Exploring Historic Russell – the (ex) Hell Hole of the Pacific…

After ordering the engine parts we decided to sail over to nearby Russell. We only had one engine which made leaving the dock an exciting experience. The wind and current were conspiring against us but with Alyssa in the dinghy pushing the port stern we made it off without incident. We motor-sailed into Pomare Bay and dropped the hook at the entrance to Oronga Bay in nine feet of water. The view was beautiful with green hills surrounded by tall pines with homes tucked away in the trees. The bay was not crowded and we enojyed some peace and quiet for the first time since leaving Fiji – quite refreshing. The next day we took the dinghy into Russell and moored at the Russell Boat Club. Russell has quite the history. It was once known as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific.” Thanks in large part to the drunken American whalers who frequented the bay to re-provision and enjoy the local Maori “talent.” It was also the first European settlement in New Zealand. We enjoyed walking the museum and learning all about the colorful past of this beautiful little seaside town. After taking in some history we strolled the waterfront and enjoyed a delicious seafood lunch at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel. We like Russell – perhaps we can make it a home base for the summer.

While enjoying lunch Alyssa got a call about a job at the marine chandlery in Opua. So we made our way back to the boat, raised sail, pulled anchor and slowly (one engine) made our way back up the river to Opua to drop hook behind a gorgeous little island adorned with pine trees. Legend has it that a local farmer planted one pine for each of his children; I count five. It’s a great view from our ‘backyard.’ 

We are looking forward to receiving our engine parts later this week. We should have two working engines by the weekend. Just in time; our friends Brian and Liz arrive this weekend. We plan to head out and explore the Bay of Islands with them – it should be a blast!

Here are some pictures of the recent explorations. Hiking near Opua; Q anchored in Orongo Bay; the cool town of Russell; and our current anchorage in Opua. Cheers

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Fiji to New Zealand – Passage PICTURES!!!

Today marks one week since landing in Opua, NZ. A brief update: it’s cold; it’s beautiful; port engine still down but parts have been ordered (it’s the governor); hikes are amazing; prices are high; found a great mechanic; the marina was expensive and not to our liking so we are out at anchor now off Russell; Alyssa is job-hunting and it’s going well; our friends Brian and Liz are coming to visit us soon!; did we mention how beautiful it is here??

Here are the pictures we have been meaning to upload from the passage. Started with palm trees and ended with grey skies and big seas!

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We’re in New Zealand!!!! & Passage Summary

After my last blog update we sailed into the Bay of Islands under double-reefed main and 50% jib. Quixotic rose up and over the big swells as we slid into the expansive bay. The scene on the ocean reminded me of time spent offshore Monterey Bay in California and the rocks off the starboard beam were reminiscent of the Big Sur coast. It was rugged with waves breaking all around the rocks which had black mussels adhered to the bases. The water was cold and green and the skies grey and drizzling rain. It was freezing cold and no matter how many layers we put on we couldn’t get warm. As we sailed into the bay the hills came into view – lush, green fields and pine trees! Are those cemeteries? No, they were sheep on the green hills! We sailed deeper in the bay and the wind started picking up on the nose – 20, 25, 28! But the water was relatively flat and Quixotic took off at 7.8 knots upwind towards Opua. We dodged fishing boats, ferries and yachts out on a daysail. We drove hard up the channel actively managing our sails with each gust as they came roaring down the hills. The quaint town of Russell came into view off the port bow – with yachts anchored off its shores. Then Pahia to starboard with a white sand beach along it’s shores. Finally we approached Opua and the Bay of Islands marina.

Remember – we only have starboard engine – so the nerves started rising. We doused the jib then found a spot in the channel to turn upwind and drop the main. Once the main was down I bore off and kept our speed up with the one engine to keep steerage (we need about 3 knots speed before I can steer with the rudders). We passed a high wharf with fishing boats unloading their catch and ferries unloading their Kiwis (locals!). Then the Q dock came into view – game time Lew. Alyssa dropped every fender that we own over the side and ran dock lines. We managed to slide inside the marina and then drift down-wind over to the Q dock without too much heartburn and only a bit of a hard landing as the fenders took the bounce on the dock. We tied off lines fore and aft and spring – although we have yet to install our midship cleat – probably something we should attend to while here on the dock!  We hugged eachother for making it into Opua safe and unassisted!!  Then we readied the cabin for customs. They arrived about 30 minutes laterand they were pleasant and very professional. They took my pepper spray cans and much of Alyssa’s galley stores and her prized piece of coral she found at duff reef. Miss Mermaid did NOT like another woman in her galley who had the authority to take HER food. If there is one thing the Mermaid doesn’t mess around with it’s food, especially if you try and take it from her. It was especially entertaining for me to watch her subdued reaction to each item that was confiscated. The officials made off with a big trash bag on our food and we are planning a trip to the grocery tomorrow.

