May 9

Last night we sailed easily through the night at 6-7k with a nice 15-20k breeze from the SE which, as the night wore, became more and more Easterly. It is now about 8am and we have wind from ESE (just a bit South of East) and we are making 7-8k over ground on a heading of 355 True (still, virtually Due North). We have 165 miles to reach Fiji waters and another 143 to reach Savusavu (a total of 308nm remaining).

The first island we will approach on our way to Savusavu is Totoya, part of the Lau group. It is closely situated with Moala and Matuka - all three being considered a part of the Lau Group, none can be visited without special permission from Suva which I am told is never granted. Regardless, it is not permissible to stop at any landfall (in any country) before clearing in at an official overseas port of call (in the case of Fiji this would mean Nandi/Lautoka, Lavuka (on Ovalu Island) or Savusavu on Vanua Levu, our destination.

After passing Moala (just NW of Totoya) we will next approach Gau, an island in the Lomoviti Group (also known as the Central Group). We will also pass within 20 miles of Nairai. However, since we must clear customs first, we cannot stop at either of these islands, though we may do so at a later date.

At app. 1pm we started the engine in preparation for reefing the mainsail. We rolled up the genoa to prevent flogging during the operation and I put the engine in gear to keep our speed constant. The gearbox began slipping in and out of gear. This happened last month when we put the boat in the water in Tauranga. We drove it from the haul out to our slip and noticed the problem then. I had a mechanic come down and check things out and he said we were a quart low on gearbox oil! Yikes. Well, we filled it and fired her up. Tied the dock lines tight and ran her for an hour in gear - no slipping, no problems.

Our plan when leaving Tauranga was to run the engine for a couple of hours in case the gearbox acted up again. We would return to Tauranga if it did - that was our plan. Of course, we had no trouble and in fact since leaving Tauranga 8 days ago have motored at least 30 hours (or motor sailed) and the gearbox (and engine) ran fine and there was no slipping. Until now.

We have changed course for Suva, the capital of Fiji, and are now on a heading of 326 True - Suva is approximately 210 miles away.