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Day 7 – Fiji to NZ – Port Engine is Toast

We are only 40 miles from North Cape and we have 6 hours until sunset. We are averaging 8-9 knots. We have sailed 192 miles in the past 22 hours, a new Quixotic record. We are surfing down breaking waves making like a bat-out-of-hell for Opua. The waves are breaking onto our swim steps and the wave heights keep climbing… We are running from the seas with 25 knots on our port quarter.

Now for some bad news: We lost port engine this morning. We thought we were being prudent by shutting it down after three days of running it non-stop – turns out that was a huge mistake. We wanted to check the oil level and also dump the coolant back in. We let it cool down for an hour and then topped off the oil and coolant. When we tried to start it it wouldn’t fire. I checked the most obvious things first like the stop lever control and the fuel. I thought the main racor may be getting plugged up so we changed that to no effect. I then went through the process of bleeding the system and had fuel at the injection pump but not at the injectors when cranking (I had them cracked open). We were having issues with the governor hunting lately and I think there is an issue in the fuel control rack and possibly also with the stop lever. This is preventing fuel from being delivered to the injectors. Well in our haste I broke open yet another knuckle and shortly after that I went on tilt and then it was curtains for the port engine. While we were cranking it to get the fuel to bleed out at the injectors we totally forgot about backflow from the raw water system and when we saw sea water dribbling out of the air intake we knew it was game over for that engine. A stupid mistake on our part. The engine now has sea water in it for the second time this year….it was the one underwater in the cyclone. I flipped the decomps and turned the engine over by hand to get the water out of the cylinders. I still can’t get fuel to the injectors no matter what I do. The other strange thing is there is no signal from the oil pressure sensor when I turn the key, but the oil level is fine…?  So we closed off the seawater intake and turned off power. That engine is dead and will need a full rebuild when in port.

We put the spinnaker up so we can maintain speed while working on the engines. But we knew it was time to douse the kite when we went surfing down a wave at 12.6 knots!!  It was insane watching the foam spraying behind the boat as she wanted to round up. I was scared she could turn beam-to, the wind would catch the kite and we’d flip so we quickly doused the chute – not easy feat in 18-20 knots true wind. Our blazing speed has us only 40 miles from North Cape. We have tried our hardest to get behind NZ before the blow. It’s going to be close. I think we’ll be in the lee by 5-6pm and that is the exact time the GRIBS are calling for the heavy rain/wind/seas to hit us. Now that we only have one engine we have to be strategic about our approach angles and lee shores.

We will be rigging up a bridle and warp to trail off the stern if we start surfing too much tonight. We are hoping it doesn’t come to that but you can never be too prepared. The sky is looking ominous to the SW of our position. Tonight will be a battle for sure.

Getting into Opua tomorrow should be quite exciting with one engine and wind on the nose. If our one remaining engine keeps cranking until we reach the customs dock I am going to buy it anything it wants. I may even treat it to a rebuild with it’s brother.

Nobody said it would be easy right? Wish us some luck with the weather tonight. Hopefully the next update will be from the Bay of Islands.

Lewis & Alyssa

South Pacific Ocean
11/11
0000 UTC
33 44 S, 172 48 E
143 T
8.5 KTS SOG

Passage from Fiji to New Zealand – Day 3 Update

Calm seas! Light winds from aft and motors on. We have made 172 miles in the past 24 hours. We are currently 475 miles SSW of Lautoka, Fiji and 610 miles from our destination of Opua, NZ. We have sailed 530 miles since leaving Fiji 72 hours ago.

All is well onboard. We are mostly rested and have our sea legs back. I have the fishing lines out. We have both engines on and ticking over at about 1900 RPM consuming roughly 1/2 to 3/4 gallon per hour per engine. Both are maintaining temp around 154 degrees at the thermostat housing.  One issue I’m having is with the port engine. Maybe one of you knows the issue?

