01/07/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fijiu
It's finally letting up with just a few sprinkles a few minutes ago. I turned a bucket right side up on the stern deck yesterday about noon and there is well over an inch of rain in it now and that was after most of the rain was over so heaven only knows how much we finally got. One of the locals that owns a boat next to ours had planned on going home last evening but all the roads to his house were washed out so he's stuck here for a while. The water into the marina is now off. Not sure why. It was off yesterday afternoon when I went up to take a shower but came back on later. We'll see how long it takes to get it back on as it's now Sunday and it's illegal to do most any kind of work today. Glad we filled our tanks a week ago.
Today, it's supposed to clear out a bit with only a 60 percent chance of showers.
Yesterday, during the downpour, we went over to Terry and Christine's boat Teka Nova for high tea. Wow, what a presentation by these Brits. Sandwiches and scones and tons of assorted pastries. A beautiful feast. Afterwards, the four of us came back to Zephyr and we learned how to play Mexican Train dominos as well as a game called Bananas. I'd heard of Mexican Train but never Bananas. Did fair in the dominos but sucked at Bananas. Too fast a game for me. Just couldn't keep up with the play. Oh well, maybe next time I'll do better.
Today, a few projects plus I now have to see if I can find a new chart plotter since Garmin has stopped supporting the software that runs in ours. It's hard to get motivated to do a job when it's pouring outside.
01/06/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Twenty four hours later and it's still raining. I didn't know the skies could hold this much water. It hasn't ended since about 1330 yesterday. We went to the cafe up at the marina for lunch and saw the dark clouds coming from the west. We quickly finished our meal and started back for Zephyr. As we walked(quickly) around the perimeter of the marina, we were suddenly hit by a gust of cold air. Oh Oh, better walk faster. With in a couple of minutes of us getting back, it started to rain and has not stopped. No clue as to how much but one of the wheel barrows over at the work area was over flowing by last evening and it hasn't quit since.
Fiji has shut down their airport and is broadcasting about flash flood warnings so it's only going to get worse. I just pulled up the radar from the airport(10 miles south of us) and it's pure rain coming from the west. Glad we are already floating on water.
01/05/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Bureaucracy has reared it's ugly head again. If you have been reading my posts for a while, you might remember my quest to get permission to set off the old flares that are well past their expiration date as a "training" session. While it is required to have flares on most boats in the US, very few of us have ever had to set one off. You are only supposed to do so in an emergency. Zephyr carries a large assortment of flares. From smoke, to rocket flares, to hand held flares, we have tons of them. Well, it's been several years since we bought some of them and they are now past expiration date. Now here is where they get you. While in the US, I'd stop in at Coast Guard stations as we came down the coast asking for permission to try some of the "expired" flares out to see how to do it. If Zephyr is ever sinking, I don't want to have to stop and read the instructions on how to set them off. Every Coast Guard station(boy I'm persistent) told me "NO--You can't set them off." It's also against the law to throw them out because of all the stuff inside that is VERY flammable. It's also against the law to carry them on your boat once they are expired. You are only allowed to have "current" flares on board. It's like I said, it's the government giving you no real way out of a situation.
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in at the marina office to see if I could set off my old flares out past the break water off the marina. They had no problems but suggested I take it up with the local police department. OK, the local office is right beside the entrance to the marina. I walked out and explained to them what I wanted to do. Actually, there are about 5 other boats(only 12 boats have people living on them as of now) here that all have expired flares on board and few of them have ever set off flares. They wanted to join me in this "training" session. The officers at the station had no problem with my plans. It was all set for Christmas eve. We would surely get Santa's attention as he flew over the marina. A few hours later, one of the officers dropped off a letter at the marina office telling me that he'd called the main police station in Lautoka. They killed the idea. I'd have to go into town and get permission and a permit. Christmas was off.
A few days(just before New Years eve) later I stopped in at the police station in Lautoka to see if I could get permission to set them off on New Years eve. Heck, everyone was going to be setting off fireworks. What would a few flares matter. Sorry, I would need to fax or email a request to Commissioner Weston's office to get authorization. OK, what is his email address? They had no idea but if I came back again the following week, they could help me out.
