Saturday, 27 June 2015

24-26 Jun 15 - hiking & feasting in Lomati

Hello!

I have skipped a couple of nights because our days have been so busy! I could write a book, but I will try to stick to the highlights here :)

The village where we are anchored in Matuku is called Lomati. There are only 7-9 families here (depending on who you ask - I think a couple of families are in Suva right now), and Lomati is one of four villages on this island. All the kids go to school in another village (where they board during the week) so it is quiet ashore with just a handful of (very friendly) grownups.

A highlight of Lomati compared to Fulaga is that Lomati has "plenty water". However, the next time you are blithely throwing laundry in the machine in your kitchen or basement, or using the toilet in your own house, picture a village where all the water is collected in a central tank, and all the washing is done at a central pair of double tubs. That being said, we are really grateful that we have all been able to completely top up our water tanks this week.

The kids and I stayed on the boat on Wednesday morning, while Max & Jesus went spearfishing. Victoria and Johnathan were writing in their journals, and I was catching up on some chores, with an intention of going to the village in the late morning / early afternoon with our accumulated laundry *while the tide was high*. Unfortunately, it took until 3pm to go ashore, so the high tide was a distant memory. Since time and tides wait for no one, we had to lug our laundry and jerry cans quite a distance to the shore (and even further on the way back). The bottom is not sand, so Max and Jesus were slipping and sliding with the extra weight (50+lbs) of the jerry cans. Tidal issue aside, the ladies were fascinated by my wringer (although they were at least as quick wringing everything in their sink by hand), and it was fun to chat with them while I processed our clothing. Another lady's laundry was soaking when I arrived, but they happily moved hers to a bucket to give me both sinks, which was very kind of them. The sun was just setting as we headed home with three big buckets of clean clothing and diapers, and the second lot of five full jerry cans. It took all our clothespins and laundry lines to peg everything, and we had to do the clothes in two lots, there were so many. There is something to be said for doing small loads every couple of days.

As you may know, I love "coincidences" ... the boys from Exodus played Risk & Minecraft with Johnathan and Victoria all afternoon while I did laundry. Of course, our kids wanted their friends to stay for dinner, which we invited them to do. It was only the next day that I found out that their parents were celebrating their anniversary, so they got an unplanned dinner for two. Neat :)

Thursday was quite a day! On Wednesday evening, we were invited to join the other kid boats on the beach at 9am for a hike; the early start was so that we could be back to the village in time for a fund raising feast that evening. It was recommended that we wear our sturdiest shoes and bring a lunch, given that it was going to take about three hours each way, but otherwise we didn't know much about what to expect. We have hiked all over the South Pacific in flip flops, but we dutifully dug lace-up shoes out of our cupboard, packed our lunch, and set our alarm for the morning.

Matuku is a volcanic island, and there are some high peaks all around us, so we expected a beautiful view; we were not disappointed. What we (I) were not necessarily expecting was that parts of the path would go nearly *straight up* (!) Benjamin and I got lots of offers from other people to carry him, but I decided that if anyone was going to carry him, it would be me (and that if anything was going to happen to him, it would be on my person ... a mother's instinct is a powerful thing!) Our guide, Jesse, was doing the hike with a foot that was missing toes and rubber boots, so anytime I got a bit concerned, I reminded myself that if he could do the hike, I could do it as well! We will post pictures eventually, but all I can say is that it was quite an endeavour! Jesse told us that Benjamin was the youngest person to do the hike :)

At one point, we stopped for a rest near an old Banyan tree (these are the ones that send shoots/roots down from above to form new portions of the trunk - the tree looks like a series of narrow poles all rooted into the ground side by side, and it had probably grown to a diameter over 20 ft). All eight big kids (and some of the grownups) scampered up the limbs to the heights of the trees while the rest of us caught our breath (watch for the photos...).

Once again, there was a neat coincidence/happenstance ... Benjamin had been on my back in his carrier for the early part of the hike (about an hour) and he didn't ask to feed during that rest break until we were just leaving the Banyan tree. Realizing quickly that he was not going to quiet down, I moved him from back to front to nurse him while I walked. It turns out that after this point the trail, which had already been constantly climbing, really began to be steep. Thankfully, there were lots of roots/trees/rocks that we could use as handholds & footholds. (Although I wasn't really uncomfortable, I decided that I would be relieved when we were all safely back in the village.) Before long, Benjamin slept (far earlier in the day than he has done in recent memory), and he slept all the way to the top and then all the way back down again to within 100 feet of the Banyan tree. It was at this point that I realized that even though it had seemed inconvenient to move him to the front to feed him on the way up, by being there, he had been protected from all the trees/branches that might otherwise have scratched him, and since he was sleeping, I could concentrate on the movements I needed to make. The remainder of the hike (ie below the Banyan tree) was still steep, but much more open. I couldn't have planned it like that if I had tried!

The hike down made the hike up look really easy. [Note to the Grammies/Grannies reading this - don't worry - our whole group of eight kids, nine grownups and Benjamin got down safely]. After enjoying the spectacular-well-worth-the-hike view of our anchorage and the neighbouring bay, and resting for a while while the others picnicked at the very peak, I decided to start towards the bottom on my own time. Slowly, I began to descend. My approach was to face towards the mountain and keep my weight on hands & feet while I moved one appendage at a time. A few minutes later, our friend Hans came trotting along, a smile on his face and walking stick in his hand, as if he were out for a jaunt on a country lane. He had left the peak to hike down with his family (who were ahead of me), but he stayed with me until we reached the Banyan tree, at times literally guiding each foot into its position for the next step. At that point, I switched handlers, and Max accompanied me for the rest of the hike. It is good to know when to go it alone and when to be grateful for assistance! Of course, both kids were well in front of us. In fact, by the time we arrived in the village, Johnathan had already swum to Exodus with one of their boys.

A benefit of hiking at the back of the pack was that Jesse, machete in hand, hiked with us. At one point he gave me a walking stick into which he had quickly carved a handle; at another point, he asked if we would like some coconuts, and when we said yes, he scrambled to the top of a nearby tree and proceeded to shake/twist/kick about a dozen coconuts down to the half-dozen of us. He showed us how to test for drinkability by tapping on their outer surface, and then opened them for us with a few slashes of the machete. They provided welcome refreshment after several hours on the trail!

The hike itself would have been enough to fill the day, but after a much-needed rest aboard Fluenta, we went ashore for the evening's feasting, a fund-raiser for their local Methodist church, that was held in the village hall where we had been so warmly welcomed the first day. Each family had cooked a dish, and all the food was laid out on a crowded buffet table - land crabs, sea crabs, several kinds of fish (curried, fried, cooked in coconut milk), clams, taro, casava, yams, green papaya salad, ripe papaya slices, and bread & butter - there was something for every taste. All the men sat in a circle around the kava bowl, the children formed their own circle in the middle of the room, and the women seemed to form two circles, one of the ones who were serving, and one of the ones who weren't. Benjamin was again in his element, running all over the room and towards the open doors. There was always someone to catch him and bring him back. There were forks & knives on the table for our benefit, but Fijian food is really best eaten with the hands as the Fijians do. We had brought Benjamin's booster chair, but I think he sat in it for a total of five minutes! He was most fascinated by a small cat, lying on his tummy to see it face to face and trying to pet it. I found out later that the ladies had offered it to Victoria as a pet, but she wisely declined. His newest word (as of yesterday) is "doggie" so he was equally thrilled by the canines running around outside. After the meal was finished, the kids (cruisers and villagers both) went outside to play hide & seek (lots of happy sounds carried into the hall, so it would seem that they had fun), the men enjoyed the kava bowl, and the ladies chatted. It was fun to get to know some of them. Jesse has three children, one of whom is a baby of 8-9 months, so I really enjoyed speaking with his wife.

I was about to write that today was a quiet day, but in fact, it was another busy day! All the kids gathered on Exodus in the afternoon to do short presentations in front of each other on something they have been studying. Victoria and Johnathan (and I) have just finished reading "Underground to Canada", so Victoria talked about the Underground Railroad. Johnathan loves to pore over the "SAS Survival Guide" (which we have as an app on the iPad) so he talked about how to make a snare for a rabbit. The other kids talked about orca whales, the lifecycle of stars, the chemical properties of carbon, and the study of volcanoes. Deanne rewarded them with chocolate and they played cards afterwards, while the moms chatted and tried to figure out where our little fleet is going from here (various directions, but all within about 100 nm for the next few weeks; the dispersion started this evening with Exodus and Nautilus departing for Kadavu).

Meanwhile, Max dug one of our old watermaker feed pumps out from a deep cubby this morning, and went spearfishing with Tim & Hans in the afternoon. I returned to Fluenta with two boys (having left two girls to bake on Nirvana) to find Max visiting with Gary, and a big "Job fish" on the back deck (I will leave it to him to tell you all about spearing it, but I understand that he was hanging out at 40 feet below the surface when he shot the fish). Gary had been surfing, and both were chilled to the bone (we thought we were in the tropics, but sometimes we wonder...). When they warmed up, Gary (a former commercial fisherman) gave Johnathan (and Max, Jesus, and me) a lesson in gutting & filleting the fish. This is the same Gary who so patiently taught Victoria about boat building a week or so ago. Soon we had jobfish in the fridge, Friday night pizza in the oven, all the kids down below playing Minecraft, and all the grownups chatting in the cockpit. Now the boys are sleeping aboard Fluenta while the girls are on Nirvana. We'll trade them back in the morning.

It is quite a sheltered anchorage here, but the winds have been a little crazy - every so often, it seems like a gust comes out of nowhere (whipping down from the heights of the mountain, I think) and we go from 0-20 kts in the space of a minute or so. This hasn't meant much sleep for Max, but after the first evening when the whole fleet re-anchored, we have all been pretty solid. Because the bay is so small and protected, there is no fetch here, so at least the boat is really calm.

