Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back in flying fish latitudes!!

Tuesday morning dawned sunny and clear and beautiful. Finally a pretty day to see New Caledonia and we were leaving. What little we did see as we motored out of the enormous lagoon was very pretty. This is a place where we could have enjoyed 90 days sailing around the main island. There are so many day hops and tucked away anchorages - at least according to our charts. We did not have the opportunity to see any of these places. Sorry that we missed what looks like a great sailing destination. That lagoon ranges from 8 miles wide to 22 miles wide and the island is about 200 miles long, so that gives you an idea of the vast day-sailing area. And they have the cutest little red-topped white lighthouses marking the reefs. Wish we had more time to enjoy this place, but we must get on over to Australia to meet our grandson Zachary soon.

We left the marina slip around 1000 and went to the fuel dock. Didn't think we really needed diesel but figured we might as well fill up since it was so convenient. People had warned us that diesel is expensive in New Cal but we did not find that to be true. Duty free diesel is available after you have cleared out. We had the agent clear us out on Monday and you then have 3 days to depart. Duty free price converts to 83 cents USD per liter. That is not expensive compared to pther places we have bought diesel in the South Pacific. We topped off the tank and Bill went with Eva back to the agency office to pay. Soon he returned and we headed off. Only to receive a VHF hail 5 minutes later telling us that we had forgotten our credit card in the agent's office. Quick turn-around and back to the visitors dock where the agency owner met us and handed over the credit card. Whew!! That was close. That would have been darned inconvenient when we arrive in Australia.

It is noon Thursday, May 28, 2009, starting day 3 of our passage to Mackay, Australia. We are definitely back in the latitudes of flying fish and bioluminescence. (That is probably spelled wrong but I am typing this on a laptop in the sunlight and cannot see the screen.) The first day was wind almost on the nose and we sailed close-hauled for 24 hours. Then the wind switched direction and was directly behind us, although we were still able to sail okay. During the middle of the second night the wind died so low and the seas were so disturbed and we were rolling a lot so we are now motor-sailing at a comfortable 6 knots. According to our weather guy it will remain like this for a day and then the winds will start to pick up. Should be 25-30 knots during our final 2-4 days.

We are now approaching the area south of the Chesterfield Reefs. We are going well south of these reefs. Many people like to stop there for a few days to break up the long passage - similar to the Minerva Reefs en route to New Zealand and the Belveridge Reef en route to Niue. For some reason lots of people get a kick out of anchoring in the middle of reef in the middle of the ocean. Frankly, I would rather get on with the passage. The first 3 days of a passage are always the hardest physically; after the third day/night you have adjusted to the schedule and everything becomes routine. So why would we want to stop after 3 days and then start the adjustment process all over again? Not for us.

Tonight we will be approaching the area where S/V Sambaluka sank last year when she hit a reef. Our route takes us 30 miles south of that accident. Then much farther SW is another reef where S/V Hot Ice sank last year. Also, much farther NW of our route is another reef where S/V Asolare went up onto the reef and was lost last year. S/V Sambaluka and S/V Hot Ice went on the reefs because they had their chart plotters zoomed out too far and the reefs did not show up at that chart scale. Pure operator error. S/V Asolare was a new Amel 54 and their accident had a different cause. They had a different version of C-map charts and a well-charted reef was omitted from their particular C-map charts. There was a big hullaballoo about this and a notice was posted on warning everyone to check their C-map charts. We have checked our C-map charts and all 3 of these reefs are correctly charted. Still, I will rest a lot easier once we have arrived in Australia.

Note added July 27, 2009: Here are a few screen shots of our Maxsea C-map charts indicating where S/V Asolare hit the reef. As you can plainly see, this reef does not appear when the charts are displayed in the larger scale; but the reef is very obvious when you drill down on the chart.

And here are a couple of screen shots indicating where S/V Sambuluka hit the reef. Again, the reef does not appear on the larger scale chart but is very evident on the smaller scale chart. We checked all 3 versions of C-map charts that we own and these reefs appear in all 3. We also checked our raster charts and both reefs are also indicated on those electronic charts. BTW, these reefs are also on the paper charts.

We will be entering the Capricorn Channel and sailing northwest up to Mackay. It is about 220 miles from the Cap Channel entrance to Mackay. This channel is extremely wide and supposedly well marked with buoys and lights. This will take us up behind the Great Barrier Reef and we will probably remain behind the reef for the entire distance up the eastern coast of Australia. Mackay is just south of the well-known Whitsunday Islands, so we have a lot to look forward to and hope Zachary enjoys this special experience of sailing the Great Barrier Reef.

Last night I could hear flying fish hitting the deck and flying into the upside-down dinghy on the mizzen deck. Haven't heard that since we left waters of Kingdom of Tonga early last November because they did not have flying fish in the colder waters of New Zealand. And the bioluminescence for the last 2 nights was especially thick and vibrant. I noticed last night that when the stars are bright the green and yellow specs in the water shown very brightly as they flowed down the side of our hull. But when the clouds darkened, so did the bioluminescence. Never noticed that before.

We have sailed well over 20,000 miles at sea and are still learning.

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