Posts Tagged ‘Downeaster’

Maintenance and the Mumps

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

The last update to this blog had Mélanie and I running for the safety of Nagaigai Creek as Cyclone Ian was heading our way. The forecast held true and Ian turned back towards Tonga sparing us, but hitting the Ha’apai group with 185mph winds.

While we were hiding out from Ian, Mélanie’s throat started hurting. She stayed on the boat while I explored the abandoned houses and copra drier back up behind the mangroves. Then, the day Ian started heading back towards Tonga, the left side of her throat was so swollen that she was having a hard time swallowing. We immediately pulled up the hook and took off for Taveuni 8 miles away.

There was still a big swell running up Somosomo strait being powered by Ian now 100 miles to the Southeast. We managed to find a marginal anchorage off Somosomo village, where we landed the dinghy and took a cab to the doctor. Fortunately we chose the private doctor over going to the hospital. We were in and out in 15 minutes flat. Turns out Mélanie had come down with the Mumps. They gave her antibiotics, but said that it was caused by a virus and that there was nothing they could do. All said and done for the doctors visit, antibiotics, and pain killers it came out to $75FJD ($40USD). Not bad for the private doctor without an appointment.

We got back to Bodhran and the wind was honking up the strait. We’d wanted to go back to Viani Bay, but instead were forced by the wind back to Nagaigai. We woke up early the next morning to make Viani and it’s good internet connection to watch the Seahawks take out the Saints in the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs.

We hung around Viani Bay for a few days, but Mélanie couldn’t go swimming or do anything fun, so we figured it was a good idea to head back to Savusavu. Mélanie could be close to a doctor if need be and I could take care of a nagging problem with my compression post under the mast. We took two days to get back motoring in the morning and then sailing as the wind picked up by mid day. We stopped over for the night at Fawn Harbor, but didn’t check the place out much.

Back in Savusavu, I went to work trying to find angle iron to shore up my compression post. The Downeast 32 was built with a pretty significant flaw. The compression post that supports the mast underneath the deck is half the width of the mast. Not a big deal if it was centered, but it’s located underneath the aft half of the mast. When the mast is loaded up, it compresses the deck in front of the post and causes the post to bend. The post had dealt with this for 34 years, but has been getting tired since I crossed the pacific back in 2008. I’ve tried various fixes since then trying to zero in on the problem, but now I believe that it’s the post itself that needs to be replaced and moved 5 inches foreward.

Instead of pulling the mast and replacing the post with an unseasoned piece of timber that I would find here in Savusavu, I decided to reinforce it with steel. I found two pieces of 5/16” thick 3×3” angle iron. Of course they were rusty as hell sitting in a yard by the beach. So I took 4 days to cut, clean, drill and paint the steel while I was waiting for the Seahawks/49er’s game.

Gameday came. I got a last coat of paint on the steel before the Broncos beat the Patriots. Then went to the yacht club to watch the big game on the big screen with a bunch of Seattle fans and one SF fan. It’s been great being able to follow the Seahawks on the internet all year, but it’s really special watching a big game like that at a bar with other people. I wish that I’d been at home to feel the energy in Seattle, but all the Facebook posts gave me a good idea of what it was like.

Once Seattle had secured their spot in the Super Bowl, it was time to get the angle iron installed. I got the rig loaded up, put the sails back on and everything looks good.

Mélanie and I got Bodhran provisioned up and decided it was time to go. We left Savusavu and made it all the way down to Cousteau Resort a whopping 4 miles down the peninsula. Mélanie has to be in internet range to skype and do some work right now, so we’re hanging out, anchored off Cousteau with 5 German and Austrian boats, getting some snorkeling in and waiting for the big game on February 2nd (3rd over here). Thought the big game doesn’t seem as big as the one against SF.

Chased out of Viani Bay

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks here in Viani Bay. We came into Viani Bay Christmas day to get internet and track a tropical depression that was heading towards Fiji. We spent Christmas and New Years with the Fisher family and friends and have had a great time. I got to watch the final Seahawks game of the season. Then after not seeing another cruising boat for a month, Chuck on Deviant came in.

