With all the work on the engine I completely forgot one of my favourite blog topics: the weather !
The marine weather report here in Fiji is quite funny: although there was not much wind during these last weeks, we were continuously warned of foul weather and heavy rain. When we had 15-20 knots, the marine weather warned of ‘rough seas’ sometimes even mentioned ‘very rough’ seas – even when the wind in this area wouldn’t even exceed 25 knots. I guess, the boys and girls from Fiji’s weather bureau don’t get out to sea much – otherwise they would know that it takes waves of four to six meters with breakers to qualify for a ‘very rough’ sea. Don’t get me wrong: I really appreciate them sending meaningful warnings out to the people cruising the oceans but if you shout ‘Fire ! Fire !’ all the time – no fire brigade will show up when it really burns. I know this analogy sucks but I guess you get my point.
A related story might illustrate it further: When we were cruising the Canary Islands in 2011 some overeager employee of the local authorities sent two DSC-alerts in front of *every* marine weather bulletin. This means that six times a day the whole crew is startled by the intense alarm of their VHF radio just because they send weather info. This resulted in most of the yachts turning off their VHF ! Fortunately we could revert to our handheld radio which doesn’t support DSC. Hopefully this dangerous and silly practise since has ceased.
Well but now back towards the actual cause of today’s posting. One of the most important tasks of the local weather bureau is to alert the population in case of a cyclone. And right now there is no such warning. Although in my opinion, the situation is quite critical. Wikipedia lists six requirements for the development of a tropical cyclone:
- Warm ocean surface of at least 26.5°C. – check
- Atmospheric instability (tropical wave north Fiji towards Tonga) – check
- High humidity in the lower atmospheric levels. – check
- sufficient Coriolis force (always given near the equator) – check
- Preexisting low level focus or disturbance (two lows north of Fiji) – check
- Little vertical wind shear (hard to tell but likely)
Two additional factors are left out: El Nino, which has influence on hurricane activity – but this year is no El Nino event. And the Madden-Julian-Oscillation which seems to have massive influence on the frequency of tropical storms. In a scientific study done in 2009, the area of Fiji-Samoa-Tonga was investigated and the study came to the conclusion that in case of an active MJO there are five times (!!) more cyclones forming than during the inactive phase. The MJO develops in a 30 to 60 day rhythm in the indian ocean and then travels east. According to current observation, the MJO will reach our area during the next days. Although it’s not extremely active, it still enhances my alertness.
Let’s hope, Fiji’s meteorologists know what they do. I’d be happy if I’m proven wrong.
Every now and then we excape the anchorage and get some fresh air out at the reef. Only four miles away there is the Cousteau Resort at the very end of the strip of land that encloses the Savusavu bay in the south. Out there, closer to the open sea the water is a lot nicer (although still far from clear), there is wind and the insects are less annoying.
A little trip like that brightens the mood and once we hop into the water and have a look around in this big aquarium, the day is safed. The difference to the more eastern parts of the Pacific are big and the diveristy of fish and coral still amazes me. Especially as we’re not in a proper dive- or snorkelspot. For that one shoud go out to the smaller islands or visit the neighbouring Namena, only 25 miles from here. The diving there must be one of the best in the pacific and we will check it out sometime.
As you can see in one image, the Suvarov already got decorated and ready for Christmas. The kids had a lot of fun engarlanding the whole saloon, hanging stars, balls and little angels. Viola spent hours cutting colorful stars out of paper and decorating the cockpit dodger. Otherewise there is not much reminding us of the year’s top consumption fesast. There are no huge masses running around on the streets, trying to get some last-minute gadgets, no decoration on houses or in shops and best of all: No stupid christmas songs !
To that effect, I want to wish all our readers and friends a verry happy christmas and a beautiful 2014 !
There’s not too much to do here in Savusavu. We knew that already before we came here and that’s ok. Gui is organizing the trip to Argentina. We all will travel there and we need plane tickets and visas for Australia (a pain in the a.. !!) In Argentina Gui will work on the upcoming collections for Coquito and the Kids will have fun with the grandparents.
So what’s the captain doing ? Fixing things – of course ! I can’t sit still for too long and there’s enough work on the Suvarov. Our engine still tends to overheat so again I took apart the whole cooling system. All the tipps of the boat neighbors and of Leon (the local machanic-guru) are implemented. The whole system is checked from inlet, impeller, all hoses, mixing elbow, water collector to exhaust. But the problem is IN the engine which is no surprise since the above mentioned parts were checked before we left Polynesia.
During that check I was quite confused that I didn’t find a thermostat. Now – with the proper manual I could verify: It’s indeed missing ! Luckily somewhere with the boat tools I found a box containing four used thermostats who after checking were all verified to work correctly. They just needed some cleaning.
The next surprise was the air filter – I wanted to clean it but – there is no filter in there ! Well. That safes me a little work. ;-) Next step: replacing the sacrificial anodes. That’s convenient because while doing that I can have a look inside the cylinder head and see wherther there’s any calcium builup. Next surprise: instead of a gasket someone used household silicone ! – On the front of the cylinder head !! The backward plate had no gasket at all. :-) Luckily we have gasket paper on bord and Gui made nice new ones for me.
Inside the cylinder head it looked a lot like a flowstone cave. Lots of stalagtites and stalagmites – and even some crystals ! What a beauty !! Well – and why the cooling of the engine isn’t really working well is clear now. After consulting the almighty internet I find out that it’s best to use 10-15% acetic acid to remove that calcium buildup. Unfortunately the only related liquid available in Savusavu is white vinegar. So I decide to take a little risk and use 5% sulfuric acid to remove the crud. I fill the (warm) engine with four liters of acid and let it sit until it stops hissing and bubbling. From the connection on the top of the engine we can see the CO2 escape. A nice chemical experiment for our schoolkids. The acid cleaning will continue for the next days. We’ll see whether it works…
While I was at it I also changed the oil, de-rusted and painted some parts, replaced hose clamps and hoses, etc. A nice little service for our engine. As you might be curious it’s a Yanmar 3QM30H with saltwater cooling. And as I had to search forever to find it, I safe others the work and put a link to the service manual !