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We’re back in New Zealand for the summer! QUIXOTIC made a fast, successful passage from Savusavu, Fiji to Opua, New Zealand in 6 days, 21 hours and 30 minutes. The first day out was a fast sail with stiff trades on the beam; the second day out was a calm motor-sail south into rain and convection; the third day brought rough seas with 25-30 kt winds as we battled a stronger than forecast frontal system that we ended up having to run from for 6 hours before resuming our southbound progress; the fourth day we fought our way into the high pressure system and tried our best to put distance between us and the front as we bashed south; the fifth and sixth days brought sunshine and was spirited sailing with consistent wind on the beam and just enough seas to keep us on edge; and the final 21 hour stretch was some of the most exciting sailing we have ever had, with long high-speed surfs, topping out at a new record speed of 15.6 knots!
QUIXOTIC did an amazing job and completed the passage without any major breakage, the only casualty being a ripped window shade covering on the front of the salon. There was also a half dozen squid stuck all over her decks; oh, and Alyssa got nailed right in the chest by a flying fish while sitting at the helm!
By the way, as you will note below, we ran the engines almost the entire time. This allowed us to make the most speed, keep the batteries charged up, and also allowed us to sail with much reduced canvas allowing for care-free nighttime transiting of squalls and wind shifts. It was the lazy sailors approach but worked well for us as it put much less stress on the rig and on the crew. Diesel is cheap but rigs are expensive!
But what a difference a year makes as the last time we sailed her down she was just being tested and now she completes one of the most notorious passages in the world without breaking a sweat!
It’s great to be back in New Zealand. It’s cold, it’s beautiful, the grocery selection is amazing, and we can’t wait to go hiking this afternoon. We plan to cruise the Bay of Islands for a few weeks before sailing down to Whangarei to haul QUIXOTIC out of the water for some much-deserved rest and minor refitting and upgrades.
Here are some pictures and stats from the passage. Hope everyone is having a great day!
Lewis & Alyssa
31 October, 2017
-Pomare Bay, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand
Fiji to New Zealand 2017 Passage Summary:
Waitui Kelekele Marina, Savusavu, Fiji
16 46.618 S, 179 19.755 E
Bay of Islands Marina, Opua, New Zealand
Total miles sailed: 1,290 NM
Rhumbline distance: 1,147 NM
Total elapsed time: 6 days, 21 hours, 30 minutes
Average speed: 7.8 Knots
Top Speed: 15.6 Knots
Average miles sailed per day: 187 NM
Average rhumbline distance per day: 166 NM
Total engine run time: 155 hours (94% of total passage time)
Average RPM: 1800
Fuel consumed: 145 gallons
GPH per engine: 0.54
Fuel remaining aboard at arrival: 55 gallons
Propellers used: Bruntons Autoprops
Water tankage at departure: 120 gallons
Water consumed on passage: 110 gallons
Water desalinated on passage: None
Water remaining at arrival: 10 gallons
Average wind speed: 18 knots
Lowest wind speed: 6 knots
Highest wind speed: 30 knots
Average swell wave height: 1.8m
Highest estimated swell height: 3.5m
Average wind wave height: 1.6m
Highest estimated wind wave height: 3.3m
Total (estimated) accumulated duration of squalls/rain: 36 hours
Small Issues: Torn window shade/cover from breaking/boarding seas
Air temp on departure: 88 F
Air temp on arrival: 62 F
Sea temp on departure: 83 F
Sea temp on arrival: 54 F
Total mutiny/arguments amongst crew: 0
Estimated number of times the bridgedeck slammed/bombed: a lot
Fish caught: Didn’t fish
Number of Squid we had to pry off the deck: 8
Number of Fish that flew into Alyssa while on watch: 1 suicide bomber flying fish
Hey everyone! It’s been a long time since our last update. All is great in the beautiful Fijian Islands! We are hiding out in a secret bay just off a black sand beach in the lee of beautiful Taveuni Island. It’s a gorgeous spot and only rarely visited by a few locals on horseback, who bring their steeds to the beach to cool them off. We are always improving the comfort aboard so today the Mermaid is tackling cockpit cushions. They are already amazingly comfortable! We thought we should share the scene. My particular favorite is the irony of her t-shirt slogan….. The second picture is the final product and the background is beautiful Paradise Taveuni Resort. Cheers! – L&A
It’s blowing the dogs off their chains out here in the Northern Yasawa Islands! The trades howling through the Bligh Passage between the two main islands had made for a tough bash north but excellent kiting and windsurfing conditions! We are patiently waiting for the wind to lay down so we can sail the 50NM upwind back to Vanua Levu and Savusavu; looks like we may get our chance tomorrow. In the meantime we can explore the incredible limestone geography at Sawa-I-Lau, where we are currently anchored.
