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Vanua Balavu Exploration and Rescuing a Fellow Sailor in Distress!

We’ve been enjoying the beauty of Vanua Balavu for a week now. This morning finds us anchored off Susui Village to fulfill a promise made a year ago. The village has mostly recovered from Cyclone Winston but the church we attended last year is still a pile of rubble. The people are happy and smiling and all seems well here. We came to deliver clothes, school supplies and some toys for the kids. We also brought our friend a cell phone; something he asked for last year to allow for him to call for help and supplies. They were all very grateful for our visit.

The past week was spent in Ship’s Sound in the Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu. The trades were missing in action so it was very hot and humid with no breeze going through the boat. We spent lots of time in the water cooling off. There was much kayaking and exploring, some wakeboarding and of course evening dinghy explorations. We also knocked a few projects off the list.

First project was sorting out the cooling water overflow issue on the port engine. We ended up bleeding the cooling system, removing the alternator to get to the elbow that was a potential culprit for air leaks, adding coolant to the water heater hose run, re-assembling the elbow with new pipe thread tape, filling and bleeding the entire cooling system. We ran the engine, topped it off again and all seems well!  We ran it yesterday and it performed as intended so we’re hopeful that we solved the overflow issue.

Second project was a full inspection, cleaning and lubrication of the steering system. In our inspection we found a loose nut on the end of the steering cable – something that if left could have resulted in a serious accident!  We’re glad we did a thorough inspection as now the system is lubed up, smooth turning and reliable.

I also got the pactor modem and SSB up-and-running. I still need to clean the corroded connections on the ground plate to get a better transmit signal. I’ll get to that in the next couple days.

It hasn’t been all work though. After returning from the village last night we hosted John, on the sloop ICHI BAN. He was under way for 49 hours sailing out here from Savusavu. He is on a Yamaha 33 sailboat. A simple and very capable craft, John does without many of the luxuries we have aboard QUIXOTIC. He has a great sense of humor and upon arrival here in Vanua Balavu he sent out a blast email to his friends stating he made it safely. His email also included a distress call to the “good ship QUIXOTIC” that he was in “desperate need of a hot shower, meal and cold beer” he ended the distress call with “come quick I can’t hang on much longer.”  So we pulled anchor and moved over to the other side of the island to provide assistance. He frantically clambered aboard, somewhat dazed by the realization he made it, and once the ice cold beer hit his stomach, he appeared to come back to life.  Mission accomplished!  John was going to make it after all. We all shared an amazing meal prepared by the incredibly talented Mermaid chef. We had sushi with the fresh mahi we caught, Asian coleslaw, and chased it down with miso soup (thanks for the miso Rina!). It was a fun visit and we’re glad we were able to help a fellow sailor in distress ;-)

On a related note, I actually did help assist a sailor in REAL distress outside Savusavu. He was weary, tired and a bit delusional. He was nonstop out of Bora Bora and had bad fuel and a disabled engine. He was trying to sail into Savusavu but was not making much progress to windward. He called for help on the VHF, so we took a few dinghies 2-3 miles out to help tow him in. We put someone on board to help steer and take down a stubborn headsail. I tied along the leeward side and pushed with our 20hp outboard. This was all in 20 knots of wind and 3 foot waves. I pushed the outboard hard while getting soaked and after 45 minutes of wet and wild fun we had him in the creek and tied to a mooring. He was very grateful for the help and very frustrated that he “took on mud instead of fuel in Bora Bora.” We were just doing our duty to a fellow sailor in distress and were glad to help.

Today we will install a digital engine temperature monitor for both engines so we can keep a close eye on the cooling systems. We also plan to kayak over to a nearby island for a picnic. We are watching the trades closely and will set sail west when they clock to SE. We will put the wind on the quarter and sail 170nm SW to Suva to take care of some overdue business with immigration, banks, and foreign investment boards.

For those who didn’t know, we are planning to start a yacht charter business here in Fiji on QUIXOTIC. We anticipate welcoming our first guests as soon as next season!  Stay tuned for updates, new websites and special opening season rates!

Hope everyone has a great weekend. Here are some pics of the past week.

Maka Leka,

Lewis & Alyssa

Susui Island, Vanua Balavu, Lau, Fiji

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Exploring Duff Reef, Catching Huge Mahi, and mid-Ocean Engine Repairs!!

We are anchored in Vanua Balavu after three incredible days of mostly motoring over glassy calm seas and making easy progress eastward!  The first night was spent at Paradise Resort on Taveuni. The next day was an incredible 40nm passage along the windward side of Taveuni, viewing all the amazing waterfalls and catching two HUGE Mahi!  We dropped the hook on the south side of Qamea Island for the night and watched the sun set over traditional palm-thatch Fijian dwellings on the beach. Then early the next day we set a course for Duff Reef, a mid-ocean reef with a unique sand bar to anchor behind. The passage was 50nm and we covered the distance before mid-afternoon. We dropped the hook in 15 feet of crystal clear turquoise water a few hundred yards behind the sandbar. What an incredible place! We kayaked over and walked the perimeter, discovering mating turtles, turtle nests, prints, and sadly, some carcasses. There were also some lone palms to complete the post card picture!

The progress eastward was not without drama of course. You remember the starboard bilge incident – well that is still dry!  We did have an engine overheat issue en route to Duff Reef. Well, I was running the engines very hard to test the cooling systems. After running them hard all day and within sight of Duff Reef I had the port engine overheat alarm sound and so I had to shut it down to assess the situation. We quickly did some calculations to see if we could make Vanua Balavu before dark and it would have been cutting it close, but it was possible. I also didn’t feel comfortable navigating the reef-strewn waters of Duff Reef with only one engine and light to non-existent winds. So we cut a course to VB and I got into the HOT engine compartment…

I saw the water in the coolant overflow reservoir had overflowed into the bilge and the bilge had about a liter or more of coolant…uh…probably reason for overheat. Now, WHY did it overflow was the question. I looked in the reservoir and it was FULL. hmmm… still WHY?  I remembered that when I was first commissioning the engine I noticed a small coolant leak from the fitting that usually goes to the water heater (I didn’t have them hooked up at the time.) Well, in our haste to get out of Savusavu I hooked up the water heater hoses but did not add the coolant yet (I was going to do that later). When I was in that HOT engine compartment it hit me that probably what happened was the empty water heater hoses got very hot and heated the air inside the hoses. That probably allowed some air to be forced into the cooling system of the engine. In the process it must have forced air into the cooling system and coolant out. Compounding the issue was that when the engine cooled down it was sucking air back into the system instead of coolant from the reservoir. So, what I did was disconnect the water heater hoses; get another shorter hose, fill said hose with water, connect it from the two points on the engine that the water heater is usually hooked to; fill the heat exchanger tank back up, drain some coolant from the overflow reservoir, and get the engine running again. Mind you this was all with the help of the amazing, patient, and beautiful resident Mermaid. The engine maintained temp and wasn’t spewing coolant! We changed course back to Duff Reef and saved the day!

We are so glad we didn’t miss out on visiting the reef because it was an incredible spot! Check out the pics!

We are now in our favorite place in the world, Ship’s Sound, Vanua Balavu and we’re aboard our dream vessel. We did it. It’s now time to relax and catch up on some much needed R&R. Get out the hammocks!

Lewis & Alyssa

Ship’s Sound, Vanua Balavu, Lau Islands, Fiji

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