02 October 2021 | 17 46.369'S:177 22.935'E, Port Denarau marina , Fiji
17 46.369 S
177 22.935 E
Weather; overcast, wind n/a, waves n/a
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ISLA, YOU ARE GROWING UP MUCH TOO QUICKLY!
HOPE YOU HAVE A FUN FILLED BIRTHDAY.
So it's time to get my act together and catch you up with the past couple of weeks as we prepare to set sail for the final leg of our trip. We are heading out from Fiji today and bound for Brisbane. We expect it is going to take us between 10 and 14 days but as always it will depend on what weather patterns we encounter along the way. We had originally planned to leave a week ago but we were thwarted by a weather window slamming shut just as we were preparing to leave, the system that went through would have seen us battling high winds and even worse, high wave heights and we didn't want to make the final trip one that we would regret so we hung around in Fiji for the extra week. But let's back track a bit and fill you in on how we have spent the time here in Fiji.
As you know we arrived here with a few things that needed fixing and our priority was to get all of those things sorted out as soon as possible. After going through the checking in process and getting our Blue Lane clearance flag which gave us leave to travel around Fiji if we wanted to, our first objective was to find the businesses that could sort out our issues as much as possible. At the marina there is an awesome business, Revmarine electronics, which was our first stopping off point, the owner (Rev) is a wonderful man who managed to source just about everything we needed to fix stuff. He organised for a new chain plate to be manufactured within days of our arrival Ð the photo of the new chain plate is in the gallery (along with other fixed stuff) under the Fixing stuff in exotic places album. So that was the first thing out of the way, once we had the plate in hand Gerry took apart his McGyvered fix and fitted the new plate, it looks like the real thing and at least it
is now safe to use, but I have to say that Gerry's temporary fix was just great, he did a really good job on it and I'm sure that it would have got us home to Australia if the need had arisen. So with that out of the way Gerry asked Rev if he knew of anywhere we would be able to find brushes for our water maker after having explained the difficulty we had getting them and at the same time we had Rev look at the hydraulic boom panel and explained about the leaking hydraulic fluid. Gerry and Rev both think that a new seal kit will fix the problem, the next problem is finding the right kit for the particular model that we have and to this end they both began searching for a supplier. Gerry won the race and found the supplier who is based in France, via Australia ( of course why wouldn't they be) anyway he arranged on line to have the kit sent to us here in Fiji by express mail. If you are thinking uh oh, that doesn't sound good, you have hit the nail on the head. The parcel has
been in the system for about a week now, it was supposed to arrive here into Fiji on the 28th Sept, as of today we are still waiting. We have tracked it to Australia and from there it should be winging its way to here but we will be long gone. Rev's address is the delivery address so he is going to mail it back to us in Australia once it gets to him and then we will find someone to sort it out in Australia. On the plus side though Rev managed to find someone to manufacture the brushes that we needed for our water maker and there wasn't an 8 week lead time, we had them in hand by the end of the week! Gerry has installed them and we have been running them in ( apparently they need a bit of wearing down to work properly). So our water maker has been run on a daily basis but we have discarded all of the water that we have made as we don't really want to be keeping water that has been made in a marina (too many nasties in the marina water) but once we are under way and out in op
en water we will be making our own water once more Ð winning on that score! So on to other stuff that needed fixing, I'm sure I have mentioned that our sails have taken a bit of a battering and needed some attention. We were directed to a sail maker and briefly told him what we thought needed doing Ð new sacrificial edges to both the Yankee (jib) and the staysail, a new or a fix of the cringle on the main and repairs to some of the slides on the main, patching of the sail bag where the lazy jacks had rubbed a tear at one point, new lazy jack line on one side plus we needed new zippers in one of the cockpit cushions and in the front window of the Dodger. All this was before we had chance to take down the sails and have a look at them. The sail maker said he would come back in 2 days to collect the sails etc, giving us a chance to get them down and ready to go. The next morning we started off early and took down the biggest sail Ð the main, luckily there was no breeze at th
is point and we managed to get it down on the deck, quickly inspected it finding nothing else major that needed attention, dropped the entire sail over the side of the boat and on to the dock where we got the sail flaked and folded and into the sail bag ready to go. One down and two to go! At this point we were briefly interrupted by one of Rev's workers who had come by to check out something on the hydraulic panel. Once he had gone it was back to the job at hand, getting the sails down. Unfortunately by now there was a slight breeze kicking in and stupidly Gerry chose to take down the easier sail of the two, the stay sail. Down it came with a bit of tugging and holding firmly in place until it was safely on the deck, then as we did with the main, we checked it over quickly noting that a few places needed stitching reinforcing but otherwise it was just the sacrificial that needed replacing. We dropped this one over the side of the boat and onto the dock where we managed to
flake and fold it neatly and tie it up, there is no bag for this sail, ready for the off. So now we come to the stupid bit, taking down the Yankee. The wind had picked up, not blowing a gale but a little gusty to be taking down sails in. Gerry couldn't be persuaded to wait and do it first thing in the morning when it would be calmer, he wanted it over and done with so we pulled out the sail ready to lower it to the deck and began sailing in the dock. I held on to the bottom edge of the sail and the sheet whilst Gerry attempted to get it down onto the deck, it was comical for anyone that was watching I'm sure and it reminded me of the children's movie called "UP" where a house lifts off under the lifting power of a heap of balloons. As the sail began to drop towards the deck and I couldn't control it enough it dropped towards the water into the slip next to us, I scrambled to try and keep as much out of the water as possible whilst Gerry continued to let the damn thing down.
