12/23/2011, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Well, Happy Anniversary(December 23rd) to us. Yes, that's right, it's our 40th anniversary. And here we are in Fiji celebrating it. Not bad for an old married couple. It was a quiet day with not much happening(other than lots of heat and humidity). We planned dinner for a steak and potatoes with a nice bottle of wine to top it off. If I don't have curry, a steak is a great replacement. Christine off Teka Nova brought us some chocolate cup cakes for a celebratory dessert. We got notified(at 1400 the same day of the party) that the marina was putting on a "thank you" party that night to thank everyone for a great season(and too encourage everyone to eat at their restaurant rather than the resort next door(First Landing). The previous evening, a group of ten of us gathered at the restaurant for a pizza dinner. Normally, we have gathered at First Landing but they stopped having "Pizza Thursday" with specials on some pizzas so we decided to move it over here. Heck, the pizza(even when not on special) is $4.00 cheaper and the beer and coke is about half of the price of over there. The gathering, both "Pizza Night" and the "Thank you" party were great. Lots of conversation between all types of locals and cruisers. There were at least 18 people at the "Thank You" party as all the food and drinks(alcohol included) was free. Wave free booze at a cruiser and they will follow you anywhere. Our steak dinner just got moved up a bit and with the barbecue running, the steaks came out great. Nice to have a solid piece of meat again, especially if it's beef.
We have become part time caretakers of one of the local dogs--"Peanut". He belongs to one of the locals that lives on a two story house boat here in the marina. Well, he left Peanut in the hands of Star off Star Struck and she asked us if we would help. No problem. Here was a sorely neglected dog that was down to skin and bones when we came into the marina. Dogs out here are rarely "pets". More likely, they are for protection. I don't know if they teach "barking 101" but most dogs around here are good at it. If you see a dog with a collar, he is normally treated a bit better but not much. There are no pet stores in Fiji so the huge selection of pet products is not available out here. It's hit and miss in the grocery stores. We went down to Namaka to pick up some lettuce(with the roots attached) from one of the local vegetable peddlers we had met a few days ago. While there, we found a grocery store that had some pet products(toys and chew bones). We bought some and brought them back as Christmas presents for Peanut. When I gave them to him, he had no idea what they were for. He has never had a toy or a chew stick. He has no idea of the concept of "fetch". We throw a stick and he just looks up at us with a bit of bewilderment on her face. We will try with a ball tomorrow but I fear that we will have the same result. I've never heard of a dog that can't fetch!! Being under the care of Star and us, she has put on some weight and is looking much better. With me spraying insecticide, the ticks are getting fewer. We're down to two or three a day on her(yuck). Let's hope her real owners don't come back anytime soon.
We got notification that our Christmas present should be arriving here on January 2nd instead of the 18th. We've ordered a Rocna anchor for Zephyr. It's a big step up for us weight wise as this baby comes in at 88 pounds. Our current one(a CQR) is only 65 pounds. This baby is highly regarded by every cruiser we have talked to about their anchors. Not one has had anything bad to say about theirs. Now our CQR has been great in just about every situation we have dropped her in. We just wanted a bigger anchor that sets quickly and digs in deeper. Having seen our same anchor(on a different boat) brake while we were at Suwarrow Island gave us a good bit to think about during the last part of our cruise to Fiji. Having talked to so many cruisers about their anchors, when we got to the marina, I got on line and sent emails to several dealers in New Zealand as no one carries these types of anchors here. I got all kinds of prices. One wanted $1699.00NZ plus $578.00 to ship it here. YEOW!!! That's $2277NZ($1763US). Another could get us the anchor and have it shipped here for $1440NZ or just $1115US. A great price. If I had purchased it at West Marine in the US, it would have cost me $1299!!! I got it from a place called "All Marine" and worked with the owner--Bob Broome. They are located in Whangarei,NZ with two stores. I called him(God bless Skype) and placed the order. He has arranged to ship it right into Lautoka so it will be an easy taxi ride getting it back to the marina. I just hope it fits on the bow. Guess we will see when it gets here.
