Friday, 24 October 2014

Some Initial Photos from Suwarrow

 
Fishing with Harry the Ranger

Shark Feeding. On the windward side outside the lagoon.


More sharks
The sad site of a sailboat that was wrecked here a few weeks ago. 




The "Perfect Reef" about 3nm from the anchorage.











More Penrhyn Photos


Benjamin was asked to stay in Penrhyn

More fish !

Liz and Kura


Last sit in the hammock before we depart Penryhn. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Passage Preps and Snorkelling

[a letter from 13 Oct 14. We are on passage now bound for Nieu]

Greetings!

I wasn't going to write to you tonight, but I decided that since I might be feeling a bit off by this time tomorrow, it might be wise to send a note now :)

We went snorkelling this morning at a reef about 3 nm from the anchorage. As we were buzzing across the lagoon in the dinghy, I wondered if perhaps it might have been wiser to have chosen a spot a little closer to the boat, but when we arrived, it was definitely worth the trip! In the kids' words, the reef was like a "mini lagoon" within the lagoon. The water was *warm* and crystal clear. There were loads of fish, and the coral structures were like dark mounds on a clear sandy bottom (perhaps this is what folks mean by a "coral garden"? The coral heads looked like underwater bushes in a manicured garden). Even Benjamin got in on the act, and swam with us for a few minutes. What a lovely way to finish our visit here in Suwarrow.

In the afternoon, we took a break from stowing the boat and preparing for sea to go ashore with Johnathan's pinata. He hung it himself from a tree, and the kids took turns hitting it with a baseball bat until it finally sprayed its contents all over the ground. They had such fun. We also took the opportunity to hang our "Fluenta" painting with all the other pennants and messages in the "Suwarrow Yacht Club". It was an honour to hang ours next to the flag from our friends and mentors on SV Totem, who visited here in 2010 :) We also enjoyed looking around the room to see the messages from some of our other friends who visited here last year and this year. What a neat tradition!

The boat is nearly ready for our passage to Niue. We have a few more chores to do in the morning, and then we are hoping to catch the mid-day tide to leave through the pass. The winds look light but sailable for the most part, although we are preparing for a potentially longer (slower) than normal passage. We should arrive sometime late next weekend.

Love to you all,
Elizabeth
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At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W
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At 10/16/2014 5:47 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°38.09'S 164°04.89'W

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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Happy Birthday Johnathan

Hello!

I hope your Thanksgiving turkey has settled nicely :) We had a lovely day in Suwarrow - almost our last. We finally have another boat in the anchorage, so it is nice to overlap with someone before we head for Niue.

These words are music to a mother's ears: "It was a great day today, Mom." They are especially nice when the one uttering them has just celebrated his birthday to his satisfaction :) Johnathan had a chance to snorkel, he went ashore with Max, he went fishing, he had pancakes & bacon for breakfast and spaghetti & meatballs for dinner. We will all go ashore for his "pinatanut" tomorrow, and his birthday movie night will wait for Niue. All in all, a good day for everyone.

I don't know if it is the two weeks that have passed since the equinox, or the lack of wind here this week, but I have to say that it is getting really hot - the daily temp is generally in the 32-33 range, and the humidity is around 70%. We will be glad to carry on south when we head for Niue!

We are planning to do a last everything tomorrow - last fishing trip (just after sunrise), last snorkel trip (we will check out some of the spots that our friends have recommended to us), last trip to the beach (and last deposit of books to the book exchange), oh, and last tidy/stow of the boat so we can depart on Tuesday! Victoria and I finished our Fluenta pennant/sign/flag today, so we will sign it and mount it tomorrow, and then lash down the dinghy so that we can leave early on Tuesday morning (or at least that is the plan at the moment).

Love to everyone,
Elizabeth
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At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W

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Monday, 13 October 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from Suwarrow.

Hello!

I wasn't going to write a note tonight (it's already 12:30...) but I realized that I would like to send Happy Thanksgiving greetings!

