Posted by: glennandert | 14-August-2008

Leaving your boat in Fiji for the cyclone season

A reader asked, so here is my take …

Location 1: You can leave your boat on a storm mooring in Savusavu. The harbor is well protected. There are plenty of friendly people around to look after your boat. And Savusavu is just a really nice place. If you plan ahead, you can book a mooring.

Location 2: You can leave your boat at Vuda Point Marina. This is the most common option. And they have a lot more capacity. You can leave it in the water. Or you can leave it on the hard with the boat sitting on tires with the keel resting on the bottom of a trench. There is capacity here for many more boats. Since this is the common choice, you’ll need to book early.

Location 3: Some smaller cats have been left in a variety of places. One is past the bridge inside the tiny lagoon at Musket Cove.

Location 4: The Fiji guide to marine facilities says that Denarau has wonderful new facilities.

Safe from a cyclone: There isn’t much in the way of anecdotal data because neither location has been subject to a direct hit. At Savusavu, your boat is connected to the bottom by just its mooring. You can put in a new mooring and all that – but it’s still just one string. For that reason alone, I would not leave ‘Learjet’ there. The other reason is that at 56 feet I don’t think there would be enough swinging room for ‘Learjet’, in my opinion. Neither the holding in the lagoon at Denarau, nor the dock facilities are up to the job of keeping your boat there during cyclone season.

You can leave your boat in the water at Vuda Point. The marina is a circle, the boats are moored with the bows of all the boats connected to a central point, and the sterns connected via individual strong points in the circular quay. No dock fingers to get involved during the cyclone fun, which is probably good. Personally, I would not leave ‘Learjet’ in the water here. It will only take one boat getting lose in the confines of that small circle to wreak havoc on lots of other boats.

Or leave it on the hard at Vuda Point, with the boat sitting on tires with the keel resting on the bottom of a trench. There is a lot more distance between boats this way. And it seems a lot more secure to me. They could accommodate ‘Learjet’ “in a hole”, though they would have to dig one about a meter deeper to get her bottom sitting on the tires. With the boat on the shock absorbing tires and the keel stuck in the trench, I think the odds of a boat getting knocked over are pretty slim. But, what about the trees all around? The stuff on all those other boats that is not properly lashed? The wood laying around? The rickety out buildings that would explode into fragments in a real blow? Etc. The boat might remain standing, but it could also also have many tens of thousands of dollars of damage from flying debris. I would not leave ‘Learjet’ here either, unless extenuating dire circumstances left me no other option.

Theft: Savusavu has a good reputation. There is significant security at Vuda Point. After having spent a couple months there, I would lose a little, but not too much, sleep over theft.

Aging: Your boat will take an incredible beating on the hard for months during the tropical summer. Sails delaminating. Seals going bad on engines, pumps, etc. There is a long list here.

Contamination: Being on the hard at Vuda Point means: Your boat is in and surrounded by dirt blown around by wind which can be pretty fierce sometimes. Your boat will be covered by the debris from the surrounding trees. Some have nice purple berries that will stain just about any painted surface. Let’s face it, your boat will be a bloody mess when you come back. Your keel sits in a trench which will typically have standing water, and the tires all have standing water, all of which support a few billion mosquitoes. An army of insects is just waiting to crawl up. I can almost guarantee that you’ll have all kinds of interesting critters living inside your boat when you get back.

Collateral damage: They control the weeds in the boat yard with “weed wackers”. Cheap and efficient. But your boat is also at risk from flying rocks. Some friends of mine had to repaint their boat (which had just been painted the year before) as a result. I was there after this event, and had other friends getting rocks on their boats while in the water! As far as I know, they haven’t stopped the weed wacker business. I certainly would not leave ‘Learjet’ there unattended now that she has a new paint job.

Hot, dusty and buggy: If you leave your boat on the hard, you’ll spend significant time out of the water at both ends of your stay. It is going to be very hot, dusty and buggy. I found that if I was not covered head to foot with repellent, I’d be eaten alive by the mozzies. They don’t control them, and there is a lot of standing water. And while there is not a big history of mozzy born disease there, getting lots of mozzy bites is just not safe. So be prepared for some “this is not fun” time.

Customer service: I made a special effort to keep good relations with the management and the staff. As a result I generally felt well taken care of and welcome. However, there is a serious mismatch between between expectations and reality. I had quite a few friends that felt pretty “unwelcome” at times. And there were a few times I felt that way as well. Funny thing is that Vuda Point and the major marina at Savusavu are owned by the same guy, but the “feel” at Savusavu is very friendly, and the “feel” at Vuda Point is sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Government regs: Honestly, I don’t know what the situation is now. 6 months ago it sounded like you would have to pay an import duty to keep your boat in the country for more than 3 months. Recently I heard they backed away from that. Better check with customs first.

Insurance: If you insure your boat, don’t forget to investigate this very very carefully. I’ve had plenty of discussions with people that had already committed to leaving their boats only to discover after it was too late to back out just how much trouble their insurance company was going to create with last minute surprises.

Caretaking: At Vuda Point, you can hire Baobab Marine to watch after your boat. They are quite diligent.

My own personal take is that I would not leave ‘Learjet’ in Fiji because I wouldn’t trust that she would be safe from a cyclone. And if were not for that issue, I would struggle getting past the 2nd level of issues because I am certainly on the “fussy” side. I can do the passage (to New Zealand) in less than a week, with 4 adults aboard, and with regular contact with an onshore weather router. I’ve done 6 now, and have yet to be “pasted”. So, for me, the passage is preferable to leaving her.

On the other side: lots of people have left lots of boats there for lots of years now, and still do, and generally with good success. So, as in all things having to do with boats ….

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Responses

  1. Hi Glenn

    Great blog and relevant to my situation as I plan to leave my Jeanneau 42DS, Le Grand Bleu, in Fiji during the cyclone season.

    Whilst the facilities at Port Denarau are now world class the Management there advise not to berth there during the cyclone season. Having had LGB there since July and my commuting from NZ I have a good relationship with the Management there and they being honest in saying it’s a no go.

    Peter

  2. your wind generator works very well on my Duchesse too !!!
    I had big fight with Vuda point marina management and Boabob marina South African Guy.
    They are Bad,Real BAD
    Savusavu run by partner not by Philp.

  3. We left our catamaran “Cheers” at Musket cove for 5 months during the cyclone season in 07/08. We secured the boat ourselves and we had some very close calls with cyclones , one passed right over “Cheers”. We would do it again rather than sailing all the way back to NZ , that can be a hard trip especially with just 2 of us ! It was great to get back at the end of the cyclone season and already be in Fiji before it got crowded with other yachts.

    • toya is this you (and steven) from Namibia where are you now ?

      regards cousin Meg

  4. Helpful information. Fortunate me I found your website unintentionally, and I’m stunned why this coincidence didn’t happened in advance! I bookmarked it.


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