Monday, April 30, 2012

Small Earthquake in Neiafu

Last night around 11pm local time we were just dozing off to sleep when we felt a rumbling that lasted about 5 seconds. An earthquake! And quite close! That sure woke us up!

We are on a mooring in about 40' of water, so it was interesting that we actually heard and felt the earthquake. It was a little different than the ones we felt aboard in Guatemala--where it actually moved the boat enough to shake the rigging. This time it just felt like rumbling, no big shaking.

Within minutes, the local VHF net was buzzing with people asking what had happened and if there was a tsunami coming. One lady was worried about her kids who were spending Saturday night at someone else's house on another island. Primrose (a local Tongan) asked "which way is the Tsunami coming from"?

Unfortunately, Baker, the local expat who normally would be on top of stuff like this was out of commission--his internet has been down for a few days. But Mike from the Aquarium came on from home via hand-held. His internet was working, and was able to look up the info on the internet.

The quake (according the Hawaii earthquake site) was centered about 31 miles SW of Neiafu, but located 72 miles (miles!!??) deep in the ocean. Since it was so close, we knew that whatever would happen, tsunami-wise, would happen within minutes. (A statistic given out on the radio during the discussion was that the waves travel around 600 MPH, so it would have hit us within 3-4 minutes).

Someone who was standing on a beach at an island on the SW side of Neiafu reported they saw nothing unusual going on with the water (no rapid receding of the water, which normally precedes any incoming waves).

We all stayed awake and worried for a little while. But fortunately, no tsunami was generated. There were also no reports of any significant damage around here from the quake itself, on this morning's VHF net.

So we dodged another natural disaster, here in exciting Tonga!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rag of the Air Net - 8173 at 1900z

For those of you getting ready to get underway from various locations in the SW Pacific, don't forget about the Rag of the Air Net, on SSB at 8173 USB at 1900z (7 or 8am local time in Tonga/Fiji/Samoa/NZ). We're on this net every day, and would be happy to assist with weather info, shore communications, etc. Normally, we take check-ins around 8-8:15, and then we do the weather in the SW Pacific.

The net control is Jim on Also Island, on the northern coast of Vanua Levu in Fiji. He is sometimes light and difficult to hear, but there are boats in NZ and Tonga/Fiji who can help relay for you.

If you are getting ready to go on passage, Jim would prefer that you send an email to him to give him your boat name and info, crew info, and passage plan. That way when you check in, there are fewer questions. But if you've not done this, please check in anyway. Jim's email address is WDC7994 at Sailmail dot com.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Almost Dried In

This picture was taken 2 days ago. Yesterday, the final big piece of plywood was fitted in, and we put 10 layers of fiberglass/epoxy over it.

Progress on our Port Quarter Repairs

We have one porthole on the starboard quarter that is in a closet, which makes no sense, because all that does is fade the clothes in the closet. So we have removed that porthole to replace the smashed one on the port side, which we DO use for ventilation. So yesterday we also glued in a plywood plug in that hole, and we'll glass over it tomorrow.

Still left: finish building up the outer fiberglass to match the existing boat lines, filling and fairing on the outside, a layer or two of glass on the inside, and fiberglass over the starboard side porthole. And, of course, painting. Fortunately, we already had a gallon of white paint aboard,

We'll be working on it for a few more days at least. We're still sleeping in the main cabin with all our aft-cabin possessions stacked around us. But maybe tomorrow...

Our friends on Shango and Sea Flyer are leaving us. Both checked out today. Shango is headed south to the Ha'apai (southern Tonga), and we hope to catch up with them in a week or two. Sea Flyer is headed for Fiji, and we should run into them in another month.

A few boats are starting to arrive in Tonga from New Zealand. And we have lots of friends down in NZ who are anxiously awaiting a good weather window to head north from NZ. (Coming up Saturday, I think, the wx gurus say).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Slow Progress on Repairs

Almost the day we FINALLY received our shipment of fiberglass repair materials that we first started trying to order in NZ on 10 Feb, the 3 weeks of beautiful dry weather ended.

We have been making progress on the fiberglass work, with difficulty, between rain showers. Fortunately, we have an experienced fiberglasser helping us out. He spent the first day chipping and grinding out the crushed fiberglass, to get down to good structure.

