Saturday, April 21, 2018

Smoking engine

In the last minute scramble to prepare for cyclone Kimi, Alan started the engine to run the windlass to tighten the anchor chain  Suddenly clouds of white smoke came pouring out of the exhaust.  It looked like we were on fire. To make matters worse, Alan could not get the engine to turn off.  We were instantly surrounded by people wanting to help.  Adam, the marina manager, actually jumped into the water, swam over and climbed up over the side.  Several other staff jumped on board.from shore.  Someone brought  a fire extinguisher. All of the other yachties came running from their boats.  Alan dashed down below to try to cut off the fuel supply to the engine.  Finally, after what seemed forever but was actually only a few minutes, the engine  quit and the smoke cleared.  The water was full of thick black oil but there did not seem to be any damage.  No fire, no smoking engine, no leaks.  The marina crew squirted deterrent into the water and the oil broke up and drifted away with the outgoing tide.  Everyone went back to finishing cyclone preparations before it got dark.

What the heck had happened?  The only thing Alan could discover was that there seemed to be way too much oil in the crankcase.  Had he somehow put in too much last time he changed the oil?  Had the excess oil over pressurized the engine and blown a head gasket? Nothing to do until after the cyclone passed.  Then he brought in a good mechanic who diagnosed the problem as a bad lift pump.  Somehow it was pumping fuel into the oil where it naturally caught on fire.  That is probably also why we were unable to kill the engine..

So now we need to fix the problem.  Of course the lift pump is in an almost inaccessible place.  After 3 days of greasy struggle Alan finally got it off.  Now we need to fix or replace it.  The Perkins parts supply shop in town assured me that if they just had the number they could get it from Suva in a week.  Of course none of the numbers we gave them matched anything in their computer system.  When Alan finally took the part in to show them, they actually could not get a replacement.    There is a possibility that a shop at the other end of town can rebuild it but now it is the weekend and we are scheduled to be hauled out on Monday, so it will be Tuesday  or Wednesday before we find out if they can do the work

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Boats need hoses, to wash the deck and fill the water tanks.  At home, when I needed a new hose I simply went to a hardware store, bought one, came home and screwed it on.   Not so in Fiji.  First of all, not all hardware stores carry hoses and the ones that do may or may not have them at any given time.  I was actually looking for an expandable hose since they are much easier to store onboard.  One month they were every where.  The next month there were none to be found and the sales clerks could not even remember what they were. 

But most disconcerting, none of the hoses have fittings on them.  They are just bare pieces of hose.  Adaptors are sold separately and come in several pieces and various sizes.  Apparently the faucets in Fiji  are not standard so you need a number of adaptors to fit the various sized  faucets and I suspect that hoses also come in a variety of sizes further compounding the problem.   Putting the pieces together in the right order to fit your particular faucet and hose is a major production.  And then if you move to a different dock or different marina chances are good that you need a different set.  Of course, none of the boats coming in from other countries carry the right sized hose so there is a constant scramble to find adapters.

Hose adaptor theft in the cruisers garden at Vuda is a ongoing problem.  If a hose is left screwed on to the faucet overnight, chances are good that at least one piece of the fitting will be gone in the morning.  Getting a new adaptor involves a bus trip to town a, a hunt through all of the hardware stores again and most of the day.   The security staff actually has a stash of various sizes but they seem to disappear on a regular basis too.  I finally just got into the habit of taking the hose from the boat every time  I need Ito water the garden  Unfortunately,  the garden faucet is a different size from the one on the dock so every time I take the hose to the garden I have to change the adaptor and then change it back when I need to fill the water tanks

It is always the little things that make travel and life in another country challenging and interesting.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hot Bread

One of the things I miss most in Fiji is decent bread; sourdough, baguette, olive and rosemary, multi grain, all the wonderful breads that are so common at home.  Crisp, chewy flavorful.  Wonderful bread, toasted with fresh butter and home made jam for breakfast or grilled with garlic butter with dinner.

In Fiji the Hot Bread Kitchen dominates with outlets in every town and village.  Occasionally there are other bakeries but they all seem to use the same recipe.  There is really just one kind of bread, a soft loaf of white bread that only lasts a day or two before it sprouts  yellow, orange and black mold.  You can get it sliced or unsliced.  There is a whole wheat version that is a darker color but pretty much the same flavor.  Sometimes there is a “french stick” that is really just the same dough in a different shape, long and narrow like a baguette but without the crisp crust. .  Sometimes there is multigrain, at triple the price.  Basically the same bread rolled in a variety of seeds so that the “multi grain” looks good on the outside while the inside is the same soft dough.  There is also a cheese bread.  Again the same dough, flattened and sprinkled with cheese.
To make a sandwich, the locals cut an entire life lengthwise and fill it with canned tuna flakes.  Every once in a while I stumble on some real bread in one of the markets or hotels catering to the super yacht crowd and we eat bread 3 times a day until it is gone.

