Sunday, September 04, 2005

A close call with donuts

We hit the hay as soon as we anchored at Lautoka. As soon as he was up (and while I was still asleep,) Tony made a run for customs to get a cruising permit, but just missed them. He says he showed up at 4:25 and they said they were closed. He asked when the closed, and they told him 4:30. It takes about 2 minutes to fill out the paperwork.

Government beaurocrats are the same everywhere.

So we had to spend that night in Lautoka with the soot from the sugar mill raining down on us.

One of the reasons I'd gone with Tony was to help him out by paying for fuel, etc. As well as to provide an extra pair of hands, which he wasn't too worried about, having sailed so far on his own already, but greatly appreciated on that night run where we averaged about 7 1/2 knots. That's about 9 miles an hour, very fast.

I'd talked him into trying to charter his boat. I was sure it'd be easy. Just drop into a hotel, mingle at the bar, and eventually say: "I have a yacht! Wanna come out?"

That's how easy it was.

After clearing customs first thing in the mroning we set out under motor, put-putting to what I reckoned was beachcomber, based on the small map in my Lonely Planet. The plan was, if the wouldn't let us dock there, we'd go on to Denarau in Nadi and maybe try going to one of the backpacker hotels, and maybe pick them up for a fare back to Beachcomber Island.

Beachcomber is the moderately expensive backpacker designated party island. At $85 a night for the 200 person dorm, it's not cheap. But that includes meals, though not drinks, as I'd heard a couple years ago. I wasn't sure what kind of reception we'd get, not being paying guests, but figured the worst they could do was chase us off and we'd head on to Nadi.

We looked at the chart, guessed which island it was, and set a course on the autopilot. Except for a close call while making donuts, we puttered along uneventfully. Whilst frying said donuts, ("Tony's South Sea Donuts" franchises are available in your area now!) the depth finder warning went off, and we burst above decks to find we were no more than 10 yards from rocks on either side. I rushed to the bow to look out ahead, and saw a looking yellow reef just ahead as Tony cut the engines.

"Which way?" he asked.

"Backwards!" I shouted.

"I can't hear you when you're head's turned."

"Throw it in reverse. Reef dead ahead less than 10 feet."

"It's in reverse."

When we looked at the computer chart, the gps showed us right on the edge of a reef way out around a tiny island, and right nezxt to our position was a shipwreck marker.

The donuts were excellent. The local sugar, while flecked with light brown, has a very slight molasses flavor, and is the perfect complement to it, with a mug of tea with milk, quite British.


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