After clearing in we started all one of our engines and called the marina on the radio to send someone out to help guide us into our slip. A friendly Kiwi arrived named Don with a big RIB with 70HP motor – that will do!  We were tied port-to the dock but only had starboard engine and the wind and current were pushing us onto the dock – ya, you try getting off that with only starboard engine! I put the engine in reverse and tried to spring off the dock. Well, I got the bow off but as soon as I hit the throttle on starboard engine we turned to port and back to the dock….fail. Luckily Don saw what happened and came to our bow to push us off. Once clear of the dock and making 2 knots I was able to drive down the fairway along the side-tie/breakwall and to the end of the marina and our assigned slip. Q is so beamy (25′) that we don’t fit into any catamaran slips so we are in what is effectively a mono end-tie for a 80-90ft boat. Luckily they only charge by the foot!  Anyway, we made our way to the end of the marina and it was howling 30 knots out of the south – great. I reached the last finger, flipped a 180 and managed to get Q’s stern within 10 feet of the dock cleat. Alyssa threw the line to Don but if fell in the water – shit! Luckily he grabbed it in the water and tied her off. Now we were hanging precariously with stern tied but 30 knots pushing us away and wind chop just for effect. I put the engine in forward but she wouldn’t close the gap with the dock. We managed to get the bow tied as well but bringing Q’s stern to the dock took muscle and time. After 20 minutes we had her along side and spring lines run (we really need to drill holes and re-install our midship cleat!). We had made it and were safe….a little frazzled and very tired….but safe and we made it.

We then took our first walk in a whole week to the marina office. It was surreal to walk past marine chandleries, rigging shops, machine chops, laundrymat, etc. (all the services we will need to fix our port engine.) The marina office was extremely clean and professional and first-world, quite the shock to our third-world system. We tried to buy lunch but were politely informed the kitchen closed at 2:30pm. Huh? Get this – we even had our clocks wrong and thought it was 1:30. We went to the general store and bought some wine, cheese and we even found REAL AVOCADOS!!  We are now back at the boat relaxing and trying to decompress from the past 24 hours of stress. We will head to the cruising club this evening for dinner and to catch up with our friends who arrived as well today.

We haven’t figured out internet service yet and I am too exhausted to try and do damage control on the port engine. It kills me that she is full of saltwater and corroding as I type but since she is going to get a full rebuild anyway, does one or two days longer really make a difference? Probably, but YOU crawl in there because I’m enjoying my wine. We will get quotes and advice on Monday when the mechanics are in. At least everything can be fixed right here.

One thing is for certain – we sailed to New Zealand. We fixed a wrecked catamaran in Fiji this year that was a total write-off. We fixed and tuned her rig and inspected and replaced every cotter pin on every turnbuckle. We oversaw all her structural repairs and made all the major decisions. We did her electrical wiring. We got the engines and generator running. We ran sea trials and worked out all her bugs. We sailed over 1,350 miles of rough open ocean to get here. We just sailed one of (if not the most) notorious passages you can encounter on a circumnavigation and the only casualty was the port engine – an engine that spent two weeks under water this year; and the only part that failed was one of the only components we couldn’t fix ourselves in a bush workshop on a beach in Savusavu, Fiji – the fuel rack and governor. We were planning to rebuild that engine anyway. To be honest I’m impressed it held up as long as it did. And in the end when you sum up the passage, it was a success. It proved that Q is now just as, if not more, seaworthy than she has ever been.

Here is a passage summery of stats:

Fiji to New Zealand – November 2016
Departure: Lautoka, Fiji, 04/11/2016
Arrival: Opua, NZ, 12/11/2016
Total Elapsed Time: 7 days 22 hours
Total Miles Sailed: 1,343 nm
Distance Between Points on Rhumb Line: 1,072 nm
Average Daily NM: 170.5
Average Speed: 7.1 KTS
Total Fuel Consumed: 105 gallons
Engine Run Time: ~3.75 days
Max Swell Height: 20 feet
Max Wind Wave Height: 14 feet
Max Wind Speed: 35 kts True
Water temp in Fiji: 86 F
Water temp in Opua: 54 F
Air temp in Fiji: 88 F
Air Temp in Opua: 60 F (feels like the arctic with wind chill)
Water Desalinated: 75 gallons
Fish Caught: 0
Booze consumed: 0
Breakages: Port Engine Fuel Control System (and then we flooded it with saltwater just for fun)

Thanks for following the voyage! We are proud of the boat and in what we have achieved this year. I’m proud of how we handled each challenge and Alyssa continues to impress me with her strength and ability – she’s one hell of a sailor!!

