Well, we left. We’ve waited long enough. My faux brother, Dirk, likes the phrase; Analysis Paralysis. And it seems to me while we look at the wx, look at the predictions and wait for the “perfect window”, all we do is wait longer. The perfect window never comes and pointoint in time we’re tired of waiting and we leave.
It wasn’t a bad window. Or so we thought. Winds were the right speed out of the NE turning W later in the day. By then we hoped to be in Makogai. Our course put us 25 nm SW and then WSW. Unfortunately; I overlooked how even a small contrary breeze against a current can mess up water. The end result is a wet ride. We were never in any danger. We were uncomfortable for a few hours.
The NE wind was lighter then hoped for. Often with wx predictions the offshore winds are greater than stated. Sometimes forcasters are getting right on. Anyway we sailed for bit with a full main and Yankee jib. Then the winds started to increase and we put a reef in the main. As we turned for Makogai we couldn’t hold enough Westerly. We did sail the course as long as we could but eventually dropped all sail to round the top of the island and head for the anchorage. We couldn’t round the bottom of the island as the reef extends for about 20 miles further S.
There was a minor / major discover while sailing. The shaft lock didn’t function. This is the item that locks the shaft and allow the propellor to feather creating less drag. I ended up having to put a vice grip on the shaft to keep the propellor from spinning and to let the prop blade furl.
We tried out some new stuff on the boat. In NZ the drone landing pad we had made was to carry the dinghy for day hops. It’s actually an arch with two big solar panels on it. But; carrying the dinghy on the arch means that we can’t use the wind vane as a wind vane. So we use an electronic autopilot. While off the wind where the angle of attack isn’t all that important, it works fine. When on the wind the sailing angle is critical and an electronic pilot is a PITA. A few degrees smaller wind angle and the sail wants to stall and the boat will luff. A greater angle the boat will simply heal more and work harder. With a wind vane we would have taken advantage of the lifts and no doubt cleared the top of Makogai. We would have gotten to our anchorage a couple of hours earlier.
But; it takes less than an hour to use the arch to haul the dinghy up and stored, it takes roughly three hours to deflate it, cover it, and store it on deck. And the reverse is about an hour to put the dinghy back in the water, on from the davits. The engine and fuel tank only a couple of minutes. From the deck it is a 2-3 hour job. That is with the electric air pump we bought to inflate it and deflate the dinghy.
We were looking forward to nice calm anchorage. By now the winds had clocked to W NW, the exact opening of the anchorage. And while there is a fringing reef at Makogai, it was not large enough to break all the waves. Many made it through and in the anchorage we we spending a lot of time going up and down. Neither of us were happy.
W/ warmed up some food she had prepared ahead of time and Mother Nature must have felt sorry for us. She put out a beautiful Sunset. By the time evening was upon us the up and down motion was abating. Sleep was near and by the am we were in a calm anchorage.
The following day we chose as a rest layover day. Yesterday took it out of us. We cleaned up the boat and emptied the locker out that is over the shaft lock. Bingo, I found the spring and the Nylon nut that tensions the lock. Put it back together and we’re ready to go… again. Just one issue, Something is still missing.
By all appearances it seems that only a shim is missing so I fashioned one out of a piece of hose and things seemed to work. Put it back together and re packed the locker. The rest of the day we hung out, read, Watched a movie and went to bed early in a nice calm anchorage.
A simple verb with a plethora of meanings. Some people think of the Atlantic Rally Cruise or the World Rally Cruise. Those rallies spend approx 3 years traveling with a group of boats on the trade winds route around the world. In roughly 18 months on the water from port to port they will spend another 18 months in port seeing the sites and partying with others of their group. They will meet a few locals who most often are hired. They show them the sites and get a small taste of the countries’ cultures. They might see wonders that other tourists have a very difficult time getting to. And before one settles in they rush off to another port.
Some friends of friends of ours we met in Panama were with one of the rallies. They spent 3 days in Panama City and thought that was long enough! On to the Los Perlas (Islands just off Panama in the Pacific) for 3 days and then checking out for the Galapagos. They were through Panama so fast we never had a chance to ask them what they thought of Panama. We found Panama a wonderful country with a vigorous culture. There is one real advantage to a rally, the paper work is usually handled by the group organizers.
Other rallies are more laid back. Those don’t have a fixed schedule and still ease the paperwork. Some rallies as well provide support for those in their group. Those rallies we keep in the back of our mind as we reach an area of the world that has a deep seeded love of paperwork. And you thought you had it difficult back home.
Then then there are the type A cruisers. They rush from port to port, anchorage to anchorage; trying to see it all. I often chuckle as I see them move into and out of an anchorage. They drop the hook, often in some ludicrous spot, run ashore and seek info on the biggest waterfall, the longest zip line or the fanciest restaurant. They’ll meet a couple of locals and pick their brains for what to see and do. And…they’re off, two days later or maybe three, they’re heading to a new anchorage. I whisper into the wind; you can’t see it all!
