Friday 17th May 2013

Never go to sea on a Friday

No Bananas aboard

No women aboard

Red Socks to be worn

No green Aboard

Luckily we aren't too superstitious as we broke all the rules.

Up early to get on our way by 6.00am. Weather forecasts checked and all looks ok. Roger “Clouds” Badham has confirmed all looks stable on the weather side. A big,slow moving, low pressure system in the Tasman Sea has generated a steady westerly airflow across the Coral Sea, holding the usual SE Trade Winds at bay. The plan is to head East and move more North if the wind strength gets up too much. Earlier in the week the forecast winds were stronger and we were being advised to head North quickly, before turning East. Now the plan was to stay South to hold onto wind for as long as possible before it died out, also giving us the possibility of a stopover at Middleton Reef.

Chris Watts has joined us for the trip. He has a wealth of experience building and sailing large multihulls and our friendship goes back 20 years. Lea and I were delighted that he accepted the invitation to join us. My nagging fear of being incapacitated by sea sickness was ameliorated knowing he was on board. Also we have both led very busy lives over the years and this was a great opportunity to spend some time together and reconnect.

Our sister ship and travelling companion Skedaddle is first to pull off the dock as the sun rises.

Leaving Australia as the sun rises on Coffs Harbour

The chart is out and the course is set. The rhumb line from Coffs Harbour to Noumea is about 850Nm. With our course set for Middleton Reef we estimate our journey will be over 900Nm.

As we left the coast the breeze filled in and we took off East under Screecher with a 20Knot SW on the quarter with clear sunny skies. We settled in, then changed to Spinnaker around 9.00AM. This was to be the pattern for the next 4 days alternating between sails about 4 times a day. Spinnakers down at dusk for safety and comfort during the night or if the wind increased over 20knots. Averaged just under 7 knots for the day. Less than we expected but resulting from an almost dead square run with no apparent wind being generated. Lea had drawn up a roster of 4 hour watches during the day and 2 hours during the night. We all found the 4 hour day watches too long so we changed to 2 hour watches all through which have us a 4 hour break after a watch. This worked out really well and fatigue and sleep deprivation not a big problem. We soon realised that 3 on board is ideal for this type of sailing. 2 up would be hard yards.

Lea was scared by a whale on her watch and had to swerve around it under Spinnaker to avoid a collision. It gave her quite a fright.

Could not get weather GRIB File via HF Radio and modem which was a bit of a worry. Greg on Skedaddle downloaded it over Satphone and briefed us over the VHF. All good

The wind dropped out for a time during the night so we motor sailed for a while.

Saturday 18th May

I managed to download the weather during my 3.00am watch. The further out from land we were, the better the HF Radio performed and overall I was very happy with this system. We have a Satphone as back up but didn't have to use it. It was also great to have another boat close by to discuss weather routing options.

Another day of running before a WSW of 10-17 knots, alternating between Surfing and wallowing on the swell. During the night “Carnival Sprit” a large cruise ship crossed our bows heading for New Caledonia. No other vessels were sighted or detected. Average speeds between 6 and 8 knots. Thought we would be clever and break the “no Spinnaker at night” rule only to have the wind gust up over 20knots as soon as it was fully dark requiring us all to be harnessed and clipped on (another important rule) to go forward to down the Spinnaker.

Had some issues with electronics. AIS dropped out, then MOB tag system crashed. Tried a couple of system resets and fiddles and eventually got them back but intermittent problem plagued us for the rest of the trip. Will have to redo wiring of whole NMEA network in New Cal!

 

Sunday19th May

During the night we agonised over whether to visit Middleton Reef or not. For lots of reasons we decided not too and keep going. We passed within 12 NM of the reef at 2.00AM. It was a great disappointment to miss out on visiting this unique, and amazing place especially for Chris who's idea it had been to go there in the first place.

Stronger winds today still SW to WSW. Pulled away from Skedaddle a little. A little after lunch time the sky darkened and it began to look threatening. We put on the radar and detected rain squalls all around us. We radioed Skedaddle and they also didn't like the look of the sky and had already pulled in their Spinnaker. We watched things for a short while, then Chris suggested we should probably get our Spinnaker down. We unfurled the Genoa to screen the Spinnaker while we put it away. Within minutes of returning to the cockpit we were enveloped by torrential rain and the wind rapidly built to over 30 knots. However, the sea calmed off, hammered flat by the rain.

Thunder and lightning were exploding all around us so we placed all the portable and backup electronics in the microwave oven for protection.

The storms tracked around us for a few hours then the wind died completely and the sea state built back up to a very uncomfortable confused slop. However, the breeze came back in as the clouds dissipated and we we were off under Screecher again.

Monday 20th May 2013

During the night the wind started to die out and we were thinking that we would be motoring for the rest of the trip. Surprising us all, the next day was just one out of the box. Warm and sunny with a 10 -15 SW breeze. Skedaddle had motored during the night to catch up and pass us. The day was a dance of 2 cats flying Spinnakers and rolling along effortlessly with the swells

We slowly caught and passed Skedaddle, each taking the opportunity to photograph and video the other boat and relax.
 
 

The day ended with a magnificent sunset.

Tuesday 21st May 2013

Dawn saw the wind still holding at SW 18 knots. The kite was up early to maximize speed. The race was on now to get as close to New Cal before the wind died. The wind slowly eased during the morning then began to swing to the NW and strengthen. We stopped pulled up the Main for the first time during the trip. Unsure what this unforecast wind was going to do we started with 1 reef in the Main and the Genoa. We took off at over 9 knots after Skeddadle who had motored on ahead of us again overnight. The wind, however, was short lived and after shaking out the reef and adding the Screecher we finally had to give in and put the motors on. Soon the wind was gone and both motors were on to catch Skedaddle and make Noumea by lunchtime to get through formalities in the afternoon.

Wednesday 22nd May

 

Dawn broke on a glassy sea

New Cal was a faint smudge on the horizon.

Contact with home to let them know we were nearly there.

On approach to the southern lagoon entrance, Amedee Lighthouse, New Caledonia.

The second or “low” lighthouse at the lagoon entrance
Feast for lunch to finish off all the food that would be taken off us by Quarrantine.

Entering Port Moselle, New Caledonia. 5 days and 6 hours. 4 days running under Screecher and kite. The Gods treated us very kindly.

Its now Friday night 24th May. Chris left this morning and we will miss him. We enjoyed his company very much. The 3 of us were a great team and worked very well together. Tomorrow we head out to begin to explore the Southern Lagoon. Formalities were easy and casual. Noumea is a bit run down, expensive but very friendly. The marina facilities are excellent but the harbour is a bit on the nose. Greg and I finally got a local SIM card for our iPhones that gives us relatively cheap internet access throughout New Cal. It only took us 2 days and many kilometres of walking. Lea and Janie had a “girls day” today, shopping and doing lunch. Still a bit hard to believe we are actually here.

We are looking forward to getting out of town to crystal clear water and pristine beaches. The weather is still, hot and humid. The SE Trade winds return next week. We hope to find somewhere special, put the anchor down and chill for a few, days.

 

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