Now please excuse us while we go celebrate a successful passage across the southern ocean. btw – we have also now officially sailed across the entire Pacific Ocean. Today it feels like it.


Opua, New Zealand

p.s. In the next few days I will upload some pictures and video from the passage. We have some great footage so stay tuned!!

Landfall in New Zealand!!!

After a week at sea we have made landfall in NZ – well this according to our instruments as all we can see is driving rain and salt spray. So given the conditions it is highly likely that we are in fact in New Zealand. Our GPS says we are only 10 miles offshore and 25 miles from the opening to the Bay of Islands and Opua, where we will clear into the country.

This has been one hell of a night (and it’s not over)! The cold front just passed over us and its very apparent by the icicles on the stainless – OK no icicles but they are so freezing!  The action starting building yesterday afternoon while just off North Cape. We lashed everything very well and stowed anything loose in the cockpit. We secured the main in the stackpack. We reduced jib to 1/3 and tied backup sheets. We rigged a drogue on a bridle and made it fast to the stern cleats. Then we put Q on a course of SE which presented her stbd stern quarter to the building seas. We were both extremely impressed and immensely relieved when Quixotic took over from there. The seas built to 10-15 feet and started breaking. The apparent wind was 20-25 but we had such little canvas up that she gracefully rose and slid down each wave at a relatively gentle 5 knots. Not once did she surf out of control and having her stern quarter to the sea made the cat and life inside surprisingly stable. It was quieter and calmer than when we were bashing to windward for the past week. Waves would break under the boat and crumble under the bridge-deck – a very cool feeling. We shut the sliding door and it became calmer and it was surreal watching the boisterous seas through the glass. We shot some video that I am definitely going to have to upload.

This is how she rode out most of the night. The conditions built but just as the wind was topping 30 and the seas growing even larger we managed to sail into the lee of North Island, which completely blocked any seas from the SW. We had the wind waves and swell from the north but Q handled them no problem. Again – we are so impressed with how well she and her autopilot handled those seas. The big skeg-hung rudders kept her in the correct angle to the seas and she maintained her course. If she started to surf our plan was to put the saildrives in neutral to get the autoprops spinning in reverse – this would slow us 2 knots. If that didn’t do it then we would throw out the drogue – luckily we didn’t have to deploy either tactic.

The tough-as-nails Mermaid took her licks out there in the driving rain to pull in the jib to a handkerchief and also fine tune our course on the autopilot. She was a soggy wet girl in her foulies – not her most comfortable state but if I’m not mistaken I caught a little smile from her when I told her we made it through the worst of the storm and it would only improve.

Our good preparation paid off. We came through the storm unscathed. We now have our one working engine cranking as we make our way to Opua. We should be in by mid-day. We will try and write again either this afternoon or tomorrow. But know we are safe and we made it.

- The exhausted crew of the good catamaran Quixotic -

14:45 UTC

133 T


Day 7 – Fiji to NZ – Port Engine is Toast

We are only 40 miles from North Cape and we have 6 hours until sunset. We are averaging 8-9 knots. We have sailed 192 miles in the past 22 hours, a new Quixotic record. We are surfing down breaking waves making like a bat-out-of-hell for Opua. The waves are breaking onto our swim steps and the wave heights keep climbing… We are running from the seas with 25 knots on our port quarter.

Now for some bad news: We lost port engine this morning. We thought we were being prudent by shutting it down after three days of running it non-stop – turns out that was a huge mistake. We wanted to check the oil level and also dump the coolant back in. We let it cool down for an hour and then topped off the oil and coolant. When we tried to start it it wouldn’t fire. I checked the most obvious things first like the stop lever control and the fuel. I thought the main racor may be getting plugged up so we changed that to no effect. I then went through the process of bleeding the system and had fuel at the injection pump but not at the injectors when cranking (I had them cracked open). We were having issues with the governor hunting lately and I think there is an issue in the fuel control rack and possibly also with the stop lever. This is preventing fuel from being delivered to the injectors. Well in our haste I broke open yet another knuckle and shortly after that I went on tilt and then it was curtains for the port engine. While we were cranking it to get the fuel to bleed out at the injectors we totally forgot about backflow from the raw water system and when we saw sea water dribbling out of the air intake we knew it was game over for that engine. A stupid mistake on our part. The engine now has sea water in it for the second time this year….it was the one underwater in the cyclone. I flipped the decomps and turned the engine over by hand to get the water out of the cylinders. I still can’t get fuel to the injectors no matter what I do. The other strange thing is there is no signal from the oil pressure sensor when I turn the key, but the oil level is fine…?  So we closed off the seawater intake and turned off power. That engine is dead and will need a full rebuild when in port.

