August 21, 2020 ; 1:44 PM
17°75’S, 177°37’E – Nadi Bay, Fiji
1,950 miles later, we are finally anchored off the coast off the coast of Denarau Island, Fiji. It’s a beautiful, sunny day and it feels oh so good to be floating still after a rough passage.
The sail started off beautifully. We had 6 days of sunny skies, fair winds, and mild seas. We adjusted the sails regularly between wing on wing sailing and a broad reach to speed through the water to our waypoints. The moon was nearly full, providing plenty of light on night watches and the crew was content with all things- except a severe lack of fish biting on our line. It was sailing bliss, and it was too good to be true…
7 days of squalls rolled in and brutally beat Gracie Girl’s hull against 15-foot swells. The wind was constantly shifting, making for uncomfortable night watches and fragmented sleep patterns. Sea spray and rain made it impossible to dry anything out, and life aboard Amazing Grace became increasingly uncomfortable. My bruises are battle scars from being flung across the galley as the boat pitched in the waves. Captain Dave must have one on his behind as well, because all 200 pounds of him was chucked across the cockpit at my head at high speeds. Looking back now, the unbalance is comical. At the time, it was infuriating.
Heat exhaustion and probably a little dehydration cursed me with a migraine through one of those gross, rainy, rough days. To those who haven’t spent time on the high seas being thrown around a boat, I’m not sure how to describe the misery of laying around the boat trying to keep my head still so I wouldn’t feel my brain rolling around in my skull. That was the worst day of the trip so far. Oh wait, second to learning Corona Virus cancelled our circumnavigation.
In the middle of our 7 rough days, there was one day of sun, there to remind us how we love floating in the middle of the ocean. But I do mean floating, as we were hit with hot, hot doldrums that caused 24 hours of motoring. Then, quickly, it was back to the washing machine.
In the midst of a rough sail, our phone calls from friends and family (thanks guys) and bites on our fishing lines help break up the time and add some variety to time spent unsuccessfully whale watching (there was an extreme lack of wildlife on this passage), reading, listening to music and podcasts, etc. But the fish out on this side of the Pacific are seriously gargantuan.
There were epic battles between the captain and his prey, the first mate and her prey, and our colorful, squidy prey and the sea. Unfortunately, we lost 5 truly giant, strong, angry, vindictive, impressive fish. I mean it, there was absolutely no lack of skill in the fisherpeople on board 😉. One snapped the line on the pole after pulling it all the way out of the spool, one stole the hook from our squidy bate, two were pulled almost all the way in before they darted around and got off the hook, and one literally chomped through a steel leader. I mean, there was a disturbance on the hand line, I pulled it in, and the line itself was still intact, but the bait and the hook were completely gone, and the STEEL leader severed. Shark? Monster? Narwhal? Who knows, but I’m logging it in as a gargantuan sea monster. (Okay, so reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea might have gone to my head).
We did manage to reel in one of our 3.5-foot dolphins. No, we didn’t eat flipper. Maybe you’re more comfortable if we use the Hawaiian name, “Mahi Mahi”, or the Mexican name, “Dorado”? It was a glorious battle and we prevailed. Captain Dave filleted him after dark because it took so long to pull him in, and I spent the next afternoon creating a feast of sushi. He’s good for many meals, and Admiral Anne’s lemon, garlic sauce was so good it rivalled even my new sushi-making skills. We felt like warriors and ate like kings.
Near the end of the rough days, we crossed the International Date Line and time travelled forward a day. I’ll count it as a blessing, because that day would have probably been spent on a wildly bucking boat as well 😉. As we crossed the line, which is shockingly not marked with a literal line to create dramatics as it is on maps and globes, things started to mellow out. We were within the Fiji island chain (there are 330 islands in all), so the reefs were starting to break up and block the swells. As we made it through the pass, the seas calmed down completely, the sun came out, and we enjoyed a few hours of glorious sailing, followed by 24 hours of motoring to get to our quarantine anchorage. It was the first time ever that the crew of Amazing Grace was happy to motor.
I cannot describe the relief of dropping the hook, reversing the boat, and getting a hold after the passage we had. We were greeted with yells and waves from Maximillian and Cathryn Estelle and notes from the rest of our Lost ARC crew as we reunited (socially distanced by 4 boat lengths of water, of course). Gin and tonics, lasagna, red wine, and brownies were had, but celebrations were short as our beds were calling. I slept for a miraculous 12 hours, a start at make up zzzz’s for extremely broken and unsatisfying sleep on the passage. I even missed the navy come by this morning (all good). I feel like a brand-new woman.
Today it’s sunny and extremely hot and beautiful. We cheered Amari as they came in this morning, and got our COVID tests done this afternoon. We expect results tomorrow, at which point we’ll be able to dock at the marina and set foot on land. Speaking of COVID tests, after an extremely painful experience in Papeete, we were dreading our nasal swabs and couldn’t wait to get them over with. But a kind, gentle doctor was brought out to the boat by the Navy. She swabbed us uncomfortably, but it was quick and painless and my eyes barely watered. It was awesome and we are grateful.
So, we wait. And we can’t wait to head into the marina, meet the locals, explore the island, STRETCH OUR LEGS, and hug our friends. Fiji currently has zero cases of corona virus, in part thanks to their strict process for bringing in foreigners. Flights are still not open, and anyone entering has to quarantine for 14 days, with negative COVID tests on both sides of the quarantine. Lucky for us, Fiji counts our time at sea in quarantine time. We so appreciate their diligence, especially after hearing upon our arrival that there are now over 150 COVID cases in French Polynesia, where flights opened back up just prior to our departure ☹.
Here at anchor, Amazing Grace is going through a very deep clean. She was salty as ever after our rough passage, and everything had a slight odor after a week of wetness. We’re catching up with friends and family, writing blog posts, reading the news, and doing whatever we can to keep ourselves busy until we are allowed on land. (I’ve spent too much time watching the school of tuna swimming around the stern of the boat. They are absolutely mocking me, as we’re not allowed to fish in this bay).
Although it was a tough passage, we’re thankful for safe sailing. We try to remember mostly the 6 really wonderful days of sailing and our fishing triumph and forget the hard days, but we need to walk on land, eat a burger, and drink a local beer first. Hopefully, all goes well with the check in process and my next post will be full of Fiji fun.
First mate, Amazing Grace
TLDR: Captain Dave and his first mate battled the mighty sea monsters of the South Pacific, but the monsters retreated before we could have our victory. They may have quit the battle, but we will WIN THE WAR.