Monday, 25 June 2012

Episode 8 Brisbane to New Caledonia



From our last blog we said we were clearing on the 6th of June from Brisbane and Sentinel were leaving 1 day earlier.
Well that didn’t happen!!
Danny got the latest weather the morning he was due to leave and it was turning nasty with a intense low forming off Brisbane.
It caused a week of big winds, huge seas and carnage all the way down to Sydney. There was some wild footage on the news of big seas and damage to property and some awesome tow in surfing off the Gold Coast. There was a lot of carnage in the Sail Noumea Rally which had races from Auckland and Brisbane to Noumea which left 3 days prior. One 75ft yacht broke in two!

So we left Rivergate Marina and motored up the river to Colmslie and put the anchor down for a week. It was a good decision as we still had lots to do. We had 2 problems with the new gear. The hot water system failed and we had to remove it and install and different model. Additionally the alternator wasn’t charging anywhere near its full capacity so we had a marine sparky come and install a smart charger, regulator and some decent wiring.
We also had a great daytrip into the city on the rivercats to tie up all the loose ends with banks, insurance, etc and get some foreign currency and international drivers licenses.

It also gave Lisa a chance to test all her new communication, computer and navigation software upgrades and Paul to rewire Lorelei’s music system and speaker configuration.

Eventually a suitable weather window opened and we called customs on Friday for Saturday 16th departure. When we call they said they are very busy and may not fit us in. When we said the boat name they said “Oh Lorelei and Sentinel – yes no problem, we have been waiting for you – well clear you first up in the morning at 7:30am.”  Perfect!!

Unfortunately photography is banned at the Customs and Quarantine Wharf (as it is in airports…) so we couldn’t take photos.
The officials were very pleasant and it only took 30 minutes to complete the paperwork and we were gone.

Lorelei and Sentinel nose to nose on the Customs Berth.

The tide turned at 7:30am which was perfect timing and we made the best of the run-out tide to go down the Brisbane River, across the bay and out through the north passage, exiting it at 1:30pm just on the tide turn again. The low tide and the left over ground swell from the week before made some nearly surfable waves on the bars either side of the channel and some sloppy seas getting out.  We then turned due east, set sail and went over one of our favourite spearing spots Hutchinson Shoals before heading over the horizon into the Pacific. That night gave us perfect 15 knots reaching conditions with South winds and we covered 165Nm in the first 24 hours.  The downside was we were both battling with sea sickness. Lisa was just off colour but Paul managed to spew about every 2-3 hours.

Day 2 was a bit better with calmer seas and we were still sailing strong covering another 150Nm. It was still cold and we were in full wet weather gear and sleeping on the cockpit floor in a sleeping bag.  At 1am that night we coped a 1 hour storm with some pretty strong squally winds which tested us a bit.

Lisa toasty in her new Thermals

Day 3 the wind lightened and we still headed due East to keep the wind just forward of the beam and pushing air thru the sails to keep us trucking along at 5-6 knots. The seas got better, the weather got warmer and we started to be able to live normally downstairs again. We started seeing Albatross today too.

Day 4 we woke to no wind and glassy seas with the swell along way apart – in mid ocean – go figure… So it was on with the new motor and off we went NE towards New Cal. We motored all day and overnight and were able to send emails, do computer work and have a generally great day. Lisa even cooked a BBQ for us on the back deck!

Paul also broke out the heavy tackle trolling gear to try for a big fish. As a skirt hit the water a big 2m Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi) came ripping out from under Lorelei to have a look. We must have had a few travelling under the boat which also explained why the shallow alarm on the depthsounder kept going off over the last 2 days. They were smart though and wouldn’t take the lures.

Day 5 and a light SE wind kicked in on daybreak so we set sail again and headed the final 70Nm to Noumea. We had another fun day cruising in the cockpit, music cranked and Lisa editing videos with the highlight for Paul working out how to eat all the remaining fresh food and the 6 avocados (his favourite…).
We realized we wouldn’t make the reef entrance during daylight so in the arvo we reefed the sails to slow us down and arrived at midnight. We then sailed up and down the reef edge waiting for daybreak.

At dawn on Friday Day 6 we motored thru the Passe De Dumbea just north of the main channel. We went right past the well known Dumbea Left’s surf break and it was pumping! It was offshore and a very clean 6-8 feet with an insane barrel breaking onto a shallow reef with a long mechanical wall afterwards. Paul couldn’t contain his excitement.
As we came past the Islands in the Lagoon we could see kiteboarders riding in the crystal clear water too.

Hoisting our New Cal and Quarantine Flags

Looking North from  Noumea - a lot more mountainous than we expected

Damn! Under surveiance already...

We called the marina to assist with customs and quarantine and they said just anchor up where you can and dingy into the office and get further instructions. Pretty casual we thought so we anchored in Noumea Harbour, cleaned up, made Taco’s and headed in after lunch.