We put the spinnaker up so we can maintain speed while working on the engines. But we knew it was time to douse the kite when we went surfing down a wave at 12.6 knots!!  It was insane watching the foam spraying behind the boat as she wanted to round up. I was scared she could turn beam-to, the wind would catch the kite and we’d flip so we quickly doused the chute – not easy feat in 18-20 knots true wind. Our blazing speed has us only 40 miles from North Cape. We have tried our hardest to get behind NZ before the blow. It’s going to be close. I think we’ll be in the lee by 5-6pm and that is the exact time the GRIBS are calling for the heavy rain/wind/seas to hit us. Now that we only have one engine we have to be strategic about our approach angles and lee shores.

We will be rigging up a bridle and warp to trail off the stern if we start surfing too much tonight. We are hoping it doesn’t come to that but you can never be too prepared. The sky is looking ominous to the SW of our position. Tonight will be a battle for sure.

Getting into Opua tomorrow should be quite exciting with one engine and wind on the nose. If our one remaining engine keeps cranking until we reach the customs dock I am going to buy it anything it wants. I may even treat it to a rebuild with it’s brother.

Nobody said it would be easy right? Wish us some luck with the weather tonight. Hopefully the next update will be from the Bay of Islands.

Lewis & Alyssa

South Pacific Ocean
0000 UTC
33 44 S, 172 48 E
143 T

Fiji to New Zealand – Day 6 – Becalmed

We are becalmed! No wind! Rolling glassy seas! Making 7 knots south FINALLY! The weather is warmer and very pleasant!

All is well onboard. We have sailed 176 miles in the past 24 hours, making 153 miles towards our destination. We are 900 miles SSW of Lautoka, Fiji and less than 200 miles north of New Zealand. We have 265 miles to go before we enter the protected waters of the Bay of Islands. We can’t wait!

Looks like the high is starting to migrate east. We are beginning to feel some wind from the north. Only a breath for now but we anticipate some wind from the north by tonight. Tomorrow it should fill in from directly behind us and help us make some record runs into NZ. Unfortunately we’re fighting a 1 knot current and with all those southern winds and us sailing so far west it looks like there is no way to avoid being at sea when the next low comes over north island. The good news is that if our engines keep cranking we should be able to be east of north island, which will provide some protection from the SW winds. But we should have some excitement from the 30+ knot winds and driving rain that is forecast to come out of the NW before the front. I anticipate us getting clobbered just after we make it into the lee of North Island. We will triple-reef, clear the decks, hug the coast, and make like hell for the Bay of Islands!

Can one of our friends tell us if it’s safe to proceed into Opua marina and customs dock if its dumping rain and blowing 25-30?  I assume we can use radar and charts to get us pretty close. If it’s too hairy to come into the marina can we drop the hook or will customs freak out?  What’s the best tactic then?  Maintain our position in the middle of the bay until the rain clears?  Fore-reach just offshore?  Any advice from those that have sailed into Opua would be appreciated.

Also, can someone please send us the landlubber (dirt people) weather forecast by hour for Opua on Saturday?  I’m interested in knowing when they forecast the rain to come down so I can plan on how our visibility will be.  If you can send this tomorrow (Thursday in the United States of Trump) that would be helpful as the forecast will be fresh.

Last request to those that have been into Opua: does customs clear on Saturday?  Is there a cut-off time in the afternoon?  What happens if we arrive after hours? Do we then wait until Monday?

Today was busy. We hooked up our very slick fuel transfer/polishing system and topped off our main fuel tank from jugs. We had burned about 80 gallons so far and we just added another 60 to the tank. Our fuel transfer system saved a LOT of headache with transferring fuel from the jerry jugs. It’s a 12v fuel pump in line with a water separating fuel filter housing and it also has an algae-x device and strainer. So we bring the hose through the galley and Alyssa puts the pickup pipe into each jerry can. It then transfers the fuel through the various filters – ensuring clean water-free fuel – and then dumps it into our main tank. We were able to transfer 60 gallons today and we didn’t spill a drop (literally). I plan to permanently install this system so all we have to do in the future is run our hose and pickup pipe to the dock and suck cans from there without ever having to bring them aboard.  I’ll add it to the list as project #156…

We also ran the watermaker and both took showers. I badly needed a wash as I have waited 4-5 days while Alyssa has showered almost every day. I was starting to stink the place up and my beard was out of control. I feel much more refreshed now.

