Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On the hard in Fiji

October 14, 2009—The past week has been a very busy one. After arriving at Vuda Point Marina, we immediately began cleaning the boat and preparing to have her hauled out. We hoisted both sails in order to wash them and let them dry, and we washed down the topsides. We had not been able to give the boat a good wash for quite awhile so she was really in need of some TLC. The good weather held for the first five days that we were in the marina, and we were able to get a lot done.

On Friday, October 9, we left our slip and pulled into the boat lift. Chris from sv Wind Dancer came on board to help us with the lines to hold the boat in position while George swam around the boat making sure that the lifting straps were in place. Moe is the travel lift operator and did a great job lifting the boat from the water.

The boat was moved to the wash down pad where George used a power washer to clean the bottom and propeller. We were very pleased that there was very little growth on the bottom and no growth at all on the propeller. We had “Prop Speed” applied to the propeller in New Zealand, and it was well worth the price because Steve did not have to clean it once.

The next step was to place the boat into the pit that was dug in the ground. After making sure that the hole would accommodate our keel and rudder, Moe carefully lowered the boat while George guided him. When she was sitting correctly, George placed stacked tires around the hull in order to hold her in place. When she was secure in the pit, George released the lifting straps, and Moe pulled the travel lift away from the boat.

We got a bure at the First Landing Resort right next door and then spent the next three days cleaning the interior, removing lines from the deck, and covering important items with plastic to protect them while we are away. I also cleaned the interior with vinegar in order to keep the surfaces clean.

After that work was finished, we began moving items from the deck down below. The dodger and bimini were removed and placed on the forward berth, along with our sail bags. We also moved our cockpit cushions below to keep them out of the sun and to prevent them from blowing away in the event of a storm. Anything that could blow away or cause damage to other boats was removed and stored below. Steve also placed storm boards over our large port lights in order to keep them from being broken by flying objects.

I cannot list all the work that is involved in leaving the boat on the hard during cyclone season. It takes a lot of work to get the boat prepared, and that is why many cruisers never leave their boats for any length of time. Our effort was complicated by two days of heavy rain that soaked everything, and storing wet items below is just asking for mold problems.
We finished our work on Tuesday, in the rain, enjoyed a chicken curry lunch at the Yacht Club, and then took a taxi to the Nadi Airport where we booked a room for two nights. John and Renee from sv Scarlet O’Hara joined us until their plane left for Los Angeles that night. The Raffles Gateway Hotel is a nice place with lovely swimming pools; however, we are now anxious to be home.
Because we will be off the boat for a few months, I will not post another blog on December 1. We will leave Fiji on Thursday. I will spend four days in San Diego with Brie and Drue, but Steve will continue on to Albuquerque. We will then await the arrival of our granddaughter Riley around the first week in November, and that makes all the hard work required to go home worth it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Earthquake and Tsunami in Vanuatu

October 9, 2009--Well, it has happened again! Another severe earthquake, this one measuring 7.8 on Richter Scale hit to the northwest of Espirito Santos in Vanuatu yesterday morning at a little after 1100 local Fiji time. We were first alerted to the Tsunami at 1115 by a police officer walking around the marina warning people of the event and telling us that we should seek higher ground. Soon thereafter the marina manager passed through telling us that we should stay on the boat to adjust lines if necessary. The majority of yachties took off for higher ground, but a number of us chose to stay on our boats using the logic that boats float.

We tuned into both the VHF radio and the high frequency radio to get any information we could. On the radios we learned that we should expect the first waves around 1150 and that the danger would not pass until 2 hours later. We slacked off our lines and moved LINDA further from the dock, shut all the hatches and portlights, put on our harnesses/PFDs (personal flotation device) and tethers, and sat to await whatever was on its way. I have to say that it was a strange feeling sitting on the boat waiting for something to happen and not knowing if that something was going to be bad or not! At 1145 a call on the radio from civil authorities said a one-meter surge was expected and that the threat was increased from moderate to high. We continued to sit but nothing ever happened. Around 1300 the authorities canceled the threat, and the masses descended from the hills, local businesses reopened, and life returned to normal. For all of that we are grateful!

We know that non-US news in the US usually consists of a couple of sound bites of coverage, but here in the Pacific these geologic phenomena have been the major news stories lately. There have been 3 major earthquakes in our general area within the past 10 days, all near 8.0! The first near Samoa/Northern Tonga, the next near Sumatra in Indonesia, and now this one in Vanuatu. We do not know yet of damage and casualties in Vanuatu, but the first two quakes/Tsunamis did major damage and killed several thousand people. We have to compliment the US and Pacific Island governments on their rapid and efficient communication and emergency management. Within 15 minutes of the earthquake, almost everyone had been advised, police were blocking roads, information was provided on all radios, and order was maintained.

Now we continue with getting the boat ready to be hauled out.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

South through the Yasawas

October 5, 2009—Monday morning, September 28, we took the trail leading over the island to the windward side. The trail ended at the Sunshine Lagoon Resort, which is a backpackers resort. A woman named Sala called out to us and invited us to come into the dining hall, so we sat down to visit with her for awhile and found out that there are two other resorts on this side, the Coral View Resort and Gold Coast Resort. These three resorts are owned by Fijian families, which is unusual here; and, unfortunately, you can see the difference. The facilities were not as nice as the other resorts we have visited; however, we had to give them credit for being entrepreneurs.

