Friday 19 June 2015

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


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,

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

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