Friday, 24 February 2017

Four Bars

Maureen catches an early lead in the race down
the mighty steps of Mt. Hobson.

We have been almost a week at Great Barrier Island now. Tomorrow we will make the move toward Kawau Island – we have had many reports that this is a great place to visit and no reason to doubt the veracity of that information.

It is late now – I had been lying awake thinking about some of the events over these past few days and thought I should try to capture some of the feeling of the place.

I suppose calling anything that has happened over the past few days an ‘event’ overstates the case a bit…

It is impressively dark night tonight. We are nearly at the new moon and there is no other light except masthead anchor lights of the 6 or 10 boats moored across the bay. It is black enough that these lights are easily confused with stars. Some folks might say that the anchor lights, and the presence of the other boats in such an otherwise secluded setting, spoils the effect? That is not our experience.

We are anchored in Kiarara Bay tucked between Great Barrier Island on one side and Kiakora Island on the other. The close harbour gives the impression of being on a lake, in the middle of the ocean. Surrounding us on all sides are the remnants of an ancient Kauri forest. To be fair -- you pretty much have to imagine the kauri as they are all gone now – at least the 1000 year old trees that were in such favour across the planet 200 years ago. Great Barrier today is a different place. Much of the island is managed by Auckland council as parkland, and considerable efforts are evident to control invasives and re-establish the Kauri forest – that takes time.

We didn’t intend to stay here quite so long but we have found each morning that there really was no good reason to leave.

Each morning my day starts in front of the computer looking after e-mail: “Doug there is a broken bottle in the parking lot”, “Doug the bathroom light on the second floor is not working”, “Doug, we have no hot water on the fourth floor”. Although we are located in the opposite hemisphere -- it is an enduring miracle of the modern world that I am able to respond to and manage affairs 12,000 km away just as if I was sitting in my office at home. At least I can do this as long as I have Internet access and one of the great joys of Great Barrier Island is looking at my phone and seeing four bars of beautiful Vodaphone cellular coverage!

Another great thing about NZ generally, and Great Barrier specifically is the tramping. We have walked all over Great Barrier and Kiakora Island in the last few days. The best of these tramps was the walk up to Mt. Hobson. From this highest point you can see Auckland in the west -- and Tahiti to the east – (on a clear day.)

So we got up early the other day and packed a lunch and headed to shore in the dinghy to the trailhead (I guess they would call it a ‘tramphead’?). As we motored in there was another dinghy heading in the same direction. We have a 9.9hp outboard and they had a 3.5hp so we handily won the first leg -- getting to the beach first. The second leg went to the Kiwi team as they flipped down their dinghy wheels and smartly pulled themselves above the high tide mark. We were a little longer removing our 235 kg. four stroke monster off the back of the dinghy and walking it up the beach separately. I know you are thinking “why don’t you have dinghy wheels”? (ask me about that later…)

The walk up to Mt Hobson is only about 5.6 km and less than half of that is vertical. But it is an impressive piece of infrastructure. It includes boardwalk sections built to protect nesting habitat and these are beautifully crafted. Long sections three or four hundred metres constructed dead level and with beautifully cut graceful curves winding through the trees. In my mind -- I was comparing it to the decrepit condition of our West Coast Trail and thinking – score another one for the kiwis.

Anyway with a supreme effort Team Canada did catch the kiwis further up the trail (they were resting and sipping tea -- have I mentioned yet that they looked to be in their 70s?). We all arrived at the lookout at lunchtime and had a nice visit – everyone appreciating the natural splendor.

On the way down Team Canada wisely took a headstart and began to work our way down the 1,479 steps while the kiwis were finishing their mid-day meal. At about the ½ point we had noticed a pool on the nearly river with a nice cascade of water flowing over – too good to pass up on a hot afternoon.

It was perhaps a bit cheeky but without a change of clothes we would have to make a furtive dip as the only downside of our private swimming hole was that there is a commanding overlook from the bridge. No damage done -- we were back on the trail, fully clothed, and ready to make our final descent when the kiwis arrived. Only the briefest “so you had a swim” to betray our indiscretion.

Back at the dinghy, I was waiting for the late arrival of the other half of Team Canada, watching a family pull up to the beach with their two little girls each with life jackets and matching Benetton sun hats. I said hello and with that two word intro they responded “you must be from the Canadian boat”

How did they know that?

We visited. They have been cruising with their young family for a few years now having started in Europe. We agreed to find a time to share stories because that have just spent a season in French Polynesia (where we are headed) and we have an excellent set of waypoints for Fiji (where they are heading).