The issue is that after long run times or heavy loading the coolant will overflow into the reservoir bottle and eventually will overflow. When I open the header tank/heat exchanger the coolant level is down to where I can’t see it and has been displaced by air. I then have to dump the contents of the overflow bottle back into the header/heat exchanger to bring the level back up. It’s all accounted for so there is no leak of coolant OUT of the system, but I think there is an air leak INTO the system. It’s especially apparent when the engine cools back down and it does not siphon the coolant from the overflow bottle back into the system. I have replaced almost all the gaskets, tightened the hose-clamps, replaced the fresh water pump, changed the radiator cap, but nothing has corrected the issue. When I open the radiator cap (after letting the engine cool) there is a small amount of pressure released so it seems to be air tight. Where could the air be coming from? I guess it could be a small pinhole leak in the head gasket introducing air but I am not losing even a drop of coolant and no smoke in the exhaust. I have also “pressure tested” the overflow hose and cap by blowing into it and it seems to hold pressure. I have no way (that I can think of) of conducting a vacuum test. Diesel mechanics out there – any idea?  If you have suggestions please email me at the address I sent in the last blog update. Thanks!!

But for the time being, I have the port engine running at a hundred RPM less than starboard to take some load off of it and try to keep the engine cooler and prevent the coolant from overflowing into the bilge. So far after 24 hours run time it’s OK but has risen to the “Full” mark while starboard is at the “Half” mark with more load.  Something I will have to sort out in NZ.

We made water successfully yesterday and topped off our 100 gallon water tank. Hot showers were had and the crew was much appreciative. The genset ran like a champ and my MacGyver water pump fix is still going strong.

The wind is now coming out of the west at 6 knots. This means the low pressure system crossing NZ is either right over north island or moving east. Once the system moves east it will be followed by a 1022 high pressure cell. This cell is the reason we left Fiji when we did. We are planning to ride this stable system all the way into NZ. Late tonight we will begin to feel wind out of the S (directly on our nose); then it will clock SSE and SE by tomorrow afternoon. We will sail close-hauled on a course of SW to our imaginary waypoint a days’ sail north of North Cape, NZ. We should be at our waypoint in two days(assuming no issues and our engines keep cranking – knock on wood). Once at this waypoint we are hoping the forecast holds and we get to enjoy a downwind sail into the Bay of Islands and arrive by Fridayafternoon, exactly one week after leaving Fiji, and importantly – before the next low arrives during the weekend.

Our fuel reserves are plentiful so no issues expected there. We wanted to carry extra fuel as cheap insurance so we went a little overboard on jerry jugs and are carrying about 175 gallons (75 gallons in jugs). At this point it looks like we will burn about half that to get through the high before we have wind from aft to sail again. But we have plenty to run the genset to keep those showers on tap!

That’s it for today’s update. I have to get back to watching my fishing lines and waiting for our first albacore tuna!

***Evening update: Wind and seas are back and the major issue is the wind direction. It’s blowing from due south, the exact direction we need to go. This will slow us down. We just tacked because when I woke up we were heading for Argentina….a long way away and not where we’re headed. So we flopped over and are now heading roughly SW at about 5 knots. Hopefully the wind continues clocking east or else our progress will really be slowed. Frustrating. To quote a line from the movie Master and Commander, Far Side of the World: “We can’t sail through the wind Buckley, but we’ll damn well sail around it!” Well that’s what we are doing tonight. Bashing our way SW around the wind. Onward and upward friends. Good night. ***

Lewis & Alyssa

On Passage – South Pacific Ocean

25 03 S, 174 20 E
180T
7.0 KTS SOG

Passage Fiji – New Zealand – Day 1

We have made 155 nautical miles over the past 24 hours on a course of roughly SW. All is well aboard. We are tired but slowly catching up on sleep. I was not able to sleep at all last night due to the conditions and very heavy slamming and pounding. Just as I would drift off to sleep another big wave would undoubtedly find its way under the bridgedeck and under my bunk to slam me back awake – frustrating. I was so tired after my night watch that once I hit the pillow again I was able to sleep for five hours. I feel much better now. The sea legs are coming back – should be good to go by tomorrow.  Alyssa is also tired but is resting now. She worked so hard getting the boat ready for the trip. She was doing laundry, filling jerry jugs with diesel, provisioning at the market, dealing with the marina office, cleaning the boat, etc. She is understandably exhausted and hopefully now catching up on sleep.

