sailing-to-fiji-locals-in-suva

Sailing to Suva, Fiji

Our nine-day sail to Suva on the Fijian islands was smooth and calm. Rain showers blessed me during every single night shift, but it was a warm, Pacific Island rain — can I complain about that? On the positive side of our week sail, we learned how to make oatmeal cookies on the stove top! Daily life aboard QQ is a comfortable routine. Each crew member helps with daily duties and chores, whether it be tying up stray lines, trimming sails, or washing dishes after meals. By now, our bodies have somewhat adjusted to the unsettled motion and rocking of our catamaran. Seasickness is not longer an everyday occurrence (thank goodness) and most of us sleep well, except for the few hours during night watch and those crazy, colorful dreams we all have while at sea. We spend many hours reading, watching our selection of pirated DVDs, plotting chart points, reading some more, scouting for whales, daydreaming, gazing at clouds, or just laying on the nets thinking, pondering and planning.

Approaching Suva, Fiji, on the main island of Viti Levu was exciting! Any island arrival is amazing and something we all look forward to. From seeing the dot of land on the horizon to watching the mass grow into a hulk of multi-hued, rugged terra firma to finally witnessing the palm-lined beaches, etching the coastline, it’s an inspiring experience. Sailors across the South Pacific especially raved about Fiji. This idyllic locale with its blend of Indo-Pacific influenced cuisine, laid-back island time culture, gracious locals — all was apparently enriching, down-to-earth and seriously fun.

The channel leading into Suva’s bay was a muddy, shallow mess, but we were able to anchor close to shore and guide the dinghy right up to the dock of the Royal Suva Yacht Club. As the RSYC was the only boating club on this side of Viti Levu, the dock and harbor were full of colorful fishing boats, sightseeing yachts and homespun sailing ships. Flags from countries as far away as Germany, France, South Africa, Canada, Russia, and Indonesia shouted their presence from atop standing rigging and mastheads. It’s a subtle reminder about how small the world actually is and just how far away from home we actually were.

Discovering Fijian life and culture

Here we are in Fiji — a tangled and captivating web of vivid rainbows and alluring smells. Fiji has a surprisingly unsettled history woven together to form this intriguing, modern culture. The nation has seen four definitive coups in the past two decades. At the center of the previous three lies the tensions between the ethnic Fijians and Indian Fijians, each side wishing to seek equality or establish reduced rights for the other. The underlying tensions certainly existed yet remained unnoticed while we wandered Suva’s dizzying, noisy streets. It was only upon reading the newspapers or chatting with locals that the unrest comes full circle.

Most of Fiji’s economy lies within the city limits of Suva and Nadi, the city on the opposite side of the island. Upon a visual inspection, there seems to be a comfortable level of income within the town, yet directly outside the city are the shantytowns and communities. Thievery exists and gangs are prevalent. We were warned not to walk the streets alone at night and taxis hover around street curbs, prepared to take stray explorers a mere 50 paces further down the street. Exploring during daylight is perfectly safe as long as one keeps a eye on their baggage and steers clear of clever peddlers and the ever present touts handing out ‘free’ souvenirs. That being said, I enjoyed wandering the marketplace and winding alleyways, if only to talk with a friendly local or sample the amazing Indian sweets sold on every corner. I also frequented my favorite curry house, a delightful, mouth-watering display of spicy kormas, lentils, and vegetarian samosas and soon became a regular during lunchtime hours.

Memories at the Royal Suva Yacht Club

Many an afternoon passed on the lawn of the Royal Suva Yacht Club. It was hard to believe that my father sat in this very club nearly 40 years earlier during his first circumnavigation. (I remember this fondly because he somehow swindled a pair of glasses with the RSYC emblem!) Dad told stories of his time in Fiji while the sun set and we sipped $1.50 gin and tonics.

Prices are incredibly cheap in Fiji, especially if you act and eat like a local. As always, grocery price and boxed foods are pricey so we took full advantage of the local market — two massive, concrete stories of produce and other eye-opening oddities. The bottom of the market is a mesmerizing maze of orange, reds and leafy greens. The top floor of the market is a swirling aroma of spices, roots and enough kava to assault the senses.

We had a small issue of a stolen dinghy that was eventually returned minus an outboard, More about that later, but it looks like we’ll be rowing ourselves to shore for quite some time. We didn’t let the incident ruin our experience — Fiji was a fantastic stop and one of the cheapest islands we’ve visited thus far. No wonder Fiji is a popular stepping stone for cruise ships and island-hopping backpackers. I only wish we had a longer time to spend in the outer islands of Fiji, especially in the Yasawas and Mamanuca islands, where great strips of white beach and hidden reefs pop up around every alcove. Another pin on the map and a stamp on the passport.

Onward Queequeg sails to Vanuatu!