We have some cruising friends; she’s from the Philippines, and I loved when she bragged that there are over 7,000 islands in her country. Visiting each island every day means 20 years worth of cruising! 20 Years! You can’t see it all. We pick and choose.
Our choices however are quite different. We love to share in others lives and cultures as much as possible. This means we must spend time in one area. No one is going to invest in a relationship when they know you are leaving in a hour or a day.
Don’t get me wrong, we love to do some of the tourist stuff, love waterfalls, love hikes, and beautiful vistas. We enjoy local restaurants (provided they are clean and bug free), and above all, love meeting and getting to know the people.
For us; the number one reason to cruise is to share with others ours and their lives. In the Chesapeake we met some fellow Westsailors who have become wonderful friends. Jenny even came and traveled with us through the Panama Canal and when traveling in the US we hung with them at their new home. Mickey and Lil were neighbors at our dock in Annapolis and their friendship is a bond worth keeping. We pick up cruising friends all along our route; some like Dirk and Silvie we’ll keep forever (well; at least Silvie) LOL. Dirk is like a brother to me; our ideas and methods in yachting so common I joke that somehow we have the same parentage even though our births were continents away.
Then there there are the locals; some expats and some not that are frosting on the cake. In NZ we joined two tennis clubs, and a fitness center. In Panama we shared in an expat sailors group in Isla Linton. In Savusavu, Fiji we did yoga 3 times / week with a varying size group of expats, cruisers and every once in awhile a tourist. The relationships we cultivate sustain our souls.
In Fiji at Savusavu Marina we’ve shared much time with Bev and her two daughters. Bev is the Marina manager and full of vim and vigor. For most people she is quite the politician. For us I think she let her guard down and we see the real her. She’s not afraid to share her frustrations and joys, she not afraid to let her two daughters attack us. Cathlyn and Ashley will trot down the dock yelling Uncle Dave; Auntie Wendy! Then they throw themselves through the air right at us; wrapping their arms and legs around each of us.
I asked Bev if I could help in Cathlyn’s education. I took it upon myself to work with Cathlyn in learning her multiplication
tables. Cath is a gregarious 8 year old and I wish we could all love life as much as she. When she and her sister learned their multiplication tables to where her schools required and as fast as I or W/ could repeat them, W/ and I took them for a small reward. Cath wanted a thick Milkshake from Snowy House (the best Milkshakes in the S. Pacific) and Ashley wanted to go snorkeling. Ashley is a through and through water rat!
I also acquired the first Harry Potter book to read to Cath as well as the audio book so she can read and listen to it on her own. Harry Potter is pushing her limits a bit. So W/ and I added some Dr. Seuss books to their collection as well. Before we shower at the marina each day we’d spend time with them.
Often when we’re finished reading or playing “hang women” they escort W/ and I to the store to fill up diesel jugs or our ice bag. They carry them over there and the sap that I am; they sucker me into getting them a treat. Unfortunately the diesel is too heavy and I must carry it back. But Cathlyn is strong and she’s able to carry the ice bags back. Don’t worry, she’s makes sure it is quid quo pro.
W/ has tried to co-opt Ashley into the reading, math work, and learning games. Ashley is 7 and if there ever was a continual motion machine in a human body it would be hers. She must be a lot of what I was like as a child. She never wants to stop. She’s always wanting to talk you into something. She pushed so hard and so often that she wanted a boat ride I finally had to give in. But! I did set some parameters. It would only be on Sundays and it would be one ride each or together. So Sundays if they are around we go for a ride in the harbor.
We putt putt through the anchorage and between anchorages I kick it into high gear. The dinghy rises up on plane and each girl hoots and hollers like children at Christmas. That routine was boring for me so I started to teach them to (wo)man the helm (steer the boat). Again, just idling along they both picked it up quite fast and had a great time telling the other which way to go. That is when either was a bit off course which was quite often.
This is why we cruise. To meet new people from different countries, to share in their lives and share our lives with them. We are enriched by these experiences and only hope that this sharing of our lives is enriching their lives too.
We’ve moved, just a little. We moved to the Copra Shed Marina in Savusavu to clean the boat and load on final supplies. I took a taxi out to a friends container and picked up our old mainsail and old solar panels. We plan on donating them to a village in either New Cal or Vanuatu.
We washed the boat checked the weather and boom. W/ came down with a sore thoat and a cough. That mess has been traveling through the community. So far I’d been spared. Till two days ago. We expected to move today. Heading towards Vuda and boat haul out, more maintenance then west.
With both of us under the weather and no real time constraints we’re sitting tight. We prefer all systems to be 100% when we leave. That includes us. Hopefully this coming week we’ll again look to go.
And I am talking of the insect kind, not protestants. I guess we’ve been sitting in one place too long. I can hear our friends Dirk (in Mexico now) and Lewis (in NZ) saying “you figure”! 🙂 Yep! In the cyclone season and with a couple of good size projects we’ve been circumnavigating the same mooring for about 3 months now.
