Fiji - forms, fees and feeling good in Savusavu

Category: Ships Log
  Savusavu LavaCooking Alena 150x  

September 6th - September 13th

Goodbye Samoa, nice sailing, mystery island, night approach, clearing in, exploring Savusavu, and hot springs.


It was time to move on and and to say goodbye to Samoa. However, the weather for our passage to Fiji started out a bit challenging. The waterfront of Apia disappeared in a wall of grey clouds and heavy rain; we couldn't even see the marina any more which was only about 300m away. Our plan was to depart and head for Fiji in the morning, but it was raining all morning and since then we had one squall after another. This gave us at least enough time to run to the internet cafe once more, prepare Green Panther for the voyage, and precook a few meals we intended to eat out there. Finally at 5:30 pm there was a break in the rain and we used this opportunity to hoist our anchor, say goodbye to our friends on Cool Running and leave the friendly island of Samoa. As soon as we were out of the harbor though, the next squall caught up with us and we had rain and a short thunderstorm to keep us entertained all night. By the next morning, however, the rainclouds subsided and we had sunny sailing conditions for the rest of the trip. The wind and the waves cooperated as well and we had a good sail to Fiji.


We didn't meet a single boat out there, the only excitment was when we came within 3 nm to a very interesting-looking island in the middle of the night. After studying the charts and seeing the shape of this mystery island in the moonlight, we figured it must be a gigantic crater lake. The flanks of the island were several hundret feet high and the inside, according to the charts, is a huge freshwater lake. Since it was the middle of the night we didn't attempt to find a place to anchor or investigate the island further and moved on, which was a good thing. We later learned from our friend Jeff via SSB email that the name of the island is Niuafoʻou, meaning "many new coconuts" and that it is the most northerly island in the kingdom of Tonga. Other names for this remote island are "Good Hope" island and "Tin Can" island. The latter name originated from the fact that, since the island has neither a natural harbor nor a wharf, mail was delivered and picked up by strong swimmers who would retrieve packages, "sealed up in a biscuit tin," and thrown overboard from passing ships.


Satellite view of Niuafo ou 480x
 What we would have seen if Green Panther could fly. :-) "Satellite view of Niuafo'ou, 2005-03-19."
source: International Space Station crew - 

Since we were still at sea on my birthday, Alena went crazy in the kitchen and prepared a Wiener Schnitzel with (real!) mashed potatoes and a cucumber tomato salad to celebrate - a lucky husband I am! Finally after 5 ½ days and a few beautiful sunsets we made it to Savusavu on the island Vanua Levu, the second largest island of the Fiji group.


Savusavu Approach Alena Schnitzel
Alena prepared a birthday feast while Green Panther was rolling in the swell.


Savusavu Approach RedSunset
A beautiful sunset on our way to Fiji.


We arrived in the middle of the night; we usually wouldn't attempt a new anchorage at night but the moon was full and the channel into the reef was wide and easy to navigate so we went for it. We had no trouble entering the lagoon, however we did have some some troubles when entering the creek/inlet along the town itself.  We thought there would only be a few moorings on the side, but no, the entire narrow inlet was a densely packed mooring field with a reef on one side and mangroves on the other. Thanks to the bright moonlight we slowly navigated through the field and Alena found a free black (!) mooring ball. We finally turned off the engine and went to bed at 4am, and slept like a rock. Later that day at low tide we spotted a metal rod sticking straight out of the water about 10m (30ft) behind us. Upon asking about it at the marina, the security guard explained, "Oh yes, that is a shipwreck, it sank right there where it hit the reef a couple years ago." So approaching Suvasavu at night is not for the faint of heart and probably something we will avoid if we ever return.


Anyway after four hours of sleep we got up and called the marina to get the clearing in process started, which involves a lot of paperwork and a lot of fees (and the fees double if you don't get it done before Friday 4pm because then overtime and weekend fees kick in). The first thing we learned was that we had to sail back to the beginning of the inlet and anchor opposite the main wharf until the health department could come and spray our boat. We did as told but found the area around the wharf was 120 ft deep, which was too deep for us to anchor.  We ended up following the example of another boat waiting there and drifted around until the health official showed up an hour later. The officer was very friendly, sprayed the cabin of Green Panther, told us not to open it for at least 20 min, left quite a bill and jumped back into the waiting marina dinghy. Then we motored back to "our" black mooring ball, tied up, aired out our cabin and dealt with the rest of the officials. We had the biosafety department, customs, and immigaration officials next. Some questions we had to answer were quite interesting; for example, we are glad that we didn't bring our holy water :-) (see image below). At the end of this exercise we had completed enough paperwork to publish a small book and acquired a bunch of bills which added up to the crazy amount of over $340 Fijian dollars (~200 USD). Fiji is by far the most expensive country to clear in of all the places we visited so far; for example Samoa charged a total of $15 USD.


Savusavu HolyWater
Luckily we did not carry Wholy Water or humand remains on board ;-)


Savusavu ClearingIn fees
With Biosafety charging FJD $89.70 and Health charging FJD $252.50, we had to support Fiji with a total of FJD $342.20 (~200 USD).


Now we reached the next level of the exercise which encompasses running around town and finding the various offices to pay the bills (after a trip to the ATM). To make this task not too easy, the offices are hidden in backyards, second floors and have no or only little signs. The good thing is you can ask in the streets and everybody speaks English and is super friendly. The biosafety department turned out to be a tiny door in the backyard of a green government building, the health  department was on the second floor of the court house at the end of town, and the customs building was at the exact opposite end of the town. At the end of the afternoon we got rewarded with a nice stamp on our customs form and the okay to continue to Vuda Point marina on the main island of Viti Levu the next day. Hurray!


Savusavu Downtown Storefront2
Typical storefront on the busy main street of Savusavu. Can you find Alena?


Savusavu Health Department Alena
Alena paying the hefty fee at the health department


Well we also celebrated with a hot shower in the marina, this was the first hot shower since Mexico (!), and with a good meal in a local Indian restaurant. On our way back to the boat we stopped at the supermarket and were reassured that Fiji is still an inexpensive place to shop with prices for non-imported foods on the level of Mexico. We also investigated the local community kitchen. This is an array of several hot springs which produce boiling hot water bubbling in several pools not far from the marina. The locals place their food in cooking pots and bags in the hot spring, cover it with a heavy mat or bag to keep it in place and pick it up about an hour later to enjoy a perfectly slow cooked meal.


Savusavu IndianRestaurant
We can hardly keep our eyes open after a good meal at an indian restaurant in town.


Savusavu LavaCooking Boy
 A local junior chef at the hot spring community kitchen.


Savusavu is a quaint little Fijian town, not yet spoiled by tourism with a safe place to anchor, well stocked stores, and a beautiful lush green surrounding. It is easy to see why so many cruisers end up staying here for an entire season or even move here permanetly. Green Panther, however, needed to move on to explore the main island of Fiji called Viti Levu where Alena's parents were flying in to meet us.


savusavu end

Sunrise at the Copra Shed marina in Savusavu.




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0 #1 David 2014-09-28 05:32
Oh, you lucky guy! We remember Alena's delicious schnitzel from last New Years!

We are,in Whistler back from Asia, heading back to Mazatlan Oct 18th.

PS Did you see what Odile ddid in Baja?

David & Michelle
SV Pelagia

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