Monday, August 29, 2005

A week in Suva Harbor

Due to numerous techical and meteoroligical dificulties, which I will try to relate below, I've been stuck in or around Suva Harbor for a whole week now.

On the plus side, I feel like I'm ready now to sail solo around the globe with maybe a couple weeks actual sailing practice. And I've been living free and eating well. Not exactly lovo, but good civilized food.

On the minus, it's been raining the whole time and that's another week of my vacation gone. It's the week I would have spent in New Caledonia snorkeling and spearfishing and swimming in the lagoon off of some deserted beach, so I'm bummed about that, but I never thought I'd be doing that, and I will have a month to do that in Fiji when I get back, hopefully.

After 3 days of unfavorable weather, where the captain was in no hurry to head out into a headwind with high seas while it's raining (I don't think it would have been that bad), we got favorable winds and mechanical problems.

One day (Friday), the bilge pump broke, but that was just a rubber seal, easily fixed.

Next day (Saturday), the fuse for the toilet pump motor blew and I clogged the toilet with paper. Apparently that goes out the window, not down the hole.

Then one of the engines stopped working entirely. That turned out to be just a blown fuse too (where a fuze wasnt' really necessary, just a precaution) but we got that replaced to with luck.

Sunday we were ready to go. And we left. After about 1 hour out, I was seasick, but I knew how to raise the sails. While coiling the ropes I broke into a fever sweat and thought I was going to pop, but my stomach held, and either the seasick pill kicked in, or I got over it.

But then, after about 1 more hour, the autopilot went haywire. After an hour of dinking with it, we gave up and turned back. Without an autopilot, it would mean 24 hours at the helm, which would have to be mostly Alan. Sara was no good and I didn't have any experience.

So I took the wheel while Alan fiddled around with the electrics and cursed. Before long, Alan pronouced me a brilliant helmsman*, and that diagnosis has held since then. After 1 hour of that, the autopilot went back to work, and steering became a matter of pushing a little button labelled +1 (or -1) degrees and watching a chart on the computer with our position and course marked on the map thanks to a GPS.

Next day, Monday, the Autopilot wasn't working again. We spent all day troubleshooting and

Right now, after 2 days dinking, and wasting today trying to get someone who claimed to be able to repair autopilots, Alan is trying to get one more crew so we can pilot in shifts. I'm optimistic that the Autopilot will work at least partially at least part of the time. Even so, working 3 hour shifts, with 6 hours off, it won't be so bad, and it will give me a taste for old fashioned steering (with a GPS and computerized chart) though there won't be much time for relaxation or guitar practice since one hand will have to be on the tiller.

Anyway, I've been having fun. But now I need a boat, a plane, and a deserted island before I'm happy; but I think the boat might be the first step. I can live on it, I can use it to find the deserted island, and I can use it to start the tourism business.

Tony, another yachtie we met, who's also brit & comes over for dinner almost every day, has people asking him to take them around all the time. I told him I could book him up as much as he wants and give him $100 a day, which I don't think would be any problem.

*I credited it to my experience flying, and Alan said "Just don't pull back on the wheel."


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