We have two lines out and are waiting for our first albacore tuna!  We have a Skabenga squid lure (thanks Bruce!) and a cedar plug out. When the weather gets a bit rough again the fish should start biting. They don’t like biting in calms…

We are looking forward to our downwind run into NZ. Looks like I’ll be able to fly the kite tomorrow morning and then we can go wing-on-wing by the afternoon/evening when the wind starts to strengthen.

It would be nice if that low took an extra 12 hours so we can be tied up dockside when it overtakes us. But if not, then we will triple reef and sail through it. Quixotic can take it…but is her crew up for another final challenge???  We are so close we can smell the victory!

Talk to you tomorrow. Cheers from Quixotic and her slaves!


South Pacific Ocean
0100 UTC
31 16 S, 171 06 E
170 T

Fiji – New Zealand – Day 5

We are only 350 miles NNW of the North Cape of NZ. We have sailed 168 miles in the past 24 hours covering a rhumb line distance of 160nm. The major issue is that we have only sailed 100 miles closer to our destination. These headwinds are killing me! They are seriously testing my resolve. They are only about 10-12 knots true so when I sail into them the wind comes forward the beam and we sail west….umm…trying to go SOUTH here wind..  We are less than a day away from Norfolk Island now and the weather Gods apparently want us to visit. I could motor towards NZ at 5.5 knots and burn fuel – we do have enough. But I’m a sailor and don’t care to breathe diesel so we continue to sail west-south-west. I guess a glimpse of the tall pines on Norfolk Island wouldn’t be a bad detour right?

I must be getting exhausted because I have managed to hurt myself twice in the past 12 hours. Last night while battling the abovementioned bastard headwinds I dropped the main when the wind dropped and the sails started flogging. Of course an hour later the wind was back so I clipped in and went to raise the main. With no sail up the boat was doing a bit of quick rocking up and down, side to side and in the process was throwing the halyard lines all over the rig before I could tighten them. Well, sure enough they wrapped around the spreaders and were stuck pretty well. I climbed up the first few mast steps and was holding on to the mast with my right arm and yanking on the halyard with my left. A larger set of waves hit our beam and threw me to port. As I was swinging to port I let go of the halyard and grabbed anything I could. Well, I grabbed the smallest line on the rig – the flag halyard – and it of course ripped the grommet out of the flag and the grommet came at my hand at 200 miles per hour and left quite a bruised knuckle. After grabbing the flag halyard I managed to stop myself from falling to the deck, but just barely. I was pretty annoyed so I continued untangling the halyard from the spreader – this time from deck level – a much smarter idea. Then I locked the halyard off to the base of the mast and resolved myself to motoring for the next few hours.

Then this morning I was at it again – raising the main. Under similar circumstances I was clipping the halyard to the top of the mainsail but then fell off balance and fell jamming my big toe in the process. What is it with fingers and toes anyway??  I’m a mess, I know.  I need to be more patient and careful out here or next it could be more serious than fingers and toes.

We are so painfully close to the middle of this high. It seems like it stalled a bit near us and has been sending southerly winds for what feels like an eternity. The GRIBS are calling for an easterly shift tonight before they die down. Then by tomorrow afternoon we SHOULD see wind from the NORTH!  That means we can finally sail SOUTH! Now, wouldn’t that be nice??  If the forecast is correct these are the last headwinds we should encounter on this voyage. We should be sailing into the Bay of Islands with winds from behind. I’m feeling spinnaker! Then wing-on-wing!  Oh ya babay!!

Thanks for letting me vent. I’m not really complaining as the weather is still very nice out here. It’s just frustrating that I can’t sail where I want to go!

Still looking like a Saturday morning arrival. That’s three days from now. We are getting excited to be in soon. Hopefully the next update is with winds from aft!

