Friday, 3 July 2015

27 Jun - 2 Jul - Matuku to Suva



Hello,

We have come back to the land of easy internet (and easy everything) but I thought it would be nice to send a quick note, as we haven't started sorting / posting our photos yet ...

Our last day in Matuku (Saturday) was productive - we stowed and prepped the boat without too much drama. Julie (Nirvana) took all four big kids for a hike around midday, so it was nice to have the solitude to prep Fluenta for sea. After Benjamin's nap, we walked into town to say our goodbyes; many of the ladies we wanted to talk to were out fishing, so it was a quick trip.

The highlight of the day was our fish dinner - we cooked the jobfish in butter with a few herbs, and it think it was one of the best fish we have eaten. It was a bit of an all-hands evolution as well: Max speared it, Johnathan filleted it, and Jesus cooked it.

By lovely coincidence, our first propane tank breathed out the last of its gas during dinner preparations, which meant that we could swap to the full tank before we started our overnight passage to Suva. It would have been *much* more inconvenient to run out of propane 24 hrs later. [Aside - we filled the tank here in Suva, 5 min from the yacht club and for less than in NZ. 24 hr turnaround to get it back]

Sunday morning saw us up bright and early. Max did all the upper deck preps, while I headed to the galley. After the last passage where I let stowing trump cooking, I was not about to leave the harbour without some easy-to-eat goodies prepared. Julie had given us one of her two remaining eggs, so we made a double batch of oatmeal pancakes (1/2 egg and generous mayo) and a quadruple batch of oatmeal muffins (1/2 egg, extra baking powder, mayo (2T/egg IAW the Boat Galley Cookbook) and yogurt). I didn't manage to cook a pot of pasta or rice (I thought I would be fine to do this simple task at dinnertime) so we ended up serving canned pasta for supper. Oh well.

Our overnight passage went reasonably smoothly - the autopilot behaved, and the winds were less than the last time (mostly under 20kts). The seas were still choppy/rolly (mostly wind waves, so even though they were not high, they were narrow and steep), which resulted in pronounced rolling of the boat. I was pleased that we didn't really have anything crashing down from its storage location even though the boat was going from -30 to +30 deg of heel - I am slowly getting the hang of "securing for sea". Both Fluenta and Nirvana left Matuku within a few minutes of each other (around 3pm - we both like to get going well before dark) and we arrived and anchored together the following morning.

We sure aren't in the Lau Group anymore - we have returned to the land of big ships, busy roads, and shopping centers! The mud-bottomed harbour has a reputation as a place where boats drag, so we are anchored near the edge of the group, and are watching out for windshifts.

We arrived on 28 Jun, which left 29 Jun for Victoria to organize a sleepover, Canada Day brunch (crepes - she woke up at 6am to start the batter), and cake decorating with Gigi, in advance of Canada Day on 1 Jul. Last year, we transitted the lagoon of Tahanea (Tuomotus, French Polynesia) on Canada Day, so we moved our celebration to the next day. This year we were ready! We hoisted our big (I mean really big) flag up the backstay, and we even raised a line of "bunting" flags up the forestay (a good knot-tying exercise for Victoria and Gigi, as the bunting needed to be tied securely to a line that was strong enough to take its weight). Our friends on Caminante hosted the three kids' boats for a potluck, where we all sang O Canada, and enjoyed Nanaimo Bars (made by Julie who is also Canadian) and Victoria & Gigi's cake.

We have been eating as many fruits and veg as possible since we arrived. The main city centre is a few minutes away by bus/taxi (20 min walk) so Jesus, Victoria, and I made the trek to bring home bananas, papayas, tomatoes, lettuce, pineapples, oranges, carrots, and even NZ apples from the grocery store. It turns out that many of the tropical fruit are not in season, so they are not as cheap as we had hoped, but at least they are available! I also managed to stock up on seasick meds (Kwells and Sealegs are our current favourites) at the local pharmacy. It was rather nerve-wracking to need to take the meds on passage but to not know if I could get more in Fiji!)

We are five kid-boats again - Exodus and Nautilus joined us today (from Kadavu) and Caminante is a welcome addition, whom we have not seen since Savusavu. Victoria and Johnathan had a great time playing a cops/robbers version of capture the flag ashore at the yacht club as dusk turned to dark tonight. I am not sure what the usual patrons of the Royal Suva Yacht Club thought of these 10 kids running around the lawn, but no one seemed too bothered. Johnathan is a quick sprinter, and Victoria is (in her own words) tiny and sneaky, so they both had a lot of fun.

The watermaker saga continues. It turns out that the Fijian company in Nadi that assured us that they could fix our Clark Pump actually does *not* tear them apart - they fix them by sending them back to Spectra USA to be overhauled (which we had been contemplating doing anyway)! Once Spectra reopens after the 4 Jul holiday, we will investigate this option; we have a line on a reputable shipping agent, so it looks like we will be sending our recently overhauled pump to the factory for another go, and then we will pick it up either here or in Nadi before we head to some of the drier islands. In the meantime, we are bringing water to the boat each time the dinghy goes ashore, and doing laundry/showers at the yacht club.

We are not sure how long we will be here ... there are a few places to visit in the city (museum, botanical gardens) and some shopping we want to do, then we will check the weather forecast, check the "kid boat location forecast", and cruise somewhere close by. It is actually funny that everyone's plans end up depending on everyone else's so we are all a bit flexible and vague about where we will be next :)

Love to all,
Elizabeth
PS While we have internet, these notes will be intermittent, but you will start to see photos on our blog in the next few days ...
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At 6/30/2015 4:48 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 18°07.56'S 178°25.31'E


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Friday, 26 June 2015

24-26 Jun 15 - hiking & feasting in Lomati

Hello!

