Anchor and Chain….Found!

It was the third or fourth time we’ve looked for Elysium’s anchor system. The final two times I was invited out to look. I brought my tablet so we wouldn’t repeat any areas we had dragged in. The Royal Suva Yacht Club and Charlie’s Divers have been instrumental in removing the 5 lost anchors. Ours was the last and we were getting worried that it might not be found.
 
One huge issue is that I didn’t have the location where I dropped it. If you read the previous post you know that we had moved an hour before the storm arrived, it was calm and I wasn’t a bit concerned about where were were lat / long wise. Lesson Learned. When moving the boat and anchoring; have the charting program on!
 
So what I had been using was some common sense and the coordinates of other boats effected. What I was missing a bit was that we never dragged anchor. Princess Civa never forced the anchor out while pushing us downwind. I’m not sure the anchor would have come out considering how difficult it was to get out once found. I have a difficult time imagining the damage that might have occurred then!
 
It had been a week and with only one anchor left to be found there didn’t appear to be much impetus in locating it. But like the Bull Dog W/ sometimes becomes, I kept visiting them and asking when they would go looking…again.
 
Finally Friday pm Charlie (the owner) said we would go and I could come. I brought along my tablet with iSailor installed. Based on where the other anchors were found I thought we would be in that area. We dragged for about an hour picking up a another nice mooring line, a fishing net and lots of plastic. Charlie had another dive to do so we headed back and he said about 10 tomorrow we would look again.
 
That evening I sat and thought about where we were. I looked at where we had dragged already. Considering where I now thought it might be we never covered the correct area. It must be about where we anchored. Knowing where I thought we were and where we saw Princess Civa ram right into Sahula I put a new anchor on the chart. You can see it in the image posted.
 
Ten in the morning I was at the Yacht Club and no Charlie. Luckily I found someone that had his personal cell number and called. I didn’t get a hold of him but got his wife who would pass the message on to him. Thankfully he received the message and called back. He suggested a new time 3 pm same day. Ok. I’ll be here and back to the boat I went a little disappointed but glad he called and I wasn’t “stood up”.
 

iSailor instrumental in locating the anchor.

Three o’clock came and he showed up! I was ready. We headed out and I explained my new thinking. I showed Charlie where I thought I was anchored and the way we were when the wind was blowing. We started dragging the grapnel. Overboard the grapnel went and line paid out. We towed it from the bow, slowly moving backwards while iSailor charted where we were. Charlie watched the display and we picked up a couple of chunks of plastic. Stop, haul in the grapnel, clear the flukes and keep going. After we were far enough away we picked it up and moved again to where we could drag across the expected lay of the chain. Our main anchor system has 300’ of 3/8” High Test chain.

 
We’re going along and snag something… again. Stop the boat and haul it in. Francis (a friend of Charlies) was along to help. He’s pulling and it’s not easy. Charlie and I join him and we can’t get it up! Maybe? As we are lifting what ever it is higher and higher it is getting heavier and heavier; like chain would. Charlie decides to buoy it and get his dive gear. Back we go to the shop and 15 minutes later we return to the spot.
 
We pull it up as far as we can on the boat and cleat it off. Charlie is in the water to check. Yep, it’s chain and he’s concerned it’s not shiny. Nope; we don’t have SS chain but galvanized. Ok. He moves the line with the grapnel to the end of the chain and we haul it aboard. It looks like ours.
 
As we pull it aboard I see the white paint I have signaling the end of the chain. I see the line that blew apart when I let it go. I see the markers we added to know how much chain is out. Oh happy day! It’s ours!
 
We get all 260’ aboard and are stuck, the anchor is still set in the bottom. Charlie cleats it off on the work boat and pulls. We almost pull the bow of the boat under trying to break the anchor free. There is the possibility we might have to put the chain back in the water and bring Elysium over to retrieve it. He decided to reverse directions and pull from the opposite side we set the hook. Getting a bit of way on and giving it some hp, before the bow of the workboat swamped, the anchor broke free. Yippee!
 
The three of us haul the rest of the chain and anchor aboard. Luckily as we lift it off the bottom and get more chain in the boat the system gets lighter. We secure the anchor on the bow and the entire setup delivered to Elysium.
 
There we drop the anchor and chain in the water saving the bitter end for Elysium. Francis hands me the end and I drop it over the windlass making sure it doesn’t end up back in the water. W/ and I are aboard and we haul the rest of the chain and anchor up. Yeah! We can now move to get the rest of Elysium put back in order.
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Lost

In academia 97% is a great score. On a boat, sometimes it’s not good enough. We keep quite a few spares aboard. You never know what you will need and where. Since we have over XYZ of spares we keep an inventory of them. The inventory is; I would guess 95-99% accurate.

Preparing to leave Denarau from Musket for our prep to NZ W/ noticed our house batteries were low. I didn’t understand how that could be since we run the generator twice / day. We use it to primarily to keep the refrigeration / freezer at the proper temperature. The by product of this procedure is the batteries stay close to fully charged.

In the am I checked the battery charge as the generator was running. Oh-oh! There was no charge! Damn!

