Queensland Coast April 2018 –May 2018

After very little sailing last year we spent an eventful winter in Europe the highlight of which was the birth of our grandson Edward Ian on 31st December. Vanessa and Antony were equally delighted with the event and we enjoyed contributing to his care in the first few weeks of his life. An amazing skiing season followed as Chamonix had the heaviest snow for 20 years so it was a lot of fun.

Spring arrived and we returned to Baringo in  Bundaberg Port Marina where she had spent her second winter ( Australian summer ) on the ground. Luckily she was in good condition just the usual tattered cover and musty air below but no serious problems. We felt lucky as there had been a serious storm while we had been away during which a catamaran had been lifted up by the wind and carelessly dropped again with severe damage, and the foresail of another boat had unfurled causing it to topple over and land again on one of the metal supports with the result that the hull parted company with the keel and there was  a large hole in the hull. Fortunately we had not been parked near either of them and we realised that all the hard work removing the sails was certainly worthwhile although we had left the mainsail on the boom this year, a habit Jimmy Cornell slipped into so we thought we  could as well, and indeed it saved us a lot of hard work  preparing the boat for sailing again.

The antifouling was already underway and the pulpit repairs to the stanchions were almost complete, one stanchion had become very loose for reasons unknown but was easily fixed.

Nice clean hull!

Broken keel on a nearby yacht lifted up in the air during a storm.

So we were ready for launching on Thursday 12th April, always an anxious event but all went smoothly and we were back in the marina to start work in earnest. The weather is almost always dry and sunny with a light breeze blowing up the Burnett River so pleasant conditions to prepare everything although finding the optimum moment to hoist the sails can be tricky and is usually very early in the morning. We needed to service our liferaft in Brisbane and John had also discovered a leak in the hot water tank which had been repaired twice in Raiatea, Polynesia.  Luckily we found a new one in Brisbane  so it was a fruitful visit and included visits to  Magnus Dyer (ex Hong Kong)  and Olivia in their wonderful Queensland home in Brookfield and Robin and Jane in Ashgrove with whom food and wine are a real treat .

We returned with a new 4 man liferaft rather than the old 8 man which might have been difficult for just two of us to manage, and the new hot water tank which was masterfully inserted after removing the old one, not an easy task but masterfully done by Jay Roll a marine plumber.

new hot water tank in engine room

closer view of nice new hot water tank!

 

We continued the tasks with which all sailors will be familiar, rigging checks, engine and generator service, complete change of cooking gas equipment ( australian regulations ) and myriads of small repairs that make up the bouillabaisse of pre-voyage preparation.

repainted tail of wind generator

The gold star went to John for repairing the holding tank after about four years of inactivity; but with the Whitsunday islands on our route where they are mandatory we had to get it fixed so rather than get a new one he masterfully took the old one apart and it now functions perfectly! We had to replace the large port winch which had seized last year for reasons unknown as we have regularly them ourselves and this had never happened before. It is always a satisfying job as the engineering of the parts is wonderful and the way they function with such huge loads on them always seems rather miraculous.

new winch parts and seized old cog.

Once ready to go of course the weather which had been prefect turned into an offshore gale so we decided to wait, as much because of the difficulty getting off the pontoon, we were being seriously pinned on, and after so little sailing last year we felt a gentler start would be advisable .

pontoon neighbours Bundaberg

We finally departed on 2nd may and anchored in the Burnett River for a couple of hours to do some finishing touches and at 10.00 am we headed for open sea. An amazing “runway “of lights leads into the Burnett river so we followed this out making a turn northwards just before the end and it looked like Bye Bye Bundaberg after Baringo’s 15 months in residence. It is an excellent facility and the work if expensive is of high quality and the staff all very pleasant and friendly. The wind was still strong 20 kts and the swell built, as it does, as we jibed our way north west in a south east wind. We had not really got our sea legs and were not looking forward to the planned night sail. By chance we heard another vessel on the radio who was advised to anchor a little further up the coast in Roundhill which we had initially discounted as being too shallow but hearing the conversation we called up ourselves and found we could  anchor  there overnight although not in the optimum spot. With unanimous agreement we chose this option and even through it was a night entry we had clear instructions from the local VMR ( volunteer marine reserve ) and we anchored easily in the very capacious Bustard Bay. The price to pay was   significant swell through the night but at least we were stationary.  It seems that all the way up the Queensland Coast there are stations that monitor vessels and check on their arrival and keep you on their log and also give twice daily weather forecasts which so far have been very accurate. It is like aircraft moving from one ATC to the next and a very welcome service.

The next day we sailed a few miles up the coast to Pancake Creek which we decided was named because the water is so flat so a very welcome respite after Bustard Bay, and it was a pleasant restful day.

flat water of pancake creek.

sunset at pancake creek

We made an early start next morning to make Hummocky Island before dark about 50nm away. We passed the industrial area of Gladstone an important aluminium city and then Curtis island with  plumes of factory smoke rising to the skies. The wind was much lighter now and the sea calm and the anchorage on the north side of Hummocky was very pretty and the sea was calm through the night.

approaching Hummocky island which is appropriately named.

