Sunday 27 November 2016

Acclimatizing to Hot Weather at anchor


The theme this week has been all about finding ways to keep ourselves comfortable in the weather as it presented itself. For the most part, it has been HOT and SUNNY, with the exception of today, when we had hoped to return from our anchorage across the lagoon to Funafuti, but we had heavy rain squalls (complete with thunder and lightning) all day instead.

The first step in improving our comfort was to erect our "covered wagon" tarp (aka our commercial "Shade Tree" canopy). We bought it before we even left to go cruising because "everyone needs a canopy". It has shared Victoria's single bed for most of the last four years. It consists of a *huge* rectangle of fabric, long enough to stretch from the mast to the backstay, through which pass several articulated poles (like oversized tent poles) the ends of which rest with special straps on the life lines (thus the "covered wagon" nickname!) The instructions note in highlighted text that the poles *do not* float (and in fact recommend ordering a spare supply with the original tarp!) Until this week, we have never been quite uncomfortable enough to go to the bother of setting it up; with the average daytime temperature reaching into the mid-30's, and the "cool" evenings only dropping to about 30 deg C, it was finally worth the effort! It took some figuring, and a trip onto the boom for each of Victoria and Johnathan, but it will be faster the next time, and we have decided to simply make it part of our "at anchor" routine this season, as it is noticeably cooler inside the boat since we put it up (and it has acted as an extra layer of rain protection during the squalls).

Another aspect of managing the heat has been more swimming than we (I) have done in much of the last season. Our sea-temp indicator mounted on the hull has not worked since Mexico, but we used our hand-held device not just once, but twice (just to be sure). It read 89 deg F and gave us a chance to practice our F/C conversion (which was part of Victoria's math lesson a few days ago). Even I don't need a wetsuit when the water is over 30 deg C!! The kids have been having great fun swinging and diving from Fluenta, and entertaining Benjamin on the inflatable standup board, doing funny little dances and songs that invariably end with one or both of them back in the water. Benjamin has even been brave enough to sit on it or kick his feet at the side. I love watching the games and tricks that the kids think of to entertain each other! Max has also taken his 'proper' board out a few times to tour the nearby motus, giving him a welcome respite from "boat yoga". Combined with swimming laps, he has finally had the opportunity for fresh air and exercise.

Our inflatable stand-up paddle board is theoretically stable enough for yoga, and I managed one "baby crow" without falling in, but I haven't developed much of a practice yet. Now that the water is warm enough that falling off is not a deterrent, I may play around a little more to see what is in the realm of the possible for me. When I am dependent on finding practice space ashore, my discipline tends to fall to the wayside...

Unfortunately, no matter how much swimming we do, or how many showers we take, the fact that the nights are almost as hot as the days has made sleep less than comfortable. We are slowly acclimatizing, but sleep has been fitful. Lack of sleep, heat, and humidity have combined to make us less than energetic (read lethargic) during the days (thus the multi-day gap in sending emails, for instance...). None of this is meant as a complaint; in fact, I keep reminding myself that if I wanted to be cold, I would be in Canada right now, and that we chose to be here in the heat. I find myself thinking, "Oh my, if it is like this here, and we still have a long way to go towards the equator, what will the heat be like as we go North?" We will find out soon enough!

The positive aspect of having so much hot weather has been choosing a different site to snorkel each day. The water that pours over the reef near our anchorage has offered the best combination of shallow coral, fish, and clear visibility - and it is close enough to swim or paddle to, even without the dingy. Most of the fish are quite small, but there is a lovely variety of pretty tropical fish to admire. Some little black ones turned to watch me as I swam by yesterday, and they all wore the same tiny expression of curiosity on their little faces, and they seemed to stare right into my eyes :)

The adage "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the galley" does not seem to apply to Victoria or Johnathan: we have enjoyed a steady diet from their efforts of bread (several batches) and doughnuts (a combined science experiment, where they tested various hypotheses for which combination of topping ingredients, doughnut shape, and oil depth would yield the tastiest results, and even correctly identified why any water droplets were spattering as soon as they touched the hot oil). We have promises of more to treats to follow. I extricated them from the kitchen long enough to do their second "Friday Freewrite", so we are gaining momentum with this habit. Two weeks down, eight to go :)

As for me, I am starting to work my way through the squash and sweet potatoes I bought in Savusavu, and which are stored in a mesh duffel bag in the forward head, as there is no room for them in the saloon or the galley. I was grateful that Johnathan loves to steal food from the pot a couple of nights ago, as the sweet peppers I thought I was adding to the Mexican Meat & Squash Skillet (that looked identical to the sweet peppers I had bought in Nadi) turned out to be hot and spicy. Thankfully, I hadn't mixed them in, so I was able to scoop them out and put them directly on Max's plate!

