Trip Reports

Savusavu and the Road to Lambasa (21-Jul-2001-08-30):
8:30 AM local time Saturday, July 21st. (2030 July 20th UTC) 16 46 S 179 20 E. Temp. 79, Humidity 87%, cloud cover 80%. On a mooring at the Copra Shed Marina, Savusavu Bay, Vanua Levu, Fiji. Warm greetings from the crew of Maverick.

If, during the long, dark last night of the passage to Fiji, it seemed to the boys as though they were in a dungeon of physical and psychological purgatory, when they arrived in Savusavu they felt, as they often do at the end of a passage, like they had landed on the very doorstep of paradise. Upon entering Na Kama Creek on Saturday, a boat came out to greet us and lead us to a mooring. It was manned by Geoff Taylor, an Olympic Finn sailor and the energetic kingpin of the small but vibrant local yachting scene. He helped us with formalities and at a meeting the next night, he and the rest of the Savusavu Yacht Club officers apologized for the lack of festivities upon our arrival. We accepted their apology and they have graciously scheduled a regatta and welcoming feast for this coming weekend, complete with native dancing and food. OK, it's not really just in Maverick's honor but the truth is that the welcome we've received here outshines that of any other country where we've made landfall, even Niue. Geoff is scheduling two races: In the morning, the cruisers will be at the helm of Optimist dinghies and local kids, who have become hotshot sailors under Geoff's coaching, will be in the boat calling tactics. Later, the kids will crew on the cruisers' boats for a big boat race.

Speaking of races, Fiji seems as integrated as anyplace the Captain has ever been. During the recent coup, rebels took over the local police station and when the army came in to retake it, the rebels were viciously beaten. Yet today we see no extra security on the streets, and the native Fijians, East Indians, and whites (who are a very small minority) seem on quite friendly terms. You will see all cultures drinking together at the bar at the Savusavu Yacht Club, which is more than can be said about any yacht club in oh-so-liberal San Francisco. To us, at least, the situation doesn't seem to rise as yet anywhere near the Northern Ireland or Palestinian level in terms of hostility between the opposing factions; and it certainly hasn't hampered our visit. Next month, however, there are elections, and we'd like to be out of here by then.

Fiji consists of two large islands, Vanua Levu, where we are, and Viti Levu to the south, where we'll soon sail. In addition, there are 330 more islands which are much smaller. The big islands are larger than any others we've visited, more than twice the size of Tahiti, for example, and are big enough to have different ecosystems. Ship's Tour Guide Terry Shrode and the Captain took a three-hour bus ride over the mountains from Savusavu to Lambasa that began with the silly redundancy of verdure that reminded us of Tahaa. But soon we were in a high valley reminiscent of Wyoming, even though the pines were mixed with tree ferns. Down on the leeward side of the island, there were rolling hills of farmland given over to the cultivation of sugar cane. Throughout, the beauty fell on the Captain's eyes in cloudbursts, like sheets of rain. The town of Lambasa was dusty and worn, and apparently populated mostly by Indians. Fiji is the first country we've come to in the South Pacific which is not uniformly Christian, and along the road and in town we saw examples of Hindu art and architecture. We didn't linger in the city but after a lunch of curried lamb took the first bus back, and the return trip was just as mesmerizing as the trip out, as we passed small villages where women sold refreshments to bus passengers through the windows much as is done at train stations in Europe.

At the yacht club bar the next day your correspondent met Malcolm, a sixty-year-old retiree from the communications field in England. Three years ago he met and married a local woman of Fijian and Chinese descent and moved to her family place in the country, the "bush," to farm "grog," which is slang for Kava. Malcolm's wife's farm is barely self- sustaining for the eight people who live there under a tin roof. There is no electricity and water is brought in from the creek, where laundry is also done. Malcolm is well-educated and sophisticated, articulate, very pleasant, a good drinker, and he and his wife seem about as happy as anyone anywhere might hope to be. PS, in re: last time's PS on having thought of a better way to have entered Savusavu: After reviewing the charts and fixes, I stand by my original decision. Bottom line is, we're here. A couple of days later, just to prove what a piker Maverick's captain is, a woman from England, now a New Zealand resident, who had lost the use of both onboard GPSs sailed in after taking a sextant sight. She had a crew of four and the conditions were milder and the wind direction more favorable, but still. The sailors from New Zealand we've met are hard-core

Next report from this location: Kava Jive.

Back to the Progress Chart | Back to Trip Reports
Progress ChartTrip ReportsPhoto GalleryAbout MaverickThe CrewGlossary & Technical Weather Check