Leaving The Vortex


Many people we’ve met over these last few months call Fiji in general (and Musket Cove in particular) “The Vortex” because life is so easy here it’s hard to leave. You just get sucked in. But unfortunately all good things must eventually come to an end. As you can see in the above photo, there are about 30 boats in the harbor right now.

In three weeks, they will be gone. All of them.

The approaching cyclone season forces cruisers here to make a choice: sail 1,000 miles south to New Zealand; sail 1,500 miles west to Australia; sail 1,000 miles north to the Marshall Islands; or put your boat in a concrete hole in the ground in Fiji and hope for the best.

Next week we are sailing to New Zealand, and there is some pretty powerful ambivalence going on right now.


On the one hand, it’s really, really nice here. I’m in a tropical paradise surrounded by palm trees and coral reefs filled with colorful fish. Every time I dock the dinghy, Va and Josie yell “Hi Jamie” from the Island Bar and offer me a $3 beer that’s so cold there are frozen ice droplets on the bottle. I assume you’ve read Jenna’s post about how the last 6 weeks have been all hermit crab races, Fiji Chippendales fire dancers, home schooling heaven, and Red Sox playoff baseball. It will be tough to leave.

On the other hand, we know we have to leave and the voyage to New Zealand can be a nasty trip. Last year a surprise storm hit a group heading from Tonga, and it got pretty bad. One boat rolled, another (a Lagoon 500, same model as Sophie) had bad damage to its deck, and a third boat had it’s dinghy and dinghy davits ripped off its stern. We have friends here who were there last year, and they say the storm caught everyone by surprise, even the weather routers.


So here are some of the things we are thinking about as we get ready for the trip.

  1. The Kiwis we’ve met here, on boats and onshore, are all awesome people. We cannot wait to get to New Zealand and explore their country. We also know Kiwi sailors who’ve done the passage 20 times. They all say you should assume you’ll get some wind when you are down near New Zealand, so simply be prepared to deal with it.
  2. Sophie has proven to be a seaworthy offshore boat, and on our passage from Bora Bora to Rarotonga we had her in 35 knot winds and 5 meter seas for a couple of days. It was just fine. We also know to sail her conservatively when it starts to blow and will be happy to heave to if we get a strong wind on the nose. (Some of the boats that got damaged last year tried to motor straight into 25 foot waves, and the subsequent pounding caused things to break.)
  3. Sophie is also fast, especially when we turn on the motors in light air. By covering 200 miles in a day, we can minimize the amount of time we are exposed to unpredicted storms, giving us an advantage over slower boats or boats without our motoring range.
  4. We have extra crew — Fred and Frank — joining us from Seattle for the trip. Fred and Frank will most definitely get their own blog post at some point, and their presence will double the amount of sleep that Jenna and I will get on the passage. This is a big deal, and we are incredibly thankful that they are joining us.
  5. We are not in a rush, and will leave Fiji when we are ready and when we have the best possible weather window.
  6. Long passages do have some side benefits. I get to do offshore fishing again, and the kids get to watch 3-7 movies a day, depending how rough it gets. (The rougher the weather, the more movies).


In 5 days we leave Musket Cove and will take Sophie over to the marina at Denarau to pick up the boys and wait for a weather window. We’ll have other boats sailing with us. We’re hopeful for a quick 5 day passage. We’ll be ready, and the boat will be ready. Isn’t that what this whole adventure thing is all about?

Go Sox.




4 thoughts on “Leaving The Vortex

  1. The pleasure is on my side joining the Sophie Adventure Cruises for the trip to NZ – let’s see how relaxed and speedy the US consulate in Auckland will be with issuing my new visa

  2. Smooth sailing! Love to hear about your incredible adventures. You are an inspiration. Love to all.

    Ad, Stew and Lily

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