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The long way around

Oct 25, 2013

New Zealand to Fiji via the Tsar’s thumb

(page 3 of 3)

A straightforward approach
The main challenge left was navigation as we approached the islands of southern Fiji. Sunday was a day of ticking off progress past large islands as we made our way north. In this area, the islands are widely spaced and mercifully free of isolated dangers, making the approach to Savusavu straightforward. It was only with a few miles to go that we put on our polarized sunglasses to run the reef-lined entrance into Savusavu Bay. No sooner had we made the turn into Nakama Creek than a launch from Waitui Marina came out to guide us to our mooring with a friendly hello — in Fiji, that’s a hearty “Bula!”

Fiji officials join Markus in the cockpit to review Namani’s clearing-in papers.

The longest passage of our second Pacific cruising season was now behind us; we were back in the tropics at last, and could look forward to shorter hops all the way to Australia.

Including our detour around the Tsar’s thumb, Namani sailed 1,485 miles instead of a straight-line 1,140 miles. We spotted everything from small petrels to broad-winged albatross on the way from 35° S to 17° S, and flew four different sails over the course of this varied passage, from our biggest sail (the Parasailor) to the smallest (the baby staysail). We were especially glad that we had taken the time to do a test hoist of this sail back in New Zealand and that we’d stowed it within easy reach.

Having waited a long time for a good weather window, we admit to feeling a bit chagrined to find that our chosen slot was not significantly better than many earlier departure times we had rejected. In fact, we broke our own rule: never to assume anything about a developing tropical depression is predictable. On the other hand, we console ourselves with the fact that we had been tracking the two weather systems that disturbed our passage all along; when their paths did deviate from the forecast, we could quickly go to Plan B. Of course, we could have waited another few weeks in New Zealand, but sooner or later, every cruiser has to hit the road. And ultimately, that is what separates the boats at the dock from the ones sending tropical greetings home.

Nadine Slavinski is the author of Lesson Plans Ahoy: Hands-On Learning for Sailing Children and Home Schooling Sailors (see Together with her husband and young son, she lives aboard her 1981 Dufour 35, Namani.


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