Passage from Fiji to New Caledonia August 2013

Day 1

Departed Lutoka , Fiji at 10.20 am along with a bunch of boats all seeing a good weather window for travelling west. The grib files showed 20 knots for the first 24 hours ish then gradually decreasing and moving from south to south east round to the east as the week went on. Sounded perfect we would be able to sail low to start and head towards Vanuatu then as the wind came round to the east we would luff up for New Caledonia as the wind eased so keeping the apparent wind speed up. We've found that the grib files are useful but sometimes do underestimate wind strength a tad. Yesterday was no exception we had 25 30 knots from the south with 2-3 M seas for the first 14 hours. Not the comfortable ride I was hoping for to start the passage. I lasted until mid afternoon until the bucket came out. We were reefed right down and with staysail were still doing between 8 and 9 knots. The winds have decreased though and are now around 15 18 knots from the SSE. The sea has also calmed a little but it's still not great. Now back under full sail and still doing 8-9 k, so good progress. position.

24 hour distance: 203 miles

Day 2

Fairly good day with winds from the SE of around 15 knots most of the day giving us a nice beam reach. Seas still a bit agitee especially in the afternoon. Catching up on sleep most of the day, but at least we are not suffering the ill effects of a last minute Kava party that a couple of the boats on SSB have reported no sympathy for Mark and John! Calmed down a bit overnight with wind coming and going between 10 and 20 knots. Felt much better this morning so had a good breakfast of fresh pineapple, papaya and banana salad (trying to eat all this fruit before we get to New Cal otherwise it will be taken off us) and scrambled eggs on toast with fresh coffee luxury! Even had a hot shower feel almost human! Wind this morning from ESE at 14 knots. Around 300 m to go.

24 hour distance: 180.5 miles

Day 3

A very steady day with winds from the south east at around 15 knots. Full sails all day on beam reach. Seas calmed and sun out most of the day. Lovely night full of stars and I watched the half moon come up in the early hours of the morning glorious. Saw our first vessel of the passage the cruise ship Carnival Spirit which came by us in the night at a distance of around 2 miles heading for Suva . It was great to be able to track it's position on the AIS (Automated Information System). The wind is supposed to go more southerly this morning but so far hasn't so our speed has slowed quite a lot as the wind has dropped to below 10 knots. About 115 miles to go to the Havannah pass. We have to enter the reef system around New Cal via this pass. The pilots advise doing so at slack water or on the flood due to strong currents and standing waves. Our tide gate closes at around midnight tonight and reopens around 6 am tomorrow morning, so with our drop in speed it's going to be a dawn arrival, though we gain an hour due to time travel!

24 hours distance: 172 miles

Day 4

A very pleasant days sail bit slow in the morning but wind got up in the afternoon so made more speed. Wind direction moved exactly as it was supposed to do so we were able to bear away to remain on a beam reach most of the way. Late afternoon the sea got a bit boisterous and wind up so we were making rapid progress towards the pass. Having checked the tides, we calculated we would be there just around midnight which would be an hour before high water still on the flood which was OK. The wind was coming from the SE so shouldn't be a problem with the pass which runs ENE to WSW and is well lit with leading lights so we decided to go for it and anchor for the night at a bay just inside. Good decision Matt. We got to the pass just after 11.30pm and had about half a knot of tide with us sails down at half past midnight and into the anchorage. Had a good nights sleep although it was a little cold! Looking at the bay this morning you can understand why Captain Cook named the country New Caledonia first impressions it is like a cross between Scotland and New Zealand ! Lots of tall pine trees surrounding the bay. It's about 35 miles now to check in at the capital Noumea so we're off again.

15 hours distance: 113 miles.

Total miles to Havannah pass: 668.5; Time taken: 3 days 15 hours. Average speed: 7.69





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