I have skipped a couple of nights because our days have been so busy! I could write a book, but I will try to stick to the highlights here :)

The village where we are anchored in Matuku is called Lomati. There are only 7-9 families here (depending on who you ask - I think a couple of families are in Suva right now), and Lomati is one of four villages on this island. All the kids go to school in another village (where they board during the week) so it is quiet ashore with just a handful of (very friendly) grownups.

A highlight of Lomati compared to Fulaga is that Lomati has "plenty water". However, the next time you are blithely throwing laundry in the machine in your kitchen or basement, or using the toilet in your own house, picture a village where all the water is collected in a central tank, and all the washing is done at a central pair of double tubs. That being said, we are really grateful that we have all been able to completely top up our water tanks this week.

The kids and I stayed on the boat on Wednesday morning, while Max & Jesus went spearfishing. Victoria and Johnathan were writing in their journals, and I was catching up on some chores, with an intention of going to the village in the late morning / early afternoon with our accumulated laundry *while the tide was high*. Unfortunately, it took until 3pm to go ashore, so the high tide was a distant memory. Since time and tides wait for no one, we had to lug our laundry and jerry cans quite a distance to the shore (and even further on the way back). The bottom is not sand, so Max and Jesus were slipping and sliding with the extra weight (50+lbs) of the jerry cans. Tidal issue aside, the ladies were fascinated by my wringer (although they were at least as quick wringing everything in their sink by hand), and it was fun to chat with them while I processed our clothing. Another lady's laundry was soaking when I arrived, but they happily moved hers to a bucket to give me both sinks, which was very kind of them. The sun was just setting as we headed home with three big buckets of clean clothing and diapers, and the second lot of five full jerry cans. It took all our clothespins and laundry lines to peg everything, and we had to do the clothes in two lots, there were so many. There is something to be said for doing small loads every couple of days.

As you may know, I love "coincidences" ... the boys from Exodus played Risk & Minecraft with Johnathan and Victoria all afternoon while I did laundry. Of course, our kids wanted their friends to stay for dinner, which we invited them to do. It was only the next day that I found out that their parents were celebrating their anniversary, so they got an unplanned dinner for two. Neat :)

Thursday was quite a day! On Wednesday evening, we were invited to join the other kid boats on the beach at 9am for a hike; the early start was so that we could be back to the village in time for a fund raising feast that evening. It was recommended that we wear our sturdiest shoes and bring a lunch, given that it was going to take about three hours each way, but otherwise we didn't know much about what to expect. We have hiked all over the South Pacific in flip flops, but we dutifully dug lace-up shoes out of our cupboard, packed our lunch, and set our alarm for the morning.

Matuku is a volcanic island, and there are some high peaks all around us, so we expected a beautiful view; we were not disappointed. What we (I) were not necessarily expecting was that parts of the path would go nearly *straight up* (!) Benjamin and I got lots of offers from other people to carry him, but I decided that if anyone was going to carry him, it would be me (and that if anything was going to happen to him, it would be on my person ... a mother's instinct is a powerful thing!) Our guide, Jesse, was doing the hike with a foot that was missing toes and rubber boots, so anytime I got a bit concerned, I reminded myself that if he could do the hike, I could do it as well! We will post pictures eventually, but all I can say is that it was quite an endeavour! Jesse told us that Benjamin was the youngest person to do the hike :)

At one point, we stopped for a rest near an old Banyan tree (these are the ones that send shoots/roots down from above to form new portions of the trunk - the tree looks like a series of narrow poles all rooted into the ground side by side, and it had probably grown to a diameter over 20 ft). All eight big kids (and some of the grownups) scampered up the limbs to the heights of the trees while the rest of us caught our breath (watch for the photos...).

Once again, there was a neat coincidence/happenstance ... Benjamin had been on my back in his carrier for the early part of the hike (about an hour) and he didn't ask to feed during that rest break until we were just leaving the Banyan tree. Realizing quickly that he was not going to quiet down, I moved him from back to front to nurse him while I walked. It turns out that after this point the trail, which had already been constantly climbing, really began to be steep. Thankfully, there were lots of roots/trees/rocks that we could use as handholds & footholds. (Although I wasn't really uncomfortable, I decided that I would be relieved when we were all safely back in the village.) Before long, Benjamin slept (far earlier in the day than he has done in recent memory), and he slept all the way to the top and then all the way back down again to within 100 feet of the Banyan tree. It was at this point that I realized that even though it had seemed inconvenient to move him to the front to feed him on the way up, by being there, he had been protected from all the trees/branches that might otherwise have scratched him, and since he was sleeping, I could concentrate on the movements I needed to make. The remainder of the hike (ie below the Banyan tree) was still steep, but much more open. I couldn't have planned it like that if I had tried!

The hike down made the hike up look really easy. [Note to the Grammies/Grannies reading this - don't worry - our whole group of eight kids, nine grownups and Benjamin got down safely]. After enjoying the spectacular-well-worth-the-hike view of our anchorage and the neighbouring bay, and resting for a while while the others picnicked at the very peak, I decided to start towards the bottom on my own time. Slowly, I began to descend. My approach was to face towards the mountain and keep my weight on hands & feet while I moved one appendage at a time. A few minutes later, our friend Hans came trotting along, a smile on his face and walking stick in his hand, as if he were out for a jaunt on a country lane. He had left the peak to hike down with his family (who were ahead of me), but he stayed with me until we reached the Banyan tree, at times literally guiding each foot into its position for the next step. At that point, I switched handlers, and Max accompanied me for the rest of the hike. It is good to know when to go it alone and when to be grateful for assistance! Of course, both kids were well in front of us. In fact, by the time we arrived in the village, Johnathan had already swum to Exodus with one of their boys.

A benefit of hiking at the back of the pack was that Jesse, machete in hand, hiked with us. At one point he gave me a walking stick into which he had quickly carved a handle; at another point, he asked if we would like some coconuts, and when we said yes, he scrambled to the top of a nearby tree and proceeded to shake/twist/kick about a dozen coconuts down to the half-dozen of us. He showed us how to test for drinkability by tapping on their outer surface, and then opened them for us with a few slashes of the machete. They provided welcome refreshment after several hours on the trail!

