Brief update – We rode out a storm in a marina north of Auckland and survived unscathed. We spent a night in the city and even managed to do some (free) gambling in a casino en route to a Doctor’s appointment. We met some circus acrobats who were sailing a 33-ft steel monohull that his Dad built in the 70’s. We dodged huge tankers and flew the spinnaker 40 miles east to Great Barrier Island, where we are for the week. We had a weather window to sail to Fiji but it was slammed shut by a cyclone that is spinning in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and headed SE towards NZ. We are looking at the next window that may come end of this week. If so, we will sail to Whangarei or back to Opua to clear out. This week we will be hiking and kayaking the amazing and rugged (and very cold!) Great Barrier Island. Stay tuned! Cheers!
While in New Zealand we have been taking on water from a dock-side hose, which has been very convenient. This is the first time since leaving California that the water on shore is safe and drinking-quality. In Fiji we don’t have that luxury, so a watermaker, or desalination unit, is a necessity. While here in New Zealand we “pickled” our watermaker, which means we flushed the unit out with fresh water and then put a mixture of sodium metabisulfite and fresh water into the membranes. This prevents any biological growth in the system during non-use. So now that we are leaving NZ we needed to clear out the pickling solution and get the unit running again. We plan to use it on passage to ensure the Mermaid gets plenty of hot showers (trust me this is crucial to a happy and successfully passage just as much as replacing those chainplates!)
When we bought QUIXOTIC she had an older Village Marine watermaker system in the engine compartment of her port hull; and it was the port hull that went swimming for two weeks after the cyclone. So, we didn’t have high hopes we would be able to save the high-pressure pump and electric motor; although that didn’t stop us from trying! We had the local Fijian shop “rebuild” the 110v AC motor which included a re-winding, new bearings and some cheap spray paint to cover the rusting case. Shockingly, it wasn’t done well and they didn’t even replace the capacitors so we gave the motor an expected life of 2-3 months tops. The high-pressure plunger pump that was coupled to the motor may had been salvageable had we serviced and ran it immediately upon getting possession of the boat. Unfortunately, little things like making new bows and keels got in the way and when we got to the high-pressure pump it was completely seized up and not repairable in Fiji. Luckily, we have some great contacts in the marine watermaker industry who sold us the previous unit we enjoyed so much on Ellie during the previous three years of cruising.
So, we rang Rich over at CruiseRO watermakers and asked him for some advice. We had one of Rich’s systems on Ellie and loved the simplicity and complete lack of extra electronics and microchips (that could fail and are hard to replace in foreign ports around the world). We discussed our current setup and decided that we could still use the membranes and low pressure pump (it’s a submersible 110v March pump) but Rich was going to supply us with a great discount on a new 110v AC motor coupled to a brand new stainless high-pressure plunger pump. This setup would utilize our three membrane housings and produce 25 gallons per hour of fresh water. CruiseRO was extremely helpful along the way and were even patient enough to go back and forth on email a dozen or so times to figure out exactly what fittings and sizes we needed to run new hoses to our existing membrane housings. They shipped us out a new pump and motor along with new high-pressure hoses and new pressure gauge and valves.
We received the new motor and pump and after an afternoon of re-arranging some plumbing and a little wiring we had a working watermaker unit and could finally throw away the camping style emergency drinking water filter we had been using during the entire boat rebuilding saga! We sure don’t miss that thing hanging in the cockpit!
I really like the system we have now because none of the components are proprietary to a single watermaker brand or company and the entire electrical complexity consists of two on/off switches and lastly, I can repair most of the components in any port in the world. The high-quality motor is dead simple and any competent shop (outside of maybe Fiji) can fix or re-wire it. Everything is valves and switches and very simple and we produce about 25GPH, which allows us to fill our 100-gallon tank in under 3-4 hours. We can also run the watermaker on a relatively inexpensive Honda 2000 portable generator if/when our tired inboard genset decides to crank out its last stroke.
Rich at CruiseRO has also been excellent to us for after-sales support. On Ellie he drove down to San Diego to help us fix a membrane issue before we sailed for Mexico. He has also been there to answer the phone when we are calling from some remote atoll with a (most likely) self-inflicted watermaker issue. But he’s always been able to help us get everything going again and always in record time. Thanks again man!