By now it was mid afternoon and we headed back to the boat. On our way by Team Kiwi called out “come over for a drink at five?” “Sure.” I tell the story this way because when we did come over for sundowners aboard Windlied, the first order of business was to exchange names. I still find it to be a wonderful feature of the cruising life that it is normal to strike up a conversation and a friendship over the course of just a few minutes without even knowing the person’s name. We had a great few hours on Windlied and learned a bit about John and Barbara’s life in NZ about their three adult children, their grandchildren, their life as market gardeners, about the outsized impacts of Chinese investment on real estate prices in NZ, about the impacts on agriculture, about books and about movies.

We must have talked about fishing too because although Windleid left early this morning we had a ‘woo-hoo’ over the side of the boat about mid day and when I jumped up to see what the ruckus was about they were ghosting by close to the boat and Barbara was holding out small bag of fresh Snapper fillets at the end of the boathook -- and just enough time to reach out and grab it. I find this kindness touching because it was so utterly unexpected. Wherever they had been fishing, it was certainly out of their way to come back into this bay here to see us. There is no expectation of a return favour, or even seeing one another again. We don’t have a surname or any real ongoing point of connection -- just that memory of them ghosting by – delivering a gift.

At almost the same moment we had a dinghy on the other side of the boat which was the family I had mentioned above. They were heading to the beach so that the girls could play and invited us to come ashore and trade cruising insights. We spent 3 hours they them this afternoon while the girls played in sand and water without a peep. It was fun.

Thinking about all of that, and all the stars in the sky tonight, I have a soft spot for those ½ dozen masthead lights and the kindness and shared experience they represent. We will leave in the morning and never know who we might have missed here if we had stayed a little longer.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A Pretty Impressive Light Show

This afternoon Maureen had drawn my attention to the fact that it has been 14 months since we last updated this blog. She sounded a bit alarmed -- like maybe someone has been stealing our blog posts?

I guess I was thinking about that when I was awakened this evening.

We are anchored now at Great Barrier Island in NZ. It is one of those places that is both far, and not far. It is about 40 nautical miles offshore (the way we came) and sparsely inhabited. Far enough away that it takes just a bit of effort to get here but close enough that any self respecting kiwi would still get here on a paddleboard.

This, our second day at Great Barrier Island, was a good one. One of those surprisingly rare days where we didn't get off the boat, and didn't even think about getting off. We have both enjoyed puttering at boat chores, and reading, and staying dry.

Great Barrier has been shrouded in low clouds since we got here -- like Prince Rupert but warmer. The rain comes and goes and when it arrives it is impressive. It rains hard for about 5 minutes and then stops. I collected enough rain water to do the dinner dishes just by holding a bucket under the corner of our solar panels. But then  the rain stops and we can go back to whatever it is we were doing.

I had two jobs today. One was to continue to clean and patch and repair our ratty old inflatable. The other was to work through the rigging on our spinnaker pole so that it can be deployed more easily as a whisker pole for downwind sailing. This is a job that involves quite a bit of looking at the current setup -- which just doesn't make sense -- and then going to read my book. Eventually I found the breakthrough adjustment and as I was removing and adjusting mast fittings to accommodate the new setup I realized that it had never been right from the beginning of time. Sometimes progress is slow on Sophrosyne.

That all brings me to the point of the story where I was awakened by the sound of someone smashing pots and pans above my head. Not loudly, and not persistently but just enough to get my attention. When we sleep on Sophrosyne our heads are +/-3/8" from the mast so that any sound that the mast makes is telegraphed emphatically to our attention down below. In this case, as I had run back and forth during the day to avoid the rain showers, I had not clamped the bottom end of the spinnaker pole into the bracket so that as the boat moved the bottom end of the pole swing out and then swung back in to hit the mast.

Having solved that mystery I walked back down the deck and noticed the sparkling water much like the reflection of a full moon -- except that you will recall that we are living inside of a rain cloud tonight and there is no moon or stars to be seen beneath the thick cloud cover.

As I looked more closely I could see that I was actually watching fish swim in the black night from the bio-luminescence of the water. It was impressive -- arresting. I have seen memorable displays of bio-luminescence before: a friend's black lab swimming in the water at Egmont; the wash off the back of Warrior sailing through the night at 18 or 20 knots. But this was something else again.

Magic! I got Maureen out of bed and we watched the improbable light show together.

