Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The last leg home to Launceston, Tasmania

After arriving in Camden Haven on Friday the 4th November we anchored in the river opposite the village of North Haven. It was a short row ashore and then 100 metres from the dinghy pontoon lived Wayne's good friend and childhood neighbour Phil and his wife Cheryl.

We spent a week anchored off North Haven and enjoyed the picturesque beauty of this coastal town surrounded by bushland. In fact from seaward the only building visible was the local surf club and the man made breakwaters. It was refreshing to find this region developed within the natural bush environment. The only way to take in the ocean view was to walk or ride to the end of the breakwater or to the beach.

We explored the waterways by kayak and one afternoon spent half an hour under a bridge in the backwash of the pylons watching a mother dolphin and calf diving around catching fish. Another day we borrowed Phil's car to drive to Port Macquarie.

On the 11th November we departed with the high tide and sailed with the gentle 10 to 15 knot breeze all day and arrived off Port Stephens as the wind began building. We sailed through the passage between Tomaree and Yacaaba Heads then anchored off Jimmy's Beach, at 0200 Saturday. After a sleep in we sailed further upstream to anchor off Pindimar to explore the area via kayak over the next few days. Another couple of days were spent tied up at the public wharf at Nelsons Bay, which allowed us some extended day walks. We met a family of grey kangaroos that were in the park at the end of the main street. We also explored some bush tracks and summited Tomaree for the expansive view.

After a week of exploring Port Stephens we departed on a favourable forecast for the long day sail to Broken Bay. We arrived in the bay as the sun was setting and the anchor went down at last light near Juno Point. The next morning we motored up to the entrance of Mullet Creek near Brooklyn to sound our way over a barway on the last of the spring high tides. We made it in with just 0.2 metres of water under the keel. An hour later we dropped anchor across from Wondabyne train