Tonga to Fiji in a Roberts 43
At 0600 the next morning we dropped the mooring we’d tied up to and slipped quietly out of the harbour. There was a large High between Tonga and N.Z. and nothing else to influence the weather pattern so we were quite sure of following winds for the whole journey. The wind was still blowing 20 to 25kts as we motored slowly down the long channel that lead from the harbour towards the open sea, readying F.T.as we went. By the time we had reached the end of the channel everything was shipshape and we tucked under a tall cliff and hoisted sails. When coming along the channel we had had a few gusts of over 30kts but under the shelter of the cliff, with the wind only about 3kts, it was no trouble to raise the main, even using only one arm. As it would be difficult to reef the main later we set it with a double reef, moved out from the shelter and took off. Once we had got out of the influence of the land it became obvious that the wind angle was to deep to take on the quarter and that we’d have to pole out the headsail. Not a problem for a two armed chap, quite something else for me. The swell was already starting to wrap around the end of the islands so it had to be done straight away. With a small struggle the pole was set up and about three meters of furler was pulled out. The wind was blowing force 7 (32 to 38 kts) and once out from the lee of the land the swell increased to 2 to 3 meters. Add to that a 1 to 1 ½ meter sea and every so often some very large waves loomed up behind us. Everything was well balanced though, and besides some ugly little seas that ran perpendicular to the main swell every so often, everything was under control. We took 1hr on, 1hr off, as, although it wasn’t to hard steering one armed, it was pretty tiring. By that evening, although the wind was up to force 8 (39 to 46kts), the sky was still clear and the barometer still steady so I felt pretty sure that things were not going to alter much. After a few hours of darkness the moon rose up behind us and lit the way for the rest of the night as we closed the distance between us and the passage we were aiming for in the Lau group of islands that would take us into Fijian waters. I had planned to pass through the passage during light on the following morning but with the speed that we were travelling, even with such little sail up, it was more likely that we would reach it before evening tonight. The wind kept up between Force 7 and 8 all day and to my relief at 1700 that evening we spied one of the islands on the north side of the passage. We only had the U.S.A. pilot book aboard which failed to even mention the passage, but once again Jens off Indigo, whom we had kept in contact since leaving Pago Pago, and who was now in Canton, saved the day by quoting from the British Admiralty pilot book which stated that the "passage was 8 miles wide and free from dangers except for a reef enclosing a lagoon in the center of it." Having already sighted the island on one side we ran about 1 mile off its fringing reef until we were completely clear. Over 250 miles ran since yesterday morning and now a pretty clear run to Suva, 180 miles away. Once we had passed through the passage the swell was removed and with the wind finally beginning to moderate we pulled a little more furler out and for quite a while just watched as the log sat on 8 to 8 ½ kts as we kept speeding on. All through the next day the wind remained true. By evening we had Suva in sight. Unfortunately it was dark by the time we reached the passage that led through the reef into Suva harbour and the moon had not yet risen, however, by taking it slowly, negotiating two Taiwanese fishing vessels as we entered the passage, a barge in the passage, and an anchored submarine and broken down tanker inside the harbour itself we finally dropped anchor off the Royal Suva Yacht Club for a peaceful nights sleep. 430nm in 61hrs. An average of 7kts. As good a run as we’ve ever done, and by a semi seasick lady and a cripple. After arranging with the harbour master to come alongside the main wharf the next morning to complete formalities we dropped off for a well earned sleep.
Cheers till next time, Phil & Liz.
SV Fine Tolerance