We managed to get it all down onto the deck but there was no way in the world we were going to be able to drop it over the side of the boat and flake it and fold it neatly like the other two sails so we pushed and poked it into some sort of rolled up shape and then stuffed it as hard as we could manage into the sail bag, it wasn't pretty! We did get a brief look at the sail and noted that the cringle on this one was wearing through the fabric, much like the one on the main but not quite as bad yet, it would need seeing to sooner rather than later to prevent a future disaster when we were underway. So now that the sails were down there was just one last thing to get ready, the sail bag and lazy jacks needed to be taken down and bundled up, this was just a case of sliding the whole lot out of the boom and rolling up, again it wasn't a pretty job but at least it was ready to go when the sail maker came. We noticed one more job that needed attention once the main was removed
, the car that carried the sail along the boom track was in need of new rollers as they were worn through completely and the car wasn't moving as it should, this job went to Rev who had new rollers made and returned to us within 2 days. Unfortunately Gerry had given him the size specs and the guys had made them exactly to Gerry's specs which turned out to be slightly too big so Gerry spent a couple of hours trimming the new rollers to a slightly smaller size. Once that was done the car was refitted inside the boom and now runs smoothly along it. Once the sails had gone the sail maker said he would send the canvas worker to have a look at the Zipper work we needed doing. Cutting a long story short, we took down the dodger so that the middle window could have a new zipper put in and we asked the canvas man to move the zippers on each side of the exit windows as we hadn't been able to do them up since having the dodger replaced in Cartagena. We had the canvas back within a day
and a half but then the man had to take away the doors as he had completely replaced half of the zipper in the exit and needed to replace the opposite part in the door. Well in the end we had exit doors that now close once more so all was good on the canvas front, oh and he replaced the broken zipper on the cockpit cushion. Our main fixing jobs were well in hand by now and we could concentrate on doing the tidying up and getting ready for the final passage, read a whole lot of cleaning and clearing out of rubbish plus topping up of oils, food and changing out of filters. The sails were back by the end of the week and the guys that delivered them were supposed to help put everything back up (including going up the mast to re secure the lazy jacks in place) however they came late on the Friday and promised to return on Monday. Now I'm sure you will realise that Gerry wasn't going to wait for a whole 2 days to put the sails back up so first thing on the Saturday morning we we
re out on deck and niggling at each other as we undertook the job of putting the Yankee and staysail back up in a light breeze. I did the usual job of feeding the sail into the slot as Gerry winched the sail up each forestay. Again we were battling against sailing in the dock and the Yankee was doing its best to try and knock me off my feet and into the water but we eventually got it in place and furled away. The job on the cringle was well done, we are very happy with it and it will certainly last the distance. I'm not so happy about the sacrificial though as the sail maker didn't have enough fabric to re do them entirely so he, with Gerry's agreement, just patched them. There is also the issue of the fact that he didn't have the same colour that was on there originally so the patching has been done in white, it's OK but not what we wanted. The main sail and sail bag we left until the next day, starting early in the morning when the wind hadn't woken up yet. Putting the sai
l bag and lazy jacks up came first this was the bit that Gerry wanted the sail guys to do as it meant a mast climb and a lot of fiddling around. The sail bag was first slid into place along the boom then out came the bosun's chair and winch handle and we tried to arrange the lazy jack lines as they are meant to sit. Gerry got himself ready to climb the mast but whilst we were at it he thought he would run a new topping lift line and 2 new flag halyards (one of ours had broken and the other was on its last legs). So the mast climb/winch began with a full run to the top where the topping lift was attached, then it was a lowering of the baby elephant down to the level of the spreader where the lazy jacks needed to be attached. First the port side was run and I had to tie it off at the deck level so that it didn't vanish back up to the spreader, the same process followed on the starboard side then Gerry asked to be lowered back down to the deck which I did. Once he was at deck
