Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wallis Island and Funafuti Part 1

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Click this link if you want to start at the beginning:
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(where we bought the boat)
 to Lake Ontario Click this link:
After a few wonderful days finishing up in Fiji we set out course northeast for the French island of Wallis.  This is an island with a population of approximately 8000 people.  Heavily supported by France, there seems to be an easy going life for people here.

We arrived after a very boisterous 3 day sail with the wind ahead of the beam which meant that we were healed over the whole way, but we really did go fast... Being over that far for that long, we discovered a leak in our port fresh water tank.  This leak and the fact that the transfer valve between the starboard and port tanks was broken, meant that we lost almost 900 liters of fresh water...  Fortunately, the trip was relatively short and we had almost 60 liters in our emergency supply.  As soon as we arrived in Wallis we made water and that evening it rained so we were able to completely refill out fresh water supply.  

We have now repaired the transfer valve and still not located the source of the leak on the port tank...  The good news is that we won't loose all our water again...

Checking into Wallis reminded us that we were now officially OFF the Pacific Coconut Run, that is we are now cruising in a part of the world where the vast majority of cruisers never go.  So far, we were one of only a few cruising boats to check in.  Thus, the formalities were fairly lax and disorganized...  Added to the fact most folks here only speak Walasian or French, meant that we struggled a bit, but eventually got checked in and settled.

We had been told about a local Australian woman named Jo, who was willing to help cruisers out.  Married to a local man, Sefo, she and her two children came to the wharf the day after we arrived to help us get oriented.  Wallis has no taxis, so getting around is difficult for people like us.  With Jo's help this problem was solved!

Thank you Jo!

A Tongan Fort....

She took us to the grocery store where we stocked up on lovely French wine and cheese!  What a treat.  While the food in Fiji is OK, the french influence here is very apparent.  Safe to say though, the prices reflected the distance we were from France...  What you see in the picture was $126 CFP ($150 Canadian)...

After a day or two, we moved down to Gahi Bay where we were a little more protected and the scenery was better. With Jo's help we saw some of the island an couldn't help notice the number of HUGE Catholic churches....  There had to be more that a dozen and some rivaled the architecture of churches anywhere in Europe!

Our plan was to stay a few weeks in Wallis, but after just a few days we learned that the weather was going to change and if we didn't take advantage of the widow that was now open, we might not get another one for a month or more!  As Cyclone season officially starts November 1st in this part of the world, we knew we needed to get north of 8 degrees south sooner, rather than later.  

Funafuti, an island in Tuvalu is just at the 8 degree mark, so we made the decision to get going while we still could.

Funafuti is 400 nautical miles from Wallis on a northwest track. We were able to take advantage of the still prevailing east/south east trades which made for a fast, flat few days of sailing.  For about 24 hours we lost all wind an had to motor, but all in all a nice sail.

We arrived in Funafuti to find out we were the 12th boat this year to check in... With a population of a few thousand people this 13 by 1 mile island is a busy place.  With a very protected atoll, many of the large Taiwanese fishing boats stay here.  These are the boats that are literally raping our oceans of fish, but I suppose for the people here, provide much needed infrastructure.  

Yesterday, The Prime Minister of Taiwan arrived in a two jet convoy, to visit the hospital, school, and generating station they built.  I understand the local peoples need, but I hope one day the world can find a better balance between the needs of Island people and the monstrous need to empty the oceans of fish....

The Captain of the Presidents plane took the opportunity to take pictures as well!

All the firetrucks sound their sirens when a plane comes to clear people off the runway!

Tuvalu's Military - All of them!

The woman in black is the President of Taiwan

This is an example of a people who had decided to move from a subsistence lifestyle to one of foreign dependency...  I hope is is all they dream it will be...

We will share more as we get farther north.  Our goal is to be in The Marshall Islands in time for Christmas.  We have requested permission from the Tuvalu government to stop at a few of the more isolated islands as we work our way north, so we can leave some school supplies in some places that never see no tourists...

More soon!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Getting Ready to Leave Fiji...

Welcome to our Blog. Our latest entry always comes up first... 

Click this link if you want to start at the beginning:
If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
If you want to see the story of our trip from South Carolina
(where we bought the boat)
 to Lake Ontario Click this link:
After 6 wonderful months in Fiji, it is time for us to move on.  We have many sweet memories and have met some incredible people.  
Shelley chatting with our youngest daughter, Kelly
Shelley has recovered really well from her surgery.  We hope now to recover some of the costs for this through our home healthcare plan at home...  The important thing is that she is way happier and healthier than she has been.

Over the last few weeks many of the cruising boats have been scattering in every direction.  Cyclone season officially begins on November 1st, so most people have left for safer waters.  That means we have had some bitter/sweet gatherings as we say farewell to some and see you later to others..

We departed from Saweni Bay a few days ago.  On our way we landed a small tuna and a good sized Mahi Mahi...  The Mahi Mahi DESTROYED our lure!

We have traveled about 120 miles to meet a family from California who own the same model sailboat that we own.  There were only 45 Dufour 12000ct sailboats ever made.  They own hull #4 and we own hull #43.  We have only met one other family with the same boat.  We met Lucy & John from SV Maraki (hull #44) in Panama two years ago in Panama.  