Here's picture of our restaurant today. Tracy had the chicken pie. Similar to a chicken pot pie with no pot, just crust and lots of chicken and veggies. I of course had the chicken curry. Lots of chicken but sure gave my tongue a serious work out finding all the bones that it comes with. Don't just put it in your mouth and chew. You will get an ugly surprise.
Here's the Namaka vegetable market. Lots of veggies I've never seen before and it doesn't get much fresher that right off the farm. One stall gives out their business card so you can phone in special orders(lettuce with the root still attached). Great stuff at great prices.
12/21/2011, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
The project is done--sort of. I grabbed the bus into Lautoka yesterday in search of a fitting to either cap off the pressure relief valve on the water heater or find a replacement valve to really fix the situation.
I stopped in at Hydrolink, probably the best place in town to find any kind of good fittings for any kind of work that has to be done, either for water, diesel or gasoline. It's where I found the fittings I'll be using for the new diesel filtration system I'll be installing shortly. Before I left Zephyr, I'd taken off the floor boards that cover the valve trying to put on the end cap I'd bought when we were in Namaka the day before. In my typical fashion, I'd bought not only the wrong size fitting but also one made of the wrong type of metal. I needed brass and got galvanized steel instead but of course that didn't matter since it didn't fit any way. On first glance, I thought it was a 3/4 inch fitting(sure looked like it). The end cap(had the bleed nipple on the end was actually just a 3/8 inch fitting. I took a wrench to it early in the morning to dismantle the valve. What I got was just the end cap. OK, I could still screw a cap onto it. All I needed was a cap. The actually pressure relief valve as farther in in the assembly. If I could avoid tampering with it, there was less chance of be trashing the entire water heater. After 30 years of operation, it's on borrowed time. Heck, even one in houses far away from what this poor thing has been exposed to only last normally about 20 years. This poor heater has more rust on it than my knees and they feel like they have plenty in them many mornings(age sucks). I took in the end cap just to make sure I got a cap with the right treads. Hydrolink came in like the champs they are and had the right fitting. I talked to them about a valve to replace the bad one and they talked it over and came up with where they felt I could find it---Digital Valve. With directions in hand, I took off to further check out the town. Tracy had stayed on Zephyr awaiting a delivery from Cost U Less. They tell you the day they will be coming but no estimation of time(worse than the cable guys back home).
As I rounded the corner, there in front of me stood the Madras Curry House. A sign out front told the specials of the day--curry, curry curry. All types of curry lay in front of me. I looked to the left--chicken curry. I lode to the right--lamb curry with the goat curry right in front of me. My pulse quickened and my knees got weak. Which should I choose? Decisions, decisions. In I went, chicken curry won. I added a bottle of Coke and then took a seat. The entire restaurant is maybe 15 feet by 20 feet with a half dozen tables crammed into the space along with the serving counter and a refrigerator for the drinks. One of the tables had 5 Fijian girls having lunch(I got stared at). I was the only other person there. As time passed, other men came in, got their lunches and either took it with them or sat down and ate quickly. This place is off the beaten path so I wasn't surprised at me being the only non Fijian(Pa'longe is what they call us white folks out here) in the place. I'm sure they don't get many off islanders during the day. Now for those of you new to my postings, I LOVE curry! It's one of the reasons I love Fiji so much as just about every where you go, you can find a restaurant that serves curry in one form or another. When my plate came, it was loaded with a nice bowl of the curry(bones included), rice, a small side salad, a bowl of soup, and some type of bean dish that I had no idea what it was. If you want curry with no bones, it cost lots more but as they say, "when in Rome". OK, so you eat a lot slower having to search out each mouthful to see what surprises await your tongue. I just piled up the bones along the side of my plate. After your first few times in restaurants like this, you get used to searching for bones no matter if it's chicken, lamb, or goat curry. It's a cheap way to feed the masses. The curry flavor was excellent. I just dumped the entire bowl of curry(bones included) onto the heaping pile of rice and dug in(slowly). With the bottle of Coke(no ice), my entire meal came to $7.00 Fijian($3.78US) and I left stuffed.
