Reality Check

Friday 16th June 2017

There was a particular moment last week that made us smile, a classic cruising moment. All around us was wonderful blue sea, palm trees, coral reefs and sunshine, however we were below. Having not been anywhere near a shop for over a week I was kneading dough to make some bread. I am doing this while straddling Rick who is prone on the kitchen floor, head deep inside the engine room. He is trying to fix a recalcitrant high pressure pump so we can make some water. There is a rich odour wafting from a large bowl of rotting food waste waiting to be donated to the local pig, a long list of waypoints for our next reef strewn trip sit waiting to be plotted onto a chart and on deck is a mountain of towels and swimwear refusing to dry in the 85% humidity. It may seem like we spend our time in the islands drifting from one idyllic spot to another but this life is often quite challenging.

Sunday having spent the night anchored in Buca Bay, we took Penny and Stephen ashore to meet their taxi, luckily we had gone in plenty of time – no taxi had been ordered. Frantic discussions ensued as another car was cajoled into the four hour return trip to Labassa. As we waited anxiously the quiet dock began to fill up, car loads of people also with suitcases joined us, then two jam packed busses arrived, the chaotic scene added to the tension. Then a large boat appeared in the distance, suddenly the reason for all this activity became clear, it was the scheduled ferry to Taveuni. Finally a car, of slightly dubious road worthiness, but willing to do the trip to the airport, made its way through the crowds. We waved a fond fairwell, slightly worried that the car wouldn’t make it up the first hill, little alone all the way to Lambassa. Happily our concerns were unfounded, they made their flight in one piece and with time to spare.

Penny and Stephen’s last sail

Back on Raya we still had a couple of problems to sort out, the most serious of these was the problem with the high pressure pump for the water maker, which was refusing to start. Having no water maker serverly curtails our indepence from marinas and the small towns around the coast, we made the decision to return to Savusavu. We followed our track back through the reefs and into Viani Bay for the night, once anchored Rick took one more look at the pump and there it was, a broken wire on the starter capacitor, easy to fix, we were back in business. 

However, a return to Savuavu had a few other atractions. Not least the ability to rid ourselves of nearly two weeks worth of rubbish. Rubbish continues to be a big issue onboard, even with the care we take to unpackage everything, it still builds up depressingly quickly. The only answer is to store it until we reach a large enough town that we feel will dispose of it responsibly. On top of that we were also low on fresh provisions and the calm of the harbour would be an easier place for Rick to work on the boat. So the next morning we headed west and with SE winds were rewarded with a great sail back to Passage Point and Savusavu. 

As we left a chilly New Zealand our water temperature read out suddenly informed us that the sea was a balmy 30C, we had bigger things on our mind at the time and forgot about it. Then a couple of weeks ago the log packed up. The log is on the same transducer as the water temperature and is basically a small paddle wheel that sticks out through the hull. The rate at which it spins gives us our speed through the water, clocks up the miles we have done and is the core information that the instruments use to calculate true wind speed and direction. None of this vital, it is good practice to sail with just apparent wind readouts from the wind vane and the GPS gives us speed over the ground but still it would be good to get it fixed. After much analysis by Rick and a conversation with Andy from Green and Regis, our instrument people in Southampton, Rick has rigged an ingenious fix. This involves using a LED bulb as a makeshift resistor that fools the unit into thinking the water thermometer is working and switches back on the readings from the log. A good example of making use of the finite things we have onboard.

Alternative use of an LED bulb

As we approached Savusavu we could see crowds of masts, it is now well into the Fiji cruising season and the area is very full. We opted to anchor just outside the entrance to Nakama Creek, still within easy dingy distance of town but with the added bonus of catching more of the cooling breeze. On Thursday afternoon we watched as another 56 sailed in, unfortunatley the normal Oyster welcome was rather subdued, onboard they had a devastated couple they had rescued from their sinking boat. The yacht had hit a reef the day before and despite being successfully refloated by nearby cruisers and a dive boat, that night they began taking on water that they couldn’t control and they had to watch as their home and all their belongings slowly sank beneath the waves. A sobering reminder to the rest of us of how careful we have to be.

Busy Savusavu


6 thoughts on “Reality Check

  1. Thanks both for a memorable trip and great cruiser hospitality! Hope the gin supply is looking good and well done on the water pump and log fixes. Yes, the “taxi” did get us all the way to Labasa, and reassuringly the speedo never went above 22mph the whole journey….no matter how fast he took the mountain bends. Sorry I blocked your heads with a stray lump of bog paper….😰

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  2. Lovely to read all your adventures and see the great photos. I see you are on the move again where to now? Hope its not raining on the main island happy sailing. Bet & Doug

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    • Had quite a bit of rain, main problem is the lack of visibility especially when we are navigating through reef systems. Spending the next couple of weeks on the west of Vitu Levu.

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