06/26/2012, Lautoka Harbor
Above is a picture of the Hindu Temple in Nadi.
Yesterday, I we headed for Nadi to look for some fabric to cover the folding seats in our cockpit. West Marine first generation thin foamed folding seats. The fabric after the years that we have had them has got numerous holes in it so it was time to find some fabric and make a sort of slip cover to go over them. Easy to put on and take off when they need cleaning. We looked high and low and just couldn't find what we were looking for. Most of the clothing stores in Nadi sell fabric by the yard and so that you can custom order shirts, dresses, etc.
With that chore out of the way(failed) we headed for the biggest grocery store in town--M & H. There were some things we were looking for that we just couldn't find in Lautoka even though it's a bigger city. Nadi is more of a tourist town and typically has more of a selection of "tourist" oriented foods. We've been eating potato chips made by a company called Spuds out of New Zealand. All the stores in Lautoka were out of them. In Nadi, we found whole racks of them. So ten bags(grab them while you can find them and they aren't that big a bag) we had that off the list. We added more things--soup, powdered drink mixes, salsa(Old El Paso), horseradish sauce and a few more things. We have gotten into the habit of taking cloth bags with us even though the stores do provide plastic bags. With two fully loaded, we headed for the bus stop to get back to Lautoka. At a cost of $2.85 fijian($1.56US) for a 30 mile ride back is a bargain and they dropped us off right beside the entrance to the docks.
Today was Nobeltec Day. I'd scheduled an appointment with the head of Nobeltec(make navigation software)Customer Support to call in and have him take over my computer to find out what the problem is with our running of their program. Has to do with the dongle I wrote about in an earlier post. I called in just after 0800 our time(1300 his) and he went at it. About 90 minutes later, he had the program at least recognizing the dongle(YEAH!!!). When we looked at what charts he had freed, they were a mess. We got the west half of Viti Levu(biggest island in Fiji)but not the East. He looked some more and finally announced "This really sucks!". At that point, he told me he would upgrade me to the latest bunch of charts since these were not set up well for the South Pacific with entire regions missing or miss charted. He added a program or two and set us up for a massive download of the new chart packet(1.6 gigs). Download time--3 hours 50 minutes!! We disconnected with the agreement that we would come back on line tomorrow at the same time and get this resolved once and for all. We haven't used this program since we left Mexico because it was so bad. Now we will see what it can really do.
With the computer doing it's thing, we took off for the gas dock at the commercial docks. Amazingly, they don't sell straight gasoline(petrol). They sell diesel, kerosene and premix of 50 to 1 gasoline. None of which will work in our outboard. So with 5 cans in hand, we grabbed a taxi($3.00 fijian each way) and headed for the closest gas station. They filled the tanks while they sat in the trunk of his car. Back to the dock and back to Zephyr. Now all of our tanks are filled and we're good for another 5 weeks or so. Unlike many sailboats, we don't have a built in generator(run on diesel). We have a Honda EB3000 that sits on our back deck. Works great and can recharge our batteries and give us nice hot water in about 3 hours. Uses just over a gallon(give or take) per day to do so.
We had a quick lunch(file still downloading) and I headed for town to get more things taken care of so we can get out of here. I prepaid our Vodefone(internet provider) for the this month so we don't have to rush back like we did this past week. I bought 2 kilos of Kava. The roots of the plant are given as gifts to village chiefs when we drop anchor off their village as we tour the islands. The chief then grinds the roots up. These ground up roots are then put in a cloth rag or bag and then soaked in water. Once properly soaked, the wet powder is then squeezed inside the bag and is mixed with the water and everyone sits on the floor mats and we all drink it. It's a ceremony called SevuSevu. It's a mild narcotic that deadens the nerves of the mouth and "relaxes" you". It's customary to present a bundle to the chief when you come on shore. Once drunk, you ask permission to visit their village and walk about the island and catch fish(not that we do much fishing).
