OFF TO FIJI – The Drude Sailing Adventure Continues

Oct. 16 Dispatch

Once again, the Van Dieman is underway on a major ocean crossing. She has had more work done to her over the past week than she has in the entire ten months we have been traveling. After returning from the states with tons of replacement parts, the crew and I worked non-stop, with only the occasional surf break, for a full week. None of us had put in a real days work in over ten months, and at the end of the week, we were all exhausted.

The number of things that have quit working on board the ship is unbelievable. I carried back all of the gear that I could to get her back to ship shape, but some things I just couldn’t fit into my bags. I did, however, come through with those things that were most pertinent.

At the top of the list of things to do was to paint the bottom with new anti-fouling paint. Of course, in order to get to the bottom of the boat, she had to be hauled out of the water. The boat yard I found was pretty ghetto, but they got the job done, and there was no damage to the boat. Back home, a sling system is used to haul out a boat. Two massive webbed slings are slid under the hull, and a crane lifts the boat up and out of the water. Cranes are pretty hard to come by in this part of the world, so the locals have had to improvise.

The procedure used here is almost the same as what you would see at any boat ramp in San Diego on a weekend. Boats are backed in and out of the water on a ramp, using a trailer. Usually these trailered boats weigh only a few hundred pounds–the Van Dieman weighs in at a hefty 22,000 pounds. Needless to say, I was a bit concerned about the strength of the rusty trailer being prepared to haul us out. A couple boat yard employees dove in the water with masks on to make sure the keel was lined up properly on the trailer, then an old school tractor started tugging on the cable which dragged the whole apparatus out of the water.

Once dry, the Van Dieman was perched atop a couple of rickety stilts, and left for us to begin work. The next four days were spent sanding, painting, cleaning and installing new additions to the boat. After day two, I was so covered in the toxic dust from sanding the old blue paint, that I could easily have been mistaken for a smurf. Next came the new paint, which I am sure is illegal in the states due to its questionable chemical composition. This too, ended up all over my body.

Each work day ended with a quick surf at what had become our own private little right hander. The dinghy was still in the water, so we had transportation to and from the surf. Nothing could feel better than a couple of tropical barrels after sweating in the sun all day doing manual labor. At night, we slept in our usual bunks, but the boat was now sitting twenty feet above the ground, and no longer rolled with the swell. It was really odd looking out the porthole and seeing the tops of trees, rather than the ocean surface.

We finally set sail into another magnificent sunset with our sights on the distant horizon. The moon rose full that night, and was so bright that I was half surprised that the solar panel didn’t start producing energy. The wind is howling from our backs, producing an impressive swell which always provides some nervous entertainment from the cockpit. I am planning for a two week journey, but with these strong winds, it could be much less.