by Christine Kling
Say hello to the early arrival of the first tropical storm in the South Pacific this season. Just as the folks along the eastern Atlantic coast are sighing with relief that another hurricane season is coming to a close, here in Fiji, November 1 marks the start of the South Pacific cyclone season. Whenever we meet people off other boats now, the first question is always “Where are you going?” The most common answer is New Zealand, but some are headed down to Australia or up to the Marshall Islands. That first tropical storm is sliding down between Fiji and Vanuatu as you can see on the screenshot I took above on windyty.com. With this being an El Niño year, things are heating up around the equator. We’re hoping that the fact that the water temperature here in Fiji is colder than normal, will help us get through this upcoming season.
We, too, are facing our own departure time, but we are not leaving on board our boat—we’re flying back to the US and Canada. We decided some time ago that Learnativity would spend the cyclone season here in Fiji — mostly on the hard, and we will be gone for two of the six months of the season. What started with the decision to replace the keel cooler has turned into a major refit. We are having the boat painted, both the hull and the deck, remodeling the workshop in the engine room, and we are having all the interior woodwork refinished—including painting inside all the drawers and cupboards so we have to empty out everything into boxes. The labor costs here in Fiji are significantly less than in the US or Canada, so Wayne is working alongside a crew of guys to get all this work done. I’m helping with the packing and the inventory, but most days I spend off the boat working on book business.
As usual, things are not getting done as fast as we’d hoped. This is always the case no matter where you are on a boat, but here it is made a bit more challenging due to the concept of “Fiji time.” We love the culture of these island people who sing and dance and laugh, but that same culture means that they often don’t show up for work— and that’s not necessarily considered a bad thing here. This doesn’t mean they are lazy. The guys working on our boat work very hard. But their priorities are different. They understand that life is precious and we only get one chance to enjoy it. While North Americans work their frenzied lives away, Fijians focus on the moment. They see the beauty in life and family and stop to appreciate it. As much as we love the people and the culture, and we think we should learn from them, it can be frustrating when we are trying to get the work done. We had hoped to have at least one of the various projects finished before we left, but that’s not going to happen.
Vida Point Marina here is an official port of entry and when boats have been here for a long time and become friendly with lots of the staff, they get a singing send-off by a collection of marina, chandlery, and restaurant staff. The song is Isa Lei, the Fijian farewell song. I took a video of the departure they gave this Italian boat last week.
The main reason for our trip north is because of a new arrival. My son Tim and his wife Ashley are expecting their first born around Nov. 1st. Baby boy Liam will be our second grandchild, and we’re very excited about the opportunity to be there to welcome his arrival into the world.
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