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Leg 6 - 2012, Update 1

July 18, 2012, 2000 hrs, 19.52 S, 167.34 W, Log: 159,474 miles
Baro: 1014.1, Cabin Temp: 77 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 77.5 F
Triple-reefed main and only a scrap of genoa
Broad reaching @ 8 kts with 31-35 kt ENE winds, confused seas
75 miles to Canal de la Havannah entrance, New Caledonia

WHAT A WET, WILD AND WINDY NIGHT!

View from the Summit Garden of Mahina Tiare and yachts anchored in Mele Bay

Crew ready to stow their kit and set sail

Leg 6 started off fairly smoothly. I'd been watching the weather during the week we'd spent in Mele Bay, 5 miles north of Port Vila and was pleased to note that Monday's forecast was E becoming NE.

As the normal winds are SE, meaning close-hauled conditions to Noumea, we didn't waste any time getting underway. So at noon when crew joined MT on the quay at Yachting World we promptly dropped our lines and motored to a sheltered anchorage behind Iririki Island for lunch and to complete our safety briefing. By 1540 we'd raised anchor and set sail, ensuring that everyone got helming practice before dark. With winds between 23 and 32 kts, crew also got an early initiation to reefing and all but one or two succumbed to speaking with RALPH.

Just before dark on Tuesday we spotted the flat outline of Lifou, one of the Loyalty Islands, and then after dark, the lighthouse at Cap des Pins, the easternmost tip of Lifou that we needed to clear. We had hoped to clear customs and visit Lifou, but although it is listed as a Port of Entry, it isn't really.

WHAT A WET, WILD AND WINDY NIGHT!

Our weather conditions made for fast sailing although bouncy conditions. Most of the crew were still coping with occasional seasickness although hot soup was a welcome dinner for some.

Wednesday morning arrived with continual torrential gully-washer rain, and then as we approached the entrance to Canal Havannah the winds died a little bringing in a strange misty fog that settled in around us. Upon entering Havannah channel we'd planned to anchor at Port Boise; an uninhabited and somewhat protected bay a mile or so inside the channel. When we were within a mile of the entry the wind picked up again with gusts up to the mid-20's and I didn't want to deal with the genoa and a narrow reef pass into Port Boise. Upon sighting the buoys at the entrance I eased the genoa sheet and asked Mike to furl the sail. We always try and get the sheets wrapped two extra turns around the sail in the final stages of furling and when I urged Mike to crank a little more on the furling winch the furling drum gave a loud resounding bang and the genoa instantly unfurled. I'd missed the red whipping mark at the genoa furling winch that marks the end of the furling line and the furling line had pulled out of the drum.

Amanda, Ian and Mike were instantly on the foredeck to drop the genoa while the remaining crew kept the boat steady on the helm and a good lookout for traffic.

In a fairly short time we had the sail tied to the lifeline and were again lined up on the entrance range marks for Port Boise. The pilot boat that often waits to deliver a pilot to arriving ships was the only sign of life in the bay. We rounded up into the wind, dropped and stowed the main and then cautiously crept further into the bay, hoping to get some shelter from the winds still gusting to 20 kts.

Our first attempt at anchoring resulted in a slow drag of the anchor and MT towards the shallow reef shelf that surrounds the bay so we tried again with better success. We were exhausted and many of us dove in for a swim and shower before having naps then covering marine weather class in depth. We had a lot of interest in weather as Mike's boat is currently in St. Lucia during hurricane season and Jim has spent years studying west coast and Mexico weather. Following weather, Amanda covered galley orientation, provisioning and sail design and then we all headed to bed happy for a calm anchorage. We'd discussed standing anchor watches, but as the anchor had seemed to hold well and the winds were down to 13 kts, we decided to forgo that.

At 0230 there were two sharp jolts and Amanda and I quickly headed on deck as we recognized the bump as that of the rudder hitting the reef. As Amanda started the engine Brian appeared and offered to take the helm while Mike quickly headed forward to help me to retrieve the anchor. Fortunately we had the entrance buoy lights and the anchor light of the pilot boat to guide us as we very cautiously motored forward into deeper water to re-anchor. Amanda stayed at the nav station studying the Navionics chart running on our Raymarine C80 plotter a reference. Port Boise appears to have a very fine silty bottom with good holding therefore our only reasoning for hitting the reef was a combination of low tide and a change of wind direction. Later I snorkeled down to find only a tiny scratch in the anti-foul pain at the bottom of the rudder's leading edge.

First light was at 0500 so we had raised anchor and set sail in fine following winds for Noumea, 36 miles NW. We passed a French warship on maneuvers, a couple yachts, and two fast catamaran ferries; one headed to the nickel mine in Prony with workers and the other to the idyllic Isle of Pines.

Noumea's Port Moselle Marina goes out of their way to accommodate visiting yachts, at least for customs clearance, but as this is the busiest time of the year we knew we might have to anchor out in the harbor for a day or two until a berth became available. What a great surprise to learn that although the marina was full we could tie up on the face of the visitor's pier to clear customs and wait for a berth.

After checking in and filling forms in the marina office the quarantine inspector arrived after lunch doing a very though goods inspection similar to Australia. I was told that immigration no longer visits arriving vessels and that I would need to take our passports to their office the next morning. The arrangement with customs is that the marina office faxes one the required paperwork to them. If they don't show within two hours the vessel is considered cleared. Pretty simple!

Our crew was excited to hit the showers, the marina pub/bistro, do some exploring and call home. That evening we shared an amazing French dinner ashore at La Chaumerie in the trendy Latin quarter of Noumea.


Following navigation charting, immigration clearance and engine room orientation Friday morning we set sail for Ile Uere; three miles south of Noumea. Here we found shelter from gusty 20-25 kt winds for a calm snorkel safari and class.


After dinner we all adjourned to Gracias, Amanda's parent's yacht, for fruit crepes and sea stories from Bob and Lesley.


The next day we practiced Lifesling MOB Recovery with Amanda filming from the first spreaders of her parent’s boat which they anchored in the middle of the bay.

Mike and Ian had volunteered to jump in to create a realistic rescue but we found the winds too gusty and could see that Amanda was getting knocked about pretty badly as Gracias jostled in the vicious chop. We executed one perfect Lifesling Quick Stop maneuver using a balled up newspaper then resorted to practicing short tacking up the bay in the gusty conditions before reanchoring. That afternoon most of the crew went snorkeled ashore for an exploration then we covered diesel engine maintenance and watched Buckley's Celestial Nav DVD.

Here's an intro to our hard working rail crew Marilyn, Jim, Mike, Brian, Ian and Helen

Marilyn and Jim, 54 from California
We've known each other since high school. Marilyn is a construction project director and Jim practices labor and employee benefit law. We recently took delivery of a Hylas 46 and our cruising plan is not definite but eventually will take us south from the West Coast of Mexico.

Mike, 51 from St Charles, Illinois, www.RobertsFamilySailing@blogspot.com
We've been sailing our 51' Fountaine Pajot Eluthera catamaran in the Caribbean and East Coast and are looking forward to expanding our cruising grounds. We are exploring the possibility of doing the World ARC 2014 Rally aboard our cat, and I joined this expedition to gain more experience.

Brian, 63, a civil engineer from Sydney, Australia
I started sailing and racing in my youth and was project manager for the 1995 Australian America's Cup team. I currently own a Seawind 1000XL catamaran and am planning on cruising Australia coastline and doing overseas charters.

Ian and Hellen, 55 & 56 Victoria, Austalia
Ian is a project manager on his last job before retirement (way to go, Ian!) and Helen is a primary school principal. We recently

purchased a Beneteau 411 and we joined this expedition to learn more, reinforce our present knowledge and to gain confidence in each other. We are looking forward to our own sailing adventures in our forthcoming retirement.

Sunday we had perfect conditions providing all six crew with the opportunity to execute a MOB rescue, each with a real person in the water, and that was a record! Amanda caught it all on video and we can't wait to post our revolutionary tactics on www.mahina.com and on YouTube. In the afternoon we raced Gracias to Baie Papaye where we enjoyed a dip and hiking along the beach and hills after which Amanda had taught winch servicing and splicing.

Celestial navigation was practiced on Monday as we headed upwind to Ile Maitre; a skinny little park island with a small resort on it. Robert and Lesley joined our crew ashore where we enjoyed sunset drinks.

Helen gives a thumbs-up after mastering the correct procedure for cleating a line resulting in a secure tie for MT up in Port Moselle.

Tuesday morning our crew was up at dawn, busy packing and cleaning their cabins and by the time the marina office opened at 0800 we were thankful to find they had a berth available for Mahina Tiare.

Wow, what a blur! It had been a challenge to cover all of our teaching topics in just eight days, but thanks to a very keen crew, we had succeeded!

 

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