Yesterday we motor sailed out of Fiji through the pass between legendary surfing hotspots Namotu and Tavarua. Luckily for us, the surf was down and we made it out without incident. We then turned the engines off and sailed close-hauled for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The wind was coming out of the south so we sailed more or less due east with a little south in it. Eventually the wind clocked SE and freshened into the high teens. The seas were much more confused and boisterous than we expected from that wind speed. We saw much lighting in the distance but it never overtook us. We were averaging 7 knots and the wind was 55-60 degrees off the port bow. In the middle of the night the motion got so violent that I came running up and told Alyssa “fall off, we have to fall off, we’re going to destroy the boat” so we put the wind 80 degrees off the port bow and it helped slow us a bit and keep us from launching off the wave crests. We also had a double reef in the main and half furled jib so that gives an idea of just how stiff the trades were blowing. It was bouncy and slamming all night so I kept my eyes closed, waking every 20 minutes or so to check radar, wind speed/direction, autopilot, etc. Quixotic took her licks and kept on charging south. She did a good job and we’re proud of her for seeing us through the uncomfortable night.

The wind and seas have calmed today. It’s now the afternoon and we’re making 7 knots towards New Zealand. Forecast is calling for a trough of 20-25 knots and squalls to the south of our position tonight. Hoping it doesn’t creep north and catch us. We will double reef tonight just in case it does. It looks like it moves off by this time tomorrow.  Then it looks like light NE and N wind (spinnaker???) for a day or two before the high fills in and it blows out of the S, then SE. I will save some easting for when the wind turns S so I can ease off and use my easting coins to not bash so hard when the high arrives.

We used a lot of power last night with the radar running. We will plan to cycle the radar on and off to save power tonight. We’ll also turn the freezer off. I have the generator running now to top up the batteries. Not much solar with some overcast today. The good news is the generator is running great – I fixed it last minute before we departed Fiji; the fresh water circulation pump burned itself up and I used two broken pumps to make one working pump. I just hope it holds until we arrive in NZ where another one is being sent.

Alyssa wants to say a big thank you to Rich and Charlie at CruiseRO watermakers. They came in huge helping us fix our broken watermaker while we were in Fiji. She enjoyed her shower yesterday and when it calms down in a day or two I plan to fire up the watermaker and top off the tank again – ensuring the Mermaid stays in good spirits. I also plan to write an update on our watermaker saga while in NZ. We have it almost sorted but the TDS readings are still a bit high so we may have to replace a membrane or two. More on that later…

Well, that’s the update from the good ship Quixotic and her crew. Keep that trough away from us tonightwill ya?  Vinaka!

Lewis & Alyssa

Southbound in the South Pacific Ocean

11/5
0108Z

19 42.09 S, 175 38.8 E

198T

7.2 KTS SOG

Wind: 13 KTS SE

Seas: Down to 4-5 FT mixed swell

Coming to You Live From the Aquarium Cafe, Neiafu, Tonga

We’re here. We’re elated to be in Vava’u. We’re freezing and wearing sweaters at 18 degrees south. We’ve cleared in. Ellie is on a mooring. Vava’u is breathtakingly beautiful. We just had fish and chips. We’re both ready to catch up on some sleep and then plan our itinerary for visiting the many dozens of anchorages in Vava’u. Goodnight and Godspeed. L&A

Settling into Fanning Island

Mowri from Fanning!

We have weathered the storm and are now enjoying clear sunny skies with puffy tradewind clouds highlighted with turquoise reflected off the lagoon. It’s beautiful here.

We have officially found a Polynesian atoll that has yet to be overtaken by the western world. The locals still get around in dugout canoes and some have the old style Polynesian triangle sails – such an awesome sight! There is no industry on the island. There is no electricity. There is no internet or phones. The 3,000 inhabitants (I know, that a lot of people for an 8 mile-long atoll right?) subsist off fishing, pandanus and coconuts. They live in traditional open palm-thatch dwellings. The supply ship only visits three times per year and then only to bring some medical supplies, a few cans of spam and to pick up the copra (dried coconut) and seaweed that the islanders export. What a privilege to be able to visit such an unspoiled native population of friendly people. We can’t wait to explore the island and meet more of the locals – they can’t seem to stop smiling every time they come near the boat, such a wonderful welcome.

