Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Tonga to Fiji

Outward Clearance
Vessels must receive outward clearance before departing Tonga or when traveling between the archipelagoes. When leaving Tonga, clearance forms are required from Immigration, Customs, and the Ports Authority. Harbor Fees (T$1.80 per gross ton per month or part thereof) must be paid at the time of departure.

When traveling between island groups, it is not necessary to clear Immigration. Duty-free fuel and items at the duty-free shop (near the Customs building) may be purchased by presenting proof of outward clearance. Duty-free fuel is purchased at either the Shell or BP station and delivered to the vessel by truck. A minimum purchase of 500 liters is required. In Faua Harbor, vessels should moor medstyle to the breakwater and wait for the truck.

This section describes the passage in a west to east direction, from Fiji to Tonga.

Passage between Tonga and Fiji previously won the reputation of being the most hazardous in the South Pacific—many vessels have been lost in this area. Due to the distance involved, it is impossible to pass all the dangers before nightfall, and the 180nm route passes through an area riddled with reefs (where only a few dangers are marked by lights) and strong currents. To complicate matters further, any passage to Nuku'alofa or Vava'u will primarily be hard on the wind.

If it is necessary to make this passage, do so toward the end or before the onset of cyclone season prior to the SE trades settling in. Vessels departing from Suva will thread through the islands of the Lau group and then head for the open sea through Lakemba or Oneata passes. If traveling to Nuku'alofa, it is possible to travel SSE, steering E when well below the hazards.

Another route is to pass between Matuku and Toyota islands, running parallel to the reef S of Toyota. From there, it is safe to pass through the gap separating Vatoa and Ogea Levu islands. Vessels bound for Nuku'alofa should use Ava Lahi or Egeria channels to enter the lagoon and then head to Faua Harbor.

Vessels bound for Vava'u should follow the same directions as far as the gap separating Vatua and Onega. Then set a course to the N of Late island. From that point, steer toward Neiafu using Faihava Passage (W of Vava'u) to enter the harbor.

Faihava Passage is a straightforward approach and leads to Neiafu at its terminus. Tall bluffs line the passage on both sides, and the water is deep except for a small, wellmarked stretch directly before Neiafu.

Jimmy Cornell says that during July and August, when the Southeast tradewinds are at their strongest, the passage from Tonga to Fiji can be rough. At the beginning and end of the winter season the winds are lighter, but the sky is often overcast which can make navigation through the dangerous waters quite difficult.

Because of the risks involved in passing through Fiji's Lau group, boats leaving from Vavau should avoid the more direct Oneata Passage and sail instead through the wider passage between Ongea Levu and Vatua Islands (Route PS 47C). The latter passage is also used by boats leaving from Tongatapu. If using Oneata passage, one should be aware of the dangers of sailing at night through the area west of Oneata, where none of the islands have lights. For similar reasons, Lakemba Passage should also be used with great caution.

Route PS 47D offers the option of approaching the Fijian islands from the north east by using the Nanuku passage. Waypoint PS479 (16º45'S, 179º10'W) is about 5 miles east of the Welangilala light, which marks the eastern side of the pass. This side of the wide pass should be favoured because the southern extremity of the extensive Nanuku Reef, which lies on the north-west side of the passage, is not marked by a light. Great care should be exercised when approaching Nanuku Passage because of the strong currents and the reports that the Welangilala light is occasionally not operational.

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