Category Archives: Fiji

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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

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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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The Epic Fijian Launch of the Catamaran Quixotic!

It took a whole week and a lot of Fijian manpower but by Saturday afternoon Quixotic was afloat!!  The newly-built Fijian keel had all her weight on it and we can gladly report that both keels carried Quixotic back into the water safely!  It’s a long story with tremendous ups and downs, a fair share of agonizing slow preparation, some nail biting anticipation, and a crushing discovery… but ultimately ending with cheer, elation and a happy ending. Our amazing friends came in huge and helped greatly! Thanks again guys! Glenn & Deb (Beach Access), The Pirate Bruce (Skabenga), Craig & Leanne (True Blue V), Bob & Joyce (Chara)!!  We are both incredibly relieved and utterly exhausted…just in time for another big push getting our new floating home ready to sail and live aboard comfortably. It will all come together in due time….Fiji time that is…

If you’re in a yard back home and want to “splash” your yacht, you simply schedule the travel lift for the next day. The day comes along, your time slot arrives, a big diesel-powered machine lifts her up with straps, moves over the water and lowers her in. The whole process takes about 20 minutes and is totally painless and mostly stress-free. Not here. Not on a beach in Fiji. No Sir. There isn’t a travel lift on this island. There isn’t even a flatbed trailer that could do the job. No crane big enough to lift her. Just timber…..and manpower….and some steel….and Fijian optimism. Well, in the end, it took a long time as we moved her inch by painful and careful inch up on to her home-made steel sleds; then up higher to put pine posts under her sleds and on top of our 2×6 railway. It only took a day and a half to get the sleds under her. And only a day longer to get the pine logs underneath. All week the weather was very uncooperative – dumping rain with howling wind just to test my nerves as I watched her shake back and forth on the single Chinese jack that already had a huge dent in one side and was spewing hydraulic fluid with each pump. I was in charge of every block of timber that was placed and I gave the order for every movement of the jack…and it took all my focus and understanding of physics to safely move her under the conditions and limited resources we had at our disposal.

One of the days we were lowering her new keel on to a sheet of plywood, I was listening intently, and just as the plywood was taking the weight and slightly crushing under the immense load, I hear a huge CRACKING sound! I said “Stop lowering!” and then asked the others where the plywood was crushed or was that the glass.  Well, the boat was fine, the plywood was fine, and one of my jackass workers decided it would be hilarious to slam a piece of plywood together on the other side of the keel. I was pretty upset and after a bit of reprimanding, the next hour of jacking was very quiet and the lift was successful.

We ended up lowering her down the slope by controlling a 5-1 purchase block and tackle system, had two trucks chained to the plates as backup, and then had 6-8 Fijians push her back 6 inches at a time. We started at 0700 and she was floating by 1530.

The only other drama we had was that I went aboard to inspect her for leaks just before the final push. I installed a thru-hull so needed to inspect that. We also installed the port saildrive and needed to check how we did – well no leaks from the thru hull or saildrive…success. Unfortunately, the rest of the inspection didn’t go so well. I looked under the port floorboards and saw water. SH!T! But from experience I immediately tasted the water and it was FRESH! Ok, bullet dodged, all well. Then I moved to starboard hull. No water in the bilge – good. New crack along the bottom of the aft bulkhead – BAD. There was so much stress under that bulkhead while moving her that the glass broke in the void between the hull and the bottom of the bulkhead. This void should not have existed – when you glass in a bulkhead it should be flush against the bottom of the hull so that she can take loading properly, especially when jacking or blocking. Well, we found the one area she couldn’t handle the weight and it gave out. We put wood piles fore and aft the keels to stabilize her but since the ground was sloping with highs and lows there were times she had all her weight mostly on one pile. This made a six inch crack along the bottom of an aft bulkhead. So back to the story…

My heart sank when I saw the crack. I saw water weeping out. I tasted it – salt. Heart sank again. Now the sweat was coming on. What do we do? I am precariously dangling over the edge of a coral shelf about to launch her. I have 20 people outside waiting in anticipation for the green light to push. Are we sinking now? Do we have to pull her back on land? NO!!! 

So I went topside and called for my fiberglass master – Alsace Miller – to come look at the crack. He said we should let her float and see if the glass comes back together. It was only leaking a drop every minute anyway. I agreed but wanted to leave the sleds submerged in case we needed to pull her out. I came topside and saw Alyssa’s face with a look of despair…the same feeling I was having…now mixed with more nerves about launching a sinking boat!

