These last few days we spent together with Thomas, Susanne, Ivi and Jack from the SY Time Lord at the island of Malolo Lailai. One of the better places we’ve seen in a long time. Not soo much because the of it’s beauty – although most people will agree that it’s a 100% awesome, tropical island. For our liking it’s a bit too much on the touristic side. But it’s because of the Muscet Cove Resort that is totally geared towards sailors, that we like it so much. The former owner of the resort supposedly was a keen sailor himself.
So as a yottie you can anchor, pick up a mooring or go into the little harbor where you moore stern-to. There’s a little shop, showers, toilets and a bar on the little island at the end of the jetty. At the bar one can use the two gas barbequeues and the resort even provides for dishes – as long as one consumes an occasional beverage at the bar.
The resort has a nice (saltwater) pool, there are lots of other kids around and in the evening the staff organizes a childrens dinner, followed by a cinema evening. So while the grown ups have a good time on the BBQ-island, the little ones have endless fun at the resort and in the evening all four kids sleep together on the Time Lord.
With the Suvarov we made a little excursion towards the outer reef where the bar ‘Cloud 9′ is to be found. A floating, little heaven for surfers who enjoy the close by surf spots. Today our friends from Norway had to leave, to haul out at Vuda Point marina and do maintenance on the ship. Hopefully they can finish the work in time so we can sail out together in two weeks…
A few days ago I mentioned big news and I guess now it’s time to let the cat out of the bag: We’re in the last weeks of our voyage. Soon – probably sometime in July we’ll return to Berlin. Back into the concrete jungle, yes. Well. Now it’s out.
Of course some of you will try to encourage us to stay and I really appreciate it but be assured: It was not an easy decision. And somehow we wished we could continue. But the time is not the right one. We’ve been sailing three years, crossed two oceans, lost one yacht, had many adventures, met wonderful people and were able to see and live in the amazing beauty of the South Pacific. It’s a good time to stop.
We also searched for ways to continue our travel or fast routes to sail back to Europe but nobody on board really wants to cross the Indian ocean and even less the Atlantic from south to north with very few and short landfalls in between. We all miss our family and friends a lot and – it has to be mentioned: Since our shipwreck we always have been very short on money which sometimes complicated things.
Soon we’ll try to go back in our previous lives but not quite yet: We still have some weeks left and want to visit Tikopia in the Solomon Islands and climb the volcanoes of Vanuatu. Later we probably will end up in Australia which seems to be the best place to sell a boat in the Pacific.
And just as we made up our mind, the South sea throws this unbelievable gorgeous island called Yanuca in our way. Together with the family from the SY Time Lord we’re the only souls around. The kids wander off and disappear for hours looking for crabs on the beach and investigating a lost resort hidden by the palm trees. We snorkel in the crystal clear water, see turtles and sharks. Dolphins swim and jump in the bay and in the evening we have a wonderful camp fire on the beach. And to top it all off, we experience a rare ‘blood moon’ as we return to our boats.
But still, today in the afternoon we’ll pull the anchor out of the coral sand and sail through the night towards the western islands. We try to reach Malolo Leilei (what a name !) in the morning and probably stay there for a week to celebrate easter and Violas 6th birthday.
No, no, no ! Don’t you be worried ! Although having been seperated from my loved ones for more than a month now, the psyche of the skipper is still in good shape. Turbulent was the weather which got affected by a tropical depression during these last days. That’s why I’ll do another post with pics of wind and rain.
After being at anchor out at the reef for more than two weeks, a few days in Savusavu are a welcomed change. Because of the forecast I took down the big sunroof and gave it to a local tailor to stich up a few holes. Then we wait for the wind. The weather prediction was spot-on and despite being well protected behind the little island, we still had a constant 30 knots with gusts reaching into the 50ies.
It wasn’t too easy doing pictures with the rain coming in horizontally and the light being only slightly above candlelight-level while working mostly with maximum zoom. It was a lot easier on the next day, during the ‘golden hour’ when the water level was at it’s high and we could watch as an australian yacht was pulled out of the mud.
The Beneteau somehow got the mooring line around the keel and shaved through it after which the boat was adrift and ended up close to the mangroves. That was pretty lucky – as there is enough coral around to split the thin fibreglass hull. But the lucky boat got stuck in soft mud and could be towed out at the next high tide without any further damage. Two dinghies and a boston whaler from the local perl farm pulled on the mast to lift the keel out of the mud and a dive boat with 500hp pulled the yacht into deeper water.
Uh ! And I’ve even got more good news: After waiting for eight weeks, yesterday my christmas parcel finally arrived !! After months I’ve finally got a decent computer again. Yay !