First; W/ and I are below reading and we keep seeing a wasp buzzing in and out of the boat. Once in awhile; oh well, several times in a day oh-oh! I pause to watch it and SHIT! up above on our dinette post she / he / it has built a nest. We wait for the I am now guessing; her, to disappear foraging for more mud or food, we jump up to remove the nest. Carefully we extract it and feed the nest to those in Neptune’s world. We clean up the area. These wasps build nest of mud and they are often referred to as Mud Daubers. Water cleans it up and we watch the rest of the day for any other fly bys and what they might be doing. She returns several times looking for her brood. Luckily she didn’t know it was us that removed / destroyed her nest so she never threatened us. After not finding her nest, shy she moved on.
A couple of days later I am lounging in the cockpit…. again. Yes, sometimes we cruisers just sit and think or even just sit. I see another wasp disappear behind our dodger. She crawls under a part of the main sheet we had cast there. I slowly moved the line and she decided it was time to split. Once she left, I looked a little closer. Wow! A much larger nest was being built. Again that nest went to Neptune. Water and a little elbow grease cleaned up the mess. This time she was persistent and all day I watched her return looking for her Larvae. Once I was able to discern her carrying some food. Wasps stuff the nest with anesthetized spiders. When the eggs hatch the larvae have something to eat. The young eat the spiders and grow to adulthood before exiting.
Later that day while waiting for my (not) friend to return I saw another wasp heading under the stay sail cover. I shook the cover and examined where she had been. A third nest was there! It too went overboard. I looked closer at the sail looking for more and found nothing. Whew.
Not to fear the following day I was again lounging. That isn’t all I do. 🙂 I noticed some Wasp activity again in the stay
sail cover. They were further up the sail where the sheet runs to the boom. I shook the sail motivating a couple to leave. Once I felt safe from them I pealed the cover back to find yet a larger nest! This one not on the sail but built on the underside of the cover. Hopefully Neptune has need of a few more little buggers. Over the side it went and the cover snapped shut.
Everything I read indicates the Mud Daubers are not really harmful; unless provoked. And we didn’t want to accidentally provoke any. Neither W/ nor I however wanted to provide a residential area for them. Two days later, most of them seem to have moved on. Maybe it’s time for us to do the same.
For some reason our water alarm stopped functioning. It is an Aqualarm and for the most part a real engine saver. We added it in Panama. When the water flow stops the alarm screams at us. The light quit working after about 100 hours of use. So what. We never stare at the panel anyway and I don’t care about the light. But the alarm screaming definitely informs us the cooling water has stopped. We count on the alarm to let us know that the engines heat is removed. The water alarm sounds well before any engine over heating alarms and that saves the engine. But, the alarm quit working.
I contacted Aqualarm and asked for advice. They indicated removing and cleaning with WD-40. I don’t carry WD-40 on the boat and I can’t find any in Savusavu. I will do my best to inspect and clean the sensor. Working with plumbing is not something I love. This is an adventure in how few curse words it takes to complete the repair.
Luckily, the removal went ok. I shut off the seacock. We don’t want to flood our home and sink. Then I removed the switch emptying the water from the hoses into a catchment container. W/ disposed of the salt water back into the sea. Once removed we check over the hose clamps and replaced one that was suspect. Out of the three clamps, the one that looked in the best shape is one that failed.
We cleaned the sensor with Vinegar and Q tips. There is a piece that slides back and forth on a spindle. As the water pushes down the piece moves indicating that we have positive water flow. We cleaned around it, moved the disk up and down several times and soaked it in Vinegar. When the vinegar wash was clear I made sure the disk on the spindle moved freely. Back together it goes.
Once I connected the sensing wires we checked to ensure the alarm was “screaming”. It did. I finished the plumbing and tightened the hose clamps. Two small drips. I tightened again. One small drip.
I left the little drip hoping the older hose would snug up a little more over time. I am always concerned about over tightening clamps. One drip every minute or so will not sink the boat in one night. Maybe a couple of months but not one night. I left a paper towel under the drip to gauge the amount. That evening we ran the generator and the alarm worked like new. It screamed when the key switch was activated and once the engine started the alarm went off. Sweet!
The next morning I went in the engine room before running the generator. Working in the engine room after a diesel has run is like working in a sauna. The paper towel was soaked. In the sump under the main engine exhaust there was about 10 liter of water. Normally there is one or two liters underneath the Aqualift exhaust. This is due to the daily condensation of our refrigeration system. The end result is we added 5-8 liters of water. We clean the sump and I attempt to fix the drip.
I identified again the drip off the pump. The other drip was no more. Good. One clamp worked and the other never closed the gap. The shields hose I am using is showing its age and getting stiff. That is why I was hoping with a tight clamp the hose might adapt and close up any gaps. While the hose may have adapted some it didn’t seal any gap. The next step is to tighten a wee bit more. And that is exactly what I attempted to do.
I tightened, then tightened some more, and finally tightened more until I realized that the clamp is broken. I can tighten all I want and the drip will not stop. W/ digs out our box of clamps. We carry almost a 100 spare clamps sized for a 1/2” up to a 3”. One thing that surprises me is how many clamps we seem to replace in a year, every year.
