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!
Life has been exciting the past week! We sailed out to spectacular and remote Great Barrier Island and did some incredible hiking and kayaking. While out there we saw a weather window to sail to Fiji so we left immediately and had an amazing downwind sail back to the mainland! We made 50 miles in under 5 hours, had dolphins dancing in the bow waves and were regularly hitting 10 to 11 knots surfing (controllably); we even hit 12.2 knots on one exhilarating surf! It was an amazing day of sailing – check out the video below (if it’s not uploaded yet, check back later).
After sailing into Whangarei, we started watching Cyclone Cook as it tore through New Caledonia and set its sights on New Zealand. They have shut down schools, ferries, even bridges and have been evacuating people. The eye is expected to pass right over Great Barrier Island with winds to 80 knots! We are glad we’re not there. We are tucked into a small bay 5 miles up the Whangarei river; we have 150 feet of chain out in 15 feet of water and have rigged a huge bridle and snubber system to take any shock loads. With any luck the eye will stay offshore and we should make it through unscathed.
We have submitted out departure notice to NZ Customs and Arrival notices to Fiji. We will give the seas a couple days to lay down after the cyclone and we plan to depart Saturday morning. As of now the forecast is calling for light air from aft the beam for most of the passage north to Fiji. We will take on some extra fuel as I expect to burn at least 100 gallons motor sailing for 3-4 days. It looks like 15-18 knots on the beam or just forward the beam leaving on Saturday and then light to no wind on Sunday. Monday, it will start to fill in from aft under 10 kts. Then Tuesday through Thursday morning it should be great sailing with high teens wind on the beam or just aft. At this point the two models are contradicting each other – one model calls for a convergence zone to form at our expected position on Thursday with winds to 40 knots in the squalls. But the GFS model calls for steady wind from the SE. We will hope the GFS is right and will watch it closely on the passage north. If we must divert to the NW around the convergence we will do so because the forecast calls for light air north of the convection and we can sail into it and make up some easting then.
So that’s the plan at this point. We have checked all our to-do boxes with just a few more things to prep for the passage. Yesterday we braved the weather, donned foul weather gear, loaded the dinghy with laundry and headed 2 miles across the bay in torrential rain. Our friends Dave and Wendy (sv ELYSIUM) were so awesome and came to pick us up and help us run some errands. We did all our laundry, hit the grocery store for provisions, had a great lunch with D&W, and then put all our fresh laundry and provisions into garbage bags. We bailed the dinghy, threw all the laundry and provisions in and then headed out across the bay in the dark and driving rain. We managed to find the boat, lifted the dinghy and were very happy to be back aboard our dry floating palace.
Stay tuned for passage updates and wish us fair weather for the passage. We can’t wait to get back to the warm tropics! Here are some pics of Great Barrier and the downwind sail back to the mainland.
“The Nook” Anchorage, Parua Bay, Whangarei, New Zealand
Our heads are pounding from stress and our bodies ache from cleaning barnacles but we successfully beached QUIXOTIC today! The saildrive fluid is renewed, the props are tuned and about 5,000 barnacles have been scraped from her hulls. It was a very demanding day and we are certainly exhausted now. The day started early pulling anchor in the Bay of Islands at sunrise, then we sailed around “hole-in-the-rock” and down the coast reaching Whangamumu Harbour by 10am. We were very nervous beaching our catamaran for the first time but we learned some helpful tips for next time: First, pick a spot with hard packed sand so you don’t sink in too much. When the tide was coming back up the back of the keels dug in further and scared the hell out of us as the stern dropped a foot while we were onboard and Lyss was in the engine compartment cleaning up the mess I made when overfilling the saildrive! Second, keep the engines in forward until she takes the ground (sticks in the sand) – for us it took about 20 minutes before I could shut the engines down. Third, wait until the swell is at a bare minimum because when you are taking the ground and when you’re floating off she is going to rise on the swell and drop on to her keels and sometimes hard. It’s unnerving to say the least! We yanked her off the beach hard and drug the keels through the sand so we didn’t have more rising and falling than necessary. Fourth, and perhaps this is just us, but don’t go overboard with your underwater repairs while on a remote beach in the middle of nowhere. When I was tightening our autoprop blade with an impact driver I broke a very custom bolt and if we did not have a spare onboard we would have been resorting to our fixed (backup) props! Luckily we found a spare and I was able to fit it just as my blood pressure was boiling over… Here are some pics of our stressful day. In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad (tell that to my pounding head!) and probably easier on the boat then coming out on the slipway / railway. Although we’d like to stay floating and keep QUIXOTIC away from land of any sort for a long time. We’re cruising down the coast this week headed for Auckland. We were tipped off about this great beach by our friends Dave & Wendy (sv ELYSIUM) – thanks again guys! We are going to explore the ruins of an old whaling station tomorrow morning and then head further south. Stay tuned! Cheers!
