Friday, September 28, 2012

We Made it to Atlanta

Long trip, but we made it all the way to Atlanta with no mishaps, no lost luggage. I get confused with the timezones and all, but we spent approximately 13-14 hours in the air. All the flights were on time and not too terrible.

Suva to Nadi/Lautoka and Away!!

We didn't have to be at the airport until 8pm. So we spent the day getting from Suva to the Nadi/Lautoka area, and then exploring the two marinas/haulout facilities there.

We checked out options for getting to the Nadi area the afternoon before. We didn't realize how far it was. Our options were: Taxi ($70 USD), Bus ($6 USD), or Van ($10). We opted for the van as the quickest and cheapest option. We found the van queue the day before, and got one of the drivers to agree to come pick us up at the hotel in the morning. We were surprised to find out that the trip is nearly a 4 hours trip from Suva--we didn't arrive in Nadi until around 12:30pm.

Our Van

The big problem in doing much exploring was having to haul our 49 1/2 lb suitcases around with us. Fortunately, our friend Sikeli in Fulanga has a brother who runs a backpacker hotel called the Bluewater Lodge in the Nadi area. He encouraged us to stop and see his brother on our way out of Fiji. So we called Joseph and Fiona and asked if we could stop in and leave our luggage, go exploring, and then come back and take a shower and have dinner before we had to go to the airport. This worked out well. They picked us up in Nadi and helped us get transportation out to the marinas.

Again, we underestimated the distances (it all looks very close on the map!). We thought we'd be able to take a bus around. But once we realized how far the two marinas were apart, how far they were from Nadi, and how remote both of them were from the normal bus traffic patterns, we opted for a taxi. $45 USD, with a little negotiating, bought us a taxi for a couple of hours to take us up to Vuda Point Marina, wait for us there, then take us to Port Denerau Marina, wait for us there, and bring us back to the Bluewater Lodge. It was the only way to manage it in the time we had. In hindsight, a rental car would have suited better for the whole day, except it was nice being driven as we didn't really know where we were going.

Vuda Point Marina

Vuda is one of the "hurricane holes" in Fiji. The marina is built in a 'hole' with a 90-degree turn, so it is mostly protected from the weather if a cyclone should hit. All the boats are rafted in a circle, and tied to a very strong central mooring.
The Vuda Circle

We don't think it would be a great place to be in the summer--hot, windless, and buggy. There are about 20 boats stored out of the water, with their keels in a pit. Unfortunately, the pits were full of water when we were there, and the mozzies were already pretty bad. It also would be a little dicey if a really big cyclone hit--too many boats in a confined space.

Our Friends on Shahrazad in a Pit

The Vuda Travel Lift

Then we drove down to Port Denarau. We heard it was NOT a good cyclone hole, but had some nice docks and a haulout facility. It reminded us of Fort Lauderdale, driving out to the port. First, there was a guard gate (but they waved us through when they saw two Pelangi's (white people) in the taxi. We drove through a large Florida-style golf course complete with big houses, townhouses, and condos on the golf course. And of course, a big nice marina facility at the end on the water.

The Port Denarau Marina Docks

This picture doesn't do it justice--there were 2 mega-yachts at the end of the docks, and boats were bigger and shinier and more expensive than at Vuda Point. Their haulout facility looked OK, but the big drawback is that they won't let you stay on your boat while hauled out. So in addition to the haulout, labor, and paint expense, we'd have to rent an apartment for a week or two while hauled out.

So, we'll probably choose Vuda Point for our haulout in April.

We got back to the Bluewater Lodge around 5pm, and spend a nice couple of hours relaxing and getting ready for our long long flight home. We had a swim in their pool, and a nice hot shower. They had a pretty nice dinner menu, and we had a couple of beers and ate well too. After dinner, Joseph gave us a ride to the airport, only 10 minutes from their hotel.
The Bluewater Lodge

We boarded our Air Pacific flight around 9:30pm, and off we went to The Land of Stuff.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Day in Suva

Viti Levu is the biggest island in Fiji. It is the home of the two largest cities, Suva and Lautoka, along with the international airport in Nadi.

We arrived in Suva by ferry in the rain at around 10:30am. The harbor is very interesting and we took a lot of pictures of the fishing boats and stuff in the harbor.