ADDENDUM

As a final act to the Light Show, this was the view from Sophrosyne
this morning. Sometimes you just can't make this stuff up!
--------

Walking to Cape Brett.
As is so often the case in NZ, there is an excellent trail
out to Cape Brett. More up and down
than Maureen would prefer but with outstanding
vistas all along the way.


a
The lighthouse at Cape Brett. Well worth the effort.

Friday, 18 December 2015

City Mouse, Country Mouse

We have had a wonderful couple of  weeks in Kauring-Gai-Chase National Park just north of Sydney. Lovely anchorages and great walks -- which is something you don't always find while cruising. Here Maureen has summited Towler's Lookout.
This is significant only because you can (almost) see our boat from here. 
We have been warned to watch for 'crocodiles' in Australia.
One our our favorite surprises was to find out how close we were to the Great North Walk. 168 kms. in total -- one can walk all the way to Newcastle from here. (We didn't do that...)
Turns out that watching the tide can be important. We are standing by our dinghy when we took this photo.
I have noticed that other cruisers have little wheels for their dinghies. I guess they don't watch the tides either?
One of our favorite little bays on Smith's Creek.
It was just like this -- until Maureen waved at the guys on the jetski -- before long we were joined by new neighbours on a rented houseboat called 'LUXURY AFLOAT'
Gotta love that Aussie sense of humour!
We got up early this morning and sailed further in to Sydney Harbour. We have found a little spot in Blackwattle Bay which is pretty much in the centre of the action. This afternoon we will head ashore and see what we can see on this great city. 

Yes. Those are 10 storey apartments in the background... Comanche out sail testing in Sydney Harbour -- before the big race.

Sometimes things just work out.
The pinnacle of our cruising success over these past few weeks has been finding these 2 litre boxes of wine at Aldi for $6. Sure -- it tastes terrible -- but look at how nicely it fits on the shelf!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Things you notice about Australia

We are tied up at Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club today and just getting ourselves prepared to head south to Pittwater in the morning. The trip is only 60 miles but we have been at NCYC for so long and we have enjoyed ourselves so much that we are wondering if we even know how to get the boat untied again. NCYC have been fantastic hosts! There are many lessons about running a successful yacht club that one can learn from these guys. They are very very good at managing their facility. It is busy, friendly, efficient and fun. But then, you notice that about Australia – they are pretty good at their ‘clubs.’

Sophrosyne is tied up at NCYC -- our home for the past month.
Great facility with good showers (important) and
 a Happy Hour every day (more important).
Tonight we are having American Thanksgiving at the Club
prepared in the finest Australian Tradition.
S.L.S.C. – That means, I think, Surfing and Life Saving Club, and there are lots of them. Maureen and I went for a walk the other day along the Memorial Walkway which is a suspended walkway connecting Newcastle’s downtown residential area with a series of beaches and ocean baths. We walked past Beach Bar SLSC, Meriweather SLSC, Newcastle SLSC and a couple of other ones besides. It was the weekend and each of these clubs had swimming lessons and shoreside activities for 100s of kids ranging from 3 to 16. The most familiar part of the experience for us was the smell of frying onions though as some parents were working the concessions while all the rest donned brightly coloured pinny’s and bathing caps and were shepherding the ‘little nippers’ back and forth across the surf. Everyone was having a grand time and the time honoured ballet unfolded seemingly without effort.

We were thinking of the ‘little nippers’ yesterday when we went for a swim. It was 42 deg. C and the wind was humming so we hopped into our rented car (because it had air conditioning) and drove to the beach. At 42 deg. C even Maureen goes for a swim -- but it is not really straightforward. We know enough to swim between the flags (we had been told they are pretty good at spotting the riptide). But there are still waves, and they were pretty big. Maureen was walking out slowly getting used to the still pretty cold water – until the first wave came through -- and then that was pretty much it. Once I found her again she was ready to head out into the deeper water past the biggest breaking waves. It was fun.

Later in the day Maureen was chuckling when she bent over noticing that the ocean was running out through her nose. At least she said it was water.

I was thinking to myself that even girls think snot is funny.

Later in the day we went to join in with some of the other rally members for Sundowners and then out to the most amazing Jazz club I have even seen! We had been told about Jack McLaughin’s jazz band, but just like you are thinking right now, I said to myself. ‘Whatever’.