Well that was one hell of a week!! We are elated to report that we have replaced all four chainplates and 90% of our passage prep list is complete! I am typing this with multiple cuts on my hands from wrestling with stubborn cotter pins on our turnbuckles, but the sweet smell of victory reins triumphant – we did it, and in record time! Let’s sail home to Fiji! We have started looking for the right weather window and expect to sail north by mid-April.
Earlier this week we started installing the stanchions (which we had previously removed and sent down to Auckland for passivization and electropolishing) while at anchor but we kept hitting major snags. First we didn’t have the right bolts, and then a much larger issue presented itself… In the cyclone last year, about 20 or so boats were kind enough to give QUIXOTIC a nice little bump on their way down the creek. Well a few of these boats snagged one or more of her stanchions and pulpits and in doing so completely ripped out the bolts, stripping all the threads on almost all of the stanchions on the port side. The builder had glassed in the nylocks behind a backing plate so that the bolts did not stick out into the cabins – a nice system, when it works; a nightmare when it doesn’t. So we decided to drill through the backing plates and through the bolts all the way into the cabins. But once drilled there was no backing plate in the cabin and they also came down on a curved angle so using washers as backing plates was out. The prospect of making these backing plates – or rather wood backing blocks – ourselves was daunting. So we decided to sail for the marina and see if the local talent could work some magic and creates these blocks for us. To our relief and amazement, on Tuesday when we put into the marina, and in less than 2 hours, SeaPower, a local outfit here, had come aboard, measured and made mock-ups, cut, shaped, ground back the interior to the glass, and epoxy glued the new teak backing blocks in! It looked awesome and the next day the mermaid carefully painted all the backing blocks and the finished product is a thing of strength and beauty that should last the life of the boat.
While the stanchion project was in full swing we removed the running backstay chainplates (that we found cracks on last week) and delivered them to NSR (a local rigger) to create out of new 316 stainless steel stock. Cutting chainplates and polishing them is one of those projects that we can’t do ourselves and this was sure to cut into our funds, which it certainly did! While they were duplicating the running back chainplates we supported the rig with halyards and extra lines in preparation for removing the main chainplates. We were under a bit of time constraint because there was rain forecast for the weekend through all next week and it was going to blow hard – not good for an un-stayed rig! So we put major pressure on NSR and they said it could happen by Friday but no promises. On Wednesday we got the running back plates back and had them installed by the evening, running backs tightened and the starboard main chainplate off. We delivered the starboard plate to NSR by 8am Thursday morning and then had the new one (3mm thicker) back to us by 3pm and by nightfall QUIXOTIC had a new starboard chainplate. We repeated this same procedure today (Friday) and had the last bolt cranked down and last bit of 3M 4000UV sealant cleaned up as the first rain drops began to fall and the skies darken – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Then it was a few more hours in the rain tuning the rig, cranking the Mermaid up the rig to remove the temporary stays and then putting everything away. But we did it, as planned, and the rig is 100% again and ready for the elements!