Well, yesterday while I was in Lautoka checking on my anchor(where are you?), I stopped in back at the police station. Now, I would have to go to Commissioner Weston's office. Off I went in search of his office. They had given me general directions so at least I had an idea where it was. I got there just about 1415. "Sorry, you need to visit a different office down stairs". So down I went. They told me no one had ever requested such a thing and that I would have to go down to the wharf and see FIMSA(Fiji Island Marine Safety Office). I stopped in one more time at Commissioner Weston's office. It would not have done me any good as Commissioner Weston was out of town anyway. As I left Weston's office, it started pouring. I grabbed a taxi as I had planned to be on the 1510 bus back to the marina along with Tracy who was running other errands. A few minutes later, I was at FIMSA. I hiked up the stairs and explained to a nice lady at the counter what I wanted to do. I started out my conversation with "I'm going to ask you for something that no one has ever asked for before". She agreed with me after I told her what I wanted to do. There was a man standing at the opposite end of the counter as I explained my plans to her. As it ended up, the man at the counter was actually one of the main people at FIMSA. He headed back behind the counter and made a call to someone in Suva(the capital of Fiji). He came back a few minutes later and handed me a piece of paper telling me that he needed "Name, place where you want to do this, when, how would be doing it and what kind of flares I wanted to set off". He was going to fax it to another office in Suva to see if he could get authorization. Since I have no phone, he took down my email address and told me he would get back with me. Apparently, a "Notice to Mariners" has to be issued to all the maritime offices of exactly what we want to do so no one will send out rescue boats when they see the flares go off(if they actually work). I grabbed a Taxi and made it back to the bus in plenty of time. So far, I've not received an email with a YES of a NO. I guess time will tell. I'll let you know how it ends up.
Meanwhile, a huge front has headed toward Fiji with tons of rain coming with it. We expect over an inch today and over 2 inches are forecast for tomorrow. The radio is broadcasting flood warnings every hour so we expect it to get really wet here. No winds, but LOTS of water. It's the rainy season and we are about to find out how rainy it can be if the forecasts are to be believed.
01/03/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Let's get caught up again on the last few days. OK, todays is Wednesday here while the rest of you are still enjoying Tuesday. On Sunday, I fired up the old(well sort of new) oven and made more of my Cranberry/Walnut Bread. I even braided it as I have done before and it came out great. Helps to have enough butane in the tanks so it doesn't go out in mid bake as happened when I made my last two loaves of bread a few days ago. So, now for breakfast, we have Cranberry/Walnut toast with butter(yes, real butter)and some cinnamon sugar on top. Our breakfasts out here, while they used to be cereal, are now either oatmeal(me) or Creme of Wheat(Tracy), or some rolls we pick up in town, or some of the different breads I have baked. We stopped having cereal as 1--Can't find one I would enjoy eating and 2--the price is so far up there that I might as well eat dollar bills instead of the cereal.
Monday, something happened that I have been avoiding for the last 3 1/2 years. Once Tracy was out of bed, she started digging under the forward berth and handed me bottles of liquids for hair permanents!! The day was finally here!! Now, let's set the stage for all of this. Before we left Denver, Brenda Hass set us up with all the equipment(thanks Brenda) we would need to not only give each other hair cuts, but also the things we would need so I could give Tracy a permanent. Well, I've been avoiding it ever since we left on Zephyr 3 1/2 years ago. I could just see(at least in my mind), all of Tracy's hair falling out once I did the job. There are lots of chemicals involved in giving a permenent(I have to wear gloves!). Now, let it be known that I will never cut Tracys hair as I prefer it longer rather than shorter but being out here where it can get nasty(let alone hot and humid) she prefers it shorter. OK, it's her hair. Last week, Tracy went into town with a friend and joined her as she(the friend)was getting her hair cut(not Tracy). Tracy asked about getting a permanent and from what I hear, the woman just stared at Tracy not understanding what she was saying. With a few hand gesturers and and more talking, Tracy got her to understand what she wanted done. Tracy even told her she would bring in all the equipment and solutions to do the job. No problem. She would do the job. Tracy took a look at her equipment and saw that her comb looked like it hadn't been cleaned in years. Once Tracy was back at Zephyr, she thought about it and decided that she just didn't trust the girl to do her hair. When I was in town on Saturday, I cancelled the appointment.
Well, Monday was the day. I'd put it off for as long as I could. Tracy had managed to get a permanent done before she left the states may months ago, but it just isn't done out here(in Fiji). Most of the women out here have naturally curly hair and if any thing, would need it straightened. Out came all the bottles and rollers and papers and things I had no idea what they were for. On came the computer and we got on You Tube and watched a video or two about how to do a permanent. Amazing what you can learn for the internet. We put one of our chairs(actually our only chair) at the table in the salon and off we went. Combs, papers, rollers and long white pins and we had what we needed for the job. It took a while just to get the rollers on but I managed. I've watched and given hair cuts to men but I've never seen a woman get a permanent. It's a long and involved job and I won't bore you more than I have already with the details(lots of mixing, squirting and messaging of the hair), but about 3+ hours later, it was done. I had given my first permanent and her hair has stayed attached(YEA!). She's not bald as I feared plus she has some curl and body in her hair.
