Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
Fiji - Bula! - Overwhelmed by a beaurocratic nightmare
Savusavu - 28 September to 4 October 2010
If you want to cruise around Fiji in your sailboat you need plenty of time and money to deal with the bureaucracy.
The initial entry procedures took us about 4 hours, with the result that the clearance we got was valid just for Savusavu and we couldnít just leave and go visiting places.
Before leaving a port you need to get clearance. Naturally, if you want to stop somewhere else in Fiji you need to get to another port of entry for new clearance and do it all over again.
As there is an entry and an exit fee every time, it ends up costing a lot of money just for a brief stay. We did not have the time and we didnít have the patience either, it all seemed nonsense to us.
For a long stay you can get a cruising permit and then you are free to go around.
We were running out of time in the season and as a result we thought that visiting Fiji would have to be left for another time.
Despite the bureaucracy Fiji deserves a whole season to explore the many wonderful places and, who knows, maybe things will change. With that in mind we started to get ready for continuing our trip to Vanuatu.
We spent one day in a neighbouring beach resort, did some snorkeling, but that was almost all we did.
Weíve been studying weather for several days now, there isnít a clear window, some gribs are showing no wind at all in some areas with lots of rain and strong winds in other areas. It is advisable to be aware in this part of the world when the grib shows an area of no wind at all. The SPCZ, if active will create strange weather patterns. Anyway, we engaged Bob McDavitt again for this trip and finally decided we could leave Saturday.
With our hard decision made we started to get ready. Friday afternoon, before the end of business day we went to do our clearance procedures.
We couldnít believe when they told us that once we clear we have 1 hour to leave anchor. We have never been in a place where you canít clear at least 24 hours before you leave.
There was no way to reason with this guy and he said we can book him to clear us out any time we wish, at a cost of course. They charge a high fee for after-hours clearance. We thought this was an outrageous rip-off and finally decided to leave on Monday instead, after clearing in the regular morning hours. I was afraid we were missing the window but Bob McDavitt said it was ok to leave Monday.
We tried to enjoy the weekend suspecting we had a hard trip ahead of us.
The south pass is easier to negotiate but to get there you need to head South, sometimes SW for many miles. Tutatis left two days before our scheduled departure date and was reporting a miserable trip with strong head winds going South.
Zenitude in Savusavu with Liquid Courage in the background
Oscar getting ready for snorkeling
The rest of the time we spent it discussing how and when we would get out from there as the weather was not promising and our route not clear.
Crossing Fiji all the way from the east end to the west end is not easy. The pass on the north thru the Vatu-Ira channel is tricky with lots of surrounding reef and the recommendation is to do it only with good visibility and calm weather conditions.
Authorities told us we are not allowed to stop once we clear out and it was impossible to get to the pass with good light without stopping along the way.