New Caledonia to Australia
After doing all the formalities we were free to explore the town. But the general preference of the crew veered more to testing the shower facilities and a good dinner which warranted the barbeque coming out for the landfall dinner. Sometime after dinner Nils, Noel, Julian and Martin decided to check out the local watering holes. Forgetting that New Caledonian time is an hour behind New Zealand's' they only managed one beer before the bar closed and they had to return to the boat where Jack and Jay had already retired to their beds. The next morning was a mass washing day with Jay in charge of the washing machine. Whilst this was going on Noel, Nils, Julian and Martin headed for town in search of the hardware that we realized we needed after leaving New Zealand, and Jack headed for the local internet café. That evening we headed for the town square where a local band was meant to be playing, stopping at a bar en-route where we had received a free drinks card.
We arrived a little late at the square but still got enjoy a few reggae songs. There was also a number of stalls there selling food, plants and local wares in general. As we had no hard liquor on board Martin and Julian decided to test the local rum by purchasing a bottle each. Back at the boat we decided to sample the first bottle by mixing it with some sliced fresh lime and a little brown sugar.
As the first bottle went down so well we decided just to try the second one, despite people getting rosier in the check and the conversation getting more animated.
After polishing off half the second bottle as well we decided that it would be wise to turn in for the evening as we had a lot to do the next morning.
Despite some people feeling slightly the worse for wear the next morning we all trooped off to the local market where we would provision for the next leg of the voyage.
After about an hour we had bought everything that we thought we would need and carried it back to the boat with the help of the washing basket.
As Noel had already cleared us out earlier that morning we all had a couple of hours to wander the town and do some last minute interneting. Come midday we headed for the fuel dock where we replenished our diesel supply and headed out to anchor at the island of Ilot Ti Non for the night.
Noel decided to take the opportunity to put a sycaflex and sand mixture, that was recommended by some locals, on the hole that the sacrificial keel left to ensure it was protected from the elements. Despite both Martin and Noel donning their diving gear and trying to forcefully keep it there it was to no avail and it just broke up and floated away
Whilst Noel and Martin were under the boat Julian and Nils headed off to the nearby reef where Julian had his first shark encounter.
The next morning we weighed anchor and headed for the pass. Once we cleared the pass we came onto our course for Torres Strait. We started off with a moderate amount of wind up to about ten knots, so we put up the number one jib, staysail, single reefed main and a single reefed mizzen, the sails were not generating enough power to be left on their own so the motor was just ticking over to keep everything full and happy. By nightfall we had lost the wind altogether, so down came the sails and it was all up to the motor. By the next morning we had a little bit of wind from behind us which was just enough to waft the diesel fumes over the boat. Most unpleasant. Since we left the days have just been getting hotter and hotter so we decided that a swim was in order for the day. So after throwing a rope out the back we took it in turns to jump in and act as shark bait.
After everyone had cooled off a bit we decided that we should try the secret weapon. So the spinnaker came out to give us an average of three knots. As the wind picked up a bit more we reached the six knot mark with some careful fine tuning on the tack and sheet.
The sea state so far has been beautifully calm so everyone took the opportunity to get up to date with the general chores. Nils and Julian have been working on some ratlines for the main mast, the plan is for them to reach the spreaders and while the sea state was calm they got well on their way up the shrouds.
Later that day when we were still flying our spinnaker we had two humpback whales swim alongside us much to the excitement of everyone on board. They stayed with us for about ten minutes before swimming off (you can just make out its dorsal fin in the middle of the picture).
So far we have done extremely well on the fishing front catching four tuna in five days. Surprisingly they were all Albacore tuna, which we marinated in either soy sauce with garlic or chilli. The first and biggest Albacore was caught by Nils on the morning watch which was also the first fish he caught whilst being on board.