On to Carpenters Hardware looking for more things. I needed to find a small hand held garden sprayer to spray the Diazanon we had bought a few days earlier. It's a great bug killer and still available out here. Not so much in the US. I found a small 3 liter sprayer. Perfect for the small spraying job I had in mind. All of the boats in the marina have a problem with ants crawling out your dock lines and taking up residency looking for a meal. Add in what appears to be small flying cock roaches(still not sure they are cock roaches) and the boat can come alive some nights. As no rain was forecast for the night, I started spraying after dinner. A few slips down from us is a houseboat(two story no less). They have a dog(Peanut) that has had a problem for several years with fleas and ticks. The owners have gone away for a few weeks and left her in the care of Paul and Star off Star Struck and we volunteered to help take care of her also. When I came back from the US, I brought Peanut a flea and tick collar. They are very hard to find out here. So far, while she may have fewer fleas, the ticks are on her in full force. Every day, we are picking a couple off her. With the sprayer and Diazanon, once Peanut was on her chain for the night, I took off for the docks. I sprayed behind our boat as well as the dock lines and then over to Star Struck and did theirs. Over to Peanuts boat and I sprayed everywhere I could behind her boat. Extra heavy where she normally sleeps during the day. I'll spray again in a few days just in case more hatch out. Star came by this morning to ask if I had sprayed as they had no ants this morning for the first time in a long time. This stuff works great!
I continued my trek around Lautoka and finally found the valve company that I had directions for. I described what I needed and he came forth with a new pressure relief valve. Cost---$300 fijian($162US). YEOW!!! I could buy an entire heater for that amount. I had the brass cap in my pocket that should solve the problem so I passed on the new valve. I can order one on the internet and have it forwarded at a later date.
On I went buying this and that till 1500 came up and it was time to grab the bus back to the marina. The next one was at 1620. A short 40 minutes later(lots of stops), I was back at the marina. Once in the boat, I removed the floor boards, wrapped the threads of the cap with teflon tape and screwed it on. Perfect fit. With a bit of tension on the wrench, no a drip came when I turned the water pump back on. We were in business again. Hot and cold running water with the turn of the handle on the faucet. Problem solved at least for the time being.
Off for my late afternoon shower and back for one of Tracy's great salads for dinner. As I grew up, I hated salads and would never eat one which upset my mother as she felt everyone should have a salad from time to time. Tracy makes a great salad that's a joy to eat. Lettuce(not Iceberg), carrots, radishes, bell peppers, onion, pecans and avocado if available, then a bit of home made dressing. I tend to add a bucket load of pepper on mine just to spice it up. If it's not spicy, it's just not right. I figure I burned out many of my taste buds long ago eating jalapenos and fire hot red and green chilies when we lived in New Mexico. Now avocados are new to me. I never ate them when we were back home. Guacamole had never touched my lips. I had no idea what it tasted like but it sure looked like what my son used to produce after eating when he was a small baby and that was just not appealing to my eyes. Once we took off on this voyage, I vowed to try just about anything that was presented as if others eat it, it must be good(or at least passable). Since we left the US(even in the US), I've tried many new dishes and am still alive to write about it.
OK, this rant has gone on long enough. I'll end it here. Oh, it started raining and looks like it will either rain or sprinkle through out the rest of the day. BUT, I don't have to shovel rain!!!!!
12/20/2011, Vuda Point Marina
Not much has happened in the last few days. One was Sunday when every place is closed on Fiji. Monday was another nothing day as it rained and rained and rained. Sunday was over cast from Sun up to Sun down with no rain till close to 1900 and then it poured. Normally, here in Fiji, it's sunny with a few clouds during the day and then it clouds up late in the afternoon and looks like it will rain and normally it does. Sunday was the exception in that it was cloudy all day but still decided to rain in the late afternoon. It continued on and off through the night and through most of Monday stopping strangely(about 1900) when it normally begins to rain. Today started out sunny and has remained so though most of the day. It's now 1800 and it looks quite block east of us so maybe there is more rain coming. Time will tell.