The Big Hole in our Port Quarter

Then the hard part started--the hole we have in our port quarter runs from the just inboard of the toe rail and down the side across a "chine" (an angle in the side that runs the length of the boat), so getting the hole filled in the original shape is quite technically challenging. We have to use plywood to fill in the hole piecemeal in the right shapes, and then lay the fiberglass over to hold it in place. Then gradually build up to fill in the complete hole to its original thickness.

We've gotten the first pieces glassed in place, but the hole is not closed up yet. And it's raining. We have a couple of layers of plastic temporarily taped over the hole, but water still gets into our bunk.

Our Cabin Sealed to Keep the Fiberglass Dust from the Rest of the Boat

We have evacuated our bunk while the repairs are underway--fiberglass dust is some of the itchiest stuff in the world, so we have evacuated the area and used plastic garbage bags and duct tape to seal it off. So we are now living in about 35 feet of boat instead of 44', and with a lot of "stuff" from the aft cabin piled temporarily into the main cabin.

As I sit here typing, it's drizzling again. We don't have internet here, and so no satellite picture to show us what's going on nearby. And the GRIB forecast with respect to rain is very unreliable. But maybe tomorrow the sunshine will come out for a day or two, enabling us to finish filling in the hole, so at least we can move back into the aft cabin.

We are still hoping to get out of Vava'u in the next 10 days, and go cruise the Ha'apai (another group of islands in Tonga), before moving on to Fiji in early June.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Outboard Motor Update

You will remember that one of the casualties in Cyclone Cyril was our 17-year old Nissan 5hp motor. When our dinghy was ripped off the stern by the wind and Sea Flyer's bow, the motor was torn in half and the head part sunk in 30 feet of water. We retrieved it as soon as the storm moved off, and did an initial freshwater rinse in a tub of water.

Then Larry from the Ark (who's moorings we were on when we dragged) took it to his Tongan mechanic, who rinsed it some more, and then moved our "guts" into an old Nissan foot and bracket that Larry had. It took several weeks, but Larry presented us (without charge) with a supposedly working motor. However, it still had problems, and Dave has spent a lot of time over the last month or so trying to get to the bottom of the intermittancy (see past blog posts).

Dave thinks he has finally gotten to the bottom of the (hopefully) last issue. This is what he wrote a friend a couple of days ago:

"After a month of fooling with it I finally figured out a couple of days ago what was wrong with my 5 HP Nissan outboard. It had been underwater for 2 days after the storm and then another couple of days in fresh water. I couldn't figure out why it would run for about 10 minutes and then after turning it off wouldn't start and had no spark. Then with a different plug it would spark but would not start until much later. But it would always seem to fix itself and restart."

"It seems the local mechanic that I let flush the engine for me took the power head off and broke the gasket that separates cooling water from the combustion chamber exhaust. He must have put it back together without even looking at the gasket. I violated my own rule: never let mechanics work on your stuff without being right there to supervise."

"So it was sucking salt water mist into the combustion chamber after shut down, and maybe while running, and fouling the plug. The hint was when I finally noticed the miniscule water droplets on the plugs after it had been running."

"Then I broke one of the five head bolts getting the power head apart to reflush everything. Luckily the local machinist, who is excellent, was able to get the broken bolt out today. I now have the motor all cleaned out and back together just waiting for the new gasket a cruising friend is bringing up from NZ next month. So hopefully, mystery solved."

At 04/14/2012 7:26 PM (utc) our position was 18°41.34'S 173°57.56'W

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Finally Have Our Repair Materials

After one more day of messing around, we finally have our shipment from NZ that we ordered in late February!! But better slow stuff than no stuff!

So, we are headed out to Tapana (Anchorage 11), where a friend there is going to help us do the major fiberglass repairs. We'll be sure to take pictures of the process and share them when we next get internet. The only way we'll get internet in the next week is if I bicycle to town...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Still No Shipment from New Zealand

Well, we still don't have our repair materials that were shipped from Whangarei around the first week in March. Somehow, the shipment of 5 boxes got split into 2 shipments, and the last box was put on a different ship than the first 4. We apparently can't do anything about clearing the shipment out of Customs until the final box arrived. Which it did on the Southern Tiare late on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, we were all abuzz with anticipation, but the guy who's name it was actually shipped to, was on a day charter and couldn't do anything to start the paperwork process until 4pm. On Friday morning, we heard from the Customs agent, that he was STILL waiting for paperwork from Don. Apparently we needed the Bills of Lading from All Marine in NZ. (It is likely that Don had received it by email previously, and not realized he needed it). By 3pm on Friday, we were still waiting for All Marine's email with the Invoices and shipping documents, and it was obvious that we'd never get the shipment cleared on Friday afternoon (Customs closes up shop at 4pm).