This last weekend really highlighted how small the world is getting. After going over to a beach in the next bay for some yoga and cribbage, Mélanie and I came back to catch the end of the Chiefs-Colts game and then watched Saints take down the Eagles. The next day I got to watch the Chargers-Bengals game before going out snorkeling with Jack, Chuck and Mélanie in Somosomo Strait. We got back in time to watch the end of the 49rs-Packers game. It’s amazing being able to watch a fantastic wildcard football weekend and intersperse it with trips to the beach and snorkeling in warm, crystal clear water.

Now Cyclone Ian is threatening us and it may well be time to leave Viani Bay and seek shelter in Naqaiqai Creek. Ian would be a tropical depression or tropical storm at best back home. The wind is only reaching about 45 knots, but it’s been named and we’re not taking it lightly. Ian’s barely moving and could gain strength very quickly. The forecast has it moving slowly towards Fiji for the next two days and then turning southeast and fading away. Hopefully the forecasts will hold and we’ll only end up getting about 20 knots. The problem is that when we leave, we lose internet and will only be able to track the weather via the radio. Reception is poor in both the cyclone holes, so we kinda go into a media blackout. So it’s better to stick around here and get information and then bolt for our shelter a day before the weather hits. That may be this afternoon if the current forecast holds.

Either way, we need Ian needs to clear through and we need to be back in internet range for the Seahawks-Saints game next weekend.

Happy New Year from Viani Bay!

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

We pulled into Viani Bay on Christmas Day thinking that we’d celebrate the holiday with a snorkel and maybe some Fiji Gold. I’d picked an anchorage that looked like it had pretty good shelter from the south easterly winds. I couldn’t tell from the chart that there was a house right there, nor that the only place to drop the hook was about 150 feet from the beach right in front of that house. Indeed while we were looking for a place to drop the hook a respectable distance away, a very European looking Fijian man came out to the beach and directed us to the one good spot to anchor. Mélanie and I immediately dropped the skiff into the water and went ashore to say hi.

The man on the beach turned out to be Jack Fisher. I’d heard of Jack, as he is well know in the cruising community. He takes yachties out diving to all the good spots in the area at a dramatic discount over the local dive companies. The house belongs to his Aunt Francis and the whole Fisher and Evans clan was over for Christmas. Lunch was just about ready to be served. Our timing was impeccable and naturally we were invited.

I didn’t have my camera around for lunch. It consisted of an overwhelming spread of fish and curry dishes, boiled crabs, salads and of course cassava. I think that we each had 3 plates. Then it was time for desert and kava. Mélanie and I excused ourselves and went back to Bodhran to change out of our grubby sailing clothes and to grab the camera and instruments. We got back just in time to sit under the mango tree and get the party going.

I brought in a bunch of “pop-its” that I had left over from Diwali. The kids found it to be great fun exploding these on the back of their Uncle Johnny. Johnny is the definite black sheep of the family. Very entertaining, but he doesn’t work and spends a lot of his time scamming off everyone in the bay, so even Jack’s wife Sofie got into the game of blasting him with “pop-its.”

Went the sun got too low, we shifted from the mango tree to the almond tree for shade, but the grog party went on all night. We pulled into Viani Bay without expectation and ended up having a Christmas celebration that I’ll never forget and making lots of friends that we’ve been hanging out with for a week now.

We stayed in the anchorage off Francis’ house for 3 days. We’d go in for tea from time to time, but mostly we hung out on the boat with Jack and Sofie’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Tukana. Tukes is the family’s singer and guitar player who takes Fijian culture very seriously. I left my spare guitar on the beach for him for the three days and you could hear it being played all day long. Naturally Tukana and I hit it off, but it was Elizabeth who adopted us. She came out and spent the better part of two days hanging out on Bodhran snorkeling, fishing and carrying on. She brought us out buckets full of hermit crabs for bait and even baited our hooks for us. Of course all the catch ended up going back to the house.

On the 4th morning, Tukana and Elizabeth were heading back across the bay to Jack’s house. Jack has a couple of moorings that he put in for yachties. We figured that would be a better place to hang out, so Tukes and Elizabeth came on board and drove us over. The next day we had a pizza party and then decided to go out trolling on the outer reef. Jack joined us on Bodhran and took the helm. We had three lines out, but didn’t get a single bite.

