The problems are just part of the adventure

July 7, 2008

We have had some adventures the past few days. I guess most of our adventures involve mishaps of some sort. Two days ago we left Land Harbor at the northern part of the Yasawa Islands and started heading south. We need to get back south in order to check out in the town of Lautoka. It is too hard to sail directly back to Lautoka (because of all the reefs in the way) so we have been breaking up the trip with brief stops at the islands along the way, just as we did as we worked our way up the Yasawas.

Moutains in Nalauwaki Bay , Waya Island
Moutains in Nalauwaki Bay , Waya Island

Unfortunately there are just not very many anchorages that provide good protection from wind and waves and swell here. We ended up dropping anchor at a very lovely, anchorage – basically a narrow channel just below the southernmost portion of Naviti Island. It is protected from the north by Naviti and from the south and some of the south-west by two small islands (Narara and Naukakuva).Because it is actually a passage (with openings at both the easterly and westerly ends) the wind can blow quite strongly through there. The bottom looked sandy, however, and there was no swell inside the anchorage and by the time we reached there it was almost dark and we had no other safe options for the night.

Traditional costume on Waya Island
Traditional costume on Waya Island

It was lovely, with hundreds of birds circling overhead and green palm trees covering the small hills close by us. The current running through the passage, however, was very strong, and during the night we noticed that although the wind was blowing from the east, the current was running from the west, and the boat had turned around and instead of facing into the wind (most preferable), it was facing into the current. That, in itself, is not necessarily a problem, but we could tell from the sounds below us that our anchor chain must have gotten wrapped on something on the sand-bottom due to all the turning. We could hear a scraping sound from deep under us every time the boat moved, meaning only one thing – the anchor chain had gotten wrapped on coral. The boat was also doing a lot of slapping up and down as it bounced up and down on the swells coming in with the current.

Sometimes it is easy to unwrap an chain caught on coral, just by moving the boat forward or backward a bit when pulling up the anchor. This time, however, it was clear that it was really stuck badly and we would not be able to get it out without someone diving to the bottom and actually unwrapping the chain from whatever was holding it. The water was fairly clear, but the anchor was way too deep to dive down without diving equipment. Luckily, our friend Michael, on Vera, has diving gear, and after he got his anchor pulled up (with some difficulty too), he put on his diving gear and came over to help us. The current in the passage was so strong that he had trouble swimming even 10 meters over to our boat, and he had to hang on to our dinghy trailing behind our boat in order to make it the final few yards. He dove down and found that the anchor chain had actually wrapped itself over, then under, and then sidewise across a very large and solid piece of coral. Very bad situation! But, with Michaels’ diving skills, and Mark floating in the water above him wearing his snorkel gear, we were able to maneuver the chain free – with Michael giving Mark hand signals from down below on when I should pull up the anchor chain (done with an electric windlass, so there is no strength needed). It worked great and 15 minutes after Michael went down we were free and we all sailed off together – very glad that all was o.k. and that we were buddy sailing with such competent friends.

Our next stop was just 8 miles south of there – the anchorage on the western edge of Waya. We stopped here two weeks ago and loved the little resort – the Octopus – and thought it was one of the most beautiful anchorages we had seen in the Yasawas. Unfortunately we were chased out of there last time by a tremendous swell which made it an incredibly uncomfortable place to try to sleep. When we pulled in on Saturday it was pretty calm and the wind forecast looked good. Within an hour, however, a strong squall blew in from the west (the most unprotected direction for that anchorage) and we had to wait out a monster downpour for a couple of hours. The beautiful sunset that followed was worth the storm though, and it ended up being a relatively calm night.

Sunday was clear and calm and we decided to risk staying another night. The winds were very low and the seas were quite calm, but the forecast was for winds to pick up to 20-25 knots by midnight (that’s a lot) – but from a direction which should be ok for that anchorage. Well, the winds did pick up, but not from quite the direction we had expected, so had another very rock and rolly night at Waya. Earlier in the day we had met our friends from Wombat of Sydney who were anchored at an anchorage just 4 miles away, and were much better protected. They had hiked over the hill and met us at the Octopus Resort for a drink at sunset and told us how comfortable it was on their side. So first thing this morning we picked up our anchor (easily) and we (Vera and us) motored through rough seas to the northern anchorage of Waya which is totally protected from the rough seas and strong winds out there. We are very happy to be here. It is not only well protected, but is really gorgeaus – one of the prettiest anchorages we have been in yet. With the weather forecast predicted to be rough for the next 3-4 days we may be here for at least that many days.

All is well on Sabbatical III……