Saturday was busy for us - Victoria and I were painting a pennant that we will leave in the Suwarrow "Yacht Club" building (here's hoping that acrylic paints on fabric have some longevity in the tropical sun - I figured that it couldn't be any worse than the fading that a sharpie marker would do over time...). We are using a small piece of the sail repair fabric (which comes in a roll that kind of looks like a roll of papertowels - it seems that we have plenty; I hope so!). We also baked a cake for Johnathan's birthday, and he painted his "pinata" (actually an empty coconut that he has hung on a line and put candies inside. A gentle touch will *not* win the day tomorrow...) I finally finished sewing on the 2nd patch on the staysail, and Max fixed the sailbag with tape. This evening, I took advantage of the sewing machine being out in the saloon to start our Nuie flag ... one thing led to another, and I actually finished the sewing! All that is left is to paint some stars on it. Rather than putting grommets in the corners of our flags, I have started sewing loops of line (cheaper & easier) which seems to work well.

Max and Johnathan went ashore with the propane fittings that Max had bought on the last day in Bora Bora - and starting with a pretty empty tank (ie no propane partial pressure) he was able to fill the tank with butane using the hose/fittings and gravity. He also filled the smaller bbq tank, so now we will be "cooking with gas" regardless of where we want to cook :) [Thanks for SV Estrallita for the tutorial o gravity filling of propane tanks]

The salvage crew is here for the yacht that went aground in August. I am not sure which is odder - to see a yacht on the reef behind us, or to imagine looking out soon and not seeing it. Our thoughts are certainly with the couple who lost their boat. Harry and his wife hosted all of us for a potluck this evening. We brought fish to cook in foil and some noodles. I nearly cried with joy when I saw that the salvage crew had brought cole slaw! We haven't seen a raw vegetable in days, and we haven't seen anything but a raw carrot in weeks. We also learned the best way to open a coconut crab - lay it on a rock and bash it with a piece of coral - the shells don't stand a chance! We ate them plain (boiled) but I was told that the really tasty way is to make a sauce of coconut milk, onions and a little lime, then dip the pieces of meat in the sauce. It certainly sounded delicious :)

Anyway - Happy Thanksgiving to all of our Canadian friends and family. We are thinking of you and feeling blessed in so many way. We are also thinking of your turkey dinner, and most especially all the vegetables on your plates.

Love to everyone,

Elizabeth
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At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W

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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Still in Suwarrow

Greetings!

We have a few days in Suwarrow to catch up on ... we have been enjoying (and working throughout) several days at anchor ... let me start with the Lunar Eclipse :)

We were perfectly positioned for the eclipse on 7/8 Oct - anchored alone in a still and peaceful lagoon with no city lights, a vast clear sky, and the water so clear that the bright moon lit up the coral beneath our boat. In this time zone, the eclipse started at 10:17pm. We left Benjamin asleep in the saloon, and the rest of us sat/lay on the foredeck. In various states of sleep and wakefulness, we watched the moon slowly darken and the stars slowly come out. Interestingly, the shadow crept across the moon from lower right to upper left: the opposite direction to the eclipse we saw in Mexico. I really hope that this is the kind of memory that the kids will look back on with fondness; I certainly will remember it as a magical night. (To make the eclipse evening seem even more perfect, we had 100% cloud cover and more rain than we have ever had at once the next night)!

We had a visit from the NZ navy a few days ago. An 80-person ship (the same one as we saw in Penrhyn) gave their personnel a beach day while the four Cook Islands government officials (Fisheries and Police) made a scheduled visit to the Suwarrow ranger. They were also fortunate with their weather, as they chose the beautiful clear eclipse day to visit, and we have had squally days since they left. The ship stayed outside the pass, and they ferried their personnel ashore by RHIB. With a morning shift and an afternoon shift, everyone got a chance to the beach, and no one had enough time to get too sunburned :) It was a nice connection with our past to talk with some currently serving military members. The cook and the medic I spoke with had joined five years ago - as retirees, we must seem really old to them!! On the small world front, one of the Fisheries officers was from Penrhyn; her Auntie and Uncle were Kura and Rio, who were so kind to us while we were there. (To give you a sense of how far away these islands are from each other, she hasn't been home in 11 years - it is just too expensive).