The last step of the way was a 16 nm sail to Great Keppel island named by Captain Cook, as many places along this coast have been, after Admiral Keppel. We seem to be in his wake again 148 years later and it is amazing to think how he managed although he did come to grief on the reef that is now called Endeavour, lets hope the modern technology  and surveys save us from the same fate. We needed to go through a buoyed   narrow channel at high tide to gain entrance to the northern side of Great Keppel island off Leeke’s beach and for us this  needed the high tide. The water is generally quite shallow along the Queensland coast so many anchorages are out of bounds for Baringo, hence the popularity of catamarans here. However, the bay is large and so plenty of anchoring and swinging room and we had a pleasant walk along the beach after deploying the dinghy for the first time this year. We can go ashore in more boisterous conditions now as the outboard was serviced in Bundaberg and has much more fizz. The main worry here is salt water crocodiles which are a protected species so have increased in number, also the stinging jelly fish in the water which can be rapidly fatal and also deadly snakes in the bush! Alan Lucas’s excellent pilot book of the Queensland coast devotes a whole chapter of graphic detail about all the dangers, so unfortunatley there is no encouragement to swim or hike which are the two main pleasures of coastal cruising apart from the actual sailing itself!

The next day the wind picked up considerably confining us to the boat and by afternoon we had 35-40kts blowing steadily .The wind generator howled away which always increases the level of anxiety and is not inducive to sleep .Luckily the swell did not increase and our anchor and snubbers help despite the severe strain .It was not an easy night as the wind did not abate until the morning when we found the wind speed indicator had given up …obviously overworked! It was calm enough to hoist the dinghy on deck before leaving for Keppel Bay Marina but the rain had replaced the wind to ensure a wet passage over but it was only 9 miles so the discomfort was short lived and we tied up easily in the calm flat water of the marina.

 

 

 

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Baringo’s voyages 2017

Baringo’s sailing this year has been rather curtailed because of family commitments but we were eventually ready to leave the Bundaberg port marina for the sea on 27th August. We had to stay longer in the marina than planned because of a fracture in the intermediate shrouds which had to be repaired before we could leave .Our plan was to cross Hervey Bay and explore the west coast of Fraser Island which is the largest sand island in the world and sail as far South as we could into the Great Sandy Strait. At this time of the year the Antarctic humpback whales visit Hervey bay to breed and rear their young in the warm waters so this was an exciting treat to anticipate. The first night out we anchored nearby in the Burnett River to make sure the anchoring and other systems were operational before we finally left the security blanket of the marina to which we had become accustomed despite looking forward to being on the open sea again.

The next day we had a very early start to reach the northern tip of Fraser Island, Rooney Point .We had a very easy and enjoyable sail east across Hervey Bay a distance  about 40 nm so with  20 kts of wind from SSE on the beam we arrived in good time in daylight.  We had our first whale sighting on the way across and we always had to keep a good lookout as hitting one accidentally would be painful for both parties.  We encountered our first problem en route … the larger port winch had jammed in one direction! This came as a great disappointment as well as an annoyance because we had meticulously serviced all the winches every year since we left Hong Kong and this was a first  for us. Luckily there is another one on the port side to use so we could continue.

Platypus bay extends along the west coast of Fraser Island from Rooney Point as far as Inskip point and is essentially one long beautiful wide sandy beach and anchoring is possible anywhere along its length. The sea was far too cold for swimming and sharks are about so no real temptation for us although with the sunshine and clear water it often looked inviting.  Anchoring is possible anywhere  along the length of  Platypus Bay so after a  peaceful first night at anchor we dismantled the winch curious to find the problem. This proved to be two metal gear components totally stuck and we could not undo them, but we could not work out why so there was nothing we could do except hope none of the other winches developed the same problem. We plan to find out more from Lewmar later.

Playtpus bay, Hervey Bay

platypus bay beach

Whales swimming around the boat

 

The next day the wind forced us to move further down Platypus bay to get more shelter in the so called Lagoon Anchorage. Again we were anchored off an endless empty sandy beach ,no  chance for us to enter the lagoon with a 2m draft , but the sea was calm and  we could hear the whales singing at night and they often paid a visit to us during  the day. They are an amazing sight. We continued to make our way south slowly enjoying walking on the deserted  beach  every day but  were surprised one morning when a small sea plane landed just by Baringo! The pilot anchored the aeroplane swam, sunbathed and then took off !

Sleeping pelicans on the beach

sea plane

cute little sea plane

Catamaran on dried out lagoon.