Practical Sailor had a clamp evaluation in Feb of 2013 (page 18) that gave AWAB clamps the best score. On a boat when life depends on small things we take no risks. Our last purchase of replacement clamps were all AWAB. The clamp that just failed; AWAB. It goes to show, even the best isn’t perfect. The screw piece that attached to the band let go.
I replaced it with, you guessed it, another AWAB. I screwed it down. I still had a small drip. I tightened a bit more. Still a small drip. I went to my clamp bank. I found a narrow 3/4” clamp (not AWAB) to add to the hose. I was able to clamp it just inside the ridge at the end of the fitting. I tightened it. No noticeable drip but a wet spot when I touch the towel to the fitting. I tightened both just a little more. Finally, dry. Bingo. I leave my wrenches in the engine room. I will check later today and check the tightness tomorrow ensuring we have no leaks. As a reward, W/ and I have massages this afternoon at Una’s. Life in paradise. Can it get any better? 🙂
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”.
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
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”.
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
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.
I’ve started to put the new motor in. The old is out, the new in the engine room and I’ve begun. But before I get very far I discover some changes that have been made between the two engines.
First, I try to put the power take off hub on the new one. Three bolts, should be no problem. The bolt holes are the same and the flywheel looks to be the same. NOT! While the bolts fit, the hub will not sit down on the flywheel. Upon closer inspection I discover the Kubota has a larger nut on the wheel than my earlier engine ensuring that the hub will not sit flush. Ok, I need to get to a machine shop and have the opening lathed out to match the nut size.
Since I’m greasy I might as well continue. Next I attempt to change the oil pressure switch. This switch senses the oil pressure and also turns on the raw water pump when the engine comes on. This engine came with an adapter. I take out the adapter and test the switch to see if it fits. It doesn’t fit. Upon closer inspection I notice that the port on the engine is straight thread and my switch is pipe thread. Now if I was crazy I could just tap the straight thread that is in the block out to pipe thread but I don’t want to risk getting any even small metal particles in to the oil so I choose to add another part to the list. Take the port to the machine shop and have them tap it out to pipe thread female and leave the straight male thread alone. There is a squash washer with the male thread. That should work.
The last item I knew I was going to have need a machine shop for. A new plate for the coolant tank and on that would be the connection to attach the compressor to. Time for a meeting of the minds. W/ and I talk and since we don’t know the area well we figure to call in the pro; Sanjay. He has worked on some cruising friends boats and everyone has been satisfied with his work and his fair price. Everyone! We’ve used him for a couple of really, really small jobs and they were done on time and reasonably. However; as it seems most things on the boat happen on Sunday, and Sunday is when most islands shut down and today was Sunday all we might be able to do is get an appointment with him for Monday. Early afternoon I call and arrange a time.
Monday am he calls back; he’s at the marina and wants to know which boat we are on. We talk about what I need; I’m also paying him to remove the other engine and he can do with it what he wants. After discussing the 3 needs we head to the nearest machinist shop about 5 km away. There we discovered that they could do the work but they don’t have any stainless steel and their machinist is out till Thursday. Sanjay exchanges numbers with the owner / manager/ boss, and he tells me he will look for some SS and expect a call Thursday from the machine shop. As in many non western countries I don’t receive a call on Thursday. To cover my bases, I call Curley.
Curley is the SSCA contact for Savusavu and also runs the am cruisers net. He’s lived here 40 years and tells me of a good machinist in Labasa (pronounced Lambassa). I call Ibrahim and get directions to his place. Ibrahim informs me
his son or employee is currently out sick and while he’ll be able to look at the job and most likely be able to do it, it will take a few days. We also call Mahendra for a taxi ride to Labasa. For the day taxi the cost is $150 F. But the alternatives are to take a mini van for $20 F per person, they arrive at 10 am and leave at 2pm. If something goes wrong and we need to stay later we would have to take the local bus; and while many say that is a Disney Land adventure it’s not one we would look forward to while attempting to get the boat back in ship – shape.
While we wait W/ finds this an opportune time to break off a chunk of her tooth. Oh! Oh! Luckily she has no pain. Luckily because living with her and a constant pain is not my idea of adventures in paradise – if you know what I mean. It is one of the knuckles on a molar and we take pictures and she looks at it and she’s worried. Again we call Curley and he tells us of a great Dentist in; you guessed it Labasa. Now we get to kill two birds with one stone and W/ makes an appointment for Friday.
Mahendra picks us up at 8 am and we drive to Labasa. He knows right where Ibrahim’s is and we go there as we are 30 minutes early. I explain to Ibrahim what we need. Three things, the power take off lathed out to 4.5 cm, the straight thread in the adapter re threaded to pipe and the plate made. I took the coolant top which had the exact bolt holes to match up and explained it to him, also I took the pattern with bolt holes off but the size and placement of the bracket for the compressor. After a few minutes he marked the pattern and everyone seemed to understand. He told me it would be ready by Wednesday. Next we drop W/ off at the dentist and I go in search of some new metric studs to attach the new coolant cover. After stopping at about 5 places we find one where they have bolts but no studs. There is no place here like in Panama which has every size and type of bolt you need. But the bolts will work. I’ll get some longer ones and cut the ends off, clean up the cuts and then I’ll have studs the length I need. With those supplies purchased Mahendra drops me off at the dentist and I wait while he runs some of his own errands.
