Brief update – We rode out a storm in a marina north of Auckland and survived unscathed. We spent a night in the city and even managed to do some (free) gambling in a casino en route to a Doctor’s appointment. We met some circus acrobats who were sailing a 33-ft steel monohull that his Dad built in the 70’s. We dodged huge tankers and flew the spinnaker 40 miles east to Great Barrier Island, where we are for the week. We had a weather window to sail to Fiji but it was slammed shut by a cyclone that is spinning in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and headed SE towards NZ. We are looking at the next window that may come end of this week. If so, we will sail to Whangarei or back to Opua to clear out. This week we will be hiking and kayaking the amazing and rugged (and very cold!) Great Barrier Island. Stay tuned! Cheers!
After exploring Kawau Island – awesome hiking and even exploring an old copper mine – we sailed down the coast and anchored near Gulf Harbour in Auckland. The next day we sailed into the harbor to pick up our new kayak but the day went a little differently than we planned…
After breakfast we pulled anchor and motored into the marina and tucked into Fairway Bay marina, a small boutique marina nice enough to let us lay alongside to pick up the kayak. Well, once the Hobie dealer arrived we knew there was an issue because the kayak on top of his black land rover was yellow – not the red one we requested! He apologized for the mistake and we made plans to meet down the coast nearer to his store….so we took on some fresh water and tossed off the dock lines….and then everything went sideways…
I was backing us out of the side-tie in very confined quarters (around some beautiful and very expensive yachts) and at that moment, the thought crossed my mind that if we were ever to have a prop/transmission issue, now would be the time it would happen. I really hope it wasn’t my worried thoughts but a moment later I shifted the port engine into forward and instead of a gentle forward propulsion I got a hard shift into gear and a very violent shaking! I tried to shift into reverse (as there was another motor yacht less than 8 feet from our bow) and it wouldn’t go into neutral but instead it was a hard shift into reverse and more violent shaking! I wasn’t able to get the port transmission into neutral but I still had control of starboard so I asked Alyssa to look in the engine compartment and inspect the cable linkage. She was scared half to death as the engine was shaking pretty violently so I immediately decided to shut that engine down. I focused on using starboard engine and getting us out of there. I calmly (at least I tried my best to stay calm) said to Alyssa that we lost port engine, the prop was jammed, and that we only had starboard to get us out of there. Luckily, we had enough way going (forward motion) to slide between the docked boats and get out onto the main fairway. Once we were in the main fairway I radioed the port control for the marina and apprised them of our situation since there is a lot of traffic in this marina and we were now limited in our ability to maneuver. I also asked if we could land on an end tie to make repairs to our prop and they assigned us a location that I did not feel comfortable landing at. They sent us a small tender and he stood by as we exited the marina (to keep way) and came back in to come alongside the fuel dock. It was a somewhat crash landing on the fuel dock as we only had starboard engine but no damage was done and we were tied alongside without too much drama.
I knew immediately what had happened – it was our haphazard prop adjustments made 90 miles north of here when we dried out the cat and thought we would go above-and-beyond and “adjust the props”. My suspicion was that the blade I adjusted had tightened itself to the point of locking the blade and that was what was causing the issue on the port side – a suspicion that was later confirmed.
For those not familiar with Autoprops – they are amazing (when they work). The propeller blades automatically feather to allow the engine to deliver optimal load and maximize forward thrust at any given RPM and it also feathers to allow for faster sailing. It’s an ingenious piece of engineering, that was compromised by some amateur on a remote beach with the help of an impact driver and improper torquing …. more on that later….
