It is 0830 a fact warmly and enthusiastically announced 5 out of 7 days by Curly Carswell on VHF Ch14. A long-term cruiser, Curly has found roots in the South Pacific and Fiji in particular, he is currently based in Savu Savu from where among other activities he runs the local cruisers radio net. SavuSavu_5181
I have been told that wherever you find a congregation of sailing cruisers you will also typically find a radio net. My first experience of this was in Vavau where I was bowled over by the lively, informative and truly interactive session run each day at 0830 on Ch06 or Ch26 by a guy called Baker providing an eclectic mixture of weather, local activities and information exchange between cruisers as they pass through Tonga. Walk through the town at the right time you can hear the net being listened to by almost everyone as it plays out in the shops and café's.
Savu Savu in Fiji is no different. Curly starts with weather information for the region from a variety of sources. Weather prediction is something of a black art right across the Pacific so more often than not, several forecasts are read out followed by a punt on which one may turn out to be correct! When you consider that the Pacific Tropical Convergence Zone, which dominates the weather extending for 1000's of miles east to west, is represented on the official weather charts with a squiggly line just like a child would draw a cloud in the sky, it is amazing that anyone gets it right! In this area riddled with small islands and reefs, weather is critical to safe navigation. In strong sunshine between 0930 and 1530 it is possible to see shoal patches clearly as aquamarine spots in the otherwise deep blue sea, however, under grey skies made even worse with rain, everything beneath the surface is rendered invisible. Prevailing trade winds swing from NE to SSE sometimes southerly, strengthening from zero to 35knots in a matter of hours and as Curly advises, we must remember to add at least 5 knots to the forecast in acceleration zones around islands. How the early explorers managed without the benefit of engines to bail them out is hard to imagine!
After weather Curly gives his take on World News, we all stop whatever we are doing to listen to this part of the net. He gives a headline from each continent reading them deliberately and accurately, then we are kept hanging just for a long half-second before Curly delivers a suitably apposite comment on the subject. We laugh! The rest of the world could be in a different galaxy it all seems so far away.
Moving on to activities in and around Savu Savu, Curly makes mention of "Chart Marking Sessions" and sessions on Fiji Cruising Permits alongside Friday Happy Hours and Curry Nights. Everything a cruiser could want seems to be laid on for us. For the newcomers the usual warnings of wake free dinghy speeds and tying to the dinghy dock with long painters are delivered with the same enthusiasm as the need to comply with local customs check-out procedures, a requirement that applies to boats moving just 200m from the wharf. How restrictive is that!
Curly has been working in and around Fiji for nearly 40 years, and there is nothing he likes better than exploring and charting a new area. Often single-handed in his 65ft 40 tonne yacht he has not put it on a reef yet! He is slowly building up enough data to publish a new pilot guide to Fiji and this gives him just the excuse he needs. Often he will anchor outside a new area, visiting it first by dinghy charting its depths, establishing waypoints and bearings to visual reference points before he attempts an entry by yacht. While his pilot book might be some way off being published, all those clearing-in to Fiji in Savu Savu should certainly visit Curly's Bosuns Locker and pick up a set of his chartlets.
At the end of the morning broadcast the airways are opened to all the cruisers in the creek to exchange information, offer and request help or advice on everything from co-ordinating gas supplies to the location of the nearest sail-maker. By 0900 the broadcast is complete and we are left motivated to fill and enjoy our day with rather more activities than we intended.