The saga of a fuel tank

July 24, 2014

Posting by Dennis:

On the way from New Zealand to Fiji we noticed that we had fuel leaking into the locker under the nav station seat.  I ended up cleaning it up a couple times a day so it was doable.  Then once we got to Savusavu it seemed to have stopped leaking so we thought that it must have been operator error, I had not closed a valve on the fuel polishing system.   Then while we were on the sail to Vanua Balavu it started to leak again.  It was not leaking too much so I thought that if I just cleaned it out a couple of times a day we could put up with it.   Eventually it got to the point where it was just bothering me to much.  I could tell that it was starting to wick up the wood and I had a really hard time watching it discolor the wood.  So we decided to just leave the Lau group and head for Vuda Point, a couple hundred miles away, where we would be able to get the tank repaired.  It turned out to be mainly a motor trip as we meandered our way through the reefs, and there were many.  Once we were about half way I went to clean up the fuel and found I could not keep up with fuel that was leaking.  So we used the fuel polisher to empty out the tank into fuel cans we had on deck. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We had sold some of our fuel to a couple of boats in Mbavatu Harbour before we left so we had empty cans.  We then cut the fuel lines off the diesel tank and stuck them into one of the fuel cans and used that to motor the rest of the way to Vuda Point.

The day after we got to the marina we ended up taking the tank out.  Tearing the boat apart is always such a pain, you end up with stuff piled all over while you are working on it.  I am so glad we have a Shannon, it is built knowing that someday you will have to repair everything.  Other people we know have had to cut their tanks into pieces to get them out of the boat.  So with great effort we got the tank out.  I then went and talked to Mildred about getting it welded and I asked her how much it would be and she said three to four hundred dollars which seemed really high considering most of the people that work here only make $2.87 Fiji dollars ($1.58 US) per hour.  So reluctantly I agreed knowing I was getting robbed but feeling like I had no choice.  She said it would be done in a day and that she would give me a ride to the repair place to talk to them and also once it was repaired so I could witness the pressure test.  After waiting for three days and going to her office a couple times every day, she finally said she OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwould take me over to the shop.  It was an amazing place; I counted over thirty guys working on everything from rebuilding a big truck engine to repairing a riding lawnmower.  Most of the equipment was old and looked pretty wore out to say the least.  Lying out in the back on top of a pile of other junk was my tank.  It had a chunk of old wood driven into the fill hole to keep water from running out.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I asked them when it would be done and they said it was.  I asked when it was going to be tested and they said it did not need to be because they did a good job.  I know that welding an old tank can be tough because it is hard to not get any pin holes in it which would not show up with water but would with diesel.  So they said to come back in the morning and it would be ready to be tested.  I returned in the morning and it was sitting in the exact spot it had been the day before.  I asked them what was going on and they said that they didn’t have anything to plug the holes with (it has eight holes in it all of which are standard size and any shop in the US would have if not the local hardware store would have).  So they said that they would have to make some on the lath.  I said no it is a standard size so they went and found another guy who said that yes they were and they would get them and if I came back on Monday morning it would be ready for the pressure test.  On Monday I went there (using the local bus) and it OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwas still sitting there in the same spot with no plugs in it.  I talked to the guy that I had been dealing with and he said that it was good and it would not leak.  I said no I want it tested. He went and got another guy who spoke better English and he said that the plugs would be there in the morning so I took the bus back to the boat.  The next morning I was on the bus by 6:45 heading into town.  I walked in and by now I was like a regular so no one paid much attention to  me but there it sat with plugs installed and a gage all ready to do the test.  They pumped air into the tank and we soaped down the repair and we did not see any bubbling at all.  So it is good and they said that they were going to the marina and would drop it off and also give me a ride.   So we all piled into the van and off we went.

As Barb and I were getting the tank onto the boat Mildred came by and handed me the bill which I shoved in my pocket with my one free hand.  After we got the tank on board I looked at the bill and it was for $837.00 over twice what the agreed amount was.  I went down to her office and of course she was gone so I went back to the boat and Barb and I proceeded to get the tank in and connect the network of hoses.   The next day I did talk to her and she said that that was the price, but she backed down easily and I paid the four hundred and the deed was done.  So we now have a repaired tank that we have put some fuel in and we shall see what happens.  Dealing with people of different cultures and the way you go about getting things done is very interesting.  It seems that here in Fiji people never will tell you ‘no’ even if they know it can’t be done. They will always say yes and then deal with the consequences later.  They are wonderful people and are always wanting to please everyone, even if they can’t.

