Frank Goes to Fiji

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fiji siren1Fiji Siren – The Journey Begins

YES YES YES the Fiji Siren has arrived! But the building of the boat and the sailing to Fiji didn’t happen overnight, in fact from the moment of laying down the keel until our arrival in Fiji took a little over 18 months. For the people that didn’t hear that much from me during this time, here’s my story about the traditional building of a Siren Fleet Liveaboard and the 4000nm journey from Indonesia to Fiji.

first cutOn the 4th of April 2012 the building of the Fiji Siren commenced with a traditional ceremony, then the head carpenter began to cut the huge piece of ironwood, 22.1m long x 35cm high x 35cm wide, entirely by hand. This first cut had to be non-stop to make sure the boat has good luck in it’s liveaboard life. With this 20 minute sweaty event successfully completed the building could begin. Thousands upon thousands of working hours would follow, we would use over 15000 hot dip galvanized bolts along with hundreds of kilos of nails and of course plenty of wood! The whole was skillfully put together by the best traditional Bugis craftsmen and the boat was ready for launching.

goatThis again called for another traditional ceremony. So Haji, the boat builder, my Dad and I descended to the yacht’s engine room with the local Imam, bringing with us a goat, a chicken and a massive “Rambo knife”. The Imam proceeded to cut the throats of the animals, collect the blood and put on places all over the boat….. Which as we all know will bring luck to the vessel. When that was done the goat and chicken were slaughtered for consumption and brought to the house of the boat builder, where all the wives of the carpenters that built the yacht, as well as my Mum, were ready and waiting to cook the feast for our big launch party.

ceremonyHaving seen this already 6 times it still fascinates me! The big launching day began at 8am with Haji and his wife in beautiful clothes, 20 carpenters and their families totaling around 40 people, all the kids running around, plenty of food and 6 Imams, who would read non-stop for 3hrs the holy Koran in the fastest speed you have ever heard! The goat legs (the poor goat from the day before) were hung on the bow and on the stern, as it is said this will help with the launching and also helps when the boat is afloat so it can jump over the waves. Next time when you are on one of the Siren Fleet yachts have a look and you might still see them! For sure those coming on the first trips in Fiji will.

launchThe carpenters then proceeded to launch the boat cm by cm and all by hand; it took a total of 3.5 weeks to get the Fiji Siren afloat and then she was towed 15nm to a place called Bira, in South Sulawesi – where I have spent way too much time the last 7 years :). For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting, Bira has 4 mosques, around 300 people, no good restaurants, only 1 TV satellite dish and the internet speed is non-existent. But the worst thing about Bira is that there are NO BARS!!! So people who know me a little now might hopefully understand what I mean when I say “I’m in the Jungle”. Bira was no pleasure cruise only work work work.

From the beginning of December 2012 until mid-July 2013 we were busy working on the interior, fitting out the engine room, kitchen, crew quarters, dive deck, cabins, salon and dining area. Some days we had more than 60 people working on the boat, which of course keeps me busy checking what they are doing and ensuring they are doing it right! Even though the Fiji Siren is not the first boat I have built, this has been always a stressful time and would have been even a lot harder without the help of my Mum and Dad, who have spent a great deal of time in the lovely Bira over the past few years, to help me. I owe special thanks to them both.

group14On the 21st of July our Fiji Siren was ready and we set sail. I was accompanied on the journey by Capt. Daeng, who has been with Siren Fleet for many years, our Fijian crew; Capt. Julian, engineers Clinton and Harry, as well as Rung, whom most of you will know as our Thai dive guide but who joined us as chef for the trip and who was busy each day making mountains of food for our super hungry Fijians –man those guys can eat! The route took us from South Sulawesi via Raja Ampat to the most eastern city of Indonesia, Jayapura; a journey of almost 1500nm across the Banda Sea where we faced waves of 4m plus coming from all directions. We travelled north of PNG, to the Solomons, tucking into small bays for shelter from the approaching storm. When we reached Vanuatu the high pressure that was constantly forming above Australia had resulted in 4m waves over the Pacific Ocean and left us stuck for 2 weeks on the island, unable to make the crossing on the open sea.

group12As I couldn’t wait 2 weeks for the weather to clear I opted to leave Vanuatu by plane to reach Fiji and prepare for the yacht’s arrival. Well leaving Vanuatu by plane was whole experience in itself! During the fIight from Sola to Santo the pilot had to make an emergency landing, but with no engineers around I had to fix the plane myself before we could continue again.

Eventually we made it to Fiji. But the Fiji Siren’s story is really only just beginning. Our superb crew is ready to start their first dive trips and I’ll of course be aboard for our very first on 26th September. Though there will be no rest for the wicked as they say; the coming months are going to be just as mental as the past 18. With dive show season starting again you can find me anywhere in the US, New Zealand, Mexico, UK, Australia, Europe and all over Asia… I hope to see you at one of the shows and we can have a beer together.

Enjoy in whatever you do,
take care, Frank.


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