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Savusavu is one of my favorite ports in Fiji. It’s small, easily walkable, and doesn’t get a lot of tourists. This makes it an easy place to clear into, and then access some of the pleasures of eastern Fiji, like Namena Reef, Taveuni, and the Lau Group.
Sailing Tonga to Savusavu
What a perfect sail to Fiji! We made it in a little over 3 days for 453 miles. When we left Tonga we put our screecher and main up on a broad reach. 24 hours later we switched to the 2 headsails wing-n-wing. 36 hours after that, the wind died and we finished with a very calm motor into Savusavu at 11 am. The AWS never got over 15 knots so no reefing required.
We arrived at the same time as our friends Mark and Ann on Three-sixty Blue.
We picked up a mooring ball at Waitui Marina because they will help you sort out customs. Moorings here are very cheap.
The other option is Copra Shed Marina, which has mooring balls and a small dock.
Formalities for Fiji in Savusavu
Around 12:30 the health official was brought to our boat via the marina tender and did his stuff. That included spraying Starry Horizons with a mosquito spray and paperwork, costing us $250 FJ ($125 US, yikes!). After lunch, the tender brought the rest of the officials – all ladies – customs, immigration, and biosecurity. After they were done, we were good to go ashore, although far from done with the paperwork.
We picked up Mark and Anne and went ashore with the same goals: ATM, pay fees, SIM cards, and scope out the town.
After the officials leave your boat you have to do several things. There is an invoice from customs and an invoice from health, so once you get some cash you have to go pay them. Paying customs was easy, but the health bill was more challenging. We saved that for Wednesday morning when we walked the 3 km to the hospital.
Waitui Marina will apply for a cruising permit for you, and once that’s ready you have to pick it up, take it to customs, who will make your final clearance documents for you to sign. The right person it’s always there, so sometimes you leave your paperwork to come back later. It was a lot of shuffle and nearly two full days to get all this done.
Packages can be sent to with the marinas of the local shipping office in Savusavu. In 2017, we ordered replacement battens for our mainsail. Our battens had fallen overboard when we left the boat in Neaifu. Poor planning on our part because we forgot to lash down our stack pack. We had lost the three largest battens. There’s not really a sail loft in Tonga, so we contacted Marshall Sails in Vuda, Fiji to order the correct battens from NZ and ship them to Nadi and then Savusavu. Picking the battens up was fun – we had to take a taxi and held the 20-foot long package to the side of the car as it drove us back into town.
Meeting Del Viento
In 2017, we had the pleasure of finally meeting the family of four aboard Del Viento. I’d been following their blog for a few years, and Michael has written several articles for Cruising World and is the editor for Good Old Boat. Michael has also written Selling Your Writing to Boating Magazines, which I recently have read and found very, very helpful (more about that in the future hopefully!). That’s not all – my Uncle Phil worked with a woman named Mary Kate, who is very close friends with Michael and Windy. Another one of those 3 degrees of separation friendships. Anyway, we met the family over Indian food in Savusavu, and before we left we had them over for a game night. It was fantastic to meet them, and perhaps our paths will cross again soon.
There was a group of cruisers who were meeting every morning at 9 am to hike up to the top of the nearby hill. I joined them twice, and it was a great view over the harbour.
Field Trip to Suva
We flew to Suva for two nights to handle the medical evaluations for our Australian visas. I thought this would be a great opportunity to do some shopping. My family is coming to visit at the end of September and while it’s great that they can bring us stuff (a common cruiser practice), I don’t want to burden them with too much luggage. David and I even argued about it a little bit – he wanted to order things in the states to get shipped to my parents, while I wanted to buy as much as possible here.
Now, obviously there were some things we needed and those couldn’t wait. Somehow, the gas tank for Little Dipper developed a crack in it, and that’s something that needs to be fixed ASAP. Every time it rains, our gasoline gets water in it, and upon start up we get a lovely cloud of black smoke. We did try to fix the tank with epoxy and duct tape, but no luck. Thankfully, we were able to find a replacement tank at the Yacht Shop in Savusavu, so not only could we replace it with a bigger gas tank, but we didn’t have to buy it in Suva and fly it over.
However, with pretty much everything else, David ended up being right. We did buy some small things in Suva – dish towels, cleaning rags, a SD card, but that was a mere $30 FJD of spending. I love the idea of spending in the local economy that we are visiting, but the rest of the items on our list were either impossible to find (like the zincs we need or the GoPro we want) OR they were ridiculously expensive. We looked at phones and cameras and the prices were outrageous. A 66% price increase doesn’t mean much for $12 hand towels, but when you are looking at electronics, having guests bring you items can save literally thousands of dollars.
So we went back to Starry Horizons pretty empty handed, but that was fine. Our main goal was the visas, so we accomplished what we wanted. David was right. We did, however, enjoy a few meals out and a movie in the theater!
Provisioning in Savusavu
Savusavu is a small town of 3,300 (almost half the size of Neiafu) but with many services, stunning landscape, and a lot going on. There’s even a fancy new grocery store called New World! Provisioning here is really excellent. The New World carries American-style products. Sally’s is a smaller boutique-type store that is more expensive but carries a lot of things that I haven’t seen in a very long time (cream cheese! sour cream! frozen cranberries!).