No big deal just a PITA. I’ll pull out the spare and put it on, then get the older one rebuilt in NZ. We check the inventory. We carry over 1,000 different items on our boat spares inventory. This does not count tools, or fasteners. Nor does it count daily supplies for living such as food, clothing, books, etc. I ought to have two spare alternators listed (the 200 amp for the generator and the 100 amp for the Perkins. Neither are in the inventory! Damn! Now it is time to hunt through the spares in our lockers. We locate the smaller alternator we purchased in American Samoa. I have included an example of inventory one-locker in that locker in this post. We correct the inventory by adding the alternator and keep looking for the larger one. We have not yet found the alternator. I remember ordering it and paying for it. I can not for the life of me remember putting it on the boat and storing it. Oddly, I have believed for the last three years we had it as a spare. But I (we) can’t find the alternator. We pulled out, cleaned and replaced gear from most every locker in the next two days. and we still can’t find it. Plan B.

So… fortunately we are where there ought to be a place to repair and rebuild them. I took it to a shop in Lautoka recommended by another cruiser. The windings needed replacing, it needed new brushes, and a couple of other little things. Cost is about $200 ish US. Well, At least we will have it working for our trip to NZ! Once there I will get another replacement and make sure it ends up in my dirty little hands and stored on the boat.

Monday I take the alternator to Lautoka for repair. By Wednesday I have it back on the boat. Thursday it is on the generator and working…. not as it should. The shop indicated that the alternator needed to be rewound. Ok, rewind it. They had a machine to rewind it. Great. When I went to the shop I had him show connect the alternator up to make sure it worked. I didn’t want to make the trip for nothing! But the shop is not what I am use to. The employees were pleasant. The equipment was marginal. They didn’t have a dummy load to dump the current into. All they could do was connect it to a battery with a small light to act as regulator and a battery to read the voltage. The shop didn’t have the equipment to tell me if the alternator could put out it’s full amperage. There was charge and the battery voltage rose to 14 v. It took me a 1/2 day to get to the shop and return to the boat. In the end I have paid for an alternator that isn’t 100%. But, it is easy to reinstall and will keep the batteries up as we make our way to NZ. Hopefully soon. We are getting itchy feet.

And yeah, the database has been updated. Now it might be 99% accurate. What is missing? I don’t know. An old friend liked to say “You don’t know what you don’t know”! I believe the same applies here.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Fiji Time

At the end of July we went to Fiji immigration in Nadi.  Our Visa was up  August 26, and we wanted to stay until November (ish). We could always fly out of the country and return. Many cruisers do a round trip to Vanuatu all in a day. The cost for W/ and I would be almost the same as applying for an extension.  We felt the hassle of leaving the boat, packing, traveling to the airport, getting stamped out of Fiji, getting stamped into Vanuatu and out on the same day; often catching the same plane back, would have been a PITA.  We opted for the extension.

At the immigration office we had to fill out more paperwork. Once completed we discovered the immigration officer gave us the wrong paperwork not understanding how long we were staying. We filled out a few more pages. Then with copies of our Passports, boat papers, a bank statement (showing we have enough money to not be a burden on the country), and about $500 Fijian dollars we walked out with a receipt and a nod to return to any immigration office after two weeks for our new visa stamps.

We worried that we would need to hang around Nadi for two weeks. But;  the officer assured us we could continue enjoying Fiji and receive the passport stamps at any immigration office.
It took us 3 weeks to travel to Savusavu.  We were a week past our Visa but we had our receipt. In the US I don’t know what they would have done. Hell, with some of the current vitriol we may have been shot being illegal immigrants! 🙂  Fortunately, Fiji is understanding and intelligent in these matters but they are not nearly as timely as much of the western world.

Upon arrival in Savusavu and getting settled with the boat we took our documents to the immigration office for our  passport stamps. About 15 minutes later the officer said the extensions had not yet been approved and to come back next week.  She DID NOT  say “oh-oh, you need to leave”!  We had our receipt and that seemed to entitle us our continued cultural experience.
Roughly tens days pass and we decide to check again with the immigration office. We are thinking of heading out Monday for anchorages unknown. With that trip in mind we need to know if we must stop by other immigration offices or not.  By now we are approximately 6 weeks after our application and 4 weeks past our visas.

Luck was with us. The Immigration officer said our application had been approved. However we needed to return Monday. They needed a fax/email from the head office and we needed to pay another approximately $200 F.  Still a better deal than flying out and back in one day.
When you talk of accomplishing tasks in Fiji one often hears “Fiji Time”.  The understanding is that the task will get completed but not in the time you expect. It may be later today, tomorrow or next week. Often the follow up to Fiji time is Siga na liga.  No Worries.  What a pleasant way to travel life’s paths.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Elysium’s Hip

Hip tied in Fiji

Hip tied in Fiji

Most evenings you will see Elysium’s  dinghy tied securely to her hip.  The only times she is sleek and trim is for passage making; offshore. That is when our dinghy (car) is packed and flipped upside down on the aft cabin top.

We use a Wichard Dinghy lift strap that attaches to two points on the stern and one on the bow. The strap is adjustable.  If we lift the dinghy with the 15 hp vs the 2 hp verses sans engine the angle sets are all different. The nylon strapping does tend to stretch. We want her to hang a little bow high allowing any rains to wash and drain. We’ve had the dinghy hanging safely in over 30 kts of wind.

Some boats haul their dinghy up higher than we do and set them against their stanchions. We avoid the stanchions feeling that they do not provide a solid continuous support for the tubes. We also don’t see any reason to bring it up higher out of the water. Other cruisers hold the dinghy off the boat with a whisker pole. The farther off the beam you hang the more heal to the boat you have.
We find storing our dinghy about midship, securing the transom on to our boat ladder mount and the bow to a mooring cleat up forward ensures that it is stable. Further, with the dinghy out of the water over a meter it becomes it a bit more difficult for anyone to board the boat.  Swimmers are not able to “grab and go”.  Without the dinghy in the water to climb on the deck it is too high for an easy reach or step up.

