard while Siobhan led a shopping trip ashore. Eventually we got the anchor to hold as darkness fell, but I had a restless night checking our anchor frequently.
The following day was 26th July and we made it in good time to Vuda (pronounced Vunda) Marina. With a strong crosswind the narrow channel carved through the coral was a bit daunting, but once through to the circular marina pool we were sheltered from the gale and, with the help of the marina launch, easily managed to moor bows to between all the other radially moored yachts.
Vuda was a welcome stop which provided everything I needed for repairs and maintenance. We were able to repair the mainsail and sprayhood, change the water pump on the generator and adjust its tappets, and attend to the chart-plotter which had been getting frozen and then rebooting all the time. We were there for 8 days while we worked on the boat and managed the crew change. We're sad to say goodbye to Phil, who had been so helpful in tackling various mechanical problems en route, and the most amazing fisherman. Then Justin and Siobhan left for a few days on land, and although very sorry to say farewell to Siobhan, we will soon see Justin again in Vanuatu.
Despite our best efforts we didn't manage to get out for any serious exploration of Fiji, as each set of engineers seemed to only be available on different days! However we did get into the neighbouring town of Nadi (Nandi) and Lautoka city, and to save on taxi fares I hired a car which was invaluable for provisioning and other errands. I also bought 23 meters of black netting, from which Mark and I fashioned mosquito nets for each hatch, and for the cockpit, in anticipation of malarial mozzies in Vanuatu and beyond. We found a seamstress in Lautoka, who sewed up all the covers, which I had tacked together to fit.
Vuda also provided a very nice restaurant and bar overlooking the sea and, because we were moored between boats, we soon got to know several of our fellow travellers after the day's work.
On the 2nd of August the McAdie family arrived, and the following day we cleared customs and immigration, filled with fuel and settled all our bills before departing at 14:00. By 17:30 we were heading out through the reef on the 470 mile trip to Vanuatu. As we did so we were delighted to see the super yacht Annatta sailing in. I called on the radio to congratulate skipper, Fabien, who we had met in Papeete. Annatta originally had the tallest mast in the world at 87 metres, but is now the second tallest. She has had a very long time in dock and the crew must be thrilled to be sailing at last.