Friday, 24 November 2017

Going East to go South

[Part two of two on a recent letter home]

Our Friday 'staging' passage was a lovely sail in the lagoon. With the boat heeled, it was easy to see which items needed to be better lashed before we went offshore, and after an early morning start, we had lots of time in the afternoon/evening to put things to rights :) We anchored with one other (beautiful but unknown to us) boat at Iré, switching roles from our usual positions: I drove, and Max operated the windless. It was a simple scenario, but it was educational for both of us to do the job the other normally does with ease; we will do this more often! It was very windy, with gusts coming from all angles over the hills, but by the morning, there was hardly a breath of wind, and the bay was totally still as we took up our anchor. I always enjoy unusual connections with wildlife as we are entering or leaving a place; on Saturday, we had a curious dugong come by as if to wish us 'fair winds', and some kind of creature has seen fit to deposit jelly-like 'fingers' (egg sacs?) on our anchor chain, which Victoria bravely removed for us. The bay was as different from Gadji as one could imagine, and it, too, was beautiful in its own way. Perhaps it is simply good for the soul to notice the beauty of any location, rather than pining for a particular one.
We had two choices of passes to leave from, and we chose the one that gave us the longest transit of the lagoon, which was ideal for final food preparation and tidying (and even for testing our storm staysail, which we have prepared and ready, which hopefully means we won't have to use it). It was nice to get my entire list checked off!! Once outside the lagoon, Victoria and Max had a fun, if somewhat boisterous, father/daughter afternoon sail, while Johnathan, Benjamin, and I laid low on the aft bunk. No one had their sea legs yet! Once we put a larger reef in the main sail, the motion of the boat calmed down somewhat, and eventually the winds came down from the high teens to around 10 kts which is lovely.
At dawn on Sunday, Victoria and I were on watch to pass a bleak island that not many eyes have seen - Ile Walpole was sitting pretty much on our track just over 100 nm from Ile des Pins, so we gave it a wide (+/- 5 nm) berth. It was flat on top and surrounded by cliffs, giving it a rather menacing impression.
I prepared many of our meals for this passage before we left NZ in May 2016 ... yes, really, this is not a typo: I canned pork and chicken in advance of our trip to Fiji, and we have the last half-dozen jars to use now. Dinner on Saturday night was a pork shepherd's pie using a large jar of canned pork and fresh veg from New Caledonia. As it turned out, there were no hearty appetites on Saturday, so the shepherd's pie became dinner on Sunday as well :) Dinner tonight was a similar concoction of chicken pot pie (complete with pastry crust). I am really glad Max was able to replenish our propane in New Cal by gravity filling from a French tank, as I am glad to be able to use the oven like this!
By Sunday morning, the winds had diminished quite a bit, to the point that we were alternately motoring and sailing. We are spending these three rather light days heading mostly east from New Caledonia to give ourselves the best point of sail for when the forecast wind fill in from the East on Monday/Tuesday. We expect to be hard on the wind in the mid-teens for most of the rest of the trip.
Victoria has been standing the early morning (0430) watch and then entertaining Benjamin with songs and games and colouring all morning. As for Benjamin, he plays a mean game of checkers, Connect-4, and chess (when he is not playing Minecraft or making 'skins' for that game), and is quite happy to be on passage, as it means that his birthday (3 Dec) is getting ever-closer. We haven't seen much of Johnathan yet, as he has been laid low by a cold (and a good book - he found a 1400-page Sherlock Holmes compilation on the Kobo today, so I don't expect to see much of him til we arrive!) Our weather is good (mostly light winds, some heavy grey clouds yesterday and last night but clear today), but even with the rain enclosure we are already finding it chilly to be sitting in the cockpit overnight (of course, there is lots of banter about how well-dressed we will need to be for the passage to Alaska in 2019!)
As I wrap up, it is my favourite time of day - the rest of the boat is sleeping, the stars are out, we are riding on a carpet of bioluminescence, and alternating sailing right down our course in 6-8 kts of wind with motoring in 3-5 kts, floating on the lazy left-over swell from last week's storms south of here. I enjoy the feeling of being alone under an expansive sky, while at the same time using this satcom technology to stay close to family and friends.
Love to you all,

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