Vuda Point Harbour,Viti Levu, Fiji

July 12, 2014 – July 24, 2014

17 40.842 S 177 23.204 E

Posting by Barb:

The route from Mbavatu Harbour to Vuda Point is about 200 nautical miles so we expected the passage to take about 2 days. The first day was a beautiful sail. We did throw out a fishing line but did not catch any fish. Maybe the full moon had something to do with it?? The second day was a motor and we had to be more vigilant as we traversed through a recommended narrow channel, Bligh Water, North of Viti Levu. DSC_4266This part of the passage could only be done in daylight as there were points where we could see waves braking close to the boat on both sides. We trolled two fishing lines through the channels. We did not catch anything that we could bring on board but the plastic X-rap Dive bait that we were trolling suddenly started skipping erratically through the water. When I pulled it in, there were deep gouges in the bait made by the teeth of some large fish. Maybe it was ok that we did not hook that fish. The bait hook that we were trolling on the other line was snapped off. I started to imagine all kinds of large fish living in the lagoon underneath the boat. Maybe not a good place to fall in.DSC_4252

I was able to do a Facetime call with my daughter Allison using my Ipad as I had cellular internet near the big island. It was such a treat to be able to talk to her as we motored along the island. We had to anchor in saweni Bay for the night as it was getting too late and we needed daylight to navigate through the narrow channel into Vuda Point Marina.

DSC_5873Once in the marina we had to grab the large orange buoy in the middle and wait for assistance from the dock boys to get us into a slip. DSC_5879We basically had to motor glide into the slip only big enough for our boat with just enough room for fenders between boats (Denny did some amazing navigating) . Can you spot our little boat next to the large power boat. This marina also offers haul-out service and the boats can be stored in pits so as to protect them from cyclones.

Once safely tied, it was straight to the showers, that’s always a treat after being living off the grid for a while. I also managed to do a load of laundry which was relatively inexpensive.


The marina has a great Bar-Restaurant, the Boatshed, that offers daily specials. We especially liked the 1/2 price pizza on Tuesday and the Thirsty Thursday which offers local beers for $2.50 Fijian (that’s about $1.38 US). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a great time at the sitting outside at the bar on Sunday afternoon listening to a local band. The female vocalist did a great rendition of Adele’s song ‘Someone Like You’. It gave me goose bumps. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe sat there and enjoyed the entertainment with our new friends from Australia, Rocky and Inge from S/V Island Girl. There is a neighboring resort that cruisers can visit. It has a swimming pool, another bar/restaurant and a small white beach. On Saturday night, Rocky, Inge, Dennis and I spent a lovely evening sipping fancy tropical drinks and watching a Fijian dance/fire OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAacrobatic show. Rocky and Inge left for Vanuatu a couple of days ago. They were serenaded by the local staff as they prepared to leave. Inge was crying and overwhelmed by the wonderful gesture by the yacht club staff.

We also did a couple of trips to the second largest town in Fiji, Lautoka, using the local bus. Because of the bus schedule we always seemed to be on it at 3:00 o’clock and we have had to share the bus with dozens of school children, all dressed in spotless uniforms, with lots of smiles and Bulah’s (hello) for us. Lautoka has a very large fresh fruit and vegetable market with very reasonable prices.

Other than having to fix the diesel tank, we have been having a great time in Vuda Marina. As the diesel tank is now fixed we will be heading out tomorrow for a beautiful clean anchorage with white beaches, great snorkeling and resorts we can visit on Mana Island. We plan to stay there until the first week in August and then it’s back to Vuda to pick up Allison and Mike. Woohooo!!



Mbavatu Harbour, Vanua Balavu Island , Fiji

July 9, 2014 – July 11, 2014

17 11.088 S 179 00.007 E

Posting by Barb and Dennis:

We motored to our next anchorage which was only a couple of hours away. This anchorage was so different than the Bay of Islands. Mbavatu Harbour is a well-protected little bay and when we arrived there were 6 sailboats already there. There was a neat little yacht club there owned by Toni, who also owns Copra Shed in Savu Savu. We quickly realized that this place would be a social anchorage. At 5:30 all the cruisers in the bay get together at the Yacht club deck for Happy Hour. Toni was there the first night so the yacht club was open. He drops by once every 2-3 months so it was unusual for him to be there.

On another night it was decided that it would be Pizza night so we all had to bring a pizza. We enjoyed tastes of chicken, fish, curried, and spicy sausage pizzas. Dennis of course made the spicy sausage pizza and it was a hit!

DSC_4243-1On one of our day excursions in Mbavatu Harbour, we decided to do the hike up the well-built 276 step stairway to the plantation at the top. We had been told there was an outlook there where we could see the Bay of Islands. When we reached the last step there were 2 young locals, Usaia and Peni, who were anxious to show us the way to the lookout. It was about a 20 minute walk to the lookout and they entertained us with some of their folk stories and their experiences. I got the feeling that they genuinely liked the company and the opportunity to share their stories with a great sense of humour.  They were botDSC_4244-1h working students; Usaia is going to be a carpenter and Peni a Mason. We learned that they were devout Methodists as they blamed most of the damage done by cyclones to the other islands as punishment from God for the sins of the locals. On one particular island the only building left standing after a cyclone passed was the church. A long time ago, the locals at this particular village had eaten the missionary and God had not yet forgiven them for doing that!   They are very aware of their cannibalistic history and jokingly told us that in another era they would have contemplated eating each other even though they were friends. They were nice enough not to hint that we would probably have made a good meal as well!! On the walk back from the lookout Peni plucked a fruit from a tree, which he called Sour Sop, and broke it into four pieces to share among us. 

Soursop Fruit

Soursop Fruit

The fruit was white, spongy, and juicy and it tasted like a combination of pineapples, limes and oranges. It was delicious and very filling. Peni invited us to his house to sign his guestbook and then gave us some beautiful, large bananas without once asking for anything.

We did come back with a few fish hooks for them. They use potato chip bags cut into strips and tie it to the hook for bait.


Our diesel tank has started leaking so it turns out that we actually do have a leak somewhere. The diesel has started seeping into the teak flooring so we have decided to head back to the main island to get that fixed. We again have to say good bye to our newly found friends and we are very sad not to be able to explore the rest of the Northern Lau group. But we cannot ignore the diesel leak and we are afraid it will get worse. We checked the weather window and it looks like it will be a day of sailing and a day of motoring as we make our way to Vuda Point Marina on the Island of Viti Levu.

Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu Island , Fiji

July 6, 2014 – July 8, 2014

17 10.539 S 179 01.045 E

Posting by Dennis and Barb:

DSC_5809The Bay of Islands was a magical place. Everywhere we looked there were outcroppings of limestone rocks ranging in sizes and covered with green vegetation. The water was a multitude of colours as a result of the varying water depths and what lay underneath which was a combination of rock, reef and sand. There were fruit bats flying overhead and every now and then I would spot a sea turtle coming up for air and having a look at us. DDSC_5826ennis navigated the boat through some narrow channels among the limestone islands (not the way most cruisers would navigate through the bay but what would you expect) looking for the perfect anchorage.  We ended up next to Sea Whisper again and enjoyed a Happy Hour with them on their boat. They were preparing to leave for a night passage to another anchorage. Part of the cruising life is always saying hello and or goodbye. We spent 3 nights at the Bay Island anchorage and after the first night we had the place to ourselves which made this place even more magical! The snorkeling here was pretty nice. We found a reef that did have abundance of colourful fishes, an occasional sea turtle and on the way back to the boat we spotted several stingrays feeding on the sandy bottom.  On a calm day we took the dinghy out and meandered around all of the limestone islands and made a video of our trip. It’s hard to capture the beauty of this place with a picture and we wanted to record the experience on film. DSC_5785IDSC_5797 wanted to have an anchorage picture from a higher view point so I set out to climb a nearby rock outcrop. I managed to conquer my fear as I climbed higher and higher, each time trying to find the next hand grip or foot hold. I knew a fall would mean severe injury or worse. It was such a relief to get to the top and I knew the picture would be worth it. I took my camera out and couldn’t figure out why the picture would not focus. And then the realization!! I had left the camera battery back at the boat as I had taken it out a couple of days ago to charge it!! I did manage to climb the outcrop again the next day and this time Dennis came along so it made me feel a little better although he really couldn’t do much except encourage me! But we did get a beautiful panoramic picture. After the climb we sat in the cockpit without any restrictive clothing sipping on a gin and tonic with ice!!! (Yes we have ice in our freezer). This place was heaven. We knew it was time to leave after 3 days when a new boat arrived. It’s the kind of place that’s made special when anchored all alone. We have so many places to go to with so little time!