Hip tie Stern

Our Hip Tied Dinghy on the stern.

We hang it not just for our security but the security of the dinghy. As far out of the water as it is makes the easy removal of the dinghy more problematic.  I don’t say impossible because thieves that really want something will find a way. With the dinghy out of the water, tied fore and aft it would take an individual a few minutes climbing around on our boat to free the dinghy or engine and they first must get on the boat. If a thief wanted only the outboard it too is difficult.  Lifting and moving 100 lbs over your head while standing on another boat in the water is a feat for Superman.

We tried trailing the dinghy for a year or so behind our boat at night. Most nights we could hear the water slapping up against the dinghy hull. If something wakes me up and I don’t hear the dinghy water slap  the dinghy may well be missing.  This necesitates getting up and checking on it. On super calm nights I would be checking more than sleeping!  Too, hanging off the stern invites an easy theft.  Chains don’t ensure safety either. Another cruiser lost theirs at night while they slept. The dinghy and motor had been chained to the boat. The thief cut the boat chain, floated away and then stole the engine. The dinghy was recovered early that am. The motor was gone forever. Earlier on we lost our dinghy in the Bahamas (fortunately we recovered it and the thief was arrested). The dinghy was trailed astern for the evening. If the weather isn’t optimal the line(s) you have cleated may come free. Tension cycling might well loosen the lines from the cleat. Attachment points could well chafe through.

Hip tying eliminates all these issues. For us this method of protecting the dinghy is the smartest move we can make.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

8 Miles High

We made it. We wanted to stop at Makogai on our return from Savusavu. Our goal:  bring some “goodies” to the village that was so decimated by Winston. We had stopped on our way  to Savusavu and  spent a day assisting in the building of the local school. There we met some wonderful residents and cruisers.
W/ had an idea what to bring but talking to Jolene at Waitui Marina she changed our minds. She told us what locals would most need and we went to the store in search of those supplies.  With lighter wallets and heavier stores we returned to the boat. There we prepared to leave the following day. We moved out to the Cousteau resort where we

A wonderful sail from Savusavu to Makogai, Fiji

A wonderful sail from Savusavu to Makogai, Fiji

anchored with John on Ichiban. He wished to see Makogai as well and was heading back to NZ at the end of the this cruising season too. Ichiban and Elysium thought they would leave at first light, however Ichiban couldn’t wait.  We found out John had left at 2 am!  Fortunately leaving Cousteau is easy as open water is due West with minimal dangers.
After a delightful sail we entered the outer reef at Makogai. 30 minutes later we were  anchored and received a call from Quxiotic on VHF (the hurricane yacht Lewis and Allyssa refurbished in Savusavu). They were returning from Suva and planned to anchor for the night at Makogai.  They offered to share their luck. The had just caught a nice Mahi-Mahi, and they invited the American Samoa boats for drinks and dinner. John on Ichiban, Louis and Allyssa on Elethurea – now on Quixotic, and Elysium were all in America Samoa at the same time last March. We shared some drinks, lies, and great food in just about that order.  Quixotic was returning to Savusavu the following am and we were planning on a hike across the island. I was ready to deliver our supplies.
In the am we talked John into accompanying us and then called Liberate to see if they wanted to join us.  Liberate is

Wendy and John following the road? Makogai, Fiji

a sister-ship of our last boat Principia (a Westsail 32). The more the merrier. We met ashore about 11 ish and began the trek across / around the mountain.  At one time there was a road / path and while much of it is still there, there is a great deal of growth. The tropical forest never rests.  I carried our supplies in a large dry bag. No, I wasn’t planning on getting wet but it was the best back pack like bag we had. Elsewise it would have been impossible to carry 70 lbs of supplies. Off we went, I as quickly as I could figuring the faster I hiked the sooner I could rid myself of this load.
As with most of W/s and my hiking we didn’t bring enough water.  One liter between us barely  provided adequate hydration in which to make the village. Once there we hoped to refill our container. If not,

One can still see the ruin after Cyclone Winston, Makogai, Fiji

One can still see the ruin after Cyclone Winston, Makogai, Fiji

I’m not sure what we’ll do.  When we worked there a couple of months ago they had good drinking water from the new school’s catchment system. I hope all is fine. With only a couple of stops I soldiered on. I was so goal oriented I didn’t stop for any photos but I did stop to beg W/ for more than my share of the water. The views are magnificent and I doubt 300 tourists in any one year may cross this island.  From a few 100 meters up we looked down into an ocean that appeared to be glass with colors from deep blue to aqua. Reefs and shallow areas were various shades of orange to  brown.  And near our anchorage we saw a fish weir ( a manmade  trap created out of rocks using the tide to trap fish in).

