Plan B - go with the dinghy anyway!
Plan B - we went with the dinghy anyway. It actually wasn’t too bad though we were flying along underwater and had to swim occasionally to avoid the dinghy getting swept onto reefs. We had a nice dive, albeit quite short as the wall wasn’t really a wall - it bottomed off around 15m and got a little boring as we drifted along. We’ll try and find another boat and get a bit further along the outer wall....The crew getting pulled by the dinghy...
Loitering around Nananu-i-Ra
We went ashore the next day to make a few arrangements with the ever helpful Warren at Safari Lodge. He was organising to pick Ania’s friend up from the airport on Thursday and could also have another crack at filling my LPG tank on their way back. He could also give us some diving pointers.We also met some guests staying by the beach, who told us about a BBQ that evening being organised for a large group of new arrivals. We found out the details and agreed that we’d join them that evening (
Famous last words...
I spoke too soon. I thought we were plenty far enough off the land to avoid mozzies. We were, but not every other kind of flying bug! We were inundated with flying ants, cockroaches and crickets!The next morning, the deck was littered with bodies, and every rope we shook elicited more bugs falling onto the deck. Ugh! So that was enough for us, we lifted anchor and got moving. Nananu-i-Ra was the destination.Its very green around here - reminds me of the south west of the UK. We made pretty good
Heading across the top
After the excitement of diving, and surfing, we headed to Denarau to pick up some diesel and LPG. We noticed it was looking quite empty and as we had a few chores to do, we actually berthed in the marina for the night... No shore power, but that didn’t worry us particularly. It allowed us to get provisioning done with relative ease.The dive store didn’t have what I wanted, and they failed to fill my LPG tank (stuck valve they claim, but I’m not so sure..). We have enough LPG for a few mont
Baby Eagle Ray, whilst diving the Supermarket site off ManaThe crewSanne, from Pirlouit - not been diving long, but very comfortable underwaterDries, doing meta-photography...Reel is to the dinghy, which is our technique for drift divingThe crew getting into the swing of things ahead of her yoga course later in the year
Mana...not from heaven...
We did make it to Mana. The pass is quite tight, but actually has plenty of water - even if it is so clear, it looks like there isn’t. You have to recalibrate your colour-to-depth mapping somewhat!Once in, we anchored near Pirlouit and Robusta. We had been told by Sanne, on Pirlouit, that we could not anchor in the first bay due to the filming of a TV show - Survivor. One that has passed me by but is apparently quite a thing.We hosted beers onboard Duplicat, and then we all went ashore to the
On the move
We decided to move on from Musket Cove, though the cocktails were very nice, according to Ania. The plan was to sail (hah!) up to Mana island and squeeze Duplicat in through the very narrow pass there. I wanted a rising tide, just in case, so we had time to kill. Thus a lunch stop at a little reef on the way was ideal.What a spot we found (andy yes, we were navigating by Google Earth as the charts are rubbish)! A narrow sandy shelf with the reef behind, and deeper water ahead. With the very ligh
Diving at last
Managed two dives so far. Magic Island, off Namotu Island, which was nice but not spectacular. The same can be said for the Plantation Pinnacles dive closer to Musket Cove - but the Mantis Shrimp was pretty cool.Ania does remember how to dive...A mantis shrimp - quite common, but the first I’ve seen on a dive.Large grouper off Namotu islandUbiquitous blue starfish - they are everywhere
Another quick fix by the Baobab crew to redo a fridge door hinge for us, and a cruising permit allowed us to get out of Vuda Marina and do some cruising! We have a couple of weeks before our first guest arrives, a friend of the crew who I met in Jersey when meeting Ania, and we plan to be on the NE corner by then. Until that time, we can explore a bit - so first off - Musket Cove to catch up with friends on Pirlouit.We motor-sailed down there for a while, then the wind went on the nose, but it w
Finding our feet in Fiji
The welcome into Vuda Point marina is well known, but nonetheless very nice - the whole crew turn out to sing you a welcome, complete with guitar and the loud clapping. Ania love it. One day I’ll work out how to add videos here...Formalities are long, but not complex. Health, Biosecurity (both of which need paying) and customs and immigration. By 12:30 we were ready to move into the marina for a few nights which was very handy. It was a very a snug fit, by the crane berth with a ‘sketchy’
Bula - welcome to Fiji.True to form, the last night into Fiji was not as advertised. Falling winds, maybe going more E, then nothing was what we were promised. 30+knots, continuous squalls, bashing up wind into that, with a following 3-4m swell was what we got. Definitely not ‘champagne sailing’.I ended up with a rather long shift as we tried to make reasonable progress, and we arrived at the reef pass well before dawn. Some good leading lights which made the pass easy - and we were followed
Something isn’t right...
