04/20/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
We finally picked up our new water heater and four gallons of paint yesterday afternoon. Unlike our last experience in importing parts this one was quite the task with a bit of frustration thrown in for "fun".
Our shipment had left New Zealand a while back in a container bound for Lautoka. As with the last shipment, it wasn't unloaded here but was taken off the ship in Suva and then trucked across the island. I headed into Lautoka on Tuesday as we'd not heard that the shipment was in. I checked in with Export Freight Services(the import company that was bringing in our goods). Yes, it was being unloaded in Suva that day and would be in Lautoka on Wednesday. It was time to start the paperwork to get the goods in through Customs. Here is where everything starts to unravel.
EFS(Export Freight Services) recommended we use Western Services to do the paperwork this time since I'd had a few problems with the last company we'd used. I hiked over to their offices and showed them my Bill of Lading as well as the invoice for what we were bringing into Fiji. I pulled out the Customs papers for Zephyr that show our "rotation" number. When you check into Fiji, each boat is given a "rotation" number. This identifies your boat and allows you to bring in parts for your boat duty free. No taxes, no dues. A big help as taxes and fees can really add up when bringing in goods. Our set of Rotation papers were handed to one of the clerks in the office and she grabbed at the "Official Seal" that Customs puts on the upper left corner of the stack of papers making them "legal". She was going to rip it off!!!! Here was the first indication that these people didn't know what they were doing. I should have left at that point. Instead, they made copies of everything and off I went.
Tuesday night, I got an email from Western Services that there were duties of 34% + 15%VAT owed on the paint and 15% +15%Vat owed on the water heater. Say what?!?!?! There should be no taxes at all. I email back telling them to stop and give me a name of some one to talk to. Not waiting for their response, I caught the 0730 bus for town and headed into the Customs office on the dock. I'd taken along pictures of what we were bringing in to show them that it was all for Zephyr. Luckily, I was shown to the head of Customs(he'd checked us in last October) and remembered me. I explained what was happening and showed him the pictures. Being boat parts, there should be no duties or taxes(Yea!). He picked up the phone and called Western Services and straightened it all out. Problem solved(so I thought).
I hiked over to Western Services again and was advised that since I didn't have a bank account in Fiji, they would bring in the goods using their name instead of ours. I have no idea why a bank accept is needed but went along with them. Off I went again to await their next email to tell me I could come and get the goods.
Yesterday(Friday), I got the email and both Tracy and I headed for town on the 1110 bus. We got to Western Services just after 1200. The man who had been handling our import then sets about telling me that I not only have to pay for their services to fill in and file all the paperwork to import the goods($134.50 Fijian), but we also have to pay another $40.50 Fijian to export the goods. As far as they were concerned, yes, we were bringing in the goods duty free but since we were "in transit", we would be then exporting the goods when we left Fiji so they had to fill out paperwork for the export. They just could't grasp the concept that what we were bringing was repair parts and not something we were bringing in and then going to take to Tonga and sell. He wouldn't budge of the fees. So, off we went back to Customs at the dock to get it straightened out. The guy I talked to on Wednesday was in Suva(the capital) in a meeting but his assistant agreed with me about not needing an "Export" form for the parts. Since we wasn't the chief cheese of the department, he urged me to go their Customs main office back in Lautoka. So off we went grabbing a taxi to get their faster.
We told the driver to take us to the Customs office. He asked--"In Nadi?" Nope, here in Lautoka. He had no idea that there even was an office in Lautoka(we'd been there several times so where knew where to go). He stopped in at the local gas station to get directions since he was lost and didn't seem to want to listen to our directions. The driver asked two men that were getting gas where it was. Neither knew and one was emphatic that there was no Customs office in Lautoka. "I live here so I know" was the response we got. We urged the driver on and finally got to the offices about 5 minutes later. When we got out, I asked him how much for the trip. His response "10.00"!! I'd paid $2.50" to get to the docks so I knew he was trying to gouge us. When I refused, he lowered it to $5.00!! His meter read $40.50--he'd never reset it from his last fare. I again refuses and I offered him $3.00. I put the money in his hand and walked off. In the offices got bumped to a supervisor who listened to my problem and eventually agreed with me that these were just parts and not goods that were "in transit". Our boat was but the goods were not. He told us he would call Western Services and get it all straightened out. Since all the offices(as do some businesses) close from 1300 to 1400, we took off for lunch and pick up a part of two since we were in town.
When we returned to Western Services, the gentleman that had been helping us told us he had been called by Customs and that he was right to charge us fees for filling out the paperwork to export our parts. This was getting out of hand quickly. I refused as I'd been told by the last gentleman at Customs that we didn't have to pay. Since I was refusing to pay, he placed a call to the officer I'd talked to. He handed me the phone which quickly died. They tried to call again but couldn't get it to connect. He finally took the bill for filing the export fees and threw it away as he saw I wasn't going to budge on paying it. He gave up finally.