We are not entirely sure of our plans from here - we will check the weather in the morning, with an intention of looking for a weather window to go to Suva (new destination, again an overnight passage) to reprovision, possibly as early as tomorrow night or the following day (although I am hoping that we can stay here a few more days, as it is so lovely). Suva is on the same island as Nadi (ie Vuda Point - water maker service center) so it may be that Max will take our Clark Pump on the bus (several hours) to bring it to the shop while I do the provisioning. Once we have our logistics taken care of, we will look at the chart and the weather to decide on our next stop.

As ever, we love you and we miss you, and we are looking forward to returning to the land of internet, phone calls, and photos.

In the meantime, we send lots of love your way,

Elizabeth
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At 6/25/2015 4:39 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.55'S 179°45.12'E
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At 6/25/2015 4:39 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.55'S 179°45.12'E

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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

20-23 Jun - Boat Preps, Passage Making, Maintenance and Sevusevu in Matuku

Greetings,

I told everyone that I would not write an email tonight - we are all still tired from the passage, and it would be wise to get an early night, but now that the boat is quiet and everyone is sleeping, I have changed my mind!

I have a lot of catching up to do :) When I last wrote, we were anchored by the sandspit in Fulaga, getting ready to depart early on Sunday morning. We timed our departure to be just before the slack tide at high water, so that there would be a little bit of current against us (this gives us steerage because the water is flowing past the rudder, but we can move over the ground slowly and under control), and after a bit of a recce to see how it looked, we went for it. The pass was pretty straightforward, and since we had been snorkelling several times, we had a better sense of its layout than we had had on our way into Fulaga. As usual, I was on the bow checking for obstacles (clipped in with my tether and wearing my lifejacket), and Max was on the helm. Even with the +/- 20 kts of wind, we could hear each other well with our headsets (this may be a theme in this email!). Once we hit the 2m swell outside the lagoon, the bow started acting like it was part of a carnival bucking bronco ride - I took off my headset and put it safely into my jacket before I knelt down to release my tether to return to the cockpit!

I must say that the next 24 hours were long. We seemed to have lost our sea legs quickly in the two weeks we were in the shelter of the lagoon. The winds were stronger than forecast, and even though it was "only a one-day passage" even the kids commented that it seemed long. I had been focused so much on stowing the boat that I hadn't done my usual pre-passage over-preparation of quick foods, which meant that there weren't the usual assortment of pasta, rice, muffins, etc to eat, and I didn't feel much like going down into the galley to prepare anything. We ate a lot of crackers!

By dinner time (after my off-watch nap), I decided that I should make up for a day of minimal offerings by cooking dinner from scratch. I would redeem myself by preparing a one-pot rice/ground beef/tomato concoction that everyone would love. This way, all the wheaty, cracker-filled bellies would have something else in them besides gluten (which can sometimes be too much of a good thing). Into the pot went the beef. Into the pot went the raw rice. That's when it hit me that the beef didn't smell quite right. Not wanting to take chances while on passage, I decided that we had better have something else for dinner. Unfortunately, that's when it could be said that my logical thinking ran out, and the rest of this story is a bit of a lesson in humility. Not wanting to pass a heavy pot up the stairs, and not wanting anyone to leave the cockpit to toss the contents of said heavy pot overboard, I took a look at it, thought to myself that it *kind of* looked like something that had already been eaten, and went into the head. As soon as I started trying to flush 2c of dried rice and 1 lb of beef out of the toilet, I had a bad feeling that I might have made a mistake... when after a few strokes, I couldn't even move the handle on our Groco head more than 1 cm, I knew that I had made a mistake. Since it was "only a one-day passage" we decided not to do anything further that night and to revert to the "bucket" method for doing our business ("we've done it before, and we can do it again" intoned Victoria). Not a way to win friends and influence people for sure, especially since now Benjamin (who had been entertained by Johnathan all afternoon while I slept) was wailing, and there was still no sign of dinner. Out came the canned pasta that I had been trying to avoid, and anyone with an appetite (not the entire crew, by any stretch - [ie I got the whole can of canned pasta. Max) at least had food.

The winds built through my watch, until by the time Max came back on watch around midnight, we were getting steadily into the high 20s/low 30s kts. The seas were between our quarter and our beam, and the motion was not especially comfortable. The one good thing was that very few things went flying - I might not have been baking on Saturday, but at least the boat was well stowed! No one got much sleep, especially since the autopilot didn't like the big winds/seas, and Max had to hand steer for a while. It started having problems just after the chartplotter lost power when I moved it, which makes us think that there might be something wrong with the computer we installed last year. Eventually we reefed to the point that the sails were smaller than our trysail/storm sail combination, and the autopilot was able to handle steering again. We probably could have arrived at Matuku much earlier than we did, but we like to wait for good light to go through passes, reefs, lagoons, etc, so we slowed down and took our time, and arrived at the pass at around 0900 on Monday morning.

Our friends on Exodus, Nirvana, and Nautilus had all made the overnight journey with us, and Exodus and Nirvana were already anchored when we arried. We were met at the pass by a local fishing boat, who led us through the pass and around the reef that fringes the anchorage. They performed this service for all the boats. Even though we had had rain, at times heavy, through the night and the wee hours of the morning, it stopped briefly as we transited the pass and the lagoon, so we had good light and visibility (so grateful for this small mercy!) We were greeted shortly thereafter by the village chief, who was very friendly, and buzzed around the anchorage in his panga, told us that we could wait until the next day for sevusevu, and that he wouldn't be there then, anyway, as he was going to a neighbouring village for several days. This was a huge relief to us, as we wanted to spend the afternoon tearing our head apart.

Exodus gave us both something to look forward to and a deadline, by inviting all the kid boats over for a sushi party that evening ... I was determined to have the head fixed, and time to shower before then!

Right after lunch, Johnathan got on the radio: "Kid boats, Kid boats, this is Fluenta, Fluenta. I'm going swimming, does anyone want to come?" Within a few minutes, Johnathan, Jesus, and most of the kids were in the water. Victoria stayed back until Benjamin was ready to nap, and the others came to find her on paddle boards. It was a bit of an exercise in eating humble pie, as I listened to these ever-pragmatic kids say to Victoria, "She put *what* into the head?? Why didn't she just pass the pot upstairs to dump overboard??" Why indeed.

Marine toilets have a plunger (piston/cylinder) system that forces the contents of the bowl through a "joker" one-way valve. When I took ours apart, the short segment from the bowl to the joker valve was absolutely stoppered with rice. Thankfully, once I removed the joker valve, the rest of the hose run seemed clear (but I wouldn't know until we put it all back together and tested it). Tag-teaming Benjamin and toilet disassembly, we cleared the components of the mess I had made, and put it back together once he was napping. I am not sure when I have felt so thankful, as when we found that water would flow through the whole system - no lasting damage, and we had planned to do a mini-overhaul/parts replacement sometime soon, anyway. I even enjoyed the camaraderie of working together on a project, as we often tackle separate jobs.

It turned out to be a good afternoon - not only did we finish with time for Victoria to bake cinnamon buns to take to Exodus, but we even had time to shower as well! (Aside - we have learned from our friends on Nautilus, who don't have a watermaker, how to shower with less than 1L of water each - we used squeeze-bottles of diluted shampoo, and then re-filled them a couple of times to rinse). Deanne and Tim had caught two skipjacks on their passage, so Deanne made delicious Poke (sounds like Po-kay), as well as a spicy mayo mix, and we rolled sushi once we all arrived. Katrien (Nautilus) brought pumpkin soup, and since most of the others are out of fresh fruit/veg, we brought along our watermelon. What a *delicious* feast we enjoyed! Even with all the visiting we had to do, the nice thing about cruiser parties after all-night passages is that everyone is tired - we were still all back to our own boats by 9pm!

This morning dawned clear and still. We had a chance to really look around the anchorage and enjoy its beauty. The island is taller (geologically younger) than many we have been on since Bora Bora or the Marquesas. There is a fringing reef, but we are in a big indentation/harbour that is surrounded by hills on three sides. All the land is green with shrubs and palm trees, and there is a constant misty cloud at the highest points (which are supposed to offer fabulous vistas if we hike to the top). After the men went spear fishing this morning (and Tim came back with a Tuna), we all got dressed in our fancy "bula" clothes and headed ashore for sevu sevu.

We are in a very welcoming village. We were led to the community hall, where some women were weaving floor mats. We all shook hands and exchanged names. After a short wait, some men came, and we sat in a circle while they performed the formal part of the ceremony. Afterwards, they wanted to know if we had time to enjoy some kava with them, and what followed was one of our most enjoyable afternoons thus far in Fiji. The kava was crushed with a lap-sized mortar and pestle, then it was scooped into a fabric bag over which was poured some water. The bag was squished around with two hands until the water was a muddy brown, and then we were ready for the ceremony. Since the chief was out of town, Gary (Nirvana) was chosen to be the chief for the day. I will write more about the actual kava ceremony later, but today's was a nice mix of traditional protocol and friendly chatter (even the kids were invited to try it, although ours declined). The village women kept weaving their mats, but they were very much a part of the socializing that went on. They also cut up some local fruit for us to enjoy.

After a couple of hours, we headed back to the boats. The dinghy steps were well high & dry, and we had a bit of a walk in the mud to reach our dinghies, but before long we were back at Fluenta. We had precious cargo on the return trip - a 5 Gal jerry jug of water :) There is plenty here, and we were shown a tap/tub that we are allowed to use for water and laundry. We will bring a jug on each trip ashore, and probably borrow some jugs to top up our tanks before we leave. Between conservation and water ashore, we are in pretty good shape, which is a relief.