*** Midnight Update: CALMS! CALMS! We made it into the middle of the high! Engines pushed hard and moving at 6.3 knots SOUTH! It’s freezing and my big bruised fingers are numb! Alyssa originally ridiculed me for being dramatic about a “little cute grommet that hit my pretty finger” but she is now quite impressed with the damaged inflicted by said cute grommet. I’ll live, don’t worry ;-) Keep the positive thoughts coming our way so our engines keep cranking to get us to the other side of this calm and find us some tailwinds!!  New Zealand here we come! ***


South Pacific Ocean
02:21 UTC
28 49 S, 171 02 E
225 T

Day 4 – Fiji to New Zealand – We’re Halfway! …but we have Headwinds…

We’re more than halfway!!  We are 593 miles SSW of Lautoka, Fiji and 508 miles NNW of Opua, NZ. We have sailed 170 miles in the past 24 hours but only covered a rhumbline distance of 120 miles. The wind is back and it’s right on the nose. Yesterday afternoon was idyllic sailing with winds out of the west at 14 knots. We were sitting on the cabintop lounging and watching the flying fish. It was beautiful. Unfortunately it was also short lived…

While Alyssa was preparing dinner I saw a line of ominous clouds on the horizon. It was a line of clouds unlike any I’ve seen before. IT didn’t look like a squall line and checking the radar confirmed it didn’t have much rain density. It was hazy and reached high into the sky. It sure looked like it could pack a punch. I called Alyssa up to see and she said “White Squall” like from the movie. I would have laughed if I wasn’t seriously considering a white squall as a possibility. We quickly decided to reduce sail and reefed down to second reef on main and 1/4 of jib out. We turned on the engine and cautiously proceeded south. We had dinner and watched the squall line approaching on the radar. Alyssa put on her foulies as it was almost my sleep shift. I told her to neutralize the canvas and whatever happens don’t deviate from our wind angle of 60 degrees so the wind can’t put load on the rig. She did an awesome job and I watched from the dry salon as the squall line approached and overtook us. Winds rose from 18 to 22 to 25 topping out at 29 and then dumping heavy driving rain over the boat. She took over the autopilot and kept the boat 60 degrees off the wind and we didn’t stress the rig in the slightest. She yelled back to me while smiling “are you enjoying watching me??” I smiled as I sure was! Great job babe. Well done.

I took over at midnight and the rest of the night was a biotch. Rough seas slamming under the bridgedeck and tossing the boat around. Big short-period swells mxed with 20 knot winds. We were on the edge of the low pressure system and got a light smacking as it passed us by.

We are now motor-sailing over the leftover seas from the low and they are huge. We are climbing up and over 20 foot swells! The slop has abated a bit and no longer do the waves crash over the cabin when we fall off each set. The wind has lightened to 13 knots but frustratingly it’s still out of the due south – the exact direction we want to go. The more frustrating part is the faster I sail the more the wind comes on our nose! So if we increase speed from 6 to 7 knots we have to point 10 more degrees AWAY from our destination! So right now we are sailing 7 knots WSW towards Norfolk Island, just because I refuse to sail slow. The other reason is that the winds are out of the south on this longitude for the next 48 hours. But if I can get west of 172 E they start to clock more SE’ly, which would allow me to actually sail somewhat towards NZ. So west we go.

The other reality is that our rough night of tacking east then west has cost us at least a half a day on our arrival time. We are now dancing with the next low pressure system that we both don’t feel like meeting. Before last night it was looking possible to get in before any significant weather approached NZ this weekend. With last night and with this frustrating south wind it’s looking like a Friday arrival is not possible. It’s now looking like we will be riding the 20-25 knot winds out of the north for at least some portion of our sail down the coast of North Island on early Saturdaymorning.

Engines still cranking over and I have full sail up. We are doing 7.7 knots on a course of WSW and sometimes SW. Hoping to be making SW by this afternoon and SSW by tomorrow. The closer we get to the center of the high, the more the winds will die. Once they are down to less than 8-9 knots I can motor on a rhumb-line course for North Island. But with the seas and winds the way they are today I am forced to sail west. So be it. There is an east-setting current as we approach NZ anyway…

Anybody find me a solution to my port engine coolant overflow problem? It’s a bit difficult climbing into the engine compartment to dump the coolant back in while sliding and pounding down waves!

On a positive note its sunny. Stable weather the next few days should be nice. It’s also getting very cold! Last night while fighting the seas I had on pajamas, sweater and full foulies! It’s actually really refreshing to have the crisp cold air with the sun out. Looking forward to summer in New Zealand!

Well that’s it for today’s update. Wish us more favorable winds and no equipment failures so we can be secured dockside when the next low overtakes North Island.