Zephyr has always been a "boat magnet". Where ever we anchor, other boats try and get as close to us as they can. Now Lautoka's harbor is quite large and yet, we have a boat beside us no more than 50 feet away. He pulled in on Monday while we were off the boat. If we had been here, we would have asked him to move(proper boat etiquette). At about 1700 yesterday, when there was just about no wind, he drifted even closer. I called out to him asking how long he intended to be in the harbor since we were so concerned about him being so close. He said he would be moving Wednesday. We talked about his closeness and he said he would watch and I responded that we would also. He then heads for his cockpit and starts his engine and puts it in reverse and backs away from us. Does he raise his anchor to do so, nope, he just drags his anchor through the mud on the bottom(actually setting his anchor they way it was supposed to be set in the first place. He is apparently one of those that goes into an anchorage and just drops his anchor and a bunch of chain and that's it. No backing down of the boat to set it on the bottom. Well, we didn't care what he did as long as his boat was farther away from us, which it now was--Yeah!. We'll sleep better having him farther away from us.
I'm back on line with Nobeltec, still working to get the program up and running. Wish us luck.
06/23/2012, Lautoka harbor
Having been away from "civilization"(city life) for the last 5 weeks or so, our trip into Lautoka today was an assault on the ears. Every where we went, there were loud speakers blaring out music or special announcements of a sale that some store out there was having. Why retailers think that putting a big pair of speakers right at their front door and blasting out music(normally music from India) will attract customers is beyond me and I was in the retail trade for 35 years in one capacity or another.
Horns honked and car alarms wailed down every street we walked. There didn't appear to be a quiet place in the city. We rushed past loud doorways just trying to escape and it wasn't just us. I saw several locals(Indian women in particular)wince as they passed doorways to store. Oh, our poor ears!!!
We spent the morning trying to get a navigation program we have from Nobeltec up and running. We've had it ever since we took off three years ago. When we were still in Mexico, I bought the unlock codes for the South Pacific. What the charts looked like on the computer screen could have been drawn by a child in third grade(no offense to you third graders out there that might be reading this blog). Charts they were not. Odd shaped blobs they were. I tried for hours and hours to get it fixed while we were still in Mexico all to no avail. Now that we are in the land of the killer reefs and knowing where you are at all times, in relationship to reefs becomes critically important, we wanted the program up and running the way it is supposed to. After over an hour and a half on the phone(thanks you Skype)with only about 25 minutes of it on hold(listening to the "don't worry, be happy" song over and over again), I was helped by a very nice knowledgeable support tech who worked me through several fixes. None of them made any difference(no fault of his). I downloaded and installed an update to the drivers for the program-- no good. It seems that the "dongle"(a USB plug in "key" that allows you to open the program)wasn't being recognized by the program. While in Mexico, they had suggested that I buy($150.00US please) another "dongle" and that would fix my problem. Once I got the dongle(yes, the mail actually worked for once in Mexico)and plugged it in, low and behold, nothing changed(except my bank account was out $150.00). Since we were leaving Mexico in a couple of days, I shelved the program(saying nice things about it to everyone I talked too of course) and got on with the voyage across the Pacific and life in general. To make this story shorter than I could, Kyle(tech rep) is going to log into my computer at 0800 Tuesday(1300 US time on Monday) and try and fix the problem. He did tell me, before he hung up, that I had even befuddled the more senior tech reps that had gathered around his station. With luck, we should have the problem fixed sometime on Tuesday(I know about this bridge in Brooklyn that's for sale.)
We dingied into Lautokas main dock just about 1130 and hiked the 20 minutes onto town and headed for the towns central fruit and veggie market to find fresh veggies. Radishes, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, onions, potatoes were easy to find. After the 8 months we have been here, we have favorite vendors we return to over and over. Most vendors price their goods either as singles or as bundles or in a pile or heap at about $2.00 for what ever you need. Bell Peppers were not to be had unless you were willing to pay a huge premium for them(not us). Most item we bought were either $1.00 or $2.00. Over to the "Hot Bread" store for a small loaf of "whole meal" bread($1.05 Fijian government subsidized) and were were just about done.
Fiji has no $1.00 bills, just $1.00 coins. Paper money starts at a $2.00 bill. Sorry, no pennies, just nickels, dimes, 20 cent pieces(no quarters), 50 cent pieces and $1.00 coins. Stores simply round up or down once a total is reached.