Drydock Facilities for the Fishing Fleet

The International Fishing Fleet in Suva

We had to wait until all the cars and trucks on the ferry were offloaded before they would let the passengers leave. We finally got disembarked around 11:30am, and fortunately the rain was ending. Of course Dave's first thought was food, so we took a short taxi ride to the Royal Suva Yacht Club.

The Royal Suva Yacht Club

After lunch we took a taxi to our hotel, the South Seas Private Hotel. This was probably once a very nice hotel, but now it was just a backpacker's place. Dave checked 3 rooms and in every room, one bed had a good mattress and one had a cheap thin mattress. But the price was right (~$30 USD), it was clean, and we were only staying one night.

The South Seas Hotel

We spent the afternoon exploring Suva. We made a short stop at Clay Energy, to talk about solar panels, and then headed downtown to the Artisan Market and the Veggie Market.

The Artisan Market

The Big Veggie Market

We topped off our busy day by meeting Jerry and Yana, from s/v Challenger for dinner at Tiko's Steak House, a floating restaurant.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On Our Way to the Land of Stuff

The Lomaiviti Princess--The Savu Savu to Suva Ferry

After an exhausting couple of days closing the boat up...

- Scrubbing the entire interior and wiping down with vinegar
- Catching up on laundry
- Defrosting and cleaning the refrig and freezer
- Taking down the genoa and staysail, folding on deck, and stowing below
- Wrapping the mainsail with line on the boom
- Taking in all movable deck hardware (and labeling so we know where it goes when we put it back)
- Stowing all the miscellaneous deck stuff below (in case of cyclone while we're gone)
- Replacing all halyards with cheap sacrificial line
- Loading the dinghy on deck
- Flushing the outboard motor
- Pickling the watermaker
- Taking down the 4 arch-mounted solar panels
- Putting back up the 2 small solar panels (not enough amps from just the wing panels)
- Equalizing the batteries in the House Bank
- Removing batteries from all battery-powered devices aboard
- Bagging the prop (we should have scrubbed the bottom, too, but ran out of time)
- Running backups on all 3 computers onto 2 different hard drives
- Planning our trip and making reservations and arrangements
- Ordering a few critical items needed on our arrival in Atlanta
- Packing, packing, and re packing (as always, up against weight and size limits)
- Clothes and toiletries
- Computers, cell phones, Kindles and iPads, and other misc electronics
- Shells and handicrafts to get off the boat
- Guidebooks and books from places behind us

We hitched a ride ashore at 6pm for a shower and dinner. And then boarded the Lomaiviti Princess, a ferry bound for Suva, at 8pm-ish. We were all set to get there right at 8pm, and fretting about having time for dinner, when Simon, the Fijian guy who gave us a lift ashore, said "Don't worry about it... the boat isn't here yet, and it might be here at 8, or it might be here at 9... it's on Fiji time." We finally saw the lights of the ferry coming in at about 8:15, and boarded around 8:45.

Casting off at Night

We had booked a cabin, rather than the airline-style seating in the First Class lounge. A friend had done the lounge thing and said it was nice and quiet and she just slept on the floor. But for the two of us, this would have cost about $140FJ, and for $210FJ ($122US) we had a private interior cabin with 2 comfortable bunk beds and a bathroom.

Nice Calm Morning at Sea

The weather is very calm right now, so we had a very nice passage and a good night's sleep. ETA at Suva is 11am.

Dave Answering Email at Breakfast

School Kids Touring the Bridge of the Princess

We have booked a room at the South Seas Private Hotel in Suva (a backpacker place) for one night, and we fly out of Nadi tomorrow night. We hope to get a chance to see the marinas at Vuda Point and Port Denarau tomorrow before we fly out.

When we land in Atlanta at midnight on the 27th, we'll have been in transit for 3 days. We have set aside the weekend to recover and visit with family (and get the car, stored there, running). Then on Monday morning, we set out on a 4,000 mile month-long trip through the eastern U.S., all the way to Maine, and back down to Pensacola, FL and then to Melbourne, with stops in Charlotte NC, Waynesville NC, Washington DC, Annapolis MD, Deep River CT, Rockland ME, Boston MA, Syracuse NY, Dayton OH, Cincinnati OH, Birmingham AL, Panama City FL, and Largo FL. And those are just the stops we've already planned!!! I'm sure we'll drive by a lot of people we'd like to stop and see, but our schedule is already jam packed...

