Category Archives: Cyclone Season Preparations

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Well Sh*t…Here Comes a Cat 2 Cyclone

Category 2 cyclone Zena just finished lashing Vanuatu and decided to come pay us a visit. The forecast is calling for her to pass just south of Viti Levu between midnight and daybreak. We are still in the Tradewinds anchorage off the Novotel and are secured well to the mooring but two things make us uncomfortable. One, we haven’t personally dove on this mooring due to abundance of jellyfish, horrible visability and the owner telling us it was just inspected; so to a large extent we are blindly trusting the mooring. Two, more boats are coming into this small bay to seek shelter and with them brings more risk of boats dragging down on us. 

According to Windy.ty we are in a good spot as the strongest winds will be somewhat blocked by the island. That could end up deceiving us and only time will tell. The most exposed wind direction would be wind from the west as the opening to the bay is west of our position. Hopefully the storm will be moving fast and will only briefly blow from that direction. We are well protected from NW to SE where hopefully most of the intensity comes from.

We have multiple lines and chafe gear to the mooring. We also have our huge FX-55 anchor on the rail and ready to be deployed. We would like to put it out but then we won’t swing and we would end up with a huge mess of tangled rodes. So the storm anchor will rest on the rail ready to be sent overboard if necessary.

We just put our mainsail back on and we are so reluctant to remove it but better safe than sorry. We will drop the sails just to be extra cautious. Hopefully the winds won’t reach hurricane strength here and the Windy.ty forecast is accurate but with cyclones, nothing is certain.

Wish us luck that Zena doesn’t come closer and that we ride it out unscathed. It’s gonna be a long night! 
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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