Fili and his Grandchildren, Makogi, Fiji

Fili and his Grandchildren, Makogi, Fiji

Dropping off the dead weight at the school porch I was newly energized for about 15 more minutes.  Thus W/ chose me to hike up to the village to find Fili.  I found Fili working and re introduced myself. I also said we had brought some supplies for the villagers with us. Those supplies included the traditional Kava which is the principal drink of Fijians.  He commandeered a teenager who commandeered her younger siblings and cousins to bring the wheel Road from Research Station to Village, Makogai, Fijibarrow.  The teenager; like many in the US would have, never made the walk preferring instead to let her siblings do the work.
We took a few pictures and shared a brief tale of our walk with Fili and his grandchildren. Then the youngsters  hauled off the supplies back to the main part of the village. We chatted with our cruising friends on the school project while resting in the shade. After drinking our fill of water and filling up the water bottles we began the trek back.  I felt born again Vistas-Makogai, Fijiwalking like I had just dieted and lost 70 lbs. Light on my feet I eased along the trail. How sweet it is. The vistas were still gorgeous, the company grand and the hike hot.  We are in the tropics. 🙂 But, by the end  the km’s wore me down.
Makogai, Anchorage, FijiAs we made the final bend; 8 miles later,  we were joyous at seeing the  Fiji Research Station; the old Leper Colony. After descending the hill I went in search of our dinghy.  I couldn’t wait long to get back on the boat, wet my whistle and shower. With a rising tide the path to our dinghy was through thick forest and the easy ways blocked.  I left my valuables with W/ and waded  into waist deep water around fallen trees. 15 minutes later I located the dinghy floating securely tied to a tree.  I untied it, climbed aboard and started the engine. I know this will sound funny, after freeing the painter I lifted the wheels. We had installed the wheels so we could haul the dinghy as far up on the beach as possible.  After lifting the wheels I picked up John and W/. John had not put his tender in the water so we were the chauffeur today.  Later, most likely after a shower and a nap I would  chauffeur Jon back so we could add our list of lies and adventures.
That evening we let John know we were staying another day because I wanted to see the giant clams. One of the locals had told us where they were in the harbor. Bingo. And they were within snorkeling distance of the boat. John was going to take off. He didn’t like the wx recently (we had one low pressure system move through while we were in Savusavu) and John was looking for a window to head S towards NZ.  Tomorrow was looking like a great sailing day to head over the top of Viti Levu. We would follow a day later but head S to Suva.
The following am, once all the boat chores were completed we don our snorkel gear to visit the giant clams. l grabbed the GoPro and we jumped in the water. Oooo~ a little cool.  What?…. we once lived in Iowa…. whats a little chill! We snorkeled to the clams and I fidgeted with the GoPro.  I prefer electronic gear to be intuitive and the GoPro was more than enough confusing to me. There are …. three…. buttons.  I thought I got it working and we marveled at the size and colors of the Giant clams.  A couple of openings taking water in… filtering the food out and expelling water. As well as the size I loved  the variety of colors.  Back to the boat for more study and to download my great pictures.
Before we left the water however we spent some time cleaning the bottom of Elysium.  While we had a freshly painted bottom when we left Vuda Marina it has been 3 months in the water and slime always is attracted to boat bottoms.  We had a bit more than slim than I would have guessed and we cleaned what we could while snorkeling.  Aboard with a shower and some refreshments I went to see what the pictures looked like. Oh-Oh!
None, nada, zip.  I am not yet a GoPro expert.  While there are only 3 buttons I have not spent any time reviewing the manual nor really understanding what each button does.  Dummy me.  Had I been 19 and my eyes of their original excellence I would have been able to read the fine print on the camera underwater. Just playing with the buttons did not work. Unfortunately I am no longer 19 and screwed up.  Ah… not to worry. We are not the first to  come across the Giant clams and I’ll link to  pictures from the internet to show you.  Tomorrow we head S. to Suva with a stop at another World Heritage site, Ovalau.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Say Long

Cyclone Winston – Ground Zero


We wanted to get to Makogai and we did. The trip took longer than we had hoped but we made it in time to at least put in a good days work.

We hung at Nana-i-taki for a few days awaiting weather. It blows like hell there 24/7.  To make matters worse we were heading SE- straight into the trades.  We don’t like going E at all, we don’t like motoring, and we don’t like salt spray.  Everything we don’t like was looking us in the eye.  Hoping to ease the negatives we waited till the winds calmed down…. a bit.

Finally the day arrived and it was time to move.  We motored about 10 hours, weaving our way through the reefs for the first 5 hours and then bouncing in the short chop again for another five. But arrive we did, tired, hungry and ready for a good break.  We anchored in what I hoped was sand but feared not.  I could tell the anchor bounced a bit on the bottom as we pulled back on the chain waiting for it to catch. I could hear and feel the chain dragging over rock. Finally the anchor caught on something. We were good for the night and then some. Now my concern was that the anchor might be “wedged” in a crack or coral.  We had anchored in 20 meters and  right now that is beyond my free diving depth.  As the saying goes, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”.

Heading to Work

Heading to Work

During dinner Hanna and James stopped by to let us know the volunteer work schedule. Daily at 8:30am all dinghies go to Ian’s and Wendy’s boat. There we board a long boat that ferries us to the village. And it is that simple.  We became part of the crew building the new school. Buildings on Makogai

Village Makogai, Fiji

Village Makogai, Fiji

were 80% destroy by Winston. The school 100 %.

Winston happened  6 months ago. While the kids were still in school….  they were in tents as were the majority of the villagers.  One resident said “ I am thankful for SeaMercy, everything I now own, everything was donated by SeaMercy”.

Lunch with the Volunteer Cruising Crew

Lunch with the Volunteer Cruising Crew

We didn’t have a lot of time here and would have liked more. W/ was assigned  to work on a crew scrubbing floors. I started out as a mule and moved a scrap wood pile from A to B.  Later I was tasked to rebuild / modifying two teacher desks. There were about 12 cruiser volunteers that day

School Building 2

School Building 2

cleaning up and preparing for the hand over ceremony. During the last two months there have been close to 30 cruising boats and their crews participating. Two days from now the school was to be dedicated to the community and open for business. 300 people were expected to attend the event. Alas, due to our weather window we would be moving on to Savusavu Wednesday. Tuesday we prepared the boat for our passage the following day.

