Not just dry but clear blue skies and wall to wall sunshine! The SPTCZ slipped away overnight taking its rain and cloud with it. We knew there was a change when it started to get a little windy, an annoying clanking halyard woke us in the early hours rather than the beat of rain drops on the cabin top.
By seven am Temptress was underway. The inside passage winds its way between the reef strewn shore of Vitu Levu and the wide patches of offlying reefs up the east coast towards the island of Nananu-I-cake (cake is pronounced chak-e and means reef). There a narrow gap between the two islands enables navigation through to the north coast of Vitu Levu. What a change, being north of the mountains the land is much drier and like the northern side of Vanua Levu this is where sugar cane, a major export for Fiji is grown on an industrial scale.
The land slopes down gently beneath the steep rocky peaks and the shores are fringed with mangroves. Wide, shallow reef strewn bays on Temptress’ port side, wide reefs with the occasional sandbank just beginning to show above the falling tide lie between us and the sea to starboard. The inside passage here winds its way west, keeping the crew busy looking out for the navigation marks through the dogleg turns. The beacons are mostly rusting, many missing completely, some showing only a foot or so higher than the water level, however as we’d been told the important ones are still there marking the ends of the reefs. Sixty odd nautical miles of motoring through the most amazing scenery later and still inside the reefs, we dropped the hook in pretty Saweni Bay a few miles west of Lautoka, Fiji’s second largest port and city after the capital Suva.
The next morning we trotted round to Vuda Marina as they can organise our checkout of Fiji for Thursday morning, the gas plant is walking distance so it is easy to refill our bottle, and there are washing machines to get the bedding laundered. Oh and there were half price pizzas on Tuesday evenings which gave us a chance to socialise. A taxi into Lautoka enabled us to re-provision – the veggie market was well stocked and cheap, big cabbages for F$1, cauliflowers which we haven’t seen in ages and more now fill our coolbox so we are all set for the passage to Port Vila, Vanuatu some 500 nautical miles away.