For the last day or so, the fresh water pump has been cycling on and off every hour or so. Just a few seconds of running and then off for a while and then running again. I'd checked the lines as well as the water heater and storage tank all showing no signs of water. I checked below the water heater where when it has leaked before, it puddled up with water. Every place I looked, no water nor signs that there had been any recently. Strangely, during the afternoon, the emergency bilge pump started up and pumped the water that had built up in the bilge overboard. As I had said earlier, it had been raining and we have enough leaks in the deck that the bilge is never dry so no surprise that the pump ran. I pulled up the floor board that covers the manual bilge pump and started pumping away. At 27 pumps(the norm for us with a full bilge)it ran dry. I turned the pressure pump off and let it sit for a while. When I opened one of the faucets a while later, no water poured out. There was a leak but I had no clue as to where. With the switch on, it began to cycle on and off all over again. I decided to just turn it off as well as the water heater and let them both sit for a while. A few hours later(about 2000)I turned on the pressure pump again and there was a loud wail from under the floor boards beside the galley sink. OK, what went bad now. Off went the switch and up came the floor boards. There was water everywhere! It was spraying out of the pressure relief valve on the side of the water heater. LOTS of VERY HOT WATER was spraying all over the place. With the switch off, it quickly slowed to a trickle. We had found the problem.
Now there are basically only two things that can make a pressure relief valve go off. One--the pressure is too high for the pipes and heater. Two--it is so old that it finally failed. The water pump only puts out about 40 pounds of pressure so "high" pressure didn't seem to be the case. The water heater is approaching 30 years which is amazing for any water heater(especially on a boat) to last that long. We normally don't discuss the water heater even in polite company. It's one of those things that we don't talk about as it has lived so long and is in such a bad place in the boat(right under the galley sink cabinet)that we live in fear of it ever failing completely. If we don't talk about it, it will never fail. Isn't that how it works? It's true that we had problems a few years ago when we found that some crazy plumber had joined together brass with copper with stainless steel with galvanized steel fitting to make a connection. Normally, doing that creates a problem as these metals don't like to play well together and with connections like that, corrosion starts almost immediately which is exactly what had happened to those fittings. Here was something new. A fitting that had apparently just failed. The picture at the top shows the pressure valve with a black hose and hose clamp attached. When I lifted the floor boards, I found the valve spewing water out of a fitting that was designed to have a hose attached and run down into the bilge. Mine had no hose. Now I carry a multitude of spare parts on Zephyr but a spare pressure relief valve is not one of them. I scrounged up a chunk of hose that I thought would fit on the end of the valve. I grabbed one of my large collection of hose clamps and a flash light and headed down for the valve. I fit the hose over the end of the fitting and tightened the hose clamp. I pulled a bar clamp out of my tool box, folded the hose in half and attached the clamp. That should stop the water coming out of the fitting. On went the switch and just a bit of water came out around the end of the hose where the hose clamp was attached. I tightened the clamp just a bit more and the water stopped dripping. Problem solved, at least for now. I needed a new pressure relief valve.
This morning, we headed south for Namaka where one of the biggest hardware stores is located. We stopped in and with some help from one of their assistants, we found that not only do they not carry such a thing, they had no real idea what the heck I was talking about. They carry small water heaters so we took them over to see exactly what we needed as the one that had on display had a valve right on the top of the heater. No good. They just don't carry extra valves. I did find a galvanized metal screw on cap that should fit on the end of the pipe shutting off the flow of water till I can get a new valve. We will still have plenty of hot and cold water but at least the fitting will no longer leak. Now here is the trick, there is so much rust and corrosion around and on the water heater that I fear even touching it as I just know that my finger will penetrate the side of the heater making it useless. I'm going to have to attach a crescent wrench to one end of the pipe and another to the valve and slowly take off the valve all while not allowing the wrench that is attached to the pipe that goes into the water heater to turn or even move a fraction of an inch as I just know that all hell will break loose if that pipe moves even just a little bit. As it is now late in the day and I'll always procrastinate if I can, I think I will put off the job of removing the valve till tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow sounds good to me though it might rain and that could delay it a bit more.
