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Monday, May 16, 2016

Make Savusavu Your First Stop in Fiji

We love Savusavu - it's why we've been here for almost a year.

We love the small town feel. We love the small businesses. We love how easy it is to provision. We love our new friends.

Our back yard where we're house sitting - photo by Carolyne

Tropical Cyclone Winston made a mess out of things, but Savusavu bounced back quickly. To date, twenty of the twenty-three boats have been re-floated. The vegetation is growing back rapidly. Some of the villagers are still living in tents or with family members because their homes were destroyed, but there's food and water. Fresh produce is harder to come by and is more expensive because crops were destroyed in the storm, but as I indicated above, things grow quick here.

Coconuts fresh from the back yard - photo by Carolyne

So... why make Savusavu your first stop in Fiji?
We've been told by long time cruisers it's easier to check into Fiji through Savusavu. The government agencies are within waking distance, so there's a faster turn around time finalizing the paperwork.

There are four "marinas" to choose from. All of them offer check-in services and will arrange officials to come out to your boat. Here is what you can expect from each one:

 Jim's photo is in the 2016 Fiji Shores and Marinas

Waitui Marina:
Waitui Marina is the first marina you pass coming into Nakama Creek from Savusavu Bay. They have helix moorings and are located conveniently next door to Fiji Meats and across the street from the gas station, M&H grocers, Immigration, Customs and Sally's Deli. Tropical Cyclone Winston destroyed their wharf, but they are rebuilding it as we speak. They have a yummy restaurant and beer/wine bar attached. You can buy a 3-piece fish and chips for $5... or $2.50US. And, it's good! Laundry service is also available at reasonable rates. Waitui also handles DHL shipping. The charge is $300F for a mooring per month.

The #1 feature of Waitui marina is their manager, Jolene Sami. She knows what customer service is all about. She is the best. Period. She goes over and above to assist her clients.

(Jim's photo of Waitui was printed on page 130)

Contact Jolene:
CH 16
16* 46.44 South / 179* 19.51 East

Village children collecting shells at low tide - photo by Carolyne

Copra Shed Marina:
This is the next marina in the line of succession. They charge the most about $360F per month for a mooring. They have 15 or so slips at the dock as well as moorings. They have a beautiful courtyard, nice bathrooms and a tiny marine shop. They have two restaurants. Laundry services are available here. Prices tend to run on the high side.

Contact Dolly:
CH 16
16* 46.7 South / 179* 2.0 East

He's the port captain of Savusavu and runs the daily VHF net providing weather service for the fleet. His customers can use the Surf and Turf dinghy dock, which is at the end of town. There are no shower facilities.

Rates: Curly says he's got the "best rates in town", so contact him at curly carswell @, OR cell (679) 868 0878

Brightly colored hermit crabs - photo by Carolyne

Savusavu Marina:
Savusavu Marina is located on the outskirts of "downtown" proper. However, the cruiser camaraderie at Savusavu is thick. There are showers, a dock for a couple of boats in addition to moorings and they are the only facility with a do-it-yourself full-size washer.

Contact : Meli or Laila
CH 16

Hermit crabs devouring a fallen coconut on the beach - photo by Carolyne

Friday, April 29, 2016

Deliveries to Savusavu Needed - Calling All Sailboats

(I'm getting super frustrated because photos won't load. When the internet adjusts its attitude, I'll attach some good pics.)

This post is to anyone who is coming to Savusavu, Fiji...
knows of anyone coming to Savusavu, Fiji...
or has a friend of a friend of a friend who is coming to Savusavu, Fiji.

To date, eighteen of the twenty-three boats have been re-floated by cruiser volunteers. It's remarkable. Some of those volunteers lost precious gear they donated to the cause. Ropes, dinghies, chain, and other heavy items were destroyed in the effort. Some boaters who have been re-floated have numerous repairs and need parts.

IF you are headed to Savusavu (or anywhere in Fiji) OR you know someone coming this direction from New Zealand or American Samoa or Australia, please contact me via this blog or email me at We're looking for boats to bring replacement gear.

You can read about Tropical Cyclone Winston in Cruising World mag (May 2016 issue) and you can read about the recovery efforts in the June issue of Boating New Zealand mag.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

With the Tides in Winston's Wake

The fleet in Savusavu has been busy after Tropical Cyclone Winston. It takes a lot of planning to get boats re-floated.  Surprisingly, most vessels will be salvaged. That's a miracle since 23 boats grounded. Now, we're rushing to take full advantage of the king tides that will help us get many of the vessels off the beach. But, will the boats be ready to float in time?
Cruisers gathering at Savusavu Marina to plan strategies and delegate
teams to help save our friends.

Volunteer cruisers and mooring operators work together to plan the stage of recoveries and coordinate efforts. There's lots of borrowing and lending. Tow lines have been loaned to the cause, some which have snapped or chafed. They're very expensive to replace. Shovels and other tools have found their way into needy hands. Our tools have miraculously found their way back home, but some cruisers who lent out their tools in the name of natural disaster lost them in the shuffle.
Distant Beat needed careful planning and high tides to get her off the
beach, but her team was successful in the end.