Our friends, Ryan and Kristina, are visiting for a couple weeks. We have been having a blast – reeling in tuna and barracuda, kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, doing some boat projects and kicking back.
Alyssa has spoiled us all with her amazing cooking and the sunset appetizer spread is a highlight of the day. The sunsets have been beautiful and the southern wind has kept the temps and humidity down, heralding the arrival of the southern hemisphere winter.
Thanks again to the Van Maanen family for gifting us an awesome inflatable windsurfing board! I was able to MacGyver a fix for the rudder with some zip ties so we’re back in action! Alyssa was able to sail upwind all the way back to the boat on her first day!
We sailed from New Zealand to Fiji in only 6 days! Tonight we are motoring the extra 125 miles to Savusavu and will clear in mid-morning tomorrow (Saturday local). The seas are MUCH calmer now that we are in between the islands. We are blasting across the Koro Sea, motoring into the wind at 7.5 knots; the waves are about 4-5 feet but, after the big messy seas we’ve had this past week, tonight feels like we are on a lake!
We just had an exciting event aboard. It was just before midnight. The Mermaid woke me and said the port engine temp was slowly rising and was 10 degrees (F) higher than starboard. – We have a digital temperature gauge at the nav station that tells us the exact temp of the thermostat housing on each engine, this is how we were able to recognize there was an issue and then go about fixing it. – So, I got up and went into the engine compartment to do my manly duties and have a poke around. The water flow was very low in the sea strainer and the exhaust elbow temp was higher than normal and hot to the touch near the injection point. The raw water pump was running cool so that means we had flow. Hmm…. Alyssa thought it could be a barnacle stuck in the intake. Our friend, the Pirate Bruce, had a similar issue in the past so we thought it could be obstructed at the sea cock on the saildrive. So, I suggested we remove the hose from the strainer and try and blow the obstruction out through the saildrive. We elected the Mermaid to perform the operation (hey – it was still her shift!). She was awesome. She got in the hot engine room and removed the intake hose. There was very little sea water flow coming in. She then blew hard into the hose and after a couple attempts she managed to blow out the mystery obstruction (small squid? barnacle? small fish? who knows…) and was able to blow air out of the bottom of the saildrive. Once the hose was clear, salt water came rushing in. She then re-connected the hose to the strainer and we ran the engine – FIXED! Ample flow and a cooler exhaust elbow. Now the engines are both purring nicely and temp is constant. Good thing too because we have current against us in this channel and wind on the nose all the way into Savusavu, which we expect to reach by 0900.
Yesterday, while bashing our way into 25 knot squalls and generally nasty seas on approach to Suva, we heard a mayday call on the VHF. In four years of cruising I have never heard a mayday call. I had just got out of the shower after rinsing salt crystals off me when I heard the call. I immediately turned up the radio and grabbed a pen and pad. I got the boat name (Sea Breeze) but not the coordinates. I was so worried for them and knew we must be the only vessel within range because Suva was still about 80 miles away. I listened for another minute and then tried them on 16. After a couple attempts I was able to raise the ship “Sea Princess”. The copy was very faint and we struggled to communicate (they were 22 NM away). After clearly stating our name, position, call sign and confirming that they understand we are NOT in distress but we received a mayday call from the vessel “Sea Breeze” they thanked us for the information and asked us to stand by 16. I was out in the salt spray looking intently for any sign of another vessel. We also had the radar on trying to find any signature that wasn’t a squall. I was all worked up about going and finding this poor mariner in distress when we heard another call on the VHF. It was the “Sea Princess” calling us. We responded and then the radio operator began explaining that the mayday call was originated from his ship but was sent in error! I guess they were running a drill and some rookie sent out an actual mayday call on a handheld VHF or something. So, there was no distress and I got all salty again for a prank mayday call!