In preparation we pull the dinghy engine off and put it up on the stern rail. Deflated, flip, moved it and, covered the dinghy storing it upside down on the aft cabin top.  We removed the sail covers readying them for use. Knick knacks are stored so we don’t play pinball in our cabin and W/ prepares easy to handle food so neither of us starve. Total time to ready for a passage, about 4 hours.
The final task was getting my fishing gear ready. I hope to bring in some nice fish – so far fishing in  Fiji this year has been a bust and I am looking for a little luck. We’ll be sailing about 50 nm, leaving at first light and hoping to arrive in Savusavu before dark. Should the trip be slower than expected we can always anchor at the Cousteau Resort.

We rise early and begin to haul up the anchor. Luck was with us. For a few seconds the chain caught on some rock / coral outcrop but then broke free. A few minutes later the anchor was stored and we were on our way. As we rounded the fringing reef I deployed three fishing lines with three different lures. Two diving lures and one surface lure.  Fingers crossed.

The breeze was light and out of the right direction; the SE. We were moving at the awesome speed (not)  of 2.5-3.5 kts. At that rate we wouldn’t make our destination till the bewitching hour. Winds are predicted increase as the day goes on but W/ is not happy. Truth be told I’m not jumping up and down with joy either but “I DO NOT WANT TO MOTOR”!   I add more sail area and we increase our speed almost a knot. At this rate we will reach the Cousteau Resort by sunset and be able to anchor there. For once however, the GRIBs are right.  GRIBS are computer prediction files for wind. The wind continues to build.

As the Sun crossed the Zenith we are moving along nicely at 5 to 6 kts. Sometimes a wee bit faster, sometimes a bit slower. I am anticipating the zing of the fishing lines…. any minute now. About an hour after our last course change, heading now for Savusavu it begins to rain. We don rain gear and hide in the dry spots in our cockpit.  Still no fish; but I am…still… hopeful! Often during rain there is little to no wind but fortunately here we are still sailing. Our wind vane handles the hard work for the majority of this passage and of course the vane never complains.  W/ would say the wind vane is the best crew we have abroad! 🙂 The steering vane Never, NEVER, argues with her!

By the time we reach Cousteau we have not even had a nibble on our fishing gear.  As we make the final turn for our run along the coast to Savusavu I sadly pull in the lures. The winds begin to abate and the sails need to be adjusted and finally furled. That’s my job while W/ handles the helm. With sails furled, rain, no fish, we call Savusavu Marina inquiring about a mooring. For the most part, if you want to hang in the most comfortable part of the creek you need a mooring. Savusavu Marina is a spartan, friendly, cruiser oriented marina that is on the other end of town…. for us much quieter.  Benny (a marina employee) meets us in the dinghy to guide us to a mooring.  While the year before we had been in and out many times I’m glad he came out in the drizzle.  As we rounded one yacht I could see the sea bottom and W said we were in about 8’ of water! We ought to have been in 30′ !  Benny arrived and was assisting in our twisting trek through the two reefs entailing a big S turn to reach the bouys.  The first time we explored this section of the creek last year in the dinghy I ran aground 3 times. Touching the bottom is not something I want to do with the big boat.  Benny helped with the mooring attachment and promptly ran out of gas, in the rain. Fortunately I keep a small reserve tank filled for the dinghy and we had enough fuel to give him. With that he could make it back home.  Ah… we have arrived …. we can breathe a sigh of relief. We’re here, we’re safe, we’re tired, we’re hungry and we will sleep well tonight. Except for the lack of fish, this was a good day.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Luck

Yeah, I know I am lucky. I am living life to the fullest, born as a privileged American, worked for an organization that had a defined benefit plan, kept all my fingers while refurbishing a boat, knowledgeable and bold enough to figure I can fix and maintain most issues that crop up on a boat all  while exploring the world. And sometimes luck just has to hit you in the face to accept it.
While leaving Musket Cove for the big city, Denarau, I had a chunk of my tooth fall off. I was chewing a little ice or having a small piece of chocolate and felt a little pain in my jaw. Oh-Oh.  But as I continued on with the chocolate I didn’t feel any more issues. I drank some water and didn’t have any  cold spots so I thought it was only a warning sign.  So… I had another piece of chocolate.  Oh-Oh!  This wasn’t “Chunky Chocolate” but I believe there was a definite “chunk” in there. Gently I masticate until I came across the small solid piece. I removed it from my mouth and discovered a piece of my tooth.  Tongue exploring I went; and yep, the piece was off a back upper molar.
I was lucky, I had no pain. I was lucky, we were heading to the big city where I could find a dentist.
After checking in to the marina,  the first thing I wanted to know is where is a good dentist?  The attendants both said Shortlane Clinic in Namaka. While we could not find a phone number for their office I did come up with an address.
Monday W/ and I went to the dentist. Informed that if I arrive by 10 am I would get in to see him we made our way via public transport. From the bus stop we needed only a short walk to reach the office.  There I / we  waited. We had met some other cruisers whose daughter and significant other needed the same dentist and he was told to arrive around 9 ish.  We waited about 2 hours and he about 5 minutes.  Well, as I say “go slow” and that was the morning for us. Fortunately there was no pain and we waited patiently while at times chatting up the other patrons.  By noon  I was in the chair and speaking with the dentist. He agreed, a chunk of tooth had broken off. Too he didn’t feel I was yet in need of a crown for that tooth telling me to keep an open mind for the future.  Approx 3/5th of the tooth will now have been repaired.  He added a composite filling and sent me on my way.  Perfect… and the cost…. all of $45 F.  About $23 US.  The rest of the day went smoothly, I was singing because I had no pain with the loss,  no pain with the filling, and no pain with the cost.

