Pouring Sweat but Making Progress in Savusavu – Preparing for Cyclone Season in the Tropics

I’ll start by offering up an unsolicited justification for our keeping the boat in Fiji for cyclone season; the reasons are primarily threefold: One, we don’t feel like crossing another large stretch of ocean this year. Two, we love Fiji and don’t want to leave. Three, the strong El Nino conditions in the Pacific that we are experiencing this year actually make Fiji LESS LIKELY to be hit by a major cyclone [it’s true, the water is three degrees COOLER here than it should be and if you still don’t believe me then check out Bob McDavitts’ latest weathergram.]  Lastly, did we already mention that we love it here?? Savusavu is such a great place, the Namaka Creek is extremely protected and our Helix-screw cyclone mooring is rated for over 11,000lbs. Assuming Neptune spares the worst of his wrath, Ellie will be here in the spring and we’ll be able to enjoy a full season of cruising Fiji. Alyssa may be bummed though if we don’t have to cover thousands of sea miles again next year……can you sense the sarcasm?

The past week has been spent going through Ellie from stem to stern cleaning, doing maintenance and making preparations for a lonely season by herself. We probably did a little too much research on how to properly prep the boat for a season of non-operation in the tropics. Our list of to-do’s is four pages long. We are hoping that our extensive preparations pay off when we return in the spring. We have included our list below. We’re not sure it’s the right list, but these are the preparations we are making. Feel free to let us know if we are missing anything important. This IS our first time leaving the boat for such a long period…

There has been ample time away from the boat for procrastination, usually at the local pub or at the marina with our friends. It seems like every night of the week there is another event at the marina. One night it was a wedding reception for some young cruisers, another night a birthday, another it was buffet night, and on and on. Last night was spent on the deck of the marina listening to a talented Kiwi cruiser, Jack, playing guitar. It’s fun and Lyss loves mingling with the other yachties.

We estimate we have less than a week to go at this turtle pace. Our final prep will be to flush the engine raw water cooling system with fresh water, close the thru-hull and then tow her from the dock at Copra Shed Marina to our mooring, a mere 50 yards away. I plan to dive on the mooring to inspect the gear and also attach a backup line. Our friends Craig and Leanne on TRUE BLUE V have graciously agreed to watch Ellie for us over the season. Bruce on SKABENGA will also be keeping an eye on her. She will be in good hands.

Here is our list of preparations we are making, some pics of the madness inside the cabin, and Savusavu town:

CYCLONE SEASON PREPARATIONS:

 ENGINE COMPARTMENT

  • Change Zinc on Heat Exchanger
  • Change Transmission Fluid
  • Change Fuel Filters, Clean Racor Housing and Water Separator
  • Change Engine Oil and Filter
  • Flush vinegar solution (or salt away) through engine overnight, then flush with antifreeze and close seacock
  • Top off Diesel, use Biocide, bug screen Diesel Vent
  • Inspect/replace all hoses/hose clamps (including scupper drains)
  • Lube throttle, shift and stop cables
  • Clean, treat, paint rust
  • Drain/Disconnect Water Heater
  • Watermaker
    • Top off water tanks (add light bleach solution to tanks)
    • Change oil on high pressure pump
    • Change pre-filters
    • Pickle watermaker
    • Pickle handheld emergency watermaker in ditch bag
  • Drain, service, winterize and store dive compressor
  • Outboards
    • Drain and replace gear lube
    • Spray fogging preservative down engine intake
    • Drain carbs
    • Stow below
  • Honda Generator
    • Change oil
    • Drain, winterize, stow below

OUTSIDE

  • Remove dry sails (no salt)
  • Remove stack pack
  • Remove running rigging
  • Drop flag halyards
  • Plug boom and secure with line
  • Wash all salt off decks and rigging
  • Disconnect backstay antenna
  • Seal engine blower
  • Seal holding tank vent
  • Rinse anchor chain, dry and treat rust
  • Remove radio antennas, ais
  • Seal dorade vents
  • Seal lazarette with gasket material
  • Plug hawsepipe
  • Seal every hole into the boat (cockroaches, termites, rats, wasps)
  • Remove wind generator blades
  • Grease winches
  • Bird-proof rails and spreaders with monofilament
  • Coat thick wax on fiberglass
  • Empty/stow all jerry cans
  • Fill propane tanks
  • Clean/stow grill

