Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fiji - First Impressions

We arrived here four days ago, cruising for a whole day and night through the islands to the little port town of Savusavu. The harbour is crowded with yachts, mainly from Europe and the US. There is a Canadian boat anchored just behind us - Symbiosis - with a single-hander on board named Andrei. He was based out of Vancouver and Maple Bay for a while and we will have drinks with him tonight or tomorrow. Andrei is not too popular with the local marinas because he is anchored on the edge of their mooring field and not paying for the privilege.

Another Canadian boat came to grief here a while back when it caught on fire and was abandoned. The story is not entirely clear, but it appears that the owner may have got on the wrong side of some locals and the fire was no accident. The steel boat, about the size of Ladybug, lies on its side just up the river - a reminder that we are guests here and need to watch our step.

Savusavu reminds us of a small Mexican town. The people are even friendlier and almost everyone we pass says hello, or 'Bula' (pronounced "mBula". Many people walk, the buses are cheap (40 cents), and the stores are small and mainly family-run. There is an excellent market everyday with decent fresh produce. The population is 50% Indian - mainly from south India. Rani is happy to be among people of her nationalìty and we are looking forward to some great street and restaurant food at reasonable prices.

The check-in process went smoothly with visits from Health and Customs/Immigration. EVeryone came on-board and we baked a mango upside-down cake to serve with coffee and tea. Even though there were 14 boats that had arrived that day, the officials were relaxed and friendly and in no hurry to move to the next boat. We filled our forms in before they arrived (delivered to our boat by Aseri, a Fijian boatman who works for the marina) and there was no inspection of the boat. Costs were quite high at about 170 Fijian dollars for the health visit and 80 for the bio-security chap, whom we visited at his office on shore. That amounts to about $150 Canadian. It could have been a lot more if the officials had come out on Sunday when we actually arrived, since overtime is charged. By the way, Fijians do not celebrate the Queen's Birthday any more, contrary to our old cruising guide information.

We are on a mooring operated by the Waitui Marina, which costs about $6 Canadian a day and includes use of a toilet and a slightly grungy shower, dinghy dock, and water. We elected to pay an extra few dollars a day to the rival marina (Copra Shed) to use their nicer showers - it keeps Rani happy! The marina moorings are helix moorings - a giant screw is twisted into the sea bed and they are supposedly suitable for sitting out a cyclone.

Many of our friends are moored nearby and we had Heather and John from 'Evergreen' along with our newly married friends, Bob and Ann off Charisma for an Indian dinner last night. Evergreen is out of Boston and we first met them in Samoa where they were alongside the same jetty. Heather and John jeep their boat in immaculate condition and are an inspiration to those of us with less talent in that direction. Charisma is from San Francisco and Bob was one of our rescuers when Ladybug dragged anchor in Huahine last year. Other neighbors include Charlotte, with Sue and Stefan on board. They hail from Northampton in the UK. Stefan was a full-time shepherd - surely an uncommon former occupation for a circumnavigating sailor! Rani is currently in town with them attending a seminar put on by one of the local ex-pats.

We will likely remain here a few more days and then start exploring the nearby islands.

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