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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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3 thoughts on “Exploring Duff Reef, Catching Huge Mahi, and mid-Ocean Engine Repairs!!”

  1. GORGEOUS PHOTOS! My Lord, those fish are incredible! We’ve been at Paradise for a couple days and are heading west today toward Viti Levu to pick up our friends. We hope our paths cross somewhere down the line. We really enjoyed meeting you. Enjoy the remainder of the season! Cheers, Jessie & Neil

    1. Hey guys! Thanks! Bummer we weren’t able to hook up out here. It’s been gorgeous! Maybe we’ll catch you on the other side as we are considering heading out to the Yasawas before heading south. Keep in touch. See you soon. Cheers!

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