After flying the spinnaker on a number of occasions we thought that ''Sails'' (Jay) would need to have a look at tightening up the bluff a bit stop it flapping virtually all the time, so the old and faithful sewing machine came out and, after a bit of a service, the modification was under way.
Annoyingly just as we were about to host the spinnaker again after its birthday Noel discovered that where it had been patched previously it had broken again, so it was back to ''Sails'' for a repair job. Unfortunately this time the sewing machine had conked out and it had to be repaired by hand.
Whilst the sea state was still very calm Jay started to teach people how to navigate with a sextant. This involves at least an hours hard work of taking two sights with the sextant then looking up the relevant numbers in a nautical almanac and either adding or subtracting it to your sight.
There was a big disturbance one morning when someone spotted a stranger on the foredeck, but the panic was over when we recognized it to be Julian who had just had a shave.
So far we have snaked around the rum line trying to keep the wind in a more workable direction, at one stage we were seventy two miles off of our course. Quite often the wind would just drop off to nothing and the Perkins would have to be used. We hit one bad squall one evening and as luck would have it we had everything up with a single reef in the mizzen. The off watch people were dozing in the saloon waiting for the wind to dye so we could reef, while Lista was roaring along at speeds of up to ten knots. As soon as the wind slackened a bit, we charged onto the deck and replaced the big jib for the medium one and put a reef in the main. Twenty minutes later it was still raining but the wind had died off and we were slopping around in the aftermath. We have started baking bread on a regular basis now, we get through approximately two loaves a day, and if someone is feeling motivated enough, there are fresh cakes for afternoon tea as well.
As we were nearing our first way point the wind died on us and we were motoring along and somehow losing up to two knots. As there had been no reports of currents anywhere near this strong Noel jumped in the water to check that we were not dragging something. The rest of the crew grabbed the opportunity of a cool down session and promptly followed him over the side. It turned out that we were not dragging anything, so we just have to put up with our low speed. After threatening for several weeks Noel decided that it was haircut time and Jay very kindly offered to do the honours. Half an hour later and our captain was looking very presentable.
We have arrived at the beginning of Torres Strait after three days of motoring and just as we started our run the wind picked to a useable strength. So with everything up and making between six and seven knots we entered the Strait with the morning light. Our spirits were slightly dampened however when it started raining in earnest and didn't let up until late that evening, but the arrival of Neptune's messengers (some dolphins) was a welcome distraction from the downpour
By mid afternoon the next day we entered the Prince of Whales channel which was the narrowest part of the Strait and was the last major part of the Strait as well. So it was not without a slightly regretful air that we put our back to land and started on our course for Darwin.
We were still sailing beautifully the next day with a full main, single reefed mizzen, staysail and the number one jib. We hit a bad squall later that night with rain slashing down and we were hitting speeds of up to ten knots. With the deck bouncing around beneath our feet we changed to the medium jib, staysail, single reefed main, and double reefed mizzen. With our sail area better suited to the wind speed we trucked on towards our destination. A couple of days later we had our fishing lines out when we had a screaming take on the rod. After nearly an hours battle with this monster from the deep we got it along side to see a beautiful sailfish on the end. There was a great deal of excitement as we strained to get it on board. It was two point three metres in length and we estimated its weight to be in excess of sixty pounds.
The next morning we made our turn into the beginning of the Clarence Strait, with a three reefed main, a double reefed mizzen, the medium jib and staysail up we sailed close hauled up the Strait. We were making about five knots from the sails, but we also had the tide with us so we were shooting along at speeds of between ten and eleven knots. As luck would have it our run up the Strait coincided nicely with the tide and this made it possible for us to reach the anchorage in Fannie Bay that same evening. After we had successfully dropped the anchor we all relaxed with a cold beer. The next morning we moved onto the dock so that immigration and customs could clear us in. We had to stay on the dock for that day and night but the next day we went through a lock and into the marina.
We unfortunately had to say goodbye to Nils here as he chose to leave the boat, so now we are back on the lookout for crew.
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