We hope to be in Melbourne in our condo on Melbourne Harbor on Nov 2, in time for TGIF at Melbourne Yacht Club. We are looking forward to visits with our Florida friends in November and early December.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Home in Savusavu

We went out the pass at Fawn Harbor about 9am, and set sail for Savusavu. Again, we motorsailed most of the day because we had a long way to go, light winds, and wanted to be in before dark.

Approaching Savusavu

We did get some wind from the right direction for a little while during the day, and actually turned the motor off for about an hour. But the wind changed direction and dropped a little, and we couldn't keep our speed up. So we cranked the engine up again.

As it was, we didn't arrive in the harbor until almost 5:30pm. But it felt like coming home.

Dream Away Greets Us On Arrival

Our friends Avril and Graham from Dream Away met us in their dinghy as we motored into Nakama Creek, and helped us get tied up to our Copra Shed mooring. We left our dinghy on deck and they gave us a lift ashore for HOT SHOWERS!! And dinner at Joseph's Decked Out Cafe.

Dinner at Joseph's Decked Out Cafe

Ahhh, it's good to be home!

The View from Our Mooring on a "Curly Day"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Overnight in Fawn Harbor

We arrived at the outside of the pass into Fawn Harbor about 5:15--we ended up having to motorsail most of the day in order to get in before dark, as the sun sets at an early 6pm this time of year.

We actually had some good sailing the last couple of hours, as the wind finally came up after we passed the southern tip of Taveuni, and we had a screaming broad reach up in to the big bay. We ended up having to roll in a little genoa, because we were leanin' a little too much, and it was getting hard to hang on, steer the boat, and type on the computer, heh heh.

The light was fading fast due to fairly heavy cloud cover, but Dave said he could see well enough to go in. We used our e-charts, Curly's waypoints, and tracks from other boats to keep us in the right place. The Google Earth chart of the entry area and the eastern anchorage is really clear, and the tracks and waypoints we had plotted right down the middle. So it wasn't too difficult, with a good watch on the bow. The pass snakes around a little, and there was some current, but it wasn't bad.

We dropped anchor in the eastern anchorage right at 6pm, in about 30 feet of water. Our anchor bit immediately, and we had a nice quiet night.

The next morning, we wanted to explore the 'hurricane hole' we had heard about. We nosed around a bit, but light was poor, and it actually rained a bit while we were motoring around. We're not sure we ended up in the right place. It didn't look like we could get Soggy Paws into an area with 360 degree wind protection. Dakuniba is much better from that standpoint.

We didn't do any exploring ashore, as we were now hot to get in to Savusavu and Eat Dinner Out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


For the first time since July 5th, we have good internet. We have got snatches of internet once or twice in July, but barely good enough to download email. Last time I downloaded email via internet was July 31. I had 18MB and over 400 messages waiting.

We are still at sea, but expect to be anchored in Fawn Harbor in an hour.

Destination Fawn Harbor (We Think)

We are on Plan #39Z, having changed our plans a bazillion times over the last 2 weeks, as events have unfolded in Fulaga.

Our current, as of 7am this morning, plan, is to try to make it in to Fawn Harbor, on the south coast of Vanau Levu (near Savusavu) before dark tonight. Unfortunately, the high winds we left Fulanga in yesterday morning have petered out. We were screaming along at 7 knots with double-reefed main and hardly any genoa, yesterday. Now we are motorsailing to make it before dark. But the ride is a lot calmer than it was yesterday!!

We turned NW at Lakemba about 7pm last night, and have been threading our way through the scattered islands in the Koro Sea in the dark. It's a little scary doing this at night, because Fiji is notorious for bad charting. But we are using a 2010 version of the C-Map charts, a 2008 Garmin chart set, and Google Earth, to compare locations of the islands. And being very conservative. When everything agrees on the location, we feel reasonably confident we know its location. The largest deviation we have seen in our wanderings this year, has been 1/2 mile, so as long as we give a 1 1/2 mile margin (and confirm with the radar as we approach), we feel OK. Most of the chart deviations from our 2010 C-Map charts are only about 200 feet.

It's daylight now, so maybe we can pass a little closer to the islands and sight-see a little.

We haven't been fishing--we've still got quite a bit of fish in the freezer, and we're headed for the "Promised Land"... Savusavu, with lots of restaurants and good cheap food (and friends to share it with). And we are going to have to empty our freezer soon too. Fiji is the first place we feel we could have lived off the fish we caught, if we needed to. Big Mahi and Wahoo and Great Trevally's are plentiful and easy to catch.