It was just as well that we came back when we did. Before long, our quiet anchorage had winds howling through at 25 kts, in conjunction with a front that is passing. We decided that we were too close to the reef behind us, and re-anchored. Another boat dragged when (we think) their anchor was fouled by a non-kid boat that arrived today. They both reanchored. Just as we were setting our anchor, a second boat dragged, and finally Exodus moved forward to give Nautilus more space. Just as it was getting dark, and the winds were creeping up to 25 kts, the heaviest boat in our fleet started moving towards us - they were dragging, too, and had to re-anchor. In fact, every boat in the anchorage ended up re-anchoring. Once the front was by, the winds came down, and now it is still and calm once again. [For the sailing crowd: the anchoring here is interesting as the bottom is mud and 45 to 60' deep with reefs alongside most of the sides of the narrow bay and a large reef in the middle. The Navionics charts [on the chartplotter and iPad} show the whole area as intertidal zone and some dotted lines which hint at the inner reef plus the datum is off by at least half a mile. The C-Map charts have much more detail {that is what we have on the laptop} but I have not checked the datum yet. Before dark I went out with the RHIB and my old handheld GPS and did a mini survey so we could plot on the chartplotter the edges of the reefs and where the water shallows. That way if we need to reanchor in the night we know where the boundaries are. Of course, we always have the option of following our track that used to enter the bay to exit the bay if we think we will be safer at sea. Thankfully neither was required last night. Max]

The evening was quiet. Dinner was delicious - we had sashimi with a piece of Tim's tuna (a gift given with thanks for the dive tank that Max had brought over because the tuna had headed to the deeps and around some coral [at 80'] with Tim's spear once he was shot, and they thought they might need to dive to untangle it all), as well as albacore cooked with soya/sesame/rice vinegar with rice and canned corn. So good :) We finished with an episode of BBC's Blue Planet, which was very popular.

That's most of the news from the last few days. I hope you are well,

Love,
Elizabeth
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At 6/23/2015 7:02 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.54'S 179°45.11'E
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At 6/23/2015 7:02 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.54'S 179°45.11'E

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Sunday, 21 June 2015

19 Jun - Fond farewells

Hello,

I will try and make this short, because my desire to send some news is outweighing my desire to finish stowing for sea or sleep - but it is approaching midnight, and all three jobs need to be done. Benjamin has *just* gone to sleep, after two false starts earlier in the evening. With the saloon empty (and the floor clear) he dumped out all his Duplo, and started building stuff after everyone else had gone to sleep. Then he made his puzzle (he can now manage the rather tricky Haida Orca from Granny!), and read through all his books, carefully putting the teddy from "Good Night Teddy" into all the little pockets. After a while, he brought the book to me, but as soon as he got on my lap, he realized he had other priorities, latched on, and peacefully fell fast asleep within about two minutes.

Jesus has washed all the dishes and wiped all the counters; I have a small area of "stuff" that needs to find a home before Neptune directs it towards the floor tomorrow, then I will be able to call it a night too. It has been a steady, but productive, day of stowing each of the kids' areas in their room (they both have a bunk to sleep on now - not just a topsy-turvy storage bench). All the Lego that jumped out of their cabin and swarmed the saloon a week ago has been tucked neatly into boxes and bags at the foot of Johnathan's bed. All the books have found a home either in the book cupboard or in a bag of "spare books" beside my bunk. The school supplies are in a backpack, ready for studies in the next anchorage. During their breaks, Victoria and Johnathan "doubled" in their Minecraft world, giving us a glimpse of their ability to negotiate, cooperate, plan, build, and work together. It is kind of neat to be "flies on the wall" while they work together. They have figured out that they can use our navigational system's wifi router [Navico GoFree] to connect our iPad and their iPod. Fun.

Max and Jesus had a super-productive morning: while we were in the village yesterday, Max had discovered that the reason our autopilot had failed was not either the computer or the drive, but some plain, old-fashioned, broken bolts: there is a heavy bar fastened to the steering quadrant to which the autopilot driver is connected by a ball & socket type of joint, and the four bolts that hold it on had sheared. He and Jesus spent the morning busy with the dremel tool and the tap & die set, shaping four short bolts from the four long ones that Max had in his spares bucket. (They even found four with matching threads - at one point it looked like there would be two thread patterns among the four bolts, which would make fitting the nuts finicky in a confined space). Once the new bolts were in place, we were able to engage the auto pilot and move the rudder back and forth while at anchor. The real test will come when we are at sea tomorrow, but so far, it looks good.

We worked together to hoist the outboard and dinghy (amazing how much easier some of these jobs are with three adults), then Max & Jesus stowed & lashed the various bits of gear that live on the back deck (including a repurposed 27L lidded Lego box that Jesus and Johnathan filled with our rainwater from earlier in the week) so that the upper decks were shipshape for our overnight passage. It's pretty much as much work to leave for overnight as it is to leave for a week at sea!

Dinner tonight was "canned Hawaiian pizza" - made mostly by Victoria. She made the pizza dough, we used canned ham (not really very nice, but we have some in the cupboard), canned pineapples, canned sauce, and some grated cheese. It turned out really well, and it seemed like a popular way to use our canned ham! Victoria even got Benjamin in on the act, helping him to spread out his own piece of pizza dough (without either of them eating too much of it).

We had a delightful day in the village yesterday. Jesus had stayed with Salote and Mini after the four-village festival, and while Max stayed on the boat to work on the autopilot and prepare for the passage, the kids and I arrived "first thing in the morning" (ha!) just in time to watch him rolling rotis for lunch, while Salote cooked them over her wood stove. She has an open wood fire on a platform in the corner of her kitchen, and she cooked the rotis on a hot metal surface, dabbing them with oil on a cloth each time before she flipped them. She had hoped to teach Victoria to make them, but instead she will learn from Jesus :) Once the rotis were all cooked, we had a cup of tea together, and enjoyed some "pancakes" (more like log-shaped donuts) that she had made early that morning before anyone else was up, while Lisa (her daughter) and Oni (her niece) made some curry to go inside the rotis. We then just stayed in our circle on the floor around the table mat, carried on visiting, and enjoyed a meal of rotis together.

Benjamin was in his element, running in circles around the kitchen, and out one door and in another, accompanied by one of the grownups or one of the kids. One of his favourite games was to run outside and chase the chickens (aside - all the eggs in Fulaga are from these chickens - they lay them under various trees, etc and the village folk collect them as they need them. No hen-houses in sight.) After lunch, we shared what we had brought (sugar, milk powder, rice, and a few nice goodies), and said our goodbyes - with many tears all around - Salote and Mini welcomed us into their home, and gave generously from their hearts, and a lot of love has been shared all around. Even as we were leaving, they had wooden carvings, a stock of bananas, and some papaya for us. Perhaps because our visit is shorter than we had anticipated, I feel hopeful that this is a village that we will come back to, and that these are people with whom we will visit again. We anticipate returning to Fiji and Fulaga next season, after our visit to Tonga. I told Salote that this was my plan, but that with sailboats, nothing was certain until it had happened! Lisa has email once she goes back to Suva, so it is feasible to stay in touch (postal mail is delivered here once/month on the cargo ship). Another boat in our anchorage is on their second visit to Fulaga, so it is certainly possible to return.

Another aside - for any future cruisers planning to visit Fulaga - the villagers appreciate glass bottles (eg olive oil, wine) that they can use for coconut oil.

On our way back to the dinghy, Johnathan asked to climb a coconut tree to get a coconut. I said yes before I looked at the tree. Let's just say that I was relieved when he was safely on the ground again. He has strong little legs that hold him in place like a monkey, but I still feel nervous watching him! To make me feel better, Victoria told me that this tree was nothing - I should have seen the ones he was climbing in the island where they camped!

We re-anchored in front of the sandspit again last night, so we are more protected from the choppy waves that were getting bothersome where we were. We will leave from here first thing in the morning and head for Matuku (about 100nm) with an ETA of Fiji Monday. Sailmail has been a bit intermittent for the last new days, so emails may be sporadic.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/19/2015 7:57 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.14'S 178°32.43'W
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At 6/20/2015 6:23 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.16'S 178°32.44'W

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Friday, 19 June 2015

18 Jun 15 - Anchoring, Dinghying, Volleyball, and Singing [and autopilot repairs]

Hello!

Today held a little bit of everything. After a somewhat uncomfortable night (winds gusting above 30kts and sustained well above 20 kts), where Max slept in the cockpit, we woke to the same high winds, but the first blue skies we have seen in a few days.

Our plan for the day included a visit to the village where folks from this island and the neighbouring island were gathering for a day of volleyball, feasting, and singing, followed by an evening of dancing, more singing, and kava. Given that it was still regularly blowing over 30 kts, and that our anchorage was pretty much upwind of the village, we decided that we either had to move Fluenta, plan on a very wet and challenging dinghy ride home, or skip the event. We elected to move Fluenta.

Hoisting a dinghy to the foredeck in high wind was an exciting, but satisfying experience. Everyone had a role - Victoria with Benjamin, Johnathan on the winch, Jesus and Max maneuvering Trickle, and me on the painter/lead line. Since there were no lulls in the wind, we just had to go for it. We were so relieved when she was gently set down.

Even weighing anchor required 100% focus (and our new headsets). The wind was making the boat shear back and forth, so I needed to give Max really precise directions so we could bring the anchor chain in without too much lateral strain on the chain/windless. In the past, I have had to turn and shout to Max so I could be heard over the wind. Today, we simply talked it over in normal voices. What a change :)

With Trickle stowed, and the anchor secured, we set off for our new anchorage. Further to yesterday's saga, our alternator #2 cooperated, and we will get Alternator #1 looked at in Vuda Point. As usual, I was on the bow watching for coral heads (the charts are notoriously inaccurate here [most of the time the Navionics charts show us anchored ashore. Max]). It was pretty comfortable when the wind was behind us, but as we turned across the wind, the boat actually heeled from the lateral force. We found a great spot nearer to the village (but not in the more-crowded main anchorage) in the lee of one of the many islands that dot this lagoon. We are about the same distance as before, but we have an easier dinghy ride to the beach.

