Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We spent all day yesterday doing the bureaucratic shuffle. We applied for our Australian Visa’s online and were conditionally accepted. BUT to be totally approved we had to provide the Aus. Gov’t with proof that we could finance ourselves while we were visiting their county, God forbid that they let any indigents in! So they wanted a copy of our bank statement showing our income, it couldn’t be off the internet I guess that would be too convenient for us poor slobs that want to visit. It had to be an original bank statement. Well I guess if we actually received bank statements anymore that would have been easy, but we do all our banking online these days, so what can we do. Well we have a wonderful contact at our bank in Yellowknife, we’ll just contact her and Bob’s your Uncle she can fix us up.
WELL, Brenda is on holidays, she won’t be back for 2 weeks, that’s allowed people do go on holidays, we contact her replacement. Could she possibly get us a copy of our bank statement. Oh no, that would not be possible, she does not have access to our account, only Brenda, so we wait, the Aus gov’t is waiting, 2 weeks are up. We finally get a hold of Brenda, who is relaxed and rested and ready to tackle our problem. Well, no, she says she can’t e-mail us a PDF copy of our statement that the Aus gov’t requires, the bank is not set up to do that. What she can do is fax us a copy, but we have to be at the other end of the fax line when she faxes us. So now we are in the middle of sailing from one place to another, faxes are hard to come by when you are surrounded 360 degrees by water. A week later after we have slowly sailed several hundred miles we finally arrange a time and a place and a fax number, the Aus gov’t is waiting. We call Brenda on our trusty satellite phone to let her know that we will be there at the end of the fax line, to comply with Canadian banking privacy laws to get OUR information. Okay, good Brenda faxes, we receive, we have our bank statement. Now we need to fax it to the Aus. Government. We have the fax number and we ask the girl at the marina office in Fiji to fax it, off it goes, relief, but no wait, it didn’t go through, shit, try again, and again and again, it won’t go through.
We go back to the boat, we check online to make sure we have the correct number, it’s right. I drag out our printer, scanner, copier from the very back of the boat behind the medical kit, the ditch bag, the life jackets and the cockpit table, and scan in all the pages Brenda from Yellowknife has sent us. Barry tries to access our online Aus visa application so we can send them the documents online, he can’t access his application, his password won’t work. We head back to the marina and try a different office to fax the info, after several tries the girl says that it had worked, we pay $7 for the first page and $1 a page after that, mission accomplished, but no, there is no confirmation that is actually worked, the Aus gov’t is waiting.
Barry is not satisfied so we head down to the post office where he sends the information away , FIRST CLASS, this cost $35 dollars, it is now 3 P.M, we got the fax from Brenda at 9 AM. We have spent all day doing the bureaucratic shuffle and we still do not know if the Aus Gov’t will accept our letter that we posted, online that was not one of the options of how you could submit your information. Perhaps the fax went through, perhaps tomorrow the internet will work well enough to attach the documents and we could send them online if Barry remembers his password, I must not have listened very well when they were teaching the bureaucratic shuffle, I don’t think I am very good at it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

We have left the main Fijian island of Viti Levu and are anchored on the southwest shore of Vanau Levu, we are on our way to Savusavu. This was our original destination when we left New Zealand but we had to divert to get our lower fixed. We our on the third day of our passage here. The first 2 days consisted of motoring into the wind inside the reef. We purchased a real chart and had some very good way points, so the 2 days of motoring were uneventful. Barry would put on his navigators hat every afternoon and enter all the way points in a route and the next day we would just point the boat in the direction the GPS told us to go. Having reliable way points have made this journey much easier than our trip to the Yasawas. Today we negotiated a pass through the reef around Viti Levu and then sailed for 5 hours in about 15 knots, hard on the wind, of course. Cat’s-Paw IV was grateful for a chance to show her stuff and romped along at between 6 ½ and 7 knots, just flying! We will take 2 more days to get to Savusavu and then decide what else we want to do over on this side of Fiji.
While we were in the marina where we let Bruce off, Linda from Toketie and I discovered an upholstery shop. I found some fabric I quite liked and the shop sent someone out to measure the inside cushions and give us a quote. The fabric is only $10 Fijian a meter about $6 Canadian and labour is really cheap here. It was definitely getting to be time to replace them. The cushions had buttons on to give them shape, but the buttons had steel fastening and they had started rusting., 2 or 3 had rusted off, one of zippers would not do up and the wear was beginning to show.. Once we got the very reasonable quote we stripped all the cushions off the boat and stuffed them in a taxi and headed into the upholstery shop. They have to keep the cushions for 2 weeks, so we are currently cushion less., the inside of the boat looks a lot bigger without them. I guess if we want to do any entertaining on Vanua Levu it will have to be in the cockpit.