We’re well into 19S, having left Gold Coast around 27S, and I’m still wearing my thermals on night watch. Did someone miss a memo? It was supposed to be warm here!!
Day 3 to Fiji
Yesterday was quite squally - and the gusts in the squalls were quite strong, which meant we reefed further down. If the squalls had been short ones we could just turn a bit downwind to ease the pressure - but that isn’t an option when the squalls last for a long term - or merge into larger ones!We had to reef the mainsail further overnight as conditions were picking up. This slowed us from the 8-9s we’d been doing earlier to 7-8s. Our ETA was continuing to slip.In the middle of the night, I
Day 2 to Fiji
The sea slowly eased and the sun came out - the sailing was pretty pleasant. No real dramas to report. Some of the tuna was turned into a stir fry for lunch (one of my concoctions), which was very tasty. Speeds remained high, wind wasn’t too gusty.Over lunch, Ania thought she could see something ahead, but we never fully resolved it - but over the afternoon we started to see another yacht in the distance. Raw Cotton was doing much the same speed us as, but slightly north of our route line (and
Day 1 to Fiji
We had a slow start to the day, as we were timing the tides in the pass to the south of the Ile of Pines. We hoisted the screeches, put the SUP and surfboard away and generally got ready to go. We have a failing anti-siphon valve on the starboard engine - a replacement awaits us in Fiji, so I plumbed the leak into the bilge so it didn’t drip on things. All done, and ready to go.However, once we got out, we opted to go north. We could sail earlier rather than motor into the swell for an hour, a
Isle of Pines
Formalities complete, we hot-footed it around the corner to an anchorage that Amanda and I have used a couple of times - Ile Uere. A nice spot with plenty of shelter from the wind, but some current flows through. We met the guy from a large powerboat and had a bit of a chat - we may well see him in Vanuatu or Fiji later on.The debate was settled - we were going to the Ile of Pines. Next morning I got the boat moving at 6am, and we motorsailed towards Pass Nokoue on the southern end of Ile Ouen.
The next morning, I collected Ania and Anna from Prony Village, and after a second breakfast of pancakes onboard Duplicat (cooked by Ania - continuing the fine tradition of pancake cooking onboard the good ship Duplicat!), we opted for a hike around Ile Casy. Not before we saw the fleet of Hobbie Cats coming into the bay - which was very nice for Ania, as she used to race a Hobbie 16. Her former skipper is coming to stay with us once we reach Fiji - I will have to enforce the ‘no flying a hull
Hiking and Socialising in Baie du Prony
We had wanted to anchor near Prony Village, but thats a bit exposed to the SE winds. There is a bay just south of there, but the shelf at 16m wasn’t easy to anchor on. We tried a couple of times, and just couldn’t get a good hold, and I wasn’t comfortable anchoring there, despite Ania’s desires to remain. Instead, we went back to Ile Casy, where there was a mooring we could use. Though it was a little tight to the beach, we had just enough swing room and stayed there for a few nights.I d
Small island off the entrance to Baie du Prony showing the classic pine trees that grow here and made it a popular spot for ships to refit.Rainbow over Ile Casy, in the middle of Baie du Prony. We then got rained on...
