The catamaran of the round-the-world expedition of the Tomsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society continues its voyage across the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean. The brave team began a new stage of their journey at the end of April, leaving the shores of hospitable Easter Island. Tuamotu, Tahiti and Samoa are already behind the stern. On the evening of July 29, the ship reached Vanua Levu, the second largest island in the Fiji archipelago.
Fiji is the eastern edge of Melanesia, a unique collection of island groups in the Pacific Ocean whose black populations do not speak Polynesian or Micronesian languages. The archipelago includes about 300 patches of land of varying sizes. About a third of them remain uninhabited. Most of the islands are of volcanic origin, although there are also coral atolls.
The path to Fiji was not the easiest. The Pacific Ocean continues to test the strength of both the catamaran and its crew with frequent storms, sudden squalls, sudden changes in wind directions, and prolonged rains.
Evgeny Kovalevsky, Stanislav Berezkin and temporary crew member Frenchman Vincent left Samoa on July 24. They intended to cover the distance of 520 miles to the island of Vanua Levu in five days. Despite the vagaries of the weather, we managed to stick to the schedule. Initially, it was decided not to go to the largest island of the Viti Levu archipelago, where the capital of Fiji, Suva, is located, but to Vanua Levu, which is 200 miles closer. The captain of the catamaran, Stanislav Berezkin, had concerns that the expedition might be caught in bad weather along the way. The prognosis was not very favorable.
At first we walked along a calm ocean in the absence of large waves. The situation was conducive to daydreaming.
— I start my shift at 21:00 in complete darkness. Moonlight illuminates the space, making everything around fabulous. The stars twinkle and wink, the Moon invitingly throws a silver path to the catamaran. “Come to me, inflatable miracle,” as if calling the night luminary, “let’s play a staring contest.”
The catamaran plays with all its inflatable sections, beams, stringers, wags the rudders and waves the front jib sail, answering: “I can’t keep up with you, oh my heavenly beauty. I can’t do it without a mainsail.” “So raise the grotto, my friend, and you will find happiness,” Luna insists. “No, the guys don’t want to raise the mainsail at night, what if there’s a squall or some other misfortune,” the catamaran sadly replies.
While I listen to their nightly conversation, I constantly feel sick – the wave is shaking the catamaran in all directions, left and right and up and down. I barely sat through four hours of the night watch, – admits Evgeny Kovalevsky.
The direction of the wind changes all the time, so you have to constantly adjust the course. After a few hours of watch, the travelers get so tired that they fall asleep dressed, but progress is still slow.
“In an hour I’m wet, in two I’m chilled.” The wave is already two meters. Winds up to 25 knots, gusts up to 30 knots. The guys are whistling. Squalls one after another. It’s scary. It’s very difficult to steer, says Kovalevsky.
The wave rolls in from the left in front. It’s good that it’s not from the side, not from behind, and not from the forehead. If the shaft goes from behind, the catamaran can break into surfing, and both rudders break at once. If the wave is on the side, then a revolution is possible. If in front the catamaran jumps from a wave into a hole, structural elements break, Evgeniy explained.
It is not possible to sleep that night. On a wave up to 3 m high, the catamaran bounces and falls into the pits so that it feels like it’s about to fall apart. The team dresses in combat style, stuffs valuables into chests, and checks fastenings in case of a coup. The deck is flooded with water. In difficult conditions, in complete darkness, there were some mistakes. The crew is entangled in the sails, and the unharvested panels begin to be torn by the storm wind.
— The sound of the wind, the roar of the waves, it’s raining. We are trying to position the catamaran correctly and make it move in such a way as to avoid capsizing. It is not possible to follow the course. With great difficulty we remove the genoa – and even then not completely. We set the jib again. The grotto is working. The catamaran begins to go west instead of southwest. But, according to Stas, the main thing is not to stand sideways to the wave, – says Kovalevsky.
The storm was serious. The wind has been blowing for about six hours at a speed of up to 30 knots, and there is heavy rain. It’s still not possible to fall asleep until the morning.
— The catamaran jumps, hoots, crackles, groans, survives. I’m a survivor too. Guys in a tent. The course is completely wrong. Stas offers to start the engine. The nearest islands of the Fiji archipelago are about 80 miles away. The situation continues to be dangerous and unpredictable. No more dry clothes. We remove the sails completely – they just get in the way. Because of them, the catamaran pulls in different directions, – explains Kovalevsky.
The night watch on July 29 finally passes without incident. Only a few times it rained briefly, but there were no squalls. The catamaran is already entering the Fiji archipelago.
— Islands are visible in the dark. They look mysterious. What’s there, who’s there? What dangers and surprises await us? The unknown is a constant companion of pioneers. Here is the port of Savu-Savu. We go past the reefs, lower the sails, Stas starts the engine, and… the engine doesn’t start. Oh heavens! Stas takes off the lid and casts a spell. It starts, but the engine runs rough. We pump gas with a blower, it helps. Apparently salt water or debris got in when gasoline was last poured into the tank. Let’s go to the shore. Hills, bungalows, and yachts at anchor are visible. Low mountains – said Evgeny Kovalevsky.
Now travelers around the world will have to undergo customs procedures. While the catamaran dropped anchor in the roadstead in the middle of the bay of the island of Vanua Levu.
July 1, 2021 Siberian travelers Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin went along the route of the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century: Ivan Kruzenshtern (1803–1806), Yuri Lisyansky (1803–1806), Otto Kotzebue (1815–1818, 1823–1826), Vasily Golovnin (1817–1819), Fyodor Litke (1826– 1829), Thaddeus Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev (1819–1921). The international project of the Tomsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society “On the path of Russian circumnavigators” is dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Krusenstern and the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors. These events for a long time determined Russia’s leadership in the development of the World Ocean and the discovery of new lands. You can learn more about the project and provide all possible assistance in its implementation. on the expedition website.