Tuesday, 16 October 2012

New Caledonia and Vanuatu

South Lagoon, New Caledonia

Brian with a Wahoo

Ile Ouen

Having a freshwater dip in New Caledonia
Hi Folks, just a small update before the last big leg of our journey to Majuro.

We left Noumea and had a lovely sail to Ile Maitre, a small island resort near Noumea. Ile Maitre is a conservation area and we found it was great for snorkling. The coral reef fish were abundant and incredibly varied even if the visibility isn't that good.  Then we sailed across the south end of the lagoon to what we are calling horseshoe bay....a quiet little nameless  bay where we anchored for the night which was on
our way. The following morning we moved to Ile Ouen, Bay Ouara...had a walk up the hill above the small village. The next day we moved nearer to Goro, one of the lagoon exits and had a great swim in a freshwater
pool up over a cascade....it was a lovely feeling to remove the saltiness from my skin just for a while.

According to Ants we had the best ever sail onto the atoll of Ouvea, 100 miles
downwind in flat water and fast. We anchored in the lagoon near the "church with the two spires".
 Oh yes, we spotted a Sperm Whale on the way...a characteristic 45 degree blow and rounded dorsal fin also they are frequently seen on the edge of a deep drop off in the sea.
We had a little walk ashore just to stretch our legs after the overnighter and met the local Gendarme who pointed us in the right direction for a walk around. We found the people quite  friendly. Six hours later we were on our way again.

What I haven't really talked about yet is while at sea, in between the ports/stopovers we use a 24 hour watch system. So someone is always on watch, which involves watching for other boats/ships, tweaking the sails, changing the sails according to the changes in the weather. Most of the time its been 2 hours on during the day and 3 hours on during the night. Ants, Brian and Kerry have covered the night watches with 3  on and 6 off. I help during the day.

The sail to Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu was again fast. At first the sea  was a bit rolly but conditions got more comfortable on the second day. We anchored near customs in Luganville and eventually
managed to get everything sorted. We have to go back to immigration
tomorrow as they shut at 3pm. The local vegetable market which seems to
be open 24 hours a day was one of those places I could have spent ages in. Lots of sweet potatoes wrapped in banana leaf baskets, chillies, a huge variety of bananas, taro, spinach, tomatoes and really friendly helpful people.
We are over halfway now from Sydney and two thirds from Kangaroo Island.....just 1420 nm to go.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Life on the High Seas

The Yellow Fin King Fish we caught near Elizabeth Reef

Crew (part II) Kerry, Me & Brian

   The  few days in Sydney were great and a welcome bit of land time.  Departure saw us loaded up with  all sorts of delectable goodies from Ants cousin & family, Kristine & John. They came to visit us aboard Breakfree for the day with young Isabel and Conor and left us with lovely real butter, King Island cheddar and  lots of other treats.

A small bit of a downer was the fact that all dairy and fresh foods will be taken by customs in New Caledonia....but we really enjoyed the process of having to consume all the goodies before we arrived. The morning of arrival in Noumea we treated ourselves to a gourmet version Emmental omelette and freshly squeezed orange juice. And then they let us keep the last of the cheese anyway!
The first long leg was Sydney to Elizabeth Reef. We had a nor'westerly when we left, by that night it had gone SW and we had thirty knots plus so we were screaming along downwind with our staysail up alone. I spent quite a bit of time on my bunk the first few days as it was too rough for me. To get East from Australia we could not have chosen a better mix of winds (so the boys say). 520 nautical miles in three and a half days at 6.2 knots.

But I must say my condition has slightly improved compared to other trips. I haven't been actually sick once since leaving Kangaroo Island which is a first for me. Its been great having Brian and Kerry as crew as I'm not worried about not being able to do my share of the watches.

Kerry on watch with a cuppa

Kerry in his bunk using the lee cloth to its best advantage

?A Cape Petrel

Brian on the helm looking quizzical

Being at sea absolutely miles from anywhere can be a bit daunting but life seemed to settle down to watches, sail changes, food preparation, reading and even watching a movie from the hard drive with the digital telly....when its not too rough. We only spotted one solitary ship for the whole of the ten days, it still amazes me about the vastness and space on the ocean.

We also saw a constant stream of Shearwaters migrating south along the way. We all spent a while trying to identify what we thought was a Cape Petrel, when we're stuck with the bird identification, taking a photo and zooming in quite often helps.

Elizabeth Reef was a welcome stopover....on our approach we caught a 25kg, 1.3m Yellow Tail King Fish. It lasted well and tasted delicious....actually a bit like chicken! The reef is truly in the middle of nowhere....90 miles north of Lord Howe Island. The anchorage is just in the lagoon entrance and once we anchored we noticed quite a few small reef sharks..(Ants was gutting the King Fish!) ...swimming around the boat.

The next leg to Noumea of 600 nms was notable for light winds and too much diesel. Of note were 2 mechanical problems. The first was a broken impeller which caused a small overheat but Ants fixed it fairly quickly. More worrying was a prop/gearbox/shaft rumble that gradually became loud. But an hour bum up in the engine space at midnight and Ants found a dry CV joint and some grease had it quiet and no further concerns.Five and a half days later we had a lovely sail up to Dumbea Passage and a midnight motor into the Noumea anchorage. We are now past the half way point.1900 miles to go!

We were all looking forward to a few days ashore by the time we arrived. And very French it is with coffee French sticks(baguettes really) and pardon, au revoir, merci.

Brian treated us to a delicious meal in this eatery in Noumea

Non photos s'il vous plait

Breakfree in Port Moselle marina, Noumea

We berthed at Port Moselle marina which is right in the centre of things. Copious showers, a big dose of shopping and a big feed at Monsieur Boeuf (Mr Beef) and I feel like a landlubber again.  We managed to catch up with cruising friend Marie Lise from S.V. Pied de Lune who we last saw in Sydney last year. They have their yacht berthed in another yacht marina CNC. Ants has been busy with a bit of boat maintanence.



Cafe au Lait avec croissants

Note the SMALL coffee
The Cruise Liner Pacific Jewel in Noumea

Noumea was a welcome stopover but I'm looking forward to Vanuatu and our final arrival at Majuro. We are still trying to keep to schedule and make the Republic of the Marshall Islands for October 29th so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for fair winds....and none of that upwind stuff....

Ants in the galley