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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2013, 07-23 Boat Chores and Indecision in Savusavu, Fiji.

     We’ve been in Savusavu for nearly a month now busy with boat
projects. The nearby islands are still calling out to us and eventually we will head off adventuring but timing as always is everything and the cool weather in Savusavu offered us a great place to work our way down the list of boat chores we had been putting off. When we arrived we bought an AB aluminum bottom dinghy (or as they say in the southern hemisphere ‘‘al oo min ium ‘‘). The dinghy was lightly used so the aluminum bottom and non-skid needed some repair but we knew we could do the job ourselves –if we could find the right paint. The job stretched out when we were graced with several days of rain and several more with humidity so high the paint refused to dry but that gave me time to work on re-sewing the accompanying dinghy chaps as well as scrubbing up and getting ready for sale our used 8 horse Yamaha, our Zodiac soft floor dinghy and the Walker Bay dinghy we bought in Mexico.  The wet weather meant the job took us three times as long as we had anticipated but the match up of the  used 15 horse Yamaha that we picked up in Vuda with the newly refinished AB gave us a dry, fast and roomy new ride for snorkeling and diving and exploring the more far away reefs.

     In between segments of that project we heard about a construction company in town with a good reputation for finished cabinetry work and decided to commission two wood working projects: a rebuild of the teak shower grate in the forward head that over the 37 year life of Island Bound has slowly worn away and been washed down the drain leaving the platform weak and slowly breaking into bits and an insert for our refrigerator/freezer designed to give a better temperature separation between the refrigerator and freezer sections. We rebuilt our refrigeration system before leaving Seattle and the surprise of the century was that the new box is so well insulated that if the temperature is kept low enough to keep meat frozen and make ice cubes then everything else in the rest of the box freezes too.  The new insert allows us to close off the freezer section and then adjust the airflow between the two sections and hopefully will keep the frozen things frozen and everything else not frozen into mush.  The refrigerator project appears to be a success but the shower grate project bid came in at such a high price that captain Bill decided to do the work himself. 

     The next project was finding a local with a sewing machine capable of working on heavy canvas. The stitching on our bimini and dodger was being not so slowly eaten away by the tropical sun and my attempts at hand sewing the worst spots had kept disaster at bay but I was definitely losing ground fast. We stripped the canvas from the stainless steel frame and carted it into town where for $50  -that’s just $25 US!!!!- Hanif re-sewed the stitching hopefully giving us a couple more years of use before we will have to completely replace the canvas.

     We have also been treating some computer problems – the letters T,Y,U,I and O on my laptop suddenly stopped working while Bill’s laptop developed the blue screen of death. My missing letters meant emailing, blog posts and general staying in touch came to a screeching halt which was a bother but Bills computer runs our back up navigation programs and is the beginning point for all of the Google Earth charts we use on our iPad during passage and ~gasp~ runs our only CD player for the occasional CD movie night. Computer problems take on great shape when you’re in a foreign country since you can’t just order a replacement to be delivered overnight and finding qualified technicians is always hit and miss. A twenty dollar plug and play keyboard has me back in touch and three days and nights of backing up and reloading operating systems has Bills computer and a replacement Josh brought on his last visit up and running again.

     In the meantime I’ve been busy trying to catch up on a few sewing projects –a cover for the new outboard, storm flaps for a zippered window in our dodger and bits of mending. I also made the rounds of the local seamstresses and found a woman who for $4.00 US each plus $6.50 cents worth of local fabric duplicated a favorite sundress of mine.  I’ve sewn sundresses before but for $4.00 I will gladly spend a day doing something other than sewing and instead support the local economy. That’s right for $10.50 US I have an addition to my wardrobe.

    Between all that Bill has kept busy working out a few bugs on our battery/solar charging system and equalized our house bank of Lifeline batteries, made fishing rod holders for the new dinghy, fixed a blown hose clamp on our water maker that had fifty gallons of tanked fresh water pouring out of the cabinet that holds our water maker and into the companionway that divides our main and aft cabins. Oops!  He installed our old dinghy wheel brackets on the new dinghy, designed the insert the cabinet maker built for our fridge and oversaw the work being done after the design was finalized. Evenings were spent having dinner with friends at one of Savusavu’s many curry houses or aboard using the internet to research how best to ship 200 pounds of anchor chain from New Zealand to Fiji to replace the horribly rusted and getting smaller by the drop anchor chain that is currently making a mess of the bow of our boat. Oh, and hour after hour disappeared while we began researching where Island Bound is headed next.  