Daliconi Village, Vanua Balavu Island , Fiji


July 3, 2014 – July 6, 2014


17 13.222 S 178 58.042 E

Posting by Barb and Dennis:

 By eight in the morning we were in the dinghy heading to shore. We were greeted by a local as soon as we had our feet on solid ground.  He immediately asked us whether we were ready to do Sevu Sevu. We were taken to the Chief’s house where we waited outside for 10 minutes. We got the sense that we were waking them up! A mat was placed outside and we were instructed to leave our shoes, clean our feet and proceed to the inside of the house.  Sitting there was the Chief’s sister representing the chief who was not there, and three other male locals. We were shown where to sit and how to present the Kava. The local man, Eroni, took our Kava and started a quiet chant with the occasional clapping in between. After about 5 minutes of chanting he extended his hand and told us we were now welcome to his village and welcome to sail in the Bay of Islands. There was no Kava drinking and the whole ceremony was a little disappointing as we were expecting much more!  We were then handed a sheet of paper which had a written request asking cruisers to give a donation and it explained what the money would be used for. The expectation was that we give $30 Fijian per person.  We were aware that this may happen but we had previously agreed that we would take our time and experience the village hospitality before giving a donation so we told them that we had not brought money with us and would think about the donation.  We were then invited by Sam (Director of Tourism for the village) to go with him and his boat (for a small fee) and the family on Sea Whisper to a reef that was home to some large clams. At the reef there were some large clams and the snorkel was refreshing but the coral and quantity of colorful fish was not like what we experienced in the Tuamotos!They were reintroducing the clams to the reef.  Sam told us that  they were only a couple of inches long two years ago when they were introduced and now they were about sixteen inches across and would get over three feet.   (Hey Nyon, Rick and Kyra, Sea Whisper, Lyonel and Barb,  said hello and we wished you guys were here!!). 

DSC_5735We ended up anchored by Daliconi for two more nights enjoying the hospitality of our adopted family Eroni and Biu along with their 2 grandchildren, Melony and Jadon. While there, Dennis helped the locals fix the outboard motor of their boat which they used for fishing and for visiting the nearby villages. The motor needed new spark plugs (which we provided) and the carburetor needed to be cleaned. The outboard motor had been given to them by a visiting Super yacht. It didn’t appear like anybody in the village knew how to maintain outboard motors. They were very grateful for Denny’s help.  They gave us huge bananas and a papaya as a thank you gift.

 DSC_5742DSC_5737We spent an evening watching all of the local kids playing a game of Pandi. The game is made of two teams, one team has a tennis ball and their goal is to throw the ball at the other team’s players and get them out of the game by hitting them with the ball. The goal of the other team is to try and keep the ball as far away of the location where they are to construct a pyramid out of 10 cans while avoiding being hit by the ball. It seems like an impossible game to win but it is a game played by children of all ages. The little ones just DSC_5733-1run around squealing with joy but the big kids pretty well leave them alone pretending every now and then to throw the ball at them. I loved the simplicity of their lifestyle and to watch the entire village conjugating by the beach all participating in the simple game and socializing as there really isn’t much else to do there. No TV, internet and electronic games keeping them at home!!


We made a trip to the big town.
 It was a mile walk to a little town DSC_5756-1DSC_5766called Malaka and from there it was a 15 minute bumpy, dusty drive in the back of a two ton truck.  It was a nice little town and we re-supplied our galley with eggs and bread.  Some of the young kids spent a lot of time studying us from afar with some apprehension so we got the sense that there were not too many visitors to this part of the island. We didn’t have to walk back from Malaka as Sam had also gone to town for fuel and he gave us a ride back to Daliconi in his boat with the newly fixed outboard motor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Sunday we went to church upon EOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAroni’s and Biu’s insistence. We didn’t have the appropriate attire so Biu lent me one of her dresses and Eroni lent Dennis a Sulu. As you can see by the picture, we could almost blend in with the locals. Dennis was especially handsome in his Sulu. During the church service Eroni gave a little speech welcoming us to the church and the village and then invited us to stand up and a say few words which Dennis did! The choir singing in church was beautiful with some amazing harmony all done without any instruments. I actually got goose bumps and could hardly hold back the tears.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the service we were invited to participate in the usual Sunday feast that was cooked by a different family every Sunday. It included a variety of local grown vegetables and smoked fish cooked in a variety of ways. My favourite was smoked fish steamed in cocnut milk along with some spinach.  All the fish caught is smoked as nobody has refrigeration. We had to sit on the floor where the food was all laid out (Dennis still has to learn how to sit with his Sulu cross-legged so that his underwear is not visible to all sitting across from him). The guy sitting next to Dennis sure enjoyed it as he had food all over his face and hands as he slurped and ravaged plateful after another plateful of food.  It was all very good!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore we left Daliconi we had Biu, her two grandchildren Melony, Jadon and Melony’s friend come aboard for a visit. They enjoyed the coke, tea and cookies! When they were getting back in the dinghy to go back to shore, Melony fell in as she tried to get into the dinghy. She grabbed the side of the boat and was not going to let go for dear life as she did not know how to swim. Dennis had to jump into the dinghy and pry her fingers loose so that he could pull her into the dinghy without her help as she was paralyzed by fear.  It was all pretty funny once she was safely back in the boat. Dennis let Jadon drive the dinghy which he did proudly, especially when they got closer to shore and all his friends could see him.

