Riding The Fiji Ferry During A Cyclone

By | April 18, 2012 at 6:49 am | 38 comments | Fiji, Jade | Tags: ,

Riding The Fiji Ferry During A Cyclone

This was both the best, and the worst thing, that I have ever done. It was the best thing because if I had not taken this ferry, I would have had to spent at least 3 – 4 more days on an island with no shelter and with steadily dwindling food and water supplies. And of course, I would have had to continue sleeping in my swimming pool bed.

I don’t do very well at sea. Or in any other situation that involves movement really. I get motion sickness so badly, in fact, that I have trouble texting and walking without feeling a bit queasy. So imagine my horror when a German lady suddenly exclaimed that the boat was going to visit all of the Yasewa group, and that our journey back to the mainland would take 10 hours.

My most unfortunate friend recognized my horror, and immediately confirmed that it would *only* be a 3 – 4 hour ferry journey. But in an effort to gain fortunes favour, I offered to split my very last motion sickness tablet in half for the panicking German woman. Who did not even say thank you, I might add. (As a Canadian, I always find rudeness very shocking!)

After waiting for about an hour down by the beach in the rain, we finally saw the ferry approaching. We could already see how violently it was being tossed by the sea, but what other choice did we have? We piled into a small boat which took us to meet the ferry. The constant warning of “HOLD ON” and “DONT STEP ON THE SIDE, YOUR FEET WILL GET BROKEN” were not comforting.

I could have used a way more horrific image, but I was nice – CC simon_redwood

Since my ticket was only for Beachcomber, I had to buy another ticket to take me all the way back to the mainland. As I sat with the ticket lady, the boat began to move. As the first wave hit, I flew into the air, completely leaving the seat and landed hard on my knee. Fight or flight kicked in, and I made a bee line for a proper chair, leaving my most unfortunate friend to sort out the rest of the ticket.

Ever time we hit a wave, all the people would fly out of their seats. Were there seatbelts? Nope. Lifejackets? Maybe, I have no idea where they were kept though. Adrenaline surged through my body, something which I have never before experienced. My fingers and hands froze immediately, and it was all I could do to keep the sick bag in my hands.

Eventually, I was convinced to move to the back of the boat, where hopefully the fresh air would do me good. The rain was pelting down at this point, and the waves occasionally come over the top of the boat, drenching us all in sea water.

We stopped at several islands, as boat loads of new passengers came on board. Probably more people than there were lifejackets for. Definitely more people than there were seats for. “EVERYONE, HOLD ON TIGHT PLEASE” is not something you typically want to hear from your captain. But by this point, I was too busy concentrating on directing my stomach contents into the sick bag, and not on anyone else, as the ship violently shook and crashed against the water.

The journey between Beachcomber island and Mana island was definitely the worst part of it all. The sea was so violent, and I had to grip the chair edges with all my strength to avoid being thrown head first into the wall in front, or even off the side of the boat. (those guard rails were pretty low, I might add!)

When we stopped to gather more passengers, I had a full on panic attack/ breakdown. I was yelling at them to let me off, to get my luggage, to let me on the small boat to Mana. My most unfortunate friend restrained me from abandoning ship to go and live permanently on Mana island, and I sobbed in frustration. And then vomited again. As you do.

I was fully ready to jump off the side of the boat, and take my chances with the sea instead. Death in the sea, seemed less likely than death on this ferry at that point.

Now in my defence, I was not the only one getting violently ill on this boat. I am told that more than 50% of the people on board were vomiting at one point. Of course, I can’t personally verify this information, cause I was uhhhh, busy. I think the main job of the crew on board, for the entire journey, was to collect full sick bags, and distribute handfuls of fresh ones.

During the final journey between Mololo island and the mainland, I was somewhat holding it together, probably due to the fact that my stomach was now completely empty. I was sitting near the edge of the railing, next to a couple who had only recently come on board. My most unfortunate friend came up to me excitedly with a free bottle of water he had procured. I raised my eyes to look at him, and then immediately vomited again. The couple next to me stared at my friend in awe, at his powers to make girls throw up with just one glance.

We were now slowly approaching the mainland. I had my eyes shut tightly as I tried to imagine life without boats. I opened my eyes for an instance, to see the water quickly rushing towards me as the boat dipped on to its side.I was sure this was the end of me.

We did eventually make it, stepping off the boat and on to solid ground was one of the most relieving experiences of my life.

Of course, things on the mainland are also not very good…. a whole new set of challenges were awaiting me in Nadi….


About the Author

Jade Johnston

Jade is a freelance travel writer from Manitoba Canada. She loves travel and meeting new people has lived in 6 countries and travelled to more than 30. She prefers to travel slowly - taking overland transit or working/ volunteering in the countries she visits. Her motto is that she might never return to this place again, so she has to try to soak up as much as possible. To learn more about the OurOyster project, Google + : Jade Johnston's Google You can also shoot her an email at jade@ouroyster.com


  1. lissie (2 years ago)

    Yeah with you on the sea sickness thing to be sure. And frankly I’ve heard enough about 3rd world boats going down – that basically I would have sat it out on Beachcomber – yeah a wet bed is crappy – but not life threatening.