We should have internet this afternoon as we approach Fawn Harbor. YEAH!!! (It's a good thing, too. Because Shadowmail has stopped passing my svsoggypaws email due to too many messages on the server).
At 09/11/2012 7:32 PM (utc) our position was 17°20.43'S 179°27.75'W

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Finally left Fulanga

We had a nice last day in the village at Fulanga yesterday. The other boat that came in the pass at the same time we were returning in Challenger, Margarita, kindly let us tow our dinghies behind their catamaran, and all 3 boats' crews went in for another sevusevu. The villagers put on another good 'tea' after sevusevu. We are amazed that they have actually been listening to our advice on how to handle, and take advantage of the expected cruiser influx, now that the Lau is more open to cruisers. They have formed a village committee to provide a 'welcome tea' to the cruisers, are working on a checklist of information, to make sure the cruisers are properly briefed on village do's and don'ts, and are rotating the 'host' duties among the villagers. Our friend Sikeli says by next cruising season, he will have the men in the village growing a few crops that the cruisers will buy (tomatoes, greens, etc). We left them with a working VHF and some idea of how to use it, and what it's good for.

We are happy to report that a couple of the guys off Margarita are savvy computer techs, and volunteered to take the school computer, which I couldn't fix, back to their boat and try to get it running. The school teacher detailed a couple of the older boys to lug the desktop computer and monitor down to the landing. Margarita reported this morning that they found a wasp nest in the power supply, and managed to clean that up, bang it a few times, and get it running again. Woo hoo! Another demonstration to the villagers of the value of establishing good relationships with the cruisers.

We haven't been able to get them off their $50 anchoring fee, but they do now have an inkling about how to make their village/atoll the 'must see' destination for other cruisers. We hope we haven't totally ruined them. But they were smiling, and waving, and crying when we left. Dave keeps promising them that we'll be back in January. Hopefully we can keep that promise.

We had planned to be 'anchors up' this morning at 7am, but our nice weather from yesterday turned unexpectedly to crap overnight. Rain, squally weather, and gusts to 35 knots most of the night. Woke up not expecting to depart, though we are anxious to get going.

Our "weather guy" David on Chameleon (aka Gulf Harbor Radio, based in NZ) advised us to sit for another day and let this go by. It is the top end of a trough connected to a low SE of us. But tomorrow's weather will bring wind going light and shifting to the NE, and then possibly N and NW... just the direction we want to head.

There were signs of the weather breaking a little during the net, and an hour after the net, we had partial sun, no rain, and steadier wind. The actual wind is still higher than the GFS forecast (and the Fiji forecast) predicts, but now more a steady 20 knots rather than 15-20 gusting to 30-35.

So we made the tough decision to get going. Curly, the deliver skipper on Challenger, who is headed west to Suva, opted to follow us out. He's on a schedule and we know that Yana is really anxious to get out of Fulanga and see Jerry.

We cleared the pass this morning at about 10am and are having a nice off-the-wind sail. Seas aren't too bad either. Sun is out, and we are headed for better weather (we hope). Our current plan is to overnight all the way to Qamea (just E of Taveuni) and spend Thursday night there. From there we are just a daysail downwind to Savusavu. We'd like to spend Friday night at Fawn Harbor, but we may skip that if the big southerly swell that is forecast, is running. Saturday we'll arrive in Savusavu. Then we have about 10 days to get Soggy Paws ready for our departure for the U.S.
Sherry & Dave
Cruising Fiji for a few more weeks

At 09/10/2012 10:55 PM (utc) our position was 19°00.39'S 178°35.92'W

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back in Fulaga

We had a great sail north. With a 20 knot wind on our quarter, we averaged 7 knots. We trolled 2 fishing lines and caught a nice Mahi Mahi and a big Barracuda.

Dave Lands a Nice Mahi

Yanina and the Barracuda

We successfully picked up Curly in Lakemba at sunset on Saturday night, had dinner, and turned right around and headed back for Fulaga.

Curly Being Rowed Out to Challenger

When we arrived in Lakeba, the seas were pretty high, and the surf was pounding on the reef. We watched a catamaran go into the Tubou anchorage, and get anchored. So we know it was possible, but Curly had told us that from shore observations over the previous few days, it didn't look like a very good anchorage. Very narrow pass, sometimes breaking in high seas, and if we had entered just to pick Curly up, we would have been going back out with the sun straight in eyes.

