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Returning to Fiji

by Andrew and Clare Payne 27 May 2019 07:17 UTC
The deck today © Andrew and Clare Payne / Freedom and Adventure

We are very glad to be back in beautiful Fiji enjoying wonderful sunny skies, sparkling seas, a warm breeze and the friendly Fijian people. We are now at anchor in Saweni Bay three miles north of Vuda Marina where we left Eye Candy in a pit for the cyclone season.

It took three weeks of hard work to get Eye Candy back in the water. But rather than bore you with all the details, I hope the following photos will tell the story.

What went wrong

We had some ups and downs along the way but everything worked out OK. It started the first day we arrived, the heat and humidity hit us as soon as we disembarked from the plane. I commented to Andrew how glad I was that we had paid for five nights accommodation in a room at the marina. At least we would have that time to get the boat in order, acclimatise to the heat and humidity and retire at night in air conditioned comfort. Great plan but wrong.

Somehow the Marina Office had double booked the room and it was not available and all other marina accommodation was fully booked. I was very down and just getting used to the idea that we were stuck with the upheaval on the boat when the Manager discovered a three day cancellation for one of the marina cottages. He was most apologetic for the mix up, he refunded our money and let us have the cottage free of charge. It was an absolute blessing.

Hard Yakka

Work on the boat was hard as we are not getting any younger. We found the tropical climate exhausting but fortunately Eye Candy was one of the few boats in the work yard that was shaded by a large tree. We think the shade of the tree during the hot summer helped considerably. When we returned the condition inside the boat was perfect with no mould, mildew, bugs or unpleasant odours. The shade also meant we could work on the boat all day where as many others had to quit during the heat of the day and return again later in the afternoon.

Labour here is very cheap and so we employed some help to sand off the old anti fouling before we painted the bottom of the boat with one coat of primer and two coats of new anti foul. The local guy who sanded Eye Candy used to play Rugby and has a reputation for being a very good player. He had huge shoulders arms and legs and worked non stop. Andrew said he could just imagine him on the Rugby field, he would go all day and never give an inch. One of the other workers told us he e was a very dangerous man on the field. He was a new worker in the yard and a thoroughly likeable guy. Eye Candy was the first boat he had sanded, he took photos of the three of us in front of his sanding job, but I think he was a bit miffed when after all his hard work we spent the next two days repainting his sanding job with anti foul again.

How to survive

A tropical downpour brought more humidity and mosquitoes. My memory is being bitten every day but Andrew commented that the mosquitoes weren't too bad. Thanks to screens on all openings, a large can in of Mortein and fans on the boat we managed to sleep peacefully each night. We also used three cans of Aero guard in three weeks, that's a record for me:) I didn't cook on the boat for the three weeks as this would have heated the boat up too much.

Fortunately the marina restaurant sold wonderful meals at reasonable prices and there was a special every day at lunchtime. The marina cafe also sold three different types of delicious salad each day which we often purchased for dinner. We enjoyed the company of Dutch friends Hanny and Jacob who were also busy working on their boat, Jonas. We sometimes met for a meal at the restaurant and often for a cold beer in the late afternoon on the verandah outside the cafe. They left the marina about a week before we did but I am sure we will meet again before long.

A few problems

Andrew has been working on a leak in the water maker which he has fixed for now. It may require a new part from the US but we have had good service for thirteen years so we can't complain.

The Mercury outboard is lacking in power and although Andrew and a well regarded local mechanic have exhausted every possibility including replacing parts, the problem still remains a mystery. The local mechanic said it is the only outboard he has not been able to fix. As a result, he didn't want to be paid for his labour. Refreshingly he took responsibility for solving the problem. Andrew insisted on payment and eventually they came to an agreement.

Daily life in Fiji

I have been busy shopping and re provisioning the boat. The bus trip into town is quite something. The Fijian roads are muddy when wet and dusty when dry. Some buses have no windows and so on dusty days white slacks are a disaster. The bus stop in Lautoka is chaos. Around thirty buses angle park and then have to reverse out and drive along behind the parked buses to leave the area. When angle parked they don't turn the engines off, I think for fear they may not start again, instead they sit idling and revving the engine. The diesel fumes are overpowering. It is quite confusing as some of the newer buses have electronic signs displaying their destination, others have nothing. However we have received lots of help from the Fijian people to ensure we catch our correct bus. I suppose we stick out a bit being white, but the Fijian people are very helpful and cheerful.

The daily market is packed with local fruit and vegetables. Some vendors have a counter, other just spread out a cloth, arrange their produce and then sit on the ground. The prices are very cheap eg four pineapples $3.50 AUD, five papaya $2 AUD, passionfruit 10 cents, apples 30 cents, bananas $1 for a bunch of 10, most root vegetables $1 a kilo. However imported goods in the supermarket are sometimes two or three times more expensive than at home. The local products are much cheaper but not always to our palate. I haven't found any pork or beef, no packaged bacon or tinned shoulder ham. We have been living on frozen chickens and fish from the fish market.

So what's next

We are currently anchored in Saweni Bay on the north east corner of Fiji in flat calm conditions. There is a tropical low causing rough seas and high winds on the south east side of the island. However we think we will head out tomorrow and find another quiet bay and a change of scenery. Once the weather clears we will make a plan for the season. Until then we will just relax and enjoy.

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