The hike itself would have been enough to fill the day, but after a much-needed rest aboard Fluenta, we went ashore for the evening's feasting, a fund-raiser for their local Methodist church, that was held in the village hall where we had been so warmly welcomed the first day. Each family had cooked a dish, and all the food was laid out on a crowded buffet table - land crabs, sea crabs, several kinds of fish (curried, fried, cooked in coconut milk), clams, taro, casava, yams, green papaya salad, ripe papaya slices, and bread & butter - there was something for every taste. All the men sat in a circle around the kava bowl, the children formed their own circle in the middle of the room, and the women seemed to form two circles, one of the ones who were serving, and one of the ones who weren't. Benjamin was again in his element, running all over the room and towards the open doors. There was always someone to catch him and bring him back. There were forks & knives on the table for our benefit, but Fijian food is really best eaten with the hands as the Fijians do. We had brought Benjamin's booster chair, but I think he sat in it for a total of five minutes! He was most fascinated by a small cat, lying on his tummy to see it face to face and trying to pet it. I found out later that the ladies had offered it to Victoria as a pet, but she wisely declined. His newest word (as of yesterday) is "doggie" so he was equally thrilled by the canines running around outside. After the meal was finished, the kids (cruisers and villagers both) went outside to play hide & seek (lots of happy sounds carried into the hall, so it would seem that they had fun), the men enjoyed the kava bowl, and the ladies chatted. It was fun to get to know some of them. Jesse has three children, one of whom is a baby of 8-9 months, so I really enjoyed speaking with his wife.

I was about to write that today was a quiet day, but in fact, it was another busy day! All the kids gathered on Exodus in the afternoon to do short presentations in front of each other on something they have been studying. Victoria and Johnathan (and I) have just finished reading "Underground to Canada", so Victoria talked about the Underground Railroad. Johnathan loves to pore over the "SAS Survival Guide" (which we have as an app on the iPad) so he talked about how to make a snare for a rabbit. The other kids talked about orca whales, the lifecycle of stars, the chemical properties of carbon, and the study of volcanoes. Deanne rewarded them with chocolate and they played cards afterwards, while the moms chatted and tried to figure out where our little fleet is going from here (various directions, but all within about 100 nm for the next few weeks; the dispersion started this evening with Exodus and Nautilus departing for Kadavu).

Meanwhile, Max dug one of our old watermaker feed pumps out from a deep cubby this morning, and went spearfishing with Tim & Hans in the afternoon. I returned to Fluenta with two boys (having left two girls to bake on Nirvana) to find Max visiting with Gary, and a big "Job fish" on the back deck (I will leave it to him to tell you all about spearing it, but I understand that he was hanging out at 40 feet below the surface when he shot the fish). Gary had been surfing, and both were chilled to the bone (we thought we were in the tropics, but sometimes we wonder...). When they warmed up, Gary (a former commercial fisherman) gave Johnathan (and Max, Jesus, and me) a lesson in gutting & filleting the fish. This is the same Gary who so patiently taught Victoria about boat building a week or so ago. Soon we had jobfish in the fridge, Friday night pizza in the oven, all the kids down below playing Minecraft, and all the grownups chatting in the cockpit. Now the boys are sleeping aboard Fluenta while the girls are on Nirvana. We'll trade them back in the morning.

It is quite a sheltered anchorage here, but the winds have been a little crazy - every so often, it seems like a gust comes out of nowhere (whipping down from the heights of the mountain, I think) and we go from 0-20 kts in the space of a minute or so. This hasn't meant much sleep for Max, but after the first evening when the whole fleet re-anchored, we have all been pretty solid. Because the bay is so small and protected, there is no fetch here, so at least the boat is really calm.

We are not entirely sure of our plans from here - we will check the weather in the morning, with an intention of looking for a weather window to go to Suva (new destination, again an overnight passage) to reprovision, possibly as early as tomorrow night or the following day (although I am hoping that we can stay here a few more days, as it is so lovely). Suva is on the same island as Nadi (ie Vuda Point - water maker service center) so it may be that Max will take our Clark Pump on the bus (several hours) to bring it to the shop while I do the provisioning. Once we have our logistics taken care of, we will look at the chart and the weather to decide on our next stop.

As ever, we love you and we miss you, and we are looking forward to returning to the land of internet, phone calls, and photos.

In the meantime, we send lots of love your way,

Elizabeth
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At 6/25/2015 4:39 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.55'S 179°45.12'E
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At 6/25/2015 4:39 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.55'S 179°45.12'E

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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

20-23 Jun - Boat Preps, Passage Making, Maintenance and Sevusevu in Matuku

Greetings,

I told everyone that I would not write an email tonight - we are all still tired from the passage, and it would be wise to get an early night, but now that the boat is quiet and everyone is sleeping, I have changed my mind!

I have a lot of catching up to do :) When I last wrote, we were anchored by the sandspit in Fulaga, getting ready to depart early on Sunday morning. We timed our departure to be just before the slack tide at high water, so that there would be a little bit of current against us (this gives us steerage because the water is flowing past the rudder, but we can move over the ground slowly and under control), and after a bit of a recce to see how it looked, we went for it. The pass was pretty straightforward, and since we had been snorkelling several times, we had a better sense of its layout than we had had on our way into Fulaga. As usual, I was on the bow checking for obstacles (clipped in with my tether and wearing my lifejacket), and Max was on the helm. Even with the +/- 20 kts of wind, we could hear each other well with our headsets (this may be a theme in this email!). Once we hit the 2m swell outside the lagoon, the bow started acting like it was part of a carnival bucking bronco ride - I took off my headset and put it safely into my jacket before I knelt down to release my tether to return to the cockpit!