W/ comes out all smiles. After paying the $50 F for the repair we head out to the street looking for Mahendra and
thinking about food. Fortunately Mahendra knows Labasa and we head a couple of blocks away to a Chinese place. There we have wonderful luck with good food and some cool refreshments. With the afternoon free we figure to visit the
Hindu Temple and see one of the local tourist religious attractions. The drive is only about 15 minutes away and we wander the grounds; no tour, but we still find it interesting. From there we head back to Savusavu looking forward to some stops along the way for pictures.
Fiji is comprised of two large islands. Savusavu is on a S finger of Viti Lenua and Labasa is on the N. It is roughly a 2 hour trip by car covering about 80 km over the mountains. And they are mountains! Our ears continue to equalize as we traverse the terrain and wonder at the lives of people living in land, from small farm, to large ones, harvesting cane or growing fruits and vegetable for export. Fiji is a fascinating place with only the resort tourist industry built up. Ironically; as much as they encourage tourism, there are no hostels that I know of here, no camp grounds and few if any trails for the weekend adventures of either Fijians or international tourist. Maybe some day but not now. We pass a couple of waterfalls that shoot out to the middle of the mountains, we pass the National Park which is huge and all rainforest. We pass though rain, into sun shine and into rain again. The road is in quite good shape and while some grades are steep and winding it is nothing like the adventures traveling in Guatemala or the back roads of Panama. We feel quite safe and Mahendra is an excellent driver.
With W/’s tooth back in working order her spirits followed suit we arrived back at Elysium before night fall. Mostly now we get to wait, clean up a bit, have a massage from Una 🙂 , and call Wednesday to see if the part is completed. Once we know then we will again contract with Mahendra and travel the mountains to pick up what is needed for our boat to be ship shape.
It didn’t start out that way. And if Heaven is timeless then Hell must be too. While we had planned on a week to complete the projects on our list, change the Perkins water pump, replace the clutch on the Water maker pump, and replace the Kubota EA300 with a newer model, it is taking a bit longer.
We made it to Savusavu Marina fine. There are two large bombies (coral heads) rising to the surface of the creek that had actually blocked our dinghy from first making it this far. We had to dinghy slowly over the coral watching for errant pieces protruding to the surface and admiring the tropicals undulating in the water below. But earlier in the week we had walked to the marina and picked up a rough chart from Robin; the manager. To prepare we took the iPad on the dinghy and followed his chart from our mooring to the marina making a track. Then returning the same way we had a good track of what was what. Oh, there are some markers but they are not numbered and with the big S curves around the bombies it is easy to run aground. With the track I made a short route and we followed that staying in nothing less than 7 meters of water. Sweet. Tied up at the dock we were ready for connecting to power.
I had checked earlier; the power here is 220 V 50 cycles and our boat is wired for 120 v 60 cycles. But our battery charger is multiple voltage and cycle proof and will handle the European / Australian / New Zealand voltage. What I hadn’t counted on was our Panel getting in the way.
I connected the power up with an adapter provided by the marina and immediately see a polarity reversed warning on our panel. I tried different adapter and different sockets on the power post and the same thing. DAMN! Not my only expletive but you get the idea. I was planning on just running the battery charger from here and then using a transfer switch to run the boat. While the generator is off line we need to run the DC refer / freezer and that takes battery power which we will NOT have enough of if I can’t charge the batteries. I was planning on 3 days for the change out. Man, was I ever off!
Plan B. I walk briskly into town needing to take care of this before noon. It is Saturday and most businesses close between noon and one. I would purchase a charger in town and we would be back up and running. NOT! In the two auto parts stores (not like an AutoZone by any way or shape) they didn’t have any to sell. I could bring my battery in for charging. Yeah! Right! I’m going to haul the batteries out of the boat every day and reinstall them every day to do this. Not in my life time. After checking every electrical supply / hardware store in town I am out of luck. Fortunately there is a yacht chandlery at Copra Shed and I figure; what the hell, can’t hurt, so I go there. I discover they can order me a 30 amp charger for 200 F $ or a 50 amp charger for 400 F $. I go for the 30 amp and it will be in Tuesday. We’ll just do other work and prep for our jobs. Progress. Not much but as we oft said when refurbishing the boat…. baby steps
First things first. Obviously we needed to do the normal boat / personal clearance stuff and with those tasks completed we looked for refreshments that others will serve us, cool things to do, markets with fresh goodies, and the stores where we can buy parts to keep the boat ship shape.
Luckily we were anchored next to sv Hotspur who had already been here a week or so. We flagged them down on the our first day here and they came by for the required sundowners. There were shared stories (some lies) about what we’ve each been doing since we last were together (American Samoa). But we also had another motive: pick their brain about the area.