The next day we had Jack’s whole family out for a shopping run over to Taveuni. We were running a bit low on fresh stuff and wanted another try at a fish. The morning was flat calm. Jack took the helm and steered close to a number of bombies, but we still didn’t have any luck. We anchored off Waiyevo and took a cab to the MH in Somosomo to buy groceries. We had quite an entourage with us for whole shopping trip.

It took 3 trips in the dinghy to get the groceries and Fisher’s back on the boat. The wind was up and we sailed off the anchor. We had a rousing good sail with Jack steering the whole way back. The wind was blowing 15-20 knots slightly ahead of the beam as we blasted across Somosome Strait at almost 7 knots. Sofie would whoop with glee every time the boat heeled over. Still we had no bites until Mélanie pulled in the handline and found a small barracuda on the end. Once we were off Jack’s place we finally started the motor and picked up a mooring.

That was New Years Eve. Both Mélanie and I had been feeling sick for a few days. We wrestled with going into the village for New Years or not. Reluctantly I took the skiff in to tell Elizabeth that we were going to bail. She met me on the beach and immediately asked if we wanted to have Tukes and her back out on the boat for a tanoa or two. This seemed like a much better plan. As it turned out, the village New Years Eve celebration consisted of 2 hours of church until midnight. Mélanie and I were both pretty happy we missed that one.

The real party was on New Years Day. The tradition is to douse people with water or even better pick them up and throw them in the water. This helps wash away the old year and bring in the new. We missed the morning mass dunking of people on the beach, but went in for lunch. The massive lunch was followed with a procession from the neighboring village women. They came marching through the village wearing makeup and their sunday finest, banging on pots and pans. The women from this village then proceeded to douse them with buckets and pans of water, including one filled with curry stained dirty dishwater. Waste not, want not.

We then settled into the familiar kava/music session under a mango tree. Like so many other places that I go in Fiji, there were plenty of musicians, but no instruments. So my uke and two guitars were passed around until it was time for the women to all leave for their own wetting at the other village. A bunch set out on foot for the 2 mile walk. Mélanie joined the crew that went by boat a short time later. I thought it best to leave the women to their business and stick around the village with the fellas.

I moved from the kava session to the volleyball court. I got in 4 good games, winning two and losing two, but burned the crap out of my feet on the black sand. It was hot enough to give me blisters on both feet. I had to bow out of the volleyball game. It was OK, the fellas were more impressed with my camera skills than my skills on the court.

We left at sunset after a nice swim and freshwater shower. The forecast is for no wind for the foreseeable future, so my next blog post might be from Viani Bay as well.

Albert Cove a Year Later

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Mélanie and I took off from Dakuniba on a Saturday morning with light southerly winds. We’d delayed our departure by a couple of days while we waited for a trough of low pressure to pass. These lows are the price of sticking around during cyclone season. They’re filled with lots of rain and lightning, but so far haven’t been packing much wind. At least the water tanks are staying full.

We took the small boat pass out of Dakuniba towards Viani Bay and transited without problems. Our destination was Matei on Taveuni. The big northerly swell that we found once we rounded the eastern tip of Vanua Levu made us rethink our plans. So instead we scouted out the potential hurricane hole up Naqaiqai Creek and then settled into Buca Bay for the evening.

I’m sure that the village in Buca Bay would have been worth a visit, but the rumble of busses and trucks on the road turned us off. We didn’t even launch the skiff. Instead we got underway the next day and had a great sail north to Albert Cove on Rabi Island.

Riki and I visited Albert Cove last year and had an excellent time with Panea, Terry and Mariana. I was looking forward too seeing everyone again. I was surprised to an entirely new population to Albert Cove. I went to Panea’s house and found Keke sitting there. He lives on the other side of the island in Samale Bay. We’d met last year and we sat down and started catching up. Terry and Mariana were in the village for Christmas. No surprise there, but then Keke told us that Panea, at the age of 74, had gotten married and had a new born! He was still in his new bride’s village. Panea’s new brother-in-law, Peter, and family was staying in the house.