My Tooth & Filling

My Tooth & Filling

The following a.m. I discovered no more filling. It had fallen out. I wear a night guard to keep from grinding my teeth away and obviously the two didn’t like each other.  Back to the Dentist. Luckily a cruising friend’s daughter and partner were heading back to NZ and had a ride to the airport which was passing right by the dentist’s office. I globbed on with them and by 9 ish I was back in the office awaiting the dentist. He confirmed the filling had disappeared and we couldn’t find it in the mouth guard. (W/ found it later on the counter in the head).  He replaced it this time adding a Dovetail in the filling underneath, acid etched it, tucked it in, cured it with UV light and then ground it to ensure that there was no more  problem with my night guard.  Bingo. All done.  I asked what the bill was today and he said….. get this…. NOTHING.  Where can we get service like that now a days?  Fiji!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

A Vacation

We almost did not go. Adam (the Vuda Marina Manager) had some reservations about the trip. We had checked with him the week prior and he was enthusiastic; but now, as the time was upon us he began to waffle. We hope to leave tomorrow. He said he would still think about it. W/ was acting cruiser coordinator.  Six cruisers had committed to this and 5 already paid but we still didn’t have a final word. That evening 5 of us hung together during Happy Hour at the Boatshed and Adam was there. We thought if there was any issue he would stop by and let us know. The last thing W/ wanted to do was go knocking on boats the night before and say “it’s off”.  By the time Happy Hour was over Adam had not spoken with us. We thought we were in the clear.

30 minutes later Simon came a knocking on  our boat and said Adam wanted to talk to W/. Damn! W/ went to met Adam for a late con fab.  Returning to the boat later she was relieved and said the trip was still on. Simon is still our tour guide; but, as an independent agent and not as a representative of the marina. Ok… Whew!  No late night bad news for anyone!

At 8 am all of us were waiting for the van by the office. Simon, Niki, and Maria arrived all carrying coolers of food, drinks, and snacks.  I was still leery and wouldn’t yet swear we were going until we made the first turn out of the marina. The van arrived and we loaded up, ready to go. I held my breath and we began to move. A  couple of minutes later we made the first turn. Breathe in… Breathe out… Breathe in.. Breathe out! We are going.
Our itinerary was a rather ambitious one: Sand Dunes, two waterfalls, a swim on a notorious Fijian beach, shopping in Fiji’s capitol of Suva, the museum, tour through Fiji’s Salad Bowl farming area, and an evening in Simon’s village of Laselase. We knew everything would be too much to do in two days. Alas, we are cruisers and plans are made to be changed. No one in our group had any issues with changes.

Unstable Dunes, Fiji

Unstable Dunes, Fiji

Our first stop was Fiji’s only National Park and our ranger was…. Simon. Not our guide Simon but another Simon. He took us on a 45 minute expedition that lasted closer to 90. We crested the summit of a stable dune; we were at Sigatoka Dunes after all, and had a great view of the unstable dunes as well as the Pacific shore.  Here some of the earliest Fijians settled. Burial grounds have been uncovered by the moving dunes as well as large amounts of pottery. The pottery is made

Decending a Stable Dune

Descending a Stable Dune

from the the rich clay in the river valley. Greg; our cruising potter found some shards  and we ooo’ed and awww’ed over his descriptions of the firing and quality of the pieces. There are so many pottery shards there Simon had no issue with Greg keeping a piece as a souvenir.

Wendy checking out the raw Pandanus Flower

Wendy checking out the raw Pandanus Flower

From the sea shore we moved inland through an old growth Mahogany forest. Simon collected a Pandanus plant for us to take a whiff of. Pandanus is often used in Perfumes, scenting coconut oil, and spicing local food dishes.  While enjoying our walk in the shade under the canopy we came upon some of the tree huggers from ages past. College  students each year visit the park and assist in the maintenance and research of the forest. They like to create

Tree Huggers

Tree Huggers

these human formed tree hugging sculptures. Everyone loved the huggers.  A short distance beyond we returned and Simon; our tour guide, had cold drinks for us. A brief rest and we were again on our way.
Lunch was at a park along the Pacific shore. We were heading to Suva; Fiji’s capital,  on the Queens Highway.  We wound through the various villages, across rivers and

Picnic On the Pacific Shore - Fiji

Picnic On the Pacific Shore - Fiji

past many parks. For lunch we sat on benches and watched the birds fishing in the shallow waters of the bay.  With full stomachs we made our way to Suva where everyone wanted to see Baker’s shoes -those with the teeth marks. Baker was a missionary who tried to convert the local chief to Christianity. In Fiji  he found the path to heaven much sooner that he had expected and the legend is that the locals cooked him; who knows maybe spicing him with Pandanus 🙂 . Not having the luxury or curse of living in a western culture they didn’t realize his shoes were NOT part of him.  They cooked the shoes as well. Upon attempting to consume the shoes the Fijians found them to be for the most part inedible and after gnawing on them for a bit they gave just gave

