01/23/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
And so the rains came and came and came. We're now into day 3 of rain. It started back on Sunday afternoon with a good dump of heaven only knows how much water. It cleared off for a bit in the afternoon(oh my goodness, the humidity) and that was the last of the sunshine since. The clouds came back after only a few hours and rain started again early Sunday evening. It has rained virtually ever since with just a few minutes of let up while it gains more moisture to start again. Roads have washed out and even some banks in the smaller towns have announced that they would be closed since the roads have gotten so bad. One thing we did get accomplished before the rains came was our laundry. Nice to have clean clothes again.
We, on the other hand, took off for Lautoka yesterday, rain or no rain. We needed to pay our Vodafone internet bill as the last day for payment was yesterday. We waded out to the bus stop and waited standing under umbrellas. We now each have one. It arrived just a few minutes late but at least it was running. Much of Lautoka sidewalks are covered as a great deal of rain falls in this lush green country so getting between stores along the street was no problem. Up came the umbrellas when we crossed any streets. We ran numerous errands to store to get resupplied since we had run out of many of our staples when we were out at the islands. I'm just glad we decided to come back on Saturday, the last sunny day.
It's still raining and I'm continually changing out the towels around the boat as water slowly leaks through the assorted holes in the deck. The worst is behind all our electronics at the navigation station. I change out the towels inside that cabinet about every 30 minutes as they get filled with water. I've been using "Shamwow" towels and they seem to absorb the most water. The micro fiber towels do well but are too small to do a great job. Ah, the things you learn while boating.
So here we sit, waiting for it to stop raining so we can get back to projects. I know I started this flood by writing that I had planned on going up the mast on Sunday to fix and install some things that needed attention up there. Once that was out, well, Mother Nature was set to slow that down. If I had known all this was coming, I'd have gone up on Saturday when we got back. Oh well, there is always tomorrow.
Floods are rampant around this side of the island with Nadi, just south of us is flooded with roads washed out and homes flooded and people evacuated. The radio news just reported that all roads to Nadi are now closed due to the flooding and that the rain is expected to continue for the next 24 hours. Well, this is the rainy season. Glad we have our umbrellas as well as good foul weather gear for when we venture out to escape "cabin fever". We stuck out our bucket on the stern yesterday. As of now, there is about 5 1/2 inches of water in it. How's that for a downpour. No wonder everywhere is getting flooded.
More to come as the rain continues.
01/21/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fijiu
Well, we're back at Vuda Point Marina after finishing our ten day trek back to the islands. We spent several days at Mana Island having a good time doing a bit of diving though we're not sure we were in the right spot. We had heard lots of great reports on a place called "Supermarket"(no idea why it's called that). We got the Lat/Long from a dive site called wannadive.net that gives lots of info on sights all around the word. I'd plugged the coordinates into our portable GPS and once Puff was loaded with all our gear(including an anchor), we took off around the west side of the island only to be greeted by a big thunderstorm with lots of lightening and thunder. Seeing what was coming, we reversed course and returned to Zephyr. Better safe than fried by lightening. It poured shortly after we got back to the boat.
The next day, we reloaded Puff in the morning(before the storms came) and took off again. We worked our way around the west side of the island and out over the reef through a narrow passage that's marked with a big stick coming out of the water. Buoys aren't big out here. Once past the stick, we turned left and worked our way around the outside of the reef that protects the island. We found the GPS position and carefully dropped the anchor in about 8 feet of water. I strapped on a mask and went down and repositioned it in a coral free crevasse on the bottom. The last thing we want to do is damage coral when we are out diving. We put on the rest of our gear and plunged into the 84 degree water(yippee!). We worked ourselves down the side of the reef. This was a "Wall" dive since the reef drops off where we went in. While it was pretty, and had some fish, it was no where near what we had seen at Pinnacle Reef back in December. It was fun getting back in the water with our tanks and gear but no where near as beautiful. After an hours dive(8 to 65 feet deep)we climbed back into Puff(glad we have a ladder) and went back to Zephyr and in to get our tanks filled and have some lunch.