The NW anchorage at Lakeba was pretty nice (see Cyan waypoints in the Fiji Compendium). It has a very wide opening in the reef, and you can come straight in and drop anchor in 50 feet. The area is wide enough that (very careful) arrival in bad light is possible, and certainly departure at night is possible. And it is far enough inside the reef, that it was very calm, in spite of the wave action outside.

Sherry Showing Curly How to Use the Chartplotter

We arrived and dropped anchor about 5:30pm, had dinner, and left about 8pm. We sailed most of the night until we turned the corner at Namuka and headed more into the wind. Then we turned on the engine and motorsailed to Fulaga.

By 7am we were approaching Fulaga, when the engine coughed a couple of times and quit. Fortunately, we were still 2 miles off the reef, so we scrambled into sailing mode. Then I took the helm while Curly and Dave went below to figure out the problem. It appears to have been fuel supply issues. There is was confusion about which tank is full and how to change tanks. We had switched tanks the night before, but apparently, not correctly. Within 10 minutes, Dave and Curly had the aux fuel pump on and had the system bled. We got the engine back on and had no further problems with it.

During the night, we had been passed by a catamaran named Margarita, and they were circling near the pass, waiting for us to lead them in. So the two of us entered the pass around 9am, with no problems. It was a beautiful sunny morning and easy to see the bommies inside the reef.

We waved at Pandion, leaving for Vanua Balavua, as we were coming in.

We plan to go into the village today to say goodbyes, and leave tomorrow (Tues) morning to head north. We're still trying to figure out where we're going to stop on our way to Savusavu. We have about 4 days to get there. Latest plan is to stop for a short overnight at Lakemba, then overnight to Naivivi Bay at Gamea, then Fawn Harbor, then Savusavu on Saturday.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Underway in Challenger

The wind, which was howling (20-25 knots) last night, has eased a bit and swung a little more east, just as forecast. (Thank you David and Patricia of Chameleon/Gulf Harbor Radio for your weather hand-holding).

Dave helped Yana do final preps on Challenger last night. Pandion helped out by using their SCUBA gear to get the fishing line off the prop, and check the hull for any major issues prior to going to sea.

Dave and I were picked up at 6:30am from Soggy Paws by Lola from Pandion, and ferried to Challenger. Yana was ready and we had the engine on and anchor coming up by 6:50. Out the pass with a reefed main about 7:15.

At first the wind was strong, but waves not too bad (in the lee of Fulaga). We were doing 7.5kts with less than full genoa. But the wind eased off to 15kts and we slowed down a little, so we turned on the engine to keep speed over 6 knots.

We turned up a little higher just west of Namuka, about an hour ago, and the relative wind change was good enough that we could turn the engine off. Right now making 6-7 knots, easy sailing. Big seas in the cuts between the islands, but over much of our route, the seas are down due to islands and reefs to windward.

Yana is on watch, I am on the computer, and Dave is where Dave always is on passage... sleeping. Sun is shining, and all is well.

ETA at Lakeba is between 4:30 and 5pm. Curly has a boat arranged to get him off to Challenger without us having to launch the dinghy, at the Wainiyaba anchorage (NW of town). This is an 'easy in/easy out' anchorage, so we'll drop anchor long enough to have dinner, and then leave and head back for Fulaga. The wind is supposed to be nearly east overnight, and then start going back toward the southeast, so we want to get southeast to Fulaga as soon as practical.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Update on Jerry

All our time since Monday has been mostly taken up trying to arrange logistics to get a delivery skipper out to Challenger here in Fulaga.

Jerry is still in the hospital in Suva receiving recompression treatments. He is getting better--walking and in good spirits--and expects a full recovery, but progress is frustratingly slow. Fortunately, Kennedy on Far Star has been there helping Jerry (extra food goodies, laundry, friendship), and providing communications with us via radio.

Jerry has contracted with Curly Carswell, a local delivery skipper, to take Challenger from Fulanga to Suva. The problem is getting Curly here... there is no airport, and the supply ship only comes once a month, and it just left about 10 days ago. The villagers told us that sometimes people fly to Lakeba, the capital of the Lau Group, 60 miles away, and take a boat down to Fulaga. Sounds simple, right? (NOT!) The Lau Group is not a normal tourist destination, so information on services and travel options are really sketchy.