We have been at the Copra Shed dock for two hours. We are all cleared in to Fiji and the boat has had a much-needed bath! It’s sunny, warm and beautiful here! Lunch time!!
This was one hell of a passage. It was tough going. Hard on the boat and hard on her crew. We are probably not sailing back to New Zealand any time soon. We are trying to remember another passage (catamaran or monohull) that was been this uncomfortable and we are coming up blank. It was the seas that made it so uncomfortable – they were the perfect height and period to throw the cat around, and they were coming from so many directions. It wasn’t really the wind as we have had much more wind in the past with a much more manageable and orderly sea state. We left with GRIBS calling for light air with wind 13-17 on the beam most of the way and relatively calm seas; in the end we were dealt a different hand of cards. But hey, we made it, in one piece, and in record time. And we are very glad this passage is over.
Stay tuned for a video in the next week that you will definitely not want to miss! Here are some stats from our passage:
New Zealand to Fiji Passage Summary: Departed: Marsden Cove Marina, Whangarei, New Zealand 35 50.211S, 174 28.114E 15/04/2017 11:30 local
Arrived: Copra Shed Marina, Savusavu, Fiji 22/04/2017 09:30 local
Total miles sailed: 1,347 NM Rhumbline distance: 1,173 NM
Total elapsed time: 6 days, 22 hours
Average speed: 8.1 Knots Top Speed: 13.2 Knots
Average miles sailed per day: 195 NM Average rhumbline distance per day: 170 NM
Total engine run time: 98 hours (60% of total passage time) Average RPM: 1950 Fuel consumed: 132 gallons GPH: 1.35 GPH per engine: 0.67 Fuel remaining aboard at arrival: 56 gallons
Water tankage at departure: 120 gallons Water consumed on passage: 60 gallons Water desalinated on passage: None Water remaining at arrival: 60 gallons
It’s 0100 on Day 5 of the New Zealand to Fiji passage. We have 23 knots on the beam and are sailing at 7.5 knots under triple-reefed main and deeply-reefed jib. With the seas on the beam, we are taking waves and some making it into the cockpit. We are less than 90 miles from Fijian waters. Tonight reminded me of the sailors “black box” theory…
The “black box” theory states that every offshore sailing vessel has a imaginary black box. In port, every time you repair, replace, clean or inspect something aboard you put a token in the black box. For us it was new engines, replacing the chainplates, inspecting the rig, installing new bilge pumps, cleaning the port and hatch gaskets, and a long list of other things. For each of these tasks we put an imaginary token in our black box. Once your black box is full of tokens you put to sea and test you preparedness. Once at sea and the conditions turn ugly, the sea starts taking tokens from your black box. Big seas slam into the boat and water finds its way into the bilge, your new pumps come on. Big seas shake the rig and slam the sails testing your rig and testing the new chainplates – the rig stays stays up. The wind lightens but the seas remain and you turn on the new engines to keep way and lessen the stresses on the boat. Waves board the boat and splash on the engine panels – but we sealed them extremely well so no saltwater will get to the electronics or wiring. The batteries run low but we turn on the generator that we rebuilt and it runs well. The steering system works flawlessly because we greased the chain and pulleys and carefully inspected the entire length of cable. But the sea removes tokens as well; the worse the conditions, the more tokens it will cost. We have a list of items that need addressed while back in port, and once we address these items we can add back the tokens to our black box. The hatches and ports we cleaned have worked well and not leaked but are now salty and need cleaned again in order to get our token back. The bilge pump check valves need replaced. The rig will need a very thorough inspection. The engines will need an oil change, ditto the generator. So far, on this passage, we have managed to keep enough tokens in the black box to keep the boat afloat and moving well, with the rig up, and all her systems running. It’s very satisfying to reach port with a box still mostly full of tokens.
Made 178 NM in past 24 HRS. 1,037 NM from Whangarei, NZ. 133 NM from Savusavu. 64 NM from Suva. 29 NM from the Great Astrolabe Reef.
It’s been squally and raining for almost 24 hours now. We just went through an extensive squall that packed white-out conditions with salt spray in the air, 30 knots and breaking seas. We think we are poking out of the north side because we are finally seeing wind from the NE. That means we will be hard on the wind from here to Savusavu, but if the forecast is correct, it will lighten.