The previous evening, we had a group of three brothers come out to see us in a small very old, beaten up kayak to see our boat and ask questions about us and our boat. We were the only boat in the cove. While we may be out in the out islands, they still teach english to all the Fijians. The eldest(about 12) spoke more than his brothers did so he acted as an interpreter. I told him all about our boat and where we had come from. We took their picture(at the top of the post) and we promised them I'd bring them a copy the next day. After about 30 minutes, off they paddled to shore. We later printed some copies of their picture and I took them into shore the next morning. With the help of one of the native women they led me right to their house(a small primitive shack built of corrugated metal roofing. About 10 kids came running over, including the eldest child. It was like I was Santa and had just come to town. I handed him the pictures and he said "You are a true friend"(wow). As primitive as this half of the island is, I'm sure they don't get many pictures of themselves.
Here's the scoop on Mana Island. The West section of the island is a resort owned and operated by a Japanese company. There was apparently some conflict with the native Fijians when the resort was built so the company put up a high chain link fence down the middle of the island with a small gate as the only easy way to get across the island. One side is all resort(not the nicest)and the other side are all native people living in a state of poverty making what money they can from tourists that venture onto their side of the island as well as "back packer" hostels. Other than lunch the first day we came in(a can of coke(330ml) was $5.50($3.00US), we spent the rest of our time on the native side of the island. There, at least, a bottle(600ml) of coke as only $4.00 Fijian and the food was better. We even got our dive tanks refilled there for 25% less than at the resort. Not a way to encourage cruisers to come their side of the island.
After a couple of days at Mana, we had planned on heading over to Treasure Island(not it's real Fijian name) for a couple of days before returning to Vuda. We'd emailed them and they were expecting us. There's even a charge of $10.00 Fijian to come ashore. Not sure what you get for your $10.00 but figured we'd find out. When we got up in the morning, it was totally overcast. Not a good thing since there are numerous uncharted reefs between Mana and Treasure Island. We decided it was a smarter move to simply go back to Musket Cove since we knew the route and would not have any chance of hitting one of the reefs. I emailed Treasure Island of our change of plans. When you are cruising between islands out here, you rely on sunshine to see the reefs as they stand out in sunshine as a lighter color of water(light green-bad versus a dark blue-good). With no sunshine to assist us in seeing the reefs, we upped the anchor(full of mud and sand) and headed back to Musket for a couple of days of relaxation and showers and good food.
Yesterday, we upped the anchor again and headed back to Vuda as we knew we would need help getting into our slot. Our bow lines have to be attached to the spiders web of lines that all the boats are attached to out near the middle of the circular marina. When we arrived back at the marina, we found that the boat Tequila had vacated the spot we had wanted to go into back in December. With the help of one of the yard men in a dingy and two on shore, we backed into the space with little problems. Each time I back up Zephyr, I get better at it. Three years ago, I would have hit what ever was behind us as I backed down. This time, I placed Zephyr right where she was supposed to be not hitting anyone. Our 50 foot bow lines are to short so I'll be looking for some new lines this next week. I had no idea that the rope I brought back from the US would end up being no where near long enough. We had to tie several lines together to make up the difference. Once in and tied up, we hooked up the electrical and turned on the air conditioner and every fan we could find in the boat. It was 99 degrees inside Zephyr and with about 80% humidity, both of us were sweating like stuck pigs making our clothes soaked with sweat(yuck). We slowly cooled down and headed off later for the showers and something to drink to replenish what we had sweated away.
So now we are in the spot we have wanted for quite a while as it has some shade in the late afternoon which will help cool off Zephyr's decks. We have a slight electrical problem as while the slot has two boats in it, there is only one outlet! We'll be trying to work that out with the office on Monday. Luckily, the boat next door is unoccupied at the moment though he normally runs an air conditioner to keep the moisture down inside while he's gone.
We gathered with friends later in the afternoon for drinks and dinner at the marinas restaurant well into the evening. It's nice being back in the marina again. Blue and Snowshoe are really enjoying being back in air conditioned comfort. The last ten days have been tough on them.
Tomorrow, we head back to Lautoka to pay our Vodefone internet bill. It's the big reason we came back. Out here, it's your biggest source of entertainment. I'd planned on going up the mast this morning to get a couple of jobs done but we woke up to rain so it may have to wait for a while. With luck, it might clear up this afternoon.