INSIDE

  • Unplug all electronics
  • Remove batteries from all electronics
  • Hide valuable gear
  • Remove speed impeller
  • Oil all pumps (bilge/sump/etc)
  • Inspect/service all seacocks
  • Bleach and vinegar chain locker
  • Clean out every compartment
    • Bleach
    • Inventory
    • Take pictures of expensive gear
    • Wipe with vinegar
    • Leave ventilated
  • Clean and vasoline all ports
    • Cover with foil and curtains
  • Galley
    • Give away all perishables and dry goods likely to attract bugs (flour, pasta, etc)
    • Empty all food storage (pantry, spice racks, etc), bleach, vinegar, spray with bug spray (leave empty)
    • Defrost, bleach fridge/freezer, spray with bug spray, leave open
    • Deep clean stove/oven (especially under and behind), spray bug spray, leave bug/rat traps under/behind
    • Clean/bleach sump pump, spray with bug spray
  • Deep clean bilges, spray for bugs, leave roach and rat traps
  • Clean all surfaces (ceilings, walls, cabinets, floors) to rid salt, dust, and mold
    • Wipe with vinegar solution
  • Wash/dry all fabrics left aboard (clothing, foulies, cushion covers, towels, curtains, etc)
  • Flush fresh water and vinegar solution down sink drains and toilets before closing seacocks
    • Cover toilet bowl with saran wrap to prevent evaporation
  • Set up alarm system with warning sign
  • Post emergency contact info in cockpit
  • Install dehumidifier on 12v timer with drain outlet to bilge
  • Pack laptops, iPads, hard drives, cameras to take off boat
  • Scan and electronically file copies of vessel documentation, cruising log, clearance papers, etc.; store in waterproof bags near nav table
  • Send inventory list to insurance

UNDERWATER

  • Change zincs on prop, shaft and strut
  • Inspect moorning shackles
  • Plug exhaust 
  • Plug shower sump outlet
  • Plug high water bilge outlet 
  • Chafe guard mooring pennant

WEEKLY/MONTHLY CHECKS

  • Check chafe on mooring lines
  • Inspect bilge, test bilge pump
  • Check battery charge
  • Clean scupper drains
  • Wash decks

It’s a long list… On the bright side, we are about halfway through!

Here are some pics of where Ellie will be spending cyclone season:

The view from Ellie's masthead as seen from our cyclone mooring. Copra Shed Marina below.
The view from Ellie’s masthead as seen from our cyclone mooring. Copra Shed Marina below.
View from the masthead towards town
View from the masthead towards town
The cabin has been a total disaster as we empty out every compartment and the MErmaid attacks it with bleach and then vinegar (to prevent mold)
The cabin has been a total disaster as we empty out every compartment and the Mermaid attacks it with bleach and then vinegar (to prevent mold)
How lucky am I? A hottie that doesn't mind getting grease under her fingernails!!
How lucky am I? A hottie that doesn’t mind getting grease under her fingernails!!
The market here is awesome!
The market here is awesome!

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We really hope we're not coming back to this in the spring!
We really hope we’re not coming back to this in the spring!
The market as seen from the mooring
The market as seen from the mooring
We thought we'd leave you with a sunset shot of Ellie at anchor off Paradise Resort, Taveuni. Cheers
We thought we’d leave you with a sunset shot of Ellie at anchor off Paradise Resort, Taveuni. Cheers

Taveuni to Savusavu and our plan for cyclone season

After leaving Qamea we sailed to Taveuni and anchored off the NW side just south of Matei before sailing to Paradise Resort the following day. While anchored off Matei we enjoyed a great night of pizza with our friend Bruce while overlooking the Koro sea and the sun setting over Vanua Levu. The next day was a motor-sail down the coast to grab moorings off Paradise Resort, where it poured down rain but the sun setting through the driving rain was almost magical.

The following day we set sail for Koro Island but it was not to be. The seas were big and uncomfortable on the beam so we fell off for a more pleasant point-of-sail, which brought us back to Savusavu. It was great to see our friend Jolene, who runs the Waitui Marina. She has arranged for Ellie to spend the cyclone season on a very protected mooring just up the creek from the Copra Shed. We already told you that we love Fiji so much we’re never leaving right???  Well, turns out we were serious. She will be spending the next 5-6 months on a helical screw-type cyclone mooring in the Namaka Creek.

