WEDNESDAY 27TH JUNE
Yesterday was freezing cold and stormy in the Bay of Islands. I thought this was the winterless north!
We joined the crews of 2 other yachts at customs, also checking out today.
At the fuel dock we topped up with 60litres of fuel and at 1100 we motored out of the Bay of Islands to begin our next passage. We are planning to go straight to Port Moresby to meet up with the other boats checking in for the Sail2Indonesia Rally. There will be just enough time to sail the 2200 nms (approx) with a bit of help from the engine to get us through the calm patches. Not complaining. Better this than heavy winds and seas.
2000 hrs; Perfect sailing conditions and a full moon to boot. After our dinner of Turkish Bride soup, we were sitting in the cockpit feeling like we were riding a magic carpet under the light of the silvery moon. Smooth seas, 5 to 6 knots broad reach. We are heading directly north trying to catch the winds in front of the high and avoid the dead air nearer the centre.
FRIDAY 29TH JUNE 3rd day at sea
Yesterday we sailed northwards, motoring for a few hours when the wind died and our speed dropped. We are still trying to get north to the trades but are caught in the middle of a slow moving high. The seas have been a bit rougher than we might expect from such light winds, but we are comfortable and doing well. Managing to eat well too with no more signs of sea sickness.
Our watch routine of 3hrs on and 3 hrs off throughout the night suits us well. During the day we each go down and take a nap when we feel like it. With the wind vane steering, we don’t actually steer the boat. We can stay warm and dry inside the protection of our hard fiberglass dodger and just poke our heads out from time to time to make sure we are still on course and there are no changes in the conditions. Time to read, or write, or dream about our next destinations.
We haven’t seen a ship for 2 days so there will be no updates for our Find-Ship followers. We hope no-one is worrying unnecessarily.
Our days are spent verifying our navigation, adjusting sails as necessary, resting, reading, and I like to prepare something for the evening meal during the day and check the produce to see what needs eating, then prepare the meal accordingly. There are some frozen meals but they are still deeply embedded in the ice so no hurry to eat those. Whatever shows itself as the ice melts determines our next meal.
I get very tired of just sitting. On my tablet I read and do puzzles and have even been reduced to playing solitaire!!! It’s addictive, but I also do sudoku and am now tackling the difficult ones. By day I use my Puzzle books which give me a wider range of brain teasers. I downloaded a “Brief History of Indonesia” which I am reading. It is going to be so interesting to visit these areas that have had such a colourful history. I have heaps of books in my library, but next I will get into a Lee Child’s and disappear into Jack Reacher’s world for a bit.
SATURDAY 30TH JUNE – 4th day
Frustrating night with very little wind, sailing around 4.5 kts. Put the engine on at 5.15 until the wind picks up again.
0900hrs. Yeah!! A cargo ship on the horizon! Now our Find ship followers will be able to see where we are, 3 days out from NZ. The AIS system updates our position via commercial ships that we pass. Their commercial AIS units automatically send the position of every boat they pass up to the satellites, which in turn is reported to various earth stations. Find Ship receives this information and makes it available to the internet.
Yummy breakfast of French toast, taken in the cockpit, with coffee. A nice change from our usual muesli and fruit,
The air temperature is definitely feeling more tropical to the point that we have now shed one of our layers of thermals. Today we have sunshine and clear blue skies. Lane is talking of dousing himself with a bucket of sea water but I will be sticking to my hot shower.
From the larder, mushrooms are the next thing to use, so choices will be mushrooms on toast for lunch, or a mushroom and cheese omelette tonight. I still have some tomato, bean and potato salad left from yesterday. Such decisions.
Housework done. Lane is just vacuuming to keep our ship in shape. He is feeling very happy with Mai Tai now we have sorted out all those past issues. Nothing more to go wrong. Surely!
SUNDAY 1ST JULY 5th day
For half an hour during each of my watches I get to watch the rising and setting of the sun, the horizon turning a golden orange creating shapes and hues with the different cloud formations. I have also had the pleasure of watching the golden orb of the full moon crossing the sky, lighting a shimmering path over the sea. Of course, we have fine weather and calm seas at the moment. This may change as the passage progresses.
Our AIS showed that another ship passed by 21nms away. We didn’t see it but I am happy that our position will be noted for this am.
Now after 4 days at sea and making the most of the calm conditions I am trying to get into some sort of routine. After breakfast, teeth cleaned, face washed and sunscreen applied, I have found a couple of places where I can do a series of yoga stretches, particularly upper body shoulder stretches and twists.
We flew the reacher/drifter today for a few hours but as the light winds turned further behind us it was difficult to keep a good course and our speed dropped to around 3 kts. So, back on with the engine.