Well, Jack had his 81st birthday last night and he celebrated playing at the Carrington with his son-in-law who also had his 41st birthday. They were serenaded by the lead singer who was a gal who looked like she had just finished up at the library, except that when she sang it made Norah Jones look like an amateur. There were only about 30 or 40 of us at the bar so we all pretty much had front row seats. I visited with the bass player during their break just to say how much we were enjoying the music. He told me that he was 66 and had been playing with Jack for 42 years. And I haven’t even mentioned the drummer!

I know it sounds like all we do is visit the beach and have fun, but we have been to a couple of wine tastings in the Hunter Valley too!

It has been a fun couple of weeks. Fun for us because Australia is the first point on this trip where we have been able to source boat parts without needing to arrange complex shipping. Don’t get me started on “the pallet”.

Maureen models our new salad tongs. Purchased from
K-Mart for $2 they fill a significant deficiency aboard Sophrosyne.
Hopefully now we can keep the salad in the bowl and not on the floor?
What does that mean? Well it means we have a new toilet! We went in to the shop to get a gasket kit for the old toilet but since the whole toilet was on sale we got rid of the old scratched seat at the same time. Maureen was happy!

For my part I found I could finally get good quality stainless hose clamps – I was happy. I mean, it is not such a pleasant job that I am keen to do it again real soon so I just bought the good hose clamps.
That is just the beginning of the bathroom renovation. We have also replaced our broken plexiglass shower enclosure. We found some beautiful frameless mirrors that were big enough to cover the holes from the PFO. And on a boat that is pretty much a complete renovation – there really isn’t anything else in there. It looks good!

With that success under our belt you can imagine that the kitchen was next. New custom carpets (from Bunnings) and a fire blanket to hang next to the stove. Not having a fire blanket has been bugging me ever since Yacht Kate asked us back in Fiji “do you guys have a fire blanket?”
Allan, from A&R Mobile Sharpening came to the club parking lot
and sharpened all of our knives and scissors.
That is good service! 


And more besides. We now have a nice small pair of salad tongs so that when you set them down on the bowl they don’t tip the salad bowl onto the floor. And the high point -- for Gord, and Brent, but everyone else besides -- we have sharp kitchen knives. It takes a larger population to have a mobile sharpening truck that will come to the Yacht Club parking lot to sharpen knives and scissors. And I really do think it takes Australia to have that truck kitted out with a 1000 watt Yamaha gas generator (inside the truck) to provide the electricity to run the sharpening tools.

You won’t believe me, but space allows me to report on only the most significant boat improvements made in Newcastle. There were many more besides!


Well tomorrow we will sail down to Pittwater. We have been told that this is a pretty special part of Australia so we are looking forward to the visit. After that we will sneak around the corner and spend a couple of weeks in Sydney Harbour. Should be fun.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Fat & Happy


I love baguette!
So, we have been sitting at anchor in Port Moselle for a couple of days.

We came back to town to enjoy the wonders of a shower on land -- and to gorge ourselves on the bounty that New Caledonia provides. I haven’t quite been able to sort out whether the abundant delights of this place are derived from its great wealth of natural resources (the largest copper deposit in the world -- to take note of just one), or its obvious connection with French history and culture (baguettes here are the same price and quality as in the 5th arrondissement in Paris – 12,000 km away). Or whether one causes the other?

For the purposes of this story it is only important to observe that it is curious and delightful.

In the past, as we were getting ourselves and the boat sorted out we noticed that we could cruise by ourselves for about 2 weeks at a time. After two weeks, if we were very careful, we could limp back into the marina with empty water tanks and dead batteries. We would plug into shore power and fill our watertanks and then head out exploring again.
We have couscous and rice -- and a couple of cans of corn.
But really, doesn't this look like it's worth a trip to town?


Now, in our second season, we feel more like we have some of these basic building blocks of cruising life behind us.

We have new lithium Ion batteries and they just won’t quit. Each day I smile as my eye catches the flashing green light on the monitor of our solar charge controller. Its rapid blinking tells me that it has our house batteries fully charged and is now shunting excess electricity (didn’t we just run the watermaker for 4 hours?) . Strange that I still find this a magical process – like a circus clown pulling a rabbit out of the hat -- I know the trick, I have seen it done a million times, but it still makes me smile every time.

Why is this important? Well, it seems that we now have to watch for a new set of cues about when to check back into town. Whoops the fridge is empty!

True we do still have a good supply of couscous and rice and beans and noodles, and a cupboard full of tins and jars so that we can manage a good and wholesome meal, but with all that cheese and chocolate just around the corner it does seem like a crime against nature not to be doing our part to help sustain the great French culture. And who needs wholesome?

