Trip Reports

Fijiphila (23-Aug-2001-07-30):
7:30 AM local time Thursday, August 23rd. (1930 August 22nd UTC) 17 39 S 177 23 E. Temp. 79, Humidity 71%, cloud cover 90%. At anchor at Saweni Bay, Viti Levu, Fiji.

Warm greetings from the crew of Maverick.

The South Pacific Convergence Zone is a trough of low pressure that appears and disappears mysteriously over our whole route from Papeete through Tonga and Fiji up to the Solomons, sometimes extending 50 degrees in longitude and twenty in latitude. Not to be confused with the Intertropical Convergence Zone (the doldrums), this zone brings unpredictable bad weather and wind, and has bedeviled Ship's Weather Forecaster Terry Shrode and the Captain since Papeete. Some years it appears more often than others, or is stronger, and this is one of those years, it seems.

Last Thursday, the weather services predicted 30 knots from the north. Since Malolo Lailai, where we were, is a well-protected anchorage from that direction we delayed our departure to Viti Levu, as the anchorages we were headed for were open to northerlies. On Thursday we got torrential rain but little wind, but on Friday morning the wind built to 35 with gusts to 45, but it was from the south. In the Captain's weaker moments he thinks the weather services would be doing us a big favor if they just said, "Tomorrow there will probably be more wind than usual from one direction or another." At least we would not get the idea that they really did know something that no one knows. But I know they're trying their best, in their warm, dry, little offices.

So instead of moving to Viti Levu, where we would have been well protected from a southerly, we stayed put. What happens in an anchorage protected from the ocean by reefs, like Malolo Lailai is to the south, is that at high tide, the protection is minimized because the reefs are four to five feet beneath the surface. On Friday we were right before a new moon so with high winds all day--to reiterate, from the south--it got stressful, with two to three feet of chop. Two boats had their mooring lines part and very quickly fetched up on the reef. One boat was pulled off by some fast action by local boats, but the other, a 100- year-old wooden boat named AnneBeth, is holed and is still aground, full of water at high tide. And that's only counting what happened at Malolo. Maverick, with 250 feet of chain out in fifty feet, stayed put but our snubber, a nylon line that takes the strain off the last twenty feet of chain or so, did break with a bang. We stayed on the boat for 48 hours to keep watch. (Fearless, by the way, was hauled out near here and repaired well enough to continue its cruise, this time with a crew of two.)

On Monday we moved ourselves twenty miles to the east to the West Coast of Viti Levu. Here we've spent a couple of days checking out the towns of Lautoka and Nadi and environs, and also doing some provisioning for our passage to Vanuatu. On the 24th, elections begin here, and though everything is being done to insure they are fair and peaceful, there is a bit of nervousness in the air and it is not out of the question that there will be some civil disturbances following the announcement of the results, or efforts by some elements to disrupt the process entirely. We have no reason to fear for our personal safety, but to avoid any disruption that could possibly be caused in government services we checked out of customs and immigration yesterday and will sail today.

Fiji has proven to be a difficult place to leave for all the reasons you might imagine. It's also a democracy, or at least one in the making, and they have what seems to be a free press including radio and the evening television news. It feels like this gives the people a different outlook than French Polynesia or Tonga. English is universally spoken and that has made our stay more interesting. The sailing is challenging, but has its rewards. Undoubtedly, our departure will be the most bittersweet of the trip so far.

But it's time to go. As much affection as we have for all the countries we've visited, the excitement begins when we say our farewells and set our course for a distant harbor, a place we've barely heard about, and despite our charts and books and sailing directions, it'll be someplace we can't imagine. We've charted our course to Port Vila, Vanuatu, our last stop in the South Pacific and a voyage of about 500 miles, and entered the waypoints into the GPS. The tanks have been topped off and soon we'll deflate and stow the dinghy and its gear, put away books and dishes, check the lashings on the jerry cans, take the cover off the mainsail, make the halyard fast to the headboard, and start the engine. The Captain will declare, "Mr. Shrode, our work here is done. Raise the anchor, if you please, and we'll be off to show the flag and share the magic that is Maverick, in a new land."

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