So we took off for the weekend. We motored out to Anchorage 27, between Old Harbor and Kenutu, to visit Ben and Lisa from s/v Waking Dream. They owned the Aquarium Cafe in Neiafu for a few years (and several other side businesses), and then they decided to sell it all and move to a small island. Their loose plan is to build a small eco-adventure-resort and hang out here. Ben is building all the structures himself, and his eyes light up when he talks about all the features it will have--both for comfort and usability, and eco-friendliness.

He is hoping to at least have a restaurant open for cruising season this year. Stop in and say hi, if you're cruising through. Anchorage 27. 18-41.34S / 173-57.56W

Finally (back to the saga of our "stuff"), we also heard from Don late Friday that one of the 5 boxes is STILL missing. One box did come on the Southern Tiare, but one of the first 4 packages is missing now. We don't know who's stuff it is. The shipping documents don't itemize whats in each box. Hopefully we won't have to wait until the last parcel is located before we can get our hands on the rest of it. The weather is really dry right now and it would be a perfect time to be fiberglassing on Soggy Paws!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tongan Baskets

The local artisans here produce some very nice stuff--wood carving, weaving (baskets and mats), and tapa cloth--are the primary items for sale in the marketplace.

Some Nice Baskets We Bought in October

We had a very old 3-tier set of metal baskets hanging in our galley. I kept garlic in the top basket, onions in the 2nd basket, and bananas in the bottom basket. This is useful storage, and handy to the galley. This basket set has slowly been falling apart over the last 10,000 miles of hard cruising. We replaced the chains between the baskets with line a couple of years ago, when the chains gave out on passage. So I've been on the lookout for a replacement set. I almost bought a couple of plastic baskets in the Chinese Store a couple of months ago.

I'd been eyeing the baskets in the market place, too. But they are too shallow to keep stuff in when we are underway. But after our tour with Primrose, I realized that we could commission pretty much anything we want. Pimmie is one of the foremost basket weavers in the market so we took our old baskets in to show him, and by the next day we had a brand new, slightly bigger, set of Tongan baskets for our galley. And for a very reasonable price.

Dave Mounting Our New Baskets

Our New Galley Baskets

Some More Baskets We Have Bought To Take Home

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Our Ship Came In!

The Forum Pacific, the Reef Shipping ship that allegedly is carrying our fiberglassing supplies from NZ docked in Neiafu Harbor yesterday. This is good! Now all we have to do is wait (a day or two we hope) for them to get released by Customs. Another guy is handling this--as all 3 shipments were bundled together in one shipment.

We are going to celebrate by going diving with Riki again today. This will likely be our last dive with Riki--we need to move back out to Tapana where Carl is--the guy who's going to do the actual fiberglass repair. And Riki is heading for NZ in the next few days also.

The weather has been absolutely beautiful the last few days--no wind and mostly sunny. The harbor is absolutely glassy this morning, and the only clouds are very high thin ones. It should be a great diving day!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dodged Daphne

Out of the messy 'South Pacific Convergence Zone' that has been hanging over us for about 10 days (ever since the MJO arrived), has finally emerged a 'named tropical storm'--Cyclone Daphne.

Daphne Headed South, Away from Us

The funny thing is that OUR weather has been pretty nice the last few days. Daphne and the low that preceded her have been hanging out over our friends from Zephyr, in western Fiji..about 500 miles to the west of us. They have been inundated with rain, and Fiji has some really hard-hit flooding areas.

Right now our wx is beautiful... light winds and sunny skies. And Daphne is headed southeast, headed for our friends in NZ now!!

I watched another beautiful sunrise in the cockpit this morning, and thanked my lucky stars... for good weather... for a good life... for good health... for a good husband... for good friends, etc. It doesn't get much better than this! (and for you too, Bryan)