My main project this week has been some small repairs to our staysail, which got caught on a deck cleat during our passage. I had no idea that a few small patches could take me so many days to accomplish! The first patch was on a tear about 2" long, which meant a patch about the size of my hand. It was near the edge of the sail, where there are multiple layers of thick fabric - even with the sailmaker's palm, it was all I could do to force the needle through; I was able to work a bit faster once I started using the awl to make the holes (especially to mark the place where the needle needed to come up from the underside of the sail). I used sticky-backed sail fabric to cover a nick near the edge; if this holds I will leave it, and if not, I will sew it in NZ. Now I am working on an easier patch that is on a larger tear (~3" across), where I only have to sew through one layer of fabric. My latest trick is to put a cutting board underneath my work so I have a firm surface on which to smooth my patch, and a hard surface to push back on the needle. Progress is much faster now. I even had Benjamin in his carrier on my back "helping" last evening when Max and the kids were fishing. He was very excited to lean through the lifelines and point at the sharks swimming below us, but I can't say that he made me more efficient! I got the most done between 10:30 and 11:30 pm once he was in bed! I will hopefully finish tomorrow morning, when he is happiest to play by himself in the saloon while the kids read beside him.

As I mentioned, Max, Victoria, and Johnathan have been fishing a few times. Harry (the ranger) took Max out, so now they know where to go in the dinghy. They returned yesterday with a trevally, a rainbow runner, and a dog-tooth tuna. It was nice to have enough fish to share some. The went out again today, but all the fish they hooked got away (seems that this may have been just as well, as they were apparently too big to land easily in the dinghy). The sharks seem to know when we have fish aboard - they were circling madly when they arrived back at Fluenta yesterday! We think that perhaps they can smell the fish.

Max has had a busy maintenance week. The most ambiguous problem was a slow diesel leak in the vicinity of our injection pump. We even had help from 10 time zones away, when the folks at Stairs Diesel (www.stairsdiesel.ca) were brought into the discussion by my dad. They answered many questions, and their guess as to what might be happening seems to correspond to what we were seeing (an O-ring seems to have degraded between the pump body and pump head). We will have to drop in on them when we go home to Halifax at Christmas time! {I will leave it to Max to add his maintenance 2-cents from here ...}

We have taken advantage of the evenings at anchor to watch a couple of movies together - we are bring our kids back to our childhood with Back to the Future and The Lion King. Fun :)

I had a moment of "I am not sure that these are my children" yesterday ... Victoria and Johnathan spent the morning making a packing list for our trip to Canada, choosing the two zipper bags of Lego that they will bring, photographing and inventorying the particular pieces so they can be sure to bring them home again, and choosing various other items that they will need for the 24-plus hours that we are travelling. "OK, Mom, our carry-on bags are packed!" Anyone who knows us knows that in many ways, these two little acorns have fallen close to the mama-tree, but it is fair to say that this is not one of them!

The first words I heard this morning were, "Mom, do you want me to start the bread?" Yeast will grow in our room-temperature water (30 deg C...) so Victoria can start bread without boiling the kettle... which means she can do it while the rest of us are still sleeping :) Our oven doesn't seem to get very hot, but eventually we had fresh rolls with our lentil soup at lunch, and a couple of loaves as well. Bread-baking is still an all-day thing, but it is getting quicker each time.

It is looking like we may have weather for some light wind sailing as early as Tuesday, so we will finish up our chores as soon as we can, head back to the beach, do some snorkelling, and hopefully put some more fish in our freezer over the next couple of days (oh, yes, and celebrate Johnathan's birthday on Sunday), prep the boat Monday, and then be ready to head out when the wind is good. Fingers crossed for fair winds for the passage!

Love to you all,
Liz
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At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W
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At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Boat maintenance in an exotic location ... at anchor in Suwarrow

Greetings!

Saturday has come and gone, Sunday has come and gone, and now it is Monday night; still we are the only boat at anchor in Suwarrow. Having an entire national park to ourselves is so different from what most cruisers experience here! Fluenta has a few aches and pains that we have been sorting out during our visit, so we have kept busy both exploring and with boat maintenance.