The southern end of Hervey Bay narrows into the Great Sandy Strait and with this narrowing the tides become rather important as the water flows so much faster through the Strait often producing 2-3 knots against (or for ) .So we waited for a fair tide before entering the strait and as there was a northerly wind that day blowing directly down the strait we had to find a protected anchorage which was rather further south than our original plan but luckily north of the (in)famous  Boonlye Point  which is only passable at high tide for any boat with a respectable keel! There were several other yachts there presumably waiting to get across with the following morning’s high tide. Luckily the timing was comfortable a 07.30 departure and we were lucky to follow another yacht through the  channel and our least depth below the keel was 0.8 so we were glad when we arrived in deeper water . The wind was northerly again and our planned anchorage, Garry’s Anchorage, was full so we  continued but none of the other anchorages we had  considered were sheltered in the strong northerly wind so we finished as far south as we could go in Tin Can Inlet. We passed the exit from Great Sandy Strait to the open sea across the Wide bay bar and it looked quite unpleasant reminiscent of a washing machine and no boats were crossing that day. Luckily the southern end of Tin Can Inlet is just one large anchoring area with many and varied boats but plenty of space and  a flat sea despite the persistent strong northerly wind .

The next day all was calm and serene in what looked like a different place now at high tide as lots of land had disappeared! As usual we had another problem to deal with …a non-functioning engine room fan. After investigation it only proved to be a corroded connection so repair and replacement was easy. We explored the upper reaches of Snapper Creek, one of several leading off Tin Can Inlet , but as the outboard was not functioning quite as normal we had  to time our trips with the tide and  only go in light winds which meant morning outings as the wind usually picked up during the afternoons. Luckily this enabled us to have a sumptuous Australian breakfast one morning in the local Barnacle café. We stayed for three very relaxing nights and then left on 8th September on the return journey.

Tin Can bay anchorage

Tin Can Bay yacht club

The weather was very calm and as we passed the entry into Wide bay bar it looked flat and blue with lots of yachts heading to the sea, quite a different picture this time. Our first stop on the way back was Garry’s Anchorage which we had missed on the way south, but it was now almost deserted so no problem finding a spot There was a pleasant walk ashore through the Fraser Island forest so after reading all the cautionary tales about dangerous creatures before we started  we were treated to a Dingo sighting! We had been advised by another yacht that we should always carry a dingo stick but the dingo seemed more curious than threatening and followed us back to the dinghy .

Garrys anchorage

dinghy landing Garrys

pleasant forest trail

Dingo warning

And crocodile warning

The next day we had to transit Boonlye Point again so after studying all the tidal information we could get not all of which was concurred we made a plan to cross. Sadly this unravelled and rather than take it on a falling tide we anchored until the next day just south of the shallow transit! Luckily the Great Sandy Strait is what is says with sandy flats and shallow water for anchoring almost anywhere! The next day  we went through, again 0.8 m the lowest depth under the keel and happy to escape mishap .We had booked a berth in Urangan Marina for two nights as we needed to provision again and get  wi-fi   as the I-pad our back up navigation aid had stopped working. We achieved the necessary ashore  but the weather forecast for our departure day was very strong northerly winds (again ) but there was no space for us to stay in the marina so we had to find an anchorage to shelter for the next couple of days and nights. Apparently this winter has produced rather more than average northerly winds. We decided on Susan River estuary further south so the wrong direction for our return to Bundaberg but no choice about that and the wind picked up on cue as we approached the estuary, but again the sea was calm once we rounded the headland into the Susan River. Several other yachts had had the same idea but we found a sheltered spot and waited out the north wind on board for the next 24 hours . We knew the wind was changing  to south west which would put us firmly on a lee shore so we were prepared to leave when it changed and the weather forecasting so far had been very accurate timing the changes of wind direction . But it did come  rather suddenly and having let out another 120m of anchor the previous day we swung perilously close to land which was at low tide much closer than when we had arrived at low tide ! We managed a quick get away and although it looked pretty rough outside in fact it was not really difficult and we made our way speedily north with the wind behind us .

Susan river Great Sandy straits

We now had to find another anchorage before returning to Bundaberg this time sheltered from the southerly wind ! We chose Woody Island and again had lots of company .It proved again good holding and as dusk fell the sell thankfully eased and we had a good ret before the dawn start to Bundaberg the next day. It was a great sail across Hervey Bay about 40 nm with the wind changing to north easterly that afternoon and calming but we still managed to sail all the way to the “runway “entry to the Burnett River ,a line of port and starboard simultaneously flashing navigation lights . We anchored in the river before going into the marina the next day and onto the hard on Tuesday 19th September. So it was au revoir Baringo until next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Caledonia to Australia 8.11.2016 – 29.11.2016

After three weeks divided between London and Chamonix we returned to Australia to attend Antony and Vanessa’s Australian wedding celebration in Melbourne. We had a few days to spare before going to Melbourne so after passing through Sydney staying again in the fabulous Gibson apartment we took a trip by air to Uluru /Ayers Rock the red centre of Australia. Although quite touristy now the unusual natural beauty is quite stunning. We hiked and biked and saw sunrise and sunset views of the rock from various viewpoints and learnt more about Aboriginal traditions and ideas.

Ayers rock at sunset

Ayers rock at sunset

It was then on to Melbourne and we were royally entertained by Antony’s family, sumptuous dining and a trip to Healesville sanctuary to see koalas and kangaroos. Of course no visit to Australia is complete without  seeing these extraordinary and unique creatures close up.

Koala bear

Koala bear- asleep as usual!