During our journey to Namaka today, we came across a store we had heard of called Yee's Cold Storage. It's located about 15 kilometers south of here. In one of their freezers they had several frozen turkeys. Care to guess the price? They wanted $140 fijian for the 4 kilo(8.8 pound) bird. That works out to just over $75.00 for a less than 9 pound bird!!! This place must love it's turkeys as I figure they will have those birds around for years to come at that price. I can't imagine anyone crazy enough to pay that much for any turkey. Yeow!!! A can of coke runs .96US for just one can in the same store. You can find it for .81 if you look around. Sometime you just need a Coke to cool down. While it's great out here, sometimes the price of things is way out of touch with other places though French Polynesia was by far the worst. I don't know how the people survive out there. It's one reason we left. We couldn't afford to stay there any longer.
Tomorrow, we have a delivery coming from Cost U Less. It's a small version of Costco but lucky for us, they deliver as the closest one in in Suva, over a 100 kilometers from here. Delivery charge--$5.00 fijian($2.75US). Cheap to bring things that far. Several of us here at the marina order stuff from them. They make deliveries out here every Wednesday though because of the up coming holidays, they won't be making another run out here till January 11th so some have ordered a bunch to get them through till the next delivery. We have found that you do have to be careful as some times their prices aren't really that good and the same item can be found elsewhere cheaper. It's like I said, they are like Costco but no where near a good a value sometimes. The really bad thing we have found is that if they don't have exactly what you want, they substituted something else they thing you might settle for. We ordered several bags of potato chips made by one company and got tubes of Pringles instead. The nice thing is that you can return unwanted items for a full credit if you don't like them. Guess we will see what we actually get tomorrow. I'll let you know.
That's it for now. More to come.
We're going to try and put in multiple images in the post so here goes. The first picture is of Tracy's new English Muffins. The first batch was made with old flour that had been run through the microwave to kill any and all bugs and then vacuum packed. Came out hard as a rock. I made bread out of it and had to put it in the cuissanart to bust it apart. This time, new flour with much better results
Here's the work boat that's two slips down from us. Bunch of divers that are in and out all the time. This job was to bring back the weights that are used to anchor the huge buoys that ocean going freighters use to tie up to so they stay in place during blows. They have hauled in and replaced several of the buoys over the last few weeks. Now, in come the weights. It took four huge floats to get them into the marina and even so, the weights were dragging along the bottom as they came in. Can't imagine how much they weight. The crane that lifted them out groaned as it lifted one.
Here is one of the weights they brought ashore.
12/16/2011, Vuda Point Marina
Today was just another day of small tasks that needed to be done aboard the boat. Yesterday, the marina lost water after a construction company broke the main line coming in from the main road. It was restored after several hours but with no water available, many services suffered. Heck, the cafe couldn't even wash their dishes. We checked our tanks this morning and found that we had about 3 inches left. It was time to fill them up. Not full, but to maybe 3/4 full. There is no need to have them full at this time as when we go out to other islands to explore, we want to be a bit lighter than normal so we move better and faster. Fully loaded, our tanks add almost 2200 pounds to our waterline. Now filling our tanks takes a good bit of time as every drop that goes in our tanks is filtered. It goes through a thick paper filter and then through a charcoal filter. We've been told that the water here at the marina is perfectly safe but why take the chance that something might get in our tanks and contaminate the water. We have ALWAYS filtered every drop that hits our tanks--unless we are making it with our water maker and even it goes through filters. We have friends that brought water aboard in the Marquesas that was supposed to be safe and a few days later, their water was turning green as life began to grow in their tanks. They had to empty their tanks and scrub them out to get rid of all of it. We won't take that chance. After well over an hour, the tanks were 3/4 full and that is just fine with us.
Off for lunch at the marina restaurant. We normally eat at the small cafe here but decided we needed to have a different menu for a change. The chicken curry(mine of course) was weak and the salad Tracy had was a failure after it came with anchovies after asking for them to be left off and very little dressing. I guess it either back to the cafe of start eating on board. We're quite removed from town where the inexpensive restaurants are so they are out of the question though we are heading for town tomorrow.
