Category Archives: Catamaran Sailing

Chute up, Mermaid down

The Rocketship QUIXOTIC Blasting North – VIDEO!

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. 

L&A

Savusavu, Fiji

In the celebs backyard.... Beautiful Wakaya Island
In the celebs backyard…. Beautiful Wakaya Island
Chute up, Mermaid down
Kite up, Mermaid down

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Turns out she can sail to windward!
Turns out she CAN sail to windward!
Sailing through a tight section of reef off Namena Island
Sailing through a tight section of reef off Namena Island

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Epic Sail From Suva to Wakaya Island – Caught Mahi, Sun and Wind!

We escaped dirty, busy Suva!!  Quick update as we are still under way and less than an hour out of Wakaya Island. The Mermaid is filleting a fresh Mahi she caught, the sails are drawing and we’re blasting north at 8 knots headed to Wakaya Island. After Wakaya we’re headed to Makogai, Namena and back to Savusavu for a quick stop before heading west, then south and possibly out of Fiji! Stay tuned. Cheers!

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Wow, Catamarans Have a LOT more Windage! – Riding out a low in Suva, Fiji

Last night was a little too much excitement for our taste!  We knew a weak low pressure center was going to pass over us yesterday evening so we prepared as we would have on Ellie – apparently not enough…  We learned a lesson last night: Catamarans behave like a drunken donkey pontoon boat on steroids in a blow!

We made sure we were in a ‘cyclone hole’ and were anchored in the same hole we were in last March on Ellie when TC Zena came through. We dropped the Rocna anchor in 25 feet of good holding mud and set it hard then let out 100 feet of 3/8″ chain (we would have deployed a bit more if there was swinging room!) and set a 20 foot nylon bridle. We pulled full throttle reverse on this and set the anchor hard. It didn’t budge, we sprang forward and my mind was at ease for anything less than about 45 knots with this setup. ‘Was’ is the key word here….our thinking has since been revised…

Now, on Ellie this could have withstood about 50 knots and I would have slept like a baby. The few differences between Ellie and Quixotic in a blow are HUGE.  First, Ellie has a Spade anchor, which has never drug on us and if the wind clocked 180 on us it NEVER pulled out, but merely dug in harder in the new direction.  Second, Ellie behaved very well in a strong blow and sat calmly pointed directly into the wind like an arrow.  Not Quixotic!  No Sir. She failed on both counts and danced around like a drunken monkey trying her best to return herself to the rocks. As you can imagine it was more than a bit unnerving!!

As the low approached the wind picked up out of the north and then clocked west. It started picking up speed and the gusts were slamming into the anchorage at 25, then 30 then 35 and Quixotic was dancing away swinging at her chain.  When the gusts started hitting 40+ she was turning beam-to and then being hit by 40+ knots which sent her sliding backwards and then yanking on her chain and anchor. Well, what happened is that the anchor was set in the other direction (expecting a SE blow as is typical of these lows). When the wind came out of the west and she was hit by a huge gust, she pulled hard enough on her anchor to yank it OUT!  This has never happened on Ellie and once I saw the dragging pattern on my ipad anchor watch program, my legs started shaking. She drug about 25 feet before the Rocna dug back in. I started the engines and watched our position nervously while being pelted in the face by the driving rain. I watched as Quixotic swung wildly and presented her beam perfectly to the maximum windage of the next gust. It was eye-opening and frustrating that she was yanking so hard on her anchor that each time she was pulling it through the mud a few feet at a time. Our lee shore was only 20 yards away and the rock wall was staring at me telling me how much it wanted to eat our nice new fiberglass. I wasn’t going to let that happen but I was also not going to pull the anchor and try to re-anchor in these conditions if I absolutely didn’t have to.  Luckily, as the evening wore on, the low moved off and the wind moderated. We didn’t have to pull the hook after all. She survived this one but barely. What a learning experience!  Note to ourselves: we have a flailing Catamaran now, not a well behaved, heavy monohull.