Kangaroos

Kangaroos

The finale of our visit, the wedding party on Saturday 9th November was excellent, a delicious tapas spread prepared by Antony’s sister and mother. Antony made another amusing speech, but John was off the hook this time!  Now it was time to return to the boat, but we could not resist another look at the views from the Gibson’s lookout en route.

The boat was in good shape on our return even more so when we had installed the new cooker. We provisioned and waited for the right weather for the crossing from Noumea to Bundaberg in Queensland. Luckily we had to wait a few days so used the time fruitfully to clean the hull while at anchor off Ilot Signal one of the many beautiful tropical island in the New Caledonia lagoon ( the largest in the world) which also had a large population of different migratory birds all chatting especially at dusk.The copper coating antifouling we had put on in Turkey 5 years ago had now worn off so it was hard work cleaning the growth off the hull and John needed to use the diving air cylinder to reach those parts others could not reach.

new cooker

new cooker

some of the thousands of birds resting on our bow; they slept there all night.

some of the thousands of birds resting on our bow; they slept there all night.

We had the green light from Emmanuel to leave on Wednesday 16.11.2016 so reluctantly we departed via the Passe Dumbea and there was no going back once through .We had met another  boat, Platinum IV while at Ilot Signal and as they were sailing the same route we had a radio “sked” twice daily with them for the journey. The voyage  started peacefully under motor for the first 3 hours but as expected the wind gradually picked up to the usual 25 kts and the waves came with it . Initially the wind came from the SW so we could keep slightly north of the rhumb line but by the following day the prevailing SE trades arrived with increasing strength and larger waves but comparatively easy especially sailing downwind .We made good speed 7-8 kts and the miles passed under the hull . We also had 1kt west flowing current to help .We unfortunately lost our  northing by keeping the big jib up too long to maintain speed and not sailing sufficiently down wind . We were contemplating jibing on the last night as we approached the coast but were overtaken by rather a sudden unannounced storm and had to dump the main quickly and so were able to jibe round easily on the small self tacking jib alone . It remained rough for about 3 hours impossible to sleep and as we did not want to arrive in darkness we sailed slowly with the furled little jenny rounding the cardinal mark on the reef north of Fraser island around 02.00 on Monday 21st November .We entered Hervey Bay but our hopes for some shelter from wind and waves was ill founded ,    there was none !

With the morning light we finally spotted a very insignificant hill on the horizon very unprepossessing and would never have led any early navigator to expect it could represent the giant land mass of Australia .Compared with the approach to New Caledonia with a long stretch of high mountain ranges it was rather unimpressive, nevertheless we were glad to see it !

By noon we were entering the river mouth still in quite rough conditions but once in the river itself the water did become flatter and the entrance was easy to follow marked clearly with an avenue of buoys . We checked in by radio and decided to anchor for the rest of the day and that night in the river opposite the marina, the staff were  pretty busy with arriving yachts ,the final exodus before the typhoon season and we wanted to rest and clear up after the voyage . We went in the following morning with help on hand and the entry administration was completed easily as all the officials came to us rather than us tramping around gloomy offices. The Port Bundaberg marina was excellent with good pontoons, a nice restaurant, clean bathrooms, a large area for storing the boats on the hard and very helpful staff.

Bundaberg marina pontoons. Baringo just visible at the end.

Bundaberg marina pontoons. Baringo just visible at the end.

Marina restaurant

Marina restaurant

Baringo on land with a grand set of stairs provided!

Baringo on land with a grand set of stairs provided!

Rainbow Lorikeets abound in the area.

Rainbow Lorikeets abound in the area.

 

So we had crossed the Pacific and what an ocean it is, so empty and so interesting to explore. It is an unforgettable experience and there is a tinge of sadness that it is over. Our plans for next year are uncertain, the idea of cruising the Australian coast is quite attractive or possibly returning to New Caledonia for the season, or head to Singapore to complete our circumnavigation ……probably the  decision will be made for us !

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Tanna, Vanuatu to New Caledonia: August 29th –September 24th 2016

After removing the ash from the deck as best we could (it was surprisingly sticky) , we motored against the wind to the south along the east coast of Tanna. The morning surprise was when John saw a very large dolphin that proved on closer inspection to be a breeching whale about 100meters from the boat! It breeched three times to have a look at us and we obliged by slowing down and let it swim across our bows.  It was a dramatic sight but also rather alarming.  We had the usual rough passage with 30 knots of wind and the accompanying increasing swell but we had Bob helping this time so the night was much easier and we reached the atoll of Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands the next morning.  We entered through the Passe Coetlogon but had to wait for a cargo vessel to exit first as it is quite narrow but well-marked as is usual in the French territories. Once in the lagoon the sea was calm but the land is too flat to provide shelter from the wind which continued its 30 knot blow. The sea was a rich turquoise but we could not launch the dinghy or swim comfortably in such a strong wind. The next day was much the same although Bob swam, his outfit exactly matching the colour of the water (see photo! ). The wind continued to howl but cabin fever set in the next day and so we all swam despite the conditions and later launched the dingy and Bob Sandie and John went ashore. The search for bread was fruitless but a few tinned provisions were found.