There is definitely a business opportunity for a good European baker here.  Meanwhile I am trying to master sourdough bread making.  Definitely a challenge with no oven and no refrigerator.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Indian wedding. Engagement Party

 Way back last June I was invited by my hairdresser to attend the engagement party of her nephew. There have been a number of engagement parties at the marina but none where we were actually invited guests so we were looking forward to it.

The party was held in  a community hall in the hills above Lautoka.  We had the name of the area (the Rifle Club) and a phone number but no actual address.  They just do not use addresses here and are lousy at giving directions.  Our taxi driver  set out as if he knew exactly where to go and then admitted he really had no idea where we were going.  Lucky we had that phone number.  After repeated phone calls and several dirt roads he  managed to get us to the right place.  We had been invited for 7:00 and it was now 7:45 but this is Fiji so nothing had really happened yet.  Luckily I had decided to wear the lovely Indian dress that I bought for Chris’ wedding.  The women were all dressed in the most magnificent saris in brilliant colors, covered in jewels, dramatic make up, high healed shoes.  The men were a different story.  Except for the grooms family, they were mostly wearing t-shirts and sandals.  Women were seated in rows of chairs set up theater style while the men gathered at the back of the room to drink kava. 
The happy couple finally arrived to the music of horns and drums and were escorted to the front of the room by dancing women and seated under an elaborate canopy.  The Indian music actually reminds me of Scottish bagpipes. There followed a long and to us incomprehensible ceremony with chanting from the priest and speeches from dozens of men.  At one point a woman read the familiar English wedding vows and rings were exchanged but this was still just the engagement and the wedding would not be for 6 more months. 

Eventually young men passed down the rows of seats handing out Indian sweets  Even though the speeches were still going on, the women began moving to the side of the room where food was being served.  The dining set up was interesting.  There were long planks set up along the wall, one about knee level and another a few feet higher, two sets of planks with a three foot space between them.   We seated ourselves on the lower plank and used the upper plank as a table.  Servers, all men, passed up and down between the rows of plank tables, handing out plates and serving food; curry, rice pilau, cabbage salad, dahl, chutney, roti.  There were no utensils, everyone ate with their fingers using bits of roti to pick up the food.  This worked OK with the larger bits but not so well with the dahl and I ran out of roti long before the food was gone.  The other women managed to look elegant as they scooped up the food with manicured nails and bangles on their wrists.  I soon had food all over my hands and had used up the one small napkin provided.  Luckily the servers returned offering extra roti.  As each person finished, servers passed by to collect the plates and offer a bowl of water to wash sticky fingers.  As the first group finished eating and went back to their seats, more people took their place and the serving began again.  Eventually some of the men joined in but not all of them. 
Meanwhile the speeches continued, eventually segueing into a DJ who ramped up the volume on the sound system and introduced the dancers, pure Bollywood.  Alan and I decided that it was time to go.  The music was way too loud and not really our style and it looked like the party was going to continue until the wee hours. 

Indian Wedding Day 2 of 3

We had not expected to be here for the wedding in December, but here we are so when the invitation was extended again I accepted gladly.  The first event was head at the groom’s father’s house and the invitation was to come for a family dinner.  When we arrived it was obvious it was not just a family dinner but a full out event, complete with canopies, rows of chairs, a dining area, etc .  Once again it was up in the hills  The directions given were to turn at the new grocery store that is not open yet and then go just a little father and it is right there.  “Ask anyone for the house of Vijay’s hair salon.”  Numerous dirt roads, wrong turns and phone calls later we arrived at a lovely home on top of the hills.  And once again we were early, very early,  No one was there except two older men sitting on the porch talking in Hindi.  After some confusion about who we were and how we had been invited, they were delighted to share family stories with us.  They turned out to be the grandfather and uncle of the groom.  Their family had come here, actually been brought here, in the 1870s to work on the sugar cane fields.  They were not slaves but very close to it.  Little by little they managed to save some money and start businesses but Indians were not allowed to own land until very recently.  The fact that they now have a big beautiful house in the hills and enough money to throw an extravagant wedding was a point of pride.   Indians and Fijians by and large live in separate communities and have separate rituals and life styles.  There is bad mouthing between the two groups:  “Fijians are all ……”. “Indians are …” but no outright hostility   Mostly it is live and let live.

Little by little I have been piecing together the details of Indian weddings.  The first night the bride and groom’s family each hold a family dinner.  Night 2, the one we were invited to is a. night of preparation and dedication.  Again the two families are separate.  Night 3 is the actual wedding.  So here we were at night 2.  As before, the women are dressed to the hilt and sit in the front rows.  The men are much more casual and sit in the back and doing kava.  Alan joined the men in the back and they went through several basins of kava before the nigh was over.  The groom came forward, escorted by several family members, one of whom carried a shrine of Vishnu. They processed around the canopy several times, stopping at each corner.  Then the groom was seated and the various family members approached and rubbed his face and arms with a white paste, touched his head with oil and gave him a belt leaf.  When this ceremony was over they all processed back into the house. 

People relaxed and chit chatted.  And then a   little while later the horns wailed and the drums pounded and the whole ritual was repeated with different participants and with the groom wearing a different shirt.  I lost track of how many times this happened but I am sure it was over a dozen.  I found out later that he was trying on and displaying all of the new clothes that had been given to him.  Apparently the same thing was happening at the bride’s house at the same time with saris rather than shirts.  One of the frustrating things was that whenever I asked the people around me what was happening and what it all meant I was met with blank stares and told it was tradition.  Alan fared better.  He was seated next to a teacher who was delighted to fill him in on all the ritual.  Apparently the groom is considered to be the embodiment of Vishnu from tonight until after the wedding.  Unfortunately Alan is not as interested in this stuff as I am so there are still a lot of gaps that tI need to sort out.

Eventually it was announced that food was ready and the women began moving towards the long plank serving area.  Speeches continued and the DJ was setting up.   We decided it was time to go.  We had told our taxi driver that we would call him about 10:00 so he should have been waiting for our call to come get us but the phone rang and rang with no answer.  I finally tracked down our hostess and told her our plight.  She got her husband who found a buddy with a car and they took us back to the marina, drinking beer all the way.

Indian Wedding Day 3.  Wedding

Finally the actual wedding day.  This event was held back at the community hall at the Rifle Club where the engagement party was held.  After our abandonment by last night’s taxi driver we decided to track down Ali, our driver from the engagement party, on the theory that he knew where the place was.  Turns out he was on vacation but when I called him he said he would be happy to take us.  Actually he sent his son to pick up up and take us to his house where we transferred to his car.  Turned out he was also going to a wedding tonight but he could easily drop us and pick us up again.  It is a very small community in Fiji. 

All the elements were the same; women in the front, men in the back, planks for serving food along the side, an elaborate canopy on the stage.  This ceremony was much more religious and even more incomprehensible.  It seemed to go on forever with much chanting and singing by two priests in elaborate costumes.  Lots of processing and bowing and offerings to the gods.  Several time coconuts were split in half with a single stroke of a machete.  The bride and the groom each gave their seven vows.  And of course speeches and music and dancing.  Our taxi driver arrived when summoned and deposited us back at the marina before returning to his family wedding.

Friday, January 19, 2018

We spent a little over a week in Denerau and it rained every day.  Some days it was a light drizzle and some days it was a downpour.  Sometimes we just stayed on the boat and sometimes we waited it out ashore.  We had two little awnings up over the hatches but even so, everything was damp.  Capt Jack’s litter box flooded and had to be dumped overboard.  Luckily I had a spare bag of litter.  Several times the dingy filled up almost to the top and had to be bailed.  And then came the ultimate gully washer.

I had decided to take advantage of a break in the rain to get the laundry done.  I rounded up the dirty clothes, soap and a book and had Alan row me ashore  The washing machines here are better and cheaper than the ones at Vuda.  You actually get hot water without paying extra for it.   A couple of hours later everything was sparkling clean, dry and folded.  I called Alan to pick me up.  We put the clean laundry in the dingy and then Alan said that he needed to go talk to the electrician.  Just as we headed back to the dock the sky opened and the rain came pouring down in buckets.  We ducked into the closest restaurant as the staff struggled to roll down the storm screens.  All I could think of was my nice clean, dry laundry and the book that I had been reading which was in the laundry basket. The minute there was a break we ran for the dock, grabbed the laundry, and my book, and made another dash for the closest restaurant.  A glance at the sky had made it clear that we did not have time to row back to the boat.      

The wind and rain continued for over an hour while we sat at Cardo’s Restaurant and drank draft Fiji Bitter and ate taro chips with the bag of damp laundry by our feet.  By the time it was over the marina office was closed and I did not have any more laundry tokens so we rowed back to the boat.  Once again, the inside of Rhapsody was festooned with damp clothes hanging from every hook.  When I went to put them away the next day I discovered that the closet had a leak so all of those clothes were damp.  Guess I will just wait until we get back to Vuda and hang them all out on the line, if the rain ever stops.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dec 2017, End of the year

December 2017

Vuda Marina

Little by little everyone is leaving Vuda.  Some put their boats in a cyclone pit and fly off to visit friends and family for the cyclone season.  Some grab a last weather window and set sail for New Zealand.  Some have gone to Denerau, Lautoka Musket Cove or Savusavu where the docking/mooring fees are less and anchoring is free.  By the middle of the month there are only a few of us left here.  The weather is actually lovely.  Clouds , wind and frequent showers keep it cool enough that we actually need a sheet at night.  One fan keeps us cool during the day.