***Evening update: What an incredible day of high latitude sailing! I raised a single reef main and sailed close-hauled up and over huge swells at 8-9 knots! It was like sailing over mountains and between valleys. The wind was high teens and the seas were leftover from the low. It was a very cool afternoon of sailing that demanded most of my attention as I was pushing the boat a bit. Just before sunset we reefed back down do our speed is down to 6.5-7 knots. The sunset was spectacular withe the sun peeking through the puffy tradewind clounds as it hit the water shooting rays out in every direction. The stars are out tonight. The seas are beginning to lay back down. Just in time too as we were growing tired of taking seas over the deck and pounding our way SW. We are now only 226 miles from Norfolk Island. Hoping the wind starts to clock more east soon so we can sail south.***

****Special thanks to Pirate Bruce for the coolant suggestions and weather info! Muchos Gracias Amigo!****

Manuia from Quixotic and team!


0105 UTC
26 46 S, 173 13 E
246 T

Passage from Fiji to New Zealand – Day 3 Update

Calm seas! Light winds from aft and motors on. We have made 172 miles in the past 24 hours. We are currently 475 miles SSW of Lautoka, Fiji and 610 miles from our destination of Opua, NZ. We have sailed 530 miles since leaving Fiji 72 hours ago.

All is well onboard. We are mostly rested and have our sea legs back. I have the fishing lines out. We have both engines on and ticking over at about 1900 RPM consuming roughly 1/2 to 3/4 gallon per hour per engine. Both are maintaining temp around 154 degrees at the thermostat housing.  One issue I’m having is with the port engine. Maybe one of you knows the issue?

The issue is that after long run times or heavy loading the coolant will overflow into the reservoir bottle and eventually will overflow. When I open the header tank/heat exchanger the coolant level is down to where I can’t see it and has been displaced by air. I then have to dump the contents of the overflow bottle back into the header/heat exchanger to bring the level back up. It’s all accounted for so there is no leak of coolant OUT of the system, but I think there is an air leak INTO the system. It’s especially apparent when the engine cools back down and it does not siphon the coolant from the overflow bottle back into the system. I have replaced almost all the gaskets, tightened the hose-clamps, replaced the fresh water pump, changed the radiator cap, but nothing has corrected the issue. When I open the radiator cap (after letting the engine cool) there is a small amount of pressure released so it seems to be air tight. Where could the air be coming from? I guess it could be a small pinhole leak in the head gasket introducing air but I am not losing even a drop of coolant and no smoke in the exhaust. I have also “pressure tested” the overflow hose and cap by blowing into it and it seems to hold pressure. I have no way (that I can think of) of conducting a vacuum test. Diesel mechanics out there – any idea?  If you have suggestions please email me at the address I sent in the last blog update. Thanks!!

But for the time being, I have the port engine running at a hundred RPM less than starboard to take some load off of it and try to keep the engine cooler and prevent the coolant from overflowing into the bilge. So far after 24 hours run time it’s OK but has risen to the “Full” mark while starboard is at the “Half” mark with more load.  Something I will have to sort out in NZ.

We made water successfully yesterday and topped off our 100 gallon water tank. Hot showers were had and the crew was much appreciative. The genset ran like a champ and my MacGyver water pump fix is still going strong.

The wind is now coming out of the west at 6 knots. This means the low pressure system crossing NZ is either right over north island or moving east. Once the system moves east it will be followed by a 1022 high pressure cell. This cell is the reason we left Fiji when we did. We are planning to ride this stable system all the way into NZ. Late tonight we will begin to feel wind out of the S (directly on our nose); then it will clock SSE and SE by tomorrow afternoon. We will sail close-hauled on a course of SW to our imaginary waypoint a days’ sail north of North Cape, NZ. We should be at our waypoint in two days(assuming no issues and our engines keep cranking – knock on wood). Once at this waypoint we are hoping the forecast holds and we get to enjoy a downwind sail into the Bay of Islands and arrive by Fridayafternoon, exactly one week after leaving Fiji, and importantly – before the next low arrives during the weekend.

Our fuel reserves are plentiful so no issues expected there. We wanted to carry extra fuel as cheap insurance so we went a little overboard on jerry jugs and are carrying about 175 gallons (75 gallons in jugs). At this point it looks like we will burn about half that to get through the high before we have wind from aft to sail again. But we have plenty to run the genset to keep those showers on tap!

That’s it for today’s update. I have to get back to watching my fishing lines and waiting for our first albacore tuna!