With new info we set about creating some consistency again to our lives. W/ was going to do morning walks with Meri, W/ and I would do some of our own walks seeing the Hot Springs that were just on the edge of town, we would attend Curley’s Fiji Cruising Seminar and maybe arrange a trip with the sv Hotspur crew to visit the Sugar Mill in Labasa.
Curly’s seminar is probably the best insurance value you can have in Fiji. He has years of confirmed waypoints into and around all of the anchorages in Fiji. Having lived here for most of 40 years his stories reinforced the need for solid sailing / navigational skills when moving the boat. While we find Fiji much easier then sailing in the Bahamas and the San Blas it is ALWAYS important to be reminded of what one misstep can do. A couple of days ago a Swan 57 went up on a reef and last we heard was breaking up! Care must be taken. After the seminar he hawked some hand made fishing lures on everyone with a “guarantee that if you put it in the water” you will catch fish! W/ couldn’t resist; always a sucker for a good story, so we bought 2.
Every am at 8 Curly (who is also the SSCA cruising station here) runs the VHF net on channel 68. There cruisers can connect with other cruises and share needs and parts, acquire information on the area and hear the latest advertisements for Savusavu enticing cruisers to the various places that will gladly exchange services for our money. We of course love having others do our work; primarily cooking. But; there was one service we had been missing for the last several months; messages. Curly mentioned a therapist about 5 minutes out of town and W/’s ears perked right up. She copied the phone number down and before the Sun had risen over the mountains she called. Damn! No answer; but she did leave a message.
A few hours later the Una called back and I arranged massages for each of us two days forward.
The hot springs are very….. interesting. Carolyn (Princess on sv Hotspur) had decided to see how warm the water was when it had already flowed the 100 meters to the bay. There she stuck her toe in and yelped a bit as she came very close to being burned. While we were at the springs there were two ears of corn in the husk someone was cooking and another bag in a meal being cooked. Next time I go I’ll take the infrared thermometer and check the temperature of the water. I will NOT stick my toe in it for a check. 🙂
While out and about Dan and Sara on sv Brahminy showed up. We had met them in Tonga awaiting the arrival of the King. They had skedaddled over here to Fiji to meet up with Dan’s parents for a weeks cruise before we left Tonga so we had more brains to pick. They rowed over. His outboard was in the shop being repaired and as we had a spare 2 hp not being used we loaned them our un-trusty little Yamaha. Yep the one that I have cursed and sworn about off and on for the last three years. However; after some sweet talking to it Dan was able to get it started and off they both went smiling all the way, Sara because she didn’t have to row, Dan because Sara didn’t have to row. Two days later it quit and wouldn’t start. I gave them a new spark plug and the little finicky engine started right up …again. The 2 hp Yamaha seems to eat spark plugs and guzzle gas but again Dan and Sara were happy.
We spent time with them discovering that they were gamers and had just learned to play Cribbage. Sweet. We love Cribbage, especially with 4 people and two teams so we played some on the boat and even went up to the Hot Springs Hotel for a night of dining and Cribbage. Just to be clear, when they left to head out sailing the rest of the way to Australia where they live, the guys were 3 games won to only one victory by the women who just happened to fall across the line first. Actually the games were so close with both teams being one count away from victory. NOTE: As guys we had to let them get close but Win! Uh-Uh, No Way. We just couldn’t do it. I’m guessing that when W/ edits this post she may actually add something. Wow, I only received a sly comment from her and she’s not adding any rebuttal. Sorry.
One day the 5 of us Carolyn, Meri, Jim, W/ and I rose early to catch the van to Labasa. W/ had called and made a tour appointment at Fiji Sugar Corporation. The van arrived at 7:30 and we climbed in. He waited, and waited, and about 8 ish he began to move with almost a full van But…moving slowly he was able to pick up one more fare. Off we went. By now the timing was going to be close. FJS had called the day before and asked us to arrive an hour earlier then we had planned. Meri, who is the slickest of people, had brought the driver a muffin to start the day off with. He was all smiles when she offered it to him. Now it was time to ask him if he would be kind enough to drop us off at the Sugar Factory. Fortunately he obliged and our anxieties of being later were reduced to zero.
At the factory W/ and Meri stopped in at reception and acquired our passes, we then walked to meet the tour guide, Lindsey, at the employee gate and he went over the process of making cane into sugar. He went through the entire process because it was loud in the plant and it was easier to tell us here than yelling over the machinery. In the time it took us to take the tour and we had watched them dump 3 tons of Sugar Cane onto the conveyor, that cane was converted to about 1/2 ton of pure sugar and molasses. The pulp (called Bagasse) is saved and used in a power plant that is also operated by FSC. The power plant has 2 – 10
megawatt generators. The Sugar refinery uses about 3 megawatt to power itself and the extra is feed and sold back into the Fiji Power grid. Cool! They even go so far as to recovering the dirt that comes in on the Sugar Cane. The dirt is then dried and filled into bags and sent back the farms that grow the cane. The relationship with the farms I was not entirely clear on. FSC communicates with the farms in each area and tells them how many loads they can bring to the mill. This avoids the confusion and problems associated with 100’s of tractors and trucks carrying cane to the mlll and having to wait hours to unload it. By the time our tour was completed and we walked back to Labasa our driver called to tell us we needed to be at the van in 30 minutes. There are no seat guarantees. We quickly grabbed some snacks and headed off to the bus where we didn’t get our favored seats but they were not the worst either. Luckily I had a seat with some leg room and as the driver loaded up the bus he noticed I would be in a bit of hurt. He moved the individual sitting in the front passenger seat to mine and me to the front seat. An improvement but still not perfect. The vast majority of vehicles in the world are not made to accommodate someone 6’3″ tall with legs that stretch from Canada to Florida. Two hours later we were back in Savusavu and hungry.
