Thursday 16 July 2015

3-13 July - Suva to Gau


{I started this note on Monday morning, but I have added the "Asides" on Tuesday morning ... hopefully I will be able to send it before I need to add commentary from Wednesday!} {No such luck - I am now sending this to you during the wee hours of Thursday morning!}

Given the choice this morning {Monday} between going on a (slippery, wet, steep) hiking adventure or staying aboard Fluenta to write to you about our other recent adventures, I have elected to stay put and catch up. Meanwhile, Max, Victoria, Johnathan, and Jesus have gone hiking with the other kid boats and a guide from the village. Squalls with wind (I have seen up to 27 kts; I heard from another mom that she saw winds into the 30's) and rain have competed with blazing sunshine for dominance; Benjamin and I did not need to get drenched today :) {Aside - Max' first words when he came back were that we made a good choice to stay on the boat! [It was a great hike but not a good one if you have a baby on your back. Max]}

We have been in Gau for a few days now: we arrived here on Friday morning after a lovely overnight passage from Suva. Our most recent passages have *not* been lovely, so it was pleasant to have good conditions for a change! We timed our trip well for the short period of calm before the winds built again; friends came the following day, and they had a really rough ride. It is testament to the importance of these friendships we have developed - they were willing to endure a rotten passage ("it's only one night") in order to be together with the rest of us. {Aside - another kid boat arrived from Suva on Monday, and they had even worse weather - winds 25-35 all night - and instead of arriving around mid-day, it was nearly dark when they got here}

Suva was a fun combination of catching up at the Royal Suva Yacht Club and taking advantage of the amenities of the city to prepare for our next few weeks back off the grid. The parents enjoyed many Happy Hours together as a welcome respite from stowing stacks of provisions and (for some, but not us) preparing paperwork for Indonesian visas; the kids similarly enjoyed many happy hours running around playing Capture the Flag and Cops & Robbers or climbing on the big play structure. There is a huge, traditional, two-storey market, as well as a couple of big western-style grocery stores, in the center of Suva, in addition to other chandleries, fishing, and hardware stores.

All the families trekked out to the "Cost-u-Less" last Monday for our Costco-like experience of buying US & NZ products in big sizes; I am not sure they were much cheaper than in the local "MHCC" in the center of the city, but it was fun to see familiar brands & products again. We have used more flour and oats than I expected, so I took advantage of the chance to replenish. To be on the safe side, Jesus and Victoria sieved our flour when we repacked it into smaller bags (they only found two dead weevils) and we tucked in a papertowel saturated with vodka to give all the little friends a nice (permanent) sleep. I bought rice in 2kg bags to I wouldn't have to repackage it. Quaker Oats came in 2x5lb bags. I will use the local rice, flour, and oats first to provide the least opportunity for anyone to reproduce in my cupboards!

On Wednesday, Max and I walked into the center of the city together; he had his eye on some more spearfishing supplies and I wanted to make a last trip to the market and the MHCC. We could have ridden the bus for 70c each, but it was actually nice to have the 20 min of each other's undivided attention. Even travelling together 24/7, we need to grab our moments when we can! I had a wonderful time in the market: I spoke to one of the many men running through the stalls pushing a wheelbarrow, and found out that they would drop big lots (pick and drop) for $2, or they would follow a person through the market for "more". I couldn't get an answer as to how much "more", but I decided that this would be money well spent, and my new friend Alex and I set out to do my provisioning. On my list were watermelons, chinese cabbage (aka bok choy), eggplant, mandarins, oranges, pineapples, green papayas, bananas, and eggs. Even though everyone pretty much sells the same things, I had a sense that he was taking me to certain vendors for certain veg. I had given him a boat card, and he proudly told the vendors in Fijian that we needed green produce because we were going to the Islands, and it would have to last. Who is to say whether we chose any better than I would have done on my own, but I had a lot of fun, met someone from the Lau Group (we have the name of his mother and his brother if we go to his island next year), provided someone who runs around with a wheelbarrow to make his living with some money, and most importantly, I didn't have to carry all the produce myself! After Max finished at the fishing store, Alex took us and our laden wheelbarrow to a taxi, and seemed happy with the $5 I gave him. In an otherwise anonymous city, it was a fun way to make a human connection and spend the morning :)

Thursday was devoted to stowing, buying fuel, and securing for sea. Some of our friends are able (or at least seem able...) to sail at almost any moment, but it takes us at least a day to tuck everything into its place, lash things to the deck, hoist the dingy, and put things into cupboards they don't belong in, so they won't crash to the floor when we heel or roll. Case in point - my pot cupboard became home to five tall Fiji Bitters (wrapped individually in shopping bags), a bowl of tomatoes, a couple of coconuts and a papaya that wouldn't fit anywhere else. In a way it was nice to prepare for a 10-hr passage rather than a multi-day one, because I could put things into overnight homes and know that I wouldn't need access to their spaces until after our arrival.