Once that was "settled" he handed me the papers we needed to get the parts from the warehouse and off we went. We grabbed a taxi and headed for the warehouse. Once we had the parts, we had to then head for the docks to have them inspected and a Customs agent join us in the taxi to the marina to make sure we put the parts on the boat. We have no clue as to why that is needed but it's the law. When we got our anchor, it wasn't needed but this time it was. Go figure.
So as of late yesterday, we have our new water heater and 4 gallons of bottom paint. Now the real works starts!
04/13/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Well, the rain has slowed to just a shower or two each day. Sometimes just rain(like now) and sometimes just a sprinkle or two. Either way, it keeps the humidity up during the rest of the day. We're still into the high 80's to low 90's every day and the humidity still rides in the 70% range every day. We've had a bit of a breeze from time to time but not much in this very sheltered marina. Outside the breakwater, there is more.
Tracy got the stern head painted yesterday while I went into Lautoka to pick up a new tarp to cover Zephyr's decks. While the old ones require the use of two to totally cover the boat, this one should cover from lifeline to lifeline giving us better protection from the rain. It should slow down the leaks a bit(sure hope).
Our water heater and bottom paint is now in transit on Southern Cross and with luck, should be in in the next few days. Then it's up to Customs and BioSecurity as to when I can get them. I've printed the Bill of Lading so I'll have it ready upon arrival. We have a program on our computer that tracks the AIS signal from boats so we will be able to "see" Southern Cross once she in within 50 miles or so of Fiji. Can you say "anxious to get it". It's going to be quite the project to get the heater installed. Once that is done, we will be hauling Zephyr out of the water to have her hull scraped down to bare fiberglass and a new barrier coat(epoxy paint) applied to her bottom and then two coats of bottom paint put on. The last stuff we got(Comox) in Mexico has done a great job with the hull being in great shape but it's time to get her pulled since we have no idea when we will have the opportunity to do it again. Probably in American Samoa but I know it would cost a whole lot more to have her hauled out and the bottom done. Labor here is much cheaper than most places here in the South Pacific and at least they seem the know what they are doing(as long as you watch them) and how much harm can they do just scraping the paint off the bottom of the boat?
So that about it for now. We're having Star off Starstruck over for dinner tonight. Paul(her husband) is back in the US getting somethings taken care of and bringing back parts for both our boats. I did the same for them last November so what I didn't get then, I'll have him bring back when he comes.
04/10/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Well, more time has passed during the "rainy" season with some kind of rain just about every day. It goes from a simple shower to a raging down pour. We had a small sprinkle in the early morning and expect another later this afternoon if the cycle continues. At least the flood waters have now receded and people are slowly getting things dried and cleaned up. Life is returning to a state of normalcy if that is possible after the flooding that they have experienced. Talk of moving the town of Nadi to a new location has ceased. Now the talk is to work on fixing the river so it won't flood.
We've continued with projects over the last few days. At least what we can do before it gets so hot and humid outside. I have one screw on a set of track that my forestaysail sheet goes through that stands up far enough that I can't get the slide to get past it. I've lubed. I've heated it. I've used the brute force of an impact screw driver all with no luck. I guess it's time to just file down the head and leave it alone till I may have to take the screw out someday. At least the track will be clear to move the block.
We started prepping the stern head for a repaint after the last paint peeled off the walls and part of the floor. I mixed up a batch of white epoxy and filled the holes yesterday. Today, we will sand them down so they will be flat and start painting tomorrow. The reason for the delay was a trip to Namaka to buy more veggies and supplies plus getting paint brushes and try and find a good "silver" colored tarp. The blue ones don't last out here. With all the rains we have been having, the tarps were unavailable. Maybe in a few day we will have better luck. The ones we have on Zephyr have just about run through their life with holes and flaking "silver". It's time for new ones.
The new water heater and the four gallons of paint have left NZ and "should" be here about the 17th(with luck). It will be interesting to see how long it takes to get through Customs and BioSecurity. The anchor took several days. I guess we will see how fussy they get over bottom paint for the boat. While it's not cheap, it was cheaper than what we last purchased in the US several years ago.
Other than that, small jobs are slowly getting checked off the list and we are watching numerous TV shows that are available on DVD's in Lautoka. Add in games of dominos and scrabble, plus deciding what we will have for dinner each day and we are living the life out there. We just are VERY glad we bought our air conditioner when we first arrived. This weather would have really put a crimp in our life if we had had to go through what most of the other cruisers have had to endure. Constant temps in the high 80 to low 90's and humidity in the 70's every day.