Using our local contacts in Fulaga (who have phone and radio contact with Lakeba), we finally got a quote for the boat ride from Lakeba to Fulanga, and it came in at $1,800 FJD (about $1,000 U.S.), almost 4 times more than the total cost of Curly's flight from Savusavu to Suva and Suva to Lakeba. Sheesh. We're just not doing that.

So Plan B, just hatched yesterday, is for us to sail the 60 miles to Lakeba to get Curly and bring him back to Fulaga. Complicating things is the weather. We have had pretty relaxed weather patterns over the last month, but in the last week, things have become less relaxed. We have a marching succession of highs and lows pushing each other, and trying to find a couple of days of nice weather to go to sea has become a lot more difficult. We either seem to have squally frontal weather, or reinforced trades in the 20-25 knot range, with only a half a day of relaxed sunny weather in between.

We just had a front go by last night--rain all day yesterday, with squally weather with gusts to 40 knots overnight. Fortunately, our anchorage here is really secure. All 3 boats here are fine, but Far Star in Suva spent the night on anchor watch--boats there dragging all over in the squally weather.

Curly is flying to Lakeba today on the weekly flight, and our current plan is to sail up tomorrow or Saturday to get him. It's a 60 mile trip, so the plan is to leave here just after the crack of dawn (need to go out the narrow cut in the reef with enough light to see) and arrive at Lakeba just before sunset, pick him up, and turn right around and slog back (upwind) to Fulanga. As soon as we get Curly on Challenger, we'll turn right around and head off on our own on Monday, as we really need to get moving back toward Savusavu. We need to get there by the 15th to get ready to leave the boat there and fly back to the U.S.

With most of our 'easy downwind cruise' time taken up hanging out here in Fulaga helping Jerry out, we'll have to push it back to Savusavu, between weather systems. Fortunately, it's only 180 miles, mostly downwind, so if push comes to shove, we only need one 36 hour weather window.

Tomato Rescue in Fulaga

Just at the time we were slicing the very last hoarded tomato (now about 6 weeks old), we got a call on the Rag of the Air radio net that Pandion, a boat we'd been corresponding with by email, was headed straight for Fulanga. I took the opportunity to ask them to bring us some fresh veggies, and boy, did they deliver!! We got a big bunch of "spinach" greens and a huge bag of lovely tomatoes.

We enjoyed participating in Pandion's sevusevu in the village. It was obvious that the villagers had been listening to our advice and stories about doing sevusevu in other villagers. They served Lola, Lorca, and Sage (11) tea and cake, and did a much better job of explaining to them the rules of the village and giving them a tour of the village. We encouraged them to accept the invite to church and lunch afterward. And a good time was had by all on Sunday.

When the assistant chief (the chief is away in Suva) found out that Lorca was a doctor, and Lola a nurse, he asked them to hold a clinic in the village. So Monday was taken up by more village activities. While they held the clinic, I went in to take another look at the computer in the school. It had been acting flakey, and Dave volunteered me to take a look at it. In my opinion, it's hardware--either a dying hard drive or power supply. Sometimes it starts up and other times it doesn't. No computer techs here, and no similar computer to swap components with, so I couldn't help them much with that one.

The clinic was a great success. They saw 14 villagers, doing mostly screening type checkups. The only sad news was that 85% of the villagers are overweight and have chronic high blood pressure. Sera, the local nurse, said she will work with them on meds, diet, and exercise, but that it is mainly lifestyle issues and hard to get people to change.

Dave spent Monday while we were in the village on the boat working on our heat exchanger. It had been "making water" (which it's not supposed to do). He pulled everything apart, cleaned it up, and found a boot leaking. He put it all back together yesterday, and we ran the engine, and he thinks that problem is solved.
At 08/19/2012 7:15 PM (utc) our position was 19°09.18'S 178°32.43'W

Monday, September 3, 2012

Still in Fulanga for Another Week

First, I finally discovered in a conversation with a villager that Fulanga is actually correctly spelled Vulaga in Fijian. The pronunciation is the same, except that the "F" sounds more like VF. It is spelled with an F on Google Earth, and on our electronic charts, but Fijians today spell it with a V.

We were making plans to start moving from here on about the first of September, and take the next two weeks to cruise the 200 miles to Savusavu, stopping in a few places . We planned to stop briefly at a few of the Lau islands nearby, and then at a few islands on the west side of the Koro Sea (Gau, Makogai, Ovalau, Namena), arriving in Savusavu about Sep 15.

