Preparations are well under way for shutting down Stars End 2 whilst she stays tied up in a marina berth at Vuda Point Marina in Fiji for the cyclone season.
The marina has the option of leaving the yacht in a ‘cyclone pit’, propped up by many car tyres in a deep hole on land, but it has it’s drawbacks. It is hard to live on board as you have to use buckets for all your water needs. In our case, this means we would be unable to run the engine which is water cooled. You have to climb up a ladder to get on & off the yacht, and it is very hot away from the sea breezes.
You are stuck there for 5 to 6 months, surrounded by scores of other yachts, until the end of the cyclone season, and many boats experience infestations of ants and bugs on board. It is also not cheap at about FJ$6,000 for the season.
We have decided to keep the yacht in the water. However, in order to comply with the marina’s stipulations, we firstly had to reverse the yacht up to the marina wall stern first. This allows the yachts to attach their anchor chains (which have anchors now removed) to a central underwater mooring, and in the event of a cyclone, they are all pulled together by these chains into a tight circle in the middle of the marina.
Our main mooring lines are heavy ropes shackled to chains that run to ‘deadman stakes’ along the banks with doubled up mooring lines to brace the yacht and lines from the bow to floating buoys on the water to position the yacht as securely in place as possible. All the ropes had to be fit with chafe preventers.
Tying up the yacht stern entailed removing the dinghy from the hanging davits, and strapping it down on the fore deck. After 7 months of constant use, the dinghy’s bottom looked very dirty and mildewy, but a full day’s work of hard scrubbing worked wonders.
Frank removed the 2 solar panels attached to the stainless targa above the davits just in time- a ripe coconut fell from a tree on the nearby footpath, right over where the solar panels had been. (They have since kindly trimmed back the trees to prevent more falling onto the other 2 solar panels fixed on top of the dodger roof.)
So in order to access the shore, we now have to walk the plank! This solid 3 meter plank has to be adjusted several times a day to keep up with the ebb & rise of the tide and creates our walkway from the side of the yacht to the small platform on the water’s edge.
We are required to place a minimum of 6 fenders around the yacht with lines attached right around the keel. This is to prevent them ‘popping’ up and possibly causing damage if other vessels are moored alongside in turbulent conditions. I have covered 4 car tyres with heavy fabric and plastic and they will add extra protection to our own yacht fenders. At present we have plenty of room on either side of the yacht as the marina is only at half capacity, but we are told that if a cyclone is imminent, boats come from many nearby islands and resorts to seek shelter and it will become very crowded.
We have taken off the sails and any removable objects from around the deck, which will all be stored inside the yacht. This includes the huge folded sails, life raft,radio antennae, sail covers & clear covers & the UV/mozzie screens from around the cockpit, and ten 44 gallon diesel, petrol & water jugs.
Before all these items can be stored inside the yacht, I needed to organize inside the yacht!
With the yacht closed up over Fiji’s hot, humid wet season, mildew can be a big problem, along with ants, bugs or moths.
Every day, these large brown moths fly into the dark recesses of the yacht, and when you rummage in a dark area of the cabin, a host of them fly out at you- brrr, I hate it! I worry they will lay eggs and make holes in all our clothing & bedding, so anything we are not taking back to Australia I have packed into sealed or large vacuum bags.
I have even resorted to placing moth balls around the yachts lockers but they stink atrociously and make me think of my grandparents. Their generation regularly used mothballs to protect their clothing and could never quite rid their winter woollies of that pungent naphthalene smell! I shall just have to wash all the clothing and bed linen when we come back before I can use them again.
I have emptied the galley pantry of all perishable foods, vacuum sealed any products I felt I could preserve and packaged them away in lockers. I listed down where & what provisions are still on board, and now all my canisters are emptied, cleaned & ready for starting afresh next season.
As a result of this, our menu for the past few weeks has been pretty much dictated by what ingredients are left in the cupboard or fridge and need to be used up!
We have adapted well to Fiji life and introduced various of their staple vegetables into our diet- kumula, bush spinach, taro, yams & breadfruit. Breadfruit ‘chips’ are divine and roasted kumula (a sweet potato) has strong overtones of chestnut flavour.
Food here has a strong Indian influence due to the large Fijian/ Indian population, which we enjoy but I know Frank & I are both looking forward to certain foods we have missed for over 7 months like a crispy mixed salads, crunchy apples, stone fruit & grapes that we have forgotten exist!
So in the midst of all this settling the boat into ‘cyclone readiness’ (heaven forbid!), ‘Fixit’ Frank has also needed to address a couple of boat issues. So lockers are open, tool kits are spilling over the floor and space is at a rare premium. The extra mess is proving a real challenge as we juggle packing up the yacht, packing everything we need to take home for several months, make repairs & simply live aboard in searing tropical temperatures.
The first problem Frank is tackling has resulted from water constantly breaking over the dodger. Trickling down the clear covers on either side of the cockpit, the residue water has been unable to escape and settled at the base of the wooden trim, causing the wood to rot. Frank had to dismantle the stainless frame that supports the dodger by removing the fixtures & ceiling liner in the aft cabin, in order to have space to gouge away the rotten timber. He has fit & glued new hardwood timber in place, & drilled a hole through the entire dodger to allow the excess water to now escape.
The other BIG issue is our ongoing freezer insulation problem. This involves Frank cutting an access hatch through the plywood (in my pantry cupboard), that surrounds the freezer compartment. Then he will hopefully be able to assess the damage of the foam insulation between the freezer & the bulkhead and figure out how to fix it!. It will be left to dry out for several months whilst we are away, and Frank hopes to be able to buy the necessary products in Australia to ship back in our absence, to be ready to fix on our return.
We have also decided to get Stars End 2’s hull repainted and redo the anti fouling when we fly back in April/May next year. Frank figures we might as well wait until then, just in case a cyclone damages the yacht, and we need to do extra work as well!!!
So this has involved researching paint options and whether we buy locally or import from Australia. Frank is also keen to buy another anchor and we need to weigh up brands, export & tax exemption options versus costs & conversion rates.
It’s not surprising that come late afternoon, we stop work, collapse gratefully with a cold drink in the cockpit & contemplate what jobs can be ticked off the list.
We know it’s a risk leaving the yacht here, but Frank & I are prepared to take that risk, and accept what fate brings with a positive spirit.