Albert and the Residence's Guard

Albert and the Residence's Guard

up. The shoe soles survived; he didn’t. The shoes are now in the Museum which was our next stop, or so I thought.
We swung by the President’s residence for a brief visit and while he never made time for us we spent a few short minutes annoying the guard. He was as well trained as anywhere else in the world and never even flinched as we “checked him out” and shot a few photos. Albert wanted his picture taken too so we snapped it. Albert is the town “Head Man” for Simon’s village; Laselase, and we picked him up on the way into Suva for more local lore as well as some extra laughs. He has a deep throated voice and a conviction of the Fiji history that boarders on the absolute. We listened to his stories, asked a few questions and laughed a lot.
The museum’s exhibits were quite eye opening ranging from the islands natural history to the Fijian cultural history interspersed with art and archeological finds. We found the exhibit which included Bakers shoes but the lighting there was not the best. None of  us could identify teeth marks.  After we closed up  the museum we loaded into the van and headed back to Laselase where we were to have a lovo created dinner, a Kava ceremony, and discover our accommodations for the evening.

Our accommodations were at Simon’s Uncle’s home.  Our room for dinner and the Kava ceremony is more like what we might call a Great Room. More of the local history / family history was talked about while waiting to eat. Family members came and went, never knocking, but announcing their entrance much as I remember it in my neighborhood growing up. Mom would peek in the neighbors door and say “Hello” as she walked into the neighbors house  looking for a response so as to know which way to go.

Cooking Large Meals in Fiji

Cooking Large Meals in Fiji

That evening we met close to 40 people whose names I have no recollection of. All I can say is everyone was most welcoming and wanting to exchange information between our two cultures.  Fiji time; an hour or two later we began our lovo Dinner. All of it was prepared in a pit of super hot rocks covered with banana leaves, and topped with piece of corrugated Tin and earth.  The food was all prepared to perfection; nothing burned, and no one ended up hungry. There were a couple of types of fish, Chicken, Breadfruit, and salad.

After the meal the men gathered in the Great Room  and one of the elder teens brought a beautifully crafted bowl of hot water and a bag of finely cut Kava.  He dipped and squeezed, dipped and squeezed several times tasting every so often to make the mixture just… right. After the mixture was perfect Albert gave what appeared to be a standard Fiji welcome and described how the circular bowl shared by all in the group brought us to a common place –  all as family. The cup, dipped in the peppery  liquid was then dipped and passed, dipped and passed to each member in the room. While one could refuse to drink the Kava and from what they indicated it would be ok – none did; however as outsiders we were offered three different amounts in the coconut cup; high tide – a full cup, medium tide – half full cup, and low tide – just a wee bit in the bottom of the cup.  John being the eldest of the group; thankfully no one ever asked our ages, was offered the second coconut cup. Albert was the first to imbibe. John having done a few ceremonies before chose High Tide and thus set the president for the males in our cruiser group.  There is a clapping ritual that goes with the drink and maybe W/ will chime in here when she edits my post. (3 claps, followed by 2 and ending with three more claps) Everyone had some and because there was a great deal left the cup went around again. W/ this time abstained and I had one more medium tide and finally a low tide. The peppery drink is said to effect our emotional state creating a slightly euphoric feeling; but for me, mostly what I felt was a burning on the lips and a bitter, bitter taste in the mouth. Practically speaking I felt I was drinking warm dirty river water although in my years swimming rivers, and lakes I’ve never gotten a mouthful of warm water.

As the evening progressed and stories told, questions asked and answered we were assigned our sleeping quarters. As already mentioned they shared their home with us. W/ and I were lucky – I have no idea why but we received a mattress on the floor of one of the children’s rooms in which the only light was a blue bulb!  It had to be a teenager’s room. Greg and Danielle had a room next door to ours with a single bed. But John – the eldest, was given the bed and Greg and Danielle had the floor. The ceilings were not attached to the roof so everything said in one room was clearly understood in the next and with all 5 of us sleeping in close quarters snoring became our white noise.  The doors were framed with patterned sheets. Christina was given the great room and luckily she had more experience with the expected accommodations and had brought a backpack mattress and sleeping bag. Albert, Simon and the other men moved to the kitchen to enjoy more Kava. There they stayed up well past midnight sharing tales and adventures with each other.

By the am having slept at least 4 hours I was seeing light in the outside sky so I decided to take a shower. Often in tropical climes showers are not heated and here was no exception. I was completely awake by the time I finished and upon return to our room W/ was stirring .  Soon the entire group was up and discussing last evenings events and experiences. Before breakfast we had a tour of Simon’s village and everyone knew Simon, knew we were there and welcomed us all. The experience reminded me of small town America.

Back at Simon’s uncle’s we had Fijian pancakes, a folded over donut is the best way to describe it, bananas and lemon tea. I opted for water.  At 7 am our driver Joe was to arrive and already it was getting on to 9am when he appeared. Fiji time is about the same as latin time or as I like to call it … elastic time. Siga Na liga – Fijian for “No Worries”.  We hear that phrase often in Fiji.

Toga - Tonga Sign

Toga - Tonga Sign

First on the days adventure was to visit a Tongan fort. Notice the sign “Toga” . In Fijians pronounce it “Tonga”  but it is not spelled that way.  It was quite some distance up the mountain; overlooking the river valley; the salad bowl of Fiji. We again found more pottery shards and the community where the earliest Fijian settlers had lived.  Oddly enough, all the paths were strewn with clam shells. The river is full of tasty clams and the archeologist surmised that the clam shells were spread around the village so no one could sneak up on the residents and surprise them. A fascinating method to ensure safety.