Bob in matching the sea outfit.

Bob in matching the sea outfit.

Ouvea atoll on a cloudy windy day sadly.

Ouvea atoll on a cloudy windy day sadly.

Next day 3rd September the wind was forecast to be easterly so would allow us a better course towards the mainland of New Caledonia  “ le grand Terre “ . We sailed off early to make the 60 mile passage in daylight. We had the usual 30 kts but at least we could make the course for Passe Thio on the east coast of le grand terre and fully reefed we actually had a good passage. Our first sight of le grand terre was rather exciting and it is easy to see why Captain Cook who was the first European here decided on the name New Caledonia.  We had decided to anchor in Toupeti bay very close to the Passe Thio and we just dropped the anchor as dusk fell. It was a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains covered with forest, deserted and well protected.

New Caledonia east coast

New Caledonia east coast

NC east coast

NC east coast

We were now inside the lagoon so we had calm water despite the strong wind so next morning we headed south along the east coast with the red earth glowing in the sun contrasting dramatically with the green trees, a wonderful colour scheme. The next stop was Yate river estuary and again we were the only yacht which was fortunate as there was not much space between the reefs but the passage was well marked and the holding excellent in mud. It was another beautiful spot where we could swim and enjoy the stillness.

Yate estuary

Yate estuary

reefs leaving Yate

reefs leaving Yate

The next day the hurdle was the Canal de Havannah  passing around the SE end of the island which we needed to do at slack water just before a flooding tide which the admiralty pilot said was 1 hour earlier than in the tide tables. At other times serious eddies formed. We had timed it perfectly and were surprised by  the strong eddies and the   confused sea which still greeted us ,the boat was thrown around as indeed we were but it was short lived and we could see the flat water ahead and we were soon through safely.

We found another beautiful anchorage in Baie de Prony en route to Noumea a very large bay with numerous well protected anchorages so we had a very quiet night there.

Woodin canal (channel)

Woodin canal (channel)

The next day was another early start as the pattern seemed to be emerging that the wind died during the night and gradually strengthened from about mid-morning onwards so sailing was easiest starting at first light. We transited canal Woodin just west of Baie de Prony with a rising tide and we arrived at Port Moselle marina at 12.20 on 5th September and were efficiently helped into a berth alongside. We had quite a thorough biosecurity check but luckily we had eaten almost all the fresh provisions so they only got the remains of the cabbage and some ginger .

We enjoyed the restaurants, wine, patisseries and market of Noumea and decided it was too much of a rush to go to Australia in the next few days. Luckily the marina could keep the boat while we went back to England ( we had already booked the flights thinking we would have been in Australia ) so we went cruising with Bob and Sandie instead of the ocean passage.

Noumea bus stop

Noumea bus stop

We left the marina again on 8th September to try and sail to Isle des Pins about 60 miles to the SE but after leaving the harbour it was clearly impossible as a 35-40 kt SE wind was blowing so we changed course for  Ilot Maitre about 5 miles outside Noumea and sheltered there for the rest of the day. It was impossible to go ashore but we did manage to swim John and Bob reaching the nearby coral reef. We had to abandon the idea of Iles des Pins because the wind was too strong and on the nose so we headed north early in the morning to avoid the strongest winds and we had to find an early anchorage in the Baie St Vincente  to seek shelter. We had 50 kt gusts rounding the headland into the bay ! The next day we moved a few miles further north  to Baie de Moustiques on Isle Ducos to what looked like a very protected anchorage from the raging SE wind and indeed it was as three other yachts had also discovered.  It was a beautiful spot quite wild and remote and there was so little activity from the other yachts we thought they had been left or even abandoned until two of them moved while we were walking on the island a couple of days later when the winds was calmer.  One boat had a dog on board but it did not get much exercise at least while we were there. We climbed up the hill passing a herd of wild horses to be rewarded with a wonderful view of all the islands and bays.

Ile Ducos Baie Moustique

Ile Ducos Baie Moustique

Wild horses

Wild horses

Ile Ducos anchorage

Ile Ducos anchorage

Hill top Ile Ducos

Hill top Ile Ducos- self timer!

On 12 th September we left to go back towards Noumea and anchored off isle Tangue the return journey. The wind continued to blow but we had a quiet night and decided to go ashore very early the next morning, when the wind was less, and explore what looked like a village. Luckily it was perfectly calm but we found a housing development with private pontoons for each house and no boulangerie for morning croissants, so rather disappointing.

Sunset at Tangue

Sunset at Tangue

Our last night was again at Ilot Maitre and this time we did get ashore and had a very nice lunch and walked around the island on the beautiful sandy beach to watch the many kite surfers on the southern side. We swam to the coral reef again with an encouraging amount of live coral and plenty of brightly coloured fish.

