[100724, 2156 UTC, Fawn Harbor, Vanua Levu, Fiji; 16°43.48'S / 179°43.49'E]
Philip slowly cranked in the anchor chain in the dim light of dawn. (Jake had taken to hiding at the first sound of the engine.) The anchor finally broke the water's surface as the clouds over the hills above our anchorage at Lesiaceva Point began to grow rosy with sunrise. Raising a double-reefed mainsail, we began motoring from the protection of the Savusavu Bay on towards the mouth where the waves began to rise, driven by days of strong trade winds on the Koro Sea. We gave the dangerous point a wide berth, following our incoming waypoints, with the knowledge that the reef extends well beyond the limits indicated by the lighthouse. Turning SE towards the Lau Group (a wild and seldom visited chain of islands), the "noserly" wind and short steep waves nearly stopped us dead. We fell off the wind a bit and continued forward, our sails set too tight to the wind to sail with just sails alone, and quickly realized that at our present 2 knots of boat speed, we would not count on getting to Lau today, or even tomorrow.
Our alternative had been to head up the southern shore of Vanua Levu Island and seek shelter in Fawn Harbor behind a wide coral reef to wait until there was a break in the trade winds. Fawn Harbor is home to the village of Bagasau and also to the Pickering plantation. The Pickering family has a reputation for being warm and friendly to yachts. To get to Fawn Harbor, however, we still needed to beat off the lee shore, which is lined with reef. Continuing to motor sail, Carina took most waves gracefully, though occasionally one particularly nasty one slapped her right on the nose, sending water down the decks and even onto the face of the helmsman.
We finally reached a safe distance offshore the mouth of Savusavu Bay and allowed the large aluminum yacht, Adamite, which was fast coming up, to tack behind us and bear away, and then we tacked and pointed almost due east on the compass. At this point we thought we could sail, but an adverse current and the short seas and our too tight point of sail precluded it and we rolled in the genoa and resigned ourselves to motor sailing under main and staysail. Hours later, having achieved longitude 179-30 E, winds clocked a bit and Carina took off like a rocket, bashing through the waves in excess of 6 knots now under reefed sails alone. We knew at this point we would make the dog-legged reef passage at Fawn Harbor with the sun still high in the sky, so we continued on.
One mile from the reef entrance we lowered sail and began motoring while straining to see the reef and its break. When viewed from almost due south upon approach, the reef entrance was not evident - its first aid to navigation is a log marking, though not quite, the limit to the reef on the starboard. Breakers along the length of the reef were "dead" ahead as Carina surfed wind waves and swell that continued to roll in, making Leslie even more anxious she would normally be on an approach to hard, crunchy, hull-wrecking things. Philip, as usual, was a lot more sanguine about our approach. Relatively confident in our twice-checked GPS waypoints which were obtained from at least two sources, we continued on and shot through the pass with Philip on the bow confirming the location of the reef and bommies (patches of coral that rise up almost to sea level from the ocean floor). Once inside, we could see only reefs stretching east and west for miles and miles, and we continued deep into the bay to anchor off the Pickering Plantation. Except for the south, "reefy" side of the bay, mangroves line the shoreline with coastal mountains rising behind.
Tired, and hungry, since we hadn't eaten breakfast as we had been in a rush to be underway, or lunch because of the rough conditions, we slowly worked around the salt-encrusted deck to cover our sails and to put Carina back to some order. It was then we discovered we had failed to dog down the forward hatch sufficiently and all of our bedding was wet - grrr. Even that did not dampen our thrill to be here, snug behind a massive reef with trade winds blowing, watching the sun slowly sink and illuminate the slopes of majestic and wild Tavenui Island, roughly 15 miles away.
Today is Sunday and things ashore are quiet. We will not soon be required immediately to participate in the traditional Fijian "sevusevu" ceremony, where a gift of kava is presented to the chief by a visitor, since there has been a death in the village of Bagasau. The body of the guest of honor has been delayed in arriving for the celebration due cancellations in the Fijian ferry schedule. Instead, we'll putter around Carina and attend to some mundane chores: baking bread, drying out bedding, washing down salty surfaces, and just generally cleaning up. Later today, we'll launch our dinghy to explore the bay and then prepare a nice Sunday dinner. (For those who are interested we have a few new recipes on the website: www.sv-carina.org)
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake