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Mico Verde
Work Before Play

Vuda Point, Fiji
June 30, 2006

(Steph) We’ve been back exactly two weeks. We have a lot to report while at the same time, have nothing to report. Here’s the short story: wonderful weather, beautiful setting, Mico’s on the hard, and everything is operating on Fiji time.

And here are the highlights, long story-style.

Mico is getting a clean new bottom, thanks to some local labor.

After leaving Seattle on June 10, we spent four somewhat stressful days at my parents’ house in Santa Maria. We had meant our time there to be four days of relaxation and visiting after seven straight months of work, but instead we were stressed out about how much stuff we were bringing back to Fiji with us and whether or not they’d allow it all on the flight. And that didn’t count the long list of things that we still planned to acquire before departing for Fiji. We counted amongst our luggage two new sails, huge amounts of spare parts, two laptops, books, clothes, and an absolutely essential portable stair stepper.

Every day of those four days my mom and I drove around Santa Maria, looking for little odds and ends that I knew I wouldn’t be able to find once we got back to Fiji. Canned chicken was one of them. But cans of chicken are heavy. So every day, we’d stop at Costco, I’d look longingly at their six cans for $10, and then walk away empty-handed, knowing Warren would never let me live it down if I tried to sneak four extra pounds into our luggage. But eventually, I decided that as the boat’s provisioner, I am as entitled to a can of chicken as the captain is to a spare shackle, so I managed to find room for 18 cans of chicken and 6 of roast beef. And after weighing all our luggage, everything came in just under our allowance of 64 kg a person.

We wished we had taken a picture of all our stuff; I’ve never traveled with so much. At the last minute, Warren tried to pressure me to leave behind some things (the stair stepper was in peril) because he was afraid we’d be marooned in some airport without a cart. But everything came off smoothly – carts were abundant, baggage handlers were strong, airline baggage allowances were liberal. When we arrived in Fiji, we noted that most Fijians who had accompanied us on our flight were picking up huge Coleman coolers from baggage claim. We never needed to worry. Apparently, everyone flying to Fiji regularly packs 140 lbs.

We made our way back to the marina and found Mico to be in better shape than we could have hoped. The marina had taken very good care of her, and our caretakers had done a great job. They’d aired her out periodically and washed her down, so she looked pretty good for having been nearly abandoned for seven months. We quickly got to work, and found that a seven-month break from cruising does wonders for a crew’s work ethic. We ticked off more tasks each day than we usually accomplished in a week in our previous cruise.

We’ve made a few new friends here, but for the most part we’ve had our heads down trying to get the boat ready to cruise again. We hauled out a week ago and have hired a local company to take down the bottom paint to the fiberglass. As they got to work, we were able to count at least six different colors of bottom paint. Each of those colors probably had at least two coats. So this is a worthwhile expense (at a fraction of the labor cost of the U.S.). We found a few osmosis blisters, so we’re letting them dry out for a bit before filling them and painting the bottom.

It is a bit of a trial to live in a boat that is hauled out in the yard. So we decided to take a few days off and see a bit of Fiji in the more traditional tourist method. We chose a small inn on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu (the big, main island of Fiji where we are currently located) to relax in the sun, take a dip in the pool, try out our new snorkeling gear, and let someone else do the cooking. Our timing could not have been better – it rained, was overcast, and blew a steady 30 knots the entire time. The inn we stayed at was nice, but we rarely ventured outside of the bar or our room. We did do one touristy thing, however, which was to ride a really loud, jarring tourist train up the coast to a nice beach. It was pretty fun until we realized we had to ride the train back again.

There was some disagreement as to what a "boto" is in the Fijian language; I assumed it meant frog, but Warren thought "boto" meant boat. When he tried using it in that context to a native Fijian, she responded, "You came to Fiji with your frog?"

Because our tropical vacation turned out to be not-so-tropical, after two days we decided to try our luck elsewhere. We booked plane tickets to Levuka, a town on the island of Ovalau. The plane departed out of Suva in five hours. The travel agent assured us we had plenty of time to make the flight if we hopped into one of the mini-vans that regularly depart on the 3-hour drive to Suva. Long story short, we missed our flight and could never really get a straight answer about when we’d be able to next get to Levuka. After a mediocre night and a tiring day in Suva, we arrived at the airport only to be told there was no flight to Levuka despite the fact that earlier that day I had been told we were confirmed for the afternoon flight. At this point, we were determined to get out of Suva by any means necessary. Here is a sample conversation that sums up our 24 hours of travel purgatory:

Me to the ticket agent: Do you have any more flights out today?
Ticket Agent: Uhhhh … where to?
Me: I don’t care. Anywhere.
Ticket Agent: There is a flight to Nadi.
Me: Are there two seats available?
Ticket Agent: Kind of.
Me: Kind of?
Ticket Agent: Well, yes, I guess.
Me: Okay … well, I’d like to book those seats. When does it depart?
Ticket Agent: At either 5:30 or 6:15. It depends.

Her response of “kind of” must have been contingent on our weight. After weighing ourselves on the baggage scale, she happily granted us seats on the flight and assured us that she’d come find us in the airport when it was time to board, whether it be 5:30 or 6:15.

That is the best example of Fiji time I could give you. And we are living by it, happily, for the most part.


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