Monday, May 31, 2010

Abdul's house

For those of you who have been following our blog faithfully these past few years, I apologize for boring you lately with the details of our refit(s)!  I know a couple of you might be interested in the details but the rest of you armchair travellers undoubtedly have been holding your peace and wondering when I would get on with the adventure!  So if you haven't completely given up on me and are still reading this….I will attempt to share a moment or two of cruising life between the cruises.

I have been back in Fiji for 5 weeks now and totally focused on getting Toketie back into sailing trim.  But I realized today on the short walk back to the house I've rented from Abdul the taxi driver, that the refit is just the background to being here.  I won't attempt to describe living on board in the yard.  For those of you who have done it, you will understand, for those of you who have never lived on a boat in a yard…well, I don't think you could imagine what it is like.  You board on a ladder, you can't use the head (that's the bathroom for you landlubbers), you can only run water to brush your teeth if you place a hose and bucket below to catch the water, then of course you have to empty the bucket! 

And it is hot!  Where Toketie sits she very rarely gets much breeze, if there is any in this marina.  A small fan moves air around inside but it is stifling all day and about 2AM it begins to cool off and fresh air falls down through the hatches and I put down my book and breathe it in with relief, hoping at last I might be able to get some sleep.

Twice in these past 5 weeks, I have had to book into the First Landing Resort next door.  It is not outrageously expensive.  In fact, they have a reduced rate for cruisers from the marina next door.  While we painted the bilges, I spent three nights in a bure, that's what the Fijians call a cabin, to avoid inhaling the toxic epoxy fumes.  I enjoyed the luxury of my own hot showers, my own head, and even the odd dip in the swimming pool!  And a week or so later, while sandblasting the topsides, I booked in again and this time they gave me a beachfront with a big soaker tub….I was in heaven!  But like all good things, that came to an end and once more I turned the six volt fan to face me and read my book while dripping sweat onto a towel on board.  I know, it sounds gross….you should try it sometime!

But tonight, after the workers left for the day, I had a bite in the yacht club bar and a couple of cold Fiji Bitters then decided to see how far a walk it was to Abdul's house down the road.  The sun was setting to my left and after ten minutes the hardtop road turned to potholed gravel but the birds were holding forth in great chorus, the smell of the grasses from the fields, the miniature locomotive that hauls the sugarcane stalks to the mill going by and people in their yards doing what people do at the end of the day when the heat of the sun relaxes enough to allow you out to water the garden or burn the rubble.  Several dog packs gave warning but kept their distance as I walked by.

Abdul's house is in a small Muslim village about 25 minutes walk from the marina.  I have taken Abdul's house for an indefinite time, as the work on Toketie's topsides involves sealing all the hatches, removing the portholes, more sanding, and eventually spray painting the decks and cabin top!  Impossible to live on board with that going on so in the interests of economy, I have taken Abdul's house.  Abdul is a fixture at Vuda Point Marina.  He is the source of all things and always there to help anyone find anything they need.  He and his brother, Abdul 2, live about two miles down the road from the marina.  The reason, I discovered, that they are both named Abdul is because their second names, which are really their given names, are difficult to pronounce, so for the 'yachties' convenience, they refer to themselves as Abdul 1 and Abdul 2!  They own the last three houses on the road past the marina.  Actually the road ends just before their houses and the bus makes its turnaround there.  It is a three bedroom bungalow with big fridge and two burner propane stove, living room, some furniture, a fan, lots of windows looking out into the hills, hot water from a solar tank and lots of peace and quiet…which is maybe why I'm writing this.  I surprised a gecko today, one of those little lizards that are everywhere, in the kitchen area.  But they are friendly creatures and have probably seen more of life than mankind.  They also eat insects so we welcome them.

In the five weeks, I have seen friends come and go, mostly go, from the marina.  This is not a place anyone chooses to stay.  It is a place one stays only to get work done or the 'waiting for a part to arrive' syndrome is in play.  No, life is much better out in Musket Cove or any of the hundreds of small islands that make up Fiji.  Barry and Ann on Cat's Paw IV arrived a week ago and are having some rigging replaced that failed on their passage up from New Zealand.  Looked like they got it today so I'll probably be waving farewell to them tomorrow!  John and Linda on Madhatter left a few days ago with three of their children and two partners to cruise the islands for a few weeks.  Then there are the 'characters' you find in every out of the way place!  There is Bob, who is resurrecting an original John Hannah Tahiti Ketch that was going to be burned.  He has it afloat and filled with Fijians.  His plan is to fix it up and charter it.  I hope he makes it!  And Steve just arrived from Samoa where he rode down Main Street taking out telephone poles in Tulak during the tsunami last year.  He has been sailing since the early 70s and is finishing the repairs here.  And the retired criminal lawyer from Hawaii who sits at the bar reading a novel while the beer flows.  And the list goes on….have to be careful or I could end up as one of these colourful characters!

I count down the days till my first mate joins me!  Hopefully I will have most of the dirty work done and we can put things back together and figure out where to go from here.  Our dear friends, Derek and Anthea, on Sukanuk left New Zealand for Australia a few weeks ago but sailed into the teeth of a very deep low and were hove to and blown North and East so ended up in New Caledonia!  Reports are they are enjoying it and with luck we may catch up to them there or in Australia by Oct/Nov when the cyclone season starts again.