Yesterday we cleared customs, immigration and … there was a third guy but I think he may have been along for the coca-cola and chips we served them. We tried to radio customs in the morning but were told that they don’t have a VHF anymore. When friends from another boat went into the village they informed customs we were here and would like to clear in. A couple of hours later we were informed they had been standing on the dock waiting for a ride out to our boat! Oops, didn’t know we were suppose to pick them up – they don’t have a boat! Our friend Donni from the schooner SHOSTROM picked them up in his big tender – the three huge guys probably would have sunk our little dinghy! They came aboard and were very friendly and extremely gracious. They were enamored by the ice in their glasses – they got all excited and kept showing each other the ice. That pretty much tells you how very remote this island is. They stamped our passports and we pushed papers back and forth for about 45 minutes while chatting and sharing some tortilla chips and jalapeno dip, which they were also very excited about. We asked them what they do for fun on the island and they said, “We drink Kava at the Kava bar, but only Friday nights, it’s karaoke and you should come.” We most certainly will. We also asked how many boats visit this island per year and they said, “five”, we looked around and counted five boats and asked, “the five that are here?”, they said, “yes, and they all came in the past week.” haha They don’t see many yachts in this remote island. After the formalities were complete we raised the flag of Kiribati and were officially cleared into the country.

We spent the rest of yesterday cleaning up the boat, doing laundry and searching for where the water had been coming in during the passage. It was coming from a poorly bed (my half-ass fault) deck fitting for the holding tank pump out. I pulled the fitting, cleaned it all up, sanded the non-skid flat, dug out moist balsa from the core of the deck, epoxied the gaps and screw holes and then re-bed the whole fitting with polysulfide sealant. When I was squeezing the sealant the bottom blew open and the white sealant got all over my nice shorts – Lyss was pissed that I ruined yet another pair of shorts. But the fitting is now sealed properly and shouldn’t leak anymore.

After a long day of hard labor we invited our friends over for a beer. Both LEVANA and SHOSTROM came over and were so impressed by how good and refreshing the amber draft beer was that they couldn’t believe we brewed it ourselves and were adamant that we must have bought it in Honolulu. They were very appreciative to be enjoying a craft amber draft beer in a place that you can’t buy a beer if you had a million dollars to spend on it. [Interestingly, alcohol is banned on the island and locals can be jailed for being caught with any. They ferment sap from the coconut tree to make a type of alcohol.] We chatted the evening away with our friends and enjoyed a magnificent sunset. Alyssa made a toast to being back in the cruising mode. We certainly are :-)

This morning Alyssa joined three other women from the other cruising boats and headed into the village. They are headed to the middle school to teach the students yoga. One of the cruisers teaches yoga and the school teacher thought it would be a great cultural experience for the children to learn yoga from the foreigners. She is taking pictures and GoPro so whenever we find internet we’ll have to upload some footage.

It’s really hot here and without a breeze you start to sweat profusely. Luckily the SE trades have been blowing through the boat to keep things livable. The water temp is finally warm enough for the “Princess and the Pea” to enjoy swimming…we only had to come to the equator to make that happen!

We’ll update you again in a couple of days. We have much to explore. I bought LED solar lawn lights at COSTCO before departing and we plan to gift them to families we meet. We think they will be a huge hit since they don’t have electricity here.

Aloha from Fanning Island,
Lewis & Alyssa

May 5, 2015 (May 6 here in Kiribati)