    Just because one boat is still sailing doesn’t mean its safe – it just means they need the cash more than their competitors – which has to make you think …

    And yes I strongly suspect that there wouldn’t have been enough life jackets or life boats on board. And after the boat went down the govt wouldn’t have done much about it except try to blame someone else.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I totally agree with you. In hindsight, taking that boat probably wasn’t very safe. But then again, after that boat, there were no other boats for an entire week. If we hadn’t of taken that boat, my friend would have missed his flight.

      Later on, I met some people who finally managed to get off the island. They had eventually run out of clean water and all their food, and had to try to catch crabs on the beach to eat, and most days had nothing at all. :S I don’t know what would have been worse!

  2. Bobbi Lee Hitchon (2 years ago)

    Wow this sounds absolutely horrifying. You’re so lucky that boat make it to shore. I can’t even imagine how sea sick you were in those conditions! Happy to hear you finally made it back safely.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      You don’t want to imagine how sea sick I was!!! lol

  3. Ayngelina (2 years ago)

    Is it just me or is this like the worst series of bad luck travel posts either? and it gets worse in Nadi??

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      haha well actually I think this was the worst one…but it doesn’t get too much better in Nadi

  4. Cole @ Four Jandals (2 years ago)

    Oh I feel so sorry for you Jade! Hope you have recovered now with some sand between your toes. I am lucky that I never (touch wood) get seasick.
    On another note, we stayed on Beachcomber when I was about 7 and LOVED it. But then again we didn’t have a cyclone to content with haha.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I’m a bit annoyed that I didn’t get to enjoy beachcomber, but then again, maybe it’s for the best that I came back to Australia early

  5. Audrey | That Backpacker (2 years ago)

    Aggggh! Sounds like a horrible time to be out at sea. I don’t generally get seasick, but choppy waves terrify me.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Luckily I had my eyes tightly closed for the majority of it!

  6. Kathrryn (2 years ago)

    I am sorry to hear about it Jade.. But I think if I am in the situation as you, I will experience the same too..

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Hopefully you will not be in the same situation! I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!

  7. Kazzsandra (2 years ago)

    Hi Jade.. I am sorry to hear about this happening.. But anyway, you are still safe and that’s the most important of them all..

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Luckily, no one was injured on the ferry… although most people got very sea sick!

  8. Carmen (2 years ago)

    So sad to hear of what happened in your trip. That was horrifying Jade, hope you’ll going to be okay.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I am fine, thanks! It was awful at the time, but today it makes for a good story

  9. Carol (2 years ago)

    Hi Jade.. Gosh, I can never imagine that had happened to you.. I am still happy your safe..

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Hey Carol! Thanks for the comment. Thankfully I am save back in Brisbane now

  10. Barbara Weibel (2 years ago)

    OMG – I have struggled with motion sickness all my life so I really felt for you as I read this. A wonderful mixture of awfulness (is that a word?) and funny. Glad you made it OK – now it’s a great story to tell. Strangely, last year, at 59 years old, I took my first cruise when I was invited to the Galapagos. The seas were rough but I stuck it out and on the final day my seasickness disappeared -Voila! Since then I’ve ridden buses on incredibly curvy roads and not one whit of motion sickness have I suffered. It’s a true miracle.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I’ve heard that it can sometimes work that way – that you need to suffer under extreme sea sickness for a prolonged period of time, and after that you will somehow be cured of it forever. Alas, for me, I havn’t had the strength or willpower to last enough to test this theory out

  11. Tiffany (2 years ago)

    Ugh, that sounds like a horrific experience! I’m sorry that you had to go through it. At least you made it back safely, and that’s what really matters!

    Greg just wrote a series of posts about how to deal with seasickness, but unfortunately in situations like you went through it’s likely that nothing would work :(

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      It was a pretty intense experience. I am lucky though that I was not hurt, and that no one else was hurt on the ferry. Thank god we made it back to shore safely

  12. Laurence (2 years ago)

    Man, you have had a time of it! I can’t imagine how awful sea sickness must be – I’ve been on plenty of boats with folks throwing up.. but never succumbed thankfully. Although.. the ability to make girls throw up with a glance sounds familiar… ;)

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      hahahaha lucky you with the never throwing up bit! I wish I had the strength to manage on boats and busses as well…. maybe some day.

  13. Laura @Travelocafe (2 years ago)

    Another terrible adventure. I am happy your are fine. Fore sure you are quite shaken, but at least you are fine.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I am so thankful that nothing worse than sea sickness happened on that journey

  14. Stephanie - The Travel Chica (2 years ago)

    What a horrific story! Even if I did not get motion sickness, I am sure the other people vomiting around me would have caused me to join in.

    This story makes me realize I have had it in easy in my travels (so far).

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      You are very lucky to have been spared from motion sickness! It can really make travel difficult at times

  15. Natasha von Geldern (2 years ago)

    You poor thing! I get seasick also – would have been right beside you retching :( Glad you lived to tell another tale! Look after yourself Jade x

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Thanks Natasha! It was pretty awful, but it sure does make for a great story now though!

  16. Trenton McRae (2 years ago)

    That’s a hell of an experience for a person with motion sickness like you. Good thing you survived the trip without being sick. That’s an achievement!

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Thanks Trenton! I am thankful to be far far away from that boat now!

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