We had lunch at a new (three months old) restaurant that is thoroughly Western in it's look and appeal. Tracy had a chicken salad while I had a chicken burger with fries. More expensive by a bit but good quality food. Brings back a bit of memories of being back in the states.
Once done there and with arms loaded with food, we grabbed a cab and took off for Fiji meats to pick up a nice set of pork ribs. We ordered them a few days ago but since we wanted them frozen(less work for our dinky freezer) we had to wait an extra day to get them. Back to Zephyr to unload and work some more on our computers and run our generator to recharge our batteries(about three hours each day). Tomorrow, I expect that I'll be working on the computers installing some more Google Earth overlays for one of our nav programs. Sounds like fun doesn't it? It's just another day here in paradise.
We've been joined by several boats that are participating in the "World Arc" sail around the world as we sit here at anchor in Lautoka. These folks take about two years out of their life(and about $35,000 entry fee) to go around the world. They spend just a few days in each port they stop at all the time chaperoned and cared for by Arc management. They get a whole month to see Tonga and Fiji. a very tight knit group of cruisers that travel together and take care of each other should any boat get in trouble. They are even having a special rendezvous at Musket Cove over the July 4th weekend(I think I'll pass).
06/20/2012, Lautoka, Fiji
We upped the anchor this morning at 0830 and were underway by 0900 setting our sights on Lautoka Harbor. Our "Cruising Permit" expires on the 22 so we needed to get there today so we could check back in tomorrow.
We awoke to a totally overcast sky which is not the best day to travel in as sunlight is required to see the hidden reefs that are all over Fiji. We had out Garmin Chartplotter as well as a separate computer for our MaxSea program that was running on our computer below decks. It's a "repeater" so that everything that the one computer shows, is repeated above deck. Real handy so we don't get our primary navigation computer exposed to any elements(rain).
We wove our way around the reefs keeping a good lookout with binoculars as we motored across. Of course, the wind was right on our nose(but only about 5 knots) so it didn't slow us down too much. We were in and had the anchor dropped by 1400.
Yesterday was special in that all the other boats in the anchorage took off during the day. It left us alone in the anchorage. From our memory, it's only happened twice in all our travels that we have had any place to ourselves. Hoard to imagine since we have been out for three years. It was such a beautifully funny day that the water was an amazing shade of blue. We spent the morning snorkeling(still a bit cloudy) and the afternoon lounging on board reading or over the side scrubbing the little bit of growth off the sides at the water line. A very enjoyable way to spend a day(alone in an anchorage).
Not sure how long we will be here or if we will go back to Vuda Point Marina but we'll let you know.
Here's another picture of Navadra(pronounced "Navandra").
06/19/2012, Fiji Islands
How different it is some twenty miles northwest of Lautoka. We have been at anchor here (Navadra) for some three or four days. Bill has told you about what has happened during the first couple of days here, but I noticed that he hasn't told you anything really about where we are and what it is like.
Navadra is a triangle of three islands that must at one time or another been a caldera of a volcano. The islands are volcanic and are tall and steep with goats meandering about on the cliffs at sunset. The water here is deep, about 70 to 90 feet and such a gorgeous color of blue. Sometimes the sky and the water become one in color and it becomes magical. It is the world's largest infinity pool. The islands are covered in verdant green. Lots of coconut trees with scads of older coconuts on the ground and green drinking coconuts still in the trees just waiting for someone to find a long stick and jab it off the tree.
The islands are all surrounded by white sand beaches of varying degrees of fineness. Most is fine sand that you sink up to your ankles when you walk, it makes for a great aerobic exercise just walking from one end to the other. They are also surrounded by a living reef that goes out about a 100 yards from shore that makes landing your dink interesting. A couple of days ago, we snorkeled into shore over the reef on the island of Vanua Levu (one of many in Fiji). It took your breath away. There were so many different sorts of hard corals of all different colors and shapes. They went from 70 feet up to just under the surface. Everything was alive which is a new experience. There were colorful reef fish darting everywhere, blue cromis, Sargent Majors, and tons that I haven't a clue what they were. I really do need to study a fish guide. I did recognize the two White tip reef sharks though! Except this time my heart didn't jump out of my chest in fright.