Stay tuned. More coming.
01/15/2012, Mana Island, Fiji
We changed our mind and made for Mana Island where we will be for a couple of days. Very tight channel getting in and we're glad one of the tour boats was coming in in front of us and lead the way. Out here, the buoys are "left red heading in" not "red right returning" as it is in the US. So it can get confusing.
We'll be here a few days before we head over to "Treasure Island"(not it real Fiji name). Then back to Vuda Point. We have to be back by the 22nd as our Vodefone internet bill is due. Oh the pressure of civilization.
01/15/2012, Musket Cove Marina
Here we are at Musket Cove now sitting on our anchor after one night on a buoy. We came out from Vuda Point Marina on Thursday(never leave on a Friday, let alone the 13th)to get away and do some scuba diving and relax. Plus we wanted to install the new anchor and where better than when you are away from the dock.
We left Vuda about 1015 and got into Musket Cove just before 1300 and grabbed one of the many buoys out here. It's off season so there are plenty to choose from. Once attached to the buoy, we launched Puff, our dingy, and got ready to work on the anchor. First we tried to undo the shackle that holds the old one to the swivel on the chain. I cut the seizing wire and got a crescent wrench and tried to turn it. No go. It was locked in place. There was enough corrosion on not only the shackle and the swivel, but the high tensile steel chain looked a mess also. I though this was supposed to be tough stuff. I put on some lubricant and waited a few minutes and tried again. Still no go. Out with the hack saw. Half an hour later, and a very bent blade, it came loose. Glad I put a rope on the old anchor as it was heading off the bow once the chain was off. We hooked the new anchor to the block and tackle that we use to raise and lower Puff. I pulled out the old anchor(60 pounds) and lowered it into the dingy. Tracy lowered the new anchor into Puff and then pulled the old anchor back up so I'd have some space to move around. Let me tell you, that new Rocna anchor takes up a bunch of space. I hooked the new anchor to the swivel with a new slightly smaller shackle(all we had)Tracy pushed the button that hauls in the chain and up it went. Well, almost. Up it went till the chain jumped off the teeth of the windlass and the long shank jammed against the steel bolt that goes through the bow rollers. It was up but far from secure. OK, lets take off the steel bolt so we can get the entire anchor aboard. It's held on with nuts on the end that screw on with a cotter pin through it so it doesn't unscrew. New problem. The pin was corroded clear down to the flat surface of the nut. That's what happens when you don't use stainless steel cotter pins. I tried pounding it out with an awl and hammer but no luck. As it was the end of the day, we decided to just let it sit(not going any where)till Friday. I did manage to get the chain back in the teeth of the windlass though. We climbed into Puff and went ashore to get checked in and pay for our one night on the buoy.
Friday, I pulled out my drill and drilled out the cotter pin as the punch wasn't going to do it. With it out, that problem was solved. Now we will have to have a stainless steel fabricator come out and make a new attachment for the bow roller so the anchor will fit. We dropped the buoy line and headed over to the anchorage area where we dropped our new Rocna. She went down like a rocket taking lots of chain with her. We ended up in about 50 feet of water. We let the wind correct our position so we were down wind of the anchor and then Tracy hit the reverse lever and we backed down and the anchor set. At least Zephyr stopped really quick. I haven't gone down there yet with our scuba gear, but we haven't move since. In the afternoon, we took off for a local snorkel spot as the wind was still blowing and the rain clouds looked a bit dark on the bottom. It had been that way all day which is why we hadn't headed out for a dive. It did rain a bit as we snorkeled but not really that much. The place we went is a favorite for vacationers here and we had a good many tourists gliding along with us in the blue water.
Once we were done, we headed back for Zephyr where Tracy made a great dinner of pork tenderloin in a mushroom sauce and shell macaroni(bought in Mexico). Add in a nice bottle of white wine and it was a great meal. After dinner, we fired up our computer and watched a movie.
