By the time we reached Navalu Passage, where we would leave the reefs of Viti Levu and gain a clear path to New Zealand, the weather was completely unsuitable.
Pouring rain in short bursts, and no visibility. The whole mass of Viti Levu, the biggest island in all the South Pacific between New Caledonia and Chile, was completely lost in clouds. There is no rain like the tropical rain.
The wind had come against us. We tacked back and forth on the still water inside the reef, content to move slowly. The reefs of Fiji have a reputation, I didn't trust CMAP much, and we could see little.
A catamaran had checked out just behind us, and slowly gained on us, alternately motoring and sailing in the changing breeze. They weren't in a hurry either, and we and they gradually felt our way out to the passage in company.
They ended up through the pass just before us, while Alisa stood watch on our bow and I madly glassed the shore behind us, trying and failing to find the leads for the pass.
You can't imagine what a taut moment that is if you haven't had a go yourself - all your dreams and too much of your money in the form of your own boat that is carrying you out to sea, your kids down below and your wife on the bow, mad breakers on either side of you in the pass and the heaving expanse of the open ocean in front of you, and a week, or ten days, before you'll see land again. And in this instance, with the poor visibility and the dramatic weather, everything was that much more of-the-moment.
Both boats made it through the big ship-adequate pass just fine, of course. And we kept company for the rest of the day - both boats obviously heading for the same place and moving at the same speed.
We saw their mast light for a few hours after nightfall, and in the morning we were out of sight of each other. And then we forgot all about them.
And then yesterday Alisa ran into our mate Pete, who had just cleared in from Fiji on Rapaki
. Yeah, Fandango
, he said. Tough luck, that. They cleared out just after you, you know.
Alisa and I couldn't be sure, but it did seem that that cat in the pass had been named Fandango
. And now New Zealand radio is putting out a regular safety notice that Fandango
is dismasted, with poor navigation lights, no radar and limited ability to maneuver, making her way slowly towards New Zealand. Pete tells us that she has dodgy fuel on top of that.
We know nothing more about her, or the long struggle her crew must be going through. Pete says that a long-distance tow will be attempted.
You've got to be so ready to go to sea, you've got to have your act so together. Again, I know nothing of their situation, but all of our boats are potentially vulnerable to a failure in one little piece of gear - a turnbuckle, say, or a bolt in a transmission coupling - that can have ridiculously big consequences.
So you have to know
that all those little bits are ready when you set out on a passage. But at the same time, if you wait until everything is perfectly ready, you'll join that huge majority of people, actually and metaphorically, who forever sit in an expensive marina berth, going nowhere.
Finding the reasonable middle, getting to the point where you're ready and also going, is, I suppose, what serving an apprenticeship of the sea is all about...
Meanwhile, best wishes to Fandango
, and may they be safely in port soon.