September 17, 2011 2200 hrs, 20.49 S, 167.36 E, Log: 150,747 miles
Baro: 1021, Cabin Temp: 71 F cockpit 74 F, sea water 77 F
Close reaching at 7.9 kts in 16 kt SE winds, moderate seas
Double-reefed mainsail and triple-reefed genoa
HOORAY, WE’VE JUST EASED SHEETS AND MAHINA TIARE IS CHARGING ALONG!
What an incredible, magical night this is! For the last 185 miles we’ve been fairly close-hauled, gradually gaining, then sometimes losing a degree of easting as we steered a course for the five-mile gap between Lifou and Vauvilliers, two of New Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands that lie directly on the rhumb line from Port Vila, Vanuatu to Noumea, New Caledonia.
As if right on cue and as forecasted by the GRIB file forecasts, the winds just backed 15 degrees to the east, allowing us to ease sheets and increase speed. Twice we rolled up 10% of the genoa, attempting to keep our speed below 8 knots, only to watch the knotmeter climb back past 8.
Just as TC was coming on deck for her 2200 watch, the nearly-full moon, looking like a fiery copper ball started rising. Now TC has spottted a light ahead and we are trying to determine if it is marking fishing gear or if is a lighthouse on shore.
Our Leg 6 crew is one of our most unusual ever. Charles and TC both singlehanded separate boats from the US West Coast to NZ after joining me on expedition legs in the South Pacific 20 years ago. Later they had a very unique ocean-crossing 25’ custom aluminum motor yacht built on which they cruised NZ and the Pacific NW. The first time we saw Boojum, their little motor cruiser, they also had aboard their two small toddlers, JJ and Tommy.
Fast forward 10 years — they have just purchased a new Leopard 44 catamaran which arrived in Florida yesterday on her delivery from the boatyard in South Africa. They’ve joined us for Leg 6 with the goal of getting JJ and Tom, now aged 12 and 10, trained and ready to start cruising the Bahamas this December aboard their new cat.
Just as they were meeting us at the Yachting World dock in Port Vila, an ex-Moorings Leopard 42 charter cat pulled up to the fuel dock. For several days earlier in the week Amanda and I had shared an anchorage with her in nearby Mele Bay. It had been interesting to watch the cat as there was always some family activity occurring; at least a couple kids sailing their Optimist, or out kayaking and windsurfing, and when the wind picked up dad (or mum) went kiteboarding. Rob, the kiwi father invited us to have a quick look around while they were fueling and their very precocious three year old son gave us the tour. Tom and JJ who will each have their own cabins aboard their slightly different Leopard 44 were very impressed, as was TC who had never been aboard a catamaran before!
Soon after the Vollum family came aboard Mahina Tiare we raised anchor and set sail for Mele Bay, about nine miles away. What a perfect spot for our first anchorage.
Within minutes Tom and JJ were trying on fins and snorkels for a dinghy to some great snorkeling at the marine sanctuary on the nearby islet that is also home to the Hideaway Resort. This was followed by learning how to dive off MT’s transom with fancy dives quickly being created as everyone tried to outdo each other.
JJ and TC hoist the main under John’s guidance
The next day after safety orientation and more snorkeling we set sail for New Caledonia. We had hoped to stop be able to make a pit stop at the island of Erromango, 40 nm on our way south but with a wind forecast of SSE instead of the more normal ESE we knew it would be a rough go. Instead we elected to set a direct course of 180 deg. for 200 nm to pass between the Loyalty Islands. Sadly Lifou, a Port of Entry for the Loyalties, is missing an immigration inspector, so we can not stop and will need to carry on 120 miles all the way to Noumea to clear into New Caledonia.
September 16, 2011 2000 hrs, 20.49 S, 167.36 E, Log: 150,935 miles
Baro: 1015, Cabin Temp: 77 F cockpit 74 F, sea water 77 F
At anchor, Ilot To Ndu, Nine miles W of Noumea, New Caledonia
We sailed steadily towards the Loyalties with fair wind and seas and everyone soon found their sea legs and adjusted to life at sea.
Tom mastering the art of helming a yacht in ocean swells
JJ and Tom enjoy a quiet moment
Amanda pops in another reef and has a Volvo 60 ocean racing moment as spray goes flying
During the night, without any difficulties, we enjoyed a pleasant sail on through the gap between the Loyality islands. Our wind slowly decreased as we closed on Havannah Passage and as we couldn’t quite lay the main pass we shook our all the reefs in the sails and slipped in through a gap in the reef a few miles N of the main pass. It was then only a short motorsail to windward in light variables to reach the main shipping channel.
It was now too late in the day to be able to cover the 35 miles of channels to reach Noumea before dark so we chose to anchor for the night at Port Boise, an uninhabited (except for the pilot boat) bay. Here everyone enjoyed a swim and an excellent dinner along with a quiet night.
TC showing JJ how to cleat off our high-tech fishing line
Arrgggh! Today also happened to be “Talk Like a Pirate Day” complete with a surprise visit from the pirate queen Black Pearl Grace Tiare. It was a little unnerving that her lips were colored with black marker for they seemed to stay black even as we arrived in town.
Noumea has become a very bustling city. Last year when we arrived Port Moselle Marina visitor’s dock was totally packed. We had to anchor on a lee shore and wait our turn for boats to leave the marina after clearing in so that we could then tie up on the guest dock to clear customs. This year it was very different as the friendly marina girls said there were plenty of slips available and told us where to moor.
Before long (well during a leisurely lunch aboard) we had been cleared by Quarantine, Health, Customs and Immigration and the Vollum’s took off on foot to explore the nearby town. It is always a culture shock to spend a night in a marina after days at sea but one that we most certainly enjoy.
Our goal was simple: pick up some delicious French baked goods, fresh fruit and vegetables and set sail for a quieter spot. We had hoped to make it to Isle of Pines (70 miles south) but fresh headwinds hindered our progress and were to do so for the entire passage changed our mind and we sailed downwind to the lovely Baie Papaye.
We launched into anchoring options and techniques class before a swim. The following morning we did a thorough engine room check out an orientation and I was surprised how much JJ & Tom knew about engines already.
Man overboard and Lifesling practice were high on TC’s list of learning objective and everyone got a great hands-on understanding and practice of how it this works. It will sure be interesting to hear from them once they’ve practiced a few MOB’s on their cat.
It was amazing how quickly eight days passed! We certainly look forward to hearing how the Vollum’s enjoy cruising on their new Leopard and seeing pictures of the JJ and Tom out cruising.
Saturday was spent busy cleaning and Sunday we tremendously enjoyed an all day hike up a mountain river with Ute from the neighboring yacht Y-Knot and ex-pats Richard and Freddie from the Yacht Moira. Richard and Freddie are not only a fascinating couple but superb guides as they publish the top quality digital cruising guides
(www.cruising-newcaledonia.com, www.cruising-vanuatu.com) we’ve enjoyed so much in Vantuatu and New Cal.
We felt that the eight day format seems to worked very well and we will welcome applications from another family for Leg 6 — 2012.
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