With nothing going on at Bourail, we decided to head south. I was up first and got the boat moving out to sea, and got the lines in as soon as possible. Ania appeared just as we got a hookup. We reeled in a nice looking fish, and I filleted it whilst Ania took over on the helm.Then the deliberations started - New Caledonia has quite a problem with ciguatera, and we always shy away from reef fish like grouper. This looked a bit like a tuna, but wasn’t - maybe a rainbow runner. Certainly it was
We left Tenia, and made good progress up to the Pass d’Ouarai, and with no wind and very little swell, we decided to press on to La Roche Percee/Bourail. We dragged the fishing lines once outside the reef, but no bites :(As we approached Baie de Bourail, we looked at things and decided to anchor in the bay itself, rather than around the corner in the Baie de Nessadiou (which is more protected but a longer dinghy trip away). It was very calm in the bay, which was bad news as Ania was really hop
Cruising at last!
Boat fixing complete (well, not really, but we have a handle on what we need!), our time in a marina is over - now the real cruising finally begins!We escaped Port du Sud with a general plan to head north up the west coast. Its an area that I’ve not explored before, so a good option. Our first night was in a little bay by Timbia - after a short motorsail in not much wind. A nice calm place for our first swim in New Caledonia. Shortly after I got out, we saw a sea snake swimming down the side o
One of the things that started playing up on our way over was the controls for the lights. In particular, I suddenly noticed that we had no nav lights on, whilst bouncing around in 30knots going upwind, approaching the pass. Not ideal!Duplicat was built before CanBUS-style control systems, and so they came up with a nice solution - rather than running all the switch gear and power cables up to the nav table, they used ribbon cables and some separate control gear. Switches and tell tail LEDs at t
Clearing into Noumea
The usual fun and games clearing at Noumea. They want you in the marina at Port Moselle, but there’s no space. Of course, they don’t tell you this first - they want you to anchor out (in an area where there is no room to anchor, and you get asked to move if you do anchor), and they’ll call you back.Of course, they never do... When you finally tire of waiting and call, they say ‘no berths for catamarans’ - gee, thanks!Fortunately, we’ve found a spot in another marina, which we can use
We’ve arrived in the lagoon. Now to get some sleep...
As sunset approaches, we’re 68 miles from the Dumbea pass into the New Caledonia Lagoon. We’ll be there overnight, and in Noumea for the morning to begin clearing in (and trying to get a berth in the marina for a few nights to desalt!).Of course, today hasn’t been plain sailing. Ania managed to beat her record of 4 squalls in 90 minutes, with 4 in an hour on one of her night watches. I then had 4 consecutive squalls with winds over 32knots this afternoon, all whilst trying to sort a minor
Are we there yet?
I think I’ve reached ‘peak upwind’. I now know how many days upwind I can do before I’ve had enough. It’s this many - and we have 1.5 left!Its not that its been really unpleasant - sure the sea state has kicked up now and then, but that always happens. No - its the endless endless salt. We’ve discovered that we get an eddy from the sails which sends a fine mist of salt over the helm, instruments, radio, watch keeper which results in everything going slightly ‘sticky’. We wipe dow
Heading away from Noumea
After quite a bumpy night where not much sleep was had, we decided that we could not put off a tack any longer. So we tacked away and started heading south. The plan was to get back to the rhumb line, and then go another 20nm or so beyond it to give us some room to get a better angle into Noumea.Shortly after the tack we were hit by a number of squalls with plenty of wind and rain, but a bonus of some ENE wind, helping lift us a bit more easterly than we had expected. It didn’t last long but w
When will the bouncing stop?
Upwind for a few short hours is great fun. Thrashing away to the windward mark, before turning and running. We’ve been at it for nearly 3 days now, and its somewhat wearing..True, on a catamaran things mostly stay where you place them, but you have to prepare to move around and hang on whilst preparing food, washing up etc, and lets not talk about showering. The hulls get hot and stuffy as we can’t open windows, so cabins aren’t much fun. Camping in the saloon is very much the mode of the
Point of order
The crew has raised a couple of points of order on my previous blog entries. To whit: 1) She was already feeling fine yesterday afternoon, and 2) it wasn’t most of the watch, it was half of a watch - she was up at 5:30am (and to be fair she only slept on because the skipper insisted).You can tell she is definitely feeling better. :)