What we live our life according to!
Weather windows are what we live our life by now, when we want to get somewhere.
We have been wanting to get down to the bottom most island of Fiji, Kadavu and the Great Astrolabe Reef since we arrived.
We had decided to settle into the cruising life up in the Mamanuca and Yasawas and wait for the right weather window of Northerly winds and corresponding waves to help us get down to Kadavu.
For those that don’t know what it all means, here is a simple explanation… If you have the wind at a good angle for sailing and a sea following you, life is smooth. You gently surf along with the waves as they help you get to your destination. As long as they are a nice manageable height and have a good amount of time between the waves life is gentle and enjoyable.
If, however, you have the waves and wind on your nose (or any range on either front 1/4) it sucks. The add in short time gaps between the waves, and if there are 2 wave directions coming at you – which there generally is when it’s on your nose – then life is bumpy. Very bumpy. Things crash around and fly about, the boat jumps up and down over the waves, things break and in general it is no fun.
We are in the trade wind area/season now, so mostly the winds will blow from the East. This means getting anywhere other than going West with the wind behind us can be challenging.
Hence why we wait for the weather windows!
We had a perfect one coming up after our friends left to go back to freezing New Zealand (we miss you Dave and Vic!), so we decided to head down to half way to see other friends that were staying at a resort on the Coral Coast.
Life was peachy on the way to Natadola Bay where our friends were. The sea was gentle and the waves were so small that it was almost a millpond. No sailing, but super nice motoring!
We chased fish from the birds working on the water that we would see, we lay in the sun on the trampoline and generally just enjoyed the 3 or so hours it took to get to a little island called Robinson Crusoe Island. It is tiny, and in between a crazy weird pass in the reef.
Luckily we were not just relying on one type of chart system as our main one, which has up until now been quite accurate, was wildly off! Thank goodness for satellite imagery! They also offer a service here where you can radio in and they will send a boat out to guide you through the pass as it is that tricky! We had to stop in here as the swell was too much in Natadola Bay and this is very protected being well inside the barrier reef. It was a very safe and calm anchorage for the night and we woke to turtles popping their heads up all around us and headed for our friends down the way a little…
We ended up stopping for 2 nights in Natadola, enjoying being with old friends who live in Australia that we don’t get to see much.
This decision to stay longer made for an interesting attempt to get further down….
Our weather check for the next day looked OK. We thought, yeah, it might be a little rough but let’s give it a go. So, we decided to set our alarms for 3 am and get on the move so we could arrive in a decent time to find an anchorage in daylight while we could still see all the coral we needed to avoid.
3 am came around, we got up, weighed the anchor and headed out the pass through the reef, using our original trip line in to follow safely.
As soon as we got through the pass, the waves were bigger than we thought and the wind was more than had been predicted. You couldn’t feel it in the bay until you got around the headland.
With Waterhorse jumping up and down in the dark – literally my least favourite thing now not being able to see what is actually happening – we decided that the right and safe choice was to head back in and re anchor and go back to bed! The pillow felt ever so soft after our chilly 1stattempt!
Later that morning after some more sleep and much coffee, we decided to try again. Our weather window was looking like if we could get a bit further down we would be ok as the wind was turning as we turned to head South.
Same thing, out the passage, turn left, try to get into a comfortable angle of wind and waves, gave it around 20 minutes and both looked at each other and decided this sucked and we would turn around. Stuff was falling over in the saloon, the soda stream crashed off the counter and smashed down the stairs (goodbye vodka sodas….) and I was starting to feel nice and sick again!
The next good-looking window was not for another 6 days, so we turned around, headed for Malolo Island up in the Mamanuca and had a glorious trip back up with the wind behind us, and surfing gently on the waves that had threatened to wreck havoc moments before.
It is a strange feeling that just turning around can suddenly create such a gentle and calm trip!
Fast forward 5 days…
Wake up and see weather window coming today and tomorrow. We decide to get into it today so we can break the trip into 2 days.
Nadi and the Mamanuca islands are protected by a giant barrier reef, so the going was lovely inside that. The wind was going to be on the nose again so we wouldn’t be sailing, luckily we have 2 engines that can motor us along nicely!
Came out of the Navula passage which is the main shipping channel though the reef and it was on again!
Nowhere near as bad as the 2ndattempt but it still wasn’t super comfortable. Luckily, we had been smart this time and put all the things that usually fly about away. That soda stream was well jammed into a spot where it won’t be moving for a long time!
We decided that it wasn’t too bad and we would just tough it out for the 3 or so hours that we needed to get into tonight’s anchorage. Chae went up on the helm and I watched a documentary series with the kids! Lost land of the Jaguar is an excellent watch if you ever come across it!!
Beating into the wind and waves is hard on a boat and we were lucky that the only thing that broke was the bbq. The piece that held it on to the rail mount came apart at the weld and it crashed onto the deck! Luckily it fell inside the rail or it may have gone overboard! Pretty annoyed that the brand new Marine Quality bbq has had its weld fail though, and it now has a giant bend/dent on it too.
Finally came into Cevu Harbour, again, as soon as you are through those passages in the reefs, life is peachy again. Still, calm and gentle!
Day 2 was to get to Pacific Harbour and by this stage the weather had started to swing around as had been predicted. The days trip was uneventful. Smoother seas make for nice passage making!
Pacific Harbour has a very small marina and we managed to get a spot in there for 2 nights while we waited for the PERFECT window that was on its way.
It was to be a 5 ½ hour trip to the top of the Astrolabe reef and the islands we wanted to see first so we waited the 2 days for this perfect sailing window!
We filled our time with heading to a nearby market for fruit and veggies as there will be nothing for a week or so at least to buy when we leave, exploring the area and swimming in the resort pool that is attached to the marina. We also made our epic swim ladder for tying on the front cross beam so you dont have to swim to the back of the boat to get back on after doing bombs off the front!
We had one of the best lunches we have had a a little cafe called The Skinny Bean Cafe in the shopping village they have a short walk down the road, Emelia was most delighted with her steak sandwich! We haven’t been eating much meat since arriving in Fiji – we did have a LOT of fish to get through and some steak was a nice change!
Also ended up getting the BBQ fixed! Our awesome taxi driver took us to his friends from schools welding shop and he sorted it all out for the grand total of $10FJD!
Bring on the morning of the straight shot passage to Kadavu. We were planning on meeting boat friends down there that we hadn’t seen since arriving in Fiji, and they were leaving from Suva at the same time as us. Around about the same distance to an island called Dravuni we were headed to.
The weather window today was perfect! 15 kts or so of wind right on the quarter, gentle waves that we surfed along and we hoofed along at 9 knots with both sails fully out. It was the most enjoyable day of sailing that we have had yet.
I lay on the coach top roof in the sun while Waterhorse made great miles. The kids played nicely and life was good. This was the kind of sailing and passages I had hoped for when we decided to go on this adventure! Finally…!!!
We made great time to Dravuni. Almost bang on 5 hours so waiting on our weather window had really made it easy for us.
This boat life is full of new things for us both to learn and as a family get used to what is our new normal and what we are prepared to deal with. Trips like this where we have to turn around or wait and wait for the weather we want make us more aware of what we, and Waterhorse, are prepared to handle.
Nothing will ever be perfect, but waiting patiently for the windows that we need – and then grabbing them as soon as they come will make for a much more comfortable life on the water.