08/29/2012, Bay of Islands, Suva, Fiji
Not much really. We've been back and forth to Suva($1.15 Fijian each way) and have continued resupplying for our up coming trip. Now as to where we are going, that's sort of up in the air. If the weather cooperates, we figure to make it to American Samoa. If it doesn't then perhaps the Marshall Islands. At worst, we will head for the Federated States of Micronesia. As of now, that would be the last place we want to head to. This time of year, they can get racked by one storm after another. We need a nice place to sit for a couple of months. It's supposed to be much better by December. Right now, we sit and wait to see when and if the weather will cooperate. We need winds from the south or south south east for a run northeast to American Samoa. As with most cruisers, our plans are written in sand at low tide.
We've been back and forth to Cost U Less getting lots of goodies. They even carry the 15 pack of paper towels so if we spill something, we covered.
We went to a movie in town on Monday. Saw the Bourne Legacy. Lots of action as you would expect. Unfortunately, the sound was so loud we had to put pieces of tissue in our ears to deaden it a bit. They also had cranked the air conditioner on high and it was quite chilly. We both wish we had brought sweaters.
Other then that, we've taken Zephyr out of the harbor and emptied the black water tanks. There's no way we would empty them in the harbor as I'm sure other boats do. Knowing this, there is no way I'd fire up our water maker so I've been ferrying jugs of water from shore to refill our tanks. At just 10 gallons per trip, it took several hours and7 trips back and forth to get them sort of back where we want them to be. Tracy did laundry on Monday so that used up a good bit of water. I'll be refilling them again before we leave. Yes, once we leave the bay I can use the water maker but it uses a bunch of energy so unless the engine is running(which we prefer not to do unless we have to) we don't make water. Plus, it's free(can't beat that).
On one of our trips around town(in a taxi!), we passed the new American Embassy. Wow, what a compound. It's huge compared to what the last complex was. It's quite a ways out of town so it's doubtful we will be out there again.
Other than that, we listen to the morning radio(SSB) for weather forecast. The local station only broadcasts the weather at 0700. Just once per day, that's it, no second chances at 0800. Go figure.
Here we sit and here we stay. Oh, I forgot to mention that we have worked out a way to get our $400.00 back from Vodefone. It's a security deposit that we had to pay them when we got their internet service. They were willing to transfer it to our bank for just $25.00 plus another $25.00 at our bank. Or, we could ask for a check which takes 5 days. If we did that, we wouldn't have internet to check the up coming weather so that was no good. They did offer to sell us a prepaid dongle at a huge price for little usage($35.00 for 1.2 gigs of use). Heck, we only pay $91.00 for 20 gigs. We finally worked it out that we would pay for September(as we know we will be here till then) and then they can cut us a check since we have already prepaid for the month and then shut off service on September 30 since our visas expire on the 29th and we have to be gone. With luck, we should have that money back by Friday of next week. Guess we will see if the check shows up at the branch office we stopped in at. I'll let you know.
08/21/2012, Suva, Fiji
I headed back into town this morning on multiple missions. First was to try and find the receptacle for the Honda generator. One person commented about being able to find those types of plug all over the world. Well, after 6 hours and several bus rides and even more walking and talking to shop owners, they may be everywhere but they sure aren't in Fiji. Every person I showed one of the plugs to looked at it like it was made on Mars. Not one of them had ever seen something like that plug. Even the biggest electrical suppler(Singatoka Electric)on the island had no clue. At least we have the generator still running and we are using one of the other outlets on it so all is well.
One thing I did find in my travels looking for the plug was a store unlike any I have seen on the island. It's called "Universal Electronics" at 35 Knollys Street. For those of you coming to Fiji with no step down transformer, here is the place to go. I snatched one of their price lists since I couldn't believe what I was I was seeing. A 2000 watt transformer runs $330 Fijian($188 US) and a 3000 watt comes in at $550 ($313 US). That's cheaper that what i got mine for in the US and I wouldn't have had to lug it all the way back here if I'd known about this place. They also carry solar panels--80, 100 & 120 watt panels. The most expensive came in at $895 Fijian($510US). No idea if that a good price for a panel but at least if you need some they have them. They have tons more things and is a must stop for anything electronic or electric if you are in Suva.