Kite surfers Ilot Maitre

Kite surfers Ilot Maitre

Multitude of Kite surfers

Multitude of Kite surfers

Long beach of Ilot Maitre

Long beach of Ilot Maitre

Ilot maitre

Ilot maitre- beautiful soft sand

We went back to Port Moselle to say goodbye to Bob and Sandie who were flying to Sydney to complete their holiday. We then had to decide how to spend the next few days before our own departure. The wind would have the major decision making role in that though.

In the interim we hired a car and visited the Lagon Bleu a national park around an artificial lake created by a dam for a hydroelectric project near Yate where we had anchored earlier. It was beautiful and we saw the national bird the Cagou in the park. The colours were so vivid and everywhere so quiet with very few people.

Yate bay where we had anchored.

Yate bay where we had anchored.

Turbine hall hydroelectric station- fine 50s style

Turbine hall hydroelectric station- fine 50s style

Lac Yate

Lac Yate

Riviere Blue national park

Riviere Blue national park

Cagou bird

Cagou bird-fine wings for a flightless bird

stylish head feathers

stylish head feathers

A big international round-the- island race was coming up in New Caledonia so marina berths were in short supply so we had to leave and as the wind was now much weaker we decided to visit the renowned Isle des Pins. We had seen that Karl Kwok with Beau Geste was entering the race and also Scallywag previously Ragamuffin, both boats from Hong Kong . We were so lucky with the winds over the next few days we had an easy, albeit motor sailing trip to Isle des Pins , such a beautiful island ( sorry Bob and Sandie ) . Amazing water so clear and a spectacular piscine naturelle, a sea water pool surrounded with coral reefs completely  unspoiled, no parasols ,loungers stalls etc. We travelled there in a traditional sailing pirogue across the magical Upi bay with its numerous unusually shaped coral island. Fortunately, the whole island has been protected from development by the local inhabitants and so was  quite unusual and a real treat.

Baie de kanumera

Baie de kanumera

Anchorage of Iles des Pins from top of hill. Very busy for NC

Anchorage of Ile des Pins from top of hill. Very busy for NC

Pirogue Iles des Pins

Pirogue Ile des Pins

A single pine tree and pirogue

A single pine tree and pirogue

en route to piscine naturelle

en route to piscine naturelle showing the characteristic pine trees

piscine naturelle- actually more beautiful than any photo

piscine naturelle- actually more beautiful than any photo

car hired on Iles de Pines-colourful

car hired on Ile des Pins-colourful

Baie de crabes north side of Ile des Pins

Baie de crabes north side of Ile des Pins

We motor sailed back anchoring again in Baie de Prony before arriving in Port Moselle and getting the boat ready for her lone sojourn there.  We flew to Brisbane on 24th September and plan to bring Baringo to Australia in November so watch this space.

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Fiji to Vanuatu 19th August 2016 – 29th August 2016

Finally the weather was suitable to leave Fiji although we wished we had had more time there as it proved so much nicer than our very low expectations  .The inside passage had been a  very pleasant surprise with so many deserted anchorages and such flat water.

But we left Vudu Marina on Friday 19th but only to anchor in just before the Malalo pass as it was heavy rain again and it was Friday.  It was a dawn departure the next day which was much brighter and it was back into the Pacific ocean. The lee of Fiji lasted the morning but by afternoon it was marred by a squall but luckily only short lived.  All continued smoothly with the usual 25 knot wind from the SSE until  Sunday 21st august when Poppy ( the autohelm ) suddenly switched off and we accidentally jibed, luckily no damage but rather unnerving as we are so dependent on her. That evening the squalls started in earnest and lasted for 15 hours so we were up all night and ended up with only a fully reefed main and that only partially as it was really too rough to go to the mast and complete the reefing . We were blown off course and got very wet. As with all storms it passed and the trade wind resumed and we caught up on our sleep and arrived in Port Vila, Vanuatu at 01.40   Wednesday 24th August . We made a night entry very cautiously and were surprised to find about 4 yachts anchored near the quarantine buoy, they were surprisingly difficult to see  until we were rather too close ! Anchoring was tricky because the depth varied  widely within a small area but we managed in the end and had a welcome sheltered night’s sleep. Bob and Sandie Llewellin were already in Port Vila waiting for us when we came through into the inner harbour onto a Yachting World mooring buoy and had cleared quarantine.

Vanuatu 24th August – 29th August 2016 h

We had a joyous meeting the next day and a very long lunch with several cold Tuskers.  Port Vila is not the nicest capital we have sailed into so after checking ourselves in and out and provisioning we set sail on 25th august to do an overnight sail to Erromango and island to the south. We had the usual swell and wind but with the extra crew on board it was much less tiring. We anchored in Dillon’s bay at 09.45 the next morning and had the place to ourselves. We swam, so wonderfully refreshing after a passage.  Later David the commodore of the Erromango yacht club came with bananas and paw paw in exchange for rice and powdered milk and an invitation to the club and a guided tour of the village . So we went ashore after lunch and had a beautiful walk to the swimming pool and visited the Yacht Club. It was a very tranquil rural scene along the river with cattle grazing. David was charming and very enterprising creating the club for visiting yachts.