I brought in a couple hundred grams of kava, but that only filled two tanoas. They didn’t have any way to pound the kava at Albert Cove, so they made it up green instead. Basically you boil a bunch of newly harvested kava root. Once it’s nice and soft, you pour off the water and then pound that in a bowl with a piece of wood. With dry kava you normally pound it in a steel container with a long steel rod. Once the green kava was pounded, water was poured in until in formed a thick slurry. The slurry was then put in a cloth and water poured over it to create the final mix. The resulting drink was too strong for Mélanie and myself. We politely excused ourselves after two bilos and went back to the boat.

The next morning I noticed the overly ripe smell wafting down from the bananas. So it was time to make banana bread. I knew that you could use the pressure cooker to do it, but I’d never tried before and didn’t have a recipe. We just followed a normal recipe out of a cookbook and poured it all into a pot that we fit inside the pressure cooker on a trivet. We added a cup of water to the bottom of the pressure cooker and left the weight off. After 30 minutes cooking, the water was gone, so we added another cup. After an hour we had a perfectly cooked, moist loaf. I probably could have used the weight to make it cook faster, but I was afraid of it being too moist. Either way it sure came out better than using my temperature challenged oven.

While we were waiting for the banana bread to cook, a greatly overloaded boat of picnickers from Peter’s village 5 miles away showed up. The boat, Rise Again, was blaring music while they went by and hit the beach like an invading army. Rise Again beached herself at a sandy spot where the creek hits the beach and people piled off. A volleyball net was setup and the party started. Mélanie and I decided to go for a snorkel while we let the banana bread cool.


The snorkeling was great with warm water, medium visibility and lots of good fish. I spotted a lobster down underneath an overhang in the reef, but made sure not to tell anyone where he was. We ended up snorkeling all the way down to a beach at the south end of the bay, but the wind was up and it was too cold to stay out of the water for long, so we turned around and had another nice long snorkel back to the boat.

After enjoying a couple nice hunks of banana bread, we went for a walk down the beach and then joined the party. We brought in the guitar and uke. The battery for the stereo had gone flat. Peter used to be in a band that toured Fiji and was great on the guitar belting out boogie woogie rock and roll rhythms as well as singing a bunch of traditional Bonabin numbers.

I went out to the beach to take pics of the sunset as the party broke up and the boat left to go back to the village. Peter sat inside Panea’s house and provided the soundtrack as every left. I didn’t get any really good pics so I drained a couple of bilos and said goodnight. Peter hadn’t had a guitar to play in years, so I left him mine for the night.

The next morning, Mélanie and I were listening to the SSB radio when we heard about a tropical depression forming and heading our way just after Christmas. Albert Cove was no place to be during a cyclone, so we brought a bunch of Christmas presents in for Peter’s kids, picked up my guitar, said our goodbyes and took off.

As we sailed south past Nuka, we picked up internet and saw that the depression was going to pass right over the top of Vanua Levu. It was still a few days off, but I wanted to have time to get to a good cyclone hole. We intended to go back to Nasasobo, but the SE wind convinced me to stay on the other side of Kioa. We had a rockin good sail close reaching in 20 knots of wind, though Mélanie was a bit worried at times. We headed up the cyclone hole at Naqaiqai creek for the night.

This morning’s weather shows the depression strengthening into a full cyclone and passing north and east of Fiji. Nasasobo is still a better spot than this if we get any big seas from the north, so we’re making our way there for when the cyclone hits. We’ve still got a few days, so I think we’re going to hang out in Viani Bay where we can get some good snorkeling in and hopefully have internet so we can see how the storm progresses before we go into informational blackout in Nasasobo.

Parts Run to Taveuni

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Mélanie and I made it all the way from Nasasobo to Dakuniba (maybe half a mile). First we went out for some internet and a snorkel by the pass on the outer reef. The water was almost too warm to swim in. We had to refresh ourselves by constantly diving down below the top level thermocline. The anchorage was deep and we were a bit close to the coral. When the wind decided to shift around 180 degrees it was time to go.

Instead of heading back to Nasasobo, we anchored off the village in Dakuniba. The anchorage is much deeper and less protected, but we wanted to go in and have a kava session and didn’t feel like trying to negotiate the trail to the mangroves after dark.

Mélanie and I went in and met up and Sakini and Ruta’s house. We were a bit early for kava, so Ruta made us up some tea and a batch of panecakie. Afterwards we rolled out the woven mats on the grass outside and had a nice night drinking and playing music under a full moon.