I was vaguely aiming to be in town for 1pm, but by the time we ate the yummy lunch Jesus made, and I washed some diapers (I was almost out of covers, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing - it had to be done), it was more like 2pm as we reached the village. The 4-village volleyball tournament was in full swing (men play in shorts and ladies play in skirts). Our host's daughter (Lisa) was on the winning ladies' team. Even Jesus was able to get some court time. It was a sad conversation with our hosts (Salote and Mini) when we told her that we would be leaving the island sooner than we had planned. The only bright news is that we are looking at coming back again next year.

Fulaga is visited once/month by a cargo ship that stocks the village stores. This week, there was no sugar on the ship. This is not unusual for Fiji; everyone here will wait patiently until next month for sugar. Happily, sugar was one of the items that I significantly overstocked in NZ (my approach of "if one is good, three is better" sometimes gets me in trouble!), so I will be bringing some sugar to Salote tomorrow. She is a lady with a big, lovely personality, but she was actually shy when she mentioned it - I was just glad that it came up, because we had so much, and I am so happy to share :) We will also bring some rice, some milk powder, and whatever else I can think of that might be appreciated.

The main event was a singing competition in the evening, but it was preceded by a service of lessons and singing in the afternoon. As usual, I was deeply moved by the beautiful harmonies. Many times, I have found Fijian singing to be a little loud for my taste, with many competing notes, but today, it seemed like the choir was singing choral music with rich and familiar harmonies - it was so lovely. Benjamin enjoyed the singing, but even more, he enjoyed the space of the church, and he and a little Fijian toddler kept their two big sisters busy trying to get them to stay in their pews. Eventually (on the advice of Salote) I gave up, and let him have the run of the place, as the main service was coming to an end. All the young people were broken into groups where (as I understand it) they discussed the subject of marriage, and what the bible says about it. Since it was already 5:30, we didn't speak Fijian, and we were already married, this is when most of the cruisers headed back to their boat. We left Jesus behind to enjoy the evening of singing and drinking Kava (with an invitation to stay the night as Salote & Mini's guest) and we will go exchange him for some sugar, etc, (his words :) ) in the morning.

I have mixed feelings about preparing to leave Fulaga over the next few days. I feel like we were really welcomed by our host family, and we were just on the cusp of getting to know them better. We even had plans to learn to make rotis and to have dinner together. On the other hand, our watermaker is not consistently making water of sufficient quality, and we feel an urgency to press on towards Nadi to get it fixed. (Max is going to exchange the burnt out pump for an old spare, and see if that helps, but it continues to be a liability). All but one of the kid boats is headed West this week, so we will have more visits with them to look forward to. There is every likelihood that we will visit Fulaga next year when we arrive in Fiji, so we will have the chance to renew these new friendships. Pros & cons. Ups & downs. So it goes.

When the kids and I arrived back at Fluenta, Max had just emerged from the lazarette at the head of our bed. The reason that our autopilot had stopped working was in his hands ... he had found four sheared bolts that used to hold the cross-piece for the hydraulic drive onto our steering quadrant. Thankfully, it seems that there is nothing wrong with either the drive or the computer (although the retaining pin was mangled, and it took a long time to remove - he was thankful he wasn't having to deal with it at sea). It is quite possible that the bolts were old, and they developed some kind of corrosion over time. Yeah, Max for troubleshooting it :)

Dinner tonight was albacore from the freezer (seared with soya/sesame/ginger and a shake of chile flakes) and coconut rice with carrots that Jesus had made at lunch time. For once the kids were excited by their food and jumped up and down when I offered them "one extra bite" of fish from my plate. It doesn't matter if you live in a house or on a boat - it is always a good feeling when you make food your kids enjoy!

That's about all the news of the day,
Love to all,
Elizabeth

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At 6/18/2015 4:09 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°08.36'S 178°32.99'W
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Thursday, 18 June 2015

17 Jun - Rain! Water! Showers!

Greetings :)

Today started out like a pretty typical day - a little grey and overcast, but not unpleasant. The tide was too high for yoga, so Max took the opportunity to take his paddle board out for a long tour of the lagoon, while I stayed on Fluenta with the kids. This normalcy lasted for about an hour, and then Jesus noticed a heavy, dark, cloud a short distance up wind of us. We closed the hatches, and waited for what would typically be a 15-min shower ... we were a little off in our estimation, and when the heavens opened, it carried on raining (bucketing) for well over an hour. At one point, it was raining so hard that we could hardly see the other boats in the anchorage. Of course, at this moment, Max was at the farthest point of his circuit, so he had a good workout as he paddled about a mile against the wind (20+kts) to come home!

We already had some buckets on deck, so at first we just took advantage of the unlimited-water shower. Everyone quickly changed into a swimsuit, grabbed some shampoo, and headed onto the upper decks. It was cold! Somehow, I think we had imagined that tropical rainshowers would be a warm, pleasant temperature, but we were so wrong. That being said, we all knew that the resulting feeling of being clean for the first time in ages would be worth some shivering, so we persevered. It did strike my funny bone that I was under the original "rain shower" showerhead, but it wasn't exactly the spa experience that one might picture.

Not knowing how long the rain would last, we quickly turned our attention to collecting precious water. Both Victoria and Johnathan got right in on the act, and every pot, bowl, and bucket they could find was soon set out on the deck. Some of the water came directly into their containers, and they proudly collected it as drinking water; some was tipped in from the structures on the boat (bimini, mast, boom) and we have set it aside for washing. Setting up the tarp that came with the boat (and was already fitted with hose outlets) has always been a little too far down the daily chore list, so we improvised. Our best results came from tipping the water that pooled in the bimini into my big 8Gal washing tubs. In the end, we probably had 15-20 gal in total. At the rate we have been making water this week (2-3 Gal/hour) this equates to a lot of watermaker time!

It was such fun to see how the kids took on the water collection, ignoring their shivering as they ran to the foredeck to check their pots and fill their bottles, and keeping their eyes open for vessels that were about to overflow. Even Benjamin was running around naked, pouring water into buckets. They were proud and excited when Max emerged from the storm to show him what they had accomplished. They were rightfully proud of how much we collected. They were also grateful for hot chocolate and soup when we all came downstairs :)

After the rain eased slightly, our friend Gary (Nirvana), who is a boatbuilder by trade, came by to look at the bulkhead/shroud arrangement that has been under scrutiny since Mexico (it has done about 10000 nm without issue since the last work was done on it, but we always like to get another professional opinion). The best part of his visit (for me) was watching his conversation with Victoria after he had finished discussing the bulkhead with us. She showed him the design for her 27 foot boat that she has been working on, and he gave her some ideas about construction materials and processes. As they chatted, it seemed that her whole being just glowed. It struck me that he gave her the ultimate gift that a grownup can give a child - he took her and her plans seriously, and gave her some real possibilities to consider. He described some highly technical processes in ways that she could visualize, and she has drawn a schematic in her design sketch book of what she learned. Delightful!

Our intention was to move to the village anchorage today, but with the rain and wind (oh, and the alternator that didn't cooperate ... we had a funny smell when we started the engine, so now we will be running on our backup alternator - thankfully we have two already mounted) we decided to stay put tonight. We may move tomorrow, or we may go to the village (for some festivities) with our Dinghy (RHIB). (Aside - Trickle is snuggly tied up to Fluenta, and we will wait for the next anchorage (and calmer days) to sail her. She doesn't like much over 10-15 kts, and Victoria's favourite wind is 7 kts).)

On the more mundane side, I managed to bake the last of our bananas into some more muffins this afternoon. We had two full stalks two weeks ago, and now we have used them all, with not too much wastage. It's always a race against time when we have a stalk of bananas on the aft deck! I figured that everyone would appreciate the hot oven taking the chill off the air. Dinner was fresh fish cooked in butter (Sweet Lips) and made into ceviche (Parrot Fish), served with rice and carrot sticks. Gary had caught some fish when he and Max went out yesterday, and he was kind enough to share with us. Delicious!

The winds have stayed strong all afternoon and evening (25-30 kts). We watched a video together and now the boat is quiet (well except for the wind humming in the rigging and rattling things on deck.) Max is sleeping in the cockpit in case he has to respond to anything, and Benjamin is fast asleep on our bunk. Time to call it a night!