     Which leads me to the next bit of news: we have no idea where we
will be going next or what our route will be or when will be the right
time to go there.  We have I think decided not to stay here in Savusavu
for the coming cyclone season as had been our original plan. Savusavu
is rainy –up to 14” a month at the height of the wet season. Even now
in the dry season there is a lot of rain in Savusavu.  The town is nestled
in close to the mountains which draws in the clouds. In our month here
there have been only two days of clear blue sky the rest all checked in
as partly rainy to heavy rain all darn day leaving me digging out the
jeans and fleece to go along with our umbrellas and rain coats. Our plan
had been to use Savusavu as our cyclone season base from November
through April next year as a change of pace from Vuda. But if it’s this
grey in the dry season well, we can only imagine a very wet hot summer
here.  Vuda is on the dry side of the island of Vanua Levu and other
than the three weeks in March when it rained nonstop the rain was a
manageable problem.  In Vuda we were at most a tightrope walk away
from land and I could come and go for walks or play cards with the
ladies or take a dip at First Landings pool to beat the heat. Here the
town regularly floods and everything is awash in mud when it rains
even now. Laundry doesn’t dry, towels stay damp between showers
and the smell of mildew is growing in our hanging locker –and this is
the dry season! We could essentially be trapped on the boat for days at
a time with everything getting soggier and soggier. Add to that the
reality that the size of the cruising community will plummet
significantly on or around November 1st and I am afraid I could go stir
crazy in Savusavu. Ugggggg.

      So we are reconsidering our options at the same time we are trying
to decide where we will go next. As always there is much to consider
including the possibility of joining up with the Micronesia Rally and or
the Indonesia Rally to work our way slowly towards Thailand. There are
numerous routes to take depending on our preferred destination and
several hot spots to be wary of or avoid completely.  The Rally’s offer
strength in numbers both in dealing with safety issues and working with
various government entities during the labyrinth of check in and check
out procedures that are required as we move deeper into the west.
From everything we have been reading the check in requirements we
have encountered as we moved through Mexico, French Polynesia,      
Tonga, the Cook Islands and Fiji will all pale in comparison to what we
can expect in the next couple of years. In fact even with rally sponsors
handling all of the particulars for the check in and out clearances there
can still be snafus. A year or two ago an entire contingent of rally
participants –some 90 boats- were impounded and the captains
arrested on entering one Indonesian port and that’s with pre-
registering and an English speaking representative meeting the group
as they entered the country!  In the end the boats were returned and
the captains released but it would certainly make for a tense bit of
cruising life.  

    There are multiple choices to consider and many different routes
possible to cover the thousands of miles we are looking at. The saloon
table has been covered with reference books and our computers open
to our library of PDF file cruising compendiums.  We will be crossing the
equator again, this time going from the southern hemisphere back to
the northern  and we will once again be sailing through the ITCZ, the
“doldrums” as we leave the southern hemisphere cyclone zone and
move into monsoon country.  We have choices that include some
combination of: the Ellice Islands (Tuvalu), The Tungaru Islands (Tarawa
atoll) and the Marshall Islands (Majro) on to the Caroline Islands
(Guam, Yap and Chuuk) then on to a rest stop in Palau.  OR  Vanuatu
and  then up through the Solomon Islands stopping at or bypassing
completely the country of Papau New Guinea then on to that planned
rest stop in Palau.

     The stop in Palau looks enticing because it is a country with a
“compact of free association with the United states” –ie: a sovereign
nation that trades in US dollars” and which allows US citizens a
relatively easy to receive resident status without which much of the
areas cruising grounds are off limits.  In Palau with residency we could
pause again and explore some of the most beautiful and least explored
cruising and diving grounds in the world. And as a US territory we can
receive US mail and shipments and there are direct flights home AND
it’s cyclone free.  From there it is off across the Philippine Sea and on
towards Thailand. Then who knows, Hong Kong? Vietnam? Japan?
Way too far off to imagine quite yet but it sure makes for some
interesting evening conversations.

     Once again write any time we love to get news from home. Happy
sailing, Kat.  

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