Joy, Susannah and Laura left for the airport at 0530 hours. We didn't go back to sleep but slowly prepared to leave. Said goodbye to Tony and Yvonne. Rodney (SATISFACTION PLUS) came on board to help get the tape deck working. I had installed it and turned it on at the switchboard but it didn't appear to be working. He turned the volume knob and it worked. I checked the weather fax (nothing sinister), paid my marina fees and at 1100 hours we departed for Noumea. Motored out of the marina and then raised the sails in a light NW breeze to 12 knots. Sailed at 4 knots to Momi Bay where we picked up the transit for going through the Navula Passage which we accomplished without difficulty. Outside the reef there was a short 1 metre swell from the NW and 20 minutes later we were becalmed. Then 10 minutes after that we were hit by a squall or front from the SE which quickly rose to 30-35 knots necessitating rapid sail changing by inexperienced crew. Corina went below suffering from mal de mer and didn't emerge for 2 days. It's called the Jesus factor - on the 3rd day they arise. In rapid order Glenn and I put two reefs in the main, dropped the jib, hoisted the storm jib, dropped the main and hung on tightly. While I was on the foredeck Glenn had tried to head into the wind as instructed using the motor but the boat wouldn't respond. The motor was out of gear!! Then we discovered that when he had raised the jib he had put about 20 turns around the winch which jammed it - I almost had to cut the halyard to get the sail down in a hurry. However somehow I managed to free it in time. I found this exercise exasperating but he was trying his best and I can't ask more of anyone than that. The autohelm now called 'Rod' or 'Slim' (because he's a stick and he doesn't eat much) took over and we averaged 6 knots overnight WSW (the right direction to Noumea) under storm jib alone. I was annoyed with the weather as I had checked the weather fax before leaving and there had been no warning from the sky. By this stage we were all being sick at regular intervals. The trick I have found is to make sure I vomit immediately before the evening sked to try to be able to get through the sked without having to rush on deck or vomit in a bucket with the world listening in. John Goater couldn't see anything ugly on his analysis either. At this stage he said the most loving thing anyone said to me for 1998. He offered to keep a sked for me in the morning if I wanted. He must have realised that things were not very pleasant out here. I declined the offer as I thought that by now things were under control. I think this is the loneliest I have ever felt tonight after switching the radio off. From being in contact with others Pacific wide to a world of just 36 feet is very sobering. One feels so lonely one can taste it. We had left on a Friday which superstitious sailors will not do but I am not superstitious at all. Things were difficult but not dangerous anymore (after undoing the line off the winch). Glenn was quite anxious and required some strong encouragement to remain on watch alone but after a while he calmed down, outwardly anyway, and I managed to catch a bit of sleep. He was harnessed on and all he had to do was to call me if he sighted any lights. It emerged that although he was Commodore of the Wanganui Yacht Club he has only sailed catamarans on sheltered rivers and lakes and when the breeze gets over 20 knots they all go home. He has received a very rude welcome to the world of Blue Water cruising. It was a hard night with Glenn and I doing 1 1/2 hour watches, more or less, as when we got sleepy we would call the other.
The wind gradually calmed down to 20 knots so by mid-morning I had put the main up with 3 reefs in it. Had a sked with Tony at 0830 but he didn't come up. BARNSTORM and SANITY are leaving Vuda Point for New Zealand today. Marty came up at 0840 as arranged. A pretty miserable day with all of us feeling and being sick. Easy on the food bill though. Glenn seems least affected by the dreaded seasickness. I was my usual cheerful self, despite being sick a few times. Glenn kept the bucket brigade busy. He took a video of Corina trying to eat some tinned fruit and the aftermath - a Technicolor yawn. The sea remained confused all day. Just as life looked to be on the improve we lost our electrical power. When I tried the engine it ran but had burst a water pipe so we had water through the dining area too. We repaired the hose but when we restarted the engine the charging light wouldn't go out so we stopped it again. A lot of our electrical equipment went dead very quickly but we ended up just after dark with just the compass lights on, very faintly. We kept a very good watch all night because we had no navigation lights on. The battery driven lights were available but I decided to keep them ready for an emergency or when we were near shipping lanes closer to New CALEDONIA. We had sprayed CRC liberally around the entire engine before dark to dry the moisture. It was comforting to have a back up GPS available but with 'slim' asleep we had to hand steer. John's sked we kept short to conserve power but he now knows that if we lose contact it will probably be due to power failure. Glenn and I again did 1 1/2 hour watches more or less. He must be wondering what else can go wrong. He has fitted in well. To further conserve power I have introduced him to navigating by the stars. He is enjoying this. It is quite impressive to see how resourceful we are becoming.