My old MacBook Pro died in the caribbean when a glass of water was spilled over it. The replacement, a MacBook Air killed itself when the internal (SSD-) harddrive got knocked out. So I had to use the ship’s navigation computer, an old Asus EeePC. It’s a nice little laptop that draws nearly no power but for working with pictures and videos it’s the wrong equipment. That’s why I’m as happy as a child on christmas day to finally have a decent laptop that won’t lag behind when I’m typing my blog posts. Maybe it also has positive influence on the frequency of updates. Only two posts duting the last month ?!? That’s an all-time low, I better start writing again…
With all the work on the engine I completely forgot one of my favourite blog topics: the weather !
The marine weather report here in Fiji is quite funny: although there was not much wind during these last weeks, we were continuously warned of foul weather and heavy rain. When we had 15-20 knots, the marine weather warned of ‘rough seas’ sometimes even mentioned ‘very rough’ seas – even when the wind in this area wouldn’t even exceed 25 knots. I guess, the boys and girls from Fiji’s weather bureau don’t get out to sea much – otherwise they would know that it takes waves of four to six meters with breakers to qualify for a ‘very rough’ sea. Don’t get me wrong: I really appreciate them sending meaningful warnings out to the people cruising the oceans but if you shout ‘Fire ! Fire !’ all the time – no fire brigade will show up when it really burns. I know this analogy sucks but I guess you get my point.
A related story might illustrate it further: When we were cruising the Canary Islands in 2011 some overeager employee of the local authorities sent two DSC-alerts in front of *every* marine weather bulletin. This means that six times a day the whole crew is startled by the intense alarm of their VHF radio just because they send weather info. This resulted in most of the yachts turning off their VHF ! Fortunately we could revert to our handheld radio which doesn’t support DSC. Hopefully this dangerous and silly practise since has ceased.
Well but now back towards the actual cause of today’s posting. One of the most important tasks of the local weather bureau is to alert the population in case of a cyclone. And right now there is no such warning. Although in my opinion, the situation is quite critical. Wikipedia lists six requirements for the development of a tropical cyclone:
- Warm ocean surface of at least 26.5°C. – check
- Atmospheric instability (tropical wave north Fiji towards Tonga) – check
- High humidity in the lower atmospheric levels. – check
- sufficient Coriolis force (always given near the equator) – check
- Preexisting low level focus or disturbance (two lows north of Fiji) – check
- Little vertical wind shear (hard to tell but likely)
Two additional factors are left out: El Nino, which has influence on hurricane activity – but this year is no El Nino event. And the Madden-Julian-Oscillation which seems to have massive influence on the frequency of tropical storms. In a scientific study done in 2009, the area of Fiji-Samoa-Tonga was investigated and the study came to the conclusion that in case of an active MJO there are five times (!!) more cyclones forming than during the inactive phase. The MJO develops in a 30 to 60 day rhythm in the indian ocean and then travels east. According to current observation, the MJO will reach our area during the next days. Although it’s not extremely active, it still enhances my alertness.
Let’s hope, Fiji’s meteorologists know what they do. I’d be happy if I’m proven wrong.
Every now and then we excape the anchorage and get some fresh air out at the reef. Only four miles away there is the Cousteau Resort at the very end of the strip of land that encloses the Savusavu bay in the south. Out there, closer to the open sea the water is a lot nicer (although still far from clear), there is wind and the insects are less annoying.
A little trip like that brightens the mood and once we hop into the water and have a look around in this big aquarium, the day is safed. The difference to the more eastern parts of the Pacific are big and the diveristy of fish and coral still amazes me. Especially as we’re not in a proper dive- or snorkelspot. For that one shoud go out to the smaller islands or visit the neighbouring Namena, only 25 miles from here. The diving there must be one of the best in the pacific and we will check it out sometime.
As you can see in one image, the Suvarov already got decorated and ready for Christmas. The kids had a lot of fun engarlanding the whole saloon, hanging stars, balls and little angels. Viola spent hours cutting colorful stars out of paper and decorating the cockpit dodger. Otherewise there is not much reminding us of the year’s top consumption fesast. There are no huge masses running around on the streets, trying to get some last-minute gadgets, no decoration on houses or in shops and best of all: No stupid christmas songs !
To that effect, I want to wish all our readers and friends a verry happy christmas and a beautiful 2014 !
There’s not too much to do here in Savusavu. We knew that already before we came here and that’s ok. Gui is organizing the trip to Argentina. We all will travel there and we need plane tickets and visas for Australia (a pain in the a.. !!) In Argentina Gui will work on the upcoming collections for Coquito and the Kids will have fun with the grandparents.
