Cruising the South Pacific with Tackless II
Tackless II, along with her two captains, Don and Gwen, cruise from Fiji to Australia
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
23 July 2008 – Color Us GONE!
TaDA!!!!! Tackless II has left the marina!

It was a beautiful day as we backed out of the slip and puttered over to the fuel dock where we took on an ungodly (and oddly round-numbered) amount of fuel: $1000F diesel and $100F gasoline. The only mishap was that our dinghy had got untied, and so came free behind us as we made the turn, but this provided immense amusement for our friends who all took the opportunity to come ask us if we were planning on taking it with us.

Our last week in the marina went by quickly as we finished off the major remaining items. The lid for the deck box didn't actually return until the day before departure and the joiner and Don only got it reattached hours before we started the engine. Willie did do a beautiful job with the paint and non-skid, a huge improvement over the rough fiberglass we had before. Meanwhile Don and I got the enclosure attachments remounted and the plastic isinglass windows polished. All the gear stashed in the trailer gradually made the transit aboard, and there were a couple of more trips up the mast to replace lightbulbs. Don also had to cope with an eleventh-hour issue with a transmission leak from the shifter seal. It was one of those deals where you have to take a whole element apart just to get to replace an o-ring. But as has oft proven the case during this project, the things that seem like the biggest deal, end up being the most straightforward. It's really the easy stuff that most often blossoms into frustration.

On Saturday, Don and I actually went into town together, something we had not done since last year. My main objective was veggies from the big market and Don's was back-up alternator belts. But we had a nice breakfast together at the Chili Tree Café and ended up staying long enough for lunch at Chili Bites, and Indian restaurant at the other end of town. Unfortunately, I had to go back to town on Monday to return all the belts Don had bought, as well as (since our bank was not open Saturday) close out the "external" checking account we had opened (which, by the way, definitely made it easier to wire in the US funds we needed to pay off all the work.)

We had a positively lovely trip out to Musket yesterday. Mother Nature couldn't have been much kinder, with bright sun and a cool breeze and naught but little tiny wavelets. With the breeze a bare 25 degrees off the bow, we hoisted the main and motorsailed, taking the chance to check the engine, the alternator belt, the transmission and to flush and run the watermaker. Then, when the breeze filled and veered enough to properly sail, we set the genoa and shut everything down. How incredibly grand is that! A nice lunch and a gentle sail. I could go around the world like this! The only hitch we encountered was a locked up genny winch. ….add servicing the winches to the list!

As we threaded our way into the reef strewn entrance of Malolo Lai Lai (the island where Musket Cove is), the wind backed again and freshened off our port side. On the sand spit where we snorkel our friends Tricky and Jane and their guest Dirty Curry (aka Darren) were out kite surfing, obviously throwing over plans to have us to cocktails at four in favor of the wind! No worries for us. We were happy to take the remaining hours of the afternoon to launch the dinghy, test the outboard, and celebrate being back "at large." There is nothing finer than sitting on a floating boat swinging freely into the wind!

At the moment, our plan is to linger here the next ten days, mixing in a little R&R while we check off the next twenty-four items on the MUST DO list. On the 28th or so begins the revelry associated with the Island Cruising Association's rally to Vanuatu, scheduled to depart Fiji August 2nd. We are currently thinking to join the rally. We have never done a rally. The chief attraction is the facilitated checkout here, forestalling a return to Lautoka, and likewise facilitated check-in at Tanna, Vanuatu. It also wouldn't hurt to be traveling with other boats, seeing as T2 hasn't had much of a shakedown.

That's assuming we are ready to go. There is still the MUST DO list, and a few little suspenseful issues that have cropped up with the alternator and the outboard. Although our official time in Fiji expires on August 5, a customs officer from Lautoka arrived at Vuda just as we pulled up to the fuel dock to "inspect Tackless II regarding the work we had remaining to do." Milika, the manager of Vuda Marina had filed an application for an extension on our behalf several weeks ago when Don was at his most despairing. So, here I am, just having changed from Fiji attire (long shorts) to sailing attire (short shorts and bare feet!) and off we go for a meeting where he examines our invoices. He was suitably impressed with the sums, but wanted to know how much MORE we would be spending. I had to be honest and say we HOPED we wouldn't be spending ANY more, but that we had only just finished the spending and now had to get it all finished and checked out. If I made a good case, he will probably give us a two month extension. If we get the extension, we might just take it, or some of it, and shake the boat out with a little look-see at the Yasawas which we have so far missed, assuming, of course, we get the twenty-four items checked off. But the problem is that if we linger here much longer, we will cut into what time we have in Vanuatu and New Caledonia before ending in Australia.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008
14 July 2008 – She Floats!
14 July 2008 – She floats!

The day after the picnic, the weather took a decided turn. Good timing for the party, not so great for us. By the time Quantum Leap reached Vuda (a 2-hour trip for them), the cloudy skies had darkened and a few spits had begun. Up on the hard, Tackless II was looking very handsome with the first two of three coats of bottom paint freshly applied. By afternoon, the rain was coming down hard and the wind had wound up to a healthy blow.

The good news is none of our old leaks produced a drop. The bad news was we had a gusher right over the salon table through a screw hole under the main companionway cap that hadn't gotten filled properly! Fortunately, it is something we can identify AND reach!

Sunday was unexpectedly sunny, so even as the front driven wind continued, causing the boat to rattle and shiver in her stands, Don and I managed to finish off most of the remaining outside projects, including remounting and rewiring the refinished windlass. Monday, however, dawned with a return of the rain threat, and between that and the forecast of unusually strong winds all week, we debated the last coat of bottom paint and our Tuesday launch reservation. Just what we wanted to do! Launch our freshly painted boat into a packed marina in 25+ knots of wind!

But had we delayed, we'd have missed our chance to launch for a week or maybe two as the yard was taken over by the boats of the ARC and Bluewater round-the-world sailing rallies, coincidentally here about the same time and all wanting bottom paint before arriving in Australia (Australia requires arriving boats to have anti-fouling less than a year old.)

So it was, after a restless and windy night, that Tackless II finally got her hull wet. Although he presented his usual together persona, inside Don was a bundle of nerves. All launchings are stressful, but this one had six new thru-hulls to worry about leaking, not to mention the big winds. To add insult to injury, when the hoist was on its way, we couldn't locate the camera for the picture that Don had long been planning in his mind – a reprise of the shot I took of him in 1996 when Tackless II was last painted after Hurricane Marilyn. We'd even found the same shirt. A friend rustled up his digital camera, but by then stuff was happening too fast to stage a matching shot, and the sun was in the wrong place anyway!

The launch went well, however, and with five or six friends on board we managed – despite the wind and despite the fact that the marina was so full there was hardly an inch to spare – to get into our assigned slip without injury.

Talk about a huge sigh of relief! Snug between our neighbors, the whistling wind seemed to blow right over the top of us, and, after a celebratory dinner and a bottle of red wine, we slept that night, lulled by the lapping of gentle wavelets, like we haven't in months!

Since the launch last Tuesday, July 6th, it's been a busy time getting the halyards run, the sails mounted, and all our loose paraphernalia out of storage and back onto the boat. In the water, our own washing machine works, so I've finally caught up on the five loads of musty clothes and linens I'd stashed in the storage trailer, now all sweetly sun-dried on the foredeck. (Sure beats the $5 per token for the questionable marina machines!) Don's got the engine and generator running, the replacement Link controller installed, the solar panels hooked up, and the watermaker flushed.

We are coming down to the last things on the list: the rebuilt deck box lid, which Baobab has had since the start of the project, which we've only now discovered doesn't quite fit; redrilling and replacing all the enclosure hardware around the cockpit; getting back the dinghy, which they haven't delivered yet; the in-water part of our insurance survey (the out-of-water part completed on that blustery Monday before launch), and a rigging check. It is looking like we have a real shot of making our required departure date of August 5th.

So, there you have it! Up to date on the saga of Tackless II in the yard. Whew. Maybe we'll be able to relax in Vanuatu!

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FOURTH OF JULY, 2008 -- Musket Cove Style
We had long hoped to be out at Musket Cove in time for the Fourth of July party our friend Robin of Endangered Species was planning. All of our American friends from last year planned to be there, and never in our wildest imaginings did we think would wouldn't be ready to go on Tackless II.

But we weren't. Instead, we got a ride out aboard Serafin, a Liberty 458 skippered by Linda and Dee, whom we first met in 2002 at Punta de Mita in Mexico. After a big refit in Florida after an onboard electrical fire, Dee had had enough, but Linda still had the urge to cruise. So, taking on as crew old cruising friends for a sequence of legs, she has brought Serafin through the Canal and across the Pacific in two years, arriving with Dewey and Nan (formerly of The Great Escape also from our Mexican era) as crew. A few days before the big party, Dewey and Nan flew out while Dee flew in by 747 for some vacation time in Fiji. Even though bottom paint was due to start on Tackless II, Don was persuaded to go.

Once out in Musket, we stayed aboard the beautiful St. Francis 51' catamaran Quantum Leap. Tom and Bette Lee, from Mobile, AL, are retired from the medical field, and Tom particularly takes a keen interest in the health concerns of fellow cruisers. It was Tom who coached Sheri of Procyon by SSB radio how to care for Randy when he was so sick on their crossing (see > "The Need to Know"). It was also Quantum Leap, of course, that had the watermaker problem that came right at Don's point of overload the week before. One of the best bits of medical practitioner-ing he's ever done was taking us our for a top-notch Indian meal at the elegant Saffron restaurant in Nadi the evening that Don solved their watermaker problem. That, of course, was the same evening we discovered the painters doing the non-skid in the wrong color!

In Musket Cove, I'm quite sure Don would have been happy to veg out with a book, but our friends did not agree. No sooner than we arrived than we were hustled out for a snorkel, followed by grilled steaks as the Musket Island Bar. The next morning it was up for a fast hour and a half walk over the ridge with a gang of about nine friends, followed by an hour of yoga for the ladies and a trip to the bakery by the guys. After consuming the spoils of the boys 'labors.', we returned to the boat to change, and then spent a nice couple of hours visiting with Tricky and Jane aboard Lionheart. Visiting with Tricky and Jane invariably leads to a few adult beverages from their onboard brewery, so we were almost late to get changed for the afternoon picnic which began at 3pm.

Dressed suitably in red, white and blue, we assembled ashore for beach games – from bocce ball, to coconut toss, to broad jump, to tug of war (Randy rashly called for USA against all comers, so we were eventually overpowered when the Kiwi racers kept added bodies (and no women) to the end of the rope!) After that it was more beer and lots of potluck dishes to go with hot dogs on the bar-b, all to the music of great American rock 'n roll assembled on CD by Robin. We even had "fireworks"! Come nightfall Randy, a retired coast Guard Captain, oversaw the firing of expired flares, teaching many people how to shoot them off properly for the first time! And someone donated a little mini, all-in-one fire-work box, that when ignited set of a sweet little low-altitude series of swizzlers. All in all a fine, fine evening!

Early the next morning, Quantum Leap weighed anchor to drop us off back at the salt mines…er, at Vuda!

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3 July 2008 -- Pretty Tacky!
I've had my hand slapped for falling down on the regular postings! Good! At least someone is reading them! My hands have been pretty darn busy elsewhere this past month. Not a lot of computer time. I'm not only behind on the Blog, but coming up on a deadline for the column.

It's been….a difficult time. The adrenalin rush of seeing the boat get painted in three hours was followed by several weeks of frustrating problems. The non-skid areas-- where the paint is rolled on, the grains sprinkled on in a smooth layer and then rolled with paint again -- should have been so easy. They day they finally got to it, Don was called off to help with a big water maker problem on the catamaran Quantum Leap. It really was the last thing Don needed on his plate right then: watermaker work on someone else's boat. At least they came here to vuda, because it ended up taking two days of his time and a way too much of his overtaxed attention.

Here in Fiji (and most tropical places) boat painting takes place in the late afternoon so that any moisture from overnight dew is well dried and so that the painters themselves don't expire in the heat! I climbed the ladder to see how they were progressing, only to find that although they were halfway down the side of the boat, they were painting the non-skid white white, not oyster white like the boat! I could hardly bear to alert Don. Not only was the day lost, but the whole can of expensive two-part paint.

Our next paint issue was the re-spray of the hardtop. This was on Willie, as he had accidentally missed a spot with the final coat on the first go round. Since he was having to re-spray, we took the opportunity to correct two things: the color, which had come out darker than we wanted (the color of a nice creamy latte to match all our canvas!) and the texture which was supposed to have had a matte, orange-peel texture to look like canvas rather than gloss. When the paint was delivered we did a test, and the color was still too dark. Willie got the paint company reps out to see the boat, to see what we wanted both color and texture-wise. We got the remixed paint several days later, and this time Willie got a good shot done with just the right texture. Unfortunately, the color was still darker than we'd have liked, but we figured…"Hey, them's the breaks!"

