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Monday
Aug062012

New Zealand to New Caledonia...

Now in New Caledonia…but…a lot of repairs to do!

I always knew that getting out of the South Island of New Zealand and getting up to the tropics would be the most difficult part of the trip to Thailand.  Being in the middle of New Zealand’s winter is always a bit unpredictable.

Anyway, after the electrical repairs were completed in Picton we set sail on the first reasonable weather window.  Reasonable in that the grib files and the weather forecasts indicated maximum seas of 4 – 5 meters.  (13 – 16ft) and winds around 30 knots.  There was however the risk that a weather system could develop in a few days that would bring much more unfavourable conditions.  The two videos above were taken whilst the weather was benign, around 20 knots and 2 - 3 meter seas.

When we left Picton to travel up the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand the conditions were reasonable with a moderate South East wind.  We made good progress for the first couple of days although from the second day on the wind moved to a northerly quarter and the seas were not very comfortable as we had to contend with a cross swell of around 2 meters on top of about a 3 meter swell making the sea confused and lumpy.

We were covering around 150NM a day.

We left on Tuesday the 29th May and by Monday the 4th June we were abreast of Norfolk Island which is about 430NM south of Noumea in New Caledonia.  The sea conditions were continuing to get worse and were well above the projected 5 meters.  The height of the swells were not a problem and but the cross swell was still there making the seas very confused and creating ‘pyramids’ and ‘holes’ which the boat would drop into.

It was certainly uncomfortable and wet and pretty hard on the boat.

Whilst we were north of NZ the Auckland to Noumea yacht race commenced on Saturday the 2nd June as planned.  There were some very fast ocean racing yachts in that race and we were expecting by Monday that they would be catching us up.  Of course Marianna and myself were wondering how they would be getting on as they would no doubt be taking a beating as we were at that time. 

Conditions continued to get worse on Monday night and by that time there was not a dry thing left in the boat.  The force of the boat falling into the ‘holes’ had enabled water to come in the escape hatches and as a result all the bedding in both main berths were soaked.  Even worse was when we checked the forward starboard cabin we found three feet of water in it.  This was my fault as it appears that the deck hatch was only secured on the first notch.  Pretty stupid eh!  Anyway, we bailed out that compartment in which all our supplies were floating around in including our favourite chocolate…ate it anyway.

At that stage the wind in the high 40 knot region with gusts over 50 knots and the seas had become very steep and tumbling and we were getting hit from multiple directions.

Around 1am in the morning we took a wave right over the boat and lost our electrics.  No lights, no auto-pilot or navigation gear.  Fortunately we have a separate 12 volt  battery for the water generator and I was able to switch the important gear through to that system and run the generator to keep it powered up.

At 2am I made the decision to put out the sea anchor and ride it out until daylight.  Fortunately we had tested it before and were able to deploy it smoothly.  After deploying it Marianna noticed the port rudder flopping around.  The nuts had vibrated off the heavy duty stainless bars securing the rudder which in turn enabled the bolts to come out and broke off one side of the stainless supports and bent the other.  See in the photo.  I tried to secure it the best I could with lashings but when daylight came it was nowhere to be seen.

 

During the night we heard communications on the VHF that rescues were taking place with an 80’ race boat who was trying to make it to safety at Norfolk Island.  Fortunately they did, there were 18 crew on board including two guys I knew.  Details of this and the other boats that had problems and had to pull out of the race can be seen here.   http://sailnoumea.com/news/nz-update-evolution-sails-sail-noumea-2012-%E2%80%93-wrap-and-thanks

Only 10 of the 17 yachts that started got to Noumea, with the rest having to turn around and head back to NZ or take shelter behind Norfolk Island.

After daylight we resumed heading to New Caledonia.  The thrashing that we had taken over the previous days had loosened the beam lashings and the mast stays so we were getting a lot of flexing.  The wind fortunately had died down to the mid 30’s but the sea remained uncomfortable as the winds still were from a northerly, westerly quarter.  This was problematic as we were trying to do some claw ourselves further west so we could clear the south western reefs of New Caledonia.

Two days before we finally arrived in Noumea the wind gradually started to swing back to a southerly quarter so we gradually were able to point further round and ultimately cleared the south western tip of the reef by 5 miles.

Eleven days after leaving Picton we sailed through the passage in the reef and arrived at Port Moselle in Noumea a little after midnight.  The last 5 days Marianna and myself did not remove our boots or wet weather gear…so the showers that night were like heaven.

There was significant damage to the boat which was going to take time to repair so I arranged for my boat builder and electrician to fly to Noumea to deal with it.  More about that in the next post.

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