A very frustrating part of this passage has been the disconnect between the GRIBS and reality. On the GRIBS the weather looks pleasant – 16-18 knots just aft the beam, with no convection, moderate wind-driven seas, and sunshine. In reality we have had either not enough wind or too much wind, relentless squalls, long periods of overcast and rain, short-period confused breaking seas from multiple directions, wind shifts and generally unpleasant conditions.
But, we have made record time. We are in Fijian waters after only 6 days at sea and the boat is still running well with the blue side down and the stick in the air. We could clear in to Suva today if we wanted to. We have another night of sailing to reach Savusavu, but we expect to be in much better sea conditions as we will be sailing in between reefs and islands – our familiar waters! It’s funny – I was joking with Lyss that I see a billboard in Suva that says “If you lived here, you would already be home.” We will be home tomorrow.
We will send a final update and passage summary tomorrow morning on our approach into Savusavu Bay. We’re so close!
21/04/2017 0100 UTC 19 03.86 S, 179 03.67 E 350 T 8.0 KTS Wind: 23 kts NE Seas: 7-9 ft breaking (still) Water Temp: 82 F Clothes: Wouldn’t even consider it – too hot and humid for that nonsense
We are hauling ass. We have made 185 miles in the past 24 hours. We are 870 (hard-earned) miles from Whangarei, New Zealand and 310 miles from our destination of Savusavu, Fiji. We will be in Fijian waters by tomorrow morning. We can’t wait because once we reach the southern Lau Islands, the reefs and islands will break much of these uncomfortable huge breaking seas!
We have been running 120 degrees off the wind with double-reefed main and half a jib making 8 knots on average. We have had a few spectacular surfs with one awesome surf topping out at 13 knots last night! This passage has certainly been a rigorous test of how well we have prepared QUIXOTIC, and so far (knock on wood) she has passed with flying colors.
I had a major scare yesterday. Since we have had the engines off for about 36 hours now, I decided to go into the engine compartments to check all the fluids and make sure all was well. Starboard engine room looked fine, oil was fine, coolant was fine. I timed the waves that were boarding the port hull and ducked inside the port engine room and shut the hatch. I looked around and saw the bilge had a few inches of saltwater – hmmm. There was some dried salt near the aft end of the engine (near the raw water pump) and an accumulation of salt water under the rudder post. Are we actually taking on water? Oh sh!t!! I went and got a headlamp and some rags. I spent the next hour in the engine room (while surfing down seas). I carefully dried up all the water and watched intently for any evidence of leaking coming in. While I was watching for water over the course of an hour, the bilge was full again! WTF? How?? I then turned the bilge pump on and cleared the water, only to watch it rise again. Holy crap – the water is coming in from the very hose that is suppose to REMOVE water from the engine room (the bilge pump hose). Since it’s a catamaran, we don’t have the height for a vented loop so we have a check valve in the hose – guess I probably should have replaced that check valve – oh well, at least we’re not sinking! Add it to the list! QUIXOTIC has 5 water-tight compartments in each hull so even in the event of water intrusion into a single compartment she would be able to sail on just fine. The water-tight compartments, coupled with her thick closed-cell foam core, make her virtually unsinkable. So, I feel pretty relieved that I think I found where and why the water was coming in!
So, we and Q just have to tough it out for another rough night and then we’re home free in calmer Fijian waters! The winds are forecast to increase a few knots to 20-22 tonight and then lay down once we get to Fiji. We plan to motor-sail the last 24 hours, which will be really nice and should allow us to clean ourselves up (read: shave my huge beard) and clean the boat up before making port.
It’s HOT and HUMID! Finally! I missed how uncomfortable it was to be sticky! Feels like we must almost be home I am writing this sans clothes; the Mermaid made a comment about me eating breakfast in the nude for the first time since leaving the islands! I can’t wait to jump in that warm crystal clear water!
Wish us luck on what is hopefully our last rough 24 hours at sea.
-The Rough and Unforgiving South Pacific Ocean
20/04/2017 0000UTC 22 00.10 S, 179 22.75 E 010 T 7.5 KTS (we tucked a triple reef in and slowed down) Wind: 18-19 ESE Seas: 7-9ft with 10-11 ft SE swell Water temp: 76 F Clothing: Nada
Yeee haw! Making 9 knots with the big bright yellow spinnaker up! And in the right direction!