When we left, we walked down the beach past the other two resorts and stopped at Kim’s Tea Room at the end. The sign said, “Cold Beer,” so we went in to the small, but very quaint, thatched building. The woman behind the window introduced herself as Lo and asked us what we would like. Steve said a beer, but she said there was none, so we ordered two warm Fantas and a slice of chocolate cake. We sat down at the table and enjoyed the food, but we had to finish it quickly as the resident cat moved in quickly for any leftovers.
That evening we went ashore to the Nanuya Bay Resort where we enjoyed a wonderful meal of lamb chops with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed okra. Both of us were surprised that the okra was so good. We also had a beautiful sunset that evening.

The next morning we went by sv Cheshire Cat to meet up with Mike, Justin, and Hazel. We took off in our dinghies across the bay and around the point of Matacawa Levu Island. At the backpackers’ resort, we were able to get directions to the vegetable farm, which was just over the hill. We followed the trail, and when we came over the ridge, we saw a beautiful valley below us. We walked down and went to the house where we met Toki, who works the farm. We explained what we wanted, and he led us to the fields.

Throughout the process of getting our vegetables, we walked over quite a bit of land. The guys all helped pick the vegetables and fruit. We bought carrots, tomatoes, jack beans, bell peppers, cabbage, beets, bananas, papaya, and coconuts. When our bag was full, Toki’s wife came over, examined the bag, and told us the cost was $25 Fijian or about $14 U.S. She did not charge us for the coconuts because they did not plant them. We happily paid her and then asked to take their picture. They work hard here, and Toki was very excited that he had just purchased a rototiller to make the work easier.

On Wednesday, September 30, we were listening to New Zealand radio on our SSB radio when they announced that an 8.3 earthquake had struck northwest of Samoa. Steve wrote the last blog posting about the situation. Since that posting we learned that one cruiser was lost in Pago Pago, American Samoa, when he was swept off his boat. We still do not know if any yachts were lost, but some were damaged. We heard that the family that we got to know in Nuitoputapu, Tonga, lost their home. The south shore of Samoa where we enjoyed lunch at a lovely resort was completely wiped out. We are still waiting for more accurate information. So far no cruisers that we know personally were affected.

We planned to leave Blue Lagoon and go south a few miles to Somosomo on Naviti Island, but we waited for a few hours to be sure that there would be no effects from the tsunami. We were able to enjoy a nice sail, which was nice for a change. A few miles down the coast, a school of dolphins crossed our path, and six of them broke off so that they could swim in our bow wave. It was fun to watch them because we have seen very few dolphins here in Fiji.

We arrived at Somosomo Village on Naviti Island around noon, so we decided to eat lunch and then go into the village. When we went ashore after lunch, three young men were waiting to help us pull our dinghy on shore. Two of them then took us to the chief’s home so that we could present our “sevusevu.” We entered the home, and Steve placed the kava in front of the chief, who was sitting on a mat on the floor. The chief then chanted a welcome in Fijian, accompanied by clapping his hands. When he was done, he shook our hands, and we were now free to walk around the village and to leave our boat anchored in the bay.

The village was very nice with shrub lined paths to all the buildings. We were taken to see the Methodist church, which is one of three in this village. Of course, as we passed homes, the women would ask us to look at their handicrafts. We always try to purchase something from them, so I bought some material from one, and then we met Moce (Mothe), who had some nice shell earrings. I asked about a conch shell, and she sent her nephew off to get her sister. The sister brought a lovely conch shell that I really liked so I bought it. We got to meet all of the family, including little two-year-old Lucy, and really enjoyed our time with them. When we returned to the boat, it was late afternoon, and we just took it easy.

Around 10 o’clock the next morning Bill (the chief’s nephew) and Robert came out to the boat in a kayak for a visit. They brought us two pumpkins and two coconuts, and we served them lemonade and ginger snap cookies. They visited with us for about an hour, talking about the village and their lives. We got out two large charts to show them where we had been over the past two seasons, and then Steve gave them a tour of the boat before they left. We had a very nice time with them.

Around noon we moved north just a bit to Narewa Bay on the same island and went ashore to a very long beach with beautiful white sand. We walked for quite a ways looking for, and finding, some nice shells. I have decided that I cannot take any more shells home so that will be it for this season. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset in the evening.
As we were pulling the anchor the next morning, we saw a very large sea turtle that surfaced close to the boat. We planned to go to the northern end of Waya; however, after sailing for about two hours, the wind picked up and was right on the nose so we had to motor once again. The seas were building, and we just didn’t want to pound into them, so we diverted to Manta Ray Bay. We anchored and put out the flopper stopper so we did not have too much roll. The wind continued to blow and then around five o’clock it suddenly stopped and was perfectly calm. Two hours later it was blowing once again—very strange.

The next day we planned to go about 20 miles back to Navadra, and we had great sailing for three hours. It was so good that we decided to continue on to Musket Cove. Of course, once we had passed Navadra, the winds died down, and we had to motor sail the rest of the way in to Musket. In the end we didn’t mind because it was such a lovely day.
We arrived in Musket around five in the evening and picked up a mooring ball. We then prepared lamb shanks with vegetables for dinner, which was exceptionally good. It had been a long day, so we crashed for the night. The next day we just took it easy and did little project s around the boat. We cooked steaks for dinner and then called it a night because we planned to leave early to return to Vuda Point Marina to prepare the boat for the haul out.
Our last leg back to Vuda Point felt a bit strange. We both agreed that we were anxious to go home, but we felt sad about leaving the boat. We were motoring so we made water and charged the batteries all the way. We arrived around nine o’clock and pulled into Slip 12, where we tied up the boat. It has been a good season.
Before ending this blog, I wanted to post our picture of the beautiful manta ray that we swam with.