I started last May provisioning Rhapsody for what I thought was going to be our trip to Hawaii.  Since we never left we have all of those provisions, so I have decided no shopping until everything is used up.  Little by little the cupboards are emptying but it is still going to take some time to finish it all.  We have had some interesting and unexpected meals but by and large it looks like I did a good job with the provisioning.  Towards the end of the month I started adding a few fresh vegetables and meat.  Now that we are back in the marina we can freeze our jugs of water and keep the ice box cool if not cold. By the beginning of Jan we still had food left and our monthly expenses for food the last 2 months are about $150 US. 

None of our main projects have gotten very far and now are completely stalled for the holidays.  The water maker, generator problem remains unresolved.  It seems like we need to buy a new American generator.  I think we should wait until we get to American Samoa.  We know we can make it that far on what we can carry.  Alan wants to take care of it now to be sure that there is not something else wrong. 

The SSB radio receives but does not transmit.  We finally made email contact with the Pacific Seafarers Net and between us decided that we need to replace the wide copper strip antenna that had been damaged.  Alan installed a new KISS antenna last year and we give up on the copper strip and allowed it to fall apart but the radio no longer works so we think we need put  the old antenna back.  Rhapsody came with a long strip of copper that has been kicking around all this time so we will use it to replace the workout one.  Unfortunately, it is about 10 feet too short.  Where on earth are we going to find a strip of copper about 3” wide and 10” long in Fiji?

The third must do job is the solar panels.  We have 2 small panels that work well but just sit on the deck.  We really need to install them more permanently. Alan talked to Yacht Help about replacing the cable life lines with rigid stainless steal ones.  We should hear back in a few weeks, after the holidays. 

Our Christmas this year was very quiet. The weather continue cloudy and windy as a low trough move past.  I made a roast beef dinner for Christmas Eve and we went to the restaurant for brunch on Christmas Day.   They do not have mimosas on the menu but they do offer champagne and orange juice so I ordered a glass of each and we made our own.  The highlight of the day was a long FaceTime call home to watch the family open presents.  So glad the technology exists to allow us to see each other halfway around the world.  Seeing everyone together, so happy makes it easier to continue this far flung adventure of ours. 

Dec 1, 2017 Back in Vuda

Dec 1, 2017. Back in Vuda Marina.

So we are back after two months and created like long lost friends by the staff.  I had emailed several days earlier and we were expected.  Our old slip was waiting but we actually decided to move a little bit further along, next to High Aspect.  High Aspect is a beautiful 70’ charter sailboat and they pay for an extra slip so that they will not have anyone banging into them.  This means we also will not have and one banging into us.  Lots of room between us to launch the dingy and no way for Jack Sparrow to jump onto the boat next door.  The other side of us is an equally large but not nearly so beautiful boat from Russia.  It has been tied up in the same spot for 2 years with no one aboard so we do not have to worry about noisy neighbors on that side either.

Almost all of our friends from last year have left, either taken their boats away for cyclone or put the boat in a pit and flown off to visit friends.  It is very quiet here.  Also very hot and buggy.  First order of business is to put away the blankets what we had gotten out for cruising and put up the big sun awning.  Second is a trop to town to buy a fan, a  new hose and some fresh vegetables and meat.  Now that we are back I the marina we can start putting our water jugs in their freezer and once again have a cool ice box.

One of my first projects now that we are back and plugged into shore power is to replace the plastic cover on our mattress. It has several tears and the sticking is coming apart on one side.    Obviously it is a project that should be done all in one day so we can sleep on it at night.  I tracked down some shower curtain material in town, planned carefully, cut and pinned everything.  When I was all ready to stitch I hauled the mattress out onto the roof of the cabin where I can get to it and proceeded to remove the old cover.  I hauled my sewing machine out and set it up, ready to get to work and it would not run.  It is a nice new Mexican Singer machine given to me by our friends on Mary Madeline when they sold their boat.  Unlike every other sewing machine I have ever had it is not set up for personal maintenance.  It does not come apart easily.  Some areas are impossible to get to and the manual is not much good.  So the mattress went back onto the bed, naked, while I tried to figure to what was wrong.    Thank heavens it is not raining these days since the roof over the bed leaks.  After several days of fiddling and searching the internet I finally found the problem.  The bobbin case had rusted and was not turning.  Once I got it off and cleaned and oiled,  I was back in business.  Most of a week was devoted to rebuilding the captains chair in the cockpit and fixing up the sun awnings.