The next morning we were all ready to take off for Kioa. We hauled up the hook, cleaned all the mud off the chain, and motored out past the reef. Then then engine died. We had just enough wind to sail back into Dakuniba topping out at 1.7 knots on the way in. Once the hook was down, I quickly diagnosed that the lift pump wasn’t working. Upon further inspection, it wasn’t an electrical problem, so I had to replace the pump with a spare.

I’d also noticed that I was leaking coolant. I had a pinhole leak in one of the heat exchanger hoses. Unfortunately I didn’t have any spare hose. I might have been able to make a patch, but instead I arranged for Mélanie and I to catch a ride into Taveuni with Sakini and Ruta the next day. Sakini is retiring as the principal of the secondary school there and had to go over for a meeting.

We took off at 7am and were pulling into the beach off the school around 8am. Right as we were getting off the boat, the bus came and we hopped on. We didn’t have time to get an orientation from Ruta, be we didn’t want to wait 90 minutes for another bus.

The bus dropped us off at Naqara where it promptly started to rain. We found the one little hole in the wall where we could have some coffee and roti while waiting for the heavy stuff to stop. The rain didn’t let off, so eventually we just hailed a cab to take us around to all the auto part stores to look for radiator hose. The cab took us 30 seconds up the road where we found the right size hose at the very first shop we tried. There were only 3 on this side of the island, but still it was impressive that I was able to find 1 3/8” hose on the first try.

The rain wasn’t letting up, so we went back for another round of Nescafé. Naqara had a number of fruit and veg stands on the side of the road, so we took advantage of a break in the weather to buy more pineapples and avocados which are pretty much the staples of Mélanie’s and my diet these days.

We still had hours to kill before it was time to meet up with Ruta and Sakini at the boat. The lady at the coffee and roti place recommended that we go to the slides. I knew that Taveuni had famous waterfalls that you could slide down in certain places, but I thought that they were on the other side of the island. In fact when I hired a cab, I still thought that we were going to the other side of the island. I was surprised when we were dropped off at a trailhead just 10 minutes out of town.

The trail to the falls wasn’t long. We passed a group from the Tui Tai who were just leaving when we arrived. One of them made an off-hand comment not to go down too far as they were leaving. We had the place to ourselves as we tried to find our way up to the top. The trail was treacherously slick. I’d busted up my knee the week before in Dakuniba and didn’t want to put in a repeat performance.

The lower parts of the slides indeed looked treacherous as we passed them by. If they were the fiberglass slides from back home, they’d be tame. Instead these were rock, polished smooth by countless gallons of water buy rough and jagged just off of the water’s normal path. The slides range from 5 – 40 feet long with deeper pools in between them. At the end of each slide, you had no idea what you’d find in the pool at the end. Indeed a couple of the slides ended abruptly with a submerged rock.

We eventually made our way to the very top. We had a swim and then worked up the courage to try a couple of the very tame slides. They were fun. We didn’t scrape our butts too much. So we gradually went bigger and bigger until we got to the two long slides at the end. We still had the nagging comment about not going too far down in our heads. It would have been easy enough if there was someone with us to tells what was safe. Not knowing added to the adventure. We pushed on through the last two slide, which were amazingly fun, though one had a little drop in it that bruised your butt pretty well.

We were down at the bottom very proud of our sliding when 4 local boys showed up. The ran down the entire sequence of pools, surfing down the slides standing up and then hopping across the slick rocks to get to the next one. We were thoroughly humbled by their performance. Then, instead of using the trail, they turned around and ran back up the slides to start all over again. These kids were Bad-Asses!

After an hour and a half, we left the slides and went down to the school to meet our boat. I ran into Ruven at the petrol station who I’d met in Qamea the year before. We caught up a little bit, but hopefully I’ll get back to Taveuni and see him sometime in the next few weeks.

The boat ride home was uneventful. The rain held off until the very end. The hose fit perfectly and now it’d be time to move on if there wasn’t a big low passing Fiji giving us some very dark weather. It’s never fun to navigate reefs under heavy clouds, so we’re sticking around until the sun comes out. I’m not sure where the next destination is, we’ll see which way the wind is blowing when we leave.