Minerva to Fiji
The trip from Minerva to Fiji was fairly straightforward. Not enough wind, as usual, meant we were being careful about motoring but still making reasonable progress. It changed on Thursday night. We passed Koro island around 10pm with just a 25 miles to go to the reef pass that leads to Savuavu, our point of clearence. Amanda came off watch with the comment that it looked a bit black behind. I came out, and had a look - it was positively evil! We began to hear comments from friends on Blue Lilly, Loupan, Vega and Hakuna Matata who were all behind us, about the storm. We had no sails up as there was no wind for us, and we were just motoring slowly on one engine. In the space of a few minutes the wind went from 3 knots to 33 knots and more. The rain started and didn't stop. We were now headed for the reef at 8 knots! As it was our first time in Fiji we had no prior knowledge of the reef pass. It looked wide, but how accurate are the charts? We planned to arrive at the reef with daylight, hence pottering on with one engine. However, no we were going far too fast! We had to slow down. There are a few ways to do this - we can heave too - lay across the waves and slide sideways. This works but can be pretty uncomfortable (and indeed, we were hearing such reports from behind us). We could turn and motor into the waves - but that seems wasteful. We opted to deploy our Jordan series drogue. This is 140 small parachutes on a very long warp. We've never used it but carried it since the UK. We opted to use just the last 3rd - and the effect was dramatic. We slowed from over 8 knots to 1.5knots and as we were going 'downhill' (with the waves) it was very comfortable indeed. We stayed like this for a few hours when we got the a lucky break - we saw the ferry leaving Savusavu on AIS and were able to record its track. So by 5am, we hauled in the drogues (by hand, it wasn't too hard), and then followed the ferry's track around the reef and up toward Savusavu. By 7am we were attached to a mooring and tidying up the boat, ready for the influx of officials. Health first, followed by biosecurity, immigration and customs. All very pleasant, very welcoming and we lost no food and paid no duty for our excess alcohol (which was quite lucky - others had too). Welcome to Fiji!