There are heaps of other items we ticked off the list this week. Not the least of which was completing the 50 hour service on the new engines. I did all the service myself but brought in the professionals to teach me how to properly check and adjust the valve clearances; now that I know how to do it myself I will do so going forward. We also had new 316SS exhaust risers made for the new engines. Our mechanic, Brian, suggested it and we agreed it made sense. See, the stock elbows only dropped 10mm or so and the port one had a flat section where raw water can settle and the concern was in big seas if we fell off a wave the water in the waterlock could slosh up into the engine. So being extra cautious, we had the new high rise elbows made and I have installed it on the port side, where the angle was much more of a worry than starboard, where the angle is much better and less of a concern to me. It looks awesome and should provide a good 3-5 years of service before the sulfuric acid eats through the stainless.
A funny story about installing the new exhaust port and flapper… So we didn’t want to be rushed when we dried out on the hard (for the first time) so we decided to replace the broken exhaust port while in the marina – in hindsight, perhaps not the best choice in the world. I stood on the dock and the exhaust port was clearly 3-4 inched above waterline – cool, I can change that no problem! Famous last words right? Well I removed all the 6 screws holding the port in and removed the hose from inside the boat. Then I got everything ready to put in the new one: Sikaflex 291 black – check, new 316SS screws – check, new port – check, sandpaper – check, acetone – check. We were ready to pull the old one and put in the new one, I had the Mermaid there to assist and even thought to have towels just in case there was a wake. Well, the moment I had the old port off and there was a huge hole in the boat with the screw holes exposed, an enormous dredge barge with a big backhoe as an oar roared its engines and stared heading our way – uh, oh! Alyssa called it to my attention just as QUIXOTIC (which has an un-stayed rig mind you) stared rocking and pulling at her lines. I saw the wakes and yelled for the towel. I shoved the towel over the port and screw holes and held on for dear life as the wakes overtook our position and QUIXOTIC rocked up and down. All the while I was swearing and pulling my back holding that damn towel over my previously dry port and screw holes! When the chaos abated, I removed the soaking wet towel and somehow I managed to keep the port and screw holes dry. We managed to complete the install of the new port and new flapper with only a few more close calls. Another box ticked off the list!
Tomorrow we will wash the boat, fill our water tanks, pay the marina and get the hell out of dodge. We plan to gunkhole down the NZ coast to Auckland where we will pick up a new hobie hard kayak. Thanks again to our friends Jason and Emily (sv LYRIC) for falling in love with our inflatable hobie kayak and buying it from us to take home as a souvenir!
I have decided to take some time off from my online consulting business so we can relax and get ready to sail north. We will be taking some much-deserved relaxed sailing time down the coast. We’ll write again before we take off for Fiji. In the meantime, please continue to spread the word about QUIXOTIC Charters! We have made some bookings this week and keep in mind that the limited time offer of 20% off ends May 1st! Come hang with us in Fiji!
Pictures below from an epic hike today to the top of the “Duke’s Nose.” We had to use a chain that was bolted into the rock face to climb the last 100 feet to the top but check out the amazing views we were rewarded with!
We keep trying to switch gears and work on our project list that is literally staring us in the face…..but when the weather is amazing, fishing epic and hiking spectacular it’s REALLY hard to get motivated… Maybe tomorrow….
Sometimes you duck into a bay you found on the chart and strike out, other times you find a hidden gem and make lasting friends, we found the latter. A kayak, a hike, a visit ashore and aboard QUIXOTIC, and an amazing dinner celebration that lasted all night. This morning we pulled anchor and waved goodbye to our new friends and made our way to Whangaroa Harbor, with a fresh kingfish in tow! Check out the pics below to see how amazing this place is. The Duke’s nose is awesome and we plan to hike it this week. Stay tuned. Cheers
Going through our camera and realized we hadn’t uploaded pics from the great times we had a couple weeks ago with Bruce (SKABENGA), Glenn & Debbie (BEACH ACCESS), Chris & Lila (PRIVATEER) and of the awesome visit with MamaRina (FYFM), Alyssa’s Mom. We had a blast with you all! Thanks Bruce for the help running those engine wires! Glenn for the epic margaritas! Rina for hauling boat parts, for all the birthday fun and the great visit! And congrats to Chris and Lila on the newborn baby boy! Here are some pics of the visits and of the mandatory party that ensued when tres Pirates get together!
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.
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.