I must say that the next 24 hours were long. We seemed to have lost our sea legs quickly in the two weeks we were in the shelter of the lagoon. The winds were stronger than forecast, and even though it was "only a one-day passage" even the kids commented that it seemed long. I had been focused so much on stowing the boat that I hadn't done my usual pre-passage over-preparation of quick foods, which meant that there weren't the usual assortment of pasta, rice, muffins, etc to eat, and I didn't feel much like going down into the galley to prepare anything. We ate a lot of crackers!

By dinner time (after my off-watch nap), I decided that I should make up for a day of minimal offerings by cooking dinner from scratch. I would redeem myself by preparing a one-pot rice/ground beef/tomato concoction that everyone would love. This way, all the wheaty, cracker-filled bellies would have something else in them besides gluten (which can sometimes be too much of a good thing). Into the pot went the beef. Into the pot went the raw rice. That's when it hit me that the beef didn't smell quite right. Not wanting to take chances while on passage, I decided that we had better have something else for dinner. Unfortunately, that's when it could be said that my logical thinking ran out, and the rest of this story is a bit of a lesson in humility. Not wanting to pass a heavy pot up the stairs, and not wanting anyone to leave the cockpit to toss the contents of said heavy pot overboard, I took a look at it, thought to myself that it *kind of* looked like something that had already been eaten, and went into the head. As soon as I started trying to flush 2c of dried rice and 1 lb of beef out of the toilet, I had a bad feeling that I might have made a mistake... when after a few strokes, I couldn't even move the handle on our Groco head more than 1 cm, I knew that I had made a mistake. Since it was "only a one-day passage" we decided not to do anything further that night and to revert to the "bucket" method for doing our business ("we've done it before, and we can do it again" intoned Victoria). Not a way to win friends and influence people for sure, especially since now Benjamin (who had been entertained by Johnathan all afternoon while I slept) was wailing, and there was still no sign of dinner. Out came the canned pasta that I had been trying to avoid, and anyone with an appetite (not the entire crew, by any stretch - [ie I got the whole can of canned pasta. Max) at least had food.

The winds built through my watch, until by the time Max came back on watch around midnight, we were getting steadily into the high 20s/low 30s kts. The seas were between our quarter and our beam, and the motion was not especially comfortable. The one good thing was that very few things went flying - I might not have been baking on Saturday, but at least the boat was well stowed! No one got much sleep, especially since the autopilot didn't like the big winds/seas, and Max had to hand steer for a while. It started having problems just after the chartplotter lost power when I moved it, which makes us think that there might be something wrong with the computer we installed last year. Eventually we reefed to the point that the sails were smaller than our trysail/storm sail combination, and the autopilot was able to handle steering again. We probably could have arrived at Matuku much earlier than we did, but we like to wait for good light to go through passes, reefs, lagoons, etc, so we slowed down and took our time, and arrived at the pass at around 0900 on Monday morning.

Our friends on Exodus, Nirvana, and Nautilus had all made the overnight journey with us, and Exodus and Nirvana were already anchored when we arried. We were met at the pass by a local fishing boat, who led us through the pass and around the reef that fringes the anchorage. They performed this service for all the boats. Even though we had had rain, at times heavy, through the night and the wee hours of the morning, it stopped briefly as we transited the pass and the lagoon, so we had good light and visibility (so grateful for this small mercy!) We were greeted shortly thereafter by the village chief, who was very friendly, and buzzed around the anchorage in his panga, told us that we could wait until the next day for sevusevu, and that he wouldn't be there then, anyway, as he was going to a neighbouring village for several days. This was a huge relief to us, as we wanted to spend the afternoon tearing our head apart.

Exodus gave us both something to look forward to and a deadline, by inviting all the kid boats over for a sushi party that evening ... I was determined to have the head fixed, and time to shower before then!

Right after lunch, Johnathan got on the radio: "Kid boats, Kid boats, this is Fluenta, Fluenta. I'm going swimming, does anyone want to come?" Within a few minutes, Johnathan, Jesus, and most of the kids were in the water. Victoria stayed back until Benjamin was ready to nap, and the others came to find her on paddle boards. It was a bit of an exercise in eating humble pie, as I listened to these ever-pragmatic kids say to Victoria, "She put *what* into the head?? Why didn't she just pass the pot upstairs to dump overboard??" Why indeed.

Marine toilets have a plunger (piston/cylinder) system that forces the contents of the bowl through a "joker" one-way valve. When I took ours apart, the short segment from the bowl to the joker valve was absolutely stoppered with rice. Thankfully, once I removed the joker valve, the rest of the hose run seemed clear (but I wouldn't know until we put it all back together and tested it). Tag-teaming Benjamin and toilet disassembly, we cleared the components of the mess I had made, and put it back together once he was napping. I am not sure when I have felt so thankful, as when we found that water would flow through the whole system - no lasting damage, and we had planned to do a mini-overhaul/parts replacement sometime soon, anyway. I even enjoyed the camaraderie of working together on a project, as we often tackle separate jobs.

It turned out to be a good afternoon - not only did we finish with time for Victoria to bake cinnamon buns to take to Exodus, but we even had time to shower as well! (Aside - we have learned from our friends on Nautilus, who don't have a watermaker, how to shower with less than 1L of water each - we used squeeze-bottles of diluted shampoo, and then re-filled them a couple of times to rinse). Deanne and Tim had caught two skipjacks on their passage, so Deanne made delicious Poke (sounds like Po-kay), as well as a spicy mayo mix, and we rolled sushi once we all arrived. Katrien (Nautilus) brought pumpkin soup, and since most of the others are out of fresh fruit/veg, we brought along our watermelon. What a *delicious* feast we enjoyed! Even with all the visiting we had to do, the nice thing about cruiser parties after all-night passages is that everyone is tired - we were still all back to our own boats by 9pm!