Our Group with Fiji's salda bowl behind us

Our Group with Fiji's salad bowl behind us

From here we visited Sigatoka; one of the larger towns in Fiji and home of the winningest public soccer team; at least that is what were were told. W/ picked up fresh food in the market, I added data on our phone and the rest of the trip was a quick ride back to Vuda Marina. Again pronounced Vunda Marina. Tired, all of us went to our various homes; oops boats. We began again to schedule our projects so we might  be able to leave the marina some day and swing to the breeze!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Stasis

We’re now in the water and slowly working on bringing the rest of our systems online.  Mostly the refrigeration. And silly me; I look for the easy way.

While both systems; the DC and the engine driven compressor, have lost refrigerant there is still some pressure in each. Unfortunately there was very little in the engine drive system and in hindsight I would have been wiser to simply evacuate it and recharge, but I was trying to keep things simple and figured I will just add R-134a till it all works right. Silly me.

I added, I removed. I hadn’t put my professional gauges on and was using a wonky car AC gauge to read only the Low Pressure side.  I ran the system. My sight glass showed bubbles; low refrigerant. Finally, I dug out the gauges and connected them. Whoa!  I was still way low. I added another can. Still low. I ran the system and I was still low. I added another can of refrigerant and watched  the sight glass.  Finally after the can was empty the sight glass foam disappeared. But the glass was still a bit foggy so I finished the refrigerant in the can. The system ran fine and the pressures looked good.

The following run time the HP went up to about 200 lbs. Real close. Oh-Oh!  Now I have appeared to have added too much refrigerant.  Luckily  the high pressure switch did not shut down the system and as the temperature on the plates cooled the system down everything looked good. The refrigeration compressor still made a bit of a grinding noise; like rust on the clutch, but over time the noise was diminishing so I felt it best to leave well enough alone. On a boat my philosophy is simple, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Right now it “ain’t broke”.

For the next couple of days we watched it. I now have enough refrigerant left to do a complete recharge but that is it.  I do have a new compressor to install if I need to.  That would mean dumping what is in the system, evacuating, and recharging the system with the end result that I have no more

Refrig Comprssor on Generator

Refrig Compressor on Generator

refrigerant for spares. Oh, I can buy refrigerant here; but not in the small easily stored cans, only in 10 kg containers. That makes storage a bit of an issue.  The other issue I faced is that of evacuating the system.

While I have a vacuum pump, it runs on 120v 60 cycle electricity. The electrical system here is 240 volts 50 cycle.  Which means I need to run the pump on ships power for about 3 hours and that is near the extent of my battery bank. My minimal solar will not keep up with the power drain of evacuation.  As I would be evacuating the system attached to  the generator I don’t want to use the generator to charge the batteries. Too many spinning belts too close to where I would be working.  Now, if push came to shove I could do it; but right now I’m being nudged and not shoved. Patience, I will be patient. I WILL BE PATIENT! 🙂

While working on the refrigeration systems we were talking to Simon (the activities directory – sort of for the Boatshed Restaurant).   Simon presented a couple of  events that we attended.  During the Fijian History lesson we brought up the idea of visiting some of the places he had mentioned.  He was all for creating a tour and we tentatively  cleared it with Adam the Marina manager. Simon set about scheduling transportation and accommodations for  8-10 cruisers.  W/ signed up 8, one ended up with an infection from of all things gardening. and so we were down one couple.  Six of us went on a unique tour from Vuda to Suva and back.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Relationships

We’re back in the water. Yep; the boat floats and now we begin to work on the systems that make our cruising life possible. From the time of our arrival till in the water was 15 days.

From the time of our departure to the time we arrived to put the boat to bed was 10 days. We have a few more left till we are ready to move out of the marina into the cruising life.
All in all; I figure it takes about twice the time to deconstruct compared to construct. For example; lee cloths.  To remove them I used a pair of dykes, cut the wire ties and untied the end tensioners. Threw out the wire ties, rolled it up and stored it below. Total time; approx 30 minutes.
To put them back on; I dug out the wire ties and put 15 on each cloth. After retying the tensioners I needed to cut the tails of the ties. Finally I threw the tails out. Finished! Total time a little over an hour.

Bare Gell Coat Bottom

Bare Gell Coat Bottom

We didn’t do the bottom work choosing instead to hire the young bucks.  We’ve worked enough boat grunge jobs in our life and continuing to expose our bodies to toxic chemicals is not our idea of looking to a bright future. Purchasing anything in most cruising destinations is oft times problematic. I have NO IDEA where to find a Tyvek suit. Besides it’s hot here and wearing one would be detrimental to my attitude. We needed Denatured Alcohol, not found in the marine store.  Mineral Spirits; they had to order it, #10 crimp on wire connectors – only in a kit, a pencil zinc – NOPE.  Some of this is just basic supplies for any working boat yard. Not here. I am damn glad we had most of the materials on board.  But whew,  we were running close to out in some

Second coat of Barrier

Second coat of Barrier

departments.
Which brings me back to time. I am not saying that the supplies are impossible to find in Fiji. I understand that denatured alcohol is available in town; a half day round trip away. Somewhere they might have the zincs, I could order them and they might well be in next week; maybe. 🙂

Bottom Finished

Bottom Finished

Yet; for the most part -if you plan on leaving the boat for any length of time consider this formula:  It takes two – three times the days required to put the boat to bed  to wake her back up again and give her new life. Two to Three times.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long