Dennis and I loved our time in Daliconi and loved the people there. We had a little trouble getting over the feeling that the kindness shown by the people may have been motivated by the desire to receive gifts from cruisers. But for every gift they received they returned with their own gift, which really means a lot since they have so little. One special gift is Dennis’s Sulu which Eroni gave so that every time Dennis wore it he would remember where it came from!!






Posting By Dennis and Barb:

16 46.666S 179 19.959E

Landfall at anchorage. It would be the white little yacht.
Landfall at anchorage. It would be the white little yacht.

We spent a week in Savusavu tied to a mooring belonging to the Copra Shed. Most of the boats arriving as well as the boats already there were from New Zealand. DSC_5730Savusavu seemed to be a winter getaway for many NZ yachties, probably much the same as the Bahamas is for Americans. We had no problem obtaining a great mooring close to the Copra Shed. A week later there was a waiting list for moorings! During our stay we made many trips down the quarter mile bustling strip of downtown Savusavu to get our Vodaphone internet and replenish our boat supplies. Not far from the marina is a great farmer’s market where we bought most of our fresh vegetables for the next leg of our trip. We also bought our ‘ Kava’ root which we will need for our ‘Sevusevu’ customary ceremonies once we start cruising through Fiji.


  Kava comes from the root of the pepper plant, which is ground to a powder using an old fashioned pestle and mortar and then poured through a sieve to certain strength. It is supposed to look like muddy water and taste like it too but it has numbing effect and it is supposed to make one very relaxed!! Luckily this is more a male thing so Denny will have to endure this tradition although women do participate but are supposed to remain quiet! ( I am sure that Barb will not be able to do that). 


Eating out in Savusavu is fairly inexpensive so we have done little cooking while here. We have enjoyed meals at the local Chinese restaurant, the more upscale Surf and Turf, a Fijian buffet dinner at the Waitui Marina, and the Copra Shed café and the Copra shed Captain’s table as well as the Copra shed Sunday BBQ. Needless to say we both gained back the weight we lost during our NZ to Fiji passage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe rented a car for the day and drove to Lambasa, the big town. It was just a bustling, dirty town with quite a few stores and a huge fresh market. We passed by the Sugar factory were trucks laden with sugar cane were lined up for processing in a line that spanned a mile.

We had a few ‘Happy hours’ with another American couple that had made the trip from NZ to Fiji (Steve and Nona from Corvidae). We also met a wonderful and interesting foursome from Port Fairy, Australia. Rob, Pam, Ken and Robyn seemed to be at all the same restaurants that we were in so at the Copra Shed Marina we finally made eye contact and Dennis jokingly suggested that they should forward us their future dining itinerary. We spent a couple of entertaining nights with them. We will try and visit them in their home town of Port Fairy, Southern Australia (Southern latitudes that Dennis likes to sail in).

As far as our diesel leak it seems to have stopped, so that is a great relief.  We are thinking that it was operator error because Dennis left the fuel polisher valve open. So that is a good thing all in all.

Sailing to the Lau Group, Fiji

Wednesday 07/2/2014

Posting By Dennis and Barb:

17 13.222S 178 58.042W

On Tuesday July 1st (HAPPY CANADA DAY!!) we left Savusavu to sail to the Eastern Lau group of Islands in Fiji. We knew it would be a difficult sail as the prevailing winds are easterly. When we left Savusavu heading for the Exploring Isles the wind was dead on the nose, as predicted, So we sailed a tight beat with only about one knot of our speed going in the right direction. Landfall does not do all that well going to the weather. But it was a beautiful sail with a wonderful fifteen to twenty knot breeze. We put out a fishing line and managed to catch a fish (species unknown until we can get internet to identify). What we can tell you is that it was very good eating. Overnight the winds died down and we managed to motor-sail straight to our waypoint destination. On the second day we caught a Dorado (too little so we set it free) and a little Barracuda, which we also threw back. We arrived at our first destination, Daliconi village where we will do our first Sevusevu. We had to anchor in torrential rain and high winds. It took us 3 tries before the anchor finally grabbed, about the same time as when the rain stopped. We are here with another sailboat, Sea Whisper, which we have previously met in Tahiti and in Bora Bora. They are also Canadians from Vancouver and have family visiting so they have a boat full!! Tomorrow morning we will go to the little village and present our Kava gift for our Sevusevu.Stay tuned for our Sevusevu adventure!!