On the morning of November 16th it was time to leave village life behind and set sail for the capital of Fiji - Suva. We had Jese James on board as passenger, he had some business to take care of in Suva and we were happy to bring him along. It was an easy sail with light winds. We could sail for some hours in the afternoon/evening and then had light wind dead astern so we motored through the night, arriving in Suva next morning. Jese also loves fishing so we did all we could on that front, trolling three rods and constantly adjusting line length and lure selection. Unfortunately it only amounted to a lost fish at dawn, probably a tuna that in a great long run broke the line and took my last Rapala Magnum. Another school of non-biting skipjacks came swimming in front of the boat, mocking our fishing efforts.
Suva is not a pretty city when coming in from the water. Approaching after the reef pass entrance you zig-zag between rusty Chinese fishing trawlers and scattered wrecks around the large, shallow, muddy bay outside the city. Industrial-looking shoreline and lots of debris in the water. The anchorage is a little west of the city but access is easy since the Royal Suva Yacht Club is close at hand and for $40F you become a member. For the money you get a nice and shiny RSYC card to impress your friends with as well as access to the dinghy dock, showers and bar/restaurant. A really nice place but a bit low on cruisers, so late in the season it was only us and our friends Laura and Dean on One Love left of the cruising crowd. At least we got to drink a few Fiji Bitters with them the first night before they left for their final crossing to their new home, Auckland. We’ll miss them a lot, it’s really special with the friends you make cruising and keep meeting along the way, sharing the experience.
We really wanted to get going to Vanuatu asap but had two things to get done. Firstly clearing out of Fiji and second getting all new canvas cushion covers sewn for the saloon sofa as well as new curtains and pillowcases. Time to get rid of the old multicoloured stripes of “Cat à la menthe” (Kenobis previous name) and go for a more clean Scandinavian look. Turned out there was a small shop right by the marina that did sail repairs and upholstery. They didn’t have much to do so they agreed to do all of the work (10 sofa cushions + 1 big mattress cushion, 10 small curtains, 4 pillows) for $400F ($200US), very reasonable. Now all we had to do was buy some fabric. Taxi into town for $4F and visits to “Rups Big Bear” and Atlas, shops recommended by the lady in the RSYC reception. These two shops, as most businesses in Suva, are Indian-owned and this was reflected in the colourful prints and luxuriously shiny materials of their rolls of fabric. I explained to the sales attendant that we were Swedish and probably wanted the most boring fabric in the store, what grey fabrics do you have? She looked back with a hopeless expression. Luckily there was a third store that the upholstery place had recommended, Motiram. They cater more to the tourist resorts and have a different selection of a bit more higher quality fabrics. Not a very large one it turned out but they had one 20m roll that was perfect! Light grey with some structure in it, 100% polyester so easy to clean and very rugged. We bought the whole roll, taxied back to upholstery and managed to bribe them, ahem - pay for overtime, $100F so that they’d get the order done by Saturday. This meant a lot as there was going to be a great weather window to go west starting Saturday and three days following. We snapped to action and next day we cleared out (after 1,5h of filling out pointless papers, grr). I had to promise we’d leave at first light, otherwise we’d have to come back tomorrow (Saturday with overtime charges), very cruiser-unfriendly behaviour. I just promised and if we’d get caught you can always claim engine problems… Filling cooking gas and fuel was done quick and easy at RSYC. Even had time to check out the city a little. It’s a lively city with some 300.000 inhabitants. Good Indian restaurants and shops selling cheap imported items. Fun vegetable market with an upstairs floor selling kava, suki tobacco and spices. Outside you can eat a curry roti and have a carved pineapple for dessert for $2F. Many small businesses along the streets, shoe shiners, electric repair shops, pawn shops etc. The Fiji Museum was very cool, they had a live-size remake of an old Polynesian sailing canoe and lots of traditional fishing equipment etc. We went to a large shopping mall, the market, the Internet and ate a lot of good Indian food. I went to Bob’s tackle store and was happy to find a well stocked store with okay prices, much cheaper than French Polynesia. I bought a couple larger squids, four Halco vobblers and two Rapala Magnum as well as some line etc, ready for the run to Australia! Amazingly, on Saturday evening after only two nights in Suva the cushions were done, we were ready to go and we could set sail for Tanna, Vanuatu!