We’ve already tried several restaurants and found a couple much to our liking. This one however is a wee bit different. It’ s NOT fancy. There is no sou chief, the view from the porch would be awesome but from inside the restaurant it makes the average kitchen / dining area look wonderful. However, the owner and the food are awesome. I wanted some Prawns in the Thai dish and they were out of them a few days back. The owner said he would call me when he had them and I gave him my phone number. In the US I would most likely never have received a call. Two days later my phone rang and he said the Prawns were in. Bingo! The following day we arrived at the restaurant for lunch and I had a delicious meal for just about $6 US. So the 5 of us traipsed to Paradise and had great food with more lies than one could guess.
We followed the tasty meal by returning to the boat for some R and R. Tomorrow a massage would greatly aid in our recovery. We were going to walk there; it was less than an hour to walk, but time crept up on us and we didn’t know exactly where the place was so we grabbed a taxi from town. Up over the hill to the airport and we went and were dropped off at Una’s for all of $2.30 US fare. She lead us through a tropical garden to her home / office and there we were rewarded with massages in the jungle with birds singing and the breeze blowing gently through her home. She had a wonderful sturdy massage table and both W/ and I were rewarded with an excellent session. Una found knots in my muscles that I never knew I had. When we were through both of us felt another appointment was needed and proceeded to arrange it. I think we’re in Heaven!
We had planned to clear Tonga by 7:30 am. We missed and it was closer to 8 when we had the anchor stowed and were motoring West out the pass. Once any of the islands were on our Easter quiadrent we set sail. We were far off the wind almost to a run and we only pulled out the Yankee Jib. Our speed was an awesome (not) 2+ knots. However the wind vane handled it well and we very slowly; slower than a walk, made way towards the Lau group 260 miles W of us. We hoped to arrive in 48 hours at the first waypoint but to do that we would ask for a wee bit more breeze.
By mid morning we were up to 4 kts and had observed another boat making the same trek from Tonga to Fiji; sv Common Crossing. I hailed them on VHF and we had a nice chat with them. They were heading N to a much wider pass and then on to Fiji. We would use the Northern and Southern pass as a fall back should we be unable to make our way points in daylight. With the new charts and all the way points matching up I wasn’t nearly as concerned now, but know that to stay on the right side of safety we wanted to traverse the island group in the daylight. A few hours later we came across a large gathering of birds feeding. Feeding birds in the ocean means only one thing – fish
I had deployed two lines and we were making our way right through the middle of the school. Zing! Fish On. While I move to the reel with the fish W/ ‘s job was to crank the other lure back aboard avoiding tangled fishing lines. Before she could even clip in and begin to withdraw the other lure that reel zings too. Two fish! Ok. Set the drag so we don’t loose the line on either fish and take care of one at a time. As we’ve now two active rods W/ gets the fishing belt that where I can nestle the rod in and bring the fish aboard. Neither fish jumps which indicates Tuna. Tuna like to dive and stay deep. I crank away and soon the fish is up to the boat still trying to dive. I work it up to the side of the boat while W/ has a towel ready. One, Two, Three, Go! I swing the fish aboard and into the cockpit just as Dirk taught me. Once aboard we cover the fishes eyes and that seems to settle them down. We have plenty of strong line and leaders on the system and it easily handles the weight of the fish. Covered W/ places her feet on the fish reducing the blood and scales it would throw all over the boat. By the time I get the other fish to the boat fish one has calmed down a bit; died might be a better word and now I swing fish two aboard.
We now have two fish flopping in the cockpit; one really flopping but the first one refuses to give up and every once in awhile he/she too give a few last minutes pushes. Next on the list hang them bleed them.
I tie a noose around the tail of the first one as W/ has the second one under control-almost. 🙂 Once I have the tail secure I slit the gills on each side and hang it head down into a bucket. This bleeds the fish and gives it time for rigor mortis to set in. Once the fish is bled and firmed up cleaning / filleting will be much easier. Fish one is complete and I attach fish two going through the same routine. We hang them off the pedestal and tie the bucket so the fish will not swing like the pendulum on a clock. A bit of cleaning prepares the cockpit for our wait. I radio Common Crossing and let them know about the school, Half way through the conversation we lose the signal. That’s the limits of VHF. Oh well. I guess no more radio schedules with them.