We are now starting the very long and tedious process of stripping Ellie of her sails, windage and expensive gear hanging off her rails. The list of to-do’s is extensive and overwhelming. Alyssa and I each have two pages of boxes to check. We will be very busy in this stifling heat and humidity over the next couple weeks putting our beloved Ellie girl away….properly. After she is fully tucked-in and prepped we will be joining Bruce on SKABENGA for a couple weeks of cruising through the Yasawa Islands and on to Musket Cove and Denarau before sailing for Nadi, the location of the International Airport, where we plan to depart for Sydney, Australia, mid-October.

Stay tuned for updates on our fun process of getting Ellie ready for a cyclone season and then for updates from the pirate ship SKABENGA!

Here are some pics of Taveuni. btw – I hooked an enormous black marlin en route from Taveuni. He spooled my reel until it was too hot to touch and then snapped the line clean off! It was intense, but he was so beautiful I’m glad he got away. Cheers

Anchorage just south of Matei, Taveuni
Anchorage just south of Matei, Taveuni

Lyss and I headed back to SKABENGA for some home brew....pirate's orders!
Lyss and I headed back to SKABENGA for some home brew….pirate’s orders!
The sunset
The sunset
Sunset in Taveuni at Paradise Resort. Ellie is just left of the rays
Sunset in Taveuni at Paradise Resort. Ellie is just left of the rays

The pics of putting Ellie away were just too depressing to post so we’ll have to upload them later…

 

Harvesting Oysters from the Mangroves in Susui Island

This afternoon was one for the highlight reel. We were invited by Jacob, a village elder, to join him in collecting oysters, we happily accepted. Around 1400 we all jumped in the two dinghys and sped off around the corner to secret bay. After carefully threading our way through the coral heads we entered a magnificent, protected bay. One of the shores was lined with mangroves and this is where Jacob told us to anchor the dinghys. We donned masks and snorkels and followed Jacob into the maze of mangroves. I watched as he skillfully removed each oyster from the branches of the mangroves with a quick and deliberate hit with his hammer. He was quickly filling the flour sack with oysters as I followed his lead and went at them with my screwdriver. Within 10 minutes I had collected half a dozen and one of them had split in half revealing a delectable treat. I asked Jacob if it was still good to take with us and he said yes and I was to eat it. I took a couple chomps and swallowed it whole – doesn’t get more fresh than that! After 45 minutes or so the 50lb flour sack was getting pretty full so we loaded it up and sped off to a nearby beach. Jacob and another guy from the village started a fire and threw on some kasava, which is a Fijian breadfruit. Then once the fire was going he started tossing on the oysters. They are done when they start bubbling, announcing that the oyster is dead and ready to be opened. Then he tosses them out of the fire and we opened them with hammers and pry bars. We added them all to a bowl. This is when any regard to sanitation went clean out the window (ask me tomorrow how my GI tract is coping)… Jacob walked into the sea and added saltwater to the bowl. Then he added chili’s and lime juice and mixed the whole lot together by hand. He took the kasava out of the fire and slit it open. Then we all took turns sticking our dirty hands in the bowl and picking out the oysters. They tasted amazing and I was surprised that the little bit of chili and lime/orange juice, combined with the sea water, was enough to bring out more flavors from the oysters. The kasava made a perfect compliment to the dish. After gorging ourselves on heaps of oysters we all sat back and visited while Jacob and his buddy rolled homemade cigarettes out of kifa, a local tobacco, and – get this – pages from the local phone book!  I asked politely where they got the papers (because a week ago Bruce was desperate and couldn’t find any on the island), they calmly replied that they are using pages from the phone book! They said that they strictly use the white pages and NOT the yellow pages. Good to know.

We loaded up the dinghys with the remaining 20-30 lbs of oysters and headed back to the boats. We tried to have them take the remaining oysters but they were not having it. We now have about 30 lbs of fresh oysters hanging off the back of our boat to keep them alive. We’ll be shucking and shooting oysters for the foreseeable future. And to think that we used to pay $20 a plate for half a dozen of these guys…..ridiculous…and yet another reason why we love Fiji so much.

Hope everyone is having a great week. Go get some oysters and raise a shell with us!

Cheers,

Lewis & Alyssa

September 9, 2015

Susui Island, Vanua Balavu, Lau Group, Fiji 

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We had to stop at the shrine of the Chief who owns this bay. Legend has it that he flew here from Taveuni to seek asylum. Before he entered the bay he dropped off oysters and clams in goodwill. So now anyone who comes to take oysters must pay homage before leaving. They said that if we didn't, he would take them all back... Look in the cave in the backgound. They said someone offended him in the beginning so he turned his back and that's why you can't see his face.
We had to stop at the shrine of the Chief who owns this bay. Legend has it that he flew here from Taveuni to seek asylum. Before he entered the bay he dropped off oysters and clams in goodwill. So now anyone who comes to take oysters must pay homage before leaving. They said that if we didn’t, he would take them all back… Look in the cave in the backgound. They said someone offended him in the beginning so he turned his back and that’s why you can’t see his face.

