Global Voyage

A Story About Sailing Around the World

Ray & Jenny aboard the ketch Suka

3 years, 35,000 miles, Nov 1982 - Jan 1986

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Chapter 6: The Fiji Islands

page 57 of 109

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“The traveler is active:
he goes strenuously in search of people,
of adventure, of experience.

The tourist is passive:
he expects interesting things to happen to him.”

- Daniel J. Boorstin (354-430)

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Volcanic Late Island.


Zoom out to see where we are.

Suspended in an otherwise cerulean sky, sparsely scattered and puffy cumulus hung propitiously above the face of the gentle seas. But a low-lying haze prevented us from sighting volcanic Late Island until we were within a dozen miles of it. A gentle, late August quartering breeze filled the cruising spinnaker and loafed the brig along effortlessly at 5 knots. Thus we traveled pleasantly beneath chute alone for two days.

Then at sunrise, while passing between the islands of Ongea Levu and Vatoa, and now in Melanesian waters, we encountered a weather trough. The wind slackened and the dark skies burst forth a copious downpour. We dowsed the spinnaker, which only wrapped tenaciously about the bowsprit, and for the next several minutes we had to coax the drenched spread of ethereal nylon back into captivity.

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The helmsman in the rain.

The weather conditions suggested a turn for the worse, so we steered north and motored for Ongea Levu in hopes of finding protected anchorage in the event of a sudden blow. But by noon the wind steadied and the skies began clearing, so we pressed on toward Suva. Unbeknown to us, some of the yachts that had departed Tonga a day ahead of us, were being hammered in a vicious on-shore gale near Suva, so our decision to linger the extra day in Tonga proved a timely one.

In the south-west Pacific one encounters a noteworthy atmospheric phenomenon. With the passing of a trough, the wind will slowly back around the compass, full circle. We had first experienced this in Bora Bora, and had witnessed it many times since. The south-east trade winds will be blowing strongly when clouds will speedily form and begin sputtering rain. Then the south-easterlies will shift east, north-east, and so on. When they are blowing due south the trough is supposedly directly overhead.

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The many beautiful islands we were passing by were altogether enticing, but Fijian regulations forbade one's stopping at any of these before clearing-in at an official port of entry on the big island of Viti Levu. Nevertheless, as we made way toward Moala Island we decided to find an anchorage for the evening.

We attempted to enter a pass through the reef on the east side of the island. The wind was now favorable, but a late afternoon sun glared from directly ahead, and obscured whatever lay beneath the water's surface. In our path we could see nothing of the sea bed, even though here the water was pellucid and somewhat shallow. Nevertheless, it seemed safe to ease our way in at a snail's pace, until suddenly we found ourselves in shoal waters strewn with sinister coral heads. Suddenly we became aware of Suka's motion as she heaved in the incoming swell, and that this swell was shoving her into the lagoon. The next few moments were dire ones. Jenny hollered her precipitate warnings and I swung the helm hard over and gunned the engine. We narrowly averted wrecking the ship.

Shaken, we sailed around the island to its north and west, and regaining the offing we resumed our journey to Viti Levu.

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Whale

The following day dawned clear. The wind had slackened so we motor-sailed toward the big island, now clearly visible on the horizon. I was sitting idly at the helm when suddenly I saw an uncharted reef a short distance ahead. I swung the helm hard over, and the "reef" blew a cloud of hissing steam. A whale, perhaps twice Suka's length remained motionless at the surface, appearing as a glistening black submarine bereft of its conning tower. Due to its great mass, it was not bobbing with the swell as was Suka. Rather, the swells were breaking over its back like surf on a beach. After going around it, we left behind this massive, mobile navigational hazard, feeling duly reminded of the hazards of sailing at night.

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The harbor from outside the reef.

Suva, Fiji


Zoom out to see where we are.

Mid afternoon we entered the harbor and anchored in 5 fathoms of murky water off the Royal Suva Yacht Club, among perhaps 30 other yachts. The health officials came out in a skiff, granted us pratique, then asked us to lower our yellow Q Flag. As the day was late, customs and immigration would not see us until the following morning, when we were to move to the wharf at their convenience. Meanwhile, we were constrained aboard. Nevertheless, not to miss our sailor's "Saturday" night, after dark we slipped ashore and attended the yacht club's Sunday barbecue.

The barbecue proved a low key and a most enjoyable affair. We were glad to visit with old friends and meet new ones, to compare travel notes, and to learn of the city's vagaries from the "old-timers" - our antecedents of one or two days.

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The next morning we rose early and found a thick fog pervading the scene. The conditions were perfect for shrouding me from the allegedly nefarious customs officials, said to be fond of wielding international maritime law with a poetic license. So I engaged in the time-honored technique of illicitly delivering our sack of grog to a neighboring yacht. Later that same morning the hapless crew of another yacht, Bali Hai, declared their booze and was penalized 30 dollars duty. Legally, dutiable stores are to be sealed in the bond locker during the ship's stay in port, and duty is to be paid only on what is otherwise consumed. But one of the hallmarks of petty officialdom is the padding of pockets at the yachtee's expense. So like foxes venturing into unfamiliar territory we were learning to beware the snares.

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Suka tied to the wharf, awaiting immigration clearance.

After we had waited for the arrival of the immigration functionaries nearly all day, while fending Suka away from the under-cut wharf, built for large ships, the officials finally came and cleared us.

Returning to the anchorage, we set the CQR well out from the shallows, and then ventured ashore and sped into town on a taxi ride that cost the equivalent of 20 cents each. Little of the afternoon remained, and we used it to best advantage, sauntering about Albert Park while intermingling with the crowds at some sort of a festivity. The grassy square was lined with hundreds of makeshift booths, the vendors of which were proffering generally savory morsels of what we did not know, but 20 cents for three. The indulgence left us wondering whether our gastrointestinal tracts would survive the night.

