We are very happy to report that yesterday saw the successful launch and trial sails of the canoe, almost a year since we helped Meli pull the hull out from the forest.
It's been a very busy week of long working days but the addition of Maunie's and Sel Citron's cordless drills and pretty much every last one of our stainless steel screws meant that final assembly was amazingly quick (five long days of work). By the end Damian and Graham were working on the 'lower skill' jobs, freeing up Mini and Lutu to do the trickier ones such as shaping the steering oar and making the rig. A blue plastic tarpaulin was sewn into a temporary sail (another yacht is bringing an old mainsail to cut down to fit) whilst some lengths of high-tech Spectra rope, salvaged when Sel Citron lost her mast a couple of years ago, were used as rigging. This canoe is truly a mix of old and new technology! The final job was to carve the names of the builders on the side plank of the deck, Meli, Mini, Alifereti (Lutu), Pito and Jio, whilst the names of the three boats who have helped in the final construction are also proudly there: Ithaka, Sel Citron and Maunie. It really was a team effort and Jio surprised us with a presentation of beautifully carved bowls in the shape of Maunie and Sel Citron as a thank-you to Di and Kerry for the regular supplies of hot tea, cake and biscuits.
At 10.00am a crowd of excited yachties and locals gathered on the beach for the launch and we had an hour of test sails. The sail is a bit on the small side (if you were planning to race the canoe) but in the 20 knot wind it was more than ample to send the easily-driven hull at great speed across the anchorage. Hugely impressive and we feel so lucky to have been part of the project; Meli would have been very proud. The day ended, of course, with a post-launch party. The tin shed at the landing beach was swept out (and its resident rat temporarily relocated) and food and kava was consumed, accompanied by great Fijian singing and guitar playing into the night.
It transpires that our timing was perfect because the launch day's bright sunshine has given way to leaden skies and heavy rain as the low pressure trough passes over us today. Good news for the villages as it should refill their nearly-empty water tanks and we're also collecting rain water for Maunie's tank, too. The rain will give us an excuse to stay below and edit a lot of video footage today! The forecast for next week looks a lot brighter so we'll head north around Wednesday or so.