Noumea to Sydney, Day 1

November 6, 2000

Family and Friends:

Everybody talks about the weather-especially cruisers. It more or less runs our lives. It dictates where we go, when we go, when we get there and how much fun we have once we’re there.

Since my meteorological skills are amateur, at best, we rely on lots of professionals: Bob McDavitt from New Zealand MetService and Des from Russell Radio are household (yachthold?) names down in this part of the world. These guys are the gurus who give us weather information and look after us when we are underway, respectively. Without them, sailing in this part of the world would be a lot more risky than it already is.

So when you get a hundred or so yachts, and two hundred or so yachties in a place like Noumea, New Caledonia, all waiting for a weather window to get to Australia or New Zealand, weather is the main topic of conversation.Ê Especially when there’s already a dozen or so yachts enroute who come up on the “Kava Club” radio desk every morning and report how they are getting whacked by gale force winds and big ugly seas.

Yesterday morning, the weather information coming to us from Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia all seemed consistent and it looked as if was a safe time for us to depart Noumea and start the 1100 mile passage to Sydney.

New Caledonia is a lovely little French enclave in the western South Pacific. We were just getting used to fresh croissants and baguettes from the local patisserie, and excellent French food in the outdoor cafes that line the tourist beaches. We would have liked to spend a bit more time there, exploring some of the remote areas and diving some of the pristine reefs, but the weather Gods are in charge here. Never mess with the weather Gods.

Through the morning “net” (radio schedule) we hooked up with Clarisse, who is our crew for the trip. Clarisse is a Parisian, but spends most of her time traveling all over the world producing a weekly travel program for French television.Ê She is quite an intrepid young lady who has already made three transatlantic crossings. For her, Noumea to Sydney is probably just a hop, skip and a jump. Clarisse has already fallen into our routine and she’s promised to make us crepes for dinner tonight.

Yesterday was quite hectic. Up at 0600. Pull down weather faxes. Listen to the Kava Club net for weather. Listen to Russell radio for yacht reports of weather. Phone Bob McDavitt about weather. All looks good. Prepare “Moonshadow” for a passage. Make final crew arrangements. Check out with Customs, Immigration and the Port Captain. Settle final bills. Shop for provisions. Stow provisions. Lunch. Hoist the dinghy and outboard motor on board.Ê Fill up with diesel. Diesel pump is screwed up and fills us with foam. Fill nozzle burps diesel all over.Ê Ugh!!!!Ê Wash diesel off of boat. Depart for Sydney at 1600 hours. It’s nice to be under way. Nothing left to do now but sail. And keep an eye on the weather.

We are buddy boating with our good friend David and his crew on “Bossanova,” a 50 foot catamaran. His wife Rita preferred to make the passage to Sydney on a 747. Smart woman that Rita.

It’s nice to know that there is someone close by when you are out here. Especially a guy that carries a spare hull and a spare engine. We are pretty evenly matched as far as speed. Of course, when you have two boats going to the same destination it is called a race. In the first 20 hours, we made more than 140 miles toward our destination, and pulled about ten miles ahead of Bossanova. We motor a bit faster and there hasn’t been much wind, so it ain’t over yet.There are trade winds forecast a day or two ahead.

So far we’ve only been able to sail for about four hours. The wind died last night as we pulled away from the island. We had up to eleven knots this morning so set the spinnaker. The wind backed, so we doused, jibed and reset. Better angle, but the wind died. We set the cast iron spinnaker and are making seven to eight knots along the rhumb line.

Fishing has been lousy. We did see a couple of whales sleeping within a few boatlengths of us. Last night I saw the most spectacular shooting star I have ever witnessed. It literally illuminated the northern sky. It was quite startling and at first I thought it might be a flare. Wrong color, wrong direction, nothing showing up on radar.

Speaking of radar, the screen in front of me at the nav station is showing quite a squall directly ahead. Time to batten the hatches and get ready for a nice fresh water washdown. 886 miles to go. Don’t forget to vote. More tomorrow.

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