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to that pizza place where they make the Quartto formaggio thin crust pizza? And the cafĂ© gourmand?

And so it was that I was waiting this morning in the cockpit for the crew to get organized for the shoreside adventures (as I sometimes do) and I noticed a couple of boats sailing across the small harbour. I noticed these boats in particular because they are working their way through a mooring field which has close to a thousand boats of all shapes and sizes.

Now it is true that I don’t really have a clue how many boat are moored in the harbour -- so let me just say that there are A LOT of boats! There are always a lot of boats in New Caledonia we are told but in October, as the seasons start to change, and boats collect from all corners of the Pacific this harbour hits MAX capacity. We are ourselves moored at the edge of the moorage area. I say ‘the edge’ generously because we are actually about 20 metres outside of the well-marked and designated area for mooring and well into that part of the harbour which is also well marked as a traffic lane. But we are not alone because there are boats moored all around us and it seems that everyone is understanding of this seasonal anomaly. And we don’t really feel alone because we know most of the boats around us, Songlines, Huck, Bella vita, Scotia, and many more too. We have seen many of these boats in Fiji, and in Vanuatu, and we have visited with many of these folks over the past two years. We don’t know everyone, but just like walking down your street, even if you don’t know everyone in every house it still feels a bit like home.

So, I was sitting in the cockpit this morning with the binoculars, doing what all good neighbours do. I was spying on our neighbours -- and I caught a glimpse of these boats working their way through the ‘hood’ -- and I recognize them too. They are from the Base Nautique, which we had walked by yesterday. They are ten identical boats, new and rigged identically. They are about 6 metres long, fast, and I can tell even from a distance that they are well handled and that they mean business.

I have not mentioned yet that it is windy. Across this very crowded harbour the wind has been whistling at 25 (gusts to 30) for the past 3 days. There are no waves but the boat still dances on its mooring and it’s ‘raincoats on’ for the dinghy ride into town as the warm salt spray gets blown off the tops of every wake and ripple. The wind is important to my story because these 10 sport boats are coming toward me and in every case the full main is inside out and they are driving to weather on the small jib alone, and they are moving quickly toward an open area in the harbour. Behind them is a wonderfully kitted out committee boat, and behind that 2 large centre console ribs as mark boats, 2 more umpire boats, and several more coach boats, and I think, this could be fun to watch.

Now remember that I am waiting for the crew to be ready to town so I only have about 35 or 40 minutes to watch but it is marvelous. The race boats were pairing off for heats of match racing and these folks are well schooled because there was a start every 10 minutes and the maneuvering was fast, aggressive, and purposeful. And did I mention that it was windy?

So we did eventually pick our way across the harbour. There are all shapes and sizes in Port Moselle and our path took us across what I will call the ‘local’ section. It reminds me that all harbours seem to have an area that we might call the ‘Last Stop’. In this situation I am always reminded of trying to find our way into the marina after a Transpac race. We were watching for markers and noticed what we thought was a stick marking the channel entrance. As we got closer we realized that it was the top section of a mast. That boat had sunk at its anchor and all that was showing above the water was the top 2 or 3 metres of the mast.

But in New Caledonia it isn’t the boats that are not used that catch your eye -- we see those everywhere. It is the boats that ARE used. People are on the water everywhere. They sail. They windsurf. They kiteboard. And judging by the outstanding fish market, it seems they fish too!

Our walk to the pizza joint at Baie du Citron takes about 30 minutes and winds across two beaches. These are remarkably different because one is in the lee and one is in the wind. The leeward beach is just another beautiful south pacific beach. Azure blue water, sunny, warm, families playing in the water, kids swimming, parents reading – the stuff of life. But the walk also takes us across a short isthmus to the windy side. This is a short walk, maybe 250 metres but it is worlds apart. The first thing we noticed on the windy side was kid’s water toys being blown along the beach like missiles. I tried to catch the first one, but even though they look like simple styrofoam toys they are actually highly sophisticated stealth devices designed to alter course sharply if a human gets within 2 or 3 metres. Clever.

But the beach is orderly too. There are the windsurfers. Maybe a hundred or so, and they are fast. Very fast. I have seen Jason Thompson wind-surfing at Wanasing beach -- but with the greatest respect -- this is a new level. Unbelievably fast.

In another corner of the baie are the kitesurfers. And they are good too. Skitting along and then off a wave and 10 metres into the air – for 10 or 15 seconds. And just beyond is a small island where there are 20 or 30 more boats all picnicking and enjoying a spring day.