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

16 Jun - What a difference a day makes

Hello

The main subject of discussion on Fluenta right now is our water supply, but it seems like we have a way-ahead. We will join the migration of kid boats west from Fulaga on the weekend. If our water maker hadn't acted up, we would likely have stayed here while everyone left (and the lagoon, while lovely, would have seemed very empty). Instead, we will island hop to Nadi (sounds like "Nandy") where we think we can get our Clark pump fixed. After that, we are not sure what the season will hold. The nice thing is that no matter what, we are in Fiji, so it will be beautiful wherever we decide to go :)

We used our satphone and called a Fijian company today, and got the sense that *of course* they could fix our pump (ie what a ridiculous question - this is what they do! [of course we need balance expectations as much of the marine industry is happy to appear confident to take on work and then charge an hourly rate to figure out if they really can fit it. Max]) We used our old feed pump for several hours this afternoon (bright sunshine had topped up our battery voltage, so the pump was happy) and by some miracle [okay, perhaps not a miracle but rather physics - the new pump burnt out its pump head as the Clark pump problem was causing the pressure to spike so high that the cut off switch would open. The old backup pump is not strong enough to reach the cut off point so it appears safe. However, it is too weak to get good quality water (less than 500 ppm TDS) unless the voltage is high enough. We have sufficient gasoline to run our little Honda generator to keep the voltage above 13.0 when the sun is not shinning or the wind is not blowing. We also have a spare old pump buried in a deep locker. Max] , we made water instead of burning it out like we did the other pump. It seemed like the needle on our gauge moved ponderously slowly, but at 2 to 3 gal/hour we made some progress (our usual rate is 8-12 gal/hr)

During my yoga practice this morning, I found out that two friends whom we thought were both leaving today had elected to wait a few days for a different weather window - hooray! By the time they go, we think we will be ready too, so it looks like we will have friends in our anchorage for another while :)

On the subject of yoga - we are anchored next to a sand spit that creates a 90 deg angle with the rest of the beach. At low tide, we can practice right on the sand. I have done yoga in some lovely places over the last three years, but I think this is the most beautiful yet, and today was especially spectacular, because the sun finally came out and coloured the sand white and the water turquoise. Photos to follow once we have internet!

Max, Jesus, and the kids dinghied over to the pass in the afternoon for a (likely) last snorkel before we go. Max & Jesus went spearfishing [the band on my new to me but quite old spear gun broke so no fish. I did see a large formation of inqusitive eagle rays and a big sea turtle. Max], while the kids snorkelled with one of three boats that moved over to the pass anchorage. Benjamin slept the entire time they were gone, and I had a welcome break to get some chores & baking done (we are almost through the stock of bananas ... today we featured banana oatmeal muffins (regular and mini), of which I think Benjamin ate 6 after he woke up). We capped off the day with a sunset fire on the beach. Johnathan found himself invited to Nirvana for dinner and a movie, so the rest of us had a quick meal of chicken/rice/veg before the boat went quiet. I am getting used to washing dishes in salt water!

Short and sweet. Nice to feel like we are back on an even keel and we have a plan :)

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W

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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

14-15 Jun - Fulaga - Church, more feasting, and water woes

Hello,

Since it is a couple of days since I have written, I'll start off with the easy bit ... we dressed up in our "Bula Clothes" yesterday morning and dinghied across the lagoon to the village for church. Under our arm was a pineapple/banana upside down cake, that was well received by our host family, although since it was just coming out of the oven when we were supposed to be loading the dinghy, we just about jogged up the path in an effort to regain precious time. We were graciously received at the church (and we weren't even the only ones who arrived as the service was starting) so I think we were forgiven (only three boats were in attendance, so they seemed to be just glad that we had come).

The young people of the village (in their 20s) formed a choir for Sunday, and they will be competing against the other villages in a singing competition on Thursday. Much of the singing here is lovely; their contribution to the service was beautiful. They made the concrete building absolutely ring with harmonies, and we are looking forward to seeing what they will do on Thursday.

After the service, we were ushered back to our host family's home, where Salote had been cooking since 6am, without even taking a break to hear her daughter sing during the service. Her efforts paid off in a delicious feast that included the rotis, casava, and bread of last week, as well as whole fried/battered fish (medium-sized grouper, I think) with white sauce and huge steamed mangrove crabs (turns out that there is yet another variety of crabs here). The body of the crab was 6-8" across. I only tried the leg meat (which was delicious) and a tiny bit of the orange body (bright orange - eggs? It tasted a bit like liver); I wasn't brave enough to really dig into the body meat. Our cake was shared with several others who passed through as we were eating, and they seemed to like it. Even the families who didn't come to church were fed, as we were given a care package to take back to one of our neighbours.

We had a reasonably dry ride downwind to the village for church, but we paid for it with a windy/wet upwind journey on our way home. Victoria and Johnathan love the bouncing motion. Benjamin fell asleep on my back as we crossed the lagoon.

I had hoped that Benjamin would keep sleeping when we got back so that the big kids could continue the Lego building that they had begun the day before, but luck was not on their side, and he woke up very quickly (much to their chagrin). It wasn't long before they were both off to the beach with their friends to make bows & arrows and to find coconuts.

With the kids ashore, I spent my quiet Sunday afternoon putting the final touches on their school reports and getting them ready to send (which we did before supper). For better or worse, this school year is finished. Like most cruisers, we will carry on with reading/social studies/science during the summer holidays.

Sunday evening saw all the kids & grownups gathering on the beach for sundowners and a campfire before we headed back to our respective boats for dinner (which in our case was fish, casava, and rotis from our host family and fried albacore and carrot sticks from our own larder.)

Sunday sounds pretty idylic... stop reading right here if your image of us is that all we do is eat feasts, hang out on the beach, and enjoy an unending charter holiday. Monday has the potential to spoil that image for you.

As you know, we have been having issues with our water maker; it hasn't been producing for a few days, and we have been back and forth via email and satphone with both the company in NZ (Enertec) who overhauled our "Clark Pump" (the high-pressure pump that forces seawater through a fine membrane so that fresh water comes out the other side) and the manufacturer. We had our Clark Pump overhauled so that we could count on it through this season and beyond (to the tune of well over $1000) and now, hardly a month into our cruising period, it has stopped working. From the symptoms, it seems like something called an annular ring is cracked. This ring is deep, deep inside the pump, the kind of thing that should only be taken apart in a specialized workshop, by a specialized technician. Not only that, but on the advice of the technician, we continued to run the watermaker (at half capacity, but still it was something), because he told us that we wouldn't damage the system further by doing so; instead, we have burnt out one of our feed pumps (that send the water from the sea to the Clark pump where it gets pressurized). To add insult to injury, we have damage the newer of our two feed pumps, because the older one hasn't been managing to generate sufficient pressure to produce water of low enough salinity.

All day long, I have been using all the tools I know (counting my blessings, focusing on my breath, focusing on the positive, trusting that good will come of this in the end, practicing yoga & meditation with my girlfriends on the beach (that *was* really nice), leaving Benjamin with Jesus and going snorkelling with Max in the pass (also nice)) but I still keep coming back to the feelings of frustration, anger, discouragement, and worry that surface all too easily when you don't know how your family will find/collect/conserve sufficient water until we return to a major center. To be clear, we are not in extremis, but I don't at this minute know how the next few days/weeks will play out. In yoga, we talk about the poses "starting" when you want out of them. This has been an all-day pose that I have been wanting out of... of course, there is no "out" and nothing to do but breathe.

Of course, cruisers are hardy people. There is probably no one in our anchorage who hasn't got a similar story of an untimely equipment failure, injury, or other setback that made them question what they were doing and how they would persevere. By next year, this will be old news (even by next week, I am sure). It is just that in the meantime, it easily becomes all-consuming. We came to the Lau Group with the hope of staying off the grid, off the beaten path, for several months. Now it looks like we will be heading back to civilization sometime soon to see about either repairing or replacing our Clark pump. This will bring its own advantages and disadvantages, its own ups and downs, and once our way is clear, we will find our even keel again, I know. It is simply frustrating to be away from an easy supply chain, lacking in connectivity, and needing to fix a key system.

As usual, even in the midst of this situation, it is not all bad. It may take discipline to see a cup as half full rather than half empty, but it is possible: our friends on Exodus invited all the grownups over to socialize this evening, and we had a lovely time; Johnathan had the chance to play Minecraft (one of his favourite activities) with Brendan (one of his favourite people); Victoria had a sleepover with a big group of kids on Lumbaz; Johnathan had a boys sleepover on Nirvana; We all went snorkelling today while the kids played on the beach. Even though we are having issues with our watermaker and our autopilot (which konked out on the last passage), at least I have email so I can tell you all about it and get your news. Our family is healthy & happy. Jesus found us in NZ and is still with us assisting in any way that he can. Seems to me that I have a cup that is half-full to overflowing ...

On that note, I will leave you for tonight. Our friends are starting to look at weather windows and nearby islands, so I think we will also be on the move within the week. We will keep you posted as to our travels and our next destination.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
PS - A funny story about the kids. With all the parents going a little further away than usual while they were playing on the beach, we decided that in the interests of safety, they should not climb coconut trees or use the machetes while we were away. We called them on the radio, and they agreed. Perhaps we should have kept quiet: they complied with these wishes, but to pass the time, they held a sword-fighting tournament with sticks from the beach instead. Victoria was referee and score keeper, and it seems that Johnathan ended up in the final, but I never did hear the actual outcome. No one was hurt, but it did make me chuckle... They might have been safer using their machetes!
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At 6/14/2015 7:13 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W
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At 6/15/2015 8:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.51'W

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Sunday, 14 June 2015

13 Jun - Cold & windy (yes, really)

Hello,

It was cold and windy here today, but that didn't stop Max from going for a "short" (only 5-hour) fishing trip this morning. He caught a small Trevally within the first few minutes, and then did lots of "snorkelling with his spear gun" against the currents in the pass. On the heels of an evening of kava with the village, it made for a long morning, but half the anchorage had been there, so he was in good company.

I saw magic happen in the saloon this morning. I asked Victoria to pick up 11 things and Johnathan to pick up 9 things in the saloon. They did this within a few minutes, and then as if they had one mind, the looked at each other and said, "Lego?" "Lego!" and out came the boxes that haven't seen the light of day in a couple of months. We have the beginnings of Lego City forming on the double-wide table (Jesus is patiently squeezing around it when he needs to go to his cabin, and the kids crawl underneath), but it is a bit different now than it was the last time: Benjamin is mobile! At first, he was content to dig in the box of Lego on the bench, but he soon realized that the best stuff was on the big table where the kids were ... this was not a recipe for peace and harmony in our home! Thankfully, just as I though there would be mutiny (or at least a little person sent to walk the plank), my friend Katrien called from Nautilus to see if I would like to take a walk on the beach. I quickly decided that the big kids would be fine alone, and Benjamin, Jesus (and our VHF) and I headed for shore with her.

