Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore sailing seminars and boat purchase consultation.
Before dark we set sail for New Caledonia in perfect broad reaching conditions. Our crew couldn’t believe how much more comfortable broad reaching was vs. sailing close hauled into the tradewinds two nights earlier. No one was seasick this time and the full moon made for an amazing night of sailing.
After passing the Loyalties are trades dropped off, the winds became variable, but we managed to keep sailing smoothly until the last 60 miles when a forecasted approaching front brought occasional light drizzle and even lighter winds.
Havannah Pass lies to the south east of Grande Terre Island and is tricky entrance bracketed by reefs and shipwrecks and with currents to five knots can be a nightmare, even for ships if trying to enter it with strong winds opposing maximum ebb current. The pass then leads into the 50 mile long series of channels that lead across the south of Grande Terre to Noumea; the on port of entry for New Caledonia.
We kept our speed down yesterday to around six knots so that it was well after dawn when we arrived at the pass, and not long after slack water. It was slightly hazy and the rugged coastline was beautiful as we passed the southern headlands. Before long winds picked up to 18-20 knots and we were scooting along straight downwind under full mainsail only.
We had learned from a sailing friend in Noumea that we were arriving on the second day of a four day holiday weekend, and wouldn’t be able to clear customs until Wednesday so decided to anchor quietly in the most isolated bay we could find which turned out to be Port Koube on Ile Ouen. We were surprised to see a Swiss cruising ketch and a local sloop also anchored in this uninhabited bay and sheltering from the strong cool winds. Not to be put off by the weather some of us enjoyed a delicious chilly swim before afternoon naps, a great dinner and good conversations.
September 27, 2013 1400 hrs, 22.19 S, 166.24 E, Log 168,446 miles
Enjoying a quiet moment of headsail sailing with favorable winds in Canal Woodin
Megan navigates our course to Baie Alric
Amanda demonstrates the pitfalls of a loose backup chest harness for rig inspection
Baie Alric proved to be the perfect spot for anchoring; a palm tree lined bay sheltered from the gusty winds. Each of our intrepid crew went aloft to inspect the rig (and more importantly, learn how to go aloft safely with a back-up harness and halyard).
The peaceful setting held interesting vistas with a few houses or weekend cabins some of which were occupied and the surreal mix of exotic palm trees and the tall spindly pines from the araucaria family. The scenery came alive when a muster of peacocks came strutting and squawking along the beach followed by raft of white ducks.
We decided to have lunch underway and headed out towards Noumea, planning to anchor at Ile Uere for the night. After two hours underway we spotted a black wall of clouds bearing down on us. Our crew dived below for foulie jackets and in minutes visibility dropped to a boat length. Torrential rains pelted us and the wind piped up to 35, maxing out at 42 kts in gusts. As the wind was directly on our bow and the channel narrow in places, we motored directly into it with no sail up, gradually increasing power to 2600 rpms, or 65% and still managing to keep 6 kts of boat speed. This was another time we are thankful that Hallberg-Rassy chooses to put larger diesel engines than most other boatbuilders. Mahina Tiare’s Volvo TMD-31LA engine is 95 hp and can easily push her at 7-8 kts through almost any conditions
Brenda did a brilliant job at the helm and with the help of Coastal Explorer/C-Map and Raymarine running Nobeltec charts we zig-zagged through the narrow channel into what we expected to be a sheltered and empty anchorage. What a surprise to find 20 sail and motor boats packed into the small bay careening back and forth at anchor in the strong winds. Although the anchorage provided relief from the swells, the wind whistled right over the thin strip of sand and soon after we anchored we noticed a large powerboat dragging toward the beach. We let out 150’ of chain in 15’ depth and knew from previously snorkeling expeditions in the bay that where we’d anchored the bottom was all sand and clear of coral heads
Brenda and Michele happy to survive a blustery 42 knots. Note trusty Brad in the background keeping a vigilant anchor watch
Once dried out and satisfied with our anchorage I tried calling Port Moselle, the nearby marina where arriving vessels must tie to clear customs. I was surprised they could pick up my call and even more surprised when they said that although they currently had no space on the visitor’s dock, they might the following day if a boat left. With three days of the four day weekend passed I expected there’d be a raft of boats waiting for berths to clear customs, but evidentially not so!
Anchor watches were drawn up for the evening but by the time we’d finished dinner the winds had dropped and we all enjoyed a great sleep.
Right after an early breakfast Tuesday morning we set sail and everyone practiced Lifesling overboard retrieval in winds gusting to 18 kts before we changed course and sailed nearly to the entrance of Port Moselle in gorgeous, clear weather.
|Brad executes the Lifesling|
Although the marina staff had said to call back later to see if anyone had left, we decided to do a slow tour of the visitor’s dock and when the skipper of Distracted saw us, he correctly figured what we were doing and shouted out that a Swan 46 had just left. He very kindly walked up the dock and spoke with the marina staff person who they called us on the radio inviting us to moor in slip 28!