This morning dawned clear and still. We had a chance to really look around the anchorage and enjoy its beauty. The island is taller (geologically younger) than many we have been on since Bora Bora or the Marquesas. There is a fringing reef, but we are in a big indentation/harbour that is surrounded by hills on three sides. All the land is green with shrubs and palm trees, and there is a constant misty cloud at the highest points (which are supposed to offer fabulous vistas if we hike to the top). After the men went spear fishing this morning (and Tim came back with a Tuna), we all got dressed in our fancy "bula" clothes and headed ashore for sevu sevu.

We are in a very welcoming village. We were led to the community hall, where some women were weaving floor mats. We all shook hands and exchanged names. After a short wait, some men came, and we sat in a circle while they performed the formal part of the ceremony. Afterwards, they wanted to know if we had time to enjoy some kava with them, and what followed was one of our most enjoyable afternoons thus far in Fiji. The kava was crushed with a lap-sized mortar and pestle, then it was scooped into a fabric bag over which was poured some water. The bag was squished around with two hands until the water was a muddy brown, and then we were ready for the ceremony. Since the chief was out of town, Gary (Nirvana) was chosen to be the chief for the day. I will write more about the actual kava ceremony later, but today's was a nice mix of traditional protocol and friendly chatter (even the kids were invited to try it, although ours declined). The village women kept weaving their mats, but they were very much a part of the socializing that went on. They also cut up some local fruit for us to enjoy.

After a couple of hours, we headed back to the boats. The dinghy steps were well high & dry, and we had a bit of a walk in the mud to reach our dinghies, but before long we were back at Fluenta. We had precious cargo on the return trip - a 5 Gal jerry jug of water :) There is plenty here, and we were shown a tap/tub that we are allowed to use for water and laundry. We will bring a jug on each trip ashore, and probably borrow some jugs to top up our tanks before we leave. Between conservation and water ashore, we are in pretty good shape, which is a relief.

It was just as well that we came back when we did. Before long, our quiet anchorage had winds howling through at 25 kts, in conjunction with a front that is passing. We decided that we were too close to the reef behind us, and re-anchored. Another boat dragged when (we think) their anchor was fouled by a non-kid boat that arrived today. They both reanchored. Just as we were setting our anchor, a second boat dragged, and finally Exodus moved forward to give Nautilus more space. Just as it was getting dark, and the winds were creeping up to 25 kts, the heaviest boat in our fleet started moving towards us - they were dragging, too, and had to re-anchor. In fact, every boat in the anchorage ended up re-anchoring. Once the front was by, the winds came down, and now it is still and calm once again. [For the sailing crowd: the anchoring here is interesting as the bottom is mud and 45 to 60' deep with reefs alongside most of the sides of the narrow bay and a large reef in the middle. The Navionics charts [on the chartplotter and iPad} show the whole area as intertidal zone and some dotted lines which hint at the inner reef plus the datum is off by at least half a mile. The C-Map charts have much more detail {that is what we have on the laptop} but I have not checked the datum yet. Before dark I went out with the RHIB and my old handheld GPS and did a mini survey so we could plot on the chartplotter the edges of the reefs and where the water shallows. That way if we need to reanchor in the night we know where the boundaries are. Of course, we always have the option of following our track that used to enter the bay to exit the bay if we think we will be safer at sea. Thankfully neither was required last night. Max]

The evening was quiet. Dinner was delicious - we had sashimi with a piece of Tim's tuna (a gift given with thanks for the dive tank that Max had brought over because the tuna had headed to the deeps and around some coral [at 80'] with Tim's spear once he was shot, and they thought they might need to dive to untangle it all), as well as albacore cooked with soya/sesame/rice vinegar with rice and canned corn. So good :) We finished with an episode of BBC's Blue Planet, which was very popular.

That's most of the news from the last few days. I hope you are well,

Love,
Elizabeth
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At 6/23/2015 7:02 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.54'S 179°45.11'E
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At 6/23/2015 7:02 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.54'S 179°45.11'E

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Saturday, 20 June 2015

19 Jun - Fond farewells

Hello,

I will try and make this short, because my desire to send some news is outweighing my desire to finish stowing for sea or sleep - but it is approaching midnight, and all three jobs need to be done. Benjamin has *just* gone to sleep, after two false starts earlier in the evening. With the saloon empty (and the floor clear) he dumped out all his Duplo, and started building stuff after everyone else had gone to sleep. Then he made his puzzle (he can now manage the rather tricky Haida Orca from Granny!), and read through all his books, carefully putting the teddy from "Good Night Teddy" into all the little pockets. After a while, he brought the book to me, but as soon as he got on my lap, he realized he had other priorities, latched on, and peacefully fell fast asleep within about two minutes.

Jesus has washed all the dishes and wiped all the counters; I have a small area of "stuff" that needs to find a home before Neptune directs it towards the floor tomorrow, then I will be able to call it a night too. It has been a steady, but productive, day of stowing each of the kids' areas in their room (they both have a bunk to sleep on now - not just a topsy-turvy storage bench). All the Lego that jumped out of their cabin and swarmed the saloon a week ago has been tucked neatly into boxes and bags at the foot of Johnathan's bed. All the books have found a home either in the book cupboard or in a bag of "spare books" beside my bunk. The school supplies are in a backpack, ready for studies in the next anchorage. During their breaks, Victoria and Johnathan "doubled" in their Minecraft world, giving us a glimpse of their ability to negotiate, cooperate, plan, build, and work together. It is kind of neat to be "flies on the wall" while they work together. They have figured out that they can use our navigational system's wifi router [Navico GoFree] to connect our iPad and their iPod. Fun.