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Pictures and Updates from Vanua Balavu, Fiji

Since the last post we have sailed around the north side of the island, spent two nights back in Nabavatu – one of the days we sailed to another island (Kimbombo) to do a wreck dive, which was awesome! – and then we sailed down to Lomaloma Village. We took advantage of the light nor’easterlies to anchor off the village for some provisions. Not much there but smiling faces, a bag of potatoes and a couple onions. After our meager provisioning we motored into the lee of Susui Island and set the hook. This afternoon was spent presenting our Sevusevu (kava root) to the Chief, getting a tour of the village and handing out tootsi pops to the kids, visiting the school to gift them school supplies and then we attended the church service. Apparently they have church every single day. I think this was the first and last time I will be going to church on a Monday evening. The villagers are amazingly friendly and the singing in church was uplifting, but we got enough God in Penrhyn to last a decade. After our Sevusevu and introductions, we are now official members of the village and under protection of the Chief. The anchorage offers excellent protection from the SE trades, which are filling in tonight. Another kicker is that we have high speed internet onboard. Which brings me to the title of this post…..Pictures from the last few weeks here!!!!

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Anchorage in Ships Sound, Bay of Islands

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Going to shore in Daliconi to pay respect to the Chief and present Sevusevu
Going to shore in Daliconi to pay respect to the Chief and present Sevusevu
Chillin' on Skabenga
Chillin’ on Skabenga
'Splorin' the Bay of Islands
‘Splorin’ the Bay of Islands

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Caves
Caves
Beach BBQ
Beach BBQ
Trollin' for dinner
Trollin’ for dinner
Day excursion to Kimbombo Islands and reefs
Day excursion to Kimbombo Islands and reefs
Wreck diving at Kimbombo
Wreck diving at Kimbombo

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The Pirate himself (aka Bruce)
The Pirate himself (aka Bruce)
I am ready for the Sevusevu!
I am ready for the Sevusevu!
On the way to the chief. Kava in hand
On the way to the chief. Kava in hand
After the Sevusevu
After the Sevusevu

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Daliconi Village
Daliconi Village

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Our scenery in the Bay of Islands
Our scenery in the Bay of Islands
View from inside the cave
View from inside the cave

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Tons of fruit bats here
Tons of fruit bats here
Cheers to the home brew in paradise!
Cheers to the home brew in paradise!
Ahhhh....
Ahhhh….
Bruce and Jen
Bruce and Jen
Dice night on Ellie! Craig and Leanne from True Blue V on right
Dice night on Ellie! Craig and Leanne from True Blue V on right
Lyss making delicious rolls. The boat always smells of delicious baked goods!
Lyss making delicious rolls. The boat always smells of delicious baked goods!
Wakeboarding in the Bay of Islands. Bruce towing me.
Wakeboarding in the Bay of Islands. Bruce towing me.
Dance, dance, dance! Girl has gotta blow off steam somehow....Par-tay!
Dance, dance, dance! Girl has gotta blow off steam somehow….Par-tay!
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Lyss up the mast to watch for coral heads. Overcast skies are the worst when trying to spot coral
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Cleaning a Walu we caught underway. Delicious!!!
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We took over the Nabavatu yacht club. Owners aren’t here most of the year and we were invited to use the facility.
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Lomaloma village. Funny that the post office had more groceries than the grocery store….
Brain coral in Kimbombo
Brain coral in Kimbombo
Hey Brielle (my Niece) I found Nimo AND his girlfriend!
Hey Brielle (my Niece) I found Nimo AND his girlfriend!
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We were able to buy gasoline in Lomaloma. I’m happy because I can now burn it through the genny, dive compressor and the outboard.
Waiting for the Chief in Susui. Minister and his son in the background.
Waiting for the Chief in Susui. Minister and his son in the background.
Minister playing drums made from dugout logs. This is how they summon the flock
Minister playing drums made from dugout logs. This is how they summon the flock
Handing out lollies in Susui village
Handing out lollies in Susui village
Young boys. Ready for Monday evening church service
Young boys. Ready for Monday evening church service
Happy girl on the beach in front of Susui village
Happy girl on the beach in front of Susui village