Bubbles & Terrapin - Together....

SV Terrapin is crewed by Phil and Aimee and their two daughters Jessica & Emma.  They crossed the pacific this year and just arrived from Tonga.

We are checking out tomorrow morning from Savusavu, located on the northern most Fijian island called Vanua Levu.  We plan to sail 500 nautical miles to Wallis Island (a French territory).  From there we are hoping to visit Tuvalu, The Gilbert Islands, then end up in the Marshall Islands to stay during cyclone season.  

These island have some of the most spectacular scuba diving in the Pacific Ocean. Many of the bays are littered with wrecked WW2 equipment.... Ships, Airplanes, and all sorts of military hardware from both allied and enemy army's...  It should be AWESOME!

More soon!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Medical Issues....

Welcome to our Blog. Our latest entry always comes up first... 

Click this link if you want to start at the beginning:
If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
If you want to see the story of our trip from South Carolina
(where we bought the boat)
 to Lake Ontario Click this link:
Even in paradise life happens....

For the last month or so, both Shelley and I weren't feeling quite right.  We both seemed to have some stomach issues, and Shelley kept getting "attacks" where she would wind up in tremendous pain....

After getting back to Saweni Bay we decided it was time to see a doctor... after seeing the doctor, Shelley was sent for a bunch of tests including a CT scan to check her insides out....   
The results were back almost immediately.  We both had H.Pyhori, a bacterial infection likely from drinking unclean water.  Since we make our own water on the boat, the only other water we have consumed has been at the few Kava ceremonies we have attended since coming to Fiji....  With a 7 day course of pretty strong pills we both seem to be better....

Shelley, it turns out, also had been having gallbladder attacks, causing all kinds of pain.  Unfortunately, the only solution for that is to have her gallbladder removed.  

In Lautoka, where we are, the only option is to have traditional surgery, which takes quite a while to recover from.  The other option, was for us to have the procedure done laparoscopically in the capital city of Suva.

When the local doctor inquired about this last Wednesday, we learned that a surgeon could see us on Friday.  With only two days we could not get the boat around Fiji (against the wind) in time, so we decided to take a 5 hour bus ride from Lautoka to Suva.
Before surgery.....

After an uneventful ride, we arrived in Suva and got a hotel room on Thursday night.  At 9:30 Friday morning we saw the doctor and buy 2:30 that afternoon, Shelley was having her gallbladder removed. 
They took out 4 stones! Each one about 9mm....

After surgery.....

This is where I got to sleep for two nights....

Thanks to Lanny, Ginger and Lisa, they rigged a Bosun's chair to lift Shelley on to the boat....

She is recovering well and we hope to be leaving Fiji in the next few weeks to head north towards the Marshall Islands to wait out cyclone season...

Some of you may wonder what this little medical hiccup cost us...

At this time it goes like this: (in Fijian dollars)

2 doctor visits:  $80
Lab tests: $160
Cat Scan: $585
Surgery & 2 day hospital stay: $9900
Medicine: $200
Bus, taxi, hotel & food: $400

Total cost for our bad health day: $11,325 or $7000 Canadian or $5600US


Unfortunately, because this wasn't an "accident", so most of our out of country insurance won't cover us.  That said, we will be applying to our healthcare system at home to cover a part of it...  

This is just one of those things we face when we choose this lifestyle....

Some cruising friends have wondered about the healthcare system here in Fiji.  Here are some of our observations and thoughts.

The doctors we have encountered are on caliber with any doctor in the USA or Canada.  Many are trained in New Zealand or Australia.  The cat scan clinic in Lautoka had an up to date piece of equipment and the technician and radiologist were both very competent.

Based on the information we had, the only hospital equipped to perform Shelley's gallbladder surgery laparoscopically was the "private" hospital in Suva.  Thus, we knew it would be more expensive going in.  

The people at the hospital were all ok. Some were better than others, and clearly nursing here is not as far along as at home.  For example, nurses here are not permitted to start an IV.  They must call a doctor to do that.  As caregivers, they were very good.  

The hospital itself is looking very tired. The furniture is old and much of it has something broken on it... Windows were dirty but the important places like the bathrooms were cleaned daily.  There was no hot water in Shelley's room during our whole stay, and they only changed her gown after I insisted.  Clearly the hospital is about profit, so anything not directly related to the medical care of the patient is overlooked.

They billed for EVERYTHING. Our invoice was  10 pages long and they charged separately for every single little thing including the 10ml of sterile water they used to flush Shelley's IV port... I can't help but wonder what it must cost for the nurses to be recording all those little costs?

In the end, we were pleased with the medical care in Fiji.  I suppose like in everything these days, you must be your own advocate (or advocate for someone you love).  I am glad that this is over, as I'm sure Shelley is too...

Before all this, we did have some fun in Lautoka at the Sugar Festival.  Every year Fijians celebrate the sugar harvest... It was loud, hot and fun...

I'm with Sean (SV Chevaldy)

It's all plugged into one big extension cord!

Lots of local food!

They have different safety standards than what we are used to seeing at home...

Shelley's "Last Supper" before surgery....

More soon,