Max and Jesus had a super-productive morning: while we were in the village yesterday, Max had discovered that the reason our autopilot had failed was not either the computer or the drive, but some plain, old-fashioned, broken bolts: there is a heavy bar fastened to the steering quadrant to which the autopilot driver is connected by a ball & socket type of joint, and the four bolts that hold it on had sheared. He and Jesus spent the morning busy with the dremel tool and the tap & die set, shaping four short bolts from the four long ones that Max had in his spares bucket. (They even found four with matching threads - at one point it looked like there would be two thread patterns among the four bolts, which would make fitting the nuts finicky in a confined space). Once the new bolts were in place, we were able to engage the auto pilot and move the rudder back and forth while at anchor. The real test will come when we are at sea tomorrow, but so far, it looks good.

We worked together to hoist the outboard and dinghy (amazing how much easier some of these jobs are with three adults), then Max & Jesus stowed & lashed the various bits of gear that live on the back deck (including a repurposed 27L lidded Lego box that Jesus and Johnathan filled with our rainwater from earlier in the week) so that the upper decks were shipshape for our overnight passage. It's pretty much as much work to leave for overnight as it is to leave for a week at sea!

Dinner tonight was "canned Hawaiian pizza" - made mostly by Victoria. She made the pizza dough, we used canned ham (not really very nice, but we have some in the cupboard), canned pineapples, canned sauce, and some grated cheese. It turned out really well, and it seemed like a popular way to use our canned ham! Victoria even got Benjamin in on the act, helping him to spread out his own piece of pizza dough (without either of them eating too much of it).

We had a delightful day in the village yesterday. Jesus had stayed with Salote and Mini after the four-village festival, and while Max stayed on the boat to work on the autopilot and prepare for the passage, the kids and I arrived "first thing in the morning" (ha!) just in time to watch him rolling rotis for lunch, while Salote cooked them over her wood stove. She has an open wood fire on a platform in the corner of her kitchen, and she cooked the rotis on a hot metal surface, dabbing them with oil on a cloth each time before she flipped them. She had hoped to teach Victoria to make them, but instead she will learn from Jesus :) Once the rotis were all cooked, we had a cup of tea together, and enjoyed some "pancakes" (more like log-shaped donuts) that she had made early that morning before anyone else was up, while Lisa (her daughter) and Oni (her niece) made some curry to go inside the rotis. We then just stayed in our circle on the floor around the table mat, carried on visiting, and enjoyed a meal of rotis together.

Benjamin was in his element, running in circles around the kitchen, and out one door and in another, accompanied by one of the grownups or one of the kids. One of his favourite games was to run outside and chase the chickens (aside - all the eggs in Fulaga are from these chickens - they lay them under various trees, etc and the village folk collect them as they need them. No hen-houses in sight.) After lunch, we shared what we had brought (sugar, milk powder, rice, and a few nice goodies), and said our goodbyes - with many tears all around - Salote and Mini welcomed us into their home, and gave generously from their hearts, and a lot of love has been shared all around. Even as we were leaving, they had wooden carvings, a stock of bananas, and some papaya for us. Perhaps because our visit is shorter than we had anticipated, I feel hopeful that this is a village that we will come back to, and that these are people with whom we will visit again. We anticipate returning to Fiji and Fulaga next season, after our visit to Tonga. I told Salote that this was my plan, but that with sailboats, nothing was certain until it had happened! Lisa has email once she goes back to Suva, so it is feasible to stay in touch (postal mail is delivered here once/month on the cargo ship). Another boat in our anchorage is on their second visit to Fulaga, so it is certainly possible to return.

Another aside - for any future cruisers planning to visit Fulaga - the villagers appreciate glass bottles (eg olive oil, wine) that they can use for coconut oil.

On our way back to the dinghy, Johnathan asked to climb a coconut tree to get a coconut. I said yes before I looked at the tree. Let's just say that I was relieved when he was safely on the ground again. He has strong little legs that hold him in place like a monkey, but I still feel nervous watching him! To make me feel better, Victoria told me that this tree was nothing - I should have seen the ones he was climbing in the island where they camped!

We re-anchored in front of the sandspit again last night, so we are more protected from the choppy waves that were getting bothersome where we were. We will leave from here first thing in the morning and head for Matuku (about 100nm) with an ETA of Fiji Monday. Sailmail has been a bit intermittent for the last new days, so emails may be sporadic.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/19/2015 7:57 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.14'S 178°32.43'W
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At 6/20/2015 6:23 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.16'S 178°32.44'W

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Friday, 19 June 2015

18 Jun 15 - Anchoring, Dinghying, Volleyball, and Singing [and autopilot repairs]

Hello!

Today held a little bit of everything. After a somewhat uncomfortable night (winds gusting above 30kts and sustained well above 20 kts), where Max slept in the cockpit, we woke to the same high winds, but the first blue skies we have seen in a few days.

Our plan for the day included a visit to the village where folks from this island and the neighbouring island were gathering for a day of volleyball, feasting, and singing, followed by an evening of dancing, more singing, and kava. Given that it was still regularly blowing over 30 kts, and that our anchorage was pretty much upwind of the village, we decided that we either had to move Fluenta, plan on a very wet and challenging dinghy ride home, or skip the event. We elected to move Fluenta.

Hoisting a dinghy to the foredeck in high wind was an exciting, but satisfying experience. Everyone had a role - Victoria with Benjamin, Johnathan on the winch, Jesus and Max maneuvering Trickle, and me on the painter/lead line. Since there were no lulls in the wind, we just had to go for it. We were so relieved when she was gently set down.

Even weighing anchor required 100% focus (and our new headsets). The wind was making the boat shear back and forth, so I needed to give Max really precise directions so we could bring the anchor chain in without too much lateral strain on the chain/windless. In the past, I have had to turn and shout to Max so I could be heard over the wind. Today, we simply talked it over in normal voices. What a change :)

With Trickle stowed, and the anchor secured, we set off for our new anchorage. Further to yesterday's saga, our alternator #2 cooperated, and we will get Alternator #1 looked at in Vuda Point. As usual, I was on the bow watching for coral heads (the charts are notoriously inaccurate here [most of the time the Navionics charts show us anchored ashore. Max]). It was pretty comfortable when the wind was behind us, but as we turned across the wind, the boat actually heeled from the lateral force. We found a great spot nearer to the village (but not in the more-crowded main anchorage) in the lee of one of the many islands that dot this lagoon. We are about the same distance as before, but we have an easier dinghy ride to the beach.