rural scene in Erromango

rural scene in Erromango

Erromango "swimming pool

Erromango “swimming pool

Banyan tree Erromango

Banyan tree Erromango

david's boat

It was a 05.30 start the next day to reach Tanna the next island in the chain where an erupting volcano   can be visited . The passage was the usual 30kts and a big swell but we anchored in Port Resolution following in Captain Cook’s wake, another picturesque bay on a seemingly deserted island but we could see the smoking volcano and several steam vents around the edge of the bay. The surprise visit that morning in what we thought was a remote pacific island was a man in his dug out canoe asking if we could charge his mobile phone!  We swam, relaxed and had a quiet night anticipating the volcano visit the next day not really knowing what to expect. We went ashore the next morning to find out and found a large village hidden by trees and Stanley there to organise our trip later that afternoon.

approaching Tanna with smoking volcano visible

approaching Tanna with smoking volcano visible

Village house Tanna

Village house Tanna

at anchor in Resolution bay

at anchor in Resolution bay

We had thought it would be just us and the driver to the volcano but no there were at least 80 tourists at the volcano visitor centre and a welcome party who gave us a board with England on it and we joined the group for another drive in several trucks to the crater rim.

welcome dance at volcano

welcome dance at volcano

An Australian in the truck in front of our fell out on an uphill slope when the back gave way !!! He took it in true Australian good spirit and will dine out on it for several months I think. The volcano was roaring as we walked up to the crater and large bits were being thrown into the air and the ground shook with each explosion all quite scary! Once at the top we could see large red hot larva rocks thrown up very high every few minutes accompanied by a primeval roar, a veritable firework display that never ended and quite mesmerising. The red glow became more intense as the light fell and the roar and vibrations more alarming! I think it is the only place in the world where such an active volcano can be viewed so closely, certainly health and safety would not be happy in the UK ! We returned to the boat in the dark all rather stunned by the experience.

volcano erupting

volcano erupting.

volcano erupting.

It was a dawn start the next day 29th August to go to the Loyaute islands off the east coast of New Caledonia but we were delayed because Baringo was covered in volcanic ash!  All part of the volcanic  show !!

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Fiji 5th August – 15th August 2016

Our arrival was perfectly timed with a dawn entry into the Nakama Creek in Savusavu bay, Vanua Levu. Crossing the bay was very calm as the entrance is protected by a reef .The Copra Shed Marina is in the mouth of the creek and we were greeted by a helper who tied us up to a mooring buoy in the river … a wonderful welcome. We were later helped onto a marina berth which we chose so we did not have to mantle our new large dinghy! Next was the usual customs and immigration and also biosecurity but all the officials came to the boat and there were no problems at all.

Namaka creek Savusavu

Namaka creek Savusavu

copra shed marina

copra shed marina

 

Luckily one of John’s old school friends has a house on Vanua Levu which happens to be next door to the marina owner Geoff so we made his acquaintance that morning and the next day took us on a tour to see Richard’s house and his own. Both had wonderful views over the bay even on a gray day. It was rainy and grey but never the less interesting to have the local perspective.

The marina as its name implies is the old Copra Wharf and the oldest building in Savusavu and it has been tastefully restored as a marina and yacht club with a restaurant, café ,chandlery and gift shop and of course a bar where all proceed go to help children learn to sail . A good excuse for having that extra drink!! The marina is 5 minutes walk from Savusavu which has a dilapidated appeal but also an excellent market, many hardware shops and good supermarkets so all yachting needs were very adequately provided for.

Savusavu Chinese restaurant- home from home!

Savusavu Chinese restaurant- home from home!

We hired a car for two days and drove to the north of the island to Lebasa Fiji’s second city which was like a larger version of Savusvau but very much more indian so we enjoyed a delicious roti for lunch .It was unfortunately a cloudy day so we did not see the views driving over the hills between the two towns but we saw the sugar cane factory belching smoke and all the sugar cane lorries queueing up to deliver their loads. It is Fiji’s main industry. On our return we decided to try the coastal route and discovered the delightful Palmlea eco lodge run by ex cruisers so very interesting to talk to.

north vanu levu countryside

north vanu levu countryside

Fijian village

Fijian village

sugar cane en route

sugar cane en route

sugar cane train

sugar cane train

cute railway sign

cute railway sign

sugar train trolleys

sugar train trolleys

sugar cane factory Lambasa

sugar cane factory Lambasa

Time as always was passing quickly so we had to leave on Thursday 11th August so as John snatched a few minutes watching the Olympic rugby I bought provisions in the market which was full of every fruit and vegetable you could want, really excellent .

