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Work at Anchor in Fiji

Tuesday June 24th, 2014

Another fine day aboard the Barque Picton Castle at anchor in Suva harbor, Fiji, South Pacific Ocean. Nice ring to it, “South Pacific Ocean”, a good address, no?

The torrential down-pours forecast to drench us today all day long failed to materialize. Nice sunny blue sky kind of day instead. Lovely soft pleasant breezes, calm and sweet. Curses. We had rainy-day work planned for today. For all day. We always need rainy day work planned in advance, just in case it rains. Cannot paint the topsides in the rain. Tarring the rig in the rain, not so good either – although I have sailed in ships that did both. But it turned out a beautiful sunshiny day – as this work needs doing anyway we are carrying on with the rainy day work despite the fine weather plaguing us today. Where’s the rainy day when ya need one?

The gang is sanding and varnishing the salon sole. Deck or floor if you will. The big broad pine planks will look all the better for a couple coats of fresh varnish. It has been awhile so we are keen to get at it. Plenty of patina for the charm. This tween decks was modeled after the salon of a fine old German pilot schooner, Wanderbird or Elbe 5 to be specific. And as we have new folks showing up soon who will be living in the salon or tween-decks, now is the time to get a few licks of varnish in.

Sailmaking has also started in earnest. The Royal Suva Yacht Club has graciously granted permission for us to set up our sailmaking shop in their breezy, well lit events hall. Tammy and Amy have dragged all the heavy sails out of storage, opened them up, spread them out, checked the records in our sailmaking log-books and canvas tags tied to the corners with bits of marlin, marking their condition and, for new sails started, state of completion. They’ve brought up the sewing machines, located the 220V to 110V converters (inverters?), piled all this same into the skiff and have headed into the yacht club. There they have swept and cleaned the wide floor of the events hall and we are spreading out sails to see what we can see.

Turns out that we have a new jib all seamed up and all through 2nd layout awaiting corner patches, tabling, grommets, roping and covers. We have a new fore topmast staysail that has been seamed up by hand awaiting a 2nd layout, cutting and all the rest. Also a new lower topsail that was laid out in Whangerai, New Zealand that needs finishing up. All in nice new snowy white cotton duck canvas. Some of the older sails need minor repairs, which we will get to too, though they mostly need hand repairs rather than machine work. And we plan on laying out and cutting a few new sails before we sail too.

Meanwhile on the ship, mate Axel is getting some fire extinguishers overhauled all shiny and new as part of our safety gear overhaul. Engineer Billy is installing new big deep-cycle batteries (18 of them) that run our entire ship electrical system. Charged by the generators for six hours a day they hold enough power to keep the freezers cold, lights on and navigational equipment running when we’re at sea too. By running off batteries instead of directly from the generators we save an enormous amount on fuel consumption, spew far less exhaust into the air and are also rewarded with a quiet ship 18 hours out of the 24. Not bad at all. We set this up before there was a thing called “green” that was not a colour.

Donald is ashore with ‘Bob’ at the big Suva produce market getting all sorts of island vegetables, fruits and no doubt fish and chicken. Suva has a brilliant market: it’s huge with stacks of great freshly harvested fruit and vegetables, lots of variety and excellent prices too – except for lychees, for some reason lychees are expensive, no idea why. Donald says the people are so friendly and want to help you, so shopping is easy and everything is wonderful. And every sailor knows that if the cook’s happy then the whole ship is happy.

Gabe finishes varnishing the salon floor compressed

Gabe finishes varnishing the salon sole

Axel replacing watertight door gaskets compressed

Mate Axel replaces gaskets in the watertight door

Getting the big sewing machine online compressed

Amy gets the big sewing machine up and working

Tammy seaming compressed

Tammy works on hand seaming at the Royal Suva Yacht Club

Amy stiching a new sun patch on a topsail compressed

Amy stitches a new sun patch on a topsail

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