Well, we pushed her over the cliff and she gracefully took to her lines and floated perfectly. We pulled lines over to the dock and brought her alongside. We immediately went to work seeing how much water was coming in. It was only a weeping and seemed to be getting less. We dove over the side but no one could see a crack or any signs of stress. Strange. In the end it was decided to keep her in the water and stop the slow weeping with Marine Tex. If we could stop the leak then we could grind back the paint and fiberglass and epoxy the entire floor and compartment. Well, that’s exactly what was done today and she is stronger than the day she was launched. I also spent a long time with SCUBA gear looking for any sign of damage and couldn’t see any. It’s possible there was water under that bulkhead and the crack in the paint let it out. It’s also possible that the SSB groundplate that is installed near that bulkhead is allowing water into the glass and then accumulated in that area only to be released by a collection of amateurs moving a large catamaran with timber and dreams. I’ll have to wait until I reach a modern yard with ultrasound and moisture meters. Until then, we are no longer sinking, the compartment is hugely reinforced and now definitely a strong jacking point!  I also plan to carry more JB waterweld in the meantime!

The day ended with a proper party aboard Quixotic! Our amazing team: Alsace, Rodney, Natani, Francis, John, Ilikaia, the Hulk and Papa Charlie Brown were here with guitars, kava, beer and huge smiles. We all enjoyed music and celebrating the successful launch of our amazing catamaran. We are all very proud in the work that was done. Quixotic is now and forever part Fijian!

We will have to upload video later this week so you can all see the big day. In the meantime, here are some pics!! Cheers!

**UPDATE: Natani has made the repair to the aft bulkhead and I’ll sleep much better tonight. We ended up glassing both sides of the bulkhead with 6+ layers of glass and epoxy. The lockers have been painted with two-pack epoxy paint and is curing while I post this. She’s water tight baby!!**

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Quixotic Update – Antifouling Paint is ON! She’s Gorgeous!! Get the Coconut Logs!!

Quixotic is looking gorgeous! She has a brand new quadruple coat of epoxy barrier paint and three fresh coats of Micron 66 antifouling paint! The steel sleds have been welded and reinforced. The guys are gathering coconut logs. We are beyond eager to splash this week.

There is still plenty of final cosmetic finishing to do once we are in the water. We have yet to wet sand and buff/wax the new gelcoat. But we figure, if it’s not below the waterline then it can be done in the water.

Our plan is to get the sleds under her keels tomorrow (Monday), paint under the jackstands and glue the saildrive boots on Tuesday, start rolling her down to the low tide mark on Wednesday and either late Weds or Thursday, at high tide, we will push her off the coral ledge into deep water and see if she floats…

It’s dumping rain as the SPCZ descended over us last night. The wind was howling and shaking the mast – the whole boat was vibrating, which was a bit unnerving. The rain is suppose to dump for the next few days. The guys won’t be pleased but I said to bring your raincoats because we are working in the rain. We’re going in the water this week come hell or high water!

Here are some pics of our gorgeous sexy new cat. We sure love her lines!

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Quixotic Update – New Gelcoat!!! Get the Coconut Logs Ready!!

After a week of playing chicken with the rain clouds and despite three broken Chinese paint guns, we finally completed spraying on new gelcoat! She looks amazing even with the 100’s of bugs now adding character to her topsides…

We are getting painfully close to the finish. It’s suppose to rain all weekend so the painting will resume Tuesday on the bottom. In the meantime we will continue the monumental task of sanding all the new gelcoat in preparation for a good buff and wax. When you spray the gelcoat, the finish is textured orange peel instead of glass smooth – so that requires a lot of sanding with 600 then 800 and then 1500 grit wet sandpaper before its smooth enough to buff and wax.  

We thought about painting the boat with two-pack paint but decided against it for numerous reasons: one – lack of access to a high-quality marine LP paint; two – complete lack of a controlled spraying environment free from dust, dirt, leaves, ash, bugs, and all manner of other flying debris that would certainly ruin our paint finish; three – the ability to sand out the bugs and the ability to fair gelcoat and then apply more and sand again, which we have done 2-3 times; and lastly, gelcoat is harder-wearing and will scratch instead of chip off. The main concern I have is longevity of the adhesion to the old gelcoat…only time will tell how long it holds up. It seems to be a strong bond now but ask us in a year or two if we made the right decision…

We have also serviced the starboard saildrive, ground the old paint off and started applying the interprotect epoxy primer. We chipped the old rubber boots off and we plan to epoxy glue the new ones on and then use epoxy filler to fair the edges; we hear they are notorious for coming loose…

In other news, we thought we found evidence of a rat that made its way aboard through the saildrive hole. There was a small dropping and some chewed foam on the nav table. That kicked us into high gear! We went straight to the grocery and bought glue traps and some coconut cookies. We set the bait stations and sealed off the hole.  Well after a few days all we caught was my bare foot! We came to the conclusion that it must have left the same night. We hope at least!

Plans are well under way to construct the coconut log railway to get Quixotic back in the water. We are planning to put two coconut longs under each keel and extend the railway 50 yards behind the boat into deep water. We then plan to put 2″ steel pipes perpendicular to the logs and place steel plates over these pipes. The keels will rest in a U-channel beam welded to the steel plates. The whole thing should slide carefully back downhill. We will hold her back with a truck or tractor.  That’s the plan at least. Stay tuned for the actual account!

Here are some shots of all the paint prep and finally her new gelcoat before the sanding and buffing…

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