Before we left we had to go to Immigration and check out of the Latoka area and into Savusavu. We saw another “Glorious” ship at the dock, if you remember when we arrived the Glorious Maple was there, here is the Glorious Peony, I wonder what the other “Glorious” names are?? The possibilities are endless, Glorious Rose, Glorious Tulip, Glorious Orchid, I don’t think Glorious Fireweed would make the list but it is one of my favourite flowers. ANYWAY, sugar cane is a huge part of the Fijian economy, this picture shows a truck load full, it just drove into the yard. In the next picture I am standing beside the sugar cane train. Our grandson Quinn would be fascinated by this train. The cars were miniature compared to a Canadian train, you can see how small they are, they are flat with sticks stuck up in each corner to hold in the sugar cane when it is loaded. This particular train must have been about a kilometer long. It was very tempting to hop on and ride down the tracks a ways, but I resisted, I must be getting old! The shot below is a huge pile of saw dust, it is massive. They actually have bull dozers that run around on the top of the pile and push the saw dust around, William our other three year old grandson would have loved that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Suva has a huge seaport, here is the Japanese fishing fleet tied up together in port.
We took the bus to Suva, Fiji’s capital city. Suva is on the other side of the main island, Viti Levu, from where our boat is located. The main roads on this island run around the outside because the centre of the island is mountainous. On the way too Suva we took a mini-van. All the upholstery in the van is covered in plastic as well as the ceiling, it is pretty weird, but I guess it makes the upholstery last longer. We went to catch the bus at the station and you just wait until the mini-van has a full load and then you go, when I say full, I mean FULL. Every seat was taken and everyone’s belongings were stuffed in so any spot that was not taken The bus station in Suva up with bodies was piled with boxes, bags and produce, one guy had a huge bag of rice. We felt like sardines, and we did not have a window near us that we could open so when the other passengers chose to shut the window you just suffered with the smell of perspiring bodies and the heat. That ride was direct, only 2 stops and it took us 3 ½ hours. On the way back we wanted to see the other part of the island so went around the north side and we had to take a bus. Road repairs, the same in any country.

This bus stopped at every little village where someone wanted to get on and off. We had more leg room and a window that we could control but it took us 8 ½ hours to get back to the boat. That was a truly marathon bus ride, we did not get back until after dark and had to change buses 3 times ending up with another little mini-van ride at the end.
Suva was an interesting city of contrasts. It has a lot of government buildings, including embassies from a lot of the Pacific Rim countries; we did not see a Canadian embassy. There are modern office buildings as well as a large 3 story shopping mall much like any you might find in the downtown of a city in Canada.

Then there is the market, a huge open air affair that just absolutely teemed with people on a Saturday morning. Here fresh produce is sold as well as fish, clams and edible sea weed. There is the covered section where there are tables in a big square the merchant works in the middle as well as other vendors that set up on the ground outside in the sun and sell whatever they have. There is also a handicraft market that I managed to peruse, one vendor was particularly persuasive, and I think I have my Christmas gifts purchased for this year. We also managed a visit to the Cost U Less a large no frills grocery store. I stocked up on items I had not seen anywhere else in Fiji, such as dried apricots, pine nuts (only 100 grams) and pumpkin seeds as well as the all important zip lock bags.
The Fijian population is made up of native Fijians and the descendants of the East Indian indentured workers that were brought here in the late 1800’s to work the sugar cane fields. Many of the indentured workers chose to stay here when there time of service was finished, they had much more freedom here than in the strict caste system that existed in India. They became the merchant class so as a result most of the businesses in Fiji are owned by Indians. We got into one taxi and had a good chat with the driver; he was of Indian descent and he was a 6th generation Fijian. We visited the museum in Suva and learned all these facts as well as more of the history of Fiji. That alone was worth the long rattling bus ride.
We plan to head to the other large Fijian Island, Vanua Levu in a few days , we will visit Savu Savu and perhaps head to the island of Rabi which we have been told has some wonderful diving spots.
This fellow was running around from bus to bus transporting luggage from the bus to a taxi or car. He decided to have a rest!!