We will keep reporting on how our system holds up and if we end up going to larger membranes at some point for more output.
Here are a couple pics of our dead-simple system and the CruiseRO pump and motor combo we are talking about.
Lewis & Alyssa
Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand
After exploring Kawau Island – awesome hiking and even exploring an old copper mine – we sailed down the coast and anchored near Gulf Harbour in Auckland. The next day we sailed into the harbor to pick up our new kayak but the day went a little differently than we planned…
After breakfast we pulled anchor and motored into the marina and tucked into Fairway Bay marina, a small boutique marina nice enough to let us lay alongside to pick up the kayak. Well, once the Hobie dealer arrived we knew there was an issue because the kayak on top of his black land rover was yellow – not the red one we requested! He apologized for the mistake and we made plans to meet down the coast nearer to his store….so we took on some fresh water and tossed off the dock lines….and then everything went sideways…
I was backing us out of the side-tie in very confined quarters (around some beautiful and very expensive yachts) and at that moment, the thought crossed my mind that if we were ever to have a prop/transmission issue, now would be the time it would happen. I really hope it wasn’t my worried thoughts but a moment later I shifted the port engine into forward and instead of a gentle forward propulsion I got a hard shift into gear and a very violent shaking! I tried to shift into reverse (as there was another motor yacht less than 8 feet from our bow) and it wouldn’t go into neutral but instead it was a hard shift into reverse and more violent shaking! I wasn’t able to get the port transmission into neutral but I still had control of starboard so I asked Alyssa to look in the engine compartment and inspect the cable linkage. She was scared half to death as the engine was shaking pretty violently so I immediately decided to shut that engine down. I focused on using starboard engine and getting us out of there. I calmly (at least I tried my best to stay calm) said to Alyssa that we lost port engine, the prop was jammed, and that we only had starboard to get us out of there. Luckily, we had enough way going (forward motion) to slide between the docked boats and get out onto the main fairway. Once we were in the main fairway I radioed the port control for the marina and apprised them of our situation since there is a lot of traffic in this marina and we were now limited in our ability to maneuver. I also asked if we could land on an end tie to make repairs to our prop and they assigned us a location that I did not feel comfortable landing at. They sent us a small tender and he stood by as we exited the marina (to keep way) and came back in to come alongside the fuel dock. It was a somewhat crash landing on the fuel dock as we only had starboard engine but no damage was done and we were tied alongside without too much drama.
I knew immediately what had happened – it was our haphazard prop adjustments made 90 miles north of here when we dried out the cat and thought we would go above-and-beyond and “adjust the props”. My suspicion was that the blade I adjusted had tightened itself to the point of locking the blade and that was what was causing the issue on the port side – a suspicion that was later confirmed.
For those not familiar with Autoprops – they are amazing (when they work). The propeller blades automatically feather to allow the engine to deliver optimal load and maximize forward thrust at any given RPM and it also feathers to allow for faster sailing. It’s an ingenious piece of engineering, that was compromised by some amateur on a remote beach with the help of an impact driver and improper torquing …. more on that later….
So, as retribution for my mistake, I donned the dive gear and went overboard. Alyssa carefully had all the required tools lined up on the swim step (we rebuild an Autoprop in Fiji so were very familiar with the process). I removed the prop and once it was aboard we rebuilt the entire prop and replaced all the races and bearings. Once we finished the prop was better than it’s been in a decade. When rebuilding the prop we figured out that when I used the impact driver to tightened the locking nuts, the torque spec was not very high. This part is hard to understand if you have never rebuilt an autoprop but I will go on for those who have (Hi, Dave). I used the impact driver because that was the only way to get a “bite” on the tapered locking bolt that holds the blade adjustment in place (a regular wrench would just spin the bolt) . But my mistake was that I then didn’t follow it up with a torque wrench and tighten to spec. So my hypothesis is that the lack of torque on the set bolt allowed the blade to spin the hub and tighten itself to the point of locking the blade in a fixed position, which caused major issues for us in those tight quarters! And as a reminder – 100% my fault!