Yesterday, the freighter(Southern Fleur) arrived at Lautoka with our anchor aboard. I'd fired up our navigation computer and watched the ship come in our our AIS program. She docked shortly after 0730. I grabbed our paperwork and headed out for the 1100 bus for town. Down to the docks I went and watched as container after container were off loaded onto trucks for distribution and unloading. I got all excited and tingly knowing that my new anchor was in one of those containers. I headed for Customs as I had no idea where the company was that was the transfer agents for our anchor. Now I'm not totally familiar with all of Lautoka and many of the smaller streets have no signs so the agents in Customs had to go by where stores are in town. It ended up being right around the corner from one of my favorite curry restaurants as well as the biggest liquor store in town. No problem. I knew exactly where to go(it's near the liquor store). I got there about 1230 and when I asked about my shipment(producing all the paperwork that I had), I was informed that while the ship(and my anchor)were here, the container was on it's way to Suva(capital of Fiji) and would be off loaded there. Say what??? Yes, that't right. I could wave at it as it left the harbor and headed out for Suva arriving there in a day or so. From there, it will be off loaded and unpacked, sorted, labeled and then re packed, re loaded and shipped by truck back to Lautoka for me to pick up. That makes sense doesn't it? Why bring it here even though the paperwork says it's for here. They had no clue as to why it was going to Suva, but it was. I have a feeling that this company doesn't get anything off the ships here in Lautoka, it only gets things sent to Lautoka by truck. As to when it will be here, they have no clue. But they did assure me that it will get here eventually. Meanwhile, they told me I needed to start on the import paperwork to get it officially into Fiji. They don't do that. They sent me to a company called Carpenter's. Now Carpenter's is a huge company(even an auto dealer and hardware store)that has many facets. Importing is just one of them. It's now 1250 and most of the companies shut down from 1300 to 1400 for lunch so I had to get there fast. Luckily, no place in Lautoka(second largest town in Fiji) is too far away and I got there at 1257. Just in time for the people behind the counter to tell me the guy I needed to talk to(Phillip) was out of the office. Instead, another young lady came to the counter and helped me out. She made some phone calls and verified that my anchor was on it's way to Suva. At least, while it was on it's way, they could handle all the paperwork needed to get it legally into the country. I handed over my Bill of Lading as well as a copy of the invoice. Since we have no phone(who would I call out here that I can't call on Skype?), they will have to email me with any questions they might have. Today, I got an email telling me to fill in a form and send it back to them. Now why they didn't give me the form yesterday(close to Lunch time and they wanted to leave the office?) while I was in their office, I have again, no clue. Since it needs to be signed, I figure I will be heading back to Lautoka tomorrow to give them the signed form. So, out there, some where is our new anchor. It should be in Suva by tomorrow. It's not that far(120 kilometers by road, several hundred by boat). As to when it will finally show up here, we have no clue. Since we still have a perfectly good anchor sitting on the bow, we plan on heading back to the islands on Saturday. Of course, I still have to go to Immigrations and get our clearance papers to go the whole 15 miles to the islands.
Today, I took everything out of the navigation station. Ever since we bought Zephyr, she has had a leak right over the nav station getting water on many of the thing that we store in there. Well, today, I cleared out everything. Lots of papers were soaked and many had lots of black mold all over them. We pitched a good bit since many things were just not salvageable. Oh well. Since I will be in Lautoka tomorrow, I'm going to give the station a day to dry out as I washed the entire insides with bleach water to kill the mold that was still hanging around inside. While I'm in Lautoka, I'll purchase a tube of caulk to seal up the back edge which is where the water appears to be coming in. With enough caulk, I hope to put an end to all the water coming inside. Sure hope so. It was a mess inside there.
So that's the way it's going here in Fiji. It's currently 92 degrees with a heat index of 109!!! Sure am glad we have the air conditioner. I took a shower a few minutes ago and was soaked with sweat by the time I did the short walk back to Zephyr. Still, it beats shoveling snow.
I'll let you know how Lautoka is tomorrow.
