It’s a quaint throwback phrase from my Pommie origins, but it came to mind after a few recent incidents gave us a timely reminder that life in paradise is not always idyllic. Yes, the diving is superb, the scenery and the anchorages are by and large sensational, but living on a boat in remote areas comes with its own challenges. So, for those of you who think that the cruising life must be constantly blissful, here’s our version of a reality check…
On our most recent reprovisioning trip to Sorong, we decide to top up the water tanks as I have a stack of laundry to do (still trying to wash all those mouldy clothes in the wardrobes). Normally we use our watermaker for our fresh water supply, but we were reliably informed we could get potable water delivered to the boat, so we go ahead and add several hundred litres to the tanks. Lo and behold, a few days later I come down with a nasty case of gastro, and within a few more days Bruce also succumbs. It’s a good job we have four heads (toilets) on the boat! We have to resort to boiling our drinking water but it’s a constant battle to keep up enough supply of boiled, and then cooled, water in this heat.
Once we leave Sorong, we head to Penemu, one of our favourite dive locations in Raja Ampat. We’re here with our cruising buddies from “Jams” and “Aguabago”, and as before, we need to tie up to the rock walls as the anchorage is too deep. When we were back in Sydney, we specifically bought two wire and plastic-coated strops to use in these situations – we’ve found one, but despite turning the boat upside down the other one is MIA. Never mind, there’s an existing loop of heavy rope already there on the rock wall, we’ll use that for our stern tie-up, and use our own strop for the bow line.
We settle in for the night, but now, in addition to the gastro, Bruce is becoming feverish and sweaty. My immediate thought is that he’s got malaria again. But wait…what if it’s Covid?? I spend most of the night tossing and turning, worrying, and then eventually get up when I know sleep is not going to come. It’s now 3am and the wind has picked up ahead of a rain squall (a frequent occurrence at night here). I go out to check the lines and discover the rear line is completely slack – the rope loop on the rock wall has obviously given way, and we’re now only tied by the bow and lying parallel to the rock wall. Shit, shit, shit! Much as I don’t want to disturb him in the state he’s in I have no option -“Bruce, quick, you need to get up”. He valiantly launches the dinghy in the by-now pouring rain while I try and steer the boat around into position and he tries to retie the stern line to another anchoring point. Murray, bless him, comes out in his dinghy to help. Eventually we get it sorted and fall back into bed. Oh, that’s right it’s Valentine’s Day… Happy Valentine’s darling!
Thankfully, Bruce’s health improves and we both recover from our gastro.
Our next challenge is the dinghy. When we got back to the boat in December we noticed a slow leak from the bow valve, probably caused by overinflation in the hot sun while we were away. It became worse, and then within the space of a few days, both the other valves in each side tube started leaking too. What the..? There’s no dinghy repair service or spare parts available here, so Youtube is our go-to. We learn that leaking valves can often be fixed by unscrewing them, cleaning them and re-installing them. The only catch is that this is usually done in a workshop, with the tubes fully deflated. Not an option for us. In typical Bruce gung-ho fashion, he decides to tackle the problem, deflates the port side tube, unscrews the valve and… discovers that the backing plate of the valve is not attached to the interior of the tube, so it falls into the bottom of the tube. So now we have a valve-sized hole in the dinghy and the solution is somewhere in the depths of the tube. At this point I confess my sense of humour deserts me, and I end up having a complete meltdown – without an operational dinghy we can’t go anywhere. To his credit, Bruce manages to locate the backing plate with a bit of bent wire and we’re in business again. I recover my composure and help him tackle the other two valves, this time with me firmly hanging on to the backing plate. The fix works on one valve, but not the other two, so we now have to add pumping the dinghy to our daily routine.
And then the engine starter battery gives up the ghost. We buy a new one in Sorong, although we can’t find exactly the right one. Bruce installs the replacement battery, but the port motor still won’t start. We then go through an extensive, exhaustive, trouble-shooting procedure to determine if it’s the wrong battery, the starter motor, the relay, or some other issue. Finally, we identify the relay as the culprit and hey presto we’re in business again.
All these types of issues would be relatively minor, although costly, if you had access to repair shops, technicians, and parts. But as cruisers, resourcefulness is an essential quality, along with problem-solving, and a good sense of humour. Mine has been tested lately, but hopefully we’ll be back to blissful paradise by the next blog….