Working alongside Customs is also a big factor in the recoveries. Customs made it clear that they will not stand by while owners "abandon" their boats after stripping all the valuables. They have been very helpful in allowing us to pull together and help each other, but should anyone cross the line it will be difficult down the road.
Winston left Quixotic half submerged in seawater and half
mangled on land. The owners have decided to save her (it was 50/50). She's
been beached on purpose now for repairs.
Interestingly, "volunteering" in any capacity in Fiji is prohibited without the proper government department's consent. And, getting approval isn't easy. From what we've learned, this extends to all areas: classrooms, hospitals, clinics, salvage... Believe it or not, we had to coordinate approval through Customs before helping friends save their boats.  Luckily, Curly Carswell (long-time Fijian resident from New Zealand and local mooring operator) helped bridge the gap with officials, which saved us from spending valuable time tangled in red tape.

In addition to keeping track of expenses, I've been assigned the task of coordinating boat part deliveries from volunteer cruisers heading to Savusavu from other parts. Please help spread the word... if anyone is sailing from American Samoa, Australia or New Zealand we have cruisers here in Savusavu who could benefit greatly from having boat parts delivered to them. Customs is on board with the idea and all you need to do is to put the vessel captain in touch with me. I've created an email address for deliveries:

Thank you!

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Ghost Ship and the Lucky Dutch

This post is for a couple cruising friends that asked to see photos of their boat.

The first boat is sv Heritage. We call her the ghost ship. When winds kicked up last New Year's Eve, she dragged her mooring through a crowded anchorage. She ended up at the other end of the creek nestled nicely in a new location.
Sv Heritage parked perfectly in the mangroves

When Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Savusavu a little over a week ago, Heritage found a nice cushy spot in the mangroves. It's like her ghost captain purposely drove it to safety and parked it in the mangroves.

For our friend Humberto... nothing big to report on your boat during the New Year's Eve unexpected blow, and minimal findings after Winston tore up the anchorage. The fire hose chafe gear rubbed through... definitely a wonderful use for used fire hose! And on your port side, we detected some chafe on your mooring lines.

Either way you look at it, The Ghost Ship and the Lucky Dutch both came out alright. 
Doing a happy dance for them... doing a happy dance for them...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hotspur, Fiji and a Cat 5 Tropical Cyclone

We've been super lucky over the years dodging hurricanes and cyclones. We missed Jimena in Mexico in 2009 when we ran north in our sailboat, Windfall. After destroying parts of the southern Baja, Jimena pin-balled just south of us and ran east to Guaymas and San Carlos. We never even saw a drop of rain. And we'd left La Paz just 6 months before Hurricane Odile hit in 2014, a Category 3. Other hurricanes and cyclones over the years struck well away from us, too.

When the maps tracked Tropical Cyclone Winston zooming over Savusavu we thought maybe we'd be lucky again. But it soon became clear that we needed to take Winston seriously. For the first time in almost 8 years of cruising, we took down our sails to prepare for a tropical storm.

The boating community was struck hard in Savusavu. Many of our friends ended up on the rocks. Some of the vessels can be refloated. It's a slow process, but one-by-one boats are getting pulled off.

Hotspur stayed on her mooring and lost a solar panel and a few other minor things. Otherwise, she's fine. Many moorings dragged. A few boats broke free when chafe gear failed.

Tropical Cyclone Winston was scheduled to hit on the evening of Saturday, 2/20. It made its debut before noon. Around 10:00a.m., the Westerlund (a large ferry) tried to squeeze into the anchorage. It hit two boats before reversing back out of the entrance. The crew actually went to several boats on moorings and asked them to move! The added chaos didn't go over well in the cruising fleet.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Wyndcutter's Harrowing Passage

Craig and Carol Fleetwood made a decision that changed their lives. When they sailed past us in the Savusavu, Fiji anchorage in October 2015, we were waving our hands and blowing kisses. "We'll see you down the road!" one of us said. "We'll probably turn around and see you tomorrow," Carol said in a stage whisper.

But the Fleetwoods kept going and made remarkable time to the Marquesas from Savusavu. We smiled when we found out they were sharing Thanksgiving dinner with mutual friends in Nuku Hiva. "Maybe that's what we should have done," either Jim or I said. The Fleetwoods made it look easy.
Carol and Craig at my BIG 50 birthday dinner (Sept. 2015)

Making decisions... it's one of the hardest things cruisers face when cruising.
What is the weather pattern?
Where do we want to end up and when?
How long do we have left on our Visa?
How much longer can the boat stay in the country?
Have we finished our priority repairs?

And once a decision has been made, you prepare:
Is there enough food for X days?
We carry X amount of fuel - we can use it here, here and here.
Here are our back-up supplies... just in case.
Back up charts?
If this happens, we have this...
If that happens, we have that...

But, in real life you can't plan for everything. When Craig and Carol decided to throw the dice and route their 48' Island Packet to Mexico from the Marquesas, they had no idea what they were gambling. When I read Carol's account on her blog, the hair on my neck stood on end.