So, as retribution for my mistake, I donned the dive gear and went overboard. Alyssa carefully had all the required tools lined up on the swim step (we rebuild an Autoprop in Fiji so were very familiar with the process). I removed the prop and once it was aboard we rebuilt the entire prop and replaced all the races and bearings. Once we finished the prop was better than it’s been in a decade. When rebuilding the prop we figured out that when I used the impact driver to tightened the locking nuts, the torque spec was not very high. This part is hard to understand if you have never rebuilt an autoprop but I will go on for those who have (Hi, Dave). I used the impact driver because that was the only way to get a “bite” on the tapered locking bolt that holds the blade adjustment in place (a regular wrench would just spin the bolt) . But my mistake was that I then didn’t follow it up with a torque wrench and tighten to spec. So my hypothesis is that the lack of torque on the set bolt allowed the blade to spin the hub and tighten itself to the point of locking the blade in a fixed position, which caused major issues for us in those tight quarters! And as a reminder – 100% my fault!
We carefully torqued each lock nut and bolt on each blade and after replacing all the bearing races and ball bearings we were very confident we had done the rebuild correctly. I even used red threadlocker – for good measure and per the manual. I then jumped back in the water and re-installed the prop. I also carefully inspected the starboard prop, which we will rebuild this year as well.
After fueling up (we were on the fuel dock already, remember), we exited the marina and headed south. The Hobie dealer was going to meet us hours earlier so we re-scheduled and he ended up kayaking it out to us in the evening! We enjoyed an amazing sunset off of Milford Beach, where we are anchored.
Looking back on the day, it actually wasn’t a bad program. We got to watch a parade of beautiful boats pass us while on the fuel dock making repairs. The Autoprop needed a tune-up anyway. I got to go diving. It was sunny and warm. The boat is fueled up. We have our new kayak. It’s funny how a boat problem can be turned from crisis to “just another day afloat”. I love this life.
By the way, we are definitely in the city. This beach reminds us of San Francisco blended with Newport Beach. We were told the homes on the beach are at least $5 million each! We can even see the Auckland Skytower in the distance. We’ll have to do some city exploring before heading back to Fiji. Doesn’t look like great weather for departure in the next week or so – but we are watching closely and plan to leave on the first great window. In the meantime we may head out to Great Barrier Island – our friend on Cavalo said I can’t miss it, so I think we’ll go do some ‘splorin!
Here are some pics from the day and also some shots we took while exploring the Whangamumu whaling station ruins.
Milford Beach, Auckland, New Zealand
36 46.01 S, 174 46.30 E
Another epic day aboard QUIXOTIC – this time with perfect conditions, awesome friends and even the dolphins came by to entertain us all! Check out the video and then plan YOUR next adventure aboard the epic catamaran QUIXOTIC!
We woke to a subtle motion at anchor off the town of Russell. Tired from a great evening with good friends but the excitement and anticipation for the day ahead wakes me. The bay was engulfed in a thick layer of fog and the sun had yet to grace us with its presence. We fired up the new engines, lifted the anchor and motored out into the grey morning. Alyssa prepared breakfast while I rigged the fishing gear and set two Skabenga squid lures out on the end of the lines. I dodged weekend fishing traffic as we motored over long rolling swells towards open water; we were headed for the Cavalli Islands, a three hour sail north. As we rounded the sentinel rock that guards the north entrance to the Bay of Islands the reel went screaming and we fought in a fat skippy tuna! It would be the first of five fish we would catch on the way to the islands including a nice fat Kahwai upon our arrival in the islands.
We dropped the hook in 18 feet of turquoise water over sand behind a long crescent bay with a beautiful beach completely made up of polished river rocks. By this time the sun was out in full force so we applied the sun screen, donned wide brim hats, launched the kayak and set off for shore. We hiked an hour and a half to the very top of Motukawanui Island and enjoyed a spectacular 360 degree view from the open ocean, waves crashing on rocky pinnacles, white sand beaches fronted by turquoise water, lush green islands and the mainland behind us, covered in pine trees and green rolling hills. The sea breeze kicked in as if on cue and cooled us off before making our way back down the mountain to the beach. We spent some time sitting on the pebbles soaking in the natural beauty and peaceful isolation that come with having the entire bay to yourself. We leisurely peddled the kayak back to QUIXOTIC and I passed out on the nets while Alyssa prepared lunch. The weather is perfect with the sun on you and the slight sea breeze its heavenly. We both had smiles on our faces as we enjoyed lunch on the bow nets while listening to the waves crash on shore. It sure feels good to finally enjoy the boat we have worked so hard on over the past year. The work is far from over but today we’re taking a much-needed lay day.