Jesus took the opportunity of a ride to the beach to snorkel in a little mini-lagoon on the back side of our island; Katrien and I walked as far as we could in both directions, and Benjamin decided that 11:30 was the perfect time to sleep. Everyone was happy :)

Once the Lego playing had run its course, I got a call on the radio wondering if Victoria could use some spare pink insulation foam that we had on the boat (you may remember my project to add extra layers of insulation to our fridge and freezer...). She wanted it for a project. Of course, I said yes, and came home to a model sailboat that used carved pieces of foam for the bulkheads and green painters' tape for the hull. That was 9 square inches of foam put to good use!

The plan for the afternoon was to go ashore and do a little sailing with Trickle. Max, Victoria, Johnathan, Jesus, and even Benjamin went for the expedition so I could concentrate on the school reports. Unfortunately, the weather didn't get the memo that the forecast was for light winds all day ... within a half hour, the gentle breeze had begun gusting to 20 kts, and Trickle was towed to Fluenta for the night. I even put on a jacket to receive the cold dinghy sailors back aboard and to help with Trickle. Hopefully, the winds will decrease to forecast levels tomorrow!

Eating Max's Trevally at dinnertime was pretty much an all-hands evolution. Obviously, Max caught it; Johnathan filleted it (quite expertly - he skinned it more neatly than even some of the grownups we know); I cut it in pieces and soaked it in coconut milk; and Jesus fried it. The only ones who didn't touch it were Victoria and Benjamin, and they were already asleep by the time the dinner was served. Needless to say, it was so yummy that it took discipline to save them some (but we did).

I washed my first load of salt-water diapers tonight. We will see how they turned out when I dry them tomorrow. For the first batch, I used a sinkful of salt water with laundry detergent, then a sinkful of salt water to rinse, then another sinkful of fresh water to rinse out the salt water. The second batch used the fresh rinse water as wash water with laundry soap, then another sinkful of fresh water to rinse. My wringer is working beautifully since my dad overhauled it, and I gave it a shot of 3-in-1 oil tonight because it is not very thankful for the salt baths. If nothing else, our experience with our unhappy watermaker will make us that much more grateful when it is working properly again. We have learned many lessons from Nautilus, who do not have one at all.

It is my dad's birthday this weekend - this is one of those nights when Fiji seems very far from Canada, especially when we don't have wifi or 3G. At least love can travel around the world in an instant! (And emails can go out on our HF radio!!)

Love, hugs, and blessings to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/11/2015 8:26 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.04'S 178°32.52'W
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At 6/11/2015 8:26 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.04'S 178°32.52'W

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Saturday, 13 June 2015

11/12 Jun - The village comes to us and brings a feast!

Hello,

Today's story starts yesterday just before lunch time. Victoria and Johnathan were completing the last of their 2014/2015 school work, having come back from the beach shortly after Victoria's breakfast. Julie (Nirvana) announced that she was heading to the village for a bake sale and had room to share; Jesus, Victoria and I (and of course, Benjamin) joined Julie and her son, and we set out shortly to see what we could find (I was hoping for some fruit and some eggs).

After the usual 15 min dinghy ride and 15 min trek on the clay path (past-the-knees skirt donned quickly on the shore), we reached the first house in the village, where they had a table with oranges, coconuts, squash/pumpkins, and eggs for sale. In the community hut in the middle of the village the ladies had set up a variety of foods for sale (most notably, rotis and chocolate cake). BTW - I don't know if I have mentioned the rotis before: they are a soft flat bread that are often used to wrap around a curry filling. We passed on the cake (too hard to transport) but had a roti each for lunch, and took some back for Johnathan & Max. Tasty! Victoria and I sat beside our "host mom", chatting and admiring the 3-month-old baby that her neighbour had, while Jesus sat with a small group of men.

During the lunch (which seemed to have been put on for our enjoyment) the topic of fishing and picnicking came up. It seemed that the village had decided to come to the sandspit today for a lovo (earth oven) picnic. Although the plan continued to develop during the afternoon (as plans do), it was determined that they would come to our beach at about 10 am, and we would catch land crabs (not to be confused with either mud crabs or coconut crabs, although I a not sure what the difference is!) and go fishing with nets. Our friends on Lumbaz went ashore later in the afternoon, so they came back with an even more clear understanding of what we could expect today. This seems to be how plans develop here ... very much on a "need to know" basis!

Victoria got yet another go-with-the-flow lesson when we were ready to head back to our anchorage. The pull-cord handle for Julie's outboard snapped off, and the cord disappeared inside the motor. Yikes. A quick call on the radio yielded a socket set & screw driver, and Julie very capably took the necessary bolts apart, fed the cord back through its path, and got us going again. Since my hands are so often full with Benjamin, it is rarely my turn to fix things on Fluenta with tools, so I love when she sees examples of other moms calmly doing what needs to be done. Once it was fixed, we got good and wet coming back, as the trip was mostly into the wind.

During the afternoon, we decided to use some of our melted Mexican chocolate chips to make oatmeal cookies for the feast. Johnathan spent the afternoon on the beach, and Victoria and Jesus did the baking. Our host mom ate several today, so I think they hit the mark!

At dinner time, we had the chance to enjoy the fruits of Max's spearfishing labours :) He had brought back a parrot fish on his last trip, and we made it into ceviche. (Funny story - I forgot to buy salsa when I was provisioning, but during our nice dinner out at Marsden Cove, I asked the restaurant if I could buy some from them. They decanted 500mL into a coffee cup, which I transferred to a mason jar, then I used my vacuum gadget attachment (thanks, Marilyn!) to vacuum the lid closed, and the salsa was perfectly fresh yesterday. I used what I needed, vacuum sealed it again, and totally expect that the one jar will do us all season!) Once again, we made "Fluenta ceviche, which is the raw fish "cured" for 20-30 min in lemon juice (no limes here), drained, then mixed with a couple of tablespoons of salsa. This is much quicker than proper ceviche, and there is no need to keep fresh onions, tomatoes, or cilantro in stock! The parrot fish was a nice starter (some people say it is their favourite white fish), and we had a chicken curry for dinner. We ended the day visiting on Nautilus, while the kids watched movies on Exodus.

My dad mentioned in an email that some folks wonder where the parents are when the kids are on shore or on one of the boats together, so I thought you might be curious. We always leave them with a VHF radio, they are collectively a very mature group of children (four are 12+) and we all are available to come if they need us. In other words, there are often parents available but not immediately present. We are all enjoying the increased freedom compared to our previous lives at home :)

Benjamin, on the other hand, is rarely beyond arms' reach. He is learning to say more words (mamamama, seet down (sit down, which he does quite happily if it looks like I will pass him food or drink), up, nana (banana - we have lots), apple (we are all out, have been for days, and won't likely see any more before NZ), chs (cheese, accompanied by the hand sign as well as clear gestures towards the bottom door of the fridge where he knows that I keep it), and 'at (hat, which he doesn't like to wear nearly as much as he likes to say)).

We had a bit of a surprise overnight - our high water alarm started going at around 2am. It seems that it was a combination of water from our fresh water tank (we had been making water during the day, but we are not sure if/how some got into the bilge) and water from a small leak in our salt water hose pump. Max and I pumped the bilge, and he tightened some fittings today. Hopefully it is sorted.

The situation with our watermaker is a maddening - we paid a good (hefty) sum of money in NZ to have our working "clark pump" overhauled, and now we are hardly a month into the cruising season, and we have funny sounds coming from it and the capacity seems to be reduced by half. Max has been in touch with both the manufacturer and the NZ techs, but it is stressful to contemplate being on water rationing procedures for the next several months.

This morning dawned grey & windy. We thought briefly that we would have an on-boat school day, but the village came en masse at around 1030, many of them on board Lumbaz, who had anchored near the village last night and moved back to this anchorage today. Soon, our beach camp was a hive of activity. Several fires were lit, smoke hung heavy in the air, and groups of people were dispatched to catch fish and collect crabs. Benjamin was a very popular member of the party - he played near the edge of the beach most of the day, dressed in his new, bright yellow, sunsuit. I never did a head count, but there were six boats, and I think all of our host families.

Many preparations had been done at the village, but the coconut milk for the miti sauce (coconut milk, lemon, diced onion, diced peppers, green onion, salt) was made before our eyes: several coconuts were husked (good way to involve the cruisers...), cracked in half, and grated using a rasper like we bought in Papeete last year. The coconut had some water poured onto it, then it was squeezed by hand to release the rich milk before the solids were washed into the sea and the miti prepared in the pot. Johnathan and Max went on the crab hunt, while Victoria got to try her hand at making the palm frond plates that everyone used. "She's a quick learner" I was told (I wasn't a bit surprised). The villagers even built a large table to hold the food (framework of poles lashed together; palm fronds and poles balanced/lashed on top to form a serving surface). When the food was ready, we all sat on the ground in an area that had been cleared, and some palm fronds had been laid out to provide a flat surface. It was a bit daunting to stare back at the whole crab that Victoria and I were sharing, but she dove in and expertly removed the meat from the legs. The body was a bit darker, so (given that it was a rather small crab) I have to admit that I handed that bit off to Jesus, who seemed to be enjoying the lesson in getting all the good bits out that he was receiving from the lady next to him. In the end, we had casava, "flour" (bread made with flour, coconut, and sugar - very good), both of which had been prepared in the lovo, several kinds of fish (including a box fish, which no one seemed to have seen before, a large mullet, and some smaller trevelly), whole crabs (that the kids had been taught to dispatch with a straw before they were cooked whole in a pot with some leafy branches on top, ... biology on the beach, yet again), huge clams that Salote caught, and cookies for dessert.

