Tales from the boatyard

Beer taps at the restaurant

Beer taps at the restaurant

by Christine Kling

Wayne likes to tease me about how fiction writers don’t have a hope in hell of making stuff up that is anywhere near as weird, crazy, or ridiculous as the truth. You know, the stuff that falls into the You-Can’t-Make-This-Sh*t-Up category. Lately, it seems like there is something that comes up almost every day, and we’re not even following the presidential election in the states!

Recently we had two boats in the yard here doing repairs because they had been hit by whales. One had his twelve foot long centerboard completely broken off when the whale pushed him along at 5 knots going sideways. The other had his shaft bent and ensuing damage to his transmission. Otherwise, both boats survived their encounters. But here’s the weird thing. Both boats were Swedish.  We don’t meet that many Swedish boats out here. Do the Pacific whales have it in for the Swedes?

OctoberfestThe restaurant here in the marina/boatyard is putting on a special event this weekend and next. It’s an Octoberfest party. Half in September. In Fiji. They have big vats of beer, frosty one-liter steins and German food. The Fijian guys who are the waiters are wearing lederhosen. Seriously.

We have been having a problem with Fiji Biosecurity. We had been hauled out for about three weeks when one day a Biosecurity officer came by and asked about the dogs on board. When we entered Fiji, we declared the dogs, showed their papers showing that their shots are up to date and they have had their Rabies Neutralizing Antibody Titre Tests done. Then we had to post a bond in the amount of $1500 Fijian per dog and promise that they will remain quarantined to the boat. But that day we eventually had three Fiji Biosecurity officers on board and they were threatening to take both dogs and destroy them. They claimed that by hauling the boat out of the water, we had essentially landed the dogs in Fiji and we had committed a crime. The head officer named Misud was very aggressive and threatening and I was in tears. We were fined and issued a court summons.

Dangerous boat dogs

Dangerous boat dogs

Finally, we got them to back off from taking the dogs that day, but we have been under “monitoring” ever since. The BioSecurity officers come by, often don’t even look at the dogs, but they charge us $28.75 every day. This has been going on for a month. Then Misud, the guy who was so mean and shouting at us that first day started to warm up to us. When he comes by now Barney crawls into his lap, (the dog he wanted to kill) and he pets the dog as he writes out our receipt for daily monitoring. Then one day in a complete and total reversal, he asked if Wayne would take a picture of him holding both dogs so he could show the dogs to his kids. Our bipolar Biosecurity officer is now helping us to do the paperwork to officially “import” the dogs into Fiji—which their own regulations say cannot be done via a yacht—and we’ve invited him to bring his kids by the boat some weekend.

Learnativity has a rat on board! You would think of all the boats in this yard the one on the hard with TWO dogs permanently quarantined to the boat—one of which is a terrier—would be the least likely boat for a rat to take up residence in. But you would be wrong! Our two dogs sleep up on the aft cabin bunk with us every night. Meanwhile, Mr. Ratatouille is having a fine time dancing on our galley counters and dining on our fresh bananas and papayas every night. Do the dogs every wake up and hear him or smell him??? Nooooooo. Of course, it doesn’t help that we have a big hole cut in the bottom of our steel boat with a length of big black 3” diameter sanitation hose providing a rat road ramp right up into the bilge. We are not sure if Mr. Ratatouille is only a night time visitor or a permanent resident. Tonight the dogs might find themselves chained to the galley table.

Finally, there is our singing welder. His name is Tui (which means bird) and he has the voice of an angel. He sings these lovely Fijian songs – which we don’t understand a word of – in this high tenor voice, and I think they all must be love songs. He sits on his little stool in the mud under our boat wearing his big black coveralls, holding his welder’s helmet in one hand and peering through the window (it’s too hot to wear the helmet) at the sparks flying from the arc welder, all the while he is singing his heart out.

We have been in the boatyard two months now and while hiking to the head and living in the dirt does get old sometimes, at least it’s always entertaining!

Fair winds!


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About Christine Kling

I have spent more than thirty years living on and around boats and cruising the waters of the North and South Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean. I’ve written articles and stories for many boating publications including Sailing, Cruising World, Motor Boating & Sailing, and The Tiller and the Pen. When I was married, I helped my husband build a 55-foot custom sailing yacht. After launching her, we sailed through the Panama Canal to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we chartered for over two years. While in the islands, I received my 100-ton Auxiliary Sail Captains license. It was that sailing experience that led me to set my first nautical suspense novel, SURFACE TENSION (2002), on the waterfront in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Florida female tug and salvage captain, Seychelle Sullivan, the first book was followed by CROSS CURRENT (2004) and BITTER END (2005). The fourth book in the series, WRECKERS’ KEY was released in February 2007. At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, I took the motto of this blog to heart. I quit my day job as an English professor at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale (just when they offered me tenure, I said no thanks and took early retirement). I was living the dream of full-time cruising on board my 33-foot Caliber Talespinner on my very tiny pension and whatever I made from my books having parted ways with the big publishing establishment. I self-published two books on my own: a small collection of four short stories entitled SEA BITCH: Four Tales of Nautical Noir and my first stand-alone sailing thriller set in the Caribbean, CIRCLE OF BONES. In 2012 I was offered a publishing deal with Amazon's mystery/thriller imprint Thomas&Mercer and they reissued CIRCLE OF BONES. The sequel to that book, DRAGON'S TRIANGLE came out in June 2014. And as for me, I'm no longer a singlehander on my little boat. I met Wayne Hodgins in 2013 and after a whirlwind Skype courtship, I flew to meet him in Fiji and we sailed a nearly 2000 mile passage to the Marshall Islands for our "first date." We now sail together aboard LEARNATIVITY, a 52-foot motor sailor with our family including Barney, the Yorkshire Terror and Ruby, the Wonder Dog.
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