TIRED and weary after travelling more than 65,000km across the world's oceans, the Uto ni Yalo crew are expected home this weekend.
At 6pm yesterday, the Uto ni Yalo — accompanied by the Marumaru Atua of the Cook Islands and Hine Moana, the lead vaka of the Pacific Voyagers fleet — was 124km (67 nautical miles) northwest of Viwa Island in the Yasawa Group.
Captain Johnathan Smith said they were on a starboard tack and waiting for winds to change direction towards Lautoka.
"We will alter course on to a port tack all the way into Lautoka via north of Viwa Island, north of Waya Island, south Vomo Island and then Lautoka, " he said.
They are expected in the Sugar City tonight or tomorrow morning.
Some of the crew will go home for a break and return to the vaka while the rest return to see their families.
"The seas have calmed down a lot and the sun is out so it's much more comfortable now. All we need is the right wind direction to get us home," Captain Smith said from the Uto ni Yalo.
One of seven traditional sailing vessels on an epic voyage across the world raising awareness of the protection and conservation of the ocean and its resources, the Uto ni Yalo left Fiji in 2010 and travelled 16,668km to Tahiti through the islands and back. Last year, it ventured further to the Americas across 45,000km and back through the Pacific to Fiji and the Solomons in time for the Pacific Arts Festival where the Te Mana O Te Moana voyage came to an end. Throughout the voyage, crew members changed.
Captain Smith said the crew were well and young Zane McConell, who joined the Uto ni Yalo in Port Vila after two crew members flew home, had adjusted to life on board.
"Zane got over his sea sickness pretty quick and is on the uli. The little fellow can chow like hell. I think maybe just because of the days he never ate when he was seasick. He's making up for it. He's fitting in pretty good and getting the hang of things," he said.
Captain Peia Patai of the Marumaru Atua said his crew looked forward to returning to Fiji.
"If the wind allows us to come in this weekend then we will be there, if not then we will be there when we get there," he said. His vaka was 157km (85 nautical miles) from Lautoka at midday yesterday.
The three will travel to Rotuma together from where they will disperse and the Uto ni Yalo will return home to Suva for good.
Captain Peia said they would join the Hine Moana, a vaka with a mixed crew, including two Fijians, to Tonga for whale watching before going home to Rarotonga.