After yesterday’s update we raised full sail and put the wind and seas on the beam. It was rough but fast and we made good progress to the NE. The seas were still big and sloppy and we were slamming pretty hard. Also every time we went up and over a steep crest the sails would flog and the rig would shutter and my heart would skip a beat. This passage has been really hard on the boat and now her rig is getting put through her paces. Good thing we replaced those chainplates because some of these violent rig shutters most certainly would have brought the entire rig crashing down with those cracked chainplates!
We have sailed about 185 miles in the past 24 hours but only made 165 on the rhumb line due to our course changes overnight. We are 700 miles from Whangarei and 491 from Savusavu. If we can keep this pace up we are hopeful to reach Savusavu by Saturday in time to clear in with Customs/Immigration/Biosecurity/etc. If we make it by Saturday that means we will have made the 1200 mile passage in under 7 days – that’s our current goal.
Here’s an update from the Mermaid about her eventful night shift:
Blonde Mermaid’s Shift:
Last night started off lovely. The wind finally picked up from the South enough that we could put up full sail with wind off the starboard quarter. We were making 7.5kts directly towards Fiji. With the southern wind, it got chilly, so I decided to make chicken tortilla soup for dinner which I haven’t made for at least a year. It was so comforting to have a spicy bowl of hot meaty soup in the wind chill with the rough slamming of the waves against our bridge deck. It was exactly what we needed for a good nights sleep. After sunset I cleaned up as Lewis went to bed. We had tucked in a single reef for the night but still had full jib out. Over the next hour and a half, the usually starry and clear skies turned pitch black. The moon wasn’t set to rise for another hour and I couldn’t see anything. At night, we keep the radar on nonstop, so I could easily see that squall lines were approaching us on all sides. I considered tucking in another reef, but the winds had died to only 10kts apparent. I was forced to turn upwind, with a heading more south of Minerva that I wanted to go. I didn’t want to turn on the engines just yet. We have enough fuel to motor another day and a half, but the winds are expected to lessen on our approach to Fiji, so we have to conserve the last of it for then. The last squall I was in had little to no wind effect and just a lot of rain. I was hopeful that this squall line would bring a little more so I could turn back downwind and ride it in the right direction. I wish I had been more conservative. As I kept adjusting the wind angle to keep the sails full, all of a sudden the wind hit. As each second passed, the wind meter increased by a knot, the wind rose from 15 to 20 to 25 to 30 inside of a minute! The autopilot couldn’t adjust fast enough and brought the wind quickly on the beam. The boat rocketed forward bringing the wind forward of the beam as I quickly hit standby and threw the wheel over to port. With so much sail up, the resistance was high but I was able to get the wind behind. I still couldn’t see anything but the instruments and the compass so I had to focus on which way the boat was facing, making sure I didn’t cross through the wind and accidentally jibe the nearly full main. I turned on the engines to make sure they were warm if I needed them, plus once the squall passed I knew the wind would die. I heard the jib flogging and turned on my headlamp onto the red light to see that it was being completely shadowed by the enormous main, even in the 30kts we were sailing. I tried to put the autopilot set on a wind angle so I could quickly furl in the jib but kept having to run back every few seconds to take over as it was getting overpowered. Did I mention that it started dumping rain as soon as the wind hit? I was drenched. I had my Marmot windbreaker/rain jacket on, but it has been so used over the past 4 years of cruising the tropics, that the seams have disintegrated and is no longer waterproof. My fleece underneath, soaked, my comfortable yoga pants that I cannot live without on passage, drenched. I brought the engines up to try and bring down the apparent wind. This squall was the first of the long line aiming right at us and I wanted to get the main down. The jib is much easier to manage and furl in high winds and the main is, in my opinion, unnecessary when going downwind. It was extremely difficult to get the main down with wind in the sail. I briefly put the wind on the beam to get some slack in the halyard enough to drop it sloppily over the side of the boat. I then centered the boom, tied the preventer tight so it couldn’t jerk from side to side and throw my balance. I clipped in to the jacklines, and climbed up the cabin top to tuck everything into the sail cover. My red light started to flicker then change to bright white light, blinding me, then red, then flashing white. This thing is supposed to be water resistant, right? It’s brand new! I wrapped the headlamp inside in a towel, I’m dripping and am in no state to open up the electronics right now. The wind all of a sudden died to 3 knots, swirling around the mast. For the next hour and a half it was more rain but zero wind. The moon finally rose and I could see the dark patches of clouds surrounding us. The wind slowly came back and I sailed much more conservatively, making 6 knots under full jib in 15kts of wind. I woke Lewis up for his shift, gave him a debrief, told him where the squalls were and turned in, totally exhausted!
