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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Caledonia > Australia – Arrived!

Start point for our sailing passage, Amedee, New Caledonia (near Noumea).  Finish point, near Bundaberg, Australia.
At last, our very last long, multi-day 24/7 passage - New Caledonia to Australia - done.

While it is possible in these last few months we still own Journey, choosing to make an overnight passage here or there might make sense.  That's different.  Long passages, like New Caledonia to Australia, there’s no option, no place to stop “along the way” if you want to between the start and the finish.  There is nothing but wide open ocean for miles and miles, generally a few miles deep as well.

Boulari passage runs through this narrow reef opening (between the arrows).  It’s one of the few openings in the reef which surrounds New Caledonia.  Viewed from Amedee lighthouse.
"Are you afraid?" is a commonly asked question from folks who've never considered traveling this way.  There were a few times on other's boats I was quite justifiably scared, the boat in challenging conditions, out of control and I had no idea what to do.  Yet, while I dread passages, while underway, I am almost never afraid.  When challenges do occur, I generally just figure out what best to do to deal with them and get on with it.  Wayne's excellent skills as a captain help tremendously.

This passage, however, pegged my fear-o-meter a few times, though not in the way most non-sailors would expect....

Aligning Amedee lighthouse and the light marker enables sight line to a clear navigation passage
through the reef surrounding New Caledonia.
What exciting stuff entertained us for a week and a half?
In our near 800 mile “crow-fly” (nautical) mile passage we saw
  • Other boats:  1 cruise ship, leaving Noumea and no other craft until within 50 miles of Australia – then there were 11 boats in 8 hours
  • Planes:  none
  • Whales: none
  • Dolphins:  none, until we saw one lone dolphin 30 miles from Australia
  • Flying or other notable fish:  none (and we opted to not fish)
  • Birds:  some, though no hitch hikers (unlike this amusing hitch hiker from our previous passage)
  • Winds over 25 knots:  none, except a little on our last day
  • Winds under 8 knots:  lots!  At least 25%
  • Waves over 2 meters (~6’): none
  • Glassy water:  several days worth
  • Stunning sunsets:  every night, including 1 brief, small green flash (we think, but wouldn’t swear to it, and no, we weren’t drunk)
  • Sublime sunrises:  some, morning overcast muted about half of them
  • Skin: less than an hour of rain, if you could even all it that.  Enough shade not too much sunscreen was needed and, ahhh, much of the trip  ‘twas warm enough to sail naked!

One of many beautiful dawns seen on sailing passage, this one between New Caledonia and Australia.
Passage Provisioning
Provisioning objective:  enough to eat for a slow passage, but little to nothing left that would be disposed of based on Australia’s bio-security restrictions –nothing with eggs, meat or fresh produce. Only some chicken stock, old mayonnaise were taken.  Before long, everything will come off the boat; the less food aboard then, the better.

Hot peppered prawns, from prawns bought on our last day in Noumea., New Caledonia.  My favorite meal this last passage.
Passage Meals
As usual, we ate well.  For those curious about (our all gluten-free) passage food, we ate
  • Breakfasts: potatoes -- baked with butter, cream cheese and bacon bits, mashed and savory skillet potatoes, eggs – some scrambled, some over easy, some curried, , Southwestern-style skillet-cooked corn-pepper-zucchini-feta hash, spiced zucchini muffins
  • Lunches:  salami with cheese on rice crackers, socca flatbread (made with garbanzo flour) with curried cream cheese and home-made star fruit chutney spread, Asian-style carrot-purple cabbage salad, pho soup with chicken and veggies, mung-bean salad, Italian-style cannellini bean salad, Southwestern hash over tortilla chips, potato salad, wild rice with onions and mushrooms
  • Dinners:  home-made beef stew, stroganoff over pasta, chicken nachos, dal with chicken over rice, hot peppered prawns over rice, chili
  • Snacks:  bean dip and tortilla chips, salami with cheese on rice crackers, peanuts, raisins, chocolate, gummy bears 

Glassy water.  When this comes up early in a passage that we have more miles than we can motor with our available fuel, we generally just wait for enough wind to sail, rather than motoring – even when it’s days.
Passage Summary: 
  • 9 ½ days. 
  • ~800 miles, averaging 3 ½ miles/hour
  • 37 engine hours, ~20 gallons of fuel
  • Slow and boring -- 1st 6 days.  Boring, however, well, boring it is, is good.  Nothing broke (unless you count on sail batten).  We got plenty of sleep.  I read at least 8 books, several of them 600-1100 pages.  Up to that point, this would’ve ranked 3rd on our list of easiest multi-day passages, along with our 1,000 mile trip from Panama to Galapagos, and our ~300 mile trip from Vanuatu to New Caledonia.
  • Then... days 7-9 ½:  Thunder and lightning bad enough to heave to for 2 ½ hours, everything electrical shut on the boat down, critical bits stored into anti-static bags inside a Faraday cage (our oven).  Then again, just outside Bundaberg for another half hour.  Winds up to 25.5 knots.  Counter current and contrary winds so strong our boat speed under motor dropped to 1/2 - >2 knots for hours.  
What Scared Me
This well and thoroughly pegged my fear-o-meter.  One of my grade school schoolmates, caught by surprise trying to escape a sudden storm in a small boat, died when she was struck by lightning.  Ever since,  in a boat on the water with lightning nearby terrifies me.  In Florida, the electrical systems on several boats in our marina were fried by lightning that did not even hit their boats, but came close.  This trip, the lightning was so close I could smell the ions after the flash instantaneously close "Boom!"  Fortunately, we escaped without any damage.

This liquid star sapphire writ large – the sun’s rays brilliantly illuminating the deep sea water 
(this photo doesn’t even remotely do it justice).  About 250 miles from Bundaberg Australia.
Limbo-ing Whilst History’s Happens Elsewhere
Relatively benign as our New Caledonia to Australia passage was, we are more than happy to be done with long passages – forever.  There’s folks who like sailing, and folks who like arriving – we’re squarely in the latter camp.  If we could just get beamed, Star-Trek-like to our cruising destinations, we’d be happy campers.

We are but a small speck adrift alone across the ocean, while most of the world passes by without us. 

While we sailed, far, far away, the election for our country’s 45th president occurred.  We were able to vote (many thanks to the fine folks in Washington State who do their best to make e-mail voting viable).  Connie, thanks for keeping us posted on election results via SMS to our Iridium Go. 

As well, my long-time, very best friend’s dear father passed away.  I deeply regret not being there to offer support. 


It is the price we pay for this slow, simplistic travel.  We are more connected the greater earth, but so very disconnected from our friends, family, community and country.  We hope to make up for that before long.

Sunset on passage between New Caledonia and Australia.
Location Location
We are currently in Bundaberg Port Marina (S24.45.618 E152.23.794), outside Bundaberg, Queensland Australia.

Cruising By the Numbers
  • Our November 2016 sail from New Caledonia to Australia, 790 miles
  • Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
  • Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  • We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  • Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  • December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  • From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  • December 2013 - May 2014 we sailed 1792  miles from Jacksonville Florida to the Bahamas. and back.
  • March 2012 we bought Journey in St. Lucia.  September 2012 we moved aboard, did some boat work, then sailed her to Jacksonville Florida by June 2013, 3762 miles.


Up Next
It’s time for us to enjoy the great land of “Oz” aka Australia.  We'll be heading South to Pittwater, near Sydney to pretty up our boat for sale.  And after that, we hope to travel a bit by land here, then it’s back to work for us, somewhere.   

As always, we’ll continue to seek out whatever adventures life has to offer.