During the sojourn to shore we found two coconuts that we were going to husk and bring onboard to use as fried coconut for appetizers to go with our Sundowners. Well, let me tell you coconuts want to stay where you found them undisturbed. They fight you every step of the husking process and beyond!!! We found the "husking stick" and started to bang the nut down onto it. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes later we are still trying to get the husk off the nut. Bill persevered with the husking eventually banging it on a sharp rock and eventually stomping on it while it was wedged between two rocks to get the last bits of husk off. Then on the boat I proceeded to try and get the meat out of the shell. I did get it open, but then ended up using a flat bladed screwdriver and a hammer to get out the white nuggets of meat. Whew, we earned the right to eat that baby! Into the frypan until it was golden brown then out to the cockpit to munch upon with our drinks.
Today, Bill and I are going to take Puff out for a spin to take a look at the reef that is in the middle of the anchorage as well as the surrounding reef wall on the west side of the islands. We will probably be diving on the reef in the middle of the anchorage. Four guys went out there yesterday, so it must be shallow enough to anchor the dink.
Three boats have left so far today, so now we are the only monohull boat here along with three other catamarans. The sky is clear, the temperature is in the mid eighties with the humidity at 70% and currently no breeze, so the water is going to feel wonderfully cool to swim in today.
06/18/2012, Navadra Island
The skies finally let up late yesterday morning and we got out of Mana Island and made our way for Navadra Island. A nice island that's deserted--no natives. Yeah!!! a place to ourselves. Nope, two boat already here when we got here. OK, fine it's a nice big anchorage and we found a place to drop our pretty new anchor(88 pound Rochna) in about 66 feet of water. I think it's the deepest place we have ever anchored. It took all of our old chain and into the new that I spliced in back in Mexico. We have about 225 feet of chain out.
We got all nice and settled for the night. The kids liked it as they had free range of the decks after sundown. Yesterday, we awoke to the sounds of a big anchor being dropped nearby. A cruise ship had shown up from Captain Cooks Cruises(deserted island?). Launch boats came forth and some went scuba diving and other snorkeled and other just walked the beach. We launched Puff and got to shore after they did. Most snorkeled along the reef just off the sandy beach. We did it yesterday and it is a great snorkel reef with lots of good coral and fish for them to see. Better than most reefs these tour boat take you too. The upped their anchor about 1300 and took off. During the afternoon, 5 more boats showed up and everyone tried to get the best anchor spot. We were ashore when one dropped their anchor about 60 feet from us. They were close--too close for our comfort. As we swam back to Zephyr, I knocked on his stern and found out he had put out just 180 feet of chain. He seemed shocked that I had put out 225 feet. If we swung at all, there was a good chance we would hit each other. Tracy and I stayed on deck through out the evening just watching. I finally put out our fenders before we went to sleep. Early this morning, they upped their anchor and took off. No lose, except the sleep that we both lost last night. So far, no new boats but it's time for them to show up if they are coming. It's 1420 and perfect weather for traveling. Sunny to see the reefs. We're taking it easy right now, reading and snoozing the day away. Probably go in swimming later to cool off. It's 86 outside. The Generator is humming away and the water maker is making us 8 gallons per hour to keep our tanks filled. All is well. We have to be back in Lautoka by Friday as our cruising permit expires so we will have to get out of here Thursday just to be safe on getting back in time. Don't want to upset the government people. Bill
06/16/2012, Mana Island, Fiji
It was blowing when we got in here in the 20+knot range and continued through the night letting up just this morning so it's down to around 10. Unfortunately, it just about totally overcast which means we can't see the reefs as sunlight is required. Most of them lurk just below the surface and sunlight helps reflect the change in the water above them. Because of that, we have decided to just stay put for today. Charts, as I have said, are anything but reliable.
With all the wind last night, I was awake at 0230 checking out our position. The anchor drag alarm hadn't gone off but it pays to be vigilant. Unfortunately, it meant that once I was awake, I was awake most of the rest of the night. Today will be cat nap day on board as Tracy didn't sleep well either. The "kids" on the other hand spent the night either sleeping or prowling around the boat(the usual).
So we sit and hope for sunny weather tomorrow. We have to be back in Lautoka by Friday as our cruising permit expires.