01/01/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Well, another year has passed. 2011 is now history and we start in on 2012. A year ago, we had just left Isla Isabella off the west coast of Mexico heading South to eventually arrive in Puerto Vallarta to prepare for our crossing. At that time, we were not sure where we were going. Perhaps down to Costa Rica or Peru. Perhaps across the Pacific which is exactly what we ended up doing. What made the decision easy was the relaxing of the bond required by all cruisers when they make it to French Polynesia. Latitude 38(a sailing magazine out of San Francisco) found an agent for all of us that were doing the "Puddle Jump" that would exempt us from the bond and get us a certificate for duty free fuel as well. A "no brainer" as far as we were concerned. So plans were set in motion and lots more equipment was purchased, much of it mailed to our son(Xander) in Oakland since he was coming to visit us in mid January. Lists were made of jobs, each checked off upon completion. It was a very LONG list but each had it's need. Tighten up this, inspect that. Replace this and fix that. All with the goal of having us as safe and prepared as we could be for the long--2900 mile crossing to Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas.
During our stay, we eventually moved to the La Cruz Marina where more of the "Puddle Jumpers" were located. If one of us had a problem that was beyond our scope of knowledge, well, there were plenty more of us sitting in the marina. During one trip out from the marina(a tsunami was on its way in), our engine died. We limped back to the marina and headed into the engine room. Well, we worked on it till we figured we had it all fixed. We ran the engine at all different speeds while sitting at the marina. No problem. Worked fine. So, once we felt we were ready to leave, out we went to get our clearance documents from the Federales. A mile from the marina, the engine up and dies again. Back we go with an assist from a fellow cruiser that hitched his dingy to our side and pushed us right into a slip at the marina. After more work in the engine room and some help from a "professional", we found that the seal on the back up fuel pump had failed and was allowing air into our system screwing up our engine. With that fixed(third times the charm) we headed out for the south Pacific.
Well, 27 days and 3200 miles later, we pulled into Nuka Hiva harbor in the Marquesas. As we prepared to drop the anchor, it jammed up in the pipe that leads from the locker. Tracy went round and round in the harbor till I could get it all straightened out. The chain didn't like the long voyage.
Now, all the prep work we did certainly paid off. We got off easy compared to many of the other boats that made the crossing. We lost the top bushing from our Genoa(couldn't use it any more). Lost a nut off the bracket that attaches to the top of the mast that our spinnaker block goes on. If we put up the spinnaker, well, let's just say, it wouldn't have been pretty. A bit of chafe on some lines and an iffy battery for starting the engine and we did all right all in all. Some boats lost lots more equipment than that. Preparation is everything when you make a big(or even a small) crossing.
We rested in the Marquesas for a while(about 30 days) and then headed for the next island chain. The Tuomotus and their reef enclosed bays. A beautiful place for snorkeling and diving.
On to Tahiti and all it's wonders. It also cost a frikking fortune to be there. God help our bank account. We were only allowed 90 days in total to stay in the Marquesas, Tuomotus and Tahiti so we were off for parts west.
Next stop--Suwarrow Atoll. A beautiful nature preserve with amazing reefs and fish like we had never seen before. We stayed several weeks. Partially because it was so beautiful, partially because Tracy had come down with a bug of some sort and partially because the weather turned bad and high winds surrounded the island.
Once the weather had calmed down(and Tracy was well) we headed for Tonga where we had planned on spending the cyclone season. This season of rotten weather(winds over 150 mph and big waves) can last from early December to the end of April. We also wanted to attend the third annual Tonga sailing festival! What a blast it was with games and dinners and sailing races(sorry, not us. I can break equipment just sailing let alone racing). It was a week of great fun and seeing lots of our friends again. Unfortunately, we found that while we loved Tonga, there was just no reason to stay there as supplies were limited to non existent and there were really very little as far as workmen to help out with getting jobs done that we couldn't handle. Since we couldn't go to New Zealand(lacked one test for our two cats) we changed our plans and decided to head for Fiji(curry capital of the south Pacific).
After another journey of 6 days, we pulled into the city of Lautoka and checked in through Customs and Immigration, not to forget "BioSecurity". All was painless though expensive as our two cats require a bond on them in the amount of $1,500fijian per cat. About $1600US. It took a trip to the bank to get the necessary funds to make everyone happy. We were lucky enough to get a slot(not slip) at the Vuda(pronounced Vunda) Point Marina for the entire season. This is not your average marina. It's a big circle of boats all hooked to a mooring buoy in the center and then with lines led to railroad rails that have been pounded into the ground with holes for the line(or chain in our case) to be hooked up to. An interesting concept that has worked fine in many past cyclones. Now many of the boats that come here get "buried" in the ditches or trenches. It's literally a graveyard for boats except that the owners do it to take care of their boats and not abandon them.
