Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Noumea South to Isle of Pines

Friday 19th June
We made our final departure from Noumea this morning after an early start to collect fresh fruit and veges from the local market.

Chloe is a young lady who helps out visiting yachties with clearances and money exchange. She picked up our passports and papers this morning as well as delivering some Vanuatu currency which we could not get as we don’t have an airline boarding pass or local bank account!

We had a great run South East down the lagoon for 30 miles to Proney Bay, the last 10 mile under 1 reef and no.3 headsail, where we picked up a mooring at Isle De Casey.
one of the many abandoned houses
 This is a 40 hectare island with an abandoned resort, lovely beaches and forest walks and a resident guide- a dog! who is the only resident on the island. He greets every boat and takes the crew on a guided tour- I kid you not! In return the visiting yachties supply him with tasty treats. He waits on the jetty for the new arrivals.

On our arrival we walked the track around the island and caught up with Darren and Chris and boys from Freyer. Our sundowners on the jetty were interrupted by a shower of rain so it was back to the boat for the rest of the evening
Saturday 20th June
As usual we were up at sunup and made a quick trip ashore to feed the pooch his breakfast then let him take us on a walk.
 He soon tired of us when we returned to the jetty as a large school of fish was sitting below the walkway and, if they are big enough he will dive in to grab one. Apparently he had eaten too much breakfast because today he just stood there staring at the fish below.

We were underway by 8.30 for the 40 mile trip to L'Isle Des Pins (Isle of Pines). This is usually a bash to windward into the trade winds but we were lucky as there is a lull at present and we motor sailed the distance in a North Easterly of less than 10 knots and smooth seas.

The Isle of Pines is an island of about 150sq km with a population of 1900. There are two easy bays to sail to which have good shelter from the prevailing trade winds and these are also the main tourist destination with half a dozen resorts scattered around the edge of the bays.

We dropped anchor at 2.00pm and quickly had a swim off the back of the boat then a shower as we were both feeling the heat. The inside of the boat is now 27 and the water temp 24 degrees. This is what we came for!

After lunch we checked out a couple of the resorts and enjoyed sundowners at the bar on the beach next to the anchorage.

We have started a 6.00pm sched running on 4483 with other Aussie boats and tonight we had 6 starters all logging in with their positions and chat. HF is great for this type of comms.

 Sunday 21st June
Up early as usual and hired a couple of bikes so we could see a bit of the island.

Outboard in need of a service!
The ride is along the Southern coastal strip and our destination was Ova about 7 km away where we checked out the local church service and some of the spectacular scenery.

Monday 22nd June

The highlight was catching up with Jeff Gordon who spotted us in the bay and rode a bike 20k to have morning tea on board with us. We hadn’t seen Jeff for many years and were school mates many years ago

After lunch we set sail for the island of Lifou which is the middle of the three main islands in the group. This was a very easy 100 mile downwind sail with the speed kept low so we would arrive in daylight.


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Noumea and bays to the North

Thursday 11th June

Spent most of the morning desalting the boat: inside and out; then took a walk uptown and checked out some of the local shops and sights.

New Caledonia has a population of 200,000 people and about half live in the Noumea area. The majority of the population is Melanesian with some Indian, Chinese and European. French is the main language and English is rarely spoken by most of the population, but it’s not too hard communicating with our rusty high school French plus a bit of sign language and the odd English word. Everyone seems keen to be friendly and the few trades people we have been using actually turn up to the minute they say they will!

Our biggest hassle has been trying to get reliable internet access. The Port Moselle marina has free wifi but it is very unreliable and slow. We have purchased a local sim card with supposedly 30 hours of data but this old boffin can’t get it to work.

We are getting to know quite a few of our fellow travellers as all of the overseas visiting yachts are put on the same finger of the marina. You have to take pot luck to get a berth as you can’t book ahead but once you are in you are guaranteed 3 days. The rates are very reasonable and facilities are excellent although the harbour is a bit on the nose. Most visitors have to stay on anchor if they can’t get a berth or don’t want to pay, or need to be in the harbour for a longer stay than 3 days.