Our run of good luck didn’t end there, as although it was a holiday, a young Kanak man from quarantine was just completing inspecting another arriving boat and was down to check our food supplies in minutes. We filled out customs forms which the marina office then faxed to their office and were given immigration forms to fill out so I’d be ready when they opened the following morning.
We gave our crew the option of taking off an exploring or having showers ashore and continuing with our classes and within an hour Amanda was teaching sail design and trim which I followed with diesel engine essentials and electrical power systems. That night we enjoyed a delicious and truly French dinner at La Chaumerie, one of our all-time favorite restaurants found by Kate Fawcett from Leg 7-2010.
Wednesday morning Amanda taught how to strip and clean winches which I followed with communications worldwide and dealing with officials and clearance procedures worldwide.
I live near Seattle where I work as a substitute teacher and also manage a walnut orchard in California. After 10+ years of boat partnerships during which I mostly sat back and let my husband and kids do the work, we recently bought the boat that we hope to sail before the horizon. I joined MT to step up my understanding of offshore cruising and boat handling techniques. This expedition has given me the understanding and confidence to become a full partner with my husband in sailing and maintaining our new boat.
I’m a recent college graduate from Philadelphia on my way to more adventures. I’d like to do a longer sail, perhaps across the Pacific and that was the primary reason for sailing aboard MT. Through the voyaged I’ve mastered the basics of offshore a bit more and now I’m off to travel for the next few months after hopefully sailing to Australia. (Lucas worked as a deckhand on a salmon seine boat this summer in Alaska’s harsh Aleutian Islands).
I operate a couple of cafés in Calgary, Alberta and sail my Bavaria 32 out of Sidney, BC, sometimes sailing singlehanded, and other times with my wife and young children. My hopes for this expedition on MT were to increase my levels of knowledge and confidence and these goals were far exceeded.
I have been a pharmacist for over 20 years and a few years ago I fell in love with a sailor who was dreaming of sailing around the world. I grew up in the mid-west and have lived the past 20 years in Colorado. I had no sailing experience until I met Rick and have now completed a three day J-World course in San Diego and a charter sailing vacation in the BVI’s. As we approach retirement and ponder sailing around the world, we wanted to learn all we could about open water cruising safety, and boy have I learned a lot!
I am a retired entrepreneur living in Boulder, Colorado. I started sailing at age 23 on Lake of the Woods in Ontario. I felt that my ability as a sail was lacking in blue water passages, so this expedition seemed to be a great opportunity to start gaining exposure to that.
I am in the midst of trying something new every couple of months. I’ve been to Rome, Paris, Edinburgh, Kenya, Morocco, Costa Rica, the BVI and have spent a year in Botswana. Learning to sail has been an opportunity to meet new people, see new places and try to take charge of them. It’s proven an excellent way of traveling simply, in harmony with the weather and other creatures on this planet - both human and otherwise. I hope to have many more sailing adventures, to keep developing my skills and knowledge and to get to share the beauty of this varied world while travelling lightly over the earth.
I’m a family physician & med school faculty member from Philadelphia. I have been bare boat chartering for ten years in the US & Bahamas and have dreams of taking a year off, buying a boat in California and sailing with friends and family to Australia, sell the boat there. This leg with MT (with my daughter Megan and Lucas, a family friend) was hugely helpful in getting a handle on how this would work. John’s advice about best boats and how to buy and sell is enormously helpful.
Megan, Brenda, Michele with David Rick, Lucas and Brad
Megan, David and Lucas excited to be sharing exotic tagines
Megan had told us numerous encounters of her year spent Morocco, so when she found a Moroccan restaurant with a good write-up in Lonely Planet called Kasbah, we were all for that and Brad and Michele scoped it out that afternoon.
What a treat! Megan explained what tagine, a popular Moroccan dish was and we were hooked. So hooked that the next afternoon Amanda went in search of a Moroccan spice and food store she’d seen in a previous visit.
All too soon Leg 6 was over, and our outgoing crew were making plans to meet for adventures and dinners during the next couple days most of them had in Noumea.
Lucas had earlier mentioned that he would REALLY enjoy finding a boat to join for the passage to either NZ or Australia on the start of his backpacking travel adventures, so we made it a goal to see how many boats we could line up for him.
Before we had even cleared customs, I spotted Mediteraneo, an Island Packet 45 whose Croatian-Australian owner was a previous very satisfied consultation client, and without even meeting Lucas, the owner said he was looking for another hand for their upcoming passage back to Australia once the weather looked good. In the end we lined up a total of four and possibly five boats for Lucas to choose from!
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