Anchored:
03 51.555 N
159 21.491 W

Hawaii to Fanning – Day 3

Night passages are difficult. The wind patterns are inconsistent, squalls are formed, and the seas look exceptionally larger because you don’t see them until they are at your stern rail(and very often are larger because of aforementioned squalls). Last night was no exception. Squall after squall hit us, with winds reaching 32kts and driving rain making cockpit solitude unattainable. The waves increased so we were going more downwind than our course called for, but that’s easy to make up when seas subside or we make it up when we’re motoring through the ITCZ on a B-line for our destination. One wave came over the entire dodger, filling the cockpit halfway with water. In less than 30 seconds, our scuppers drained the flood, but we mistakenly forgot to put our generator (which is fairly weatherproof) into a garbage bag in case the cockpit flooded. It has been rinsed with fresh water and is drying in the sunlight this morning, but I hope that there is no real consequence to our obvious lapse in preparedness.
Just before the squalls started, I was relaxing in my little corner under the dodger and noticed what looked like a dark wet spot on the oversized pillow I was resting on. I touched it and thought it was just a shadow, but a second later, I turned my hand over and the spot was in my palm and about to crawl up my sleeve!!! It was a cockroach!!! Contrary to popular belief, these suckers actually FLY. That’s right, there’s NO DEFENSE in keeping them off your boat in Hawaii. I quickly whip-lashed the nasty roach off me and onto the cockpit floor. I think the wet conditions slowed him down, and my delayed (freaking out) reflexes were able to smash him before he got away. I forgot to mention that yesterday night a large one flew at me from the settee when Lewis was asleep and landed right on the nav table when I was writing in the log! I FREAKED and jumped up, trying to look for something to hit it. Long story short, it’s somewhere in the bilge or our liquor storage area. So far, Lewis has killed one on deck which was hiding under our jacklines which keep us tethered to the boat in heavy weather. Who uses their bare hand to smash a cockroach?! Oh yeah, Lewis. We put poison feeders everywhere inside the boat, but I’m not convinced that it will work. I’m hoping these are just tag-alongs and not newborns. They didn’t seem that small, so wish us luck and we’ll take any home remedy advice as we near Fanning! (Sorry, no boric acid aboard. Another DOH!)

With all of the wind, we made 141nm in the last 24hrs and have 545nm to go. The wind has calmed a bit to a manageable 22kts and we are flying down waves at 6.8kts. It’s much more comfortable than our last two nights have been and thankfully more dry this morning. I’m feeling refreshed like I always do when met with beautiful conditions on a gorgeous morning under full jib sailing 110* off the wind. If only it were always like this…
But as Lewis always quotes, “The sweet would not be so sweet, without the bitter.”

For those of you who have been wondering what out meals have been out here so far, here’s a rundown. The first two days worth of food was mostly pre-made. We always expect to feel too sick to stay below decks the first couple days after a long stay in port.
Premade Broccoli/Bacon/Cheese Quiche
Premade Fried Rice with Orange Chicken
Premade Curried Chicken Salad with craisins and apples
French Toast and Eggs
Chicken Alfredo Pasta with Eggplant Parmesan
Fajita style Chicken Burritos
Pasta Salad with cucumber and tomatoes
Tuna Salad with celery
Deviled Eggs/Egg Salad
Salmon Cakes with Garlic Green Beans and spiced aioli over wild rice
Snacks: Tzasiki, popcorn, hummus, chips/crackers, sunflower seeds, cashew clusters, celery w/peanut butter

Hopefully we catch a fish today for some sushi. Would love to stop opening our precious cans of Costco chicken.

Alyssa

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all you Salty Sailors and Landlubbers out there!  

This past year and a half has been life changing and unforgettable.  We have made dreams come true; visited some of the most spectacular places on earth; met incredible humans both afloat and on land that will be our friends for life; and our beliefs, values and perspectives have been forever changed for the better.  Thanks for your companionship and for being along with us on our voyage.  We look forward to an even more exciting season in 2015.  

A special thanks to J. Slove (aka Dr. Love) and Allan & Rina back in the States who helped us keep the blog going, mail scanned, and the Tax Man at bay while we’ve been out sailing the vast Pacific.  Without you guys there would have been long periods without blog updates and I’d probably be locked up in some jail for unpaid parking tickets.

We’ll be writing again once we get back to the boat in January.  Much to be done before we shove off again in March/April.  

Merry Christmas,

Lewis & Alyssa

December 24th, 2014

Land-locked in Sutter Creek, CA, USA

We’re Famous Again! Check out the June Issue of Latitude 38

There is a three page article about our Pacific crossing in the June issue of Latitude 38.  Our friends on Skabenga are featured in an article before ours.  Definitely worth reading about how Bruce almost became impaled on the end of the swordfish bill like a kabob!  Grab us a couple extra hard copies!  

The articles start on page 116

Virtual Copy

I Pad ePub Version

PDF Version

Lat38

Pacific Crossing – Day 18

We are slowly clawing our way towards paradise.  We just crossed 3 degrees north and are 175 miles away from the equator.  That’s two days away at 4.0 knots.