I was vaguely aiming to be in town for 1pm, but by the time we ate the yummy lunch Jesus made, and I washed some diapers (I was almost out of covers, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing - it had to be done), it was more like 2pm as we reached the village. The 4-village volleyball tournament was in full swing (men play in shorts and ladies play in skirts). Our host's daughter (Lisa) was on the winning ladies' team. Even Jesus was able to get some court time. It was a sad conversation with our hosts (Salote and Mini) when we told her that we would be leaving the island sooner than we had planned. The only bright news is that we are looking at coming back again next year.

Fulaga is visited once/month by a cargo ship that stocks the village stores. This week, there was no sugar on the ship. This is not unusual for Fiji; everyone here will wait patiently until next month for sugar. Happily, sugar was one of the items that I significantly overstocked in NZ (my approach of "if one is good, three is better" sometimes gets me in trouble!), so I will be bringing some sugar to Salote tomorrow. She is a lady with a big, lovely personality, but she was actually shy when she mentioned it - I was just glad that it came up, because we had so much, and I am so happy to share :) We will also bring some rice, some milk powder, and whatever else I can think of that might be appreciated.

The main event was a singing competition in the evening, but it was preceded by a service of lessons and singing in the afternoon. As usual, I was deeply moved by the beautiful harmonies. Many times, I have found Fijian singing to be a little loud for my taste, with many competing notes, but today, it seemed like the choir was singing choral music with rich and familiar harmonies - it was so lovely. Benjamin enjoyed the singing, but even more, he enjoyed the space of the church, and he and a little Fijian toddler kept their two big sisters busy trying to get them to stay in their pews. Eventually (on the advice of Salote) I gave up, and let him have the run of the place, as the main service was coming to an end. All the young people were broken into groups where (as I understand it) they discussed the subject of marriage, and what the bible says about it. Since it was already 5:30, we didn't speak Fijian, and we were already married, this is when most of the cruisers headed back to their boat. We left Jesus behind to enjoy the evening of singing and drinking Kava (with an invitation to stay the night as Salote & Mini's guest) and we will go exchange him for some sugar, etc, (his words :) ) in the morning.

I have mixed feelings about preparing to leave Fulaga over the next few days. I feel like we were really welcomed by our host family, and we were just on the cusp of getting to know them better. We even had plans to learn to make rotis and to have dinner together. On the other hand, our watermaker is not consistently making water of sufficient quality, and we feel an urgency to press on towards Nadi to get it fixed. (Max is going to exchange the burnt out pump for an old spare, and see if that helps, but it continues to be a liability). All but one of the kid boats is headed West this week, so we will have more visits with them to look forward to. There is every likelihood that we will visit Fulaga next year when we arrive in Fiji, so we will have the chance to renew these new friendships. Pros & cons. Ups & downs. So it goes.

When the kids and I arrived back at Fluenta, Max had just emerged from the lazarette at the head of our bed. The reason that our autopilot had stopped working was in his hands ... he had found four sheared bolts that used to hold the cross-piece for the hydraulic drive onto our steering quadrant. Thankfully, it seems that there is nothing wrong with either the drive or the computer (although the retaining pin was mangled, and it took a long time to remove - he was thankful he wasn't having to deal with it at sea). It is quite possible that the bolts were old, and they developed some kind of corrosion over time. Yeah, Max for troubleshooting it :)

Dinner tonight was albacore from the freezer (seared with soya/sesame/ginger and a shake of chile flakes) and coconut rice with carrots that Jesus had made at lunch time. For once the kids were excited by their food and jumped up and down when I offered them "one extra bite" of fish from my plate. It doesn't matter if you live in a house or on a boat - it is always a good feeling when you make food your kids enjoy!

That's about all the news of the day,
Love to all,
Elizabeth

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At 6/18/2015 4:09 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°08.36'S 178°32.99'W
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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

17 Jun - Rain! Water! Showers!

Greetings :)

Today started out like a pretty typical day - a little grey and overcast, but not unpleasant. The tide was too high for yoga, so Max took the opportunity to take his paddle board out for a long tour of the lagoon, while I stayed on Fluenta with the kids. This normalcy lasted for about an hour, and then Jesus noticed a heavy, dark, cloud a short distance up wind of us. We closed the hatches, and waited for what would typically be a 15-min shower ... we were a little off in our estimation, and when the heavens opened, it carried on raining (bucketing) for well over an hour. At one point, it was raining so hard that we could hardly see the other boats in the anchorage. Of course, at this moment, Max was at the farthest point of his circuit, so he had a good workout as he paddled about a mile against the wind (20+kts) to come home!

We already had some buckets on deck, so at first we just took advantage of the unlimited-water shower. Everyone quickly changed into a swimsuit, grabbed some shampoo, and headed onto the upper decks. It was cold! Somehow, I think we had imagined that tropical rainshowers would be a warm, pleasant temperature, but we were so wrong. That being said, we all knew that the resulting feeling of being clean for the first time in ages would be worth some shivering, so we persevered. It did strike my funny bone that I was under the original "rain shower" showerhead, but it wasn't exactly the spa experience that one might picture.

Not knowing how long the rain would last, we quickly turned our attention to collecting precious water. Both Victoria and Johnathan got right in on the act, and every pot, bowl, and bucket they could find was soon set out on the deck. Some of the water came directly into their containers, and they proudly collected it as drinking water; some was tipped in from the structures on the boat (bimini, mast, boom) and we have set it aside for washing. Setting up the tarp that came with the boat (and was already fitted with hose outlets) has always been a little too far down the daily chore list, so we improvised. Our best results came from tipping the water that pooled in the bimini into my big 8Gal washing tubs. In the end, we probably had 15-20 gal in total. At the rate we have been making water this week (2-3 Gal/hour) this equates to a lot of watermaker time!