When we took the dingy in, we tied up, walked 20 steps to the Marina office and entered. When we got inside we both started swaying and found we couldn’t stand and actually got quite sick so we had to sit on a couch for 5 minutes to recover. We have heard of being land sick before and jokingly had a few mild cases and with friends that come onboard too but nothing like that.

French is the official language and we had fun trying our newly learnt phrases. The marina gave us a map to walk to the 3 places for Customs, Immigration and Quarantine which just happened to be on the other side of town. So off we went through the city trying to find these places.
To cut a long story short we had a blast in town, got lost, tried to ask people for directions in French, nearly got run over when a car went thru a red light at a crossing (and it’s left hand drive here), and stumbled upon an annual kanak music festival in the town centre.
If we were in town like that in Australia before clearing customs they would lock us up!!

FYI: Kanaks are the local indigenious population and outnumber the whities about 10 to 1 at least.

Immigration was fine, customs was closed until Monday and reportedly very short staffed and quarantine organized a nice lady to come down to meet us and we took her out to Lorelei. All in all she let us keep most things only taking the avo seeds and the apple cores, a few other seeds and the un-popped popcorn. We kept all our dairy, meat, ice cream and F&V so we were stoked.

Saturday morning were went into the city again to explore more and first went to the daily fresh seafood and F&V markets just around from the Marina.

Want a Muddie or Two??

We have heard various reports about prices in New Cal and we are pleasantly surprised. Most things are cheaper or on par with back home.

Emmanuel guess where? Have you been here?
Like my patriotic Shirt...

Saturday arvo and evening was Fete De La Musique in Noumea which is basically Noumea’s version of the Big Day Out, only larger, more spread out and best of all – free!
They closed off half the city streets, had 9 stages within a short walk, 70 bands, a Big Top, street performers, fire twirlers, rides, food, etc, etc and it was sooo much fun.
The music was anything from Soul, local Kaneka and lots of reggae thru to our favourites, ska, hard rock and metal.
We saw some awesome bands, some great Reggae with up to 9 band members and insane bass guitarists using 5 and 6 string bases. The only minor problem was we couldn’t understand a word.
Being in the Reggae crowd was a spin. We were 2 of only a few whites among the huge Kanak population. 95% of them wore a least one piece of clothing/apparel that had the traditional reggae/Marley/rasta colours of black, yellow, red and green. We felt like we were in Jamaica not New Cal. Even their cute little kids had afro’s, tight plaits or dreadies!

We finished the night on a high down at the Cruise ship terminal stage with a powerful 3 piece called Hollow that sung strangely enough in English and would put Creed to same.
We got home late, totally stuffed but grinning like Cheshire cats.

Our new favourite band “Hollow”

Sunday was a right-off with cleaning and washing – the boat, the clothes, us, etc, etc…

Monday Paul did the first service on the gearbox and then it was into Noumea to explore again and finally (officially) clear customs.
In the arvo we went to the Museum which was fantastic.

SUP New Cal style. I wish mine was that big – the paddle silly…

Once back onboard we connected our new Wifi setup and bing, up comes a stack of sites, most for free – perfect. So I’m uploading the blog while we have a chance.
Tomorrow (June 26th) we are back into town to provision with meat and F&V at the local markets before heading out to Ilot Maitre for some kiteboarding and then onto Amedee Island for some surfing the reef passes and diving on the countries first scuttled French Warship the La Diapossette lying in 26m. It’s a little smaller than the ex HMAS Brisbane but still should be a lot of fun.
From there we are heading down to the Isle of Pines then up the East Coast and onto the Loyalty Islands.

So that’s it….

Overall we are extremely happy with how the crossing went.
Without sounding blasé we feel we coped quite well with the passage and could have comfortably kept going if we had to. We were only really just starting to get into a proper routine.
We did door to door in 6 days or 5.5 if you don’t include the10 hours sailing up and down out the front waiting for daybreak.
This was a lot less than our estimated time frame and we did just on 900nm for the crossing.
Unfortunately we just received an email from Danny and Carol onboard Sentinel letting us know they turned back on the first night and are now safe in Brisbane again.

Due to wonders of modern technology and Lisa’s hard work you can now track our passages and/or log on anytime to see where we are with a great NZ based yacht tracking software called Yotreps from Pangolin.

The link is: 

Our new HF call sign is VJN3883. For those that understand sail mail email and its protocols’ – our sail mail email is the same…
Shauna our Pactor modem is working a dream!!! To have email mid ocean and be able to download the weather Grib files is soooo good and we feel it has improved our safety and given us a much better ability to weather route (which is exactly what we did on the passage heading due east for the first 3 days).  Many many thanks from both of us.

Our next blog post will be from wherever or whenever we can log onto somebody’s free Wifi…..probably in about 3-4 weeks time.

Cheers for now from a very happy and excited Team Lorelei – Paul and Lisa.

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