I took the bus back to downtown to visit BioSecurity and see about the refund check for our cats. When I entered, they told me they still didn't have the check but a driver would take me to their main office so I could get it. Twenty minutes later, it was in my hand. The driver even took me to the bank so I could cash it. That took all of 3 business days. I've got no complaints!!
08/20/2012, Suva, Fiji
We headed into Suva yesterday with a list of things to do and places to go. At the top of the list was BioSecurity to get our $3,000 back. Being Monday, we figured to wait till the afternoon once they had had their lunch and the normal Monday crunch would be over. So instead we started touring to see more of Suva.
We started at one of the bigger hardware stores, Carpenters looking for a rivet gun that will install stainless steel rivets. While I have a big gun, it's apparently not geared for doing stainless, just aluminum rivets. I didn't realize that when I brought back a bunch of stainless rivets from the US last year. Now I'm in search of bigger gun. No big rush as I haven't used what I have and only found out that they don't work when I pulled out my tool box for a different project and just happened to put one of the rivets in the gun. Oh well. So far, after half a dozen shops, no gun but the search continues today.
We headed out to the Indian section of Suva to look for a good curry restaurant for lunch. It took a while and some walking but we found "The Curry House". They offer a bunch of curries including Goat curry. I stuck with the more traditional chicken and even opted for the more expensive "boneless chicken". At $3.00 more, it was an extravagance but easier to eat. It came with a nice bowl of chicken curry, pile of rice(rotis are available), something that had potatoes in it and a small bowl of soup. Add in a spoonful of chutney and it was quite the plate of food($8.80) Tracy had a veggie Thali($5.50). A plate full of different small bowls of different things(don't ask me what they were but she enjoyed it.
Once done with lunch, we took off the the Federated States of Micronesia Embassy to put in our application for a cruising permit. We included with our application, copies of our passports, a crew list and a copy of our US documentation. The woman behind the desk couldn't have been more helpful. She took everything and scanned them into her computer and emailed them to person in FSM that handles the application. She stamped ours showing that we had sent it in and sent us an email latter confirming that she had sent the forms. It doesn't get much better than that.
Once done there, we hiked back to the bus station and while Tracy went to the HUGE veggie market, I walked over the BioSecurity. It was just after 1400 and everyone should be back from lunch.
As I walked in, the woman I had spoken to last Friday jumped up and greeted me. She went to check to see of the check was signed and ready. Unfortunately, it wasn't signed(no clue as to who signs them) and if it was possible, could I come back tomorrow afternoon when she was sure it would be signed. "Sure" was my response. Never press a government official especially one that controls the refund of $3,000 for us. She said it might take till Wednesday but she would try and get it signed. The "boss"(sat behind a bigger desk) of the office told her to tell the person that signs them that I needed the check on Tuesday since I had started the process last Friday. "No problem"I told them and we all had a nice chat for a few minutes(where we had been and where were going and how much we had enjoyed Fiji) and I left for the bus back to Zephyr with Tracy.
That's about it for yesterday. Today, back to Suva for more exploring and get that check.
08/18/2012, Suva, Fiji
Well, we were hit by a small electrical problem yesterday. The plug that goes into our trusty Honda EB3000 started to melt. Not the first time, but it's been about 3+ years since it did it last. As you can see from the picture, it's pretty well scorched. It comes from having a loose plug in the socket so so they tell me. Something about heat dissipation from the plug. We've been using this since we moved on board so it was not really a surprise since we've had melted cord ends before, the last time was where it plugged into the boat. Our Honda is now well over 15 hears old and that outlet has had the plug stuck in it and pulled out of it heaven only knows how many times. Something was bound to give after that long and that many times getting used.
As all good cruisers, we have a back up cord so that was no problem and I even scrounged up a replacement plug for the cord so that problem was solved. Now as to the Honda generator, that's a whole nother ball of wax. We figure the plug is now pretty well toasted and needs to be replaced. As you might figure, Honda generator parts in Fiji are non existent. We ordered two on the internet and are having them shipped to our mailing address in Florida for forwarding later when we get to a port that uses the US Postal Service. Surprisingly, just about all the companies I contacted about the part don't ship to Fiji. One would but the cost was about $200US just for the postage!!! The parts are only about $65.00.