The two key takeaways were: 1) Cats dance like drunken sailors and put a LOT more stress loads on an anchor; and 2) Rocna anchors can pull out if yanked 180 degrees in a strong blow. The later point is a concern for us and something we can change as soon as we have the funds. We are huge fans of the Spade anchor we had on Ellie and we would like to buy a hugely oversize one when we can afford it.  They say that your anchor should be so big that people laugh at you for having such a big anchor. We are firm believers in bigger is better!  The other takeaway is that we need longer and more stretchy nylon snubbers off the bows so they can absorb the shock loads and not transfer them to the anchor.

The great thing about this low is that we were able to catch 100 gallons of rain and fill our main tank!  Our entire hard bimini is rain catchment. We ran hoses directly into our tank and its full!  The Mermaid had her first LONG luxurious shower in a month – a happy girl indeed!

We are finalizing our business here in Suva and will head out in a day or two once we take on fuel.  We managed to find new USA-made AGM Marine-grade batteries (Optima’s); they weren’t cheap but we’ll sleep better under way knowing they are higher quality and don’t have a tendency to blow up! I found out our alternators are internally regulated so I can’t make them go to a float voltage. So I installed a cut-out switch in the engine compartment so I can turn the alternators off (of course only when the engine is off) and not cook the batteries on longer runs. Longer-term I plan to install a float charger on each starting battery and that way I can have the AGMs float at 13.6 or so and run the engines for days on end without concern for overcharging. 

Other chores have included oil changes, coolant flush, rebuilding water pumps, installing led lights in the main cabin, new stereo deck with aux input!, battery switch, provisioning, and scrubbing the boat in the rain!  It’s been productive and it’s always a nice feeling to leave a major port in significantly better shape then when you limped in :-)

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here is a shot from Musket Cove last night (another anchorage on the other side of the island – they had 50-60 knots!). (photo courtesy Moonshadow)

***Update 10/11: We pulled anchor and we had the fronds from a dead palm tree as well as old rotten anchor line stuck in our Rocna!  Turns out we can’t blame the anchor after all. Also, we are glad we didn’t pull anchor that night because if we had we very well could have wrapped the line in our prop and ended up on the rocks  it was much easier to cut free in the calm this morning… ***

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Overnight Passage to the Big City – and a Very Close Call!

Just dropped anchor in busy Suva after sailing 200 nautical miles in 31 hours nonstop from Vanua Balavu. The passage was pleasant with a variety of conditions. We flew the chute (spinnaker), which was awesome! We motor-sailed through the night with lightning in the distance and this morning we had the chute up as we dodged Tawainese junker fishing boats barreling into Suva harbor. We are now anchored a stones throw from the Novotel Hotel, where we are headed for sundowners. We are celebrating catching an almost exploding battery before disaster struck. It was a nerve wracking morning that I’ll describe below. 

After breakfast we started smelling a rotten egg smell in the salon. Alyssa asked if I had eaten more deviled eggs and I flat out refused (even though I did sneak some ;-). I said it smelled like a dirty head (toilet). It wasn’t on “my side” of the boat so she started sniffing around the port side “her side”. Well it wasn’t a head but the aft berth. She called for me to come down into the port aft stateroom. I came in and we both tracked the smell down to under the mattress. We lifted the mattress and the battery cover to find an extremely hot starting battery and acid spilled in the battery box. I asked her to go turn off the port engine. She did so and then came back in. I measured the outside of the battery box with a laser thermometer – it was over 180 degrees F!  The side was bulging out and acid was everywhere. Now this is a sealed lead-acid battery so it must have seen some serious overcharging. I had periodically measured the voltage while running and it stayed at 14.0v – a bit high I thought for a float charge voltage but I wasn’t immediately concerned. Well, NOW I was extremely concerned. We almost had an explosion and boat fire. We lifted the mattress to let it cool down. I also went to work figuring out how to get the engine running again without harming the battery…

Since the battery was obviously overcharged we figured it wouldn’t hurt to disconnect the alternator. So I climbed into the very hot engine compartment and disconnected the positive lead and field leads on the alternator. With sweat beading down my face I got the leads off, taped up and zip tied to the harness. We then decided to let the battery cool off. 

