Cruising the South Pacific with Tackless II
Tackless II, along with her two captains, Don and Gwen, cruise from Fiji to Australia
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Week Two - The Destructo King and the Yard Princess
You may recall my mentioning that the weather our first week in Fiji was consistently hot and sunny? And I predicted more of same? Well, you can delete that. No sooner than the work on Tackless II was due to start last week than the rains began. Monday morning during breakfast the pessimistic captain predicted no one would show up to work. The optimistic captain...was...well.... more hopeful. Imagine the pessimistic captain's surprise when we cleared the gate and there were three workers hard at work sanding.....all three in the covered cockpit!

Tackless II is a big boat to sand when you can't use your electric sanders and you are working instead with small squares of sandpaper. Don says the guys reminded him of the animated "scrubbing bubbles" of TV ad fame, kind of following one behind the other over much the same territory. However, the rain did ease off a couple of times long enough to let the guys emerge from the cockpit to work on the foredeck and cabintop some, and by the end of the week they had pretty much covered the whole boat. It was a traumatic moment when the artwork on the bows and stern disappeared (documented by photograph for the artists to replace...we hope). There is still lots to do -- specifically all the hatches, hatch coamings and compartment lids, as well as lots of stress cracks to grind out and fill. But there has definitely been progress. Don has a running banter going with Willie, who is in charge of both the bottom and the paint jobs, ticking down the days of Willie's promised month for both. Willie just smiles....

The steady rain did bring one bonus. Richard, the oft-in-demand fiberglass specialist, was not able to work outside, so he was free to tackle a major inside project for Don, including glassing in the new backing plates for the thru-hulls.

In between excavating all the nooks and crannies for Richard to fiberglass, Captain Destructo himself has been hard at work ripping out the plywood liner backing our bed on the inside of the transom. Years of mysterious leaks had pretty well rotted this wood away, and the liner Don had covered it up with ten years ago was stained with rust streaks. The leading plan now is to fill and fair the back wall and paint it white. We are especially optimistic about this since Richard added a layer of glass to the wet locker above, which we THINK has put an end to those mysterious leaks (seeing as we've been able to test it with all the rain!) Don has also been busy in the aft head removing the toilet plumbing for its biennial beating to remove the calciferous build-up therein. He also took the chance to move the toilet an inch inboard so its lid will stay up better.

What has the Yard Princess been doing during this time? Well between the rain, the fiberglass dust, and the Fijian workers there really was no place for me on board. So, in between running loads of work clothes through the washer and drier, I spent most of the week perched on our hotel room bed laboring away furiously on the computer. I have produced three pieces for my Admiral's Angle column, thereby buying me some breathing room on my deadlines and begun some interviews and note-taking for a couple of other article ideas. Quite truthfully, I think both captains are pleased with this arrangement!

Wednesday did give us a day's respite from rain, so I made a trip into town to deposit more US $ into our local account. These dollars were the 20s Don so painstakingly collected from daily visits to the ATM in the States. It added up to quite the stack, which would have been embarrassing enough had they stayed neatly together, but when they erupted from my hands in a cascade at the international teller window, it made me feel like a drug dealer or counterfeiter! The best part about the trip to town was getting our Vodafone broadband card reactivated so that we have Internet right in the room. Sadly, the card does not permit voice Skype like the WiFi connection up at the cafe. We've had a lot of fun Skyping people from the cafe while we eat lunch or sip decaf cappucinos. The connections have been like we're next door! ( I even indulged in a long chat with Captain Rob and Barbara in Saba on Mother's Day!)

mv Doulos

While on that trip to town, Jim of Flight, with whom I was sharing the taxi, wanted to make a stop at the mv Doulos, "the world's largest floating bookstore,"( which was tied up to Lautoka's main wharf. We had been hearing quite a bit about her on the radio. A venerable old vessel built just a few years after the Titanic in 1914 in Newport News, Rhode Island, the Doulos is "the world's oldest active ocean-going passenger vessel". At 130 meters in lengthwith a beam of only 16.6 meters, she is a long and narrow 6818 gross tons! She started life as a freight steamship, but was converted to a passenger ship in 1948. In 1952, she was acquired by the Costa cruise line and her steam engine replaced with a huge 18 cylinder double-acting deisel engine. In this guise she cruised between Itlay and Argentina and later the Mediterranean. She became the Doulos in 1977/78.

Although I didn't know for sure before visiting the ship, I had rightly guessed she was a Christian charitable endeavor. Except for a large section of children's books and a diverse cooking section, the majority of the books for sale had a Christian motif. The ship's mission, as stated on the website, is to "visit port cities throughout the world, supplying vital literature resources, encouraging inter-cultural understanding, training young people for more effective life and service, promoting greater global awareness, providing practical aid and sharing a message of hope in God wherever there is opportunity."

The crew (including the captain) are all volunteers coming from 156 countries, who sign on for a two year stint, paying about $6000/year for their room and board. It is not luxurious living, and they all work hard on onboard jobs. Our tour of the vessel was led by a relatively new young Dutch crewmember. He was hard put to answer out nautical questions (like what kind of engine she now had...a question we were able to answer for ourselves in the engine room), but he was eager to show us all the pictures of their good deed doing.

The Weekend

Come Saturday, of course, the rain stopped. For some reason, nary a worker showed up for the Saturday half-day. When the "skilled" workers are absent, suddenly the old Admiral is in demand again. I got a lot of brownie points by solving in five minutes a plumbing problem that had kept Don up fretting half the night. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes is more important than skill! Don and I then spent the rest of the weekend cleaning up and removing all the remaining hardware and equipment from the deck and hatches in anticipation of a big push this week.

However, guess what? It's Monday and its raining again, and the forecast is for more all week!

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