2012, 10-9 Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu Island Fiji
From Suva we sailed around the South West corner of Viti Levu Island to our new home at Vuda Point Marina. The marina sits half way between Nadi -home to the international airport- and Lautoka the second largest city on the island. The marina started as a submarine harbor during WWII and is different from any other marina we have ever been to.
When you enter from seaward you pass first the Boat Shed restaurant and Bar sitting on the point. Then a big grassy area of picnic tables and a large outdoor screen where they show movies in the evenings three nights a week. Next you pass the coffee shop, the marina offices, a marine store and a small but surprisingly well stocked grocery store. Attached is a small laundry facility with three!!! washing machines, the restroom/shower facilities, a taxi stand and the security gate for the marina.
For the marina itself imagine a cement pond in the shape of a “6” with the tail of the six being a channel that was blasted out of the coral reef that lines shore here. The circle of the six is the boat basin where some four or five dozen boats are tied Med Moor style stern or nose in to the cement quay. There is a cement path running the perimeter of the boat basin along behind the boats and a boat yard off to one side. The grounds are filled with tree's and plants that teem with birds -starlings, parakeets, lorakeets, numerous types of finches- and bright white long tailed Tropic birds swoop over the reef. There is a path off one side that cuts through thick vegetation to First Landing Resort where we are welcome to enjoy five star amenities including a couple of restaurants and bars, a full service spa and a pool.
Adjacent to the boat basin is a section of marina ground that has been filled with holes dug into the ground. This is cyclone territory and many cruisers opt to bury their boats keels in a pit, prop tires around the edges and then climb in and out by ladder. It's funny to see them sitting here looking like someone is about to harvest a crop of blue water boats. There are obviously boaters still living in some and others have been prepared for the worst and then left to fend for themselves.
That is why we are here, Vuda Point is reputed to be the best cyclone hole in this area of the South Pacific. For those not in a pit the marina offers some other unusual safety measures. In the event of a cyclone all of the boats in the marina will switch to stern to on the quay tying off to the heavy rings and chains attached to the edges of our little cement pond. From the bow of each boat will run the typical heavy duty anchor chain sans anchor. Every boats' chain will attach to a central underwater tie off point, wagon wheel style pulled off slightly from the quay. Additionally the marina deploys a breakwater made up of a line of airplane tires that is designed to close off the channel leading out of the marina and through the reef. This breakwater is essential in that it should cut down on the the surge that will inevitably try to work it's way into the marina. Once the breakwater is in place and we are stern too off the quay it will be impossible to leave the marina and almost impossible to leave the boat -we will be much further off the quay in preparation for an actual cyclone. This is the best that can be found in the South Pacific and we are betting our boat on it. The obvious problem is that if any of the boats in the marina have a problem they could and will effect other boats in the marina -like a pinball in play.
Our plan is to monitor the weather, cruise when we can and flee to safety when anything threatens. But getting home will actually be the least of our concerns. In order to really be ready for what may come there is a great deal of preparation to be done. Our sails will have to stripped and stowed and the bimini and dodger will be removed as well as our four solar panels. Everything that can be stowed below will be and anything that won't come off will be lashed down. Once the dodger is off we will be vulnerable to rain coming in through places we have never experienced before.
Oh and the rain, it will rain and rain and rain. At the same time the rain is coming down it will be hot - hot and muggy hot. Black mold will be growing on the inside of the boat from the heat and the humidity and during the guaranteed stormy weather every door, hatch and port will be dogged down tight. A new acquaintance warned me yesterday that even the cockroaches suffer from the cyclones. Desperate for dry land they will come scampering up our mooring lines looking for a dry home. Ewwwwww! But we cruisers are a pretty tenacious bunch. I have talked to couples who have prepared four times in one season for a coming hurricane or cyclone. Most have never seen winds above 50mph! I'm counting on that statistic proving out.
Again the upside is that between the weather that is surely coming our extended stay will allow us to discover a Fiji most travelers never experience. Fiji's cruising choices are wide -multiple island groups, huge barrier reefs, vibrant cities and unspoiled beeches, exquisite snorkeling and world class diving- with enough to do and see to keep us busy for a years.
Travel is all about experiencing life in a new way and Vuda Point promises to give us plenty of new experiences. From the moment we motored into the cut I've had a great feeling about this place. It felt like home to me like nothing else has since we first moved into Shilshole Bay Marina. Already half of the staff knows us by name and we are meeting our neighbors more every day. We've begun working our way through the to-do list and Gordon the Gekko seems to have settled into his new job with us as bug control patrol.