***Evening update: Wind and seas are back and the major issue is the wind direction. It’s blowing from due south, the exact direction we need to go. This will slow us down. We just tacked because when I woke up we were heading for Argentina….a long way away and not where we’re headed. So we flopped over and are now heading roughly SW at about 5 knots. Hopefully the wind continues clocking east or else our progress will really be slowed. Frustrating. To quote a line from the movie Master and Commander, Far Side of the World: “We can’t sail through the wind Buckley, but we’ll damn well sail around it!” Well that’s what we are doing tonight. Bashing our way SW around the wind. Onward and upward friends. Good night. ***

Lewis & Alyssa

On Passage – South Pacific Ocean

25 03 S, 174 20 E

Day 2 – Passage from Fiji to New Zealand

We are currently 775 miles N of our destination of Opua, New Zealand. We have sailed 350 miles in the past 49 hours, that’s about 175 miles per day – not too shabby if we may say so.  We have tried to slow the boat down but she apparently wants to get to NZ!  We had a second reef in the main last night with only 1/3 of jib out and she was still averaging 7.5 knots – upwind! This girl can sail!

Last night was rough again. I think we missed the main convection that was forecast but we caught the wind!  We saw lightning in our wake all night so we feel for those boats that are behind us. I’m sure they had an exciting night.  As for us, we pounded and slammed our way over the waves and bashed into 20 knots most of the night. It wasn’t very comfortable but it sure was fast!

A fun fact that we figured out was that when we put our dodger up (the window in front of the cockpit) we lose a full knot of speed!  When it’s not put in the wind comes over the cabin top and through the slot between the bimini and cabin and allows for more wind flow. We were sailing at 7.5-8.0 knots like this. I then add the dodger to block the wind for the Princess Mermaid’s shift and speed drops to 6.5-7.0 knots. I can only imagine how much harder it is to sail a boxy cat like a Lagoon to windward. They have flat windows that can’t be removed. It must be like having double the amount of dodger material up all the time. Anyway, back to the update:

Today finds us in the rain with sloppy leftover seas. The wind has moved off and we are motor-sailing south at 6 knots with one engine on. I am running the generator and watermaker to fill the main tank. We are down to 1/4 tank on water. Either I didn’t fill it all the way up before leaving (false reading maybe??) or we had a leak. I have since turned off the pressure water breaker and also closed a valve in the engine compartment that supplies the shower on the swim step – I think this could have been our culprit as I saw some water in the bilge of that engine compartment.  We will monitor the level more closely. It’s hard to do in rough seas since you have to go forward and open the water locker to visually inspect the gauge. Maybe we can add a remote water level gauge in the salon….I’ll add it to the to-do list as item #152…should get to that around year 2022…

But for now the water level is rising and hopefully I can top it off today so we can resume our luxurious shower schedule. As our friend John on IchiBan would say: “How obnoxious you Mega-Yachters are.”  Well, John, weren’t we suppose to drag IchiBan behind us while you lounged in the hammock aboard sipping an ice cold beer after a long hot shower??  Guess we missed ya before leaving. Sorry man!  Come see us in Opua and we’ll make things right. btw – Your berth is ready…

The weather forecast is still looking great for us. This rain should move off this evening. A big low is overtaking NZ right now and we should feel some wind out of the N feeding into it. That means light air from behind!  Probably not enough to sail but we have diesel so we will motor sail. If we can justify launching the kite I will surely do so. The forecast is calling for light air backing to the NW then SW and S before freshening S, SSE and SE when the high starts to fill in on Monday night/Tuesday AM. Then we will sail close-hauled again to an imaginary waypoint about a day north of the north cape of NZ. That puts us in a favorable position to sail downwind when the high moves off, the wind strengthens from the N and NW, and before the low overtakes us. The plan is to keep up speed and be in the Bay of Islands before we feel any wind from the west. So far its looking good. Keep the weather Gods happy will ya? Thanks

In other news, I am a very lucky man. I have been treated to some gourmet meals out here. Despite the rough weather, the amazing talented Mermaid chef has been cooking up a storm in the galley. Even when it’s rough she grits her teeth and marches on. I keep telling her we don’t need to be so gourmet out here and mac and cheese will do. But she won’t have it. Last night we had Asian stir fry which was awesome. Breakfast is smoothies and egg sandwiches with bacon! There is always a chicken salad or tuna salad for late night snacks. Yes, we’re eating well out here on the ocean.  I can hear John rolling his eyes again!!  Those dang Mega Yachters!  So Annoying!!  John – empty berth….why?  Don’t worry, I’ll freeze my leftovers for you ;-)

Well, that’s the update from today. Hope all is well with all our friends out there.  Feel free to drop us a line or two to say hi and let us know how you’re doing and what’s new. Our sailmail address is: [REDACTED].  Remember to send text only and delete any unnecessary text in the email (e.g. don’t hit “reply” to our message and always send a new blank email to us. We receive email over a very slow radio link.  JSlove (aka the Asian love Doctor) – email us, I have to ask you something.

Lewis & Alyssa

0130 UTC
22 12 S, 174 25E
176 T