Some of our watches are becoming quite a bit shorter than 1 1/2 hours; in fact I think that some may be shorter than 1/2 an hour. This is not due to shirking but we are becoming quite fatigued. This morning it hit me how tired we have become when I looked down from the cockpit and saw Corina asleep on the bunk and Glenn lying face down on the floor wearing his full wet weather gear and safety harness with its buckle digging into his stomach. He was oblivious to any discomfit. Fortunately Corina arose today and steered for quite a while to give Glenn and I some much needed sleep. We slept for hours and when we awoke the world had taken on a different hue. Today being Sunday, I cleaned the bilges. This afternoon we started the motor and the charging light went out so we tried charging the house batteries. At least the voltmeter reads 0.00 now instead of being blank so we must be winning. We put the fishing line out today for the first time since leaving the Navula Passage. We hooked a mahi-mahi but after a short fight he took our hook but not the lure. I stopped the motor for John's sked but afterwards the charging light stayed on so we stopped it quickly. We again hand steered overnight using the stars to navigate by. Corina is enjoying this as well.
Becalmed today - what weather!! We started the motor and after 5 minutes of low revs and 1 minute of normal revs the charging light went out so we motored all day. There is a brownish powder in the water and on the surface and we are at a loss to explain it. We are approaching an underwater volcano so we wondered if it was pumice dust. In the afternoon we passed through one patch which looked like a thick scum so we are involved in blue and brown water cruising. Motored until 0400 hours in misty showery conditions. Retrospectively, I think that the discoloration is due to an algal bloom. We are currently about as far as most people get from anyone else on the planet. As far as we know there is nobody else within 250 miles of us. It's kind of a special thought.
Raised both sails at the start of my watch at 0400 hours when a 9-12 knot breeze came from the SE. From small beginnings it developed 12-17 knots for most of the day. We passed through some more areas of brown sludge. Just on daybreak we passed our first waypoint since Fiji which took us N of an underwater volcano. I turned on the handheld GPS as Corina came up for her watch and it showed we were only 1/2 mile to the side of the waypoint after some 400 miles. Not bad for navigating by the stars during the nights. Spoke to DELPHIS this morning. They are 70 miles S of New CALEDONIA bound for Brisbane. Clare is unwell. Arranged a sked for tomorrow. Also spoke to Marty, Roy and Tony. Corina remarked at how lonely it is when the radio is switched off. A good sailing day although a bit overcast. The swell rose to 4-5 metres but was very gentle. After lunch the forward bolt on the autopilot/tiller sheered so Glenn and I made running repairs with an allen key, some rope and parcel tape. However two hours later the aft bolt broke (our repair held) so we're resigned to hand steering until Noumea. Immediately after this latest in a series of problems on this leg of the voyage I noticed a front ahead so we reduced sail down to storm jib and double reefed main. In reducing sails I fell twice on the foredeck - probably only fallen once on the entire trip to date, got a halyard around the spreaders and tangled my harness around appurtenances about 4 times. I'm beginning to hate this leg of the trip. Then on the evening sked John said the front was stationary - it certainly had me running around in circles. It didn't amount to much but we carried reduced sails for a few hours still doing 5.5 knots. John also queried whether the wind was coming from the SE and not the NE as expected. I told him I was probably going the wrong way! It was interesting to hear the people in Fiji talking about how they had seen the green flash at sunset when for us the sun was still well above the horizon. Glenn got some good video footage of me hoisting the French flag .Whenever I raise a flag I do it with full honours - consisting of loud tuneless humming as a fanfare which lasts as long as it takes to raise the flag. It is good footage because I am silhouetted (good French word) in the setting sun and I always look my best with the light behind me. He appreciated that. Corina not feeling well again -? viral. However she did put the chicken on to cook at teatime. Just before dark we shook all the reefs out but at midnight we dropped all sails and motored in a sloppy sea with little wind.
Very difficult motoring during the night with heavy cloud cover and sloppy seas making steering by hand tedious and confusing. No stars to steer by and sometimes we appeared to be going in circles. I hate this leg. Saw Ile Mare at daybreak and when Corina came on deck she sat with her back to it without seeing it. I said 'Land Ho' and she looked all around except where it was. After about 4 other 'Land Ho's' she finally awoke enough to see land. Heard a commotion on Ch16 this morning very clearly but didn't understand a word of it as it was all in French. We both had a laugh about it. Stopped the motor for radio sked with Steve, Roy, Tony and Marty. Sounded the fuel tank and found we have only used 30% so far. Only light winds turning NE late afternoon. John will be pleased. Poled out the jib and had a restrainer on the boom as well. Tried twice to raise the spinnaker but conceded defeat and raised the main and jib. During the night we had lost the retaining pin at the aft end of the outhaul. It is a closed pin with a securing clip so goodness knows why it chose this leg to go swimming. Motor sailed until 1400 hours then motored then sailed until 1600 hours. Motored after dark, picking up a light that flashed 4 seconds at a time and headed towards it. It was a bit N of our track but we had been wandering over the ocean for the past 24 hours. Saw several ships leaving New Caledonia. One passed 1/2 mile to starboard but the other headed NE. Tried calling the first one on VHF Ch16 but got no response. Glassy seas. As we motored towards the light we couldn't reconcile why the cross track error on the GPS was increasing. Because of this and a general unease I was feeling about closing a strange coast at night I decided to heave to until daybreak. There was absolutely no wind and a 1 foot swell which was very long and almost negligible. It is the only night at sea that I have been able to see the stars unmoving in their reflection in the water. It was a feeling of being suspended in the centre of the universe. There were no clouds in the sky to obscure the sensation. With the storm jib backed and the tiller lashed it appeared that we were stationary but the GPS showed we were being swept N by a 0.5-1.7 knot current. It is supposed to mend S in this area. I took the first watch and Corina took the second. Just as the sky began to lighten we got under way again still with no wind.
