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Not At Sea: In the River

November 8th, 2011 · 2 Comments

We finally managed to slow down off Cape Brett to have Giselle moving very uncomfortably with the short chop in the area so we put the sails back up to get comfort again. Luckily the wind shadow of the hills down to Whangarei allowed us to arrive all tied up in Marsden Cove Marina at a sensible 9 O’clock in the morning. Quarantine, Customs/Immigration were very efficient and chatty and we were able to get the afternoon tide up to Whangarei. We are now anchored in the river off Norsand Boatyard just below the Town.

This completes our 5th trip north/south across the Pacific in New Zealand waters. The winds for us have always been below 25 knots, so we have had a good ride across this patch of water known for catching cruisers in gale force winds and big seas. We were OK for the alcohol to celebrate the successful completion but quarantine had taken all the fresh food so the food was below Mary’s normal standard, just a delicious chocolate cake with cream to save the day. [Read more →]

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At Sea: Aunt Una

November 4th, 2011 · 3 Comments

David’s mother’s sister Una in her later years stayed in the family home in Penzance, Cornwall. On of the comments she is well remembered for is “I have eaten up that xxxx in the fridge” with a tone like it was nearly going to waste so wasn’t I good. The reality was that the tasty morsel had been resisted by others ready for a treat very soon. We are making a virtue of eating up really lovely food at the moment. All the meat has gone but there is plenty of good fruit and vegetables. Roasted pumkin for lunch, pumkin curry, Pineapple, oranges, papya we have the full range of salads and we still have just enough Mangoes from our bonus day in Kouakoue to last to Whangarei. New Zealand quarantine take all our fruit and veg off us.

We had 5 squid on the deck yesterday morning. I believe they come up to the surface to feed at night. Shows why we caught the Mahi Mahi in the night as our lure looks exactly like one of these small squids. When they were thrown back, shearwater birds came from nowhere to gobble them up.

We have had the first go at slowing the boat down to avoid arriving too early on Sunday. Now have a pocket sized Jib but still 7 to 8 knots of boat speed. Need to try harder! [Read more →]

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At Sea: We’re British

November 3rd, 2011 · No Comments

We’re British so we allowed to complain about the weather. The pilot books and cruiser stories are full of how bad the lows can be as you approach New Zealand especially if you are south of 30°S. The trysail was rigged on its own track to the mast and we even replaced the ropes on th Bimini with spectra rope – an odd job that has been on the list for a year or so. The front arrived at midnight and Giselle turned through 90° almost like we were tacking as the wind pilot kept here at the same angle to the wind as it went from NW to SW. No increase in wind though. Lots of heavy rain showers and the wind died. The rest of the night was spent motor sailing!

If we weren’t British, we would be really excited at having such good weather all the way down. David of course is certain that it is his weather forecasting skills and course strategy. The real answer is that you can start long voyages with Giselle when many other boats have to stay in harbour. Sailing Giselle into headwinds is slower but still comfortable and she carries enough fuel to motor across oceans if there is none. We don’t make the 5 knots VMG to windward we were getting on the flat water inside the New Caledonian lagoon but normally manage 4.5 knots if the wind is up around 15 knots. VMG = velocity made good, this is the speed you are doing resolved into the speed directly into the wind. We left an Amel in Ile des Pins that was going to wait a week for a better weather window. [Read more →]

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At Sea: Albatrosses and fronts

November 2nd, 2011 · No Comments

We have seen our first Albatross. Now officially allowed to feel cold even if it is 20°C! Such graceful flyers. I saw a shearwater with a fish close to the boat earlier in the day. First time I have seen one of the good flying birds feeding. I was getting to wonder when they ever fed.

We are south of 30° when lows and their fronts become an issue. We have a front coming through 3 am tomorrow. The weather files have a maximum of 18 knots and with luck it will be below 30 knots. We will probably get the Trysail out on deck to save the battle in the middle of the night should it be required. Trysail is always the best sail when the wind goes above 30 knots.

Mary had a tricky watch last night keeping the boat going in the fading wind. She nearly gave up a few times but finally had to admit defeat at 11PM and we have been motoring ever since. At midday we are due to get the beginnings of the NW wind that will lead up to the front. Past the half way milestone now. [Read more →]

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At Sea: Sea Riches and Harmony

November 1st, 2011 · No Comments

It turns out that we are on the shipping lane from New Zealand to China. The cargo vessels on this route are heading up between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea. So we have been having 2 or 3 cargo ships a day go by, some visible some just seen on the AIS screen. We saw both Harmony and Sea Riches.

So far we have had to motor for two short periods of less than an hour each as the wind changed a bit and went light. Last night was another great sail. For long periods around 3am we were doing over 8 knots in just 12knots of wind. The wind has stayed in the south west which has allowed us to crack off on a close reach rather than tight on the wind. Great sunrise this morning and you will know that the moon is now with us from sunset to midnight as we have reached the first quarter. [Read more →]

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At Sea: Mum’s Fleecy Hat

October 31st, 2011 · 1 Comment

Colder last night mostly because we had South West winds and rain squalls. So it was out with the excellent fleecy hat that my Mum gave me after we delivered Madog to Cork, Ireland in 2003.