It was such fun to see how the kids took on the water collection, ignoring their shivering as they ran to the foredeck to check their pots and fill their bottles, and keeping their eyes open for vessels that were about to overflow. Even Benjamin was running around naked, pouring water into buckets. They were proud and excited when Max emerged from the storm to show him what they had accomplished. They were rightfully proud of how much we collected. They were also grateful for hot chocolate and soup when we all came downstairs :)

After the rain eased slightly, our friend Gary (Nirvana), who is a boatbuilder by trade, came by to look at the bulkhead/shroud arrangement that has been under scrutiny since Mexico (it has done about 10000 nm without issue since the last work was done on it, but we always like to get another professional opinion). The best part of his visit (for me) was watching his conversation with Victoria after he had finished discussing the bulkhead with us. She showed him the design for her 27 foot boat that she has been working on, and he gave her some ideas about construction materials and processes. As they chatted, it seemed that her whole being just glowed. It struck me that he gave her the ultimate gift that a grownup can give a child - he took her and her plans seriously, and gave her some real possibilities to consider. He described some highly technical processes in ways that she could visualize, and she has drawn a schematic in her design sketch book of what she learned. Delightful!

Our intention was to move to the village anchorage today, but with the rain and wind (oh, and the alternator that didn't cooperate ... we had a funny smell when we started the engine, so now we will be running on our backup alternator - thankfully we have two already mounted) we decided to stay put tonight. We may move tomorrow, or we may go to the village (for some festivities) with our Dinghy (RHIB). (Aside - Trickle is snuggly tied up to Fluenta, and we will wait for the next anchorage (and calmer days) to sail her. She doesn't like much over 10-15 kts, and Victoria's favourite wind is 7 kts).)

On the more mundane side, I managed to bake the last of our bananas into some more muffins this afternoon. We had two full stalks two weeks ago, and now we have used them all, with not too much wastage. It's always a race against time when we have a stalk of bananas on the aft deck! I figured that everyone would appreciate the hot oven taking the chill off the air. Dinner was fresh fish cooked in butter (Sweet Lips) and made into ceviche (Parrot Fish), served with rice and carrot sticks. Gary had caught some fish when he and Max went out yesterday, and he was kind enough to share with us. Delicious!

The winds have stayed strong all afternoon and evening (25-30 kts). We watched a video together and now the boat is quiet (well except for the wind humming in the rigging and rattling things on deck.) Max is sleeping in the cockpit in case he has to respond to anything, and Benjamin is fast asleep on our bunk. Time to call it a night!

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W

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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

16 Jun - What a difference a day makes

Hello

The main subject of discussion on Fluenta right now is our water supply, but it seems like we have a way-ahead. We will join the migration of kid boats west from Fulaga on the weekend. If our water maker hadn't acted up, we would likely have stayed here while everyone left (and the lagoon, while lovely, would have seemed very empty). Instead, we will island hop to Nadi (sounds like "Nandy") where we think we can get our Clark pump fixed. After that, we are not sure what the season will hold. The nice thing is that no matter what, we are in Fiji, so it will be beautiful wherever we decide to go :)

We used our satphone and called a Fijian company today, and got the sense that *of course* they could fix our pump (ie what a ridiculous question - this is what they do! [of course we need balance expectations as much of the marine industry is happy to appear confident to take on work and then charge an hourly rate to figure out if they really can fit it. Max]) We used our old feed pump for several hours this afternoon (bright sunshine had topped up our battery voltage, so the pump was happy) and by some miracle [okay, perhaps not a miracle but rather physics - the new pump burnt out its pump head as the Clark pump problem was causing the pressure to spike so high that the cut off switch would open. The old backup pump is not strong enough to reach the cut off point so it appears safe. However, it is too weak to get good quality water (less than 500 ppm TDS) unless the voltage is high enough. We have sufficient gasoline to run our little Honda generator to keep the voltage above 13.0 when the sun is not shinning or the wind is not blowing. We also have a spare old pump buried in a deep locker. Max] , we made water instead of burning it out like we did the other pump. It seemed like the needle on our gauge moved ponderously slowly, but at 2 to 3 gal/hour we made some progress (our usual rate is 8-12 gal/hr)

During my yoga practice this morning, I found out that two friends whom we thought were both leaving today had elected to wait a few days for a different weather window - hooray! By the time they go, we think we will be ready too, so it looks like we will have friends in our anchorage for another while :)

On the subject of yoga - we are anchored next to a sand spit that creates a 90 deg angle with the rest of the beach. At low tide, we can practice right on the sand. I have done yoga in some lovely places over the last three years, but I think this is the most beautiful yet, and today was especially spectacular, because the sun finally came out and coloured the sand white and the water turquoise. Photos to follow once we have internet!

Max, Jesus, and the kids dinghied over to the pass in the afternoon for a (likely) last snorkel before we go. Max & Jesus went spearfishing [the band on my new to me but quite old spear gun broke so no fish. I did see a large formation of inqusitive eagle rays and a big sea turtle. Max], while the kids snorkelled with one of three boats that moved over to the pass anchorage. Benjamin slept the entire time they were gone, and I had a welcome break to get some chores & baking done (we are almost through the stock of bananas ... today we featured banana oatmeal muffins (regular and mini), of which I think Benjamin ate 6 after he woke up). We capped off the day with a sunset fire on the beach. Johnathan found himself invited to Nirvana for dinner and a movie, so the rest of us had a quick meal of chicken/rice/veg before the boat went quiet. I am getting used to washing dishes in salt water!

Short and sweet. Nice to feel like we are back on an even keel and we have a plan :)

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W

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