In the middle of the night I woke up and said to Don, "You know, I bet he mixed all the latte paint to have the matte texture like the hardtop. We don't want THAT on the wood trim!" Well, …sh-t.

The saga of our wood trim could be a parable for the importance of communication and forethought. I have always joked that what we needed to do was just dip the whole boat in paint, so we proposed to Willie early on, that since our caprails were painted, perhaps it would just be easier to shoot them with two-part paint. This would save them having to tape out the wood trim when spraying. Made sense to Willie at the time, but one afternoon early on Don came up to find the guys stripping the old paint and undercoat of varnish off the wood! Yikes. That wasn't the idea. Seems Willie had got to considering that we had painted the wood trim with one-part paint in Mexico, and that two-part doesn't go over one-part. Well, fine, but talk to us first! We would have just gone back to the original plan to tape out the wood (or timber as they call it here) and do it by hand afterward with one part paint.

But now we were committed, and Willie's guys stripped the timber (caprails, trim and handrails), sealed them with a two-part wood sealer, filled and faired them as if they were fiberglass (!?!?!?), and then Willie primed and painted them with the topsides and deck.

Now, mind you, the result was gorgeous! Smooth, sealed and very fair. And if we'd had any sense, we'd have stopped there and left them white (oyster white, remember) like the rest of the boat. But no, everyone insisted we needed some sort of definition. So now the guys sanded the timber and started trying to paint the color. We went through two remixes AFTER the realization that the hardtop matte wasn't right for the timber. The paint company kept sending us darker and darker paint when we wanted lighter and lighter. Even Willie was disgusted. We had an eight-foot deck board we use for securing fuel jugs in the original (desired) color on which we tested each paint as if came. It lay there halfway coated in a sequence of bands as mute testimony to our frustrations and delays.

Once we settled (compromised?) on a paint color, our troubles were not over. The paint did not brush on well. Willie's team is used to spraying topcoat and rolling bottom paint, so all comes to a stop and in comes Baobab's "varnish specialist." Willie's team is all Fijian, whereas most of his partner Brian's guys are Indian. Sylvin (sp?) was a dark, slim, handsome young man, who painted at a snail's pace. It about drove Don crazy, who was itching to knock him out of the way and do it himself. In the end, Sylvin came through by changing out to a tiny roller, and the final finish looks as good as…well…how it looked white before we started messing with the damn color!

Meanwhile, Willie's guys were back working on the bottom. Can you imagine a more tedious job? Sanding, fairing, sanding, fairing, sanding fairing. I find it tedious to write about, so I will just say that the project of drying out the boat was quite successful, the bottom is probably smoother than it was when the boat was new, and with three coats of epoxy, four of barrier coat and three of the green Altec bottom paint we had shipped in from New Zealand (after all this work we wanted the bottom back GREEN!), it looks superb.

This all took several weeks and it was not the happiest of times. Don as project manager had a tremendous lot on his plate, because while all this was going on outside, he had dozens of projects inside. Over the course of our time here we have removed and replaced most of the deck hardware, redrilled and repositioned all the hatch hinges and springs, cleaned or replaced most of the stainless fittings, re-fiberglassed inside tabs, painted the aft bulkhead and all the lockers, varnished the aft cabin, the galley, and half the main salon. Don has replaced the ancient bronze thru-hulls and seacocks with new Marlon ones (always scary working with new and different materials) along with several of their backing plates, all of which unfortunately necessitated some dismantling, re-plumbing and refitting since they were not the same size and shape as the originals. We've cleaned every nook and cranny of the boat (and everything stowed in those nooks and crannies multiple times throughout the multiple stages of sanding fiberglass and paint. And, we've had the life raft serviced, the fire extinguishers serviced, the dive gear serviced, canvas restitched, a sail remodeled (reef points added to the staysail), and new cockpit instruments hooked up. And as the day for launching drew near, there was the engine to get going and piles of stuff to put away since the salon table and nav station were buried in baggies and containers of nuts, bolts and parts.

We moved back aboard during the week before the Fourth of July. We had been eating on board for a couple of weeks, but all the drawn-out painting on deck kept postponing our final checkout from the hotel. At last we said farewell to air-conditioning, flush toilets, hot showers and hot cooked breakfasts and moved on board with night buckets, mozzie (mosquito) screens, and the clatter of black plastic in the wind.

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