Before the Sun sets we have both fished cleaned and in the freezer. We have the cockpit cleaned up and the rest of the fish has gone back to feed the sea. Nothing goes to waste out here. We’re settle in for a pleasant evening. We’ve picked up speed and now are traveling 6-7 kts with only the Yankee Jib. Sweet. Our charting program; SeaIQ, informs us that at this speed we will arrive at the most critical way point about 7 am. So far, this trip is one of the few times our sailing has gone according to plans. I doubt we’ll maintain this speed for another 36 hours but one can only hope.
As we settle in to our evening watches I check into the Pacific Seafarers net on 14,300. They are a group of Ham operators that assist with voyaging vessels as well as providing weather info to the various governments that use the data for improving their weather forecasts. We check in daily while offshore and report when we’ve arrived at our destination so they can close out the file. The net is for us a valuable service to keep us in contact with any needed support teams. For our personal support on ships systems we have two other cruisers that have helped ease my mind and we contact them via email. Neither of them have the ham setups for communicating 12,000 miles away. On the PacSeaNet there are 4-6 stations placed around the Pacific with directional antennas and often greater elevations such that we’re always able to have contact with one station via voice. I can’t stress enough the service they provide for the world wide meteorological community and cruisers anywhere in the Pacific.
Our evening watch schedules have settled into 3 hours on- 3 hours off , 2 hours on-2 hours off. This gives each of us if we’re lucky about 5 hours sleep and during the day we can fill in as each desires. It also provides us with time to do our email for weather as the propagation for ham radio email is often best at dawn and dusk. We’ve found that favoring one over the other in our watch system could put us at risk. When we have an issue we both need to be as well rested as possible and it is dangerous for one to be fully alert and rested and the other to be only partially functional. However; when we reach port we are always a little sleep deprived and both of us sleep like babies during the first one or two nights at our new anchorage.
After midnight the winds ease a bit and we’re down again to the 4-5 kt range. Not horrible but not what I would have wished. However, I am glad we’re not down to 2 kts! Our charting program now indicates arriving at our first critical waypoint about 11 ish. That’s ok but I don’t want to be there much later as then we will have to cut out of the path and get to open water adding more miles to the trip; but, safety is the name of the game.
Day two finds the seas rolling the boat some, I’m not fond of rolling and despise when the mast crosses the vertical. That is when we are at 10 degrees to port and then swing 5 degrees to starboard. We were hoping for some Sun but the day mostly teased us with a majority of clouds rolling overhead and few breaks. With our freezer full of fish we didn’t fish and with the boat roll I didn’t really feel like it. Today consisted of keeping the boat on course and moving. Our arrival time kept wavering between 7 and 11 am for making our first waypoint and with that we were quite happy. As the Sun passed over head the winds increased with the time and by early evening we were bouncing along at 6 kts. Like last night, the clouds started to break and we were going to have a star filled night sail. As I came upon watch I saw my first falling star in a long while. The following am we hoped to see the island in the Lau group, Fiji.
And we did. Right on time. This voyage is about the first that our times and landfalls needed to match and did. We hit Manihi in the Tuamotues close to perfect and Rarotonga a little late but all of them worked out well. Here we came upon the islands in the early am and bingo, as long as the winds held we would be through them and enroute to clearing in to Savusavu, Fiji on Firday.
I had been concerned. Now after seeing where the islands were and we actually picked out the reef to the S then I felt much more comfortable with our charts and the waypoints. I actually stuck out another fishing line. The seas have moderated a bit as the island group was breaking up the wave patterns. With that and our winds having eased off a bit we felt quite comfortable putting up the drifter; a much larger – lighter sail that will
make very little noise collapsing and refilling. Actually, as it is of lighter material it will rarely collapse. We fly the drifter free; meaning that the luff is not attached to the headstay. With the winds being slightly off the port quarter too we didn’t put the pole out. The pole does stabilize the sail but I jury rig some of the blocks to control the pole and for one day’s sail I wasn’t interested in all that work. Se free we are.
The last partial day is quite pleasant. We both are able to sleep well on our off watch time and the boat is moving nicely straight towards our goal. As false dawn breaks we see the image of Fiji on the horizon with lush green mountains rising from the sea. By mid morning we are rounding the point by the Cousteau resort near Savusavu and we douse the drifter, roll out the Yankee and sail as close to our final destination as we can. A couple of nm farther along the winds are on the nose and we furl the Yankee Jib and start the iron jenny for
the final approach.We contact Copra Shed Marina for details to complete the paper work needed for entry, and they assign us to a mooring that is occupied. Another simple call to them provides us with one closer to the Yacht Club and they inform the officials of our arrival. They will bring them to the boat when they are ready and we make some attempts to clean up the boat. Passages, no matter how easy they appear, take it out on the passengers and the yacht. Fortunately, with the officials being brought to the boat we didn’t need to rush and prepare the dinghy for use. We can do that in the am once we are well rested. For now, a few deep breaths, a bit of sustenance, a little patience, and we will be cleared in to….. Fiji! Yeah.