So here we sit waiting. Being in the water allows us to take the occasional trip out to the islands to do some scuba diving and see the many faces of Fiji. We even have a pass all written in Fijian(not a lot of english spoken out there) so tribe members will know who we are. We have to take bundles of Kava Root as a present for the chief of the tribe that gets made into a liquid that we all get to drink. From what we understand, it's nothing like a Coke or Pepsi but will deaden the mouth.
Our new anchor is due in port as of this afternoon so I fired up our AIS receiver to see when the ship comes up the channel off the marina on it's way to Lautoka so we can go in and get it. We may need an import agent or we may not. I guess we will see once it arrives. Once it's here and on board, we plan on taking off for the islands again. More diving and fun out in the wind.
Any of you Puddle Jumpers that might read this blog, if you have any questions, feel free to send us a comment. We'll get back with you.
12/27/2011, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
We're both verging on becoming blog junkies. Everyday, we will view dozens of blogs looking to see what others are doing where ever they are around the world. Yes, we're viewing boating blogs from around the world. We view many blogs from boats that sailed with us as we crossed the Pacific and we like to keep track of where they are and what they are up to where ever they finally landed. We will routinely scan other posts on Sailblogs to see what others are doing. You never know what you will see from their pictures or what information you will pick up about a place you plan on going to or about a piece of equipment.
Yesterday, Tracy was reading a post for some old friends(Tom & Amy) that used to live on a sailboat called Sandpiper. We first "met" them over three years ago before we had even started this journey. We were still attending boat shows. Since that time, they stopped sailing when they reached St. John in the USVI(started their journey in San Francisco, CA) and bought a business(boat related of course) and sold their boat. Yesterday, while Tracy was reading me one of their old posts, she happened upon a piece of information that we could really use. Ever since we got to Fiji, when ever we try and listen to our FM radio, it seems that it just gets rotten reception. Sometimes a great signal with great reception and a moment later, all garbled in what we hear. Well, yesterday, when Tracy read the post we had an answer to our problem. While the US broadcasts FM in odd numbers--100.5, the rest of the world(or at least out here in Fiji) broadcast in even numbers--100.4. Our radio wasn't set up to receive the frequencies that every one out here was broadcasting! Well, I got right up and started playing with the buttons on the radio till I figured out how to set it for "European" stations and voila, problem solved!! We now have nice clear reception on our radio. It can get real frustrating listening to a station that is just off in what it's playing or what the announcer is talking about. Now we get nice clear music.
From what I have seen, it appears to me that what ever the US does, the rest of the world seems to do it another way. We drive on the right--most out here drive on the left. We use Fahrenheit, the rest use Celsius. Our power is at 120 volts. Everyone else uses 240 volts. What's with us? Do we have to be different or is everyone else just feel that what ever way the US does it, we have to be independent and do it another way? We alway have to watch out as we walk around that we don't walk out in front of a car coming down the street on the wrong side(at least for us). I've come close to being hit because I'm still in US mode for where cars are supposed to be driving. When ever I mention what the temp is back home, 75(ok, that was last Fall) means nothing to them unless I can recalibrate it into Celsius. And now we needed to buy a step down transformer so we can run everything on our boat since we are wired the American way of 120 volts. What's with us? Is it us or is it them? Heck, I don't know. Anyone have any idea why we are so different from the rest of the world? I'd love to know.
It's still cloudy with more rain last evening and more set for today. Yeah, I don't have to shovel the water that comes from the sky(unlike Denver) but it sure gets old and we both know it's going to get worse as the average rainfall in the coming months climbs to 10 inches and more. Get out the buckets, it about to pour!!
With yesterday being a hold over holiday, Christmas was on a Sunday so it got pushed to Monday as the day off. Monday was "Boxing Day" but since Mondays day off was taken up by the Christmas hold over, the official day off for Boxing day was moved to yesterday(Tuesday out here). This will be the first day since Christmas that businesses will be open and the buses start running again. I need to head over to the local butane filling station to get one of our tanks filled that ran dry on Monday. Like most of us out here, we carry two tanks(had four at one time) so running out was just an inconvenience. We'll be back to two shortly. We need the extra one for the barbecue grill. What would a boat be(at least by US standards) without a barbecue grill. Food tastes great off the grill and when it's 90 in the boat, the last thing you want to do is cook something.