Wish us fair winds and CALM(ing) seas!
19/04/2017 0100 UTC 24 56.698 S, 179 10.188 E 014T 8-9 KTS Wind: 15 SE Seas: 7-11 FT mixed wind waves/swell Water temp: 76 Clothes: Almost optional. But Board Shorts and T-shirt prevail for now
We have sailed 170 nautical miles in the past 24 hours. We are 530 nm from Whangarei and 660 nm from Savusavu.
I had a bright idea to get us far enough east to catch the 20 knot winds that were forecast to blow alongside a low….what could possibly go wrong? Well we did find the wind last night and we also found some horrible washing machine cross seas that have been punishing me ever since. That low must have kicked up some decent seas because they are short, steep and from two directions mixed in with the regular 20 knot wind waves. It’s making for some brutal progress. I gave the engines a rest last night and we drifted downwind at 5-6 knots under full jib. The seas would raise us up then break and slam into the leeward hull and shake the bridgedeck violently. Then we would surf down a wave then get caught in a trough then the same peak, break, slam again. This repeated itself all night until this morning when we thought it was just too hard on the boat so we turned the engines back on to keep up pace with the waves and try to reduce the number of big slams. Now we are surfing at 8-9 knots down the wave faces but still getting stuck in the troughs going 6 kts, the engines work hard to pull us out and then we go over the cresting peaks, some break and some don’t, then we race down the next face at 8-9. The impacts are less violent at speed but the funny thing is that now we are going too fast to use the jib much. The jib luffs when we surf but fills in the troughs so we still have it out. We thought about flying the asymmetrical spinnaker but the motion is too quick when we rock over the crests of the breaking waves so we haven’t tried to fly it yet.
We were heading NNE to Minerva but that put the mixed seas too much on the beam so now we are heading north. May not be able to make Minerva unless these seas lay down by tomorrow. There is also some southbound current here that is aiding and abetting these seas in their attempt to break up our catamaran.
Other than the pounding the seas are giving our poor cat, she is running well with no visible or apparent damage. We topped off our fuel yesterday from jerry jugs so we still have at least 75 gallons in the main tank and another 30 in jugs.
Looks like these winds will stay stiff today and into tonight. Then the forecast calls for easing, which will be nice. I also see 1 meter waves when we reach Fiji – that will certainly be nice!
Last night I made a rookie mistake. I was in the head sitting on the toilet. Out of habit I reached up and opened the port to get some fresh air. Well about a minute later an enormous wave slammed into the side of the hull and funneled a huge amount of ice cold seawater into the port! I was immediately soaked from head to toe and the head filled up with about 6 inches of water and the shower pump started pumping it out. I was in shock but screamed from the cold! I was looking in the mirror as salt water dripped from my hair and my soaking wet long sleeve shirt. It managed to get on the ceiling and cover the entire head! What an idiot move Lew! The chaos woke the Mermaid and let me tell you – that’s playing with fire! I took a hot shower and washed all the salt off. And the soaking wet TP roll was tossed overboard. In hindsight it was pretty hilarious.
I have learned three things in the past 24 hours. First, stay the hell away from potentially big confused seas – that means any low that could kick up a short-period mixed swell. Second, our cat sails WAY better with wind in the high teens on the beam or 20 knots on the quarter; 18-20 directly aft is not enough wind to keep us moving over 6 knots with just the jib. Third, don’t open the port in the head in rough seas, idiot.
Hopefully our update tomorrow will tell of much improved conditions. Wish us luck.
-South Pacific Ocean
17/04/2017 23:45 UTC 27 46.7S, 178 39.4E 005T 8.5 KTS SOG Wind: 20 knots SSW Seas: Disgusting. Breaking. 12-15 ft from what seems like all directions – barf Water temp: 74 F Clothes: Board shorts and t-shirt