Luckily we have a sailboat so up the chute went again and we gave the engines a rest. The wind filled in and we ended up sailing downwind with the chute up for the next few hours as we approached Suva harbor. Alyssa also put on some gloves and mopped up all the spilled acid – a fun job indeed. 

The engines ran fine all the way into the anchorage. That battery is destined for the trash and we are now shopping for new voltage regulators that hopefully have battery temperature sensors!  It could also have been the Chinese/Fijian sealed lead acid batteries I bought and had shipped to Savusavu. It’s the best option I had for the price and given our location but this experience has me scared to death of cheap batteries and I am going to buy the most expensive USA-made batteries I can find here in Suva. Ditto the regulators. I just hope we can find quality equipment here in the land of cheap Chinese crap. Wish us luck. 

Well, time to shower and then off to the hotel to look back at our boat resting peacefully at anchor.  Life’s still good :-)

Cheers,

Lewis & Alyssa

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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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QUIXOTIC is Sinking!! … or so we thought!!

What an intense shakedown sail! We were about 15 miles offshore, bashing hard into the trades in the Koro Sea; hammers down – 2,800 RPM on both engines; making 7.5 – 8.0 knots to windward; taking waves over the bows and the occasional splash into the cockpit; watching the rig intently and loving every minute of it. I asked Alyssa to go down into each hull and do a bilge check. You know, just in case…. We DID just launch a cat that had over two dozen holes in her hulls…  Well, port bilge check went well. I REALLY wish we could have said the same for starboard. Alyssa came up and said to me: “You’re not going to be happy.”  Now, I don’t like hearing that phrase at sea. – The last time I heard that phrase was 1500nm offshore on a catamaran delivery and I was informed the mainsail was ripped in half. – Anyway, back to the story. She went on to explain that the starboard keel (which is a hollow waste-water holding tank) was full of seawater and the water was splashing into the bottom of the hull through some rogue holes in the bilge we didn’t see before. She also stated she sighted some cracks in the trailing edge of the bilge (read: NOT GOOD!). We were a couple hours offshore, en route to Taveuni – no place to be in a sinking boat (read: no beaches). So we tacked and flipped Quixotic around and began sailing downwind back into Savusavu Bay, where there ARE beaches to beach her on if she is in fact sinking…

I went down below to assess the situation while Alyssa took the helm. The water level seemed stable so we sailed on back into the bay. We grabbed Pirate Bruce’s mooring again and immediately went to work assessing the situation. I took a screwdriver and chipped all the cracked paint and gelcoat from the aft edge of the bilge (above the keel). It was merely gelcoat cracking and the glass below has NO signs of being compromised – GOOD!  I looked in the keel through the inspection ports and the water level was about halfway and not visibly rising – also GOOD! I then racked my brain trying to figure out where the damn water came from. I looked at the holding tank plumbing and couldn’t rule it out as the culprit. I took the inspection plate off the macerator pump and lo-and-behold, the water level started to rise. BINGO! Could this really be the culprit??  Could we actually have a solid hull without any outside water intrusion? We really didn’t want to see any more fiberglass dust or smell fresh resin!  Well, I asked Alyssa to pump the Levac head and guess what? Bubbles came out into the water in the keel. BINGO again and confirmed. It was just seawater making it’s way from the open head thru-hull, over the broken macerator and into the bilge.  You have never seen two people so elated at a realization that they get to clean waste water!

The Mermaid spent the next few backbreaking hours pumping out all the water and giving the bilge a good cleaning. We also removed the Y-fitting in the waste discharge hose and plumbed the head directly to the thru-hull so this can’t happen again (the macerator looks very broken anyway).  