The main point of our visit to Suva was to complete the first chapter of our watermaker saga. After several email exchanges and phone calls with Enertec, the company who had overhauled our Clark Pump while we were in NZ, they basically told us that we should deal directly with Spectra USA. This is probably what we should have done from the beginning. It took a few trips to the shipper for Max and Gary (Nirvana), as well as a few calls to Spectra, to sort out the details, but before long our two Clark pumps were both on their way to Spectra for a factory overhaul. We are hopeful that both boats and both Clark pumps will rendez-vous somewhere around Nadi in a few weeks. Spectra has been great to deal with so far - they even found a way to get us our RMA (shipping authorization) numbers even though they were officially closed for a week for Jul 4th) In other watermaker news, Max dug our old (but still functional) spare feed pump from a deep cubby and replaced our slightly newer (but non-functional) feed pump with it, and he replaced the pressure head on the burnt out (but very new) feed pump, so now we should be in good shape once the Clark pump comes back. It was such a lovely sound when they each whirred to life when the power was put to them :)

The other maintenance issue that we investigated while we were in Suva was the replacement of our main alternator. Our backup alternator doesn't charge the batteries nearly as quickly, and we like the redundancy of having two house-bank alternators (in addition to the start-battery alternator that is integral to the engine). Max spent some time with another cruiser who funds his travels by working as an electrician, and it didn't take them long to determine that our alternator had BBQ'd itself. We had hoped it was the diodes (which we could have replaced, and even mounted away from the main alternator to reduce the heat buildup), but unfortunately, it was the main workings of the alternator that had melted. Max ended up with a personal guided tour of every potential alternator shop in Suva from a fellow he met in the first shop he stopped at, but at the end of the day, they decided that a suitable alternator for our situation was simply not available locally. Now the fun begins: we (Max) will research potential sources of supply and determine if this is something we will fix in Fiji, or something that will wait until NZ.

While in Suva, we didn't take time for many local attractions, but we did attend the annual "Fiji Showcase". It was similar to our fairs at home, with food kiosks, rides, entertainment, etc. After well over an hour on two busses, we joined thousands of Fijians who had thronged to the event. When the kids asked to go on the ferris wheel, we tried not to think of the level of maintenance they were potentially getting, and said that of course they could go on one or two rides. We each had our pick of the food offerings and had chow mein, butter chicken, some kind of spicy (Indian) vegetarian sandwich, and fried chicken with French fries. There was definitely an Indian theme to the food court! Jesus got a chuckle when one of the musical acts came on stage - they were doing a Fijian dance contest to Latin music, and he knew all the words :) Our trip home was a bit faster - we did a recce of the "Cost-u-less" which turned out to be just down the street from the arena, then we took a 15 min cab ride to get back to the yacht club. Our US friends had planned a Jul 4th potluck at the yacht club, but by the time everyone was back, it was too late, so Nirvana hosted Fluenta for a potluck dinner (where we ate the food we had bought at the Cost-u-less), and the rest joined us later in the evening for drinks.

We have been in Gau (sounds like "Now") for almost a week now. For three of those days, I have been trying to bring you up to date on our happenings - as I said in the beginning, I even thought that by staying home from a rainy, slippery hike, I might manage to send this on Monday. Unfortunately, I had somehow forgotten the Benjamin factor ... a year ago, if it was just Benjamin and me at home, I could nurse him with one arm and type with the other. Now, the minute he is near the chart table and the laptop, he loses interest in nursing, wriggles around and tries to explore. He knows that keys on computers do something, and he is keen to find out what! If it is not the laptop he is after, it is one of our handheld VHF radios or the switches on the circuit panel. Such is life with a toddler, and I know that "this too shall pass" all too quickly. In the meantime, tonight I have gone with my usual fallback of washing diapers and composing emails when the rest of the boat is asleep! For this reason, and in an effort to actually send you something, I will not bring you completely up to date ... I will tell you about our time in Gau in another email!

For now, we are well and happy, exploring one of the larger islands in Fiji with most of our gang of kid boats, and planning to stay here a little longer before we head for Nadi to pick up our Clark Pump.

Love to all,

At 7/15/2015 9:34 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 18°05.17'S 179°16.05'E
At 7/15/2015 9:34 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 18°05.17'S 179°16.05'E

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments ? (Note all comments are moderated)