Smooth and Soothing Return to Fiji

After ten days on a benevolent sea we’re hove to in the lee of Koro Island, a little fat-banana-shaped Island in the middle of a sea named after it just to the South of Vanua Levu, the “Big Island” of the military republic of Fiji. Picture perfect sailing it has been to the point of being a little boring, but then that does depend on one’s attitude, or does it not? The only hiccup in our journey is that today is Saturday, and overtime fees for ever-cash-hungry officials would add considerably to the already quite substantial check-in fees into this touted island paradise. So we’ve escaped the rocky waters of the open sea, churned up by peaceful but persistent trade winds, and are stretching time to push our arrival time at least into Sunday afternoon, hoping that we’ll be allowed to hang on the quarantine buoy until Monday morning and clear in during regular hours.

A silver waxing moon in transition from half empty to half full hovers gracefully overhead and, underneath racing shreds of convection clouds that rise over the wooded crest of the island to our East, casts speeding shadows on the dark and smooth waters around us. Gently rocking Aluna allows us some hours of sleep, while she bobs back and forth with her mizzen sail and rudders pointing in opposite ways. Like this we’re drifting in a jagged yellow line on the luminescent chart that slants slowly away from the coastline. The routine though is still the rigid one of life on the open ocean. An hour and a half of slumber, then get up, look around, scan the horizon, and check the position. Then I’m allowed to huddle back into the sleeping bag on the deck pod’s watch bunk that’s been my friend since we left the Bay of Islands just barely escaping the strides of yet another frigid Austral winter. The eerie calm is cut from time to time by gusts the tumble down on us after spilling over an island that reaches barely four hundred meters in elevation. The dreaming is still hectic, chaotic and of epic proportions during the interrupted sleep. Medieval battles, cybernetic gadgets, abnormal physics and outrageous personalities put the likes of Fellini, Dostoyevsky, Kurosawa and even the notoriously poor imagination of the well-remunerated and over-celebrated creators of Hobbits of sorts and the many other modern pseudo legends projected on the silver screen are all put to shame by what an overhyped and quite feverish mind can do in the freefall of reality deprived of the regularity and normality of living on land.

The next morning it’s a short four-hour sprint across the last stretch of the Koro Sea and we round Point Reef while it lies fully submerged by the high tide. Radio conversations soon reveal that our hopes of a lazy Sunday afternoon are doomed. Whoever comes into the harbor has to bite the overtime fees! This seems to be the present rule, but: contrary to the very strict sounding official policy that no vessel is allowed to touch Fijian soil before checking in at one of the designated customs ports of the country, the officials generously tolerate us anchoring overnight in front of the Cousteau Resort at the very extremity of the Savusavu Peninsula, and like that allow us to come into Nakema Creek on Monday morning.

Now it’s hot again, really hot, sultry, sweaty, sticky, simply sweet and  lovely! The officials are truly nice, polite, very professional and with plenty of Island charm. By the end of the day we’re legal. A quick stint ashore reveals much of the same as last year. The big office building with the giant glass window is now finished, well mostly that is, but it stands almost empty. One giant office space contains a single desk with a secretary typing something into a computer. The market stands and bus terminal bustle busily just as they always had. But of course, for Beatriz all this is new and I’m sure there will be new and exciting things in it for me too before long!

In the meantime I promise to get to work and talk story a good bit about Aluna’s latest maritime adventure. Life out there in the big blue is after all still highly sacred and on a very different plane. So much is there to be learned out on the wavy gravy that it always happens to shatter the monotony of the bloated and blistered comforts of our weary existence walking the entrails of civilization.

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