Finally Ravi's passport arrived on Friday. We'd applied for it when he was 5 days old at the end of September, now he's a chunky 2 ½ months. Much to every Fijians surprise a Fijian passport was never an option since neither of us have citizenship. Apart from being a little pedantic about the background of a photo which is supposed to show authorities what Ravi looks like up until he is five years old, the delays were numerous but mostly not to do with the UK passport authority. Once a countersigned photo and covering letters for all our irregularities were received, the passport was sent on the 21st November. It then proceeded to take 17 days to get here. That was on DHL expedited documents service which estimates 4-5 working days. Customs was the main problem in the UK, apparently they always sit on passports for a bit before worrying about looking at them and sending them on. At every stage it seemed to need chasing.
Anyhow back to Friday. We picked up the passport from the lovely marina ladies and then were sung out by an ad-hoc gang singing the Fijian farewell song ‘Ni Sa Lei...’ as we rowed back to Impetuous anchored outside. A sail north up to the port had us checking out just in time on a Friday afternoon... Or so we thought.
We’d visited the port twice in the previous two days checking details would be ok for our imminent departure and enquiring about overtime fees in case we had to leave at the weekend. At neither of these visits had Peni the customs officer felt the urge to inform us that we had to add Ravi to our crew officially with immigration. Their office is in town and only open during office hours. We'd already been to see them that week to ask for a few days visa extension since we were now over the 6 months readily allowed, but no one at that time had mentioned the need for this extra form either.
We quickly realised that we needed to stop arguing in frustration and find a taxi and get there, before the office closed in 15 minutes. We ooched and owed along the hot tarmac without shoes and flagged down the first taxi we saw. ‘Please straight to the immigration office and with the meter on please', there was no time for bargaining prices. For once no queue in immigration meant the simple and pathetically short form was filled and stamped in moments. Back at the port Peni was true to his word and waiting for us just past 4pm, his knocking off time, he didn't have the gall to charge us overtime and by half past we were free to leave.
Smug in the knowledge that all the port officials were heading to a party so there was therefore not going to be anyone around to notice us taking a bit of time. We went into town to spend our last few Fijian dollars and back to get both dinghy's stowed away.
As dusk fell on Lautoka we pulled up the anchor and main sail waving ‘see you sometime' to friends on ‘Eos' and ‘au revoir' to this Western section of Fiji we have gotten to know quite well.
It was a gentle drift out towards the pass and a gentle drift once outside too. Still in the wind shadow of Viti Levu for many hours to come. A few squalls later then finally the SE trades graced us with their presence mid Saturday morning. Since then it has been a surprisingly rambunctious sail to New Caledonia. The forecast seemed to say 15-20 knots on the beam, ideal. However we've had the staysail stowed and the jib and main both double reefed getting sloshed by short steep waves until the last day when we've slowed ourselves to a gentle 6 knots with only double reefed jib.
It took us just under 5 days to do just under 700 miles. Once inside the reef here in New Caledonia the sail round the island was a treat, 8 knots downwind sailing with just the jib and no more waves, Ravi enjoyed this all from his car seat. Until then we'd had to cower inside for fear of a frequent drenching from waves.
Like us all, Ravi has some places on Impetuous he loves to inhabit when on passage. Sprawled out on the leeward bunk, like everybody else is high up on the list. Fortunately he isn't too big so as not to share it. However, sharing a Lee bunk with a small baby isn't as regenerative as not sharing it; oweing to what we call the squish factor.
On passage we still sleep in the bow more often than not. Indeed with a fan on either side it's quite a pleasant place to read a book. So despite all the sloshing of the boisterous sail Ravi spent a fair amount of time in the bow. With the simple addition of his dancing birdies mobile he can spend hours orchestrating them as they sway to the rock of the boat and he rolls from pillow to pillow.
We've jammed in a spare wind vane to the side of the pilot berth, covered with a sarong and padded by a blanket it makes a great leeboard. A neat addition to what has become his bunk; with his mobile frame at one end over his quilt and an enormous pile of nappies at the other. But on passage it wasn't where he wanted to be. As the occasional wave slammed in to the hull side cascading itself across the boat Ravi would be awoken; startled, from his slumber. We call it starfish baby. Arms and legs spring out as does a certain aura of panic. Ravi didn't spend much time in his bunk.
Perhaps his favourite place is his car seat that we've bungied on to the boat. From there he can truly embrace the wonder of sailing. Smiles always abound when he is placed in it, A happiness we're keen to foster. It won't be much longer before his wriggling turns to crawling and the car seat has buckles that still work, despite the salty years of service it provided for our friends on Eos II. We haven’t told him this yet.
All in all Ravi has taken the whole experience in his stride; noticing only that whilst at sea there's always someone awake to give his head a stroke should he open his eyes when a noise disturbs him. Also at sea his dangling toys never stop dancing!
So we’re now in new Caledonia enjoying all the culinary delights a French country has to offer. The plan is to feast on baguettes, pate', cheese and wine for a few days before heading off to Australia. It will be Ravi's second blue water passage; they say that we can only dream of experiences we have already enjoyed, we often see Ravi dreaming of drinking as he sleeps. But now when he closes his eyes he has one more experience to dream of. Dreaming of blue water sailing.