Passage to Australia – part 1

At 10am on Wednesday 23 October we left our slip in Port Moselle marina, Noumea, New Caledonia, and headed to the fuel dock.  There was already a yacht on it so we went around in circles for a while but the remaining gap was constantly being filled by speedy motor boats sneaking in.   Eventually we made our move to get in behind SV Blithe Spirit.   When we got closer we were pushed on by the increasing wind and became pinned.    And, of course, that end of the dock only had petrol.   So we waited for SV Blithe Spirit to depart and then ‘walked’ Morphie along to the diesel station from above.   And I mean from above as we had to climb a ladder in the dock’s wall to get up there LOL

Finally we were tied in the right place and quickly filled up our diesel tank and a few spare jugs with 170L of duty-free fuel.  Then it was our turn to get off the dock.   Thankfully, unlike the yacht before who had smacked their transom in the manoeuvre, we successfully pivoted off the dock using our bow thrusters and were free (unharmed) and on our way to Australia.

By noon we were heading towards the Passe de Dumbae, the main shipping channel.   We were overtaken by a pilot boat who met a bulk carrier who had already crossed our bow.   We weren’t quite sure what was going on and assumed the ship would turn towards us to enter the port so we stayed close to the edge of the channel to pass port to port.   But he kept on going out to sea so clearly the pilot was being picked up rather being dropped off.   Was all a bit confusing for a while…..

The seas were quite large even inside the lagoon’s fringing reef so we knew we were in for a bumpy ride.    As we came through the reef, we left the channel behind and turned towards our next waypoint (over 700 miles away), the seas were boisterous at 2.5m and the wind was between 18-25 knots with higher gusts.   It was cloudy and grey and we settled into our passage routines.    It was pretty sporty to say the least LOL as we sailed along downwind under the Genoa alone.   It was definitely like being in a washing machine down below!

By 6pm we had eaten and it was time for my first solo watch so I watched the sun go down.   It was a very dark, chilly, cloudy, bumpy night with few stars peeking through and the moon only made an appearance briefly in Richard’s early morning shift.    For a few hours during the night we got some respite when the winds moderated and the seas smoothed but it all picked up again as the sun rose and we were back bouncing around being picked up and surfing down waves or being slammed on our port quarter.   But, despite the conditions, we were enjoying ourselves although sleep was a little elusive.

Thursday 24 October the conditions remained the same for most of the day with brief periods of lighter winds.   By noon we had completed our first 24 hours at sea and had covered 133 miles.   By 4pm the winds had settled back into the 15 knot region and the seas were at 1.5m and less confused so conditions were much more comfortable.   The sun went down with a beautiful display of colours and then, again, it turned into a pitch black night.  By midnight some stars were trying to show themselves through as the cloud cover started to lessen.  We had light airs for a while during the night so we both slept well between shifts and, at this early stage of the passage, we were not concerned by our hull speed.

By 6am on Friday 25 October the winds had picked up, they had switched to ESE (which was a better angle for our course) and we flew along at 7 knots for a while.   But, of course, this was short lived and, come 7am, the winds had settled back to the 15-18 range so our boat speed fell back again.

Normally, on passage, we focus on speed and this one is no different.   However, there is so far to go at this stage we will just sail the best course until we get closer when we can recalculate our required speed to facilitate a daylight arrival.  It does feel strange though that, apart from reefing if the weather deteriorates and easing/hardening according to the wind direction, we will probably not touch the sails for hundreds of miles…..    Now I’ve said that, of course, it will probably blow from a different direction and cause us to gybe.   But, right now, surprise, surprise, the conditions actually match the forecast!!!   

Bye for now