We headed out to Plantation Pinnacle to scuba dive there again. There are supposed to be three tall bommies(tall coral heads) though we had only found one. When we got to the GPS spot I had marked on our last trip, the buoy(Prestone antifreeze jug) we tie up to was gone!! There was no place to tie up to and you don't what to drop and anchor(didn't have it with us anyway) as you don't want to damage the coral. After looking around(Tracy's head in the water as I drove Puff) we finally gave up and came back to Zephyr. From what Tracy said, the visibility was rotten. Only about a 20 foot(max) range versus the 80 foot last time. All the rains have washed silt and other things into the water and corrupted the clear water. No idea how long it will take to clear up since it rains(not as heavily) here most days.
Yesterday, we floated around Zephyr cleaning her hull. With the constant exposure to water, it grows lots of green grass along the top side of her water line. With regular attention, it comes off easily but leave it for a few months and it's a whole lot harder. I strapped on my diving gear and headed for the bottom to check on our new Rocna. I'm a believer now after seeing it lying on the bottom well dug in after only moving about two feet when we backed down after dropping it. The entire plow section of the anchor is buried and only about half of the big roll bar is showing. She is well dug in an not going anywhere. Sure hope the windlass can break it free of the bottom. Guess we will see.
After diving on the bottom and cleaning the deepest part of the hull, we went in and had my tank refilled for the next dive. A nice shower and lunch at the local cafe and back to Zephyr as the winds began to blow. Into the high teens. Rain clouds came along later in the afternoon with a bit of lightening and thunder but we didn't get any of the rains that the other islands got.
We're off today for "Treasure Island" resort on another island about 8 miles from here. Supposed to be good diving there. Let's hope so. It was very disappointing here.
01/11/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fijiu
I headed back into Lautoka this morning to get us checked out by Customs so we can head back out to Musket Cove for a week or so. Customs finally relented and now we will no longer be required to go in and check out and in when we go the whole 15 miles to Musket Cove. They have written our paperwork so that now that we are checked out, we will no longer need to check back in till we are ready to actually leave. That should be in a few months as our 6 month visas will run out. We're still in our 4 month visa period and will need to apply for the extra 2 month extension but that is always granted. While our boat can stay for 18 months, we can't(go figure).
With the check out papers on board, we will be taking off for the three hour trip. While we are there, we'll be doing some more scuba diving as well as some projects. I'll be up the mast again installing our new forestaysail halyard and putting on rubber covers on the tip of each of our spreaders. I'll be taking off the Data Marine wind instrument while I'm up there so we can mail it back to the US to see if we can get it fixed. It still tells us the direction of the wind, but not the speed and how can we brag about how bad the winds were when we are out sailing if we don't know how fast they are? Plus, we have this new shiny piece of metal(our new anchor) that needs to be put on the bow. At 88 pounds, that should be lots of fun(let alone getting the old one off).
So the next post will be from Musket Cove with all the fun things we will be doing there. I fired up the generator this morning just to make sure she still runs(no problem-started on the second pull of the cord.
01/10/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fijiu
Well, the last two days have been full of activity. Since the rain has stopped and the Ark has landed at the top of a nearby mountain top, life has returned to a somewhat state of normal(what ever that might be).
On Monday, after getting the official notice that our new Rocna 40 kilo(88 pounds for us from the US) had finally arrived, we started out for the 1045 bus for Lautoka. As we walked out the road to the bus stop, a small van came along side and offered us a ride in for the same price as the bus. That doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it was not only a good deal, but would get us into town a good 40 minutes ahead of schedule(he picked up a few more people along the way into town). With most of the businesses closed from 1300 to 1400, we would now be able to get more done.