On the social side, we invited Harry and his wife to join us on Fluenta for dinner on Saturday, but this turned into a BBQ on the beach (fire built inside a metal barrel with a rack on top). We brought buttered noodles and chicken to BBQ, and they brought coconut curried rainbow runner (that Harry caught that afternoon), rice, and coconut patties. We had enough food for a dozen people! Benjamin loved it, because he was able to play at the water's edge with Victoria, then he had freedom of movement on our Mexican rugs - so much more space than on the boat! We loved it because we had a chance to get to know our hosts a little better. We especially enjoyed our "crab walk" after dinner: Harry took us around the back of their house looking for coconut crabs, which he then showed us how to catch (of course, here in the national park, it was catch and release - but at least we got some photos.)

We have taken a couple of trips to see the manta rays that supposedly swim here every morning, but they seem to be on holiday! Our friends on SV Totem have also given us some other recommendations of where to snorkel to see beautiful coral, so we hope to try some other sites before we leave.

On Saturday, after we returned from looking for Mantas, Max & the kids swam from Fluenta, at least briefly! Max had long enough to check the skeg bolts, the prop, and the zincs, when Victoria saw what she believed to be a grey shark, so they all erred on the side of caution and headed for the swim ladder. It is supposedly safe to swim here, but we are all a bit wary ...

Saturday was also "engine day". When we started the engine to check the source of our fuel leak, a little puff of smoke alerted Max that there was a loose/corroded connection to the starter ... this led to an inspection of all the connections for our three alternators, and found two more that were loose. These are the kind of things that are good to catch proactively! He normally checks all fittings/hoses/connections when he is in a space, but inspecting these is now on our regular maintenance spreadsheet [to coincide with the 100 hr oil change] :)

Max is still chasing the fuel leak. It is coming from our injector pump, but not from where he first thought. By sticking his head right into the engine compartment, and using a little inspection mirror, he localized it today to a fitting a bit higher up, so he will go at it when the engine is cool tomorrow.

We took yesterday as a day of rest - Max & Johnathan went to the beach, and Victoria and I stayed on board with Benjamin during his 2.5 hr nap (much longer than usual, so I definitely didn't want to wake the sleeping baby!). Salt and sun have taken their toll on her hair again, so we are combing combing, combing, every chance that we get. It will be so nice (for her and for me) when it is done.

I have been pleasantly surprised over the last few days to see the kids (on their own initiative) writing in their journals (which haven't seen much use recently). The trust that they would write (and draw) when they had something to say seems to have paid off.

One of the bolts holding our traveller block in place sheared during the passage from Penrhyn (two bolts hold it; the other one broke on the last passage - we will replace the old mechanisms in NZ). Once again, Max was able to use the screw extractor to remove the shaft of the bolt, then he and Johnathan have come up with a pretty clever jury rig to get us to Tonga, where Doug will bring the bolts to put the block [and ball bearings] back into place.

As I mentioned in my last note, we have three little tears in our staysail, because its bag got caught on a sharp cleat/protrusion on the foredeck. I started my career as a sail repair person today ... but I didn't get off to a very quick start! The many layers of fabric and the thick needle make for very slow going. My "thimble" is actually a saimaker's "palm", which is multiple layers of leather that mounts the head of a thimble in the palm of my hand, so it is easier to push the needle through. Having cut the patches and done a whopping four stitches today, I will carry on while it is cool in the morning. I think I will use an awl to make the hole, which should speed up the process ... then it will be on to my "usual" jobs (diapers being at the top of the list, followed closely by another batch of bread and a Fluenta "pennant" to leave here in Suwarrow when we leave).

As much as we have been cruising here by doing "boat maintenance in an exotic location" we have also found a bit of time to go ashore. Johnathan is in his element, climbing both trees and ropes (putting Mexican "silks" skills into use) and husking coconuts. (N.B. Green coconuts, stored in the fridge, and opened in the heat, of the day are soooo good!) Victoria has been really good about playing with Benjamin by the water's edge. Harry gave us a Cook Island filleting lesson today when he gave us some of the rainbow runner (yummy cooked in butter for dinner). Everyone we meet has something to teach us.