The agenda this afternoon is equally brutal. I see hot showers, a hammock, a gorgeous sunset and a delicious fresh-caught dinner in our future so time to sign off. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.
Cheers from the Cavalli Islands!
The Bay of Islands is a spectacularly beautiful place and a sailing playground. There are hundreds of islands and numerous anchorages on each. White sand beaches fringe the coves and lush, forested, tall islands rise up from the green and turquoise waters. Dolphins visit our anchorage and also play in our wake while under way. The only sounds you hear are of birds in the hills and fish jumping. There are nature preserves to hike and rocky points to explore in the kayak. What a cool place we found to hide out during the southern hemisphere cyclone season!
Our friends Brian and Liz are here visiting. You may remember that they bought our previous boat – Pura Vida. They are taking a break from their excruciating full-time jobs of sailing Pura Vida in Mexico. We are all having a blast and it’s been great catching up with them and taking turns exaggerating about our respective sailing adventures.
Alyssa has been playing Super Woman, New Zealand edition. By day she is working in a yacht chandlery (boat parts shop) and by night she is aboard entertaining us all and whipping up amazing meals. It’s exhausting just watching but somehow the woman summons up the energy and is loving it all. She even decided to ‘up the ante’ and in a couple weeks will start working at the local cafe for a couple days a week…..something about them letting her do some baking…
Here are some pictures of the past week. You’ll notice that the geography here is reminiscent of the California coast but with a bit of South Pacific beaches, foliage and sea-life thrown in – a combination that works very well.
Salud from the Bay of Islands, NZ!
- Lewis, Alyssa, Brain & Liz
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!
We are clearing out of Fiji in 15 minutes. The past 24 hours has been insanely busy. We feel ready, we feel Quixotic is ready, the weather looks good, so south we go! Updates to follow under way when radio propagation allows.
Here are some pics from our boisterous sail across the Bligh (we hit 10.5 knots!) and of Quixotic staged and ready for her departure from Fiji.
Wish us luck.
Lewis & Alyssa
After a few days in Savusavu doing boat projects we headed out to Cousteau’s resort for a few nights. We met some new friends, Bob and Julie, who just built a new house here. We offered to take them sailing and when we were out we hooked a 100+ lb yellow fin tuna! It was a herculean effort by Bob and I to bring it within arms length of the boat. When I had the leader in my hand to bring him within gaff shot range the knot snapped at the swivel!! There was much screaming and lamenting but we all enjoyed the fight and were happy that the beautiful fish got away……this time. We then enjoyed a pleasant evening aboard QUIXOTIC with delicious appetizers, an amazing Mahi dinner and fun with new friends. See you guys next year!
We then caught up with Bruce and Jenn on SKABENGA. We all decided to race the two cats to Namena Island. We invited our new neighbors Bob and Anna to join us. We prepped them and pulled the hook the next morning. QUIXOTIC and SKABENGA are both South African-built catamarans and were very evenly matched. We averaged between 8.5 and 9.0 knots during the 25 miles course and both had huge waves and spray flying over the boats as we pushed hard upwind into the swells. It was a blast with much goading over the radio. Almost to the finish line, Bruce hooked a Marlin and effectively forfeit the race to fight him in, ensuring our victory! Once we were anchored we donned SCUBA gear and explored the underwater world. Namena got hit hard by Cyclone Winston and it shows beneath the surface; it’s still beautiful but we hope it fully recovers soon. Another great night with good friends ensued into the evening.