The quote of the day was from Alyssa: “I would MUCH rather play with poo than have to deal with fiberglassing again!” hahaha  So True!

Before we left on this shakedown cruise I warned her that things ARE going to go wrong and a few things are going to go wrong in a bad way. This boat was just pulled off a beach in Fiji after surviving a cyclone (barely) and being reincarnated by a team of very enthusiastic Fijians and a Mermaid and ex-Finance guy with more enthusiasm than boat-building experience….I’ll let you do the math. So here we are, a day later and ready to take her out again. Stay tuned… We are headed for Taveuni and then on to Vanua Balavu via Qamea Island. We leave in the morning.

This evening we are having SKABENGA over! Haven’t seen them in over a month so much to catch up on.  They just sailed in with five mahi mahi so you know sushi will be on the table…

CHEERS!

Lewis & Alyssa

 quixotic

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QUIXOTIC: She’s Sailing! New Vinyl! – PICTURES & VIDEO!!

We are back in the marina taking on the remainder of our tools and gear before heading out later this week. We finally received the vinyl decals for QUIXOTIC! She has a name again!  It looks awesome – check it out. 

We had her out sailing on the open ocean and she did great! 60 degrees off the wind she was driving hard at 7+ knots under a double-reefed main and half a jib in 18 knots TWS. She was confidently powering over the swells, her crossbeam looked great, the rig tune feels fine, the sails are in good shape and the kicker – no leaks and she didn’t break up!

Next stop Taveuni Island and then sailing east for the Lau!

Here are some pics. Hope everyone had a great weekend! Cheers

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Quixotic Sails Again!!!!!

She’s out of the creek! She’s sailing! She’s motoring! She’s generating power! She has hot water! She has nets! Her keels track straight! Her rudders steer her on a straight course! She’s a fully-functional sailing yacht again! We couldn’t be happier or more proud of her!

Allan and Rina, Alyssa’s parents, are visiting and just enjoyed a great day of kayaking, sailing, swimming and enjoying the beauty of Fiji. We are moored on Bruce (the Pirate) SKABENGA’s mooring off Jacques Cousteau resort near Savusavu. Thanks Bruce! (for everything man – from the beginning of Quixotic’s resurrection).

Allan and Rina worked their asses off during the first week of their visit. They helped us check boxes on the list and get her to the point we could actually escape the creek. We installed a new LPG system, got BOTH engines running, installed the nets, put the sails on, stowed all our gear and toys, installed the bow seats, got the freezer working, port water heater, bilge pumps, lifelines, running rigging, among many other projects. They were eager to get out (we were more eager) and as soon as the last box was checked – and the thermostat we were waiting to be delivered was installed – we shoved off the dock and motored out of the creek. What a feeling of relief, excitement and pride to see her gliding out on to Savusavu bay and towards open water where she belongs.

We are still working out kinks as can be predicted. I spent two full days in the engine compartment trying to get the generator to stop overheating so we can enjoy ICE! In the end, Alyssa and I had removed the entire generator, slid it forward on its mounts, removed and acid treated the heat exchanger, and replaced the coolant pump – all while at anchor!  It now purrs like a kitten and – wait for it – actually runs too cold (when there is too little of a load)! Success!

There is a long list of people to thank and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone in particular out. So here’s a big VINAKA VAKALEVU and THANK YOU to all our family, friends, and everyone who has helped us make this dream a reality. It was a hell of a ride the past four months. But we pulled it off, Quixotic is sailing again, we have an amazing floating home. Thanks again guys!

Sunset alert so have to run. Here are some pics of Quixotic under sail and at rest. Thanks to Allan for taking the pics from the dinghy under way!

Cheers,

Lewis, Alyssa, Allan, Rina

Moored – Cousteau’s Resort, Savusavu, Fiji

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