Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rafting in Fiji

While in Suva, Tubby’s motor started misbehaving. Malcolm inspected it and it appears the carburetor float valve and the jet had disintegrated (or maybe fell out during the inspection)! None of the marine shops in Suva had the parts, but the Mercury dealer in Nadi offered us a new carburetor in stock that could be shipped to Suva the next day, Friday, or a carburetor service kit that needed to be ordered and could arrive in Suva Tuesday. We ordered and paid for the new carburetor, it wasn’t much more than the carburetor service kit.
We had seen a beautiful poster of rafts in a river canyon at the restaurant at the Royal Suva Yacht Club. We looked the river up on the internet and read all about the river rafting trip along the Upper Navua River.

Since the dinghy motor died and we were waiting for a part to be sent from Nadi, we booked the trip. It was a fantastic daytrip! The local company, Rivers Fiji, owned by the US company, OARS, organises a great day, including transport through the mountain forest and into the interior, knowledgeable, skilled and fun guides, morning and afternoon snacks, a wonderful lunch and all the equipment. The river itself is tame, with just class II rapids, but the scenery is wonderful - narrow canyons, waterfalls, caves, crystal clear water, birds, ferns, palms, trees and vines. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sailing to Fiji

Our crossing from Vava’u, Tonga to Suva, Fiji was wonderful. We were both a bit out of sorts the first 24 hours, with being offshore and the new sleep pattern, but we quickly got back into a rhythm.

Without batteries, our autopilot wouldn't work, so we hand-steered the first 24 hours in three hour shifts. Then the wind died and we started the engine to find it was not charging the almost completely dead batteries at all. Malcolm fixed the alternator and we got enough battery power to use the small, CPT autopilot. We were able to sit back and relax. After a day of motoring, some wind returned, and the last couple of days were sunny, with smooth seas and we sailed along nicely to Suva.

We arrived in the bay at Suva about 9 AM in the morning. Suva is an active shipping port and an industrial town. It was the perfect place for us as almost every business is related to ships and marine stuff.

After hosting the officials from the Ministry of Health, Customs and Biosecurity, and officially checking into the country, we went ashore to the Royal Suva Yacht Club and had dinner. Malcolm had the bacon cheese burger and was sick all night. He says he is never going to eat a burger again!

We were very productive in Suva! We found a new Fijian made 12 volt 200 amp hour AGM battery that will work well as an interim battery until the new AGM batteries we ordered from China arrive in mid-July. The new battery was dropped off at the dock and they not only took away the 4 huge, dead batteries, but also gave us $120 FD for the lead in them! The boat is now 200lbs lighter!

We now have the refrigerator turned on (but not the freezer) and we are trying to be conscious of the power we use. Luckily it's pretty sunny most days so the solar panels completely recharge the battery by noon each day. 

We bought high-density foam to create new cockpit cushions and found a local upholstery shop to sew the cockpit cushion covers, hatch, winch, life-raft and wheel covers. We finally used the large roll of gold Sunbrella material we have been carrying since we left Vancouver! The golden accents on the topsides look great!

We purchased several metres of gorgeous local fabric in blues with gold highlights for throw pillows and found a wonderful local seamstress to make us 12 pillow covers. We even found a new shower head for the broken shower on the aft deck!

In Fiji, when you anchor off islands, and especially if you go ashore, it is expected that you will bring an offering to the village Chief. This offering, called, sevusevu, is typically kava root. Once the root is pounded to a powder, it is mixed with water and strained through a cloth into a half coconut shell for drinking. It is mildly narcotic with the effect of leaving a tingling feeling on the tongue, inside the mouth and sometimes throughout the head and throat. It was a ceremonial drink, but now locals tend to enjoy it most weekends. 

The price of kava has increased dramatically as the crop has been devastated by the cyclone and saltwater surges onto farm land. After some shopping around, we finally found some kava root for $FD60 per kilo (prices started at $FD90 per kilo). We purchased 3 kilos and had it packaged into 12 – ¼ kilo packages. Chuck and Lauri, on SV Free Spirit, will take 6 of the packages. We each have other items, such as packages of laundry detergent, bars of soap, packages of toothbrushes, pencils, notebooks, crayons, etc., that we will include, along with the kava, in our sevusevu offerings.  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Problems in Tonga

We have 4 very large batteries on the boat to run all of our stuff (lights, refrigerator, chart-plotter, radar, radio, …). They should have been fine when we returned to the boat, but something had completely discharged them. We suspect it was a bilge pump with a stuck float switch. After being discharged for a while, they could not hold much charge. We could run the lights and radio, but no fridge or freezer.

We spent about 10 days in the harbour in Vava’u, eating at restaurants and using the Internet to figure out what to do about getting new batteries. Dina caught a virus (probably Zika) and spent three days in bed. She had body aches, joint pain and a full body rash, but there were no lingering effects. Fortunately, Malcolm didn’t catch it.

After much searching online, it was apparent that we couldn’t “shock” the batteries back to normal. They needed to be replaced, and new ones would have to be shipped to us. The owners of The Boatyard confirmed that getting things shipped to Tonga can be problematic. It looked like we needed to get to Fiji or American Samoa.

Thanks to some other friends, we connected with another cruiser in Fiji who had just ordered some batteries from China and he suggested we could share shipping costs if we ordered ours quickly. After a few more hours online and several emails around the globe, it looked like a great option. We went ahead and ordered them and then sat down to figure out what to do for the 7 weeks until the new batteries arrive in Fiji.

The plan we came up with was to sail to Fiji right away, see about buying one new battery there as an interim solution, and then start exploring Fiji while trying to get along with limited battery power until the new ones arrive.

We spent the last few days in Tonga going to each of our favourite restaurants and saying good-bye to the staff at each.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Back on the boat

We flew into Tonga a week ago. The boat survived the cyclone season
just fine and new bottom paint looks good! After a few days in the
boatyard, we were put into the water and we motored over to the harbour.

We're now working on some odd jobs and looking for some nice weather
to head south to the Hapaii group.