We carefully torqued each lock nut and bolt on each blade and after replacing all the bearing races and ball bearings we were very confident we had done the rebuild correctly. I even used red threadlocker – for good measure and per the manual. I then jumped back in the water and re-installed the prop. I also carefully inspected the starboard prop, which we will rebuild this year as well.
After fueling up (we were on the fuel dock already, remember), we exited the marina and headed south. The Hobie dealer was going to meet us hours earlier so we re-scheduled and he ended up kayaking it out to us in the evening! We enjoyed an amazing sunset off of Milford Beach, where we are anchored.
Looking back on the day, it actually wasn’t a bad program. We got to watch a parade of beautiful boats pass us while on the fuel dock making repairs. The Autoprop needed a tune-up anyway. I got to go diving. It was sunny and warm. The boat is fueled up. We have our new kayak. It’s funny how a boat problem can be turned from crisis to “just another day afloat”. I love this life.
By the way, we are definitely in the city. This beach reminds us of San Francisco blended with Newport Beach. We were told the homes on the beach are at least $5 million each! We can even see the Auckland Skytower in the distance. We’ll have to do some city exploring before heading back to Fiji. Doesn’t look like great weather for departure in the next week or so – but we are watching closely and plan to leave on the first great window. In the meantime we may head out to Great Barrier Island – our friend on Cavalo said I can’t miss it, so I think we’ll go do some ‘splorin!
Here are some pics from the day and also some shots we took while exploring the Whangamumu whaling station ruins.
Milford Beach, Auckland, New Zealand
36 46.01 S, 174 46.30 E
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!
Lewis & Alyssa
Opua, New Zealand
We are preparing to sail to Fiji in a few weeks and have begun our passage prep in earnest. The past week was storming so we put in to the marina. We put a tarp over the engine compartment and I spent two and a half days hunched over completely renewing every system on the generator – happy to report our efforts paid off and it’s running great now. One step forward and two steps back though because upon closer inspection of the 20 year old chainplates, we found cracking on both running back chainplates and one stress crack on the port main chainplate. We can’t sail to Fiji with cracking chainplates so we have removed the running back plates and had them re-made. We will be removing the main chainplates next week and having them made as well. Should be an exciting exercise to support the rig with halyards and spectra line!
Our friends Jason & Emily (s/v LYRIC) were visiting last week and we all did our best to find activities in between torrential rain and generally crummy weather. We went kayaking, hiking, fishing, exploring, sailing, wine tasting and dining. It was a great visit. Thanks again for all the help on the projects guys! Jason: we couldn’t have re-bed the pulpits and that new hatch without your humor to keep us entertained! And the fish we caught will live in infamy as the largest guppy ever caught in the bay of islands!
Our new anchor arrived and is currently buried in the mud below us! We are delighted to report that Spade Anchor has decided to sponsor us! We loved our Spade anchor on Ellie so much but the price tag was prohibitive to buying one for QUIXOTIC. Luckily Spade Anchor responded to our request for sponsorship and gave us a huge discount. They air-freighted us the new anchor from Tunisia and after a few weeks in transit our new favorite anchor arrived! The 55lb Rocna we had is a great anchor but (in our opinion) the Spade is better. It is 65lbs and has lead in the tip to help it bury deep in the sand/mud/rocks/shells/etc. The absence of a roll bar helps it keep digging deeper when pulled and it’s less likely to foul. So far so good – we’ll keep reporting!
The rest of our to-do list is only one page long this time and includes items such as new chainplates, rig tune, replace hatch, install stanchions and lifelines, seal engine rooms, service engines, dry out and replace saildrive oil, re-commission watermaker, install that missing mid-ship cleat, etc. We figure 2-3 weeks of work and we’ll be ready to sail north to Fiji.
Tell the weather to be nice so we can bed some stanchions and replace those chainplates!
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!
Our friend Richard, an editor and founder of Latitude 38 magazine, asked us how much it cost to re-power our Voyage 430 catamaran, QUIXOTIC, down here in New Zealand. If you’re interested in finding out the answer, read pages 118-120 of March 2017 edition of the magazine below.
And get some friends together to come charter with us so we can pay back our loans will ya?! We have some excellent discounts being thrown out there right now – book soon before we come to our senses!
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