Sunday, July 28, 2013

Passage to Fawn Harbour

I have not written about a passage in a while, so to forestall my sailing friends from asking if we ever use our boat as anything but a floating home, I will jot down a few notes on our passage from Kioa Island to Fawn Harbour.

We left Kioa on Saturday morning anticipating a moderate breeze from the ESE. Instead we hoisted all sail and made a very modest 3 knots in a NE breeze and closely spaced one meter swell. As we passed the reefs at the entrance to the bay that fronts the village of Salia, several dug-out outrigger canoes kept us company, their occupants keeping pace with us easily in their handy craft. These fishermen had been our companions in the anchorage and we would often awake to hear them talking to one another as they hand-lined from their boats inside the reef.

Fisherman of Kioa

The wind was blowing nicely down from the north end of the big island of Taveuni, but died as it neared us and soon we were under motor and sail, skirting the edge of the Rainbow Reef. We elected to cut inside the reef, across the entrance to Viani Bay, since there was too little wind to sail now. This would save a couple of miles and we could anchor in Viani Bay if the wind died out altogether. As we neared the "Fish Factory" dive site, the wind sprang up out of the southwest, blowing from the south end of Taveuni island - 180 degrees from that we had seen blowing from the north end. We turned south, cut the engine, and laid a tack for Taveuni so as to later clear the reef on a westerly tack down to Fawn Harbour.

How pleasant it is to silence the engine and feel the wind bring the boat to life. The seas were little distrubed by swell and Ladybug laid over a few degrees and settled into an effortless close haul at 4 knots in 6 knots of wind. The only excitement came shortly after lunch, when we were once again skirting the Rainbow Reef on a tack to the west. A large ferry/cargo vessel was on a reciprocal course and showed no sign of altering. I let her approach to about a mile and altered 20 degrees to starboard and toward the reef to give her a decent clearance. We passed about 1/2 a mile apart and the wind clocked a little into the south allowing us to just pass clear of the reef and lay a direct course for Fawn Habrour.

A  family poles and paddles their raft at the edge of the reef lined entrance to Fawn Harbour

The sun was behind clouds when We entered the channel at Fawn Harbour and I placed Ladybug on autopilot just off the pass to lower and furl the main. I told Rani I would like to sail in under jib, despite the winding entry, because our way-points were good and we had navigated the pass once before. She agreed, to my surprise, and made her way to the bow to watch while I steered and monitored our progress on the chart program. The reefs are obvious in the passage and there are posts at each dogleg, so it was a simple matter to sail in, gybing the jib across and furling it a few turns to slow us down. A current was ebbing from the pass at about 1- 1.5 knots, but we had plenty of wind now from the south pushing us in.

Once past the first dogleg, the swell vanished and it felt like we were in a slow moving river - although the coral banks close by on each side gave the lie to this. We waved to a bamboo fishing raft carrying four people. One man was poling and a woman added her paddle to make way against the tide. We turned the last corner and the narrow channel widened into a lagoon in which floated two small palm covered islands. A few more turns on the roller-furler to slow Ladybug to a respectable speed for setting the hook. We close-reached under jib toward the settlement at the head of the lagoon, dropping anchor under sail in about 30 feet. Rani put the helm hard over to starboard to avoid running over the chain as I paid it out. It felt wonderful to end the passage in this peaceful way, with Ladybug floating in a salt water lake just off the fringing reefs.

We finally applied Ladybug's new vinyl lettering today on the quiet waters of Fawn Harbour.

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