The sharks on the windward side of the motu know Harry. When he comes to the beach with his fish to fillet, he shouts to them and they all come to the shore. Then, as he finishes with each fish, he throws skin and carcass to them, and they go crazy over his offerings. There were dozens of sharks at the edge of the water today; I saw black tip, white tip, and grey sharks.

We are starting to look at the weather for our passage to Nuie. There are some unsettled days coming, so we are deliberating about where to spend them - at anchor here, on passage, or in Nuie. We will keep you posted on our whereabouts!!

That's about all the news for today.

[Other maintenance items from the database for the boat geeks following the blog:

- Staysail Tack Pennant and pin stop genoa lead: corrosion never sleeps .. after trying to use our staysail I checked the operation of the rest of the elements. The genoa lead for the staysail was stuck - a quick job to fix but would have been frustrating to fix at sea if we needed the storm staysail. Same with the snapshackle for the staysail pennant snap shackle.
- Small bilge pump: In Mexico Wendall and I installed a small bilge pump to handle nuisance water leaving the bigger bilge pumps higher up in the bilge for bigger problems. We installed a Whale Supersub pump which we are not impressed with. The electric field sensor gets stuck with the slightest sludge in the bilge and the pump will then run continuously. Easy to fix as we only run it in manual in the morning to check if any water accumulation. Somehow on the last passage the switch must have been bumped into automatic so the pump ran until it blew the fuse. Again an easy fix, new fuse and carefully checking that the pump is running fine (of course to do this you need to hang upside down in the bilge) and disconnecting the wiring from automatic side of the switch. If I was doing this again I would use a diaphragm pump mounted outside of the bilge for the nuisance water. Thankfully since all the work in Mexico the boat takes on very little water.
- Scheduled maintenance on the engine: all easy stuff - engine air filter check, oil cooler zinc, heat exchanger zinc, raw water filter drain and clean.
- Battery scheduled maintenance: fluid levels topped up. We have almost 1000 amp-hours at 12V of house battery bank built from 6V batteries from Dyno (a Seattle company that mostly makes batteries for the fishing fleet). They are flooded batteries so need topping up every six weeks for so.
- The pressure water pump kept overheating so I checked the pressure water filter that should last a season ... it looked clogged so added a new filter. Again an easy job but access is a pain. Glad I picked up a lot of filters. We will clean out the tank again in NZ.
- Fuel return leak: my temporary repair of the fuel return line in May had come apart so I cleaned it up and added a new rescue tape repair.
- Generator foot: We have a Honda 2000 that has been great to have when we need to charge the batteries beyond what the solar and wind generator will do. It has worked great but one of the feet has corroded off so I glued it back on and will find a replacement in NZ.
-Hose clamps for exhaust elbow hose to water lift muffler - these are all double clamped but one of the hose clamps failed due to corrosion. Likely caused by the pinhole leak on the exhaust elbow. Replaced the hose clamp and sprayed them all with corrosion preventative gunk.
- Pinhole leak in exhaust elbow. Another tiny leak so epoxied over that too after a good sanding and cleaning. Looking forward to getting a new elbow made in NZ (plus a spare). Hopefully it does better than the one we had made in Anacortes.
- Prop/shaft zincs: checked - good for another month. They sure last longer away from the marina.
- Alternator and starter - check wiring as Liz mentioned
- Check rudder underwater - no change.

More scheduled maintenance planned for this week ...

Amazing the difference in wear and tear between a daysailed boat out of a marina and full time cruising. In our first season from June 2012 to June 2013 we sailed about 4000 nm and with our crazy trip down the coast of the US and Mexico plus some cruising in the Sea of Cortez put a whopping 511 hours on the engine. This year from Oct 2013 to now, early Oct 2014, we have done 6200 nm (three passages in Mexico and the trip so far across the South Pacific) for 206 engine hours. From June 2013 to Oct 2013 Fluenta was in a marina or on the hard. We have about 2000 nm to cover to get to NZ for cyclone season.

Max]

We love you and we miss you,
Elizabeth
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At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W
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At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W

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