New Zealand to New Caledonia
The date for us to leave Whangarei was almost upon us and the last preparations were under way. The bulk provisioning took six trolleys to transport it to the boat and it took five people the better part of three hours to stow it all away. Then there was the fresh vegetables that were purchased from the farmers market at the crack of dawn one morning. We left the dock the morning before our departure to give our new auto-pilot a test and to reconfigure its compass which involved doing four or five turns and a general run around. The system performed well, but the real test will be when we hit the open sea. The actual hydraulic ram is mounted on the stern of the boat underneath the helmsman's seat, where the ram extends through the wood to where the end is mounted around a ball socket which in turn is mounted on the rudder post. The hydraulic pump is situated below deck just above the chart table in the engine room where we hope it will be slightly more protected.
The night before our departure we thought that in proper sailing tradition we would have a few friends around for a drink or two. Mark and Quentin from the yacht Skaardu arrived armed with a bottle of champagne along with strict instructions that it was not to be opened until we reached the Mediterranean. Also the party animal Alan came over, who turned out to be a very bad influence on Jay who ended up staying up till past 2:00am exchanging stories and drinking red wine. An almost unheard of occurrence.
Despite being up late the previous evening we left Whangarei on the morning tide and started our run to Tutakaka a sheltered bay further up the coast. The crew list stood at six people - going from left to right on the picture below we have Martin, Nils, Julian, Noel and Jay.
We had quite a bumpy ride on the way up to Tutakaka with a couple of the crew men suffering from sea sickness. But everyone felt much better when we got into the sheltered anchorage and even plucked up the courage to indulge in a couple of cold beers.
The next morning we headed for Opua, the Bay of Islands where we would clear out and our first blue water passage of the trip will begin. There wasn't quite enough wind for a sail up there so we helped out the motor with a single reefed main and the staysail. We went past the legendary hole in the rock and began our run through the beautiful Bay of Islands.
On arrival to Opua we were put onto a wharf that we shared with another old boat R.Tucker Thompson. Needless to say when we got there the beer lantern was lit and everyone relaxed. A crew member from R. Tucker Thompson came over for a look around and was encouraged to stay for a beverage. We were also joined by an American friend of Noel's, Joby, who is currently a crew man aboard a nearby boat and after a little encouragement they were persuaded to stay for dinner as well.
Noel seemed particularly pleased with his crew and couldn't help showing his affection over dinner that evening.
We had one day spare before we left just to get in some fresh food, and enjoy the local facilities that we would sorely miss when we were on passage. Every one did their own thing either heading for the local town or ringing friends and family. We cleared out the next morning and headed for the open sea. Everyone took the opportunity to get used to helming the boat in preparation for harder times.
After motoring for the first day and a bit we were all very pleased when the wind picked up enough to carry the number one jib, staysail, full main and one reef in the mizzen. We rounded that day off beautifully with our first fish of the passage, which was a small dorado.
There was a minor panic when a plank of wood was noticed, still half attached to the boat, banging against the rudder and the prop. Noel quickly realized that it was part of the sacrificial keel and climbed down onto the quadrant to pull it off and cast it adrift.
The hydraulic steering was also playing up with air bubbles in the line. So when the sea had settled down a bit more we whipped off the wheel and bleed the line whilst steering with the emergency tiller.
The wind has been constantly changing on us all the way so far until it went light and came straight from behind us. After trying the main and the medium jib for a while we changed to the mizzen and the same jib just to have it flogging all the time as well. Not wishing to give up Noel bought out his new toy, a spinnaker. Having anticipated these kind of conditions at some point in the trip Noel went on the hunt for a spinnaker before we left New Zealand. As luck would have it a yacht in the town basin was selling one the right size. After a bit of trial and error we decided that it was best to haul it up on the jib halyard in preference to the topsail halyard.
It went very well for the couple of hours that we flew it before it got dark and we had to call the fun to an end and motor into the night instead. The top speed that we reached with the spinnaker was five and a half knots but the wind would lull from time to time and we could drop to as little three knots.
Early morning on the seventh day we caught first sight of the lights of New Caledonia, and by first light we caught our first sight of New Caledonia.
After defining the leading lights for the Boulari pass we effortlessly motored through and anchored off the island Amedee for a snorkel. It turned out to be a beautiful snorkel with lots of things to see. Everyone got the chance to relax and cool off for a couple of hours before we tackled the fourteen mile leg to Noumea.
As we reluctantly weighed anchor and left for Noumea we had a fish hit our lure. Noel was first to the rod and after a spirited fight we landed a small Wahoo.
Fourteen miles of flat calm motoring towards Noumea later and we were tied up alongside the dock awaiting the final clearance to go and explore the town.
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