After lunch, we headed back to Zephyr for our afternoon jobs. Tracy was going to defrost the freezer. It had built up a good bit of ice and was in need of a cleaning. It also allows Tracy to see what we have buried deep down at the bottom. It's a tough job as the frig and freezer are almost 3.5 feet deep and she has to stand on a bag of kitty litter just so she can get close to the bottom to get everything out and get the bottom cleaned and dried. With a hair dryer and a metal scraper in hand, in she went. Close to an hour later, all was done and now we wait for the freezer to get cold enough to refreeze what we had in it. Luckily, we own an insulated bag that most of the frozen food can be kept in while the defrosting goes on.
I meanwhile, started in making an eye splice in new braided rope I brought back from the US. Our halyard(raises the sail) for the forestaysail had been chafed quite badly during the trip across from Mexico plus it was too small a diameter line(3/8) for the winch that Tracy uses to raise the sail. I brought back 97 feet of 1/2 inch line that will work out fine. I've seen people put eye splices in braided line before and have even done it once or twice(mediocre success). This time, I watched a video with Brion Toss(the rigger we used in Port Townsend) on how to do it. I'd watch a bit and the go back and watch it again--over and over all the while working with the line following his instructions. After a good hour, I got it done. I even remembered to put in the shackle that attaches to the sail before finishing the splice. It took a while but as you can see from the picture at the top, it looks just fine. Previously, the 3/8 inch line had a steel thimble in it at the eye so the shackle could have fallen out. Now, it's not going anywhere.
Once those jobs were done, I headed for the showers. It has been a long hot(88 degrees) and humid(70%) day and I needed to get cooled down.
As I said, tomorrow, we're off for Lautoka again.
12/14/2011, Vuda Point Marina
For those of you afloat as well as on land, let me tell you an easy way to do ribs. I bought a rack of what were supposed to be baby backs but instead I got spare ribs when they were delivered a few days ago. I guess a brake down in communications between myself and the person behind the counter. Out here in Fiji, it's not that uncommon. Any way, with spare ribs being more stringy than baby backs, I looked into a better way to cook them where they would come out tender with the stringiness broken down.
I googled for a way to cook them in a pressure cooker as we just happen to have one on board. A useful piece of equipment when you are on a boat. With the lid on, even if the boat heels unexpectedly and the pot falls off the stove(it can happen), nothing leaves the pot. Not surprisingly, there are many recipes available on the web. I chose the simplest. Brown the meat a bit(in the same pot) and then pour off the grease. Add your sauce plus a bit of water to make the steam needed as the sauce is too thick to do so. Close up the lid and cook for 15 minutes once it hits pressure. Once done, let the pressure bleed off and undo the lid. Take the ribs(being careful as the meat is now fall off the bone tender) and put on a rack under the broiler in your oven. Add a bit more sauce to the top of the ribs and let it sit under the broiler and let it caramelize for a bit(about 5 minutes). Voila, you are done. Get set to enjoy a great rack of ribs.
If you are looking for great sauce, let me suggest the following recipe I use from "Top Secret Restaurant Recipe #2. It was taken from Chili's Restaurant.
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
2/3 cup dark brown sugar(packed)
1 teaspoon liquid hickory smoke
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer the sauce, stirring often(it burns), for 45 to 60 minutes or until the sauce is thick(sticks to a wooden spoon).
Now here is where the recipes change. They suggest pouring the sauce over the ribs and wrap each rack in aluminum foil and arrange the packets on a baking sheet with the seam facing up. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours (at 275 degrees)or until the meat on the ribs has pulled back from the ends of the bones by 1/2 inch. Now preheat your barbecue grill(or broiler). Grill them on the barbecue grill(or broiler) for 4 to 8 minutes on a side or until the surface of the ribs is beginning to char. Brush the ribs with sauce a few minutes before you take them off the grill. Serve with extra sauce on the side and lots of extra napkins.
I've done it both ways(pressure cooker & foil packets) and it comes out great every time. I used to use my barbecue grill and cook them for hours to get them tender but this way is not only faster but the meat is far more tender and yummy.
Give it a try. I know you won't be disappointed. I'd add a picture but they didn't last long enough to get one.
One final note. If you have any sauce left, for a great appetizer, pour it over cream cheese and serve with crackers. People will love it, take my word for it.