The next day we sailed for Bua Bay. It was a relaxing downwind sail, wing-on-wing, around the SW end of Vanua Levu and into protected and picturesque Bua Bay. We came here to load our shipping container that Bruce very graciously gave us and brought out here. I also had to fit in one last motorcycle ride before tucking her away for the cyclone season. The ride was epic and the scenery gorgeous. I was less than 15 minutes from our property, surrounded by tall pine trees, and it felt like I was in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California; the only thing that reminded my I was in Fiji was the heat and humidity (see pic below). I rode the southern coast of the island and beat both me and the bike up on the rough roads. I passed friendly frantically waving locals, shared smiles with kids on the side of the road and steered clear of the wandering cows and sheep. The landscape turned from rolling hills of pine to lush jungle and lined with palms with the sea as the backdrop. There were beautiful churches in the middle of well-manicured villages and set on rocky fresh water rivers. I only had to turn back when I realized I left without grabbing any money for fuel! It was a great last ride for the season.
We “winterized” the bike, spread bug and rodent poison around and locked our container, said thank you and goodbye to Bob and Anna and returned to QUIXOTIC. We were going to sail west today but are staying put until a low pressure trough rolls through. We just put out 100 feet of chain with a new (more stretch) snubber system and we’re anchored in 9 feet of water over good holding mud – we should be fine here while the weather passes over us.
This morning we also continued our New Zealand passage prep. Today we prepared the parachute sea anchor system as if we were deploying at sea. It’s much easier to do here in a calm anchorage then out in big seas in storm conditions. We are going to run the parachute to 10 feet of chain shackeld to a 250ft nylon rode tied to a 60 foot nylon bridle. The bridle will be led through the cleats/fair leads on the crossbeam and then aft through blocks to the cockpit winches. That way we can adjust the lines and manage chafe from the safety of the cockpit. It looks like it will work – only real world deployment will tell. We hope to manage the weather forecasting and routing so we avoid storms but you can never be too prepared.
We are planning to depart early next week and sail for Viti Levu via Yadua Island. We have one last errand to attend to before looking for a weather window to sail to New Zealand. Stay tuned.
Hope everyone is having a great weekend. We miss you guys!
Bua Bay, Vanua Levu, Fiji
Anchored: 16 50.858 S, 178 36.673 E
I guess we finally learned how to sail a catamaran to windward! What a blast! Turns out we have one hell of a fast boat. We finally summoned up the courage to raise enough canvas to let her rip and that she did. We were sailing at 9 knots with apparent wind forward the beam. It was a blast! For the sailors out there I will go into more detail… We had true wind just aft the beam at 13-14 knots, which is not usually a very fast sail. But on a cat, we pulled the apparent wind forward the beam and turned the 13 knots of true wind into 17-18 knots and she was flying! It was so cool to see the spray flying over the bows and a huge rooster tail of a wake behind us. I think it’s safe to say we have a real, capable, fast sailing machine now.
The icing was that nothing broke between Suva and Savusavu, a 120 mile stretch of ocean. We finally feel like we are getting ahead of the projects and it’s starting to show in her performance; a rewarding realization indeed. Now there is no limit to where we can go. She can sail, and fast at that. Let’s chart a course over the horizon and let her rip!
But first, we need to check some more boxes, give her a bit more TLC and make sure she gets the final touches she needs. Items on the list include: tightening the rig a few turns, fixing the alternator for the house bank, installing the float chargers for the starting batteries, changing a few control lines, adding a down-haul so we can reef the main downwind, and a few other items. Today we knocked off: sealing the diesel and water/LPG lockers from inside the main cabin, epoxy holes in the starboard bilge (to make the keel tank watertight again), re-bedding the leaking port in the workshop, securing the microwave, – and perhaps most importantly – we are shedding more weight and getting rid of excess gear so we can go faster!
We also finally figured out that we have to lock our saildrives (transmissions) in forward to lock the shafts and allow the autoprops to feather properly. We were losing almost two knots when we turned the engines off. Turns out that the autoprops continue to spin when the saildrives are in neutral, and they spin in reverse! No wonder we were so much faster motorsailing (even in idle). Now that we figured out the prop issue we are flying and can finally sail this beast!
Check out the video below to see Quixotic tearing across the Koro Sea.