As the day wore on, I began to hear rumours that "the villagers would like us to come to the village for kava, singing, and dancing tonight". Since 4pm is *not* a good time to move heavy boats with deep draft because the light is too low, we decided that Max & Jesus, along with several others in another dinghy, would go on our behalf. The catamarans moved back to the village anchorage, as they draw a bit less. I haven't seen the boys back yet, so the kava update will have to come tomorrow.

It was a full and rich day. We were privileged to be welcomed here with a traditional feast, and to have the chance to visit with several different families. The local kids were in school, but our kids played together on the beach, and we all enjoyed the presence of a few toddlers & preschoolers. Lots of wide, friendly smiles :)

Love to all,
Elizabeth


PS It has been too windy for Trickle the last few days... but she has had a good run since we got here :)
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At 6/11/2015 8:26 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.04'S 178°32.52'W11/12 Jun - The village comes to us and brings a feast!
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At 6/11/2015 8:26 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.04'S 178°32.52'W

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Thursday, 11 June 2015

Kids, what kids?

Hello :)

What a quiet day on the boat. The skies were grey and heavy, the wind was steady at 20-25 kts, and even the 27 deg air temp felt cold and distinctly non-tropical. It was the perfect day for some boat jobs (Max) and writing school reports (me). We saw the kids briefly for meals (and provisioning for another night ashore), but otherwise they were completely occupied ashore all day. They took particular delight in competing against each other in a 35-item scavenger hunt (boys vs girls) created by Deanne & Tim on Exodus (thanks, guys!). The final tally came down to a nail-bitingly close 3-point difference, and the girls won it (something about a palm mat woven by Victoria ...). I went ashore with the other parents as the scores were being counted, and it was evident that everyone had had a lot of fun.

As for the boat jobs, Max is hunting for some leaks in the watermaker. He is in touch with the company, because it seems to be related to a pump we had overhauled in NZ. So far, I am relieved that it continues to make water, and we will keep a close watch on it until it is resolved. On the school front, I have made a dent in the report writing. Every year, I swear that I will keep better daily records of the learning I observe... thus far, I am still working from memory, blog posts, and photos. Soon we will be on to another year :)

The kids are camping ashore again tonight. It is probably much quieter there than here, as the wind is whistling by the boat and rattling the rigging (25 kts as I write). The palm trees shelter the kids on the beach. The consensus amongst the moms in the late afternoon was that everyone had some schoolwork to do tomorrow, so I think we will retrieve them after they finish Victoria's oatmeal and biscuits in the morning, and let them loose again after lunch. (School assignments aside, I can only begin to guess about the learning that has been going on for the last few days in leadership, communications, teamwork, self-reliance, diplomacy, negotiation, etc, etc). Fun.

Short and sweet. Love to all,

Elizabeth

PS - Nav-Table Philosophy (since we don't have an armchair) ... I have been continuing to mull over the ideas I was mentioning yesterday about how we can gravitate towards people who are living the values (eg simplicity, family, time freedom) that are important to us. One dear friend described it in an email back to me as "if you see a log burning bright like you want to burn, roll up next to it, and soon you will have caught fire too." I love that image, especially because it applies at home in the same way as out here in cruising-land. One of my favourite writers asks her clients what they want to *feel* like in the future, and what can they do to create those feelings now. All of a sudden, it is not about living in a house or in a boat, in the city or in the country, in an adventurous or subdued manner (which are not always quick things to change), it is about finding our voice, choosing our perspective, and being conscious and mindful in all that we do. This can apply anywhere :) As many of you know, I read Anita Moorjani's book (Dying to be Me) just before I left New Zealand. Her ideas have really resonated with me - she came back from a near-death experience with a message to "Live Fearlessly" and "Be Love" ... what more can I say?? E
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At 6/8/2015 7:52 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.48'W
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At 6/8/2015 7:52 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.48'W

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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

9 Jun - Fish! Fish!

Hello!

"It's time to kill fish." These were the first words that crackled through our VHF, and shortly thereafter, Max got ready to join Gary, Tim, Danny, and Hans in the pass. Max told me that he thought he would be back earlier than yesterday, but I didn't hold my breath.

With all the kids still on the beach after their campout, the moms were also free to go snorkelling. Jesus offered to stay with Benjamin, and I had one of the nicest snorkelling mornings I can remember. It was only myself and Jenny (Lumbaz) and we did two long runs through the pass. The tide was flowing into the lagoon, so we started at the mouth of the pass and floated in with the current, without having to worry about being swept out to sea. Especially in the shallower areas, and when the sun came out from behind the clouds to brighten up all the colours, it was spectacular. I saw some big grouper, several white tipped reef sharks, and a snapper. I also saw dozens of little tropical fish whose names I didn't know. Without the kids along to identify all the fish for me, I just had to enjoy the variety :)

I made it back to Fluenta before Benjamin had any meltdowns, and we made some more tropical pancakes and smoothies to continue using our pineapples, papayas, and bananas... of course everything is ripening (spoiling) all at once. Shortly before 2pm (admittedly 45 min earlier than yesterday) Max came back - with a fish! I will leave it to him to tell you about spearing it, but he used some techniques he has been learning from the others, and they paid off! He came home with a colourful parrot fish (lovely white meat) and I think we will be enjoying ceviche or poission cru tomorrow :)

After two days of construction, the kids' camp is a hive of activity. There are several tents set up in a circle, as well as at least two palm-branch shelters, and a big firepit. I was able to have a good look at it for the first time today when we got together at sunset for a potluck BBQ. Our friend Hans (Nautilus) (who so capably built fires for all of us in the Tuomotus) is back and in form here in Fiji :) Katrien, Jenny, and I managed a short yoga practice (Gary was frying fish with our now-famous recipe) and our whole anchorage had the chance to socialize. The beach had been cleared of all parents by 7:45, when we left the evening and the fire to the kids ... how times have changed! Deanne (Exodus) and I were reminiscing about our potlucks and campfires in the Sea of Cortez when Johnathan was the littlest boy, their sons were in the middle, and the boys from Northern Passage and Sweet Dreams were the big ones. Now Alex is big, Johnathan is medium, and another little boy has come along to sit in the lap of the biggest one as all the kids sit by the fire. What lovely memories :)

Of course, for our family and friends at home, all these names are just names, but something special is happening here as our small group of families has the opportunity to build community through not just one, but two (or more) seasons. We are like a floating village of our own. Perhaps it feels all the more precious because we know that it is also temporary. By this time next year, most of us will be in different places and several will be at various stages of re-integrating into "normal" society. This is a magical sojourn in an amazing place along the way. For me, it also begs the question of how do we recreate some of the traits of our little group when we return home? How do we make time for our kids, for each other, for our friends, for ourselves, given the demands of that same "normal" society? I hope that this journey will change us and our priorities so that when the time comes, we will know :) The first step is probably to gravitate towards people who are already doing this...

On that philosophical note, I will leave you for tonight,

Love and blessings on your journey,

Elizabeth
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At 6/8/2015 7:52 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.48'W
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At 6/8/2015 7:52 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.48'W

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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

5-8 Jun - Four days in Paradise

Hello,

Fulaga (sounds like "Foo-long-a") has proven to be everything we could have hoped for, and definitely worth the many days to windward it took to come here (two days enroute from NZ to Savusavu and two days enroute from Savusavu to Fulaga). In addition to several yachts with couples aboard, we are here with four other kid boats (whom we have known at least one year if not two), and the village has welcomed us all with open arms, assigning each boat a host family.

Friday was one of those days that happen rarely, but epitomize what we hoped for when we were thinking of cruising (and I assume that you assume that this is what every day is like...):

Max was awake early in the morning (taking the 0600 Benjamin shift ... the downside of a baby who went to sleep at dusk was one who awoke at dawn) which was just as well, because at 0700, friends radioed for information about entering the pass. Max emailed the waypoints, and offered to go lead them with the dinghy, since the sun would still be low when they came through at slack water [Max Aside: I had told a boat the day before it was straightforward if they had the waypoints and they promptly ran aground in the pass - they did not have the waypoints and the visibility is not as clear as the Tuoamotus]. Guiding the other boat into the pass at 0830 ended up coinciding with the first of two spearfishing trips that he and Jesus took that day with the other dads in the anchorage. Shortly after Max and Jesus left, I got a call from one of the moms to say that she was going drift/pass snorkelling in 25 minutes - did the kids and I want to go? Of course! We were out of practice with loading the dingy for expeditions, so it took a while (and admittedly some grumpy voices) but we managed to load kids, gear, snacks, baby, water, camera, etc and make it over to the pass before the current got out of hand. It is best to time the pass dives to just before slack water so that you can drift with the current one way, then the other, before finishing as the current is picking up.

On our return to the boat, the kids did some school assignments, working side by side in the cockpit (once again, a rare event, but one I love to see happen) and then went with their friends to play ashore on the beach while Benjamin napped and Max & Jesus went fishing again. Very shortly the kids were back, asking if they could camp ashore, and the consensus was that if a parent went to check out their setup, they could stay. My "proud mama" buttons were bursting as I watched Victoria plan with the other girls what they would need (radios, food, water, tents, sleeping bags, cooking pan, bug spray, lights, etc), where they would put their tents (back from the beach, well above the waterline, upwind of the fire), what they would eat (hot dogs, biscuits, hot chocolate, water), etc. Johnathan went ashore "just for the setup" but he ended up staying the night as well; there were three girls in one tent and two boys in the other. It was such fun to hear the radio broadcast the next morning proudly telling the fleet that they had survived their night ashore :)

After lunch, there was a short window between the end of the meal and the afternoon tide for snorkelling. My dear friend Katrien (Nautilus) called and said she was going to the beach - would I like to come? I almost said no (chores, dishes, etc) but I was encouraged to leave the boat (and the baby) and go ashore (what a lovely family I have!) We had a nice chance to reconnect while we walked up and down the beach and listened to the excited play of the children. When we last saw one another in NZ, we had no idea when or how we would visit again, so it was delightful to spend time together.

