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
Another epic day aboard QUIXOTIC – this time with perfect conditions, awesome friends and even the dolphins came by to entertain us all! Check out the video and then plan YOUR next adventure aboard the epic catamaran QUIXOTIC!
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.
You read the title correctly, I was almost knocked unconscious by the tail of an enormous wild humpback whale while swimming with a pod yesterday. It was scary, enthralling and disorienting at the same time. I am writing this with a huge bump/egg on the port side of my skull. I seem to be fine and waking up this morning was a success. So now that I have lived to tell the story, I shall begin…
Although we may have to sell some organs once we reach Australia to pay for food, we decided that we should not miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime experience of swimming with wild humpback whales. Vava’u is the only place I know of in the world where they allow people to get in the water with wild humpbacks. We spoke to a bunch of locals and found the best operator and the most highly recommended skipper. We booked with the operation, “Whales in the Wild!” and the skipper Shioni. It was a hefty sum of Pa’anga (money) but we can now say it was completely worth every penny.
We woke at 0600 and were on the dock by 0700. We blasted out of Neiafu at close to 30 knots aboard a 26 foot aluminum dive boat with a big 250hp outboard on the back. The process for finding whales is much like a game of cat and mouse. We blast around the outer islands looking for whale spouts. When we find one we get close and see if it is staying on the surface. Most dive deep and only surface once ever 15 minutes or so. Those are not the best whales to swim with since the interaction is very brief. After a few hours of cat and mouse we were tipped off to a pod of 10 whales about 2 miles from our location. We blasted over to the west side and bobbed around in the rough seas while the pod drew closer. The whales were slapping tails and fins and once in a while one would breach. It was exciting and we got our wetsuits on and prepared to jump in. The skipper maneuvered near the whales and said to jump in. Our hearts were racing as we swam as fast as we could to get close to the whales. We were less than 10 feet from a whale that was surfacing and there were three more directly below us. The enormity of the whales and the volume of their calls, mixed with the bubbles they release was amazing. We shot some great video and tried in vain to keep up with their pace but they were soon gone and we returned to the boat with adrenaline pumping through our veins.
We continued our search for the perfect opportunity to interact with the whales. By 1300 we were off the SW side of Hunga Island. There were a few whales in relatively shallow water, an excellent opportunity to swim with them since they can’t easily dive deep. It was our turn to jump in so Alyssa and I suited up and hung over the edge. He maneuvered close to the path of the whales and we jumped in and swam like hell to get close. As we got close the whales turned over on their backs and did some fin slaps and put on a show for us. Then they swam towards the open ocean and everyone followed….but me. I saw another whale coming my way and stayed put to wait for him. He slowly made his way towards me as my adrenaline was being pumped in on overdrive. I didn’t swim away and I was less than an arm’s length from his enormous eyeball as he swam past me with what seemed a quizzical look. As he was mostly past me I turned away to get a GoPro shot of me with this amazing creature in the background and as I was fumbling with the camera he turned to dive, whipped his tail sideways and then slapped it down right on the side of my head! It was a hard blow that knocked the snorkel off my mask, pushed me under the water and stunned me. The next thing I remember was processing what had just happened and seeing the others screaming “are you OK?!?” I replied yes and was shouting how incredible that just was.
We returned to the boat and swam again a few more times with other whales, had lunch in a beautiful protected cove and most importantly, lived to tell this story.
Here are some pictures from the day. I’ll try and upload a video or two but the internet here is painfully slow.
In other news, our heat exchanger on our main engine is toast [my fault – didn’t know you had to change zincs every month in the tropics!] and it’s leaking coolant into the raw water = not good. So today we’ll pull it apart and make a temporary repair. I am having a new one shipped into Fiji so it should be there when we arrive. Always something isn’t it…
And now, the pictures!!!
By the way – it took three long days to upload this video over the super slow Tonga pig telecom internet connection. Hope you enjoy!
Video shot after dropping anchor in Suwarrow. Recap of our heavy conditions during the preceding 12 hours. Check out how big those waves are in the anchorage!
Finally was able to upload a video over this very slow connection in Sah-moa. The wide-angle GoPro lens makes it look like he was not right at my mask but trust me, I could have kissed him. Enjoy
We are finally done provisioning Ellie up and will be sailing out of Oahu tomorrow morning (Wednesday). We made a video so everyone can see how beautiful my girls (Alyssa and Ellie of course) are lookin’ before we put to sea. Tomorrow we sail for the Big Island, a 160 mile overnight run. Once there we’ll patiently wait for favorable wind to sail south. I’m stoked to be putting to sea again. Stay tuned for updates… Aloha Oahu
A huge mahalo to Spencer of Harbor Sharks for cleaning our prop of barnacles today for no charge – you’re the Man Spencer! Also a special thank you to Danielle, my Mother, for the GoPro that shot this video.