We are almost out of everything. Dave had started on his last tomato, and I was formulating a "The Last Tomato" post for the blog.

But, as the saying goes, "The best laid plans of mice and men..."

Last Saturday, we made a dive in the pass at Fulanga, and our friend Jerry from Challenger took his speargun to try to bag one of the big groupers that hang out in the pass. (We later found that spearfishing with SCUBA is not allowed in Fiji--oops!). The rest of us were diving or snorkeling and trying to stay out of Jerry's way.

After a little time swimming around chasing fish, Jerry finally decided he needed to sit somewhere and catch a fish swimming by. So he went down to about 80 feet and hung out. Within a few minutes, he had a grouper on his spear, and ascended rapidly, fearing sharks which are also prevalent in the pass. He put the fish in his dinghy and after about 3 minutes on the surface, went back down to about 20 feet to properly finish his dive. Other than a more-rapid-than-normal ascent, Jerry had not exceed the standard dive tables. All but about 10 minutes of his 45-minute dive were at or above 40-50 feet.

But over the next 2 days, Decompression Sickness, or DCS (also known as "The Bends") descended on Jerry, starting with very very mild tingling in his right arm about an hour after the dive, and ending with fairly extensive numbness on his right side, and less extensive on his left side. During Day 1, we conferenced among ourselves and used Soggy Paws' satellite phone to call both a diver/neurosurgeon relative of Far Star's, and DAN's dive emergency hotline. Both phone calls said that the symptoms did not sound like typical DCS. However, by the morning of Day 2, it was clear that things were getting worse and not better. Unfortunately, Jerry was not a DAN member and did not have DAN's 'Dive Emergency Insurance' that claims one phone call to DAN will get you evacuated to the nearest hospital facility.

For a medical emergency, we couldn't be further from civilization if we tried. We are 200 miles of open ocean from the nearest major city, and 60 miles of open ocean from the nearest airport of any size. The only regularly scheduled transportation is the monthly supply ship to/from Suva, which had just stopped a few days before. There is no cell or internet access here, and no airport. Very few cruisers stop here.

Fortunately, there is a government-funded clinic here with a full time well-trained english-speaking nurse. Also, fortunately, we had already become good friends with the nurse, Sera, and her husband Sikeli. We had done a few repair jobs for Sera, eaten lunch in their house several times, and exchanged a few gifts.

So when we finally decided that Jerry's situation was serious, that letting him go to Suva in his own boat (a 36-hour trip) was not a good idea, we got full cooperation from Sera. They had done a few medical evacuations the previous year from Fulanga, and Sera knew the ropes. She said they could either send a float plane or a helicopter.

First thing Monday morning, Dave helped Jerry move Challenger to the village anchorage, for a requisite exam by Sera, and by Monday afternoon, Jerry was on a chopper flight to Suva. By Monday evening, he was in the recompression chamber for his first session. He left Challenger, his dog Cruiser, and his girlfriend Yana in our care. So we are still hanging out in Fulanga. The other boat here, Far Star, sailed to Suva immediately after Jerry left, to provide support for Jerry in Suva.

Well, we could be stuck in worse locations...

Jerry's recompression treatments are continuing... he is now being treated in the chamber with Oxygen once a day for 2 hrs. He is showing improvement with each session, and they will probably continue the sessions until he no longer shows improvement with each session. He is walking fine and most symptoms are gone, but he still has some residual numbness and tingling. But he does hope for a full improvement. We are communicating with him by email, and by phone call and HF radio via Kennedy on Far Star.

Because of his slow recovery, and our need to get moving soon, Jerry has hired a local delivery guy, Curly Carswell, to come get Challenger and take her to Suva. We are providing communications and logistics support for Curly's trip here. Curly will have to fly in to Lakemba, an island 60 miles away, on a weekly scheduled island-hopper flight, and then take a "longboat" (open fishing boat powered by outboard motor) to Fulanga. We are using our village contacts to try to help organize Curly's stay in Lakemba, and the boat trip down to Fulanga.

As soon as Curly arrives in Fulanga, we need to skedaddle straight to Savusavu to get Soggy Paws on a mooring and ready for our flight to the U.S. in late September.
Sherry & Dave
Cruising Fiji for a few more weeks

At 08/19/2012 7:15 PM (utc) our position was 19°09.18'S 178°32.43'W