Cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations.
This is one of those cliches that every cruiser knows, and knows to be true.
We are still enjoying Savusavu. We are thankful to be in a place that’s easy to enjoy: A protected anchorage, ready access to well-stocked markets, a number of good restaurants, lovely people, and good facilities for guests. We’re getting to know people, both local residents like the friendly and efficient marina staff, and our fellow cruisers.
When we arrived from Tonga, we did not anticipate staying in Savusavu for more than a week or two, three weeks at the most. Events intervened, and we are now halfway through our fourth week. Here’s what happened to change our plans:
The day after our bus ride to Labasa (see last post), Ruth began coughing. And coughing. It was a dry, persistent, spasmodic cough that was worse in the evening but bad all day. Cough medicine and cough drops didn’t seem to help much. She didn’t have a fever and there were no symptoms of an infection. But the cough was tiring, and she didn’t feel she had the energy to go anywhere until the cough got better. Over the past couple of days she has been feeling better and the coughing seems less, so we made plans to depart for the smaller island of Taveuni as soon as the weather forecast was favorable.
A few days ago, we decided to top up our water tanks with the potable water readily available from the marina. We prepared to drop our mooring and move over to the dock, where the spigot is. After securing the dinghy to our mooring buoy to keep it out of the way, and save a great spot, we put the engine in forward and started toward the dock. Immediately, we knew something wasn’t right: The engine sound was “off,” and the boat felt sluggish going forward. Some experimentation told us the engine seemed fine in reverse, and okay up to 1400 rpm in forward. At that speed, it started to sound really rough. Not good. The trusty little Beta had performed flawlessly and had sounded completely normal when we motored into Savusavu on July 4. Something had changed between then and now. We topped up our water tanks and returned to the secure mooring, knowing we had a project of some sort ahead of us, but not knowing its exact nature yet. We do not want to leave Savusavu for one of the more remote anchorages until we have confidence in our engine again. Channels can be tricky and there’s a lot of coral in the water around Fijian islands!
Yesterday, Rand dove in the water to examine the propeller and have a good look and feel of the shaft and cutlass bearing. He scrubbed and cleaned the propeller and moved all the parts that ought to move. All okay at that end. He has a checklist he goes through, methodically examining the engine and the entire drive train, to diagnose a problem. The problem turned out to be a broken engine mount. This was one of the four flexible motor mounts that secure the engine to its bed logs. It failed catastrophically, i.e. no warning, at 1,222 hours, and is the starboard forward mount, in the same location as the broken foot that we had to replace while in Papeete and attaches the engine foot on the crankcase to the engine bed log. Rand suspects that this is a follow-on failure from the broken engine foot. We have now begun the process of ordering parts, contacting both our Beta representative in California and a distributor in Auckland. We could make a temporary fix, if we needed to. But we don’t need to. We’re good where we are, and so remain – for now – powerless in paradise.
This is how we fill our main water tank when we have access to potable water from shore. We fill using available potable water whenever possible; it saves energy and is faster than our small water maker. Also, when we are in a marina area, as we are now, we don’t run the water maker, since the water around us is often contaminated with small amounts of fuel or oil from outboards. Fuel and oil are death to water maker membranes. The home-made filter shown in the photo is made from a 10-micron fabric filter “sock” that fits into a short length of white PVC pipe with a hose fitted on the bottom for the tank. Thanks to our good friend Bill Kramer back in Portland, who made & gave us the filter before we left. A 10-micron filter will remove most all of the floating particles. This not only gives us clearer water, but eliminates the media on which bad bugs will hitch a ride. Of course, we also treat the water in our tanks. We have an in-line filter under the sink as well.
But back to working on your boat in exotic locations: A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that our head pump was leaking. It was stepping into the puddle of water in the dark nighttime that clued us in. The leak is a slow dribble, and it’s salt water (not sewage, thank goodness!). Rand suspected the diaphragm was leaking; the pump is more than 12 years old. We have a rebuild kit on board, so a few hours labor will probably cure the problem. Like most boat projects, you have to take what seems like half the boat apart to get to the bit you need to work on. The pump is mounted to the inside surface of the under-counter cabinet panel, so the panel has to be removed to get at the pump. Getting at the panel means emptying the locker and removing the “throne,” to free up access space.
And, because I guess we need the practice, one of our two manual bilge pumps is not drawing a prime. The main symptom is a sucking sound with no discharge. It may be another diaphragm failure, more likely a valve; but future diagnosis will tell. The pump is located in the lazarette (the after-most cockpit locker, for non-yachties), so getting to it will be a little easier than getting to the head pump; we’ll just empty the locker, but do not have to remove any panels. And yes, we have a rebuild kit for this one, too.
Cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations, indeed.
The long and the short of it is that we expect to be in Savusavu for a while, at least another week. Things could be worse, though. We enjoyed another Fiji/Indian/Chinese lunch in town today, joined by Australian friends from another yacht. And this is Savusavu Carnival week, including the Miss Savusavu contest. The lucky young lady who wins will be eligible to compete in the Miss Fiji contest later this year, and the winner of that contest will compete afterward in the Miss South Pacific contest. Today was the parade day, “floats” for all the title contestants, the police marching band – very sharp-looking! – and general good fun.
Below are a few photos of the parade: