“Goooood Mooorning Saaaavusaaaavu!” Curly’s voice boomed over the VHF radio in a sing song greeting. I looked at my watch and sure enough, it was exactly 8 o’clock in the morning. This morning ritual greeting in the anchorage of Savusavu, Fiji was like a rooster’s wakeup call.
Like all of the other boaters in the marina, we had left our VHF radio on channel 16, just in case someone else wanted to reach us.
“Switch your radio to channel 68!” Curly announced, “We’ll be starting a shortened version of our morning radio net in just a few moments!
We’ll keep it short for all of you who are planning to watch the America’s Cup sailing races!” His loud voice seemed a bit overly exuberant considering the early morning hour.
I had listened to the VHF net the morning before and wondered if anything would be different today. I had already introduced our boat and kids over the radio and even requested help locating some electronic charts for our navigation equipment. With nothing better to do in the morning I switched the radio over to the new channel and listened half heartedly to the morning Net.
Curly’s musical voice read out the local weather forecast which was welcome news. It was slightly different from yesterday and proposed some sunny skies for the day. Already I had gained some valuable information for the day. I guess it was worthwhile after all. I really wasn’t interested in the upcoming events that were announced next, perhaps it would interest some of the other yachties. Somehow learning to dance and “swing my hips” to South American music for exercise was not up my alley.
“Due to a lack of interest this week, this evenings’ Fiji navigation course will be cancelled. We needed a minimum of five students so we will put it off until next week.”
“Darn” I thought to myself, I really needed some help figuring out where to go and how to get around Fiji. These waters and their coral reefs are like a labyrinth of roadblocks. I guess I would have to ask some of the other boaters who took the course last week for some tips on getting around. We only have two weeks to explore the 300 islands of Fiji and I was in desperate need of help.
“Is there anyone that needs anything or has something to say?” Curly questioned over the radio before falling silent for a moment. I had responded to the question only yesterday without any luck and wondered if there was any point in trying again. Within a second one of the boaters said their name and waited.
For the past two months I had been trying to figure out a way to get the electronic charts of Australia for our navigation equipment. In Tonga, I put it out to the radio net a few times and I had even searched online when we were in American Samoa. I just didn’t know how on earth I could order something and have it shipped to Fiji before we were to leave. Not only that but we really didn’t have any idea on where in Fiji we were going next. The Australian Navionics charts were around $300 and that didn’t even include shipping to an unreliable second world country.
What the heck, “Far and Away” I announced over the radio, indicating I too had something again to say.
Curly let the other boater go first. “We are looking for some PVC glue to patch up our dinghy. We have the patch but not the glue. Can anyone help us?” There was a pause while everyone waited. In normal circumstances such as when we were in California, this need would seem like trivial matters but to a sailboat stuck out in the middle of the Pacific, far away from large cities and first world commerce, I understood how big a deal their need was. But I have found that the yachties do tend to stick together and help each other out whenever possible so I listened intently as everyone paused to listen or search through their mind on if they had some glue on hand.
“I can help you.” announced one boater. They stated the name of their boat and said, “Come on by and pick up the glue. We’d be happy to lend you some.”
I thought “what goes around, comes around”. Every boater knows that while they may not need help today, you never know what it will be like tomorrow. In fact it doesn’t matter what the size of your boat is, how much it is worth or even your own personal net worth, boaters like to help each other out. I love being part of this community.
“Far and Away”, Curly bellowed. It was my turn once again. I fumbled for the microphone thinking about my request yesterday. Nobody had replied to my request for electronic charts of Australia and in only 3 or four weeks our plans were to be sailing there. I was desperate and if we couldn’t get electronic charts we would at least need some on paper.
“We are looking for a Raymarine, Navionics compact flash chip with the charts for Australia” I announced hardly expecting a response, so I added, “or some paper charts as backup.” While I had a very general chart I really would need something with more detail if digital charts could not be found. There is no way I was going to be able to navigate around the rocks and reefs in the 1000 miles between Vanuatu and Australia with what I had.
Within a moment our neighbour on Kokomo popped his head out of his cabin and hollered over to us, “Let me know if you need any paper charts, I may have some extras.”
“Thanks” I shouted back, “if I don’t find some digital charts I’ll come by.”
It was only a second later that the magical words I had been waiting for came through the radio “We may have a spare memory card of Australia’s charts!” Stunned I kept listening, “We are on our boat attached to the wharf at the Copra Shed Marina. Come by and have a look at what we’ve got. We’ll see if we can help you out.” I was absolutely elated and had to reconfirm their boat name as I had missed it the first time around.
I looked over my shoulder to the docks that were only 30 feet away from us wondering which boat exactly it was that was offering to help out. For months I had been wondering how I was going to navigate our family along the Australian coast and now one of these boats right in front of me might just hold the answer to our problem. Their boat was only a minute away, right here in front of me.
After paddling our dinghy over to Kokomo to discover that they couldn’t find their Australia paper charts, I headed over in the direction of this other boat. It only took me a minute to find them on the far side of the docks. “Hello”, I called out to the quiet sailboat. There was noone in sight and it is taboo to go onto anyone’s vessel without first having permission or being invited.
“Are you the person looking for the electronic charts?” the gentleman called as he popped his head out through the doorway to the cockpit.
“Yes, it’s me.” I said with excitement in my voice. “I’m the one looking for the charts of Australia. Do you have one?”
“I’ll get my wife.” he said before calling down to her in the depths of their boat.
Within a minute the lady of the boat brought up a small box of about
15 memory cards containing charts for the various areas they had sailed in over the past few years. They were seasoned sailors and by the looks of their charts had been sailing all throughout the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. She fumbled though the little computer chips and explained “Many of our cards are geographically doubled up in certain areas. I think we have duplicate charts for Australia because the first one we bought only included the North and East Coast of Australia. The next one we bought included both Australia and parts of Asia”.
This was perfect for us, we only needed Australia’s East coast. After about 15 minutes of going through their various chips, we selected two possibilities. Unfortunately pushing and pulling the chips in their equipment caused nothing to show up for any areas of Australia. “I hope we didn’t wreck anything.” she said. It looks like I may need to reset our electronics to try to get it to work again.
“How much do you want for the charts?” I asked.
“How does $50 sound to you.” she questioned. “Does that sound fair?” I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I thought I would have to pay $300 plus outrageous shipping costs to get electronic charts. Fifty dollars was by far better than I had even imagined.
She sent me off with two chips to take to our boat. I was almost giddy with excitement. I discovered that one of the chips only had the Cairns area which was not sufficient for us as we were heading for the Brisbane, Australia area. The second chip however not only had the East coast but also the North of Australia. Perfect!
I returned back to their boat twenty minutes later to return the card I could not use and happily pulled out some Fijian money. “Was that
$50 Fijian?” I asked.
They laughed because Fijian dollars are half of that of Canada, the USA, Australia or New Zealand. “Ohhh, we had meant New Zealand dollars” they said with a Kiwi accent.
“What’s the exchange rate” I asked. “I only have Fijian dollars.”
Within a few moments we estimated the total amount to be 83 Fijian dollars which I was only too happy to pay. After two months of searching, we finally had the rest of the electronic charts that we needed! We could continue our journey on to the land of Oz using the convenience of GPS’s and digital navigation. Although iIt was still morning, I felt like I had accomplished a months worth of work.