Saturday 17th August 2013 – Hassle Across the Anti-meridian –
see from the chart that we are now in Port Denarau having briefly forayed across
the Anti-meridian to Fulanga at the southern end of the Lau Group. The timings will suggest to you that it
probably wasn’t out of choice that we motored the 185NM from Savusavu to Fulanga
(having waited for a suitable weather window in which to do so without beating
into F5 winds) only to turn around two days later and sail the 300NM to Port
Denarau on the western side of Viti Levu.
You’d be right.
spent much longer than intended in Savusavu as various gremlins were chased out
of the electrical systems aboard Arnamentia. The biggest issue was the auxiliary
generator and that was eventually re-fitted to the boat, having had its stator
windings rewound by Savusavu Motor Winders (SSMW - proprietors Pillai and his
son Rahul to those who know Savusavu) on 24th July. The next week or so was spent contesting
an absolutely absurd bill for a job that all who knew about these things were
clear should have amounted to under $2,000 Fijian (say, £725) but initially came
to $6,800 (around £2,500). This
followed hotfoot on a discussion with a pretty cross US
cruising skipper who had just had his engine alternator rewound by the same guys
at about three times the realistic cost of the work. But, he had a tight schedule to meet,
all to do with air flights or something similar, paid up under protest and
departed. We wanted to leave
Savusavu as soon as practicable to get on with Fijian cruising. But, unfortunately for SSMW, we didn’t
actually have a schedule.
Battle commenced with our demanding a detailed
invoice and report. It arrived but
looked to be fiction. We demanded
copies of the job cards. They
arrived and were obviously wildly inaccurate both in terms of the hours spent
doing the job and in the cost of materials used. In reaching that conclusion we’d, inter
alia, taken detailed advice from other local people who do re-winding, Graham
Johnson (Ocean Cruising Club Roving Rear Commodore and a chartered electrical
engineer who has rewound many an alternator as well as being a great personal
friend - also moored in Savusavu at the time) and the Fiji-based suppliers of
materials used in such jobs. We
then demanded a detailed and costed materials list to justify the $1,880 worth
of materials for which we were being charged. Curiously enough that was not
immediately to hand. It arrived
several days later and it was clear that its author had had to exercise
considerable imagination in reaching a figure which, despite his best
endeavours, failed to amount to $1,880 by over $400. It was also patent nonsense. So, we requested copies of his supply
invoice relating to the purchase of the re-winding wire which accounted for
about half of the revised material cost.
This was produced under protest (confidential, y’see) and it was
immediately apparent that it related to well over double the wire that could be
engineered into our generator. And,
on and on it went. Fresh invoices
were produced together with revised materials lists. Still rubbish, albeit less toxic
rubbish. We were still not for
budging. The negotiating stance of
SSMW became shrill, to say the least.
The statements purporting to be the truth became more and more incredible
accompanied by rising pitch and volume of delivery. We advised them to calm down and be
prepared to negotiate sensibly on the morrow, notwithstanding which we now had
in our possession quite a collection of falsified documents which we had already
agreed to pass to the Police, together with a narrative – no matter what the
outcome of negotiations. We had
already decided that we would settle at $3,000 - around £1,100 (and not a cent more –
still well more than the job was worth) and SSMW had known this for days. Whether SSMW took our declared intention
to pass the documents to the Police as a threat or not is unknown. It wasn’t – it was a promise. There are several things that the
current Fiji Government is apparently passionate about – encouraging tourism and
stamping out corruption and crooked dealing feature very highly on the
list. So, the Police are really
quite interested. Whatever, SSMW
immediately settled for $3,000 and we were able to record that vaguely
satisfactory outcome in our narrative passed to the Police.
to other cruisers? If necessary,
get the thing out of the boat yourself or use one of several good automotive
engineering companies to do it for you (Faiz Khan of Cakaudrove Auto Repairs –
Ph: 885 0225; Mob 997 0076 did us well).
Then get a Labasa-based firm to do it for you. It might mean a $100 taxi ride to
deliver it and a $7 bus ride back and a reversal of the sequence to
collect. It might not. Many Labasa firms are well used to
travelling to Savusavu in the normal course of their work and do not charge a
great deal for doing so.
all this was going on we’d met Sergeant Sanaila Silimuana of the Savusavu
CID. Amongst other things he is the
liaison officer for the Cakaudrove Rugby Club and he was looking for
support. Cakaudrove is a
province of Fiji encompassing the eastern side of Vanua Levu (the northern main island) and its outlying
islands. It has a population of
around 10,000 scattered between Savusavu and some 120 more or less remote
villages. Drug-related and sex
crimes are something of an issue and the chief perpetrators appear to be young
village-based men. Employment
opportunities in the villages are limited as is information about those
elsewhere and what to do about it.
