Lautoka, on the west side of Viti Levu, has developed into the yachting center of Fiji because it’s the most convenient port of entry for arriving vessels and the logical point of departure for yachts heading west to Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and on to Australia. For those heading south to New Zealand to avoid the cyclone season, it’s the westernmost point of departure from Fiji. In a normal weather year, making as much westerly as possible before heading south to the North Cape of New Zealand is an accepted tactic, for one is almost certain to be hit with a southwesterly buster coming off the Tasman Sea, and will thank God or their lucky stars, whichever they believe in, for every mile they do not have to beat into churned up seas while trying to fetch the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
Being close to the Nadi International Airport also makes this a convenient location for crew joining or departing a vessel, and Lautoka Customs and Immigration officers are well versed in the complicated paperwork involved. I’m not, but thirty years ago I met a brave and beautiful girl from New Zealand who was and I displayed uncharacteristically good sense in dragging her onboard and keeping her securely there ever since.
In all those years and miles Diana and has left me alone on the boat only once. That was in the Arctic wilderness and under extreme distress. I spent five months alone in the frozen darkness, and among many other things, I learned that I like having her around. But an e-mail from a neighbor in New Zealand regarding our little country home we were headed to rocked our boat.
It read, “I know that you have a rental agent supposedly looking after your property, and I don’t want to interfere…but is anyone doing anything about that giant tree limb that has been sticking out of your roof for the last month?”
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off the Ol’ Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess around with Chez Diana. Because my nephew, Stephen, was taking to the boat and the ways of the sea so well, Diana reluctantly decided that “the boys” could handle the last leg home without her. As she stormed off to the airline office to arrange a flight to New Zealand, I had more concern for the welfare of the hapless rental agent than our impaled roof. Arrangements made, she too soon became a speck on the southern horizon.