It’s a small world.  One of our neighbours, Oscar, on the Perry 57 “Zen” lived in Georgetown and worked at Comalco about 20 years ago. We had dinner with him tonight and spent most of the evening chatting about friends we have in common, and there were lots!

A number of the boats that did the Louisiades rally with us are here or are on the way and it’s been great catching up with them.

Friday 12th June

More boat work and roaming around Noumea. The weather is mild, not cold but it has been raining off and on every day since we arrived.

Our maintenance list consisted of navigation light wiring, repair the retrieval line, replace the locking pin that fell out of the starboard steering wheel hub (discovered when we turned off the auto pilot to turn the boat into the wind to drop the main just outside the harbour entrance, Di had a fit when she found she couldn’t control the helm!) and sailmaker repairs to the chafe on the boom bag.

 We are starting to plan our departure. All yachts must clear out of Noumea and once cleared are supposed to leave New Caledonian waters within 24 hours. If you are cruising around Ile De Pins in the south east and want to go to Vanuatu it’s a real pain to have to sail back 75 miles to clear out, and then battle the trades again to go South and clear the reef.

However you can leave your papers (Passports & ship registration) with a clearing agent and once you are ready to leave they will do the clearing out for you and send your paperwork on to you wherever you are. We plan to sail to the Ile De Pins and then the Loyalties and use an agent who will fly our papers to us.

We are planning to do this leg of the trip in company with Peter Anderson who is sailing Haven 111 solo to Vanuatu. Pete also did the Louisiades rally in 2013.

Saturday 13th June

We made a leisurely departure from the marina and short sail to a lovely sheltered bay (Bae De Maa) only 7 miles from Noumea. This is a big bay with lots of coral to check out and a sandy beach and the weather was mostly sunny for a change although the wind is still blowing hard.


Sunday 14th June

Another quiet day with a move to the next bay north. Once again a sunny day, still with the strong SE winds.  Water temperature is 23degrees so swimming is a definite must in the next couple of days. 

Screenshot of chart plotter showing fringing reef
Spoke to Brett on “Winds of Change “on 4483 at 1800. They have 550 nm to go on their run out to Noumea. This is another Louisiades rally friend on a 12.5 m catamaran.
Monday 15th June
Our first swim!  great little spot in a sheltered bay about 10nm north of Noumea. then back to Bae de Maa to catch up with Haven 111. Spent some time with Karen and Rob from Cracked (Newcastle) who are on their 15th trip out here!
Tuesday 16th June
Back to the marina to pick up the repaired boom bag and meet with the clearing agent. Other new friends are Christine and Darren and two young sons on Freyer out of Brisbane who are doing a 12 month Pacific cruise similar to us.




Lord Howe to Noumea

After five days the weather had moderated enough of us to resume the journey.
Friday 5th June

We motored out of the lagoon at 0730 and spent the first 12 hours under motor.
The new lure finally caught our first fish, a 10 kg stripey tuna which we pan fried in soy, garlic and ginger - very tasty!

From here the wind picked up from the SE never less than 20 knots and peaking around 35 a at times.
With an apparent wind direction of 45 to 70 degrees it was basically hard on the wind all of the way to Noumea with lots of water flying around and frequent bangs as the boat fell into the troughs.
The boat handled it well (better than us!) with only a broken retrieval line necessitating a headsail change down to the No 4 and a conservative 3 reefs for 3 days.

We arrived at the entrance to the lagoon at 7.45pm on the 9th after a passage time of four and a half days feeling pretty tired and sick of the noise and motion of the journey.

Navigating inside the lagoon which surrounds the whole island is easy as the navigation marks are plentiful and in good order. We sailed up the lagoon under a triple reefed main nice ands lowly as we were very tired and were enjoying the calmness of being inside the reef. Dropping the main was a problem however, as the cotter pin had fallen out of the port side steering wheel and it took a while to work out why Di couldn't hold the boat into the wind as I tried to drop the main. This all happened at midnight of course, but when we realised we still had steering on the starboard side the mayhem subsided.

We then dropped the anchor in Baie De L'Orphelinat for our first continuous nights sleep in nearly a week.

