Archive for April 27th, 2011


Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

We’ve been really busy in Savusavu since we arrived a week ago. It all started because we accidently giggled at the biosecurity clearance agent as he stick-paddled back to the dock when his outboard motor died. It’s hard to say why this was funny, outboards are a ridiculous idea that we’ve all fallen victim to, but there is something charming about a federal official stick-paddling back to the office after clearing you into the country.

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But we violated the first rule of boat-folk: Never laugh at a sad guy in a dinghy (though he actually looked quite happy as he paddled). Five minutes later as we were sacked out on the settees under the cabin fans we heard our inflatable dinghy let out an incredibly loud, long, pathetic shriek:  EEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! The blazing tropical sun had overpressured the airfloor and burst a weak seam.  Soon after, another seam in the left tube went. Our trusty old blow up boat was exploding, seam by seam, in front of our eyes.

As usual, the first set of patches didn’t work, just as threatened in the glue directions, don’t use in temperatures over 80° F and humidity above 60% and apply only in an air conditioned environment.  In Savusavu that would mean gluing up the dinghy in the lobby of the WestPac Bank – if you cared to swim it in to the beach, carry it to town and test the limits of this very hospitable society. Perhaps they would have taken pity on us as the gringos who try their ATM cards every day only to get little slips of paper confirming the denial of their bank cards due, we found out through a very expensive phone call, to a new ATM services contractor at Capital One.  This was seriously affecting our shopping and there was lots of cool stuff in town that K could not play with unless he bought.


We accepted our humiliating punishment for dinghy pride and paddled back and forth barely afloat on one dinghy tube for several days while we waited for the temperature to dip below 95° in the shade and the monsoonal rains to give us a break.  In the meantime we found a plywood vendor and built a set of back-up dinghy floor boards in between downpours (out came the circular saw, the jig saw, the hole saw, the router, Great Grandpa’s plane).

Savusavu 008

It took several days, this place generates some big rain.

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And the big rain generates high humidity, which settles on consumer electronics that are salty from 9 days of vigorous offshore work.  One by one they began to die. First to go was the LCD on a camera. The next morning it was the laptop keyboard, or to be exact, the keys on the keyboard that made up half of our login password. We enjoy field-stripping our electronics as much as anyone, but spending a couple of hours, or half a day, puzzling over the best way to yank apart microscopic ribbon cable connectors can wreak havoc with other fun things on the schedule, like breaking off half the bolts in the steering pedestal, fiberglassing in the cockpit locker and redesigning bits of the self-steering system in the far corners of a space the size of a sidewalk mailbox with the temperature of a sauna.

It’s really hard to explain what we’ve been doing in the stern of this boat and how unpleasant it can be. If you re-wrote the hotbox punishment scene from Cool Hand Luke to include some activities inside the hotbox like grinding itchy fiberglass and performing blindfolded watch repairs with your face pressed into a greasy steering cable while supporting your full weight on a single rib, you might be pretty close. All we wanted are a couple of alternate control line runs for the windvane. It always sounds so easy at the start.

But it helps to be in a beautiful place when you stagger out of the hot-box, mourning your loss of longevity at a rate of 500:1 for each minute you spent in the extreme physical stress of the cockpit locker in the tropics. Waitui Marina is actually not very beautiful in a stylish sense but we love the tin roof with its 20 year old pink paint job that matches the sunset.



We also like the collection of tenants. There’s a meat packer, a laundry, a dive shop, a yacht club, and a curry shop where you can eat lunch for 4 USD and meet Gigi the owner’s granddaughter who greets you with a big smile, plays in the rain, eats curry with her hands and skips wherever she goes.


The Waitui mooring field is managed by Americans Michael and Kendra, famous for their years in the Pacific on a Downeast 38 and the founders of Bebi Electronics, purveyors of LED replacement lights. Michael has a cool nesting aluminum dinghy.


Savusavu rates near the top of our list for scenic populated anchorages.


On one side we have a palmy island with mangroves and a view across Savusavu Bay.



The other side is a moving picture of amphibious Fijians and geothermal steam rising from the black beaches.



The sun sets among thunderstorms every night behind the ferry Suliven, as a parade of bats migrate silently overhead.


After a week of sweaty heroics, the camera is fixed, the laptop has an external keyboard, there’s a dinghy on order from NZ, the old one has held air for 3 days, the steering pedestal has been dismantled, examined, oiled, and drilled and tapped with new bolts, the heads have been caulked, we have new fiberglass foundations for a redundant set of self-steering blocks, and the new ATM cards are in the mail. Time to have some fun.

16°46.69’S 179°19.84’E 26-Apr-11 10:30 UTC