[110130; 0105 UTC SavuSavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji; 16°46.64'S / 179°20.06'E]


Dear Friends;

Happy New Year to all from Fiji. We know it's almost February and a wee bit too late for this sentiment but we've been bad and will make no excuses for being so. We're still in Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu and we'll bet you are thinking, "what do they do all day?" That is a good question. The truth is we are always busy and the time just goes pleasantly by. We have boat maintenance projects always pending and always in the works. We make multiple trips to shore each day from our mooring nearby to Nawi Island in Nakama Creek to acquire a bit of this, and a bit of that, like a warm shower or fresh fruits and veggies. In a small town like this, even the simplest things needed require hunting through many marginally stocked little shops. And then there's visiting; inevitably we meet another cruiser or a local friend and chat just happens, books and cruising guides are exchanged, experiences shared and, in the end, the days just fly by.

We organized a wildly successful Mexican potluck at Waitui Marina (home of the SSCA Cruising Station with hosts Michael and Kendra of Shangri La) and introduced some Fijians to some mighty spicy food. It was quite the spread - spicy black beans with chipotle peppers, jalapeņo corn bread, homemade tortillas, pork and chiles in achiote sauce, curried veggies (not Mexican but Nish of Renegade is Indian and it was a truly luscious picante offering), guacamole Serbian style (from the boat Basjako), fresh tomato salsas, pickled jalapeņos, baked pineapple and our own fresh habaņero hot sauce - and everyone ate well including the Fijian guests. That being said, Fijians are unfailingly polite folk and they may not have wanted to gasp (or gag) in the presence of the voracious muchachos known as cruisers. In the end, there were no leftovers. Our next gathering will be with an Italian theme now that the young Italian chef in our community, Davide (with his lovely slightly-pregnant and glowing partner Elisa aboard Equinox) has returned from a stint as a chef in Sydney. Philip is the old Italian chef of our community plus there are many with dubious claims of Italian heritage but who profess proficiency in the cuisine, and it should be another feast. Serbian friends (and fellow SSCAers), Nesha and Neli will be organizing this gathering.

Weather, as always, keeps us on our toes. First there was cyclone Wilma that formed north of us and went east before making an abrupt turn SW, a wee bit too close to ignore. American Samoa got hammered but our friends are safe, Tonga was lucky enough to have it slide by to the east, but New Zealand (yes, New Zealand) got hammered.

At least a week was lost waiting through our most recent cyclone watch as squalls with heavy rain kept us continuously opening and closing hatches and ports. A low pressure system that pundits were sure would be a cyclone, sat roughly 150 miles north of us and refused to move. Long term weather reports of a week ago showed it brushing us with storm force winds, though such forecasts can be hundreds of miles off track. As the result of this prediction, we stripped our sails and began to prepare, stocking up on essential foodstuffs (flour, milk, eggs, pasta, plus batteries) and helping to secure empty, abandoned and derelict boats in our midst. As of this morning, this low has moved off to the west and is now, finally, ramping up into a cyclone, though it is expected to go west and to not threaten us further. Whew. Queensland Australia, still reeling from the worst floods in decades, has been brushed by Cyclone Anthony which keeps reforming and re-curving back towards Cairns. We remain vigilant as it's mid season and atmospheric instability reigns.

Though we have helped to improve the mooring lines of various boats in our vicinity, we were especially leery of our large, neglected neighbor, Dorcas Sue, and have taken special steps to secure her lines to her mooring. This seriously decaying sailboat has been on the same mooring for the last five years and was a disaster even as it first arrived here, the subject of "The Tale of the Dorcas Sue" written by the poor soul recruited to help deliver it. Apparently the owner continues to pay the mooring fees but is old and in poor health and we don't think Dorcas Sue will ever sail again. We hope to post one or more photos of her on our website soon; she's very sad.

We may not have mentioned this but our brand new high tech, custom machined, cutless bearing (a short piece that lines the shaft log and keeps our diesel engine's shaft aligned) is failing. Believe it or not, this was brand new in October, replaced during our boatyard stay. And, yes, this means we will have to go back into the boatyard, at great expense, though we will wait until April for this as we plan to depart Fiji for Vanuatu in May and both the boatyard and Vanuatu are west of here. This time, however, we are not letting others touch Carina - we can't afford the cost of their mistakes - so one of our projects has been to construct a propeller puller. You may remember our Canadian made propeller was smashed by a workman who was trying to remove it, a stupid error that cost us 1 BOAT unit and weeks more in the yard. (BOAT = Break Out Another Thousand) Our crude but hopefully effective device, took weeks as we sketched plans and critiqued various designs, conferred with others and finally contracted two young Muslim brothers whose machine shop is on the swampy edge of town. Nice men but just not skilled; at least not yet. Iterations later, and only with the intervention of another Indo-Fijian, Pele a Hindu, who runs an electrical repair shop and who promoted this machine shop, AND a fellow cruiser, we finally acquired the hideous but usable contraption.

Other projects keeping us busy include designing and having fabricated, in the upscale machine shop and from bits of material we had to acquire through creativity and cunning, bales for our anchor rollers that would accommodate the arced shanks of our anchors. Then it was onto specifying, importing and installing a replacement manual bilge pump. Thankfully we were able to obtain the same model (so all the holes for fasteners would match), though ours looked as if it had been used by Noah in an earlier epoch. This week we'll pack Jake up for a rare visit to a vet for a check up and inoculations (the Lautoka SPCA makes periodic calls to Savusavu to treat animals), tackle an ever-growing list of sewing projects, and perhaps even start re-constructing lifelines as ours were found to be badly corroded when we removed the vinyl covering. One of these fine days we still need to remove and check our heat exchanger of our diesel engine.

Soon we hope for a stable weather pattern in the SW Pacific so we can poke our nose out and around the lighthouse at the edge of Savusavu Bay. We plan to try to visit Salt Lake to see friend Tuki's home, Viani Bay to snorkel and find Nemo, the island of Taveuni and its gorgeous mountains, hundreds of species of birds and magnificent waterfalls, and maybe even Also Island, home of Jim and Kyoko Bandy, nestled inside the great sea reef that lines the north side of Vanua Levu. It would be a shame to leave Fiji this spring without exploring these rural treasures and we'll certainly try to do so, even if the project list gets neglected!

Your friends of the yacht Carina,

Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake