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Leg 7 - 2012, Update 1

October 11, 2012, 2000 hrs, 24.03 S, 163.11 W, Log: 159,894 miles
Baro: 1019.1, Cabin Temp: 78 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 73.2 F
Full sail, Broad reaching @ 5 kts with 11 ENE winds, very moderate seas
561 miles to Brisbane, Australia channel entrance

STARRY STARRY NIGHT!

Our sailing has been magnificent since departing New Caledonia yesterday morning. All day long we surfed downwind, sailing wing and wing under a cloudless sky.

Our time in New Caledonia was amazing - we really love that country and her very interesting, very mixed people. Sharing many different anchorages with Amanda’s parents, Robert and Lesley aboard Gracias, their Beneteau 423, was a treat we’ll never forget. Catching up with local French and Kanak friends and enjoying the incredible hospitality of the staff at Port Moselle Marina and the non-stop adventures of Noumea town were delightful. It’s hard to believe next year will be our last visit there for a while as next sail to Alaska in 2014 and Norway and Sweden in 2015.

Leg crew came aboard for orientation Sunday afternoon, leaving their passports so I could clear out with immigration, customs and port captain first thing Monday morning. What a contrast to Fiji and many countries where customs insists on watching you depart once issued clearance. The Noumea port captain cheerily tells departing yachts their clearance is good to depart within three days, so it’s possible to cruise Ilse de Pines and/or wait for a better weather window; no problem!

In fact, we needed to do just that. For our planned Monday departure Commanders’ Weather custom forecast http://www.commandersweather.com/ predicted a very nasty frontal passage with headwinds. So instead we set sail for Ile Maitre, a tiny park island just three miles away and completed our safety and navigation orientation before diving in for a swim to practice freeing a line from the prop and ensure the bottom was totally clean in preparation for Australian Customs.

Tuesday we covered rig check and coastal navigation before setting sail to practice Lifesling overboard rescue whilst enroute for Ile Amadee, home of the most famous lighthouse in the South Pacific, built in Paris in 1885, disassembled and shipped to this tiny island marking Boulari Pass. Every morning The Mary D picnic/dive tour boat brings a few dozen tourists out to enjoy the island, but Tuesday only the Tahitian caretaker could be found ashore.

The lighthouse was locked, but Aniko’s earnest request was impossible to turn down and we all raced up the 272 stairs of this incredible structure for a helicopter-like view of the pass, lagoon and anchorage from the top. We’ve sailed by this light many times, but it was great to admire the vista and visit with the crew of an Aussie yacht moored next to us.

Upon or wander around the island the caretaker offered us fresh coconuts and as the boutique closed we decided to make a souvenir image of the caretakers t-shirt of that one particular island...it’s amazing where Jimmy Buffet appears

Yesterday morning Amanda covered liferaft deployment then I covered engine room orientation before we set sail for Australia. Almost immediately we had good sailing wind and angles and we haven’t motored since then. The sizable and very active cold front, whose arrival is to bring gale-force headwinds, keeps being forecast for later and later and is predicted to have less wind and smaller seas. We have watched the ETA of the frontal passage pushed back later each day in the GRIB forecasts, and the forecasted wind strengths diminish. Several of our Leg 7 crew is anticipating some heavy weather experience, so we don’t expect they will be disappointed!

Click HERE for our forecast from Commanders’ Weather.

October 15, 2012, 2030 hrs, 26.43 S, 154.17 W, Log: 160,433 miles
Baro: 1025.0,


Tim relishes the heavy weather conditions

Cabin Temp: 76 F cockpit 74 F, sea water 77.5 F
Dragging our feet so as not to reach Brisbane NE Channel entrance before dawn: Triple-reefed main and genoa, broad reaching @ 5 kts with 14 SSE winds, rolly seas
51 miles to Brisbane, Australia channel entrance

The forecasted cold front came right on schedule early Friday morning as the wind swung around to N. We first saw cloud lightning and heard thunder then came four hours of heavy rain before clearing. A welcome surprise was how quickly the front moved through, winds reached a solid 25 with gusts to 34, and by early Saturday morning the wind had swung to the SW and was down to 18. In the days that have followed the wind has oscillated between ESE and SSE and averaged around 15 kts.

With variable tail winds gybes become a daily occurrence.

 


Upon gybe completion Ankio inspects a flying fish that didn't make it across the deck

The seas flattened out a couple days ago and yesterday morning dawned clear with amazingly flat seas. We were making great time and when I popped up to check things in the cockpit, Tim said, “It just couldn’t get any better than this!”

In a couple minutes it did! Tim yelled fish on and literally everyone aboard helped in carefully pulling in and landing a very nice mahi mahi. Mark M who had owned a sport fishing boat in Mexico jumped in and filleted the fish demonstrating how to rip the skin off and Amanda grilled it perfectly for dinner with plenty of chili hot sauce condiments for our crew who all enjoyed fiery fare.

The mellow conditions have meant that we’ve been conducting class twice a day; after breakfast and following lunch. Diesel engines, electrical power systems and watermakers were one morning class in which tinny rattle from engine in low rpm’s had us trouble shooting for causes. Amanda surmised a broken alternator tensioning rod and she was right. It has snapped several times inside the tensioning nut so I’d missed it on my first few visuals.

Everyone took turns taking sextant sights, although Mark ponders that fish filleting is easier, and Amanda covered sail design and construction along taught three strand splicing, which everyone quickly mastered. Landfall navigation was our subject this afternoon with everyone taking turns plotting the many course changes and waypoints between our first waypoint at the entrance to NE Channel and the customs dock at River Bend Marina.


Aniko waits for the green flash as sunset

When it looked like we would arrive at the river bar entrance before dawn, Peter and Mark took in a second reef and reduced the headsail. Now we are getting into the refractive wave zone and it is very rolly in places, then it seems to flatten out.


Here’s our Leg 7 team: Aniko, Peter, Mark N, Mark M and Tim

It’s been fun to listen to our Leg 7 crew planning their own cruising adventures. Peter and Aniko have just one year to wait for the delivery of their Gunboat 55 hi-tech catamaran, Mark N has been working for years of rebuilding a Hans Christian 43 ketch and plans to sail it to Alaska next summer. Mark M has booked a charter on a Seawinds 48 cat and is gearing up and honing skills for a fun cruise as captain. Tim, who lives 20 minutes south of Brisbane is trying to think of ways to get his partner interested in long range cruising when he retires in a couple years.

 

Aniko Benedek, 26
US born of Hungarian and Korean parents currently living in San Francisco but has lived and worked worldwide and speaks at least a dozen languages. I’m looking to learn more languages while sailing around the world and exploring new cultures. Peter, my partner surprised me with this expedition as a gift and it was an amazing experience!

Peter, 28
Peter came to the SF Bay area from the Ukraine at 12 and has worked as a software engineer. “I came on this trip with my partner to work on our confidence and skills to fulfill our dream to start cruising in a year”.

Mark N, 53
I’m a computer designer and manager and recently moved from Silicon Valley to La Conner, Washington. I’ve planned to go world cruising for several years but have not tasted it yet. This cruise has whetted my appetite for it and has given me critical skills to make cruising a lot safer and more fun along with the confidence to go off and do it. Mark lives aboard his Hans Christian 43 ketch.

Mark M, 41, a project manager in Sydney, Australia, but originally from near Tacoma, WA
I wanted to experience and learn how to sail the world! Mark has owned large offshore sportfishing boats fishing California and Mexican waters but moved to Australia recently and has 350 days left before he becomes an Aussie citizen. He is a total adventure nut, having recently spent seven months driving a specially-designed 4wd Jeep to completely around Australia, reaching the furthest N, S, E and W points of the continent and having tons of exciting stories, many of which are detailed on www.markmehr.com. On his Japanese partner Sunao’s request, he’d booked the charter catamaran and they’re very excited about their upcoming two-week charter on the Great Barrier Reef over Christmas holidays.

Tim, 56, a project manager from Brisbane, Australia
I have coastal sailing experience which I wanted to expand to include ocean passagemaking skills as well as boat selection criteria. My goal is to start cruising the South Pacific within a couple of years, possibly culminating in a circumnavigation. Tim is a surfer, surf lifesaver and a real waterman, always quick to lend a hand.

October 19, 2012, 0730 hrs, 27.27 S, 153.11 W, Log: 160,546 miles
Moored at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, Manly, Brisbane

Our slowing down worked well and we had plenty of daylight when we located the #1 buoy for NE Channel. Winds went lighter, sun was out and we ended up motorsailing with a very nice flood tide pushing us along at up to 8.5 kts all the way 35 miles to the customs dock in River Bend??? Marina. Enroute I covered clearing into foreign port.


As required we’d emailed and faxed Australia Customs all boat and passport information, as well as calling them once we were within VHF range. The very helpful and friendly officers told us they had been tracking our AIS signal for hours. AQIS Quarantine inspection followed, and taking a hint from last year when one of the first things the inspectors asked was, “When was the vessel last fumigated?” This year I created a fumigation log, detailing time and location of each time I had set off a fumigation bomb. This was a big hit, and although they stealthily checked in the corner of lockers, under floors and in cracks and crevices with a flashlight for signs of termites, the inspection went much faster than last year.

The minute we were cleared, we slipped lines and shot down river with a now-ebbing tide, 12 miles to the RQYS http://www.rqys.com.au/ in Manly Boat Harbour. Thanks to the kindness and of previous EM’s and local RQYS members, Jon and Kate, we had a berth waiting for us.

That afternoon Aniko, Tim and Peter created their own stylish splice then everyone enjoyed visiting around Manly, a charming little seaside village, before we met at our favorite Indian restaurant for dinner.

Just after breakfast Wednesday morning we set sail for tiny Green Island, three miles away, practicing Lifesling Overboard retrieval before anchoring for lunch and trips aloft for rig inspection. After lunch we set sail back to the RQYS where Amanda taught winch servicing and sail repair.


Mark masters the half turn on the wheel for MOB.


Peter performs an acrobatic move at the mast head after shinning up the rig unassisted

For our final graduation dinner, Amanda scouted a cool seafood joint across from the waterfront park in nearby Lota. Mark M’s partner Sunao and her daughters, Rizu and Nico, Tim’s partner Chris and puppy Jack, plus two cruisers friends also joined us for a fun evening with great food. Mark M gave Peter and Aniko a ride south and at last word they’re showing them around Tamborine Mountain and Surfers Paradise.


We’ve been enjoying the fabulous climate, local scenery and nearby villages, along with catching up with friends this weekend and visiting the incredible Manly weekend markets. We’ll head north in a few days to explore and hike more of the coast and hinterland, this time by rented car instead of camper.

 

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Leg 7 Itinerary

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