When the original import invoice came from Export Freight Services, there was a charge for BioSecurity in the amount of $8.00. When we got the invoice from the people that were handling the import papers(Carpenters), they upped the fee to $62.95! When I questioned them on it, they said they had made a mistake and it should have been only $30.00. When asked why there was a difference between what the importer was charging and what they wanted, they just told me it was a fee set up by BioSecurity. On the trip into town, we stopped by the BioSecurity office out on the wharf. Here is what they told us. They charge a fee of $150 to inspect everything that comes in in a container. The price is always the same. We should be charged by what percentage of the container we took up. Ever seen a container? They are huge and our anchor didn't take up that much space. BioSecurity told me to have the people at Carpenters call them. We hiked over to Export Freight Services and discussed the difference in the fees. Their suggestion--Just pay us the $8.00 and that should take care of the BioSecuity fee. No $30.00 fee, just the $8.00 fee. No problem there. There were a few more fees tacked on--forklift, lanning(?), delivery order fee, document fee,etc. All in all, between the two companies, we ended up paying an additional $139US for all the fees to get our anchor into Fiji. With the original invoice and these fees, we ended up paying $1362 for the anchor. Not bad since West Marine charges $1289 for the same thing and that is back in the US.
Once all the fees were paid and we had the paperwork we needed to pickup the anchor, it was after 1300 and the offices would now be closed so we went over to China Palace for another great lunch. Wontons, red pork fried rice and Sweet & Sour Pork. A very yummy meal. It's not as cheap as the taco carts back in Mexico(sure were great) but it sure tastes great.
We picked up a few more movies at the local video ripper store and then went to the local veggie market for some lettuce. It looked so bad that we passed. Figure we will be back in town on Wednesday or Thursday to get checked up for our next trip to the islands and we can pick some up then. We grabbed(had to wake the driver) a taxi(for what we were bringing back to the marina, it made sense) and headed over to Pacific Freight Services to get our new anchor. As we entered their warehouse, there it sat on a big wooden pallet. It was HUGE!!!! I wasn't sure we would even get it into the taxi for the ride back. Two big guys picked it up and wrestled it into the trunk and off we went with it rattling around in the back. Once back at the marina, the driver helped us get it on board the back of Zephyr. I took off the bubble wrap and there it sat, a HUGE chunk of steel to keep Zephyr right where we want her. It's like I said in an earlier post, when people passing our boat look at our anchor and laugh, I know I have the right anchor. I can already hear the laughter even before we get it in place at the bow.
Today was laundry day. Since we are heading back toward the islands in a couple of days, it will be nice to have clean clothes and sheets. It took four loads of wash and three runs of the drier to get everything done. At $6.00($3.24 US) per load of wash and dry, it came to $42.00 Fijian($22.65US) to get it all done. Not cheap but not outrageous as we have found else where in our travels. We were done just after 1300 and headed back to Zephyr for another job.
We have had a leak behind the navigation station that has been letting a good bit of water no only inside the boat, but also running over some of the electrical connection in the cabinet and inside the nav station. Well, I'd run beads of caulk over all the seams that I could see water passing through during last weekends flood. Maybe now it might be a bit drier. Guess we will see after the next storm. The block that the wires for the anchor light connect to was covered in green corrosion. I'd seen it long before I headed back to the US so I came back with two replacement blocks for the wires. First, I tried scraping and running a wire brush over all the contacts to see if I could get it cleaned up. No good. Too much corrosion. With a screw diver in hand, I headed in. Several of the screws would not come loose so I had to just cut off the wires at the fitting. I grabbed my electoral equipment and headed in to repair what I had just taken apart.
With my trusty crimper, copper laced grease(keep further corrosion out), screwdriver, wire striper, and all the electrical connectors, in I went. Now being on a boat, a job like this requires a bunch more time than a simple crimp of wires back on dry land. Here, you face a bunch of corrosion on a daily basis. For this reason, every fastener has to not only be crimped on, but I add some copper laced grease to each wire before I even do the crimp. Plus, the fasteners we use are special since the end gets heated with a heat gun(really HOT) to melt the plastic end at the end of the fitting. It shrinks down and seals the fitting. With the copper grease already in the fitting, there should be no corrosion inside of them. I also covered the place where the screws go into the fitting and the end of each "eye" as they get screwed to the block. I even covered the screws that hold the "eye" to the block. If this corrodes, I'd be amazed. I've turned on the anchor light so we will see later tonight(on a solar cell) when it comes on.
Off for a late shower and now another night at the movies. We watched "The Tourist" with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie last night. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Great story.
More to come so stand by.
To get a idea of the size of the anchor, that's a big 5 gallon bucket behind it. It makes the bucket look small.