The Rose--Cruisers' Christmas
11 April 2015 | Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji
Dear Friends and Family, April 10-14, 2015
Sa tau bi na uca.It is raining heavily. But even more importantly the word "tau" means everything is falling quietly into its proper place.
Yesterday the sun set very large and golden into the sea. There was a big cloud with round scalloped edges just like the clouds kindergarteners draw sitting two fingers breadth above the horizon and the setting sun hovered between cloud and sea drenching the entire cloud in golden light. To the north was a line-up of rain squalls trailing moisture diagonally to the sea surface and all this humidity also reflected the golden light so that the whole of the world in that direction was soft spun gold. In juxtaposition the steep mountainous islands dotting the horizon stood black as ink blots, unmoving and immovable in the stream of time.
Everywhere in the marina excitement crackled in the air. It was Cruisers' Christmas-- the day the cargo ship load arrived. The freighter had arrived 2 weeks ago but the containers had been held up in customs and everyone was eagerly waiting. The tense anticipation was reminiscent of children waiting for the adults to finish Christmas breakfast before being allowed to open their gifts. But now finally the delivery had happened and in minutes boxes were scattered everywhere and stacked head high on the decks of some boats which were already perched high up on stands. Boxes were being passed up steep ladders and balanced across gangways. Boxes were being split and ripped, tossed aside empty and stacked for recycling. Some were deliveries of hazardous products like varnish and paint and pyrotechnics which cannot be flown in. Other boxes were heavy with specialized mechanical parts for boat engines or delicate navigation instruments or sails. Some even contained bulk size cartons of foodstuffs which cannot be found here-simple things like Bisquick or Cheerios or brownie mix which some people apparently cannot or at least do not want to live without. People were sporting wide grins and carrying armloads of goodies to their boats from the big communal drop off site.
Our packages also arrived and we now have all we need to finish those few remaining chores that have held us on land. We have a bit of caulking to do, some instruments to connect at the head of the mast, lots of paint and varnish and caulking and hosing to stow-- though we have no idea where it will fit. This is the first such delivery we have received and I must say it is bitter sweet. It is wonderful to have so many things which are unavailable here and have been inaccessible to us for years now but it also means the boat is heavily laden and that feels a bit of a burden. We were thinking we would be ready to "splash" first thing after the weekend. That was before I called to have the mainsail delivered. Though the other sails are all either up or stowed, we saved the mainsail for last because once we put it up we can no longer enjoy our shade tarp over the cockpit which makes the heat and rain so much easier to bear. That last sail has been at the sailmaker for 8 months and we had already paid for the repairs months ago when all the work had supposedly been completed but oddly enough today when I called to check on the sail which John had arranged to be delivered, they realized it had been inspected and the needed work detailed but never done. And now the weekend is imminent and nobody will start anything until Monday morning. Well perhaps we will be delayed a couple more days. That leaves me leisure time to study a bit more about where we are going and make more photo charts of the uncharted areas.
Cruisers enjoy a great deal of autonomy in Fiji. We have access to almost everywhere. The only requirement is that we email weekly to let customs know where we are and what our ever evolving plans are for the near future. At the beginning of the cruising season we request a cruising permit which is written in Fijian and assures the villagers that we have checked in with health and biosecurity and customs and immigration and are legal to cruise the islands. Some of the villages take this very seriously and occasionally request that we show them our cruising permit. We are strictly forbidden to leave the marina even for a day sail without it. Today was also the day I realized that although all our other paperwork was up to date and complete, I had completely forgotten to file the request for a new cruising permit. The processing for the permit takes 2-3 days and once again the weekend has arrived so nothing will even start until Monday morning. Sometimes it's hard to realize there probably is not a conspiracy at work blocking our every attempt to sail off into freedom. But the truth be known, despite my longing to escape, we probably have plenty to keep us busy until then.
In light of all the delay factors, John was able to fly out for a very brief visit to dear friends in New Caledonia which will include a 6 hour stop in Vanuatu on tomorrow's return. I look forward to his report on the conditions in Port Vila following the devastation wrought by category 5 cyclone "Pam". We have heard much about the desperate situation there with deforestation and decimation of villages, homes and water supplies. His first hand experience will help us make decisions about our cruising season which we had wanted to spend partly in Vanuatu. A small group of cruisers set out a few days ago carrying supplies and offering transportation to humanitarian aid workers heading from Port Vila to outlying islands only to be turned back by another nasty low pressure area blocking their way. The cyclone season isn't officially over until May and even then the weather is as they say "a combination of pattern and chaos". In other words anything can happen at any time and the weather people can only forecast the odds which may or may not become the realities.
So here I am alone on The Rose packing and stowing and stowing some more, shopping and thinking, chatting with passing cruisers and making lists for tomorrow and photo charts for future use and finally listening to the song that John and I dance to every night but not tonight. We are lately always so much together and mostly in such a small space and also in the same thinking space, so often grappling with pieces of the same plans and pondering the same problems to be solved, that it is now very odd to be apart┬...even a few days.
Hopefully this is the last of the logistics logs. Everything is about to shake itself right into place and the sea is waiting and the islands are waiting and The Rose is waiting and who knows what adventures are waiting to be experienced and then to be told. Until then┬....All is well.
Pat s/v The Rose, still in the pit, Fiji News Flash ** Insights are gained-The next day┬...
Our boat is now so full of stores and repair stuff in preparation to "go remote" for a few months that there is barely a crack or crevice left available. I have put all but one thing of an impossible to manage pile away in The Rose's wonderful storage nooks and crannies. It's raining so hard it is roaring and it's so grey that at midday it feels like the sun went down or never came up. But of course if that were indeed the case, it would not be so oppressively hot! I am eating a refried bean sandwich and sipping a very lovely cup of cardamom tea and glaring reproachfully at a 3 foot diameter loop of stiff, fat, inch and a half sanitary waste hose wondering where to stow it. It looks like it would be about half the length of our boat if I uncoiled it. It's too stiff to tuck into any compartment I know of on board. Perhaps I could string it along the ceiling under the liner. Not likely. Hmmm... Perhaps I could stuff it up the mast. Or maybe I could work it into a decorative knot arrangement around the mast in a nautical fashion. Maybe not. 'Just one more impossible problem which will fall into place.
It's the thought of cruising Fiji and beyond with a huge loop of white sewer piping affixed to the stern which motivates me toward new levels of creative problem solving. And it is the buckets of rain pouring down which make me thankful for the delays of sail repairs and cruising permits which make me here rather than out there beating into a very wet and blustery low which would have been our destiny this day if all had gone "as planned" and stayed on schedule. I really must call the sail repair people and thank them. Life is a mystery constantly unfolding. This is why I don't pray for outcomes because I would have prayed to be on our way and look where that would have landed me. I don't presume to be the omniscient conductor. I just marvel at the execution and try to remember that the universe is unfolding just exactly as it should if I will just be patient and notice.