Tomorrow is another day with a few more things to get done. Our time here is drawing to a close.
04/03/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
THey just announced on the news that Nadi, one of the major towns on the west side of the island will be closed for the next week till the town can be cleaned and made safe. Nadi is THE major tourist town as it's right beside Denarau, the biggest tourist center on the island.
04/02/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
And still the rains came. Yesterday was a bit of a reprieve but it started again this afternoon. The marina yard is a mess but less so than the homes all over the west side of the island. Flooding has run rampant all over the coast as well as inland in the mountains. Rivers as well as streams have over flowed their banks and destroyed homes as well as entire villages. Two of the towns south of here, Singatoka and Nadi, are covered in more water than they were back during the floods back in January and February. We're just lucky that Cyclone Daphne kept to the west of the island and spared us more destruction. It's going to take quite a while for the island to recover from this onslaught from Mother Nature.
I took a chance and went into Lautoka yesterday after we got word that my replacement scuba boots had arrived. I want them in my hand just to make sure we got them back. In the US, you can pick up your packages at the post office any time they are open. No so here in Fiji. You can get your packages between 8am and 9am and then between 2pm and 4pm. Oh, plus it costs $3.00 to get your box(inspection fee for Customs). I got to the Post Office(forgetting the pick up schedule)about 1030 only to be told to come back after 1400. RATS! I had hours to kill. I walked down the the local movie theatre as the Hunger Games was on and started about 1050. Opps, "sorry, we cancelled that showing. Come back at 1400. We might show it then". It's Fiji people, not the US. Even the main veggie market was locked up since the local farmers can't get to town.
So with lots of time on my hands I went looking for a newspaper as I had gotten away with out a book. Nope, no papers. The roads were out between Suva and Lautoka and there is not a single book store in Lautoka(at least not that I have found). I could have bought a Scuba magazine for $20.00 but I passed.
After getting the boots and what ever else came to mind, I headed for the bus station to see if the 1520 bus to Vuda was running. All other buses had been cancelled that came by the marina due to all the rain. I'd taken a taxi from the marina to the Nadi/Lautoka shelter and caught one of them on it's way to Lautoka. Well, 1510 came and went--no bus. I was sitting with two Fijians of Indian descent who assured me that a bus was coming to take us to Vuda Point. So I sat and talked and dozed off and on. The 1510 bus finally showed up at 1630(remember, this is Fiji). I was back at Zephyr a bit after 1700. When I'd left, there was some doubt wether I would get back since the buses were iffy at best.
Rains continued for a while with only a small shower over night. It poured about an hour ago and is sprinkling now. Hopefully it will stop so we can start drying out. Fiji deserves a break.
03/30/2012, Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
It's still raining and towns are getting flooded all over the island. Many of the roads are either closed or the waters have washed them out. After the last floods(back in late January and early February) many of the roads were repaired. When they started repairing the roads, they would shovel in more dirt and stones and then spray on some tar on top and tap it down. Once the crews ran out of the tar, they just shoveled in dirt and stones and moved on to the next hole. You can guess what has happened to all those holes that got "fixed". Even before these rains, most of the holes were back. Other than a trip or two to the local john, we haven't left Zephyr all day. Rain have been just about constant with winds blowing into the high teens and low 20's. We're protected here in the marina so we don't get any where near the winds that are hitting the islands. I'd not want to be out there during this blow.
We've let our DuoGen(wind generator) run during this storm to allow the new carbon fiber shaft(as well as the generator) to get a workout. I've found that when it is allowed to sit for a while, it takes quite a bit of wind to get it started again. While it is a bit noisy in the stern berth, I'd rather it get a good workout. Can't hurt.
The "kids" are thrilled that we are back. Both have been keeping a close vigil on the two of us ever since we got back. While we were gone, Christine and Terry off Teka Nova were baby sitters for them stopping in sometimes three times a day to check on them and wake sure all was well. Before we left, we'd have the power shut off from time to time and we didn't want the kids to have to sit here with no air conditioning. Cruisers stick together. While they were in vanuatu earlier in March, we check on their boat.
Our new water heater and bottom paint is on it's way to the shipper. We should hear in a few days when we should expect it.
In early February, I mailed back a set of diving boots to the manufacturer for repair. The seam on the heal had split the first time I put my foot in them. Being under warranty, I returned them. We've gotten notice that they have been shipped back. The way the postal system works out here is when ever a package comes in, the Fiji Postal Service sends you letter telling you that the package is in. You then take that letter in with all your documentation and then you can pick up your package. It just doesn't get delivered with the rest of the mail. Go figure.
I'll let you know when the rain finally stops.