The typical outfit of a Fijian woman, shoulders are covered as are the legs in bright boldly printed fabrics. In a coffee shop in Suva we saw the modern woman wearing a tight skirt, just at the knees with a blouse and suit jacket and 3 inch heels. I don't think it was an improvement.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bruce has left the country after a wonderful visit. I think we all really enjoyed it. Before he left we managed to get him out fishing twice, so I think we made him really happy, unfortunately all he was able to catch was a weed, although he insists he had several bites. I could not convince Barry to take him out to the land of the big fish, outside the reef and it was probably just as well because the storm that went through caused a big swell and it would have been quite uncomfortable and Barry would have had a fit trying to get out the pass.
The day he left was a bit trying because we had reserved a berth in a marina and we had planned to get there about noon and then go into Nadi so we could have a look around. Well some Frenchman was in the spot we had reserved and would not leave so we had to anchor and then waited around thinking the guy might leave but he never did and we spent the night at anchor, not a problem except that some silly American anchored on top of us and when we went to haul anchor the next morning Barry had to fend off the boat so we would not hit it.
We got Bruce to the plane with plenty of time to spare, and I got a lovely book about coral reefs and the sea life you will encounter around them so I was happy. I went into Nadi yesterday and got parts for the sink and I think I have found some upholstery I like so we can see about getting the cushions recovered. It will be a big expense but the material is really reasonable and labour is cheap here AND, the upholstery is looking really old and buttons on it are all rusting and falling off and one of the zippers is gone so it is time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bruce, on lookout duty
Yesterday was a day of adventure. Bruce tried a discovery dive, he had to do some pool work in the morning and then we all went on the same boat in the afternoon and roared out to the reef. It was so windy and choppy on the way out it was a good thing we had our wet suits on. He really enjoyed himself, looking a googly eyed fish in the eyes for several minutes, as well as exploring around the reef. The experience of looking up from the bottom and seeing divers at different levels, some 5 meters above him and some nearly on the surface caught his eye. Barry and I as the only “certified” divers on the boat took off in a different direction. We were in a passage between the reefs and we saw several sting rays as well as quite a large turtle, Barry says at least 2 meters across.!!!!! The turtles are so graceful under the water, one small flap of the flipper and off he went. The coral was different from anything else we had seen so fun was had by all.
For dinner we went into the Island Bar to cook our tuna fillets and a baked potato, and the case of the missing potato was born. Barry was standing at the BBQ after the potatoes had been roasting for almost an hour and he was tending to the yellow fin fillets. Some guy came along and TOOK one of our potatoes, the nerve. Barry says he didn’t even have any other potatoes so it was not a case of mistaken identity, he actually stole one of our potatoes. Barry noticed the missing vegetable as the fellow was walking away and was so astonished he could not bring himself to mention the fact that one of he had filched one of our food items. When I reported our loss to the other members of our table, non of whom were eating potatoes, one Swedish fellow cried out “POTATO WAR”. Barry suggested from now on if we should carve Cat’s Paw IV into every potato that we wrap in foil.
The anchorage at low tide
Then, the storm. What a drama, the wind came up, the lightning flashed, the thundered roared, the skies opened and we had as much fresh water as we wanted. It howled all night, there were boats dragging through the anchorage, someone pulled up anchor and tried to take a mooring ball in the middle of the night, dinghies were puttering around to help, people were flashing lights to try and figure out what was going on. We had pulled up our dinghy out of the water and it was filling with water and the boat was reacting in a decidedly unusual manner. I went out dropped it and retied it at the back of the boat.
