The weather isn't great at the moment, drizzly, windy (currently we have 25-30 knots) and surprisingly cold. The possible window for us to leave on Wednesday doesn't look good so we're here for another week, which is really going to test our inventiveness in the galley, given our dwindling supplies of ingredients!
The good news in this is that Lutu and Mini are working on the canoe like men possessed. Having cut all the final components from the felled tree – the second foredeck, the side planks and top deck and the steering oar – they are now shaping and fitting them to the canoe hull on the beach near us. On Saturday, in spite of the rain and wind, they spent all day at it and have made huge progress. With some misgivings, we offered some 21st century technology to this traditional craft as Damian on Sel Citron had a good stock of black marine sealant; they were delighted as the seal between deck and hull is always a tricky thing to achieve with the normal twisted coconut fibre and 'putty'. We'll add further non-traditional components such as synthetic rope for the lashings of the outrigger and the rigging and will help to cut and sew a plastic tarpaulin for the sail. Lutu reckons we should get a test sail aboard the canoe by Friday!
Over lunch at Lutu and Bale's house after church yesterday (a fish curry which we cooked and brought in, thanks to a lovely 3 lb mullet given to us by Socce and Joe on Friday after a very successful fishing trip), Lutu talked about the canoe project. He had never built one before but felt confident that he could do one from scratch now. He said that Mini, who'd worked on 3 canoes before, had been quite nervous at taking on this project, left on the beach after Meli's death, but they are both enjoying working together and are determined to get it finished before we leave.
The photos, above, show the measuring and fitting of the Sai, the side planks of the raised deck, and the application of the sealant to the Tau (foredeck).
So, it looks as though there's a busy week ahead of us. We feel so privileged to be able to be part of this project and to be able to film and photograph it as it progresses; it would have been so easy for the skills of traditional canoe-building to have been lost so we hope that the interest that Meli's canoe is generating in the village will spur others on to build more.