What are you doing for Cyclone Season? is a subject of every conversation we had with other cruisers in September and October in Fiji. There are 4 main approaches to it. 1. Sail to Australia or New Zealand. 2. Sail north to the Marshall Islands. 3. Put your boat in a pit (literally) in a boatyard in or a cyclone-certified marina in Fiji. 4. Stay on your boat in Fiji with a contingency plan that reads something like, if a cyclone is coming put your boat into a mangrove forest or try to sail to a place out of harm's way. Most people we know opted for approaches 1. or 3. As much as we wanted to stay in Fiji (forever) we opted for 2. and we'll come back to Fiji next season when the pool opens again in May.
So, we find ourselves in Tuvalu. Tuvalu is one of the tiniest countries in the world with a population of just under 12,000. We can see about half of them from Calla Lily's deck when we anchor in front of Fongale on Funafuti. Tuvalu is the first stop between Fiji and Majuro in the Marshall Islands. It took us about 4 and a half days to make the passage that started out with great sailing and a boarding by the Fijian Navy to check our papers. We've been here a couple weeks waiting for the weather to shape up so we can make the 5-day passage to Tarawa in Kiribati, and then the 3-day passage to Majuro.
We spent the last month of our stay in Fiji cruising the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands on the west side of Fiji and Viti Levu, referred to by the islanders as the mainland. Our cruising buddies for the Yasawas were Brian and Joe on Pawsitive Latitude and Katie on Flite Deck. We met Brian in the Tuamoto back at the end of April and buddy boated with him off and most of the way across French Polynesia, the Samoas, and now Fiji. Brian is a solo sailor from South Carolina who is sailing around the world with the help of crew members friends. We met Katie in Toau near the end of our time in the Tuamoto and then reconnected with her in Savusavu. It was great to have a last few weeks with them. Brian is a great friend and always has interesting people aboard. He loves to SCUBA and made sure we got out for dives often.
Next stop was Musket Cove which is a mecca of sorts for cruisers. The anchorage is huge and well protected and attracts over 100 yachts for the annual regatta. We opted to not be there then. Part of the draw for us at this point was that many of our friends were there getting prepared for their cyclone season activities. We anchored next to Auryn, whom we had met in the Tuamoto and last saw in Tahiti in June. Before we were settled they came over and we got caught up. Also there was Pulsar whom we met 3 years ago when we received and stored materials and supplies for at our home in Tucson when they were doing a refit in Peñasco. We shared an anchorage with them in La Cruz in 2022 and spent our time in the South Pacific chasing them and just missing them in many islands until now. And we picked up a new buddy boat for the trip to Majuro! They are here in Funafuti with us and we have been having great fun exploring this weird wacky wonderful place. We also reunited and said goodbye to Mandolyn (last seen in Tahiti), Wildflower (Toau), and Carina (American Samoa). So much of cruising is meeting new people and saying goodbye. With the end of the South Pacific cruising season coming, there was a lot more saying goodbye going on. Mostly, it was great to see old friends and enjoy pizza and beer. We made some new friends of course, one boat was even going north to the Marshalls and had organized a Whatsapp group for us to keep tabs on each other and share learnings and tips. We had already said our goodbyes to Atmospheric and Pit Pony with whom we had been sailing on and off with since French Polynesia.
Next stop was Denarau, where the boatyard and mall are to settle up, clear out, fuel up and provision out for the 1500 nautical mile trip to Majuro. It was nice to be back in Denarau, this time on a mooring ball in the marina. Provisioning was fun. We took 2 buses and a taxi back from Cost U Less, a smaller format. Shelby was able to stock up on cassava chips which are like potato chips only made from cassava, which is an analogue to potatoes common in the south pacific islands. Closer to the marina is a grocery store that is a short walk from a boat ramp, so we took Millie, our dinghy, to the grocery store. While we were in Denarau, Pulsar showed up and let us know their plans which they had written in the sand at low tide had changed again and they were headed north just like us! We now get to buddy boat with one of our favorites. Clearing out was pretty easy, the only issue being that Fiji wants you to be on your way within a couple hours of clearing out. This meant we had to go back a second time to the customs office on the day we left.
Final preparations were done and it was now time to say goodbye to Fiji, to our first season in the south pacific, and to a lot of good friends. The passage to Funafuti in Tuvalu was uneventful, except for our encounter with the Fijian Navy, which sounds scarier than it actually was. As we neared Funafuti, the South Pacific Convergence Zone widened and we motored the last day or so after a few days of really nice sailing. We have been here for 2 weeks now and are preparing to leave for Tarawa in Kiribati.