In the meantime, we're using a different outlet(looks like a typical 120 volt outlet) and a couple of cords and adapters to get the job done. The generator is running as I type this and putting volts back into our batteries. So we're still operating just fine. It was just a small bump in the road so to speak.
08/17/2012, Suva, Fiji
Well, we're two days into Suva and moving along nicely. We headed into town on Thursday to get the lay of the land. We found BioSecurity as well as Immigrations. Didn't bother to go in as this was a scouting trip. Well sort of. We were ultimately in search of the Holy Grail of Fiji---COST U LESS!!! It's like a scaled down Costco.
After walking through town and seeing the government building(big), we walked to Thurston Garden, named after some guy that brought lots of plants(non native)to Fiji and let them go wild. Do that today and boy would you be in trouble. I guess back then(early 1900's) it was fine. Inside the garden(big fenced off area with no real garden)was the Fiji Museum. Having been here for ten months, we felt it was time to learn a bit of the history of Fiji. We spent about two hours going through the rooms learning about Fiji, a couple of hundred years ago. Fascinating really.
Once done, we grabbed a taxi and told him to take us the Cost U Less! We'd researched the address and found that there was a McDonalds right next door. Double score!!! Oh, the grease and fat. Our bodies were about go into overload of all things bad for you. Suddenly,as we crested a hill, there they were. Cost U Less and McDonalds in all their glory.
We had the taxi driver drop us off at McDonalds as it was now lunch time. It was packed with school kids from the academy right down the street. Dozens of them, all getting corrupted by burgers and fries!! We have brought America to the islands and they will someday pay for it. High cholesterol and chunky thighs. It's coming and they don't even know it yet. Anyway, I digress. We looked up at the menu and there it was--The BIG MAC-with fries and a coke. America at it's finest. Two orders were placed and we stood and waited for nirvana. Well, it was not to be. Yes, we got our meals, but this McDonalds doesn't have salt and pepper! Who ever heard of a restaurant that doesn't carry salt and pepper. Ever had a french fry with no salt. It was drab and these were McDonalds fries. Reputed to be the best in the world--BUT NO SALT! That taste that has stood in our mind for all these months of doing without came crashing to the ground. To say they were bland would be an understatement. Strangely, no ice was in our cups of Coke. Just Coke. Lots and lots of Coke when you leave out the ice. Still cold or sort of but far more of the stuff than I've ever gotten in the past. I didn't even go back for a second cup. Weird. Don't these people understand that if you add ice, you give the customer less Coke so there is more profit? Oh, and if you want a packet of catsup to go with the fries, it costs more. No freebees at this McDonalds. Even the napkins are rationed. Straws--help yourself. It was the only thing in the racks at the normal self service stations around the store. Once that fantasy was crushed, we crossed the alley and headed for Cost U Less!
Unlike Costco, no membership was due which made it easy. When you shop at Costco, you know that you may end up buying mayo in 55 gallon drums but at an incredible price. To good to pass up even if you end up throwing away a bunch of it. When we lived in Louisiana, they had pickled pigs feet in huge jugs. Heaven only knows what you do with them. Not so with Cost U Less. Most of what you get there is in reasonable sizes. OK, paper towels still come in 15 packs but lots of the rest is the same thing you would find in normal grocery store. Having lived in Fiji for a while, and having shopped the local grocery stores, we found that many of the items that Cost U Less carried, we could find in town at or below what they were selling them for here. Some were even more expensive than a regular store. Go figure! Well, we still walked out with a cart load and needed a taxi to get us back to our dingy so they still made out all right having us a clients. We passed on a few items that we know we will pick up on our next trip. We're not done there yet.
That was about it for Thursday. We had seen and done enough damage to our minds and bodies. Friday was coming and we had plans for it.