Next to Waitui Marina is Fiji Meats. The lady there is super nice and all the products (except lamb) are Fijian raised and are cuts I’m familiar with; I bought ribeyes, pork chops, chicken breasts, bacon, lunch meats, mince, etc. For that matter, New World carries Fijian products too, like milk and butter, a far cry from Tonga where nothing was Tongan made. Plus, you can get rotisserie chicken, one of my favorite things in the world.
Speak the Language
We’ve learned two Fijian words: Bula (welcome or hello) and Vinaka (thank you). Everyone speaks English. As I ran the main road Wednesday morning, everyone I passed gave me either a “Bula!” or a “Good morning!”
We are very happy with the internet here. We bought a SIM card and paid $36 FJ ($18 US) for 3.5GB -in Tonga it was $18 US for 2GB. And the speed here in Fiji is much faster!
Dining Out at Surf & Turf
Wednesday night we had dinner with Anne and Mark at a place called Surf & Turf. I had a lamb shank and everyone else had curry. Restaurants here are very cheap. Surf & Turf is probably the most expensive place here, and very nice, but the meal for David and I was only $75FJ ($37US) and it was really good!
Diving Namena Reef
Every Thursday the local dive shop does a special trip to Namena Reef, so the four of us booked a two tank dive. A taxi took us to Koro Sun Resort, where we hopped on the nicest dive boat I’ve ever seen and powered an hour to the reef. We did two dives: Grand Canyon (a wall dive) and Chimneys (two pinnacles). Fiji is known as the soft coral capital of the world, and we can see why. Both dives were full of small creatures and beautiful coral. Grand Canyon also included a large school of fish and gray reef sharks. One of my favorite things is the Feather Stars. One of our guides noticed me admiring them and picked on up to show me more about it. It’s amazing to watch them move their arms about!
Sailing to Viti Levu
Our schedule for 2016, when we cruised for six weeks, was to head to Viti Levu next. We’d been keeping an eye on the weather and our calendars. Our friend Kyle flew into Nadi to visit, and we picked him up in Suva. There was a nasty weather system headed this way, and we want to be tucked away somewhere sheltered by the time the system rolls through.
Saturday we did a few last things to get ready to move and took off around 5 pm for an overnight sail to the Suva area. The sail was upwind – 40° for the first 10 hours or so, making it rough. David was an absolute sweetheart and just told me to go to bed and he’d just stay up on watch. It was tough to fall asleep but once I did I slept until 6 am, whereupon we had made a turn to run closer to the beam. Before David went to bed, we crossed our halfway around the world mark!
While cruising in 2017, we’d planned more time to check out the easternmost islands of Fiji.
The downside of coming into Fiji from the east is that Savusavu is the further east you can clear in, but there are many islands you have to bypass to get there. The entire Lau group is east of Savusavu, so you have to sail upwind most of the time. Cruisers wait to leave Savusavu on any wind with an N in it, but that mostly means a NE wind, so it’s still upwind sailing. We broke it up into two legs – we left Savusavu at 10 am and headed towards Taveuni.
Our friends Lewis and Alyssa from Quixotic are notorious in these waters, so we were hoping to share an anchorage with them at some point. We were disappointed to learn that they were actually sailing from Taveuni to Koro the day we were sailing to Taveuni. Oh no! Not to miss an opportunity though, we kept in touch and somehow amazingly found each other in the middle of the Koro Sea! I really didn’t think it would work out, but we turned our motors off and drifted while Lewis and Alyssa paddled over with tasties and a bottle of wine. Sure, its a ripe opportunity for piracy – a boat set adrift unmanned is technically fair game – but no one grabbed Quixotic from under our noses.
It was fantastic to catch up with them – it’s their first season running their charter business, Quixotic Charters Fiji. There is no bareboat charter in Fiji, and only a few liveaboard charter options. Quixotic is based in Savusavu, so it’s much easier to cruise the east side of Fiji, whereas the west side is the more touristy area.
Our photo ended up in Latitude 38’s ‘Lectronic Latitude.
We arrived at Paradise Resort at 6 pm and picked up a free mooring. Unfortunately, something we didn’t plan for was the swell – this mooring field (of maybe 4 balls?) is fairly open to the wind and waves. It made going to shore challenging, so David dropped me off Sunday morning to say hello. The resort was incredibly welcoming. They have a yachty introduction where they showed me around the facilities and talked about what the resort offers. The moorings and facilities are free, but they are of course hoping you will partake in some activities. I wish we’d had time for a dive, but instead, we set up dinner plans for their Sunday Roast, a 3-course dinner for $60 FJD each (roughly $30 USD). I also went for a walk down to the nearby black sand beach. The beach was pretty but the sand was coarse instead of fine like we saw in Hawaii.
David and I went ashore at 4:30, ready to enjoy the pool and some cocktails. The staff that I had met earlier called me by name and David got a lot of “you must be David…”. The meal and service were fantastic, and as is usually seen, a solo guitarist played a combination of cover songs and Fijian songs for the guests. We had a clear night and walked out onto the lawn and laid down to stargaze. What a perfect night!
David only got a few hours’ sleep though. At 3:30 am he woke up, slipped our mooring, and we took off for Vanua Balavu, the northernmost stop in the Lau group.