The next morning we moved into Port Moselle marina and went through the clearance formalities which turned out to be very easy.
Quarantine came to the boat, sat in the cockpit and took away the forbidden items, ( raw meats, fruit, vegetables, and fresh dairy) that Di passed out to them.
Customs have a two hour time zone after the marina office faxes your paperwork through. If they don't turn up in two hours they aren't coming. Apparently they rarely do!
Immigration is a short walk into town. They shut at 11.30 so don't be late. I took both our passports up with a form filled out and they stamped both our passports even though Di wasn't present.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning up the boat and starting on the list of jobs to be done as a result of the passage. Fortunately the list was fairly small, new retrieval line and sail cover repairs due to chafe from the lazy jack webbing.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Sydney to Lord Howe

Sydney to Lord Howe Island

We returned to Sydney on Saturday after a couple of days visiting Andy and Kellie with the last minute perishables to shop for and a social Sunday lunch with some other Louisiades Cruisers.

The plan was to clear customs Monday morning but we delayed this until Tuesday afternoon as a large Stationary high was sitting over the area between Sydney and Lord Howe and wasn’t expected to start moving away until Wednesday.

We filled the time in by giving the water maker a test run – a good thing as the power switch had to be replaced due to damage in transit. The guys from Rainman were marvellous, turning up to change the switch within 30 minutes of us calling them. Di did some more shopping and we changed the No.3 to the No.2.

The forecast was now for a trickle of wind starting on Wednesday morning so we arranged to clear customs Tuesday afternoon.

Sydney puts on a great light show this time every year (Vivid) so we arranged for some younger friends to join us for a dinner cruise on Sydney harbour Tuesday night and this proved to be a spectacular night with the bridge changing colours every few seconds and the Opera House being used as a projection screen. In Darling harbour water jets had laser lights intermingling with some graphic light effects visible. On the way back to the CYCA we arrived off the Opera House just as the fireworks were starting. Probably because it was mid-week, there were very few private boats on the harbour so getting to the different venues was easy. Very different I suspect to the NYE fireworks.

Tuesday May 26th.
Last minute jobs then over to Neutral Bay to clear Customs before returning to the CYCA for the  night.

Wednesday May 27th

An early start leaving the pen at 0630 and clearing the heads at 0715 for the 420 mile run to Lord Howe.

The breeze was light but sailable for the first few hours and we even ran the MPS for a while. This didn’t last long and by midday we were motoring as progress had dropped below 2 knots SOG. To make matters worse we had a 1.5 knot current against us and this lasted until dawn on Thursday.

Our first 24 hour run on the chart was 126 miles with the log showing distance run as 171 miles! The difference being the current!

No fish in the first 24 hours but plenty of Chinese coal carriers drifting in the deep water of Newcastle waiting to be loaded. These were up to 100 miles offshore and all were drifting west with the current at SOG speeds of 1 to 1.5 knots; as shown on the AIS ; into the light breeze! At least they were being carried in the direction they wanted to go.

Life on board has been pretty easy with almost no swell making getting around the boat simple. Di and I spent most of the day fiddling on the internet and reading/ snoozing. We have a small Telstra 4G wireless receiver with good range- excellent when we put it in a sock and hoist it up the mast!

We took the shifts during the night fairly casually with no fixed change times. We find this works best with lots of cat naps during the day allowing us to stay fresh.

Thursday  May 28th

Sailed with full rig until 1600 when we were subject to a couple of squalls and heavy rain with gusts to 27 knots. We quickly went to two reefs then three with half headsail. The breeze was now a Northerly and we were hard on the wind from here to Lord Howe

Friday May 29th

Di rated Friday a 3/10 compared to Wednesdays 8/10 as the sea state had risen and was very confused. The wind was changing direction and strength constantly from calm to 20+ knots making progress difficult .In the end we used the motor to keep us moving and strapped the main down to reduce the wear and tear.

Saturday May 30th

We arrived off Lord Howe at daybreak and expected to have to heave too off the lagoon entrance until port control was awake. However the local policeman had spotted us and called us up at 0630 to let us know he was on the way out in the RIB to guide us in through the reef entrance to our mooring. Fantastic service!