So what’s the captain doing ? Fixing things – of course ! I can’t sit still for too long and there’s enough work on the Suvarov. Our engine still tends to overheat so again I took apart the whole cooling system. All the tipps of the boat neighbors and of Leon (the local machanic-guru) are implemented. The whole system is checked from inlet, impeller, all hoses, mixing elbow, water collector to exhaust. But the problem is IN the engine which is no surprise since the above mentioned parts were checked before we left Polynesia.
During that check I was quite confused that I didn’t find a thermostat. Now – with the proper manual I could verify: It’s indeed missing ! Luckily somewhere with the boat tools I found a box containing four used thermostats who after checking were all verified to work correctly. They just needed some cleaning.
The next surprise was the air filter – I wanted to clean it but – there is no filter in there ! Well. That safes me a little work. ;-) Next step: replacing the sacrificial anodes. That’s convenient because while doing that I can have a look inside the cylinder head and see wherther there’s any calcium builup. Next surprise: instead of a gasket someone used household silicone ! – On the front of the cylinder head !! The backward plate had no gasket at all. :-) Luckily we have gasket paper on bord and Gui made nice new ones for me.
Inside the cylinder head it looked a lot like a flowstone cave. Lots of stalagtites and stalagmites – and even some crystals ! What a beauty !! Well – and why the cooling of the engine isn’t really working well is clear now. After consulting the almighty internet I find out that it’s best to use 10-15% acetic acid to remove that calcium buildup. Unfortunately the only related liquid available in Savusavu is white vinegar. So I decide to take a little risk and use 5% sulfuric acid to remove the crud. I fill the (warm) engine with four liters of acid and let it sit until it stops hissing and bubbling. From the connection on the top of the engine we can see the CO2 escape. A nice chemical experiment for our schoolkids. The acid cleaning will continue for the next days. We’ll see whether it works…
While I was at it I also changed the oil, de-rusted and painted some parts, replaced hose clamps and hoses, etc. A nice little service for our engine. As you might be curious it’s a Yanmar 3QM30H with saltwater cooling. And as I had to search forever to find it, I safe others the work and put a link to the service manual !
The first days in Savusavu went by quite swiftly. The usual routine: getting the laundry done, some basic shopping, getting to know the village, etc.
As we determined before, the people of Fiji are extremely friendly, the Indian population is extremely enterprising and the Curries that one can eat at nearly every place are hot, delicious and affordable.
So the first impression is quite good. And that definately should be so as we’ll be here for the rain season which officially lasts until April. That doesn’t mean, we’ll be stuck here on the mooring but here we’ll have our base and hideout in case a taifun is announced.
As most all hurrican holes, Savusavu has the downside of plentiful rain, slightly muddy water thanks to the mangroves and the bay-in-bay setup and of course: mosquitos. Not exactly sexy. But it’s ok – especially since we discovered that hotel with a pool ! We’re kind of tolerated but also seemingly the only bathing guests anyway. On the way towards the pool we got two breadfruits as a present and as our path led us by the hot springs, we dropped one into the boiling water. After our refreshing splash we came back to pick up the nature-boiled breadfruit. Yamyam !
Although we already are anchored at the next postcard island, I still have to post some pictures of Levuka, our first contact with Fiji. I mentioned the funny haircuts but somehow forgot to shoot some pictures of the beautiful ladies of Levuka… Well, those will come later, I guess. Also worth mentioning is that Levuka once was the capital of Fiji ! Hard to believe as it’s a quiet, little Village.
As we found nearly everywhere else too, there are numerous schools and plenty of kids everywhere. All dressed up in nice, colorful school uniforms. A treat for the eye !
When we picked up the cruising permit, I noticed the schedule of the authority. It has a seminar on climate change for the employees. Yeah – when the big polluters of the earth still are arguing whether or not it’s true, the island nations of this world are getting prepared for the worst.
Maybe the people of Levuka will also start thinking of getting rid of that awfully noisy Diesel generator located in the center of the village that provides power for the whole island. There would be more than enough sun to power all homes here on the island and as for storage, I suggest to use that huge fuel tank up on the hill. One could use the excess power during midday to pump up salt water and use a turbine to generate power during the night. – Just a thought…. But I guess burning fuel is (still) just too convenient.
Alright. Enough of the ranting. There are also some pics of our little hike up the hill to the little freshwater pond. On the way the kids got a little toy cooking set and when we were back on the ship they promptly openend a restaurant on the foredeck. Let’s see if someone can decypher Viola’s menu. It’s a wild mix of german, spanish and english but it shows promise and she’s definately not lacking inspiration. Also – she’s still just five. :-)