Third Time ‘Round

Since our arrival to Fiji, we have cruised the Mamanucas and Yasawas Islands twice already, located to the West and Northwest of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. And we are now doing it for the third time.

Just to the West and Northwest of Fiji’s main island lie two groups of islands – the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. Distributed along a 50 to 60 mile stretch, the islands offer an attractive variety of anchorages: from posh beaches serviced by local resorts to totally unspoiled anchorages. The unique friendliness of the Fijians constantly add to the experience everywhere, and some wind and/or swell will show up now and then to add a little bit of suspense or drama.

The Mamanucas, the Yasawas, and our three routes in between them.

The first time we cruised here it was along with my brother and his family. We got as far North as the Blue Lagoon, about two thirds of the way up. I then fell ill, ignored the forecast for two days, and we were spanked by high winds and waves on the way back to Vuda Marina.

The second time was during Adriana’s sister’s visit. This round, still overly cautious from the previous experience, we didn’t dare to go too far to the North. We stopped at the Manta Ray Pass – about 1/2 of the way up the Yasawas – and Adriana’s sister took an excursion to visit the Blue Lagoon by herself. In doing so, we successfully avoided any high winds all along her stay, which was good.

See, the thing is, Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu acts as a massive obstruction to the winds that blow normally blow from the Eastern quadrant. So, right behind Viti Levu, there is almost always a cone of calm, the lee of the island. At the edges of this cone, the opposite happens: two walls of accelerated winds – all the air that couldn’t cut across the island now being forced around it. So, as the prevailing Trade Winds shift direction (it normally oscillates between the East and Southeast), so does the Cone of Calm to the West of Viti Levu, and its accompanying walls of accelerated winds. It is recommended practice then to always watch the forecast, particularly where the Cone of Calm is going to be. On our first tour of the islands, I still didn’t understand this, and we got clobbered. The second time around I took full advantage of the Cone, and we cruised in calm conditions 100% of the time.

A recent forecast of Western Fiji, showing the big island of Viti Levu (at the center) and the smaller Mamanucas and Yasawas to the left. Note the cone of low winds (blue) to the northwest of Viti Levu, and the two walls of accelerated winds (orange) both above and below the cone. The trick here is to “dance with this cone”, avoiding the walls of accelerated winds, or taking appropriate shelter otherwise

Now on the third tour of the Yasawas, and with more time to follow the Cone of Calm, we made it a point to visit all that the islands have to offer. From Navadra to the Manta Ray Pass, and then on to the Blue Lagoon and beyond.

Over the next few weeks we will be publishing stories from these stops.

Stay Tuned.

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