level he realised that he hadn't done the flag halyards despite having them with him and ready to go. A few salty pirate words followed and then it was another climb/winch up the mast to the level of the first spreader and the flag halyards were replaced in short time, then it was back down to earth and on to getting the main sail in place. The main is a big heavy sail and it took all of both our combined strengths to get the battens inserted in their pockets ( these are made of fibreglass and the photo of Gerry in the gallery shows him wearing gloves as the fibreglass takes no prisoners and is a bitch to keep out of your skin) then the sail itself into the track with much heaving and pushing and niggly instructions and answers but eventually it was fully in place. We now had to raise it part of the way to get it to flake down inside the sail bag. At this point Gerry let out a groan as he realised that he had twisted the lazy jacks the wrong way around when he put them thro
ugh the turning block at the top, this meant another trip up the mast, honestly 3 times in one day is more than anyone needs but it had to be done or we couldn't put the sail away. Back into the bosun's chair, heave, climb, yell, heave climb yell and eventually he was at the point where he could adjust the lines. Reluctant to let him down again? You bet, but he was just as peeved about it as I was so I let him back down to the deck and we hoisted the sail enough to be able to run the 2 reefing lines through their respective cringles and then got the sail to drop back down and into the sail bag. The last bit was the zippering up of the bag which went according to plan. We now had all three sails back in place; hopefully both reefing points on the main are correctly rigged but only time will tell. For some unknown reason Gerry tested the deck light at some point in the next couple of days, it didn't work so he needed to go up the mast yet again to find out why, we are getting
to the point where the climbing and winching up the mast is a regular daily exercise, anyway he came back down with the light in hand, it was completely corroded through at the back, no wonder it didn't work! Our first point to check was the local marina store (it's really a glorified fishing sport shop with a couple of bits thrown in for good measure, not a proper chandlery with anything that would be useful) as to be expected they didn't have a replacement light so it was back to Rev once more Ð if anyone knew where to get one it would be him. A day later and we had a perfect replacement light, and what is hopefully a last mast climb/winch to fit the new light in place and test it, once we established that it was working properly it was time to have a beer and pack the bosun's chair away for good.
We had now finished all of the repairs and maintenance stuff and were ready to leave Fiji, unfortunately the weather gods didn't agree and held us captive here for a further week. In many ways it was good as we finally got to do nothing and relax, the sad bit was that the country is still under quite restrictive rules due to Covid and most places remain shut or on limited opening and no gathering of more than 10 people, mask wearing is mandatory, temperature checks and contact tracing details recorded if you go into anywhere. So what did we do in the week we stayed? Big fat nothing, we didn't leave the port area at all, stocked up in the local mini mart, cooked up stuff on the boat for the onward trip, read our books , drank as much alcohol as we could manage and watched a couple of Netflix series. We would have loved to go inland and explore but there was nothing open and nowhere to go to so we missed out. Talking to some of the yachties on the dock who have spent a couple
of season here, it would have been a great place to spend some time and explore but we were just in the right place at the wrong time.
So finally the weather window has begun to open up and there are at least 4 boats looking to make their way to Brisbane as of today. We are not fans of a flotilla but these other guys want to be in touch so we have all set off together after being cleared out by customs and immigration early this morning. We refuelled yesterday to make sure that we have full fuel tanks as we are bound to find the wind is on our nose all the way and we have to motor sail, we took 145 gallons to top off the tanks, hopefully it is nice clean fuel and won't cause us any of the problems we had with the fuel from Panama!
We set off at 10am and have just this moment cleared the end of the reef, some 14 miles from the marina so we are now out in the open water, the wind is of course on our nose and we are motor sailing doing a paltry 4 knots at present. The other guys, 2 catamarans and a wind vained monohull are all travelling at about the same speed as us, there will be a bit of a diversity of course as there are 3 different ideas about which way it is best to traverse through New Caledonia but I'm sure we will all be arriving in Brisbane around the same sort of time.
My final bit of good news is that Sherard, (the mad single hander who lost his auto pilot on route but continued on to Australia from Tahiti without stopping) has been in contact and is safely ensconced in hotel quarantine for 14 days after spending 26 days alone at sea, he is fully vaccinated and had a negative PCR test the day of leaving Tahiti please can anyone enlighten us as to the particular science that the health department is following here because we just can't see it. Thank you to everyone who kept him in their thoughts, vibes and prayers for a safe arrival Ð it worked!
Well that's the catch up for now, I'll be back with a position report and any exciting bits of information tomorrow.