Tuesday, 16 June 2015

14-15 Jun - Fulaga - Church, more feasting, and water woes


Since it is a couple of days since I have written, I'll start off with the easy bit ... we dressed up in our "Bula Clothes" yesterday morning and dinghied across the lagoon to the village for church. Under our arm was a pineapple/banana upside down cake, that was well received by our host family, although since it was just coming out of the oven when we were supposed to be loading the dinghy, we just about jogged up the path in an effort to regain precious time. We were graciously received at the church (and we weren't even the only ones who arrived as the service was starting) so I think we were forgiven (only three boats were in attendance, so they seemed to be just glad that we had come).

The young people of the village (in their 20s) formed a choir for Sunday, and they will be competing against the other villages in a singing competition on Thursday. Much of the singing here is lovely; their contribution to the service was beautiful. They made the concrete building absolutely ring with harmonies, and we are looking forward to seeing what they will do on Thursday.

After the service, we were ushered back to our host family's home, where Salote had been cooking since 6am, without even taking a break to hear her daughter sing during the service. Her efforts paid off in a delicious feast that included the rotis, casava, and bread of last week, as well as whole fried/battered fish (medium-sized grouper, I think) with white sauce and huge steamed mangrove crabs (turns out that there is yet another variety of crabs here). The body of the crab was 6-8" across. I only tried the leg meat (which was delicious) and a tiny bit of the orange body (bright orange - eggs? It tasted a bit like liver); I wasn't brave enough to really dig into the body meat. Our cake was shared with several others who passed through as we were eating, and they seemed to like it. Even the families who didn't come to church were fed, as we were given a care package to take back to one of our neighbours.

We had a reasonably dry ride downwind to the village for church, but we paid for it with a windy/wet upwind journey on our way home. Victoria and Johnathan love the bouncing motion. Benjamin fell asleep on my back as we crossed the lagoon.

I had hoped that Benjamin would keep sleeping when we got back so that the big kids could continue the Lego building that they had begun the day before, but luck was not on their side, and he woke up very quickly (much to their chagrin). It wasn't long before they were both off to the beach with their friends to make bows & arrows and to find coconuts.

With the kids ashore, I spent my quiet Sunday afternoon putting the final touches on their school reports and getting them ready to send (which we did before supper). For better or worse, this school year is finished. Like most cruisers, we will carry on with reading/social studies/science during the summer holidays.

Sunday evening saw all the kids & grownups gathering on the beach for sundowners and a campfire before we headed back to our respective boats for dinner (which in our case was fish, casava, and rotis from our host family and fried albacore and carrot sticks from our own larder.)

Sunday sounds pretty idylic... stop reading right here if your image of us is that all we do is eat feasts, hang out on the beach, and enjoy an unending charter holiday. Monday has the potential to spoil that image for you.

As you know, we have been having issues with our water maker; it hasn't been producing for a few days, and we have been back and forth via email and satphone with both the company in NZ (Enertec) who overhauled our "Clark Pump" (the high-pressure pump that forces seawater through a fine membrane so that fresh water comes out the other side) and the manufacturer. We had our Clark Pump overhauled so that we could count on it through this season and beyond (to the tune of well over $1000) and now, hardly a month into our cruising period, it has stopped working. From the symptoms, it seems like something called an annular ring is cracked. This ring is deep, deep inside the pump, the kind of thing that should only be taken apart in a specialized workshop, by a specialized technician. Not only that, but on the advice of the technician, we continued to run the watermaker (at half capacity, but still it was something), because he told us that we wouldn't damage the system further by doing so; instead, we have burnt out one of our feed pumps (that send the water from the sea to the Clark pump where it gets pressurized). To add insult to injury, we have damage the newer of our two feed pumps, because the older one hasn't been managing to generate sufficient pressure to produce water of low enough salinity.

All day long, I have been using all the tools I know (counting my blessings, focusing on my breath, focusing on the positive, trusting that good will come of this in the end, practicing yoga & meditation with my girlfriends on the beach (that *was* really nice), leaving Benjamin with Jesus and going snorkelling with Max in the pass (also nice)) but I still keep coming back to the feelings of frustration, anger, discouragement, and worry that surface all too easily when you don't know how your family will find/collect/conserve sufficient water until we return to a major center. To be clear, we are not in extremis, but I don't at this minute know how the next few days/weeks will play out. In yoga, we talk about the poses "starting" when you want out of them. This has been an all-day pose that I have been wanting out of... of course, there is no "out" and nothing to do but breathe.

Of course, cruisers are hardy people. There is probably no one in our anchorage who hasn't got a similar story of an untimely equipment failure, injury, or other setback that made them question what they were doing and how they would persevere. By next year, this will be old news (even by next week, I am sure). It is just that in the meantime, it easily becomes all-consuming. We came to the Lau Group with the hope of staying off the grid, off the beaten path, for several months. Now it looks like we will be heading back to civilization sometime soon to see about either repairing or replacing our Clark pump. This will bring its own advantages and disadvantages, its own ups and downs, and once our way is clear, we will find our even keel again, I know. It is simply frustrating to be away from an easy supply chain, lacking in connectivity, and needing to fix a key system.

As usual, even in the midst of this situation, it is not all bad. It may take discipline to see a cup as half full rather than half empty, but it is possible: our friends on Exodus invited all the grownups over to socialize this evening, and we had a lovely time; Johnathan had the chance to play Minecraft (one of his favourite activities) with Brendan (one of his favourite people); Victoria had a sleepover with a big group of kids on Lumbaz; Johnathan had a boys sleepover on Nirvana; We all went snorkelling today while the kids played on the beach. Even though we are having issues with our watermaker and our autopilot (which konked out on the last passage), at least I have email so I can tell you all about it and get your news. Our family is healthy & happy. Jesus found us in NZ and is still with us assisting in any way that he can. Seems to me that I have a cup that is half-full to overflowing ...

On that note, I will leave you for tonight. Our friends are starting to look at weather windows and nearby islands, so I think we will also be on the move within the week. We will keep you posted as to our travels and our next destination.

Love to all,
PS - A funny story about the kids. With all the parents going a little further away than usual while they were playing on the beach, we decided that in the interests of safety, they should not climb coconut trees or use the machetes while we were away. We called them on the radio, and they agreed. Perhaps we should have kept quiet: they complied with these wishes, but to pass the time, they held a sword-fighting tournament with sticks from the beach instead. Victoria was referee and score keeper, and it seems that Johnathan ended up in the final, but I never did hear the actual outcome. No one was hurt, but it did make me chuckle... They might have been safer using their machetes!
At 6/14/2015 7:13 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W
At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W

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