Greg, the troubleshooter
We arrived in Savusavu two weeks ago. It feels like a month. I have acclimatized and gotten to know the town. Greg has barely left the boat. Lyn Pardee had an Unstoppable Boat. I've got an Unstoppable Greg.
After isolating the failed battery and connecting to shore power, we were able to relax a bit, sleep, clean up the boat, sleep and party with others on the Bula Rally. I slept, Greg spent most nights worrying about the worst case scenario. One of his few fears is being stuck in a marina watching others sail away. Fortunately, the Bula Rendezvous festivities took place while we were waiting for the circuit board so there was lots of socializing, dinners, market trips, geology tours and a visit to a cocoa farm / chocolate factory. The festivities ended with an outrigger canoe race between cruisers which my team won thanks to Tom and Susan on Nomad who had been US national canoe race champions.
Meanwhile, the circuit board was defying supply chain/ shipping issues and making its way to Fiji. Rapture was doing fine on three batteries and Greg threw caution to the winds, literally. We decided to sail to Namena, a no-take marine sanctuary three hours sail from Savusavu.
It was a lovely sail over. All systems were working and Rapture was fast and smooth on a flat sea. Greg wasn't exactly happy but his brow was smoothing out. He was moving. Anchoring was not easy. Two other boats were already there dispensing valuable and questionable advice. After 3 tries we finally managed to set the hook down into sand in 60 feet of water just 200 yards from the shore.
Namena is breathtaking. The anchorage is lined with high cliffs covered with native forest and invasive vine where hundreds of shorebirds roost at night. In the morning and evening they are all wheeling and squalling lit by the low rosy sun. The snorkeling right off the back of the boat was fabulous. The corals are not colorful but they are abundant and healthy, populated by a wide diversity of fish, small but plentiful. White tip reef sharks patrol the edges of the reef.
We spent two days snorkeling the reef and then we heard that the circuit board had arrived in Savusavu and Greg couldn't wait to get back and started on the battery project. The next morning early we got the boat prepped for departure and went to start the engine. Nothing happened! The ignition switch did not engage. Now what?
This has happened before and Greg had a spare ignition switch but when he wired it up, it didn't work either. Fortunately, he had an emergency start switch installed some time ago wired directly from the solenoid to the starter motor so he had a way to start the engine. After running a few tests to no avail, he decided to head back to Savusavu and solve the problem at the dock.
The next day, Friday, was frantic. The lithium battery technician, Jamie, in NZ, was only available on Friday as he was flying to Australia for the weekend. At 9:00am on the dot, Greg called him and the installation of the circuit board began. Step by step, monitoring progress with shared photos, Jamie guided Greg through the process. Jamie's ability to communicate clearly and Greg's ability to grasp the idea and follow the procedure was truly impressive. Within a couple of hours, Greg had disconnected and removed the damaged board and connected all the jacks, butt connectors and crimps, pushed all the right buttons in the right order, rebalanced the charges on the batteries and Rapture was back to full power.
Time for a celebration, but no, Greg was unstoppable. Without eating or drinking, he went straight into solving the ignition issue. By now, the sun was high and the lazarette where he had to work was like a sauna. I did my part slapping tools, screws, nuts and fuses into his hand on demand. He and his voltmeter tested all the wires, relays and solenoids with inconclusive results. He tried jumping the starter motor but despite the salty language, he hadn't found the problem. It was time to feed him. While we were eating, John Martin, the leader of the Bula Rally dropped by and recommended a local electrickery wizard who, amazingly, agreed to come by on Saturday morning even though the regional rugby play off was taking place at the high school. Rugby is a big deal in Fiji. The country even printed a special 7 dollar note to commemorate Fiji winning the 7-a-side international contests in 2020 (yellow) and again in 2021 (blue).
Pillay arrived on schedule on Saturday. Listening intently to Greg he bypassed repeating tests, and squeezed himself into the critical area. After about half an hour of grunts and puffs "Ah ha," he said, "a broken wire". The serial killer, Corrosion, had done it again.
Pillay removed a hidden relay solenoid with its broken wire and went home for lunch returning promptly having disassembled the solenoid, polished up the contacts and sealed the exposed wires with a layer of epoxy. Greg did not have a spare for this specific relay solenoid, but now has one on order sourced outside Fiji. Repairing and refurbishing equipment is critical in a country with limited resources. Pillay wired it all back together and the engine fired up faultlessly. Problem solved in 3 hours at minimal cost. As an added benefit Greg also knows a lot more about the ignition/starter system on Rapture.
Pillay, the electrickery wizard
While all this was happening, I was, once again, provisioning the boat for the next adventure. The town is one long, main street, semi-paved, with all stores within 10 minutes walk from the marina. First, the butcher where the meat is deep frozen and vacuum packed, meaning I had to rush back to the boat to get it into the freezer as soon as possible. Next trip, market, where I bought by the heap (no scale), kumquats, knobby green lemons, papaya, passion fruit, bokchoy, long beans, small imperfect tomatoes preferably green ,coconuts and hot habanero chilies. Unable to carry more, it was back to the boat to unload. Now, the supermarket: paper towels, toilet paper, tonic, flour, snacks, carrots (imported) and kiwis. Back to the boat with a stop at the bakery for sliced whole wheat bread to freeze and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. The last trip was with Greg to a fancy, expensive import store called Sea Lovers where we bought blue cheese, prosciutto, white NZ wine and dried basil. Now we're ready to leave the dock.
We're headed to Taveuni, the garden island, and the Somosomo strait with one of the best snorkeling/diving sites in the world.