In the light of day I discovered that the light was at Point Yate; some 20 miles further up the coast from the Havannah Passage. That light has four flashes every 15 seconds whereas Havannah light has four flashes every 10 seconds. Point Yate light has a range of 24 miles whereas Havannah light has a range of only 12 miles. Why the French, with a reputation for efficiency, would place two lights with similar characteristics, so close together beats me. Also to further complicate matters, the chart I had been using ended just N of Havannah Passage so there was no indication of any confusion. No wonder it had taken so long to reach it. We had been fractionally N of our intended course so had picked up Point Yate light first. I was glad that good navigational skills plus an uneasy feeling had stopped us going on the reef at night, shudder, shudder. I have heard that the calmest night's anchorage is on a reef. Still, the way this leg of the voyage has been going so far why should I be surprised? When I arrived in Noumea I was told that there is a notice on the wall at Vila Yacht Club warning of this very situation. Anyway as a consequence of this deviation from our intended course we had to head down the coast and against the current. It wasn't until 1000 hours NZST that we had Havannah light on our beam and yes it was the worst time of the tide. The passage is certainly wide enough and there were overfalls. Although the tide was supposedly with us our COG (course over ground) did not increase markedly. We saw two ships up on the reef on the port side. These wrecks are a salient reminder of how cruel the sea can be and there is no place for complacency. From the Passage it was a fairly straightforward run past Port Boise to Cape Ndoua making adjustment for the outlying reef off the cape then across the Baie du Prony. By this stage the breeze had come in and we had some good sailing in beautiful scenery under clear skies. The colours of the sea around the reefs leading in to the shallows and the first green trees we had seen for a week certainly were refreshing. Unfortunately the mining has left big scars on the hillsides but even these exposed the red soil adding to the contrast. The lighthouses are very distinctive in New Caledonia and look just like the story book says they should. We took a photo of the one in Baie du Prony. Another yacht was on a converging course from the Isle of Pines and it finally passed astern just before we reached the lighthouse. We were alarmed to see it go to the E of the light. It looked like unbroken reef reaching to the shore 1/2 mile away. However they kept on sailing. Was it local knowledge or were they very brave? As we approached Basse Moziman the wind which had been 15 knots SW began knocking us so as we went through Canal Woodin we lowered the jib. There were no problems entering the canal but the tidal flow when we exited made for a choppy sea. I tried to raise Port Moselle Marina on Ch 67 and customs on Ch 16 but neither answered. SUNSET QUEST came on and said they were heading towards us from Noumea with their spinnaker up. After six days of not seeing anyone, we were in a country none of us had ever been to before and the first people we finally get to see are folk that I know. Isn't life wonderful with it's little surprises. We hove to for a chat with Malcolm and Linda but as they still had some distance to go to the Isle of Pines we only had a short time with them. Malcolm had been the first to welcome us over VHF to 'almost Atata', Tonga. Linda had also been the first to greet us when we arrived in Fiji so there is a pattern starting to evolve. We continued on a tight reach as the breeze had gone WNW towards Porc-Epic. The cruising guide said it is well differentiated from its companions as it is the only island which resembles a porcupine. This is true but we could not see this for a few more miles. Just before we arrived off Porc-Epic we sighted half a windsurfing board floating in the water. Quite eerie - one looks around for the other half, the person and the shark! From Porc-Epic we motor sailed into the sunset to Ile Maitre and thence to Petite Rade. We finally contacted Port Moselle Marina off Ile Maitre. True to form as we entered the bay John's sked had a message for us. By the time he had contacted the boats at sea we were about to enter the marina but instead had to stooge around outside waiting to hear the message. It was from Andy Marshall and Rebecca to say that everything was going well. This was a bit of a worry because hadn't it been going well or was it about to not go well? I made a perfect approach to the dock in front of a small crowd (10 people). Clearance was not until the morning - it was 1900hours NZST. We had to stay on the boat until 1900 hours local time. Then the marina manager came to tell us that the Customs Officers would be back at 0700 hours tomorrow so be sure we were on board at 0600 hours ready for clearance. He didn't say we couldn't go ashore. We borrowed a swipe card from Jim and Annette on EVERGREEN an Australian boat (not to be confused with the New Zealand boat). Corina swapped the magazines with Annette. With the swipe card we were able to have showers. The shower has a button which needs to be pushed every few seconds to maintain the flow of water. It is irregular in its action. After showers we had a chat to EVERGREEN and Graham AIMLIS until late. Too late actually as it was almost midnight NZST when we got to bed. Pancakes for tea and Glenn found that they were not as bad as expected. I was awake early the next morning.