Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rough Passage from Vanuatu to New Caledonia

Next destination: Noumea, New Caledonia
A meeting of ships in the middle of the night! It
suddenly became a small, small world out there!
After a full 24 hours of rain (6" in the dinghy!), the weather was looking favorable for a Tuesday 0500 departure from Port Vila, Vanuatu to Noumea, New Caledonia - about 320 nm. It will be two overnight sails. We completed the process of clearing out, provisioning, and buying duty free fuel for the boat - and for Sundowners! The price is right here! Trackers are on, waypoints charted and everything stowed - almost. There are several other boats leaving tomorrow, too.

The winds should be good, but strong. That will make for more sailing and less motoring. However, the seas will be rough with the swells from the fronts that have just come through. I have my patch and pill ready and hope they work. I never know when mal de mare is going to hit me. It usually comes in rough seas and when I lose sight of the horizon at night. But not always. The Pacific Ocean has been kinder to me than the Atlantic.
Coming into Havannah Passage with the flow.
We left the harbor at 0600 and were on our way south-southwest. Of course, the wind had shifted following the fronts. The wind was right on the nose! The ride was doomed to be uncomfortable - but fast with the winds in the twenties. We were flying along between 7-9 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground) and making good time.
Timing is very important on this passage. Actually, estimated arrival time (ETA) at the next anchorage or port is always important as you want the correct light and tidal flow. This trip has an extra challenge: there is a 40 mile passage around the southern end of New Caledonia through the Havannah Passage and a series of reefs.

This should only be done in daylight and when the tide is flowing into the lagoon. Our goal is to be at the eastern entrance to the passage early in the morning of our third day at sea. Hopefully the winds and waves will be amenable to that! Every yacht has to make their own calculations depending on the speed at which they sail or motor, so we often leave at different times while still arriving somewhat together. This time we will be traveling with new people we have met in Port Villa, but they are catamarans to they will blow right by us at some point!

All tucked in at the dock in Port Moselle Marina. Whew!

During my watch between 2000 and 2400 on the first overnight passage, I saw a big bright ball of light coming at me and another big light coming after me. I was seasick and thought I was delusional. However, it was two passenger cruise ships switching ports, more or less and I was in their shipping lane, I guess. So I called up one on the VHF and made sure they could see me. It is not often that you have a gathering out there in the middle of no where in the middle of the night! At least it livened up the night! We were not in any real danger. It was just startling to see a light coming from both ends of the tunnel! And it distracted me from hanging over the rail!

NOTE: Dennis does not participate in mal de mare - it is my curse! In fact, he was so healthy that he spent most of the trip trying to repair both heads! I don't know how he does it!

Next stop: Baguettes, Croissants and Latte at the market
Coming through the Havannah Passage at the southeast end of New Caledonia wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be. This is known as a ship graveyard (we did see one on a reef) so we were ready with good light and a flood tide. That means we were going in with the tide and we had a 2 knot tidal flow pushing us along. Much better than trying to sail against it. It is not recommended to go in on an ebb tide as the outflowing current can be up to 5 knots against you with a lot of turbulence. It took about 8 hours to complete the trip through the reefs to the dock at Port Moselle Marina in Noumea.

I am glad to be here! Hopefully, my stomach will settle down so I can enjoy the local cuisine. Now for some baguettes and croissants!

No comments:

Post a Comment

We would love to hear from you here. You can see earlier posts at