MONDAY 2ND JULY 6TH DAY
I have just taken my midnight watch and Lane was already asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. The engine was purring along nicely to send us north at around 6kts. I had just got comfortable in the cockpit when I heard a gentle cough from the engine. Ugh ahhh! Lane was up like a shot. “sounds like a fuel problem”. It didn’t take long to find it. The forward fuel tank is completely empty! How?? We filled up in Opua and have used about 75 litres running the engine. That means we have lost 165 litres somewhere. After a quick search we found it – It had emptied into the bilge!!!
Having examined all the fuel lines and seeing no sign of a leak, Lane decided it may be a crack in the fuel tank itself. The fuel tank is made from monel, an extremely durable metal! Unthinkable. We still had fuel in our secondary tank, so this wasn’t really a serious problem so we had time to investigate the cause.
However, we needed to re-think our plans a bit. Firstly, we each needed a little bit of sleep before deciding our course from here.
TUESDAY 3RD JULY 7TH DAY
What a rough ride last night. The winds came up, sometimes blowing around 30kts, but of course with the winds we get the heavy seas. It was so uncomfortable but we did cover 168 miles under sail in 24 hours.
Lane did take time to contemplate our latest fuel problem and has now decided that it probably isn’t a split in the tank, but perhaps a burst hose from the fuel return system. Let’s hope he is right. It is amazing how fatigue can blur logical thinking.
So. Change of plans again. With Noumea right up ahead of us, we altered our course for this beautiful island with the thought of croissants, beautiful cheeses and a bit of French atmosphere to feed our souls as we dealt with this next problem.
We put in a way point about 20 miles from the entrance to the reef at Phare Amedee, and by our calculations we would arrive some time tomorrow morning. We couldn’t risk getting too close at night. The pass through the reef is narrow and full of submerged reefs, so we figured we would save our spare fuel and use the engine to help us navigate this area safely.
I know many people who have said to me how scared they would be once they lost sight of land. But for us, the minute we know there is land nearby is the time we cannot afford to rest. On this reef that we were now approaching we see a line of shipwrecks. Either through miscalculation, inattention or poor visibility, they didn’t get it quite right and their voyage ended here.
WEDNESDAY 4TH JULY 8th DAY
At 4am we reached the way point and could see the flashing lights of the lighthouse marking the pass. The winds were still strong and were now coming straight from where we needed to head. So with 3 reefs in the main and a small headsail, we would use the engine to help us get some headway. (A reminder that we do not have roller furling as we prefer to hank on the appropriate sail for each point of sail)
Barely half an hour later, the engine stops again!!! Now the second tank is out of fuel. This confirms that the problem is in the fuel lines, but that does not help us deal with our immediate situation of negotiating a very treacherous stretch of water ahead of us in 30 knot head winds.
Back to the basics. Luckily Mai Tai sails well to windward, but we had absolutely no room for error with the number of reefs all around us.
We didn’t count the number of short tacks we had to do, but at about 3pm, we eventually sailed into the entrance to the bay just outside Noumea and dropped the anchor. The anchor dragged a bit before taking hold so we ended up sitting out in the middle of the shipping channel. Whoops.!! The Harbour Police raced up in the Police Boat explaining we couldn’t anchor there, but once Kay explained our predicament (in French) and that we were going to try to find a Marina berth, they couldn’t have been nicer, and with a laugh, saying that as long as we moved before tomorrow when a cruise liner was expected, all was ok. Welcome to Noumea. Customs is closed for the day, so we will do that tomorrow.
Yesterday afternoon we launched our dinghy and towed ourselves in to our allocated berth on the visitors’ pier in the marina. Lots of cruisers rallied around to be ready to help if necessary, which was a real reminder of the fraternity of this cruising world. I love it. There are all nationalities from the different boats, all with their own wonderful tales to tell.
Our situation epitomises one definition of cruising, which is “cruising is a life of working on boats in exotic locations”.
Checking in with customs, immigration and quarantine is pretty relaxed here, even though it seemed to take most of the day. Even the quarantine officer let us keep all our fresh produce when we told her we would be leaving in a few days. Each of these departments is situated in a different part of town between 30 and 40 mins walk away and there are screeds of paperwork to fill out, then the same number to fill out again when we leave. I took the time to revisit the old hospital where I used to work 40 years ago and a few old haunts, bringing back memories of that time.
I must say that everyone from the government officials, to the store keepers, ship chandlers and people you pass in the street have been unbelievably friendly, helpful, polite, and their happy relaxed island rhythm is contagious. You feel music in the air.
TIME TO GO
Tomorrow morning, we will leave Noumea with all our repairs done. Finding the parts was a bit of a problem but we managed in the end. Lane has spent many hours with his head in the engine room but all is well now and we have enjoyed this break here.
We have replenished the larder with fresh cheeses, tropical fruits and had our fill of croissants and pains au chocolat.
We have put away all our thermals for the next part of the trip. Sunhats have replaced our beanies, so we are now ready to continue our voyage towards Indonesia.
Our next Port of call is going to be Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, about 1500 miles from here. Then Indonesia.