So life goes on and I must remind myself that it is not the destination, but the journey that counts….just as well because the destination is a little fuzzy right now!


From the Toketie crew 'down under' the equator!

Friday, May 28, 2010

the painted bilge

a shot of the bilge after painting.....major improvement!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

progress on refit

Its been a really good week for Toketie.  Deck and cabintop have been sandblasted on all the rusty spots and the topcoat is being peeled away like a layer of onion!  We have a long way to go but so far the weather has been cooperative.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

under the big tent!

circus circus brings you death defying acrobatics on the high trapeze.....and sandblasting!  Toketie is cocooned and the dust is flying....."out out danged rust"......

Monday, May 24, 2010

ready to sandblast decks

all hardware removed and everything masked....hope the sun keeps shining so we can sandblast the rustybits tomorrow!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Toketie getting a facelift!

Big day today....stripped all the hardware off the deck and cabintop....including the hard dodger....getting ready to sandblast and paint the rusty bits and give Toketie a much needed paint job above decks!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Battle of the Bilge!

I believe we have won this one!  From forward to aft, we scraped, chipped and needlegunned everything down in the netherlands below the engine etc.....removing all loose paint and treating the metal, then priming, epoxying and topcoating till everything is clean and new!  Hopefully to stay that way for many years!  And now I have been busy stripping hardware off the topsides as we have decided to repaint the decks and cabintop where the years and ocean passages have not been kind!  RUST BE GONE!! 

It is a hard life, here in paradise!  But the beer is still cold and the people move at their own timeless hypnotic pace so....BULA BULA....and we will get Toketie back into sailing trim!  We still have not decided what lies ahead....but when the first mate returns in June we will look to that....perhaps New Caledonia!  Australia?  So many choices here in the S Pacific!

Meanwhile it is 30 degrees in the cabin and more when the sun beats down...the humidity hovers between high and higher.....but it still beats going to the office!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"rust never sleeps"

Paradise is not always what it is meant to be!  I have been back in the marina in Fiji for three weeks now and though I have sorted through several issues to get Toketie back into sailing trim, the old girl is looking pretty worn out where the tropics and crossing oceans has taken their toll.  The long neglected bilge area has paint peeling off and the topsides, newly painted when we left Victoria in 2006, are now looking pretty sad with rust streaks and deterioration of the topside paint.  Local resources are scarce and unpredictable so if we cannot resolve it here we are considering another season in New Zealand because we know the quality of work down there.  Meanwhile, the air is stifling and right now the Tropical Convergence Zone is passing over us bringing lightning shows and heavy rain at times.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fiji refit

This was the condition of the starting battery after water got into the compartment and shorted out the terminals.  Note the brown sludge in the background...this is dirty water!  All terminals and connections had to be removed and cleaned as well as the battery box.

Friday, May 07, 2010

the traveller story

This entry is for my 88 year old dad!  He taught me everything I know about right and wrong and after exploring the world for 62 years; I realize there is not much more to know!


……this is the story of a traveller who wandered the world and one day he arrived at the gates to a great city.  Sitting at the entrance was an old man so the traveller walked up to the old man and said:


"What kind of people live in your city?"


And the old man answered,


"What kind of people lived in the city you came from?"


The traveller said,


"They were terrible people.  They lied and cheated and fought with each other."


"The same kind of people live in this city", the old man answered.


So the traveller moved on and soon another traveller arrived at the entrance to the same great city.  Seeing the old man, he came up to him and asked the same question!


"What kind of people live in your city old man?"


The old man looked at him and returned the question saying,


"What kind of people lived in the city you came from?"


The second traveller looked at the old man and said,


"They were wonderful people, full of love and happiness and always kind to each other."


"The same kind of people live in this city", the old man answered!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


The temperature is 35 degrees Celsius in the cabin today. That would
probably be bearable if not for the 95% humidity accompanying it!
But I have fallen under the spell of the tropics once again, the slow
rhythm to life that greets you at every turn.
It took a couple of days to adjust following 30 hours of travel from
Victoria to Nadi. But Korean Air was wonderful and they made the
transition as painless as possible. There are the cruisers who stayed
for the cyclone season and those who have returned. There is the
yacht club bar, the First Landing Resort and all the familiar haunts.
Toketie has survived a direct hit by cyclone Mick and another that
passed nearby. But she is showing her age with the wear and tear of
the Pacific crossing and two passages between New Zealand and the
tropics. The topsides have numerous rust spots and the December
cyclone and its accompanying 100 mph winds drove rain below and
flooded the battery box. I believe I have salvaged the house
batteries, new in NZ, but the starter battery melted down when the
water shorted the terminals. So after two days of cleaning out the
compartment and all the electrical terminals, I am shopping for a
replacement. Sounds simple enough but in Fiji, nothing is simple. It
is difficult to source a new one and requires many conversations and
trips to town. But the house batteries are up and running and
charging so I have a fridge and a light to read myself to sleep.
Fortunately the temperature drops and is almost bearable at night.
Netting is required on all openings to keep the mosquitoes at bay.
The fish on the barbeque was fresh Walu tonight and the beer is cold
and cheap.
So far from family and friends and missing my first mate dearly, I
take a day at a time and dream of people and places yet to be found!