The Great Escape

So, here we are, working on week three of being back from vacation in Australia (yes, yes I see your eyes rolling and hear the gasps of “your life is a vacation!”, but it is not, really).

We escaped Vuda Marina relatively quickly.

In just over a week we had put all the running rigging back up and canvass back on, replaced two more through hulls, put the boat back in the water, did a rig check, filled the fridge, freezer and holds full of food and threw off the dock lines.  I was giving my self pats on the back and puffing out my chest when people complemented us on being so organized; all that hard work while Steve was away working hard paid off. We could simply splash and get out to enjoy sailing around Fiji after three long years in the country.

And we did.

Well, kinda.

We sailed over to Port Denerau, an even bigger and busier marina on a tip about a second hand outboard that was for sale. Second hand outboards are like gold in these parts so it was worth braving another marina to check it out . While we there were celebrated Steve bday, and then is Canadian bday (a trick I pull every year since we crossed the dateline but makes no sense when the celebrant is is from Australia…this year I rolled with it). We had fun taking in some live music and crashing a Fiji tourism party. Not really but, they were partying on the dock where we parked the dinghy so we had no choice but to muscle our way through the crowd. And who can say no to free rum and sushi!

Since then we’ve been plagued with light winds, making the initial jump out to the lesser inhabited islands near impossible. Fiji is renown for its uncharted reefs, so passages around here can only be made in good light and, with our limited fuel capacity and funny little engine we can’t motor all day just to reach a destination. 40NM might not seem like much distance, but when sailing light winds can mean boat speed is down under 3 knots, and “good light” to see reefs during the winter is only really between 10 and 3pm. You can see the dilemma. So we’ve been making the most of our time closer to the mainland, working out the kinks of a boat that’s been on the hard for 6 months and battling the ongoing problems that come with being a live aboard.

This week we have discovered that our diesel tank is leaking.

And not just a drop or two here and there but dumping liters of the stuff into the bilge, especially when sailing on a port tack. Since the sole, or floor, of Kate was put down and fibreglassed into place after the tank was installed we have very little access to inspect the problem. Today when Steve blew back through the breather hose I heard a definite hiss. Our suspicions were confirmed. Our tank has a hole in it.  Unwilling to pack up and head back to the marina to cut a major hole in the floor and spend more time covered in fibreglass dust (been there, done that, have a dozen or so tshirts to prove it) Steve came up with the ingenious idea of emptying the tank and using our extra 6 gallon dinghy fuel tank (thank you old, defunct 15hp outboard) as a temporary diesel tank.  After  some grunting and a little fuel split on the floor (hey at least it isn’t 5 liters in the bilge at 6pm) we again are up and running!

Thank goodness I signed up for this crazy adventure with a engineer!

But, never one to just stand around and watch I finally uncovered the mystery of the water in the bilge. Yep, we not only had a bilge full of diesel it was floating on a significant amount of water.  Steve says that I am obsessed with water in the bilge, and maybe he is right. But, as he also likes to say the ocean is not suppose to be in the people tank. Sure, some water in the bilge is to be expected. For instance when the prop spins the shaft is actually cooled by a little salt water seeping through the seal where it exits the hull.  But a few drops a minute does not account for a full bilge over night.

Don’t worry, there are automatic pumps that empty the bilge day and night, whether we are on board or not. But a wet bilge gives the boat a closed up, musty basement smell. And who wants to live in a dank old basement besides first year college students?  Long story short, while fixing the shower sump box pump I discovered that the new plumbing for the bathroom sink (the plumbing  I so proudly installed while Steve was away) is actually slowly back washing into the sump box. And since the pump wasn’t working it was slowly overflowing into the bilge. Mystery solved. For now the solution is to manually turn off and on the over board valve for the sink and redo the plumbing when we rip open the floor to fix the fuel tank.

For now we are on a mooring waiting out a low pressure system, the reason for all this windlessness, that should bring some rain this weekend and clear the skies for better sailing early next week. Our current plans are to head north west through the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands, hopefully once again escaping the crowds and with any luck leave the gremlins that are surely causing all the headaches on board this week in our wake.

Other than these few hiccups everything else on board is great. Although we had a terrific time in Australia it is good to be home. And we’re looking forward to getting out and exploring a little more when the weather cooperates.

So, that’s the news from here.  Send us some gossip from your neck of the woods!



P.S. As I was about to press send Steve was running the engine to charge the batteries, it is an overcast day so the solar panels are having a hard time keeping up. A quick check inside the engine bay revealed a gush of water; the seal on the engine water pump blew. We have a spare, and now we have a project for tomorrow morning.  Who’s life is a vacation?  We’re heading to shore to pay our mooring bill, have a hot shower and treat ourselves to a beer.

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