We were expecting light winds but have had good sailing winds of 10 to 20 knots. With the change to SW we are going straight towards NZ. We were expecting small seas but as can happen there are several seas at about 2 meters out here which makes it hard for the boat to get going. We have been inside lagoons and behind the Vanuatu islands for such a time we had forgotten these delights [Read more →]

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At Sea: Out of the new, towards the old

October 31st, 2011 · No Comments

We have left New Caledonia and this will be our last ocean voyage before we return to Scotland. The circumnavigation of New Caledonia was fun. It was a total of 774 boat miles with the last 400ish to windward. The flat seas of the lagoon made the sailing very like coastal sailing in the UK. The wind drops most nights to nothing which made the anchorages very pleasant. To be recommended especially if you enjoy French customs and language. We are loking forward to going back some day. It will be especially good to see our friends Olivia and Olivier from Lifou.

We upped anchor from the Iles des Pins yesterday afternoon just after lunch and have been sailing to windward up to an hour ago when a rain cloud killed the wind. Wind seems to be returning slowly. The weather forecast is for light winds mostly on the nose. Giselle goes well to windward and we took on a good bit a fuel so that we can motor a lot of the way if needed.

The tropics are behind us now but the sea temperature hasn’t dropped yet from its 24°C so it promises to be a hot day. [Read more →]

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Bonus day in Baie de Kouakoue

October 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

We have just had one of those unexpected magical days.

We got up expecting to sail into 25 knots to windward to Yate. Then we noticed that the anchorage was blissfully quiet despite the strong winds blowing along the coast that we could easily see beyond the headland. Time to go up the mast and do the checks ready for the trip to New Zealand and hopefully sort a fault with the wind instruments. Done to schedule, no problems and instruments working. During the coffee after the mast work Mary suggested a walk ashore and sail further tomorrow. We are at very remote location. he nearest road is 20 miles away. The remoteness is lovely but it makes walking harder. We were optimistic when we saw deer hoof prints on the beach but we couldn’t find a path we could follow. We did find a way up an old land slide to get a great view of the bay from perhaps 150m up.

There is a deserted small village in a corner of the bay that was established for nickel mining. The people have left but the mangoes haven’t and the water supply is still intact. Lunch was a mellow white wine(Bordeaux Moelleux) with mangoes and local berries similar to raspberries. We did all our washing and filled the tanks, so now no engine running needed for the watermaker. There was even an incinerator to burn our rubbish. Sunset was red wine (Cotes de Rhone Villages) with almonds by the fire. Dinner was the last of the mahi mahi, still tasting so good. Olivia from Lifou treated us to a number of her recipes for mahi mahi while we were together at Ouvea – vanilla sauce, pepper sauce and fish pie – all very fine. I guess we should get the fishing lines out again tomorrow but no chance of mahi mahi inside the reef.

Now we are listening the to the world cup final on a French radio station. Hard to understand but the commentators sound sad and the crowd excited so we guess New Zealand are winning quite easily.

Tomorrow is an early start to get most of the way to Noumea. Position: 21°56’S 166°40’E [-21.940,166.670]

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At Sea: Mahi mahi for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

October 16th, 2011 · No Comments

Our first overnight sail since we arrived in New Caledonia. We have spent nearly all the time here since the beginning of September inside the lagoon with flat seas so its seems a big deal, even daunting, to venture outside. Once outside there was a great sense of freedom, no more triple checking that you are indeed missing the coral reefs close by. A great night’s sail in 7 to 10 knots coming from where we want to go but the distance is only 60 miles so we be there very soon.

We hope we have won the fishing challenge! Our cruising companions from New Caledonia that we first met in Vanuatu are sailing to Ouvea at the same time. There is of course a rather unfair sailing race, from our point of view completely fair but Lifou remind us that we are some 10ft longer than their Beneteau Oceanis 350. The fishing competition is off a level playing field. When you catch a 5ft long Mahi Mahi (that is the fish with the big head) it would have been nice if the boat was level not going to windward. We caught the fish at 4 am with just moonlight around. I put this down to my skill of having the knot where the line is attached to the shock-cord so large that it puts some life into the lure as the knot drops in and out of the water just behind the boat. First task was to wake Mary. We tried several different places to land the fish and finally got it into the middle of the cockpit. We did put the bottom board in, though, as we have heard stories of these fish leaping around and getting down below. Its a big fish so the locals ashore are in for a treat as we can’t possibly eat it all while its fresh. [Read more →]

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Eclipse of the Sun

October 10th, 2011 · No Comments

OK the sun eclipse wasn’t this year, it was on 6th September 1774. We stopped on the island on the north east end of New Caledonia which Captain Cook used to make observations of this eclipse. The island is tiny so you can be pretty confident that you have walked on the same spot as Cook himself.

This was the first place Cook saw in New Caledonia and it does indeed look like Scotland. Just have to avoid concentrating on the mangrove swamps and keep admiring the hills! The anchorage is behind the reefs and was amazingly quiet. It was here that much of the early European interaction took place. After Cook came Entrecasteaux and then Kermadec in 1783 who died of a tropical decease and is buried on the island. Catholic Mission followed in 1843 and the French claimed New Caledonia here in 1853. [Read more →]

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