PLUS one of our sinks in the galley has given up the ghost. The thingy at the bottom of the sink that the drain hose is attached to, rusted so for several days all the water that we have been putting down that sink has been emptying into the boat, OH Joy. One of the lockers flooded, it had to be the one with all the paper towels and toilet paper in, and you all know how attached Barry is to his paper towel, it is major crisis time. PLUS the bilge was flooded and the bilge pump has several things wrong with it, the float was stuck so it did not rise therefore felt no need to work, AND, the screen for the pump was blocked so nothing would go through so there is poor Bruce in the cockpit pumping out the bilge by hand. I told him it was a good bicep workout and he was happy! AND LIFE GOES ON.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Bruce has arrived safely. He got in first thing in the morning after flying most of the night. The taxi driver that drives around all the cruisers picked him up at the airport and brought him straight to the boat, it was great. We left shortly after and actually sailed all the way back to Musket Cove. The wind picked up on the way over and Bruce really enjoyed the sail. When he was at the wheel he would get to talking and then veer ever so slightly off course. His younger brother could not let him be commenting error, error, whenever he was not exactly on course.
Bruce was in Fiji 40 years ago as a student and stayed with a family at a nearby village. He wanted to see if he could find the family and renew his friendship. We set off at high tide today to check out the village. There were 2 villages which are really close to the resort, so the villagers set up a handicraft fair and the resort customers pay to go and view the village and get to buy some handicrafts. After Bruce figured out which of the 2 villages he was at we landed and went to talk to some guys that were watching the tourists get off the resort boats. We told them we wanted to do sevu sevu and after the ceremony was over we were taken on a tour of the village. We discovered that the fellow that Bruce stayed with passed away a few years ago but we managed to see the house he used to live in. Bruce was appalled at the lack of trees on the islands slopes. He said 40 years ago he had to climb to the top of the hill to see out of the jungle now the hills are pretty much bare. Back then all the homes were grass huts, now they are either made out of tin or cement blocks.
This village was the most prosperous one we have been too. I think the resort contributes quite a bit to the village as well as employing a lot of the people. There was evidence of the hurricane damage to the village, very large trees had been uprooted and were lying about the village have chopped down. We were given a tour of the school which looked very well stocked and nicely kept, the classrooms had drawings everywhere, on the blackboard in one class there was a lesson on pollution which I thought was very relevant. We were invited to stay and watch a rugby match that was about to take place. It was the local team against a resort team, it was a big deal with loud music and an announcer. We had to leave because the tide waits for no man and we had snuck through a shallow channel at almost high tide to get there and did not want to try and motor through when the tide was any lower.
We have accomplished one goal that Bruce had in coming now we have to figure out how to catch him a fish. I think we got make his visit to Fiji a raging success if some rather large fish would oblige us and bite on our line. The winds have picked up though and we may find out just how good of a sailor Bruce is if we take him outside the reef to the land of the LARGE fish.

Bruce and Barry on the raft from the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. The movie was filmed around here and the raft sits on the beach in front of one of the resorts.

Monday, July 05, 2010

We are back in Vuda Marina getting ready for Barry's brother Bruce's visit. Bruce arrives on Wednesday and will be here for a week. We spent last night in Musket Cove and enjoyed the Fourth of July celebrations with the Americans. They had arranged to have some fireworks so Barry was out on the beach lighting off the fireworks, I had some sparklers which I have not had for years. People were running around dressed in red white and blue, it was rather fun, the resort cooked up a mess of hot dogs and hamburgers and Barry had one of each and then after polishing off his coleslaw and apple pie he went back for another hot dog. I don't know where he puts it.
The only unexpected excitement of the night was when someone fired off a flare and it did not go up, instead it burned on the dock. It could have been a nightmare because all the dinghies were tied up and it burned for quite a while and could have easily burned a hole in one of the dinghies. It was put out by a sober gentleman with a water hose.