Under a Police-led initiative, rugby trials were held in January this
year and 34 young men were selected from 20 scattered villages to come together
for months at a time at a very basic training camp located in the grounds of the
Savusavu Police Station and their married quarters. They now comprise the Cakaudrove Rugby
Club. They undertake full-time
rugby training under a senior coach, drawn from the Military, starting at 0500
daily (actually it’s 0400 but that’s for ‘Devotions’) and take part in 15-a-side
and 7-a-side competitions (plenty of these in rugby-mad Fiji). They aim to qualify to represent Vanua
Levu against the principal island of Viti Levu. So far they have done remarkably well in
winning outright a number of competitions and scooping the prize money. That’s kinda useful since they need
money to feed and equip themselves – there is official support for the
initiative but no public funding and the guys certainly have no money apart from
that which they can win or earn in temporary labouring jobs organised for them
with local businesses (unloading trucks and so on) by their liaison
officer. Most evenings, when in
camp, the group will also hear, from relevant experts/authorities, presentations
which range from crime in their areas, drug abuse, sexual responsibility,
employment prospects and how to get help in training for and obtaining
jobs. Und so weiter. The hope is that when they break camp
and return to their villages between the various series of competitions they
take back a more hopeful, socially responsible and positive message. And, of course, encourage others to come
forward next January for the 2014 squad trials.
been very impressed by Jamie and Lucy Telfer (Royal Thames Yacht Club, no less)
aboard their yacht Bamboozle.
Whilst in Savusavu, Jamie had contacted all his rugby playing mates with
a proposition that, since they were happy to spend £75 on a ticket to
Twickenham, they might consider sending him £50 to kit out one of these players
with shirt, socks and shorts. The
result is a very smart 15-a-side strip worn by guys who have possibly never
owned a new bit of clothing in their lives. So, we got involved, visiting them
during training, seeing the Spartan conditions in which they live, buying them
food and athletic bandages, watching them play and addressing them on the eve of
the latest 7-a-side competition (Good Lord! But, Carol in her short ‘Ra, ra, up and
at ‘em’ address got a great round of applause when she said that she’d always
support Fiji except when they
were playing Wales). Anyway the address must have worked
because one team won the competition and a second won the plate. Altogether they scooped $4,400 which
will keep the 34 of them in food for a few weeks at least.
The Cakaudrove Rugby Squad – splendid in
their new strip and some of the old ones
Referees, like artillery, lend dignity to
what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl.
Nice yellow wellies, ref
of course, it’s all very hand-to-mouth.
Jon felt that the most useful thing he could do was to draft a publicity
notice or flier for Sanaila to use in engaging the interest and support of the
peripatetic cruising community.
That done it now remains to be seen how well they manage to distribute
and display it. We tried obtaining
a Paypal account for the Club to make things easier but Paypal will not play
ball with Fijian currency. Perhaps
some other cruiser will pick up the matter and chase this one down – possibly
using Paypal and an Australian bank as intermediary. These guys deserve help but often do not
know how to go about getting it. No
Fijian policeman will dare to accept cash in hand but there is a kosher Club
bank account and a properly appointed treasurer. But, a convenient way needs to be found
to get donations into the account.
all the work on the generator and subsequent invoice battles were going on, we
did not feel we could spend much time away from Arnamentia. We got to know the small town of
well. Carol made friends with
several of the ladies in the market.
She was particularly touched and upset when one of them, Nandani, told
her one afternoon that she had been for a breast cancer related operation only
that morning. There are probably
not many women in the West who would be back working on their stall only a few
hours later. We had met Nandani’s
husband and twins – a three year old boy and girl at the summer fair and do hope
that there will be good news for Nandani when results are back next
Savusavu is blessed with several hot springs and many of the locals exploit them
to the full, cooking all manner of things in the boiling water. Breadfruit is the most popular food of
choice, though the crew of Arnamentia have yet to acquire a taste for this
somewhat stodgy vegetable, however it is cooked!
Yum – breadfruit cooking in old sacking!
way to the hot
springs, one passes the Savusavu Disaster Preparedness
Centre. As you can see, these guys
are ready for anything!
Message size restrictions mean that we
have split this post into two parts.
Read on at Part 2.