Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Destination: Rakiraki Area

Picking our way through the reefs demands attention and
patience. I am at the helm and Dennis is watching the
water for color and surface changes. It is exhausting.
You can see a reef behind us. There is much more of it
under water surrounding it! And many not charted ones!
With the generator and water maker in fine shape now, we decided to venture from Vuda Marina across the top of Vita Levu toward Rakiraki on the north-northeast side. We had read about the wonderful snorkeling and diving in this area. Of course, the wind would be on the nose so the Iron Jenny would give us our momentum. Besides, we soon learned that it is nearly impossible to sail windward through the reefs to cover this area. Or sail at all among the reefs!

While the distance is not that great, it is a slow methodical trip. First of all, as everyone has indicated, the electronic charts are almost worthless! There are many unmarked reefs all over Fiji. In fact, the World ARC participants could probably create a book of all we have found and noted the latitudes and longitudes! Maybe it could be sold to support dental health in the outer islands – or some other good cause for the native Fijians. There is much need in the outer islands. We are collecting used eyewear and new toothbrushes to bring back next year.
30 waypoints to get us across the top of Viti Levu!
Making this trip should not be done without Curly’s Waypoints! At times it looks like he has a waypoint on a reef, but in reality, his waypoint is fine – the electronic charts are off! Don’t head out into this area without them. And do make sure that Curly is reimbursed even if you get the waypoints from someone who has attended the seminar. He deserves to be paid for the effort!

My version of extreme sports at Safari Adventure Lodge!
We had placed 30 of Curly’s waypoints on the chart plotter just to get from Vuda Point to Nananu-i-Thake near Nananu-i-Ra on the inside route! Rather than try to push our luck with the light, we decided to anchor overnight halfway between Vitia Wharf and Vitia Sewa. There is a little inlet there where we were out of the main channel and protected from the wind. We continued on to Nananu-i-Cake on the second day arriving mid-afternoon.

The winds are howling!
We had 15-20 knots winds on the nose at times and there is a heavy current pushing the boat toward land. We assume this is why Curly’s waypoints are so close to the reefs on the sea side. Even motoring, it was hard to steer on the route lines due to the heavy current. Our chart track looks like a drunken sailor was at the helm!

The weather hasn’t been the greatest. Day one was sunny and beautiful, but the winds were high and gusting. Day two started out sunny and beautiful and soon turned ugly! The winds picked up, gusting over 25 knots. It rained on and off and at one point the visibility was near zero. Not fun when picking your way through the reefs. Fortunately, a large pleasure yacht came along and we followed it until it was out of sight. We met up again with it in our final anchorage. We were much wetter and more exhausted, though.
A beach walk was just the thing to stretch our legs!
On day three, the winds were steady at 20-22, with gusting to the high 20’s so we decided to stay at anchor and ride it out. It looks like we may have one more day of this before we make a move toward Suvasuva on Vanau Levu. Actually, on the fourth day we moved to a more sheltered anchorage a few hundred yards away. The holding was great - fortunately. We stayed here two more days with winds gusting to the high 30's and steady in the high 20's. Quite a wild ride!

A nice way to spend an afternoon off the boat.
We called the Safari Adventure Lodge for a ride in to have lunch and walk around the island. This was an interesting place as it is heavy into windsurfing, diving, kite surfing and other exciting adventures for the brave at heart. We enjoyed meeting the staff and guests. We had the use of their facilities until it was time to catch the staff boat that would drop us off at our boat. Due to the high winds that kept knocking out their wind generators, the electricity was off more than on all day and evening. Therefore, no Internet! Darn!

We looked into diving with them, but the high winds were restricting visibility as well as safety issues so we would have to wait for a couple of days. Okay, we have time! It has been quite cool for a few weeks now (it is winter and we are getting cold winds from the Tasman Sea) so I haven't been real keen to spend a lot of time in the ocean. But with wetsuits, it will be warmer.

Unfortunately, a number of resorts on Nananu-i-Ra have
been abandoned. Like many of the islands we have visited,
resosrts were over built and usage is down.
Upon return to the boat, we realized the generator had failed - again! So we decided to return to Vuda Point Marina to see what could be done to it. Hopefully, we will return to Rakiraki next year as this is one of the best dive sights in Fiji. And, of course, we did not make it to Vanau Levu so we will have to do that area next year, too.

We still have a month before we head to Vanuatu and want to do some more exploring. We plan to go to New Zealand and then back to Tonga in the spring to rejoin the World ARC there. We missed a lot in Tonga and would like a second shot at it.

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