We spent almost four months in Fiji, and we spent far too much of that time running or hiding from bad weather. So we were not surprised that we had lousy weather as we were leaving.
We had hoped to leave Lautoka by mid-morning on the 15th; however, the immigration officer was out of the office for the morning. So it was almost 2:00 pm before we slipped our mooring and got underway.
The wind in the anchorage was only 8 knots, so we did not expect what we found as we headed west. The skies clouded over, and the wind and seas built. The wind on our port beam was 30 knots at times, and the seas were 12 feet. We were sailing with a double-reefed main and a staysail.
We were headed for a pass through the barrier reef just south of Mana Island and north of Malolo Lailai. There were a few boats tucked in to the north shore of Malolo Lailai which offered some protection from these conditions, and we considered anchoring there until things blew over a bit, but we could not. The sky was completely clouded over, it was late in the day, and we did not have adequate visibility to find our way through the bommies to get in there. We decided that we would feel safer outside the reef rather than inside, so we pressed on. We cleared the pass through the barrier reef at 6:00 pm local time.
Conditions did not improve outside the reef, but we no longer had to worry about unseen bommies, so our spirits improved somewhat. However, they drooped a bit as these lousy conditions persisted. It was another four hours outside the barrier reef before we could even make our first log entry, and the conditions had only marginally improved – 25 knots of wind with 10 foot seas. But conditions did improve over the next 24 hours, and we had a nice sail for about 24 hours. However, as the wind continued to abate, we ended up motorsailing our final 8 hours.
We did troll a fishing lure for about six hours on the last morning as we were approaching Port Resolution, but we didn’t catch anything. A nice fish would have been a good way to end this lousy passage, but it was not to be.
We arrived at Port Resolution on the east side of Tanna in Vanuatu 73 hours after leaving Lautoka. We were very glad to drop our anchor and put this passage behind us.