I’m pretty sure we crossed the heart of the ITCZ last night at 03 20 N.  At about 0200 we went from becalmed to being hit with 15-18 knots out of the SSE.  It blew hard all morning and we even raised sails and turned the engine off for a while.  We sailed close-hauled on a heading of 220 with the apparent wind 40 degrees on the port bow.  Eventually the wind died to less than 6 knots out of the S, so we fired up the diesel and have been motoring all day.  We want to put as much distance between us and the ITCZ as possible.

There was no moon last night due to the cloud cover and the bright bioluminescence was incredible.  The bow wave was scattering twinkling bright blue foam on each side of the boat and there was a bright wake behind the boat trailing for 50 yards or so from the prop wash.  I sat on the edge of the stern rail and just watched in awe at the magic of it all.  My favorite is when the dolphins show up and you can see them twisting and twirling under the boat trailing streamers of bright bioluminescence; it’s absolutely breathtaking.

When I was trimming the jib last night, I heard something near the helm.  It was pitch black so I got a little closer to find what I assumed was a flying fish.  It wasn’t a fish but a bird!  I went below to grab a flashlight and came back up.  It appeared injured and it was looking at me.  I tried to scare him away so he would take flight but it seemed he couldn’t figure out how to fly out of the cockpit.  So I grabbed the edge of his wing and threw him out.  He took flight and disappeared.  It was a strange encounter.  Hope the poor guy got his bearings back.

I think 18 days at sea is starting to get to me.  Last night I hailed a squall on the VHF! haha  I was monitoring the radar and I saw what I was sure was a container ship about 6 miles off the starboard beam.  I went topside to try and see his lights but it was so cloudy and overcast I couldn’t see anything.  It wasn’t on AIS so I tried to hail what I thought was a ship.  No answer.  Hmm.  It got within 4 miles and I was sure now it was a ship.  Usually the squalls are spread out on the radar and they have multiple signatures.  This one was a small solid block like a ship.  I tried hailing again.  Nothing.  Just before I initiated a course change, the ‘ship’ broke apart into what is clearly an incoming squall.  I laughed and felt pretty silly for hailing a squall.  But hey, better safe than sorry right?  And a squall can’t call you out, but Alyssa can!  In the morning she asked, “How close did that ship get that you hailed last night?”  I laughed and confessed that I hailed a squall.  We both had a good laugh.

One big benefit of running the engine is unlimited power from the alternator.  We have been living it up.  We run the inverter to power the big screen TV for movie night.  We can use the microwave to make popcorn.  Keep the radar and laptop on 24 hours a day.  Put the huge pitcher of ice tea in the fridge to chill.  Everything is fully charged.  Alyssa is really enjoying the piping hot water from the water heater.

It’s pizza night tonight.  I think I’ll hide on the bow while the oven is on.  Should bring the temp in the cabin up to a balmy 120 degrees.  Alyssa has some kind of disorder because she relishes extreme heat.  I on the other hand am dying and dreaming of cruising places like Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Back to my watch while the Princess gets her beauty rest.

Current position:

3/27/14

22:30 Z

02 54 N

128 54 W

180 T

4.0 knots

Wind: 5 knots SSW

Seas: 3-4 ft

Provisioning delivered?!

When we first arrived in Sausalito, we saw an organic foods truck delivering tubs and tubs of groceries to one of the many mega yachts around us, and then I remembered, Safeway delivers! And the added bonus, your first delivery is FREE and they give you complimentary 8-pack of paper towels and a case of water. How convenient:) This was the perfect opportunity to provision all of the heavy stuff since the only grocery store in the area is Molly Stones, a frou frou (but AMAZING), expensive specialty foods store. A Safeway is only a 3 mile bike ride away, but who wants to lug a months worth of canned goods, dried beans, cases of beer, and produce, all while making sure three 18-packs of eggs don’t break on folding bikes? We’ve done that before, but no thank you if we don’t have to! We loaded up our virtual shopping cart and it was on the docks at 11am the very next morning. AWESOME! We’re considering doing this in San Diego when we want to provision our favorite foods you can only get in the US.

Here are a couple pics from our shopping spree:

Summer 2013 255 Summer 2013 254 Summer 2013 256 Summer 2013 259

I’m going to start a new section on the website, talking about my galley, provisioning, cooking tips and recipes I learn along the way. Look out in the near future for that!