Category Archives: Fiji

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Bashing Our Way up the Yasawa Islands!

It’s blowing the dogs off their chains out here in the Northern Yasawa Islands!  The trades howling through the Bligh Passage between the two main islands had made for a tough bash north but excellent kiting and windsurfing conditions!  We are patiently waiting for the wind to lay down so we can sail the 50NM upwind back to Vanua Levu and Savusavu; looks like we may get our chance tomorrow.  In the meantime we can explore the incredible limestone geography at Sawa-I-Lau, where we are currently anchored.

Our friends, Ryan and Kristina, are visiting for a couple weeks.  We have been having a blast – reeling in tuna and barracuda, kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, doing some boat projects and kicking back.

Alyssa has spoiled us all with her amazing cooking and the sunset appetizer spread is a highlight of the day.  The sunsets have been beautiful and the southern wind has kept the temps and humidity down, heralding the arrival of the southern hemisphere winter.

Thanks again to the Van Maanen family for gifting us an awesome inflatable windsurfing board!  I was able to MacGyver a fix for the rudder with some zip ties so we’re back in action!  Alyssa was able to sail upwind all the way back to the boat on her first day!

Here are some pics from the past week!  Cheers!

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The Blonde Mermaid Graces the Cover of Latitude 38! Happy New Year!

A beautiful woman on the starboard bow of a beautiful catamaran flying a beautiful spinnaker. I was just reminded how fortunate I truly am. Check out my Blonde Mermaid (Alyssa) on the cover of the January 2017 issue of Latitude 38 magazine. Look inside the ‘Changes in Latitudes’ section of the magazine for her write-up on catamarans versus monohulls.

New Years Eve party on Quixotic tonight in Paihia, complete with fireworks at midnight! Come one come all!!

Happy New Year everyone!  And Happy Birthday to my little brother Craig!

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Charter Your Own Adventure on Catamaran QUIXOTIC in Fiji!

Catamaran QUIXOTIC is now taking bookings for the upcoming 2017 and 2018 charter seasons. Come experience the sailing holiday of a lifetime in Fiji! Please contact us today to lock in your discounted rates. Be part of the adventure! To learn more and check out our new site please visit: www.quixoticcharters.com by clicking the link below. We look forward to hosting you aboard!  Please spread the word and be sure to tell your friends about this unique charter opportunity!

QUIXOTIC CHARTERS FIJI WEBSITE

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Passage to New Zealand – And We’re Off!!

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.

Love,

Lewis & Alyssa

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Savusavu to Bua Bay – Catamaran Racing, Diving, Kiteboarding and Motorcycling!

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!  

L&A

Bua Bay, Vanua Levu, Fiji

Anchored: 16 50.858 S, 178 36.673 E

We realized we haven't uploaded any interior pictures so here are a few
We realized we haven’t uploaded any interior pictures so here are a few

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The Mermaid working her magic in the galley....I'm SO spoiled!
The Mermaid working her magic in the galley….I’m SO spoiled!
Appetizer platter!
Appetizer platter!
QUIXOTIC cockpit with Bob and Julie
QUIXOTIC cockpit with Bob and Julie
The fight with the monster tuna!
The fight with the monster tuna!

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Exhaustion set in after the fight....hammock time was mandatory
Exhaustion set in after the fight….hammock time was mandatory
SKABENGA trying in vein to keep up with us ;-)
SKABENGA trying in vein to keep up with us ;-)

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Jenn, Bruce, Bob, Anna in Namena
Jenn, Bruce, Bob, Anna in Namena
The whole crazy Pirate crew
The whole crazy Pirate crew

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Bob watching the lure and channeling Walu
Bob watching the lure and channeling Walu
Arriving Bua Bay
Arriving Bua Bay

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Drying the kiteboarding gear
Drying the kiteboarding gear
Kite shade tent!
Kite shade tent!
Inspecting the sea anchor
Inspecting the sea anchor
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Mermaid inspecting chafe gear

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CA or Fiji?
CA or Fiji?
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Amazing trees on the property on Bua Bay

 

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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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