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In a Suva market with Bruce, buying kava root for the native people of Ndravuni Island.

In the ensuing few days the city's ambiance drew us to it almost magnetically. We wandered among the bewildering variety of duty-free shops, and frequented the occasional Indian restaurant. This was the week of the Hibiscus Festival and the place bustled with activities, including parades, ceremonies, and programs at the fairgrounds.

Island Night

Island Night at the Civic Center proved a favorite. The show comprised about a dozen dance troupes representing various Pacific Island nations, and we enjoyed the entertainment. Although some were reminiscent of Hollywood acts, others were genuine: the dancers from the Gilbert Islands, from the Tuvalus, and from Rotuma were obviously singing and dancing as they did at home. Their performances were enthralling, and these simple and unassuming people had us imagining we were sitting on the beaches of their islands or atolls. I've never heard a professional sing with such euphony as did these warm people of the mighty South Pacific.

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Island Night at the Civic Center.

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A lack of musical instruments was no obstacle to those who knew how to dance and sing. For the majority, the only implement needed was a cardboard box, thoroughly brutalized with the rhythmic pounding and knocking of many large sticks. Sometimes a box was "played" with a slow, measured thwacking of a single stick. And some groups used sticks against the wood stage floor to hammer out their lusty rhythms.

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Men of Solomon Islands

“How those fellows managed to avoid crushing at least one skull in the melee defied the imagination.”

The finale was a spell binding stick dance by a group of blue-black skinned men of the Solomon Islands, who ran onto the stage painted with black and white stripes and circles, and clad in brief loincloths that left the buttocks bare. The costumes, or rather the lack of them and the sensuous dancing sent women in the audience into shrieks. Fifteen wild and brutish men, entirely savage in appearance, jumped about furiously in a seemingly unrestrained but unaccountably orderly fashion. They bashed stout and colorfully embellished staves against the floor and against each other's staves to an aggressive, throbbing cadence wailed upon a gallon-size tin can. How those fellows managed to avoid crushing at least one skull in the melee defied the imagination.

The story has 109 pages. This is page 57.
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Page Links
GV 001: Title Page
GV 002: TOC
GV 003: Dedication
GV 004: Preface
GV 005: Prologue
GV 006: Beginnings
GV 007: Work Done
GV 008: Making Ready
GV 009: Departure
GV 010: Sailing Credentials
GV 011: First Lesson
GV 012: Sextant Navigation
GV 013: Safety Harness
GV 014: Murphy's law
GV 015: Spirit of Adventure
GV 016: Holding On
GV 017: First Big Storm
GV 018: Storm Intensified
GV 019: Rolling Violently
GV 020: Mizzen Sleeping Bag'sl
GV 021: Freeing the Propeller
GV 022: Visits by Birds
GV 023: Crossing the Doldrums
GV 024: Nearing First Landfall
GV 025: Land Ho
GV 026: Fatu Hiva
GV 027: Trek Inland
GV 028: Anchor Watch
GV 029: Passage
GV 030: Hiva Oa
GV 031: Skin Diving Circus
GV 032: Almost Like a Jungle
GV 033: Polaris Missile
GV 034: Taiohaie Bay
GV 035: Cascade Hakaui
GV 036: Taipi Bay
GV 037: Cyclone Lisa
GV 038: Cyclone Nano
GV 039: Passage of Patience
GV 040: Tuamotu Archipelago
GV 041: Tahiti
GV 042: Cyclone Reva
GV 043: Secret Sharer
GV 044: Moorea
GV 045: Cyclone Veena
GV 046: Aftermath
GV 047: Good Weather in Papeete
GV 048: Huahine
GV 049: Raiatea
GV 050: BoraBora
GV 051: Rarotonga
GV 052: Tonga
GV 053: Fresh Air
GV 054: Tongan Feast
GV 055: Excursion to Maninita
GV 056: Mariner's Cave
> GV 057: Fiji
GV 058: Ndravuni Island
GV 059: Mara Island
GV 060: Aneityum
GV 061: Noumea
GV 062: St Elmo's fire
GV 063: Breakwater Reef
GV 064: Bundaberg
GV 065: Life on the Burnett River
GV 066: Engine Sabotage
GV 067: Flying
GV 068: Aground in Round Hill Creek
GV 069: Gladstone Confinement
GV 070: Tropical Queensland
GV 071: Trip into Townsville
GV 072: Cairns Sojourn
GV 073: Cramped Cooktown
GV 074: Lizard Island
GV 075: The San Michelle
GV 076: Lost Mummy Cave
GV 077: Land's End
GV 078: Darwin
GV 079: Christmas Is
GV 080: Passage
GV 081: Cocos Keeling
GV 082: Crossing the Indian Ocean
GV 083: Rodriguez
GV 084: Mauritius
GV 085: Reunion Cirque de Mafate
GV 086: Reunion Cirque de Salazie
GV 087: Passage to Africa
GV 088: Kruger National Park
GV 089: Richards Bay
GV 090: Durban
GV 091: Port Elizabeth
GV 092: Cape Town
GV 093: Storm Passage
GV 094: St Helena
GV 095: Passage to Brazil
GV 096: Fortaleza
GV 097: Passage to Caribbean
GV 098: Bonaire
GV 099: Passage to Panama
GV 100: Panama
GV 101: Panama Canal
GV 102: Medidor
GV 103: Costa Rica
GV 104: Passage to Acapulco
GV 105: Acapulco to Cabo
GV 106: Baja
GV 107: Home Port
GV 108: In Retrospect
GV 109: Next Time
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