There are 11 kids in the anchorage. That night, while five were camping, the other six were playing games on one of the boats. I loved that all the kids could have a fun evening without all of them needing to do the same thing.

Just after Max, Jesus, and I had finished a yummy supper of fried Trevally (that our friend Gary (Nirvana) had given us the day before (so tasty that I have put the recipe at the end)) served with Pineapple/Papaya Chutney (all my Savusavu fruit is now ripening at once...), rice, and fried casava (that our host family had sent us home with on Thursday), our friend Hans (Nautilus) came by to say that all the other parents had ended up on his boat for drinks - did we want to come? Off we went :) What a perfect ending to a perfect day to spend some time socializing with our friends. As for Benjamin, he was thrilled to play with their Playmobil. We don't have any on Fluenta, and all he gets is big-kid Lego and power tools! Our friend Deanne (Exodus) summed it up perfectly: "It doesn't get any better than this!"

On Saturday, I found out that I should have sent sunscreen for the overnight camping trip -- the kids didn't appear back on the boat until well after midday! They played for a long time ashore (the others who hadn't camped took them a second round of breakfast at about 0800; the campers had been up cooking Victoria's biscuits shortly after dawn), and then played on various boats throughout the day. We didn't see much of them until late afternoon. As for me, I was able to go snorkelling with Katrien and Julie (Nirvana) after breakfast while Benjamin stayed with Max and Jesus, then we switched and they went spear-fishing while Benjamin and I did some chores.

Given that the entire fleet was headed to the village for church on Sunday morning, we all moved from the pass anchorage to be a little closer. None of this area is charted accurately, so we had to go carefully and cautiously, totally reliant on our depth sounder, our friends' local knowledge (gained 1/2 hour earlier!), and our visual assessment of the depth (beige is bad, turquoise is OK, and dark blue is good). The lagoon is reasonably free of underwater bombies, but it is dotted with the most amazing free-standing little islands, most of which have had their undersides eroded away over the years leaving tiny beaches with over-hanging rocks. We saw some photos of them on Google Earth before we left Savusavu, but nothing prepared us for the landscape we have entered. We are now anchored beside the most extraordinarily beautiful sand spit. As we approached, it looked like the catamarans were floating on the sand; it was absolutely surreal. At low tide, the sandspit seems to stretch endlessly towards the sunset, and the kids have loads of space to set up their tents in the trees (and the fire can be on the beach far from the tents!)

Dinner on Saturday was more fried fish (as a starter) with pasta and roasted eggplant sauce. Everyone loved the dinner. Only Jesus and I knew what was in the sauce :) The trick was to roast the eggplants whole (after cutting slits down their sides), then peel them and whizz them with some oil and roasted garlic in our magic bullet blender before adding them to regular spaghetti sauce.

Sunday morning saw us leaving the anchorage in convoy (in fact Johnathan rode with our friend on Exodus) to the village. Everyone was dressed in their "bula clothes" as we have nicknamed them - sulus and dresses - and carrying some kind of baked goodie to share with our host family at lunchtime. We were directed towards our host family's house as we walked through the village. We were a bit out of breath after the 20-min walk from the beach (I had estimated 10) and feeling a bit "behind schedule" since it was 0940 and we had wanted to be in town/at church by 0930. What a feeling to have Salote (Fijian for Charlotte) say to us, "rest a little, then we will go to church." ("Be still and know that I am God" comes to mind). She wasn't worried at all! She opened some drinking coconuts for us to share, then, refreshed, we walked the 2 min to the service just before it started. Much easier than sitting an extra half-hour with Benjamin in a pew! On that note, the service was all in Fijian, with lots of singing in parts (including a hymn by a mixed children/women's choir) and it lasted about an hour. At one point, a member of the congregation stood to welcome us and thank us for being with them in their village, and asked us to bear with them as they had their service all in their own language. It was a nice gesture from a welcoming village. As was typical last year in Polynesia (reminder that we are now in Melanesia), the boys & girls sat in the front left of the church, the women sat in the front right, the men sat in the back right, and the visitors sat behind the children on the back left and behind the men (in this case there were about five rows of visitors). There were open louvered windows on all four sides of the simple concrete-block church, so the ocean breeze made welcome visits throughout the service. It was fun to make smiling eye contact with the boys sitting in front of us (we were in the front row of visitors), but I felt a bit badly when one of the men walked up and down the aisles with a thin flexible stick and tapped the boys on the head and told them to turn to face forwards. The wrath of God is nothing compared to the wrath of your village elders! Other than worrying that we might also get the stick if Benjamin made too much noise, it was a lovely, relaxing service. Thankfully, he stayed quiet (but not still) for the hour, and we made it through unscathed :)

When we walked back to our host family's home after church, the main area had been transformed. The room is divided up by curtains that hang from the ceiling, and these had been drawn back to maximize the space, the wooden bed frames had been moved towards the edge, and the table cloth had been spread on the floor. Although there are a few chairs in the room, they are rarely used, and most sitting is done on the floor. Max and I were beckoned to the end of the table, and Salote, who had left the service right after she sang with the choir, laid a variety of dishes in front of us. We had brought cinnamon buns to share, and these were also distributed on serving plates, along with fried fish (that she had caught on Saturday), some kind of greens (spinach?) cooked in coconut milk with onions, delicious rotis (6" Fijian flat bread wrapped around yummy curry filling), noodles with corned beef on top, and steamed bread. Most of the food had been cooked in the lovo (underground oven). Salote and her daughter Lisa had been up since early in the morning to prepare the feast for us. The protocol was that we started eating, then Salote's husband and daughter began to eat, then she ate. As we all started, she began opening more drinking coconuts and pouring the thirst-quenching liquid into glasses for us. I find it funny that North America is just beginning to understand the scientific benefits of coconut water (tetra-packing it and marketing it accordingly), while traditional peoples have been drinking it for years. We were all well-fed when we left. Salote's plastic container, which I had brought from her house on Thursday, and which I tried to return to her on Sunday, was sent back with us filled with all the remaining roties. So good :) We will put some thing else in her container and try to bring it back to her when we return to the village the next time ... but I suspect it will continue making each round trip while we are here :)

Sunday is a quiet day in this village, although the rules are not quite as strict as they were in Penrhyn. We were told that we could swim and snorkel, but we were requested not to spear-fish. The kids decided amongst themselves that they would not camp on Sunday evening, although they spent some time ashore working on shelters and getting organized during the afternoon. We adopted the village siesta approach on Fluenta, and it was lovely to have a quiet day. I thought about using that time to write this email, but I decided to read a novel and doze with Benjamin instead:) Everything in good time!

Max and Jesus had a long session of spear-fishing today (ie several hours). The conditions here are much more challenging than in Mexico - the water is deep, the current is strong, and the sharks are happy to have the boys spear them some lunch - so it makes for engaging stories every day when they return. Today was particularly interesting, as they saw several hammerhead sharks (the first we have seen) and a couple of turtles. Max and a white-tip (thankfully they are generally benign) startled each other by coming around a corner of the reef from different sides and meeting very close face to face (no issues, thankfully). Needless to say, Max was at the water's surface pretty quickly after that!

Victoria, Johnathan and I elected to stay back on Fluenta rather than going snorkelling with the moms/kids, partly because they had schoolwork to do and partly because it was actually grey and rainy today. We are working towards a 13 Jun end-of-term deadline for work to be submitted (my focus will shift tomorrow towards writing up some of the non-assignment learning I have noticed this year...) This afternoon, the kids finalized their packing list after their previous camping experience, and headed ashore to erect tents (Victoria and most of the kids) and palm-leaf shelters (Johnathan). As for me, I finally went ashore with my yoga mat to share a short practice with three others just before sunset. It was an exquisite location ... we walked towards the end of the sandspit to where the sand was firm and flat, and finished with meditation and final relaxation in complete stillness as the stars were coming out.

Of course, it is not all sunset yoga and spearfishing ... our 30+ year old boat continues to seem intent on making sure that Max gets his daily lesson in systems engineering and plumbing, so in between all these beautiful moments were hours spent chasing leaks, changing filters, and rejigging parts of the outboard, not to mention washing diapers and soothing a baby who has just cut four new teeth. Such is life :)

Anyway, after four days, that finally brings us up to date!

Love,
Elizabeth

PS - Here are the recipes we enjoyed this week --

Spicy Suva Fried Fish (from "Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen" p 53)
2 lb White fish cut in long pieces
1 can coconut milk
1 c flour
1 T curry powder
2 t garlic salt
1/2 oil for frying (I used a mix of coconut, olive, and canola, which happened to be what I had in the cupboard)
Lemon wedges for garnish

Marinate the fish in coconut milk for 1 hour. Combine dry ingredients. Drain fish and dredge with flour mixture. Fry til golden, crispy, and cooked through. Serve with chutney, sweet chili sauce, and/or lemon wedges. Yummy!

Pineapple/Papaya Chutney (from "Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen" p 135)
1 pineapple peeled, cored, and chopped
1 papaya seeded, peeled, and chopped
1 T minced fresh ginger (I used less)
6 T sugar (I used brown)
1 T hot chili paste (we didn't have this, so I used some red pepper flakes, then I added some sweet chili sauce to the final product)
Cook all but chili paste on medium for 1 hour (til syrupy) then fold in chili paste.
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At 6/6/2015 4:29 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°07.93'S 178°32.52'W
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At 6/8/2015 7:52 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.03'S 178°32.48'W

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