I live on a boat and I am thinking that I have not even scratched the surface!

Later in the day, back in the hood, I am reflecting on how all these boats came to be here in Port Moselle. In our little area there are a couple of dozen boats that are heading into the final stages of the Island Cruising Association Rally that started for them in NZ in April or May. They have all sailed together from NZ to Tonga to Fiji to Vanuatu and now to New Caledonia. Fun.

Over these next two weeks everyone will sail back down to NZ to avoid the summer cyclone season which is approaching over the next month or two. Maybe, if they are smart, they will do the same thing again next year. I know that I am thinking “how can I work that into my plan”

We are part of a different group about to start making our way to Australia. The next leg of our journey is as part of the Down Under Rally which will see us heading to New South Wales.
Next week we have the arrival of crack crewman Kent Locke from Nanaimo to round out our roster and then we will start watching the weather for a chance to make our own 1,000 km. crossing to Australia.

Looking forward to it mate!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Pines & Palms

A masterpiece created by Caleigh, depicting Soophrosyne's wonderous crew.
New Caledonia is okay I guess -- If you like eating two baguettes a day and swimming on white sand beaches...
The majestic Sophrosyne Yacht has made it's way to Isle of Pines, 70 miles out of New Cal's capital city. Surrounded by palm trees, huge turtles, and a beautiful full moon, Sophrosyne's crew are starting to wonder why anyone would ever want to leave this magical spot.

Yesterday's outing to the Isle of Pines highest point gave us a view of the whole island. We tramped up the rocky, mars-like path to the summit, and looked out at the turquoise ocean in awe.
Some of Isle of Pines beautiful pines (and palms)
How lucky we are to get to spend one more whole week here!

A plus tard!
(Now that my first post is done, it is official that I won't be kicked out of UUD)

-Caleigh

Friday, 18 September 2015

Lights! C'est magnifique

Courses at UUD (University of Uncle Doug) continue apace. Here Caleigh is stitching on our new wheel cover. We initially thought of this as a luxury item but with our recent passage 'sans Autohelm' we have used and appreciated it immensely.

The sun rises behind us as we approach Noumea. What the camera cannot catch (or at least the photographers could not catch) are the array of flashing strobes off our bow which guide into town with exquisite assurance. You probably "have to be there" to appreciate what a friend a flashing white light really can be!
Snug as bugs in Port Moselle, New Caledonia we are enjoying the warm fresh delights of our new home. Yesterday evening we had warm fresh baguettes with some lovely french cheese and our last bottle of wine from Fiji. Today we will hunt out some of the promised French wine which was on the shelf yesterday but behind the red & white tape saying FERME.

We had a great crossing from Port Vila (or at least that was my opinion). There is great power in being the recorder of history. Our sail included wind that was close on the bow -- perhaps 50 deg. AWA. The boat performed perfectly -- though for the first time the Autohelm did not.

The initial setback of no self-steering was daunting. We could stop at the Loyalty Islands but even then they were 120 miles away for an anchorage.

On Sophrosyne, we were not overwhelmed with capable human helmsmen, and some of the best potential candidates were, at the moment, laying on the cabin settee with a bucket close at hand.

In the end though we sailed far enough from Efate for the confused seas to settle, and found the correct sail combination (triple reef main and about 1/2 of our small jib) to power the boat through the water at +/- 7 knots in perfect balance with 2 finger steering -- lovely -- and the stars that come out on a clear night with a new moon! All is well.

New Caledonia appears to be a treasure trove of discoveries. Our first impression though comes before we even touched land. The approach to Noumea includes a long stretch of islands, reefs and close channel passages. Looking at the chart in Port Vila, it seems daunting and no way to make the full passage in daylight. Nervous tummy.

As Robert de Niro famously says in the movie Ronin "the map never equals the territory."

In New Caledonia this turns out to be a lovely positive surprise. After so much time sailing in Fiji where navigational aids to serious hazards laying 6 inches below the surface may (or may not) be in the form of a 'stick' we were delighted to find the range of white, red, green flashers all working and exactly where the chart said they would be. Together with the iPad it was a piece of pie to move through these waters and a treat to arrive in Noumea with the rising sun behind us! Perfect.

We will spend a couple of days in Noumea enjoying the European lifestyle and sorting out that itinerant autohelm. After that we will make a make our way to some of the outer islands before we come back in to Port Moselle to prepare for the next leg of our journey to Australia.

It's all good!