This morning(Friday), we took off later than we had expected but made it into town by 1100. We were headed for BioSecurity. Keeper of our $3,000 cat bond. We'd been hit by that when we arrived last October and now we wanted to start the process of getting it back. We had our original receipt so we had the paper to prove we had given them a bunch of money. We talked to once person who then brought out the person that issues the refunds. Since it had been a while(about 10 months)since we had given them the money, she requested a letter from us requesting the refund and once she had that, we could probably pick up our check on Monday. Say what!?!?! Could it be that easy? This was an agency of the government. Was it possible that they would actually give us back our money that easily. I was willing to see, so I agreed to bring them a letter that afternoon(required a trip back to the boat) and off we went utterly surprised.
Next, we headed to Revenue and Customs to see what it would take to get clearance. One man told us to grab a cab as the office was a good mile south of the city. $5.00 later, we stood outside their offices. Here, government springs into action. "The office you need is on the main wharf, not here". The officer gave us two names and sent us on our way. This time as a penitence, we walked all the way back into town and found the wharf where the offices were actually located. It was one block over from where we grabbed the cab!! Once into their offices(only had to ask for directions a couple of times) the people could not have been nicer. Just show up when you are ready to go and they will take care of the clearance paperwork for Zephyr as well a getting our passports stamped. The big catch is that once all that is done, you have to pull up your anchor(or drop the line from your mooring buoy) and be out of the harbor in 3 HOURS! You have 24 hours to be out of the country. We will have to make sure that we are READY to go before we ever step on a bus to go there. That's not a lot of time but it can be done. That's one reason we want to make sure we get the money back from BioSecurity now rather than later as we will have to find an currency exchange as Fijian money can't be exchanged just about any where in the world. Only Fiji will take back Fijian money and give you other currency(US $). I guess we will see how all this goes when we start the next week trying to get our money back from BioSecurity.
I know this is taking quite a while to read, but I'm almost done.
Next, over to the Embassy for the Federated States of Micronesia. To go there, you have to submit a request for a cruising permit before you even arrive. We needed the form. It took some doing and help from a local security guard but I finally found it(at 1630) just as they were preparing to close. The young women behind the counter cheerfully gave me a copy of the form and advised me to bring it back and she would fax it into the appropriate people and get the permit paperwork started. We've heard good and bad about the application but all tell us to keep a copy of it aboard so incase the original gets lost somewhere in the great paperwork shuffle that all government agencies do, we will have some shred of evidence that we had actually applied for the permit. We've read more of FSM requirements so we will be ready for them when we return to their offices on Monday.
Keep good thoughts coming our way all of you out there reading this post. The games are about to begin. OH, and yes, I did take the request for refund letter back to BioSecurity as promised only the agent(she cuts the refund checks) I had talked to was "at the bank". "No problem" I answered. I was happy to wait till Monday to see what happens. As will all of you out there reading this.
08/14/2012, Suva, Fiji
After two days in Vunaniu, we pulled up the anchor and took off. If you believe the weather people, today was the last day before much bigger winds were set to hit the Fiji Islands. We'd waited out a day of bigger wind than what we wanted to face for the final push to Suva. Patience is the word for cruisers.
Up came the anchor at 0730 and out we went. Seas were pretty much calm. maybe a 3 foot swell at it's worst. Winds were very light. Of course, what little there was was right on the bow so sailing was out of the question. With the engine purring right along, we headed East toward Suva, the capital of Fiji.
Along the way, we saw at least one whale. A big one passing right behind our boat. Other than that, it was pretty much uneventful. We watched the harbor to see if any boats were coming out and there were none, at least until we were all lined up for entry. Then(of course) the ferry that goes to SavuSavu headed right out the pass. Our timing has always been excellent. We make sure that no one comes near the pass till we want to come through and then we know that another boat will be there to greet us.
We covered the 38 miles in just under 6 hours so our timing was just fine. We had very little wind till we were about 5 miles out and then it came up at about 10 knots where we could have actually put out a sail but it was too late by then. Oh well. Motoring is fun isn't it?
We're now at 18 06.610S 178 23.757E attached to a mooring buoy in front of Tony's house. He's the man that owns the Vuda Point Marina.
Tomorrow, we're off to explore the city of Suva!