September 28, 2011
We departed Lavuka as soon as we cleared in for the 40 mile trip to Suva just before lunch with cloudy skies and brisk winds out of the SE. Our course was SW and we were close hauled with the winds coming from 60 degrees off our port bow and averaging just over 7 knots. It was a bumpy, wet ride and we were fighting the clock to make port before dark. We rounded the SE corner of Viti Levu just after 4:00 pm and and found ourselves quickly running out of daylight. Luckily there was a bay that we could anchor in that we found on the charts and set our course for Luthala Island 7 miles closer across the bay from Suva.
The outer reef into the bay was strewn with the rusty remains of several wrecks and I was more than a little nervous as we past Belcher Rocks and carefully made our way through the shallow cut in the reef. When you watch the depth meter go from several hundred feet to the low 20’s in just a 100 yards you always wonder just how shallow will it get? We saw the bottom rise in the clear blue water to just 16 feet before it dropped back to 80, the depth of the inside passage. Whew!! we had a whole 10 feet to spare!
With the anchor buried in soft mud just before dark and Downtime safely in a protected bay we had a restful night sleep but woke the next day to still more stormy weather. Our first mission in Suva was to restock the produce refrigerator and after a quick breakfast we set off in SD across the bay to the market. Wouldn’t you know it, half way across the skies opened up as we made our way to the Yacht Club in pouring rain. We left SD at the dingy dock and got into the cab with wet butts and off to the market we went.
The cabs here are easy to find and really cheap, it was only $2 US to get to the market a short 10 minute ride downtown. The market is just short of amazing with hundreds of vendors peddling the local produce. One section is just water melons and pineapples and in other areas you can find most any thing your heart desires produce wise. Upstairs is where they sell Kava and other dried goods. Kava is the local nova cane tea drink that numbs your whole body as we would soon find out. We bought a few kilos to be used as gifts to the chiefs at islands we would soon visit. Then it was downstairs to do some serious produce shopping. An hour later we had our Home Depot bags full of all we could carry for about $50 US. Every vendor had the same prices and treated us nicely, but freshness was what we were looking for and there was plenty of really fresh stuff here. We finally had to hire a guy with a wheel barrow to follow Daria around to haul all the vegetables she was buying. Outside on our way to the taxi stand we walked through the flower vendors and there were giant birds of paradise, beautiful orchids and many other colorful flowers on sale.
Another $2 got us a ride back to the Yacht Club where we were met by the manager with a message that Customs had called them and was wondering where we were at? We told them we had weather problems and would be in shortly after lunch to clear in. With customs you learn to tell them what the want to hear not necessarily what is really going on.
It took us another 20 minutes to motor SD across the bay in 2 foot chop back to Downtime. Daria put our market plunder into the refrigerator after a quick rinse/dry and packed it into green food saver bags, which really work by the way…
We weighed anchor and headed back to town with Downtime to meet the customs officials after lunch. We called them on the radio like we were just clearing port and were directed to anchor in from of the Yacht Club. When they asked us when we arrived? We said we just dropped the anchor, which we really did just do…that was good enough for them, and $45 later we were all cleared in. I was told the $45 is for Bio-Security and looking in just 3 lockers was sufficient for the required search? They were not to concerned with our herb garden with soil from Roatan, Galapagos and Tahiti, go figure?
There were a few other things we needed to do while we were in Suva one was to get a new Passport for Capt. Pedro and the other a Visa for Daria to visit NZ, oh and some more spare parts!! Apparently the water maker low pressure pump did not like the salt water bath it took on our way over and was making strange noises due to bearing failure. We took the motor to Fiji Motor Winders and they cleaned, re-baked and put new bearing in for just under $100 US and had it ready the next morning!! Unbelievable service!! Thanks guys!! To top it off the owner of this shop found a new seal for the pump, one I had already been to 4 shops to find and had all but given up on. What service!!!