We had a bit more sleep the launched the dinghy and went for a wander ashore to get our bearings. All of the moorings are between .5 and.75 miles from the beach and it feels quite isolated sitting on a mooring only 50 metres from the reef and half a mile from the shore, especially as we are the only visiting boat here at present!

Much of the island is national park with some spectacular scenery and walks through the lush vegetation. Much of the surrounding waters are also marine park with limited fishing opportunities for amateurs and no commercial fishing. The island has lots of cement sheet and weatherboard buildings and has a 1950s feel to it. The vegetation is very lush and dense with some huge Banyan trees. The main industry is tourism with a maximum of 400 guests allowed on the island at any one time. Many of the larger private homes act as guest houses. I had an interesting conversation with one man who has been coming for holidays for the past 20 years. You can only buy real estate on the island if you have been living here for more than 10 years or have a close family member who is a resident. This stops land speculation and helps keep prices under control although he did mention one of his friends who had bought bought a house with good views for $900k.

Sunday May 31st

We are keen to get an up to date weather forecast and can get internet at the museum between 10.00 and 2.00 (closed Saturday of course) so in the morning went ashore to do our chores including topping up the two gas bottles we had been using ($18.00- v reasonable) and filled up our two 20 litre diesel cans at $3.00 per litre!

After a frustrating 2 hours battling with the internet we retired to the boat for a late lunch and to get out of the weather as it was very showery and the wind was getting up. During the afternoon we managed a quick walk over to the Old Gulch on the Northern side of the island and a walk along North beach before picking up our fuel from the jetty. Nothing is locked or put away. Everyone leaves their paddle boards and surfboards on the beaches rather than carry them home. The local policeman is responsible for lost property and is also the local port operations controller and not much else. A great relaxed lifestyle.

The Big Blow

 Monday and Tuesday 1st and 2nd June

As forecast the winds started to pick up Sunday night we were quite nervous about what to expect over the next 2 days.

We are moored to one of the 6 Lord Howe Island moorings in the Northern part of the lagoon that are hired out to visiting yachts. There are another lot in the southern end of the lagoon. About 50 metres to our west is the extensive reef which gives protection to the lagoon from the swell, but not the wind. At low tide the lagoon is only subject to the wind fetch inside the reef but at high tide there is quite a joggle from the swell remnants that flow over the reef making the moorings at this time quite uncomfortable. At low tide the depth under Allusive is less than a metre but the pitch is least so we shouldn’t bump the bottom.

The moorings are rated to 75 knots for a wind surface area of 20 square metres. As bow on we would be much less than 20 s m and the maximum wind gusts we experienced were about 48 knots we calculate we didn’t exceed 25% of the maximum loading.

When you are sitting this sort of weather out these are the type of things you think about!

As it turned out it was reasonably comfortable on board once we had convinced ourselves Allusive was in no danger and we spent the long hours reading, playing cards, chess and scrabble plus baking bread and sleeping!

We felt sorry for the two tug crews whose vessels (Seaforce and Pedro 1) were too big to come into the lagoon. They tried to anchor on the sheltered side of the island but the wrapping swells were too uncomfortable so they resorted to steaming backwards and forwards with barge in tow. They are delivering materials for the airport runway upgrade and a smaller tug and barge come out to them when the weather is calm to load up outside the lagoon.

Wednesday 3rd June

We managed to get ashore in the late morning at ebbing half tide and had lunch in the Anchorage cafĂ©: seafood pie of course! then wandered around the CBD (post office – closed Wednesday- Thompsons store and the local Co-op). Lots of people stranded as there had been no flights in or out since Sunday and the first won’t be in until Thursday. Our walk today took us down as far as the airport and up to the police station to have a chat with the Simon, the local cop/harbour master. Weather due to moderate Thursday and swell will be low enough for us to get out of the lagoon on Friday. At least that’s the plan!

Back to the museum to check emails and then another rolly night on the mooring.

Thursday 4th June

Wind down to 15 knots, time to do all of our boat checks and last minute cooking for the passage to Noumea. All looks good for a Friday morning departure.
Now at the museum. this post will be the last until we get to Noumea