With some advice from my cousin Holly, we bought two brightly coloured resin ukuleles when I was home in Halifax. I am glad to say that they seem to have taken up permanent residence on our saloon benches. We aren't necessarily producing a lot of songs with them yet (we know a few), but they are being plucked and picked (and de-tuned by Benjamin who loves the knobs) on a frequent basis. I unearthed the Christmas music from the cupboard today, so there can be even more "messing around with music" this month.

We have been blessed with a wide variety of movies and documentaries over the last few years, so we began to delve into them this week. We especially learned a lot watching the first episode of "Canada: A People's History" (which is actually part of Victoria and Johnathan's school), but we also enjoyed an iMax movie about the Alps and some Heavy Weather (sailing) training videos, and we have plans for several series that we would like to watch in their entirety.

Of course, the need for maintenance doesn't go on holiday just because we are all feeling lethargic due to the heat. Max spent some time troubleshooting our fishfinder, which had already become lazy about sharing the water temp or boat speed, and has recently begun to have trouble even seeing the bottom (its main role). We had a mystery on our hands at first, as three wires disappeared through the combing towards the saloon, but only two wires (signal and power) could be accounted for on the other side. Removing the electrical tape from a tightly wrapped bundle shed some light on the situation: we found orphaned speaker wires for a speaker we removed the summer we bought the boat! We were kind of hoping to find a corroded connection somewhere in the system that would explain the faulty fishfinder signal, but the wiring all looked good, and unfortunately, our troubleshooting reached a dead end at the sensor under the saloon floor: it is jammed (corroded) into place, and we will not try to force it out until our next haul-out. The fish finder is our back-up depth gauge, so we will hope that our main sensor continues to do its job in the meantime!

Most of the time, when you ask Max what he did during the morning, he will have a long list of items to tick off on his fingers. It gave us both a chuckle that the story was a bit different on Saturday: the significant accomplishment was "downloaded one email". This gives you a sense of our connectivity is like, as the email in question was 200KB, and it took several re-connections to the satellite, and most of the morning, to entice it to join us onboard in little in little 50KB segments. It turned out to be totally worth waiting for however, as it was from Lunasea, the makers of our masthead light, letting us know that they would completely stand behind their product and resolve the situation for us once we arrive in a shipping port. I just about wept to receive word of such responsive customer service after other companies have given us push-back, even for basic warranty claims.

The last two days have been blustery and rainy. We managed to get ashore yesterday, after a massive squall in the early afternoon (I even brought my yoga mat to the tiny beach for a 30 min practice) but we ended up staying onboard all day today due to the constant bad weather. We are so thankful for our rain enclosure and our covered wagon tarp! We used the wet weather as an opportunity for Victoria to paint us an "advent wreath" and "advent calendar" as well as a "count down chart" for Benjamin for his birthday (six days until the pirate cake ...). I enjoyed the immediacy of email when I sent a request for Advent information to my Mom and my Aunt, and had an answer back from both within about 15 minutes. That would not have been so easy during the days of HF, when we had to wait for evening/morning just to send/receive, due to the propagation characteristics of the HF signal.

While I did yoga, the kids and Max were working their magic with Benjamin, who until then had been expressing reluctance to swim ("It's too deep," he would tell us when we suggested swimming from the dinghy.) No amount of assuring him that it was deep for everyone, or that he would float with his life jacket, was enough to convince him. Once they got to the beach, Victoria helped him "surf" with the boogie board, giving him confidence in the water at the edge. By the time I returned 30 min later, Max was helping him to float on his back, kicking his feet, and generally acting much comfortable in the water. He wants to swim "like the big kids" so I suspect that he will advance quickly from now on :)

The wet weather seems set to stay through tomorrow and possibly until Tuesday; hopefully, we will see the sun for a longer stretch on Wednesday. A Trade Fair is set to open in Tuvalu tomorrow, and we were hoping to be there for it, but we will need better weather than we got today to venture through the coral bommies and across the lagoon. The Fair is supposed to run for two weeks, so we will hopefully see some it when we eventually make it back to town. It is looking like light winds for the next week or so, and then the winds should fill in for our next leg to Tarawa, Kiribati.

Love to all,
At 2016-11-17 2:06 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 08°36.19'S 179°05.86'E
At 2016-11-17 8:19 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 08°36.22'S 179°05.88'E

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