We set off westwards across Fiji on the route recommended by Geoff and one we certainly would not have undertaken without his guidance and advice knowing he had done it many times before . This saved us many miles and although it had looked very tricky on the  charts with so many reefs it was in fact very easy although a bit rougher than expected as the reefs did not seem to provide as much protection from the swell as we though. However by the end of the first day after crossing Vatu I-ra channel between Vanua Levu and Viti Levu in 40 kts wind we arrived at the inner passage on the north of Viti Levu and all was wonderfully calm. We had a peaceful night at anchor off Volivoli point a rather lovely bay  as recommended by Geoff .We set off early the next morning to reach Vudu Point marina  and had a tranquil and very pleasant motor sail through the inside passage.

real flat water in northern reef passage

real flat water in northern reef passage

We decided to anchor once again rather than go to the marina that evening. John chose Saweni Bay between Lautoka and Vudu Point, there was a sandy beach and  we swam and enjoyed a wonderful sunset followed by a moonlit night and realised why we were cruising! All the rough throwing around seemed like a distant memory.

sunset in saweni bay

sunset in saweni bay

We reached Vudu Point marina the next morning at low tide but just made it through the dredged passage and were again helped onto  the berth .The marina is in a lagoon and is circular with a concrete wall around the edge. We went bow to the circular wall wondering how we would get ashore but the berths are adjacent to a platform that protrudes from the concrete wall at deck level so very easy to climb ashore. Work started on cleaning the boat, checking the usual things and preparing for the next voyage to Vanuatu to meet with Bob and Sandie Llewellin.

boarding platform vuda marina on circular quay

boarding platform vuda marina on circular quay

Again we were delayed by weather so we went to Lautoka the second city of Fiji known as sugar city and provisioned in the excellent market .It is pleasantly laid out with wide streets and tree lined boulevards . We hope to leave tomorrow 18th August but it may be a wet journey at least initially … the pilot saloon may come into its own !

pharmacy Lautoka

pharmacy Lautoka or sugar city

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Wallis Addendum 26th July -2nd August 2016

We were delayed leaving by strong winds over Wallis and storms over Fiji to greet us ! So we used the time and went on a tour of the old fort used by the Tongan rulers of Wallis arranged by the Wallis cultural  centre. It was  just for us  so proved  very pleasant and interesting .It reminded us a little of the marae in other parts of Polynesia and was made of volcanic stones and  covered a large area . We also went again to Lalolalo lake  such a lovely place and completely unspoiled . Our guide told us that after the war the Americans had pushed all their armaments and tanks into  the lake but some enterprising divers had scaled the vertical lake walls to search but only found guns .The tanks had been pushed into the western part of the lagoon .

 

Fort de Kolonui

Fort de Kolonui

Fort de Kolonui-central meeting place

Fort de Kolonui-central meeting place

The 28th and 29th July was a festival in Wallis celebrating their change of status from a French Protectorate to a French overseas territory which took place in 1961 .This involved a big party with lots of music  dancing in front of the King .We enjoyed watching it and seeing all the decorated buildings .

stage decorated with leaves for show.

stage decorated with leaves for show.

dancers in front of king

dancers in front of king

dancers 2

dancers 3

dancers4

We decided to try and leave on Friday 29th July but only go to Futuna about 150nm away and within the same territory but as Friday dawned the rain was heavy and visibility very poor and as we waited for it to clear the time to get through Honikulu pass came and went so we had to abandon departure  plans . We were advised then by Emmanuel our meteo  expert that Tuesday was the best day to go for a good journey and fine weather on arrival . By now we had the dinghy packed away which is quite a task as the new model is much larger with aluminium floor boards so has to be stowed below.  Having got this done we were reluctant to get it afloat again so we spent the next three days at anchor and said goodbye to the other two yachts anchored with us in the bay  .They were both going east so needed different weather . A squall hit us quite suddenly on the night they left , bringing  40 kts of wind with heavy rain but not for too long luckily . We hoped our departed neighbours had missed it .Then finally we had one calm day so we were able to swim at last .The only windless day  throughout all our time in Wallis and now it was time to go !

finally a calm night in Gahi bay

finally a calm night in Gahi bay

goodbye to Gahi

goodbye to Gahi

Wallis to Fiji  02.08.2016 – 05.08.2016

It was not a very early start as our exit time was decided by the tide in the Honikulu Pass which today was at a civilised 11.15 and we went through easily with only a 2kt push from the ebbing tide. Outside the sea was as flat as we had seen it outside a lagoon since we started this year and the wind a pleasant 15kts from the SE; we were reaching our way to Fiji. By 3.00am the next morning we had the usual 2 reefs in the main and jenny and were back to the heavy swell and the ceaseless rolling! We were sailing quite up wind so in addition we had more waves than usual over the cockpit but no rain despite a few black clouds. By the next night we decided on 2 hour watches as conditions were still hard and by this time we were heading straight for one of the many eastern islands of Fiji rather quickly. Emmanuel had forecast a change of wind direction in our favour and miraculously on cue the change arrived at about midnight and we were able to make course for the Nanuki passage through to the Koro Sea without altering the sails. It was a great relief. Once in the passage in the lee of some of the islands the sea calmed and we had a very pleasant day sailing across the Koro Sea  towards Savusavu bay . This took until dawn the next day, a perfect arrival time and we were greeted by a Copra Shed marina hand in his dinghy who tied us up to a mooring buoy at 07.30 Friday 5th August . This was truly a memorably smooth arrival at the marina in Nakama Creek ,Savusavu .

dawn arrival savusavu bay fiji

Dawn arrival savusavu bay Fiji

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