After eight months in American Samoa we happily departed Pago Pago and romped 345 miles SSW to Vava'u, Tonga in 52 hrs of broad reach sailing. Beautiful.
Tonga was very nice. We spent nearly two months and anchored at 20 spots around the Vava'u group. We re-connected with lots of old friends and made some new ones, caught a bucket of squid & ate lots of fresh fish, roasted several pigs under coconut trees, went cave diving and even got up close and real personal with a humpback whale. Tonga is a fine cruising destination, indeed.
We departed Tonga three weeks ago and threaded our way through the reef-infested islands of Fiji's Lau group of islands and arrived in Lautoka on the western side of Viti Levu 561 miles, six fish and 99 hrs after sailing west from Tonga. We concluded that NONE of the charted navigational aids (lights) are functioning in Fiji... so night passages were just a tad stressful.
Total cost of checking into Fiji was a mere $40 USD and includes cruising permit for all the western island groups. It's very beautiful here and the topography reminds me of Southern California without any of the buildings, smog or traffic congestion.
There are countless islands and empty anchorages to explore. The farmer's markets are awesome - offering the most bountiful and affordable provisioning we've found in both hemispheres of the Pacific Ocean! A welcome relief from the extraordinary prices of French Polynesia!
We attended a traditional wedding last week and my wife and son and Aye are now, officially, Fire Walkers! Besides a few savages and the daring crew of Gallivanter - not one of the others attending had the balls to even approach the glowing fire pit. Tourists!
Gallivanter is at present hauled out at Vuda Point for an overdue routine bottom job and minor repairs suffered from TWO recent tsunamis. It's been 34 months since our last haul out (in St Thomas) and once we were hanging in the travel lift slings we decided to cancel the pressure washing because the JOTUN bottom paint was still toxic enough to prevent any serious fouling! It's unavailable here so we're using the local brew to ease the pain of our upcoming plan to clear into Australia... who will want to see receipts and maintenance logs for our hull maintenance. Nevertheless - having our boat's bottom done here is costing us less than $1400 USD for: minor gouges ground out & filled, waterline gel coat ground & primmed (in order to raise the waterline... as cruising sailors often do), hull faired, sanded & painted PLUS having our topsides polished, patched, waxed & cove stripe painted... and that price includes ALL materials & labor! All I'm doing is interior varnishing and some minor plumbing upgrades. Travel lift cost is about $200 up & down, lay days on the hard cost less than $20 USD and Med style berthing in the marina cost less than $13 USD per day for our 49 ft boat! When we left the Virgin Islands a mooring bouy at the Bitter End cost $40 per night! Here a marina berth costs $12 & change per night! So doing a bottom job in Fiji is a bargan in my logbook.
We've moved into a resort right next to the boatyard who offer a cruiser's discount for private garden bungalows by the pool for less than $40 USD per night. $1.50 draft beers also help ease the pain of singing the Boatyard Blues. And all three of us can enjoy a nice resort dinner for $8 - $15 in the light of tiki torches.
At the moment fuel costs roughly $0.92 (at the pump in town) or $1.04 (at the marina fuel dock) per liter for diesel.
Please feel free to contact me by email if you want specific questions answered.
I'd like to sit and gab more about how nice Fiji is... but I'm hauled out and I want to be back in the water by the weekend and I have more important things to do than just sit here typing on this keyboard.