Friday, January 29, 2016

How A Gum Boil Sent Us on Vacation

Jim and I make an effort to maintain our health while traveling by booking yearly wellness exams and dental cleanings for the family. Our last visit to the dentist was in Mexico before we sailed to the South Pacific in 2014. (Yeah, I know... time got away from us.) We recently began asking around in Fiji. We heard there was an awesome dentist in Labasa. We made appointments and hopped on a $10 van to the big city.

The van stops at roadside fruit and veggie stands on the way back to Savusavu
Dr. Kumar's friendly chair-side manner put us at ease immediately. Our routine consultation and cleaning took a couple hours for the three of us. Carolyne, for all her junk food sneaking and candy crams, came out with a glowing report. And Jim's severe overcrowding is good for one thing - cavity causing bacteria can't divide and conquer. He finished with zero cavities and a dismissive warning from Dr. Kumar about a small area on his gums. And then my turn...
Dr. Kumar is very popular with the cruisers
“Ah, you have a gum boil,” Dr. Kumar said.
“I've never heard of a gum boil,” I said. It sounded scary, but it was almost Christmas so I imagined a red striped, liqueur-filled candy instead. But when Dr. Kumar said, “This is a serious infection. It's in the bone,” my Sugar Plum vision crumbled. After cleaning my teeth AND filling a cavity, I was sent home with a baggie of antibiotics. (Yeah, I know. Gross.)
Jim in Dr. Kumar's office in Labasa
I returned to Dr. Kumar's office 3 weeks later. “The antibiotics didn't work,” he said and sent me to the hospital for an X-ray. When I returned to his office with my film, he shook his head. “I recommend you see my colleague in Suva,” Dr. Kumar said.
And that's how we went on vacation.
Because I knew you were dying to see inside me
(All costs are in U.S. dollars)
Jim: Ultra-sonic cleaning and exam - $28
Carolyne: exam - $2.50 (yep - that's right)
Meri: Ultra-sonic cleaning, exam, compound filling and antibiotics - $45
X-ray at hospital - $17
Second and third consultation without appointment - free
TOTAL: $92.50

Suva is on the big island and meant either we flew, we sailed our boat or we took the ferry over. We chose the ferry, which crosses during the nighttime and is much cheaper than flying. We booked a “sleeper” room, a dormitory-style room with separate bunks in air-conditioning. It's a far cry from what the airlines call “first class”, but beats the heck out of sleeping on mats on the hard floor in the heat... which is what the economy class does.
COST: $35 one-way per person on either Bligh or Grounder Shipping
Scenes in Suva

Gorgeous flowers at the market

Mother and daughter puletasi

We arrived in Suva early – before 8am. After coffee and breakfast, we asked a taxi driver to recommend a safe, economical hotel. He took us to South Seas Private Hotel.

We didn't have a reservation when we arrived at 9am, but were granted early check-in. Our room was spartan, but clean. The building was like a historic dormitory with polished wood floors and stair banisters. No A/C was in the room, but overhead fans were fine during summer in December. Nice, quiet grounds with tropical flora - Large community kitchen with ample seating and roomy fridge - Museum and Thurston Gardens next door.  It's within walking distance to downtown.
South Seas room

South Seas corridor
There are no electrical outlets in rooms to charge devices. None. However, you can sit in TV room and plug in if you have hours to keep an eye on your belongings. Also, we got locked INSIDE our room at 10:30pm when one of us got up to use the community bathroom. Half-an-hour later we'd jimmied the door with a pocket knife. The night manager said she had to get permission before allowing us into another room. We rigged the door that night so we could lock it, but get out if we needed. The manager on duty the next morning was upset the night manager hadn't moved us into another room when we told her of our "Hotel California" experience.
COST: $30 per night for all of us

In the window at Proud's Dept. Store

Suva locals
We moved the next day and ended up at Studio 6 Apartments in a “deluxe” accommodation. It's located on the other side of downtown from South Seas, but is within waking distance of downtown.

PROS: Air-conditioning! Kitchenette! Color TV! Refrigerator!
Good location and nice staff. Early check-ins allowed.

CONS: Floors were dirty; we wore flip flops inside. Hot water in shower is fickle. The breaker blows if you plug in too many things into the outlets.

COST: $75 per night for all of us
(Carolyne and I returned to Suva for my follow-up appointment a month later. We shared a double bed at Studio 6 Apartments in a smaller room with a fridge, A/C and TV. Cost was $42.)

Japanese lunch at Daikoku Restaurant - we highly recommend it!
Not all of Fiji is Third World

Dancing and music at the Fiji Museum

Carolyne in the large exhibit room

Carolyne's photo of our exquisite lunch 

Ladies selling flowers at the market in Suva

Dr. Singh has a lovely office downtown. His modern equipment and cutting edge technology made my diagnosis easy. I had a dead tooth (now an infected dead tooth) and I needed a root canal. I had a couple X-rays taken in his office and he scheduled the procedure immediately. He was so gentle I almost fell asleep in the chair - and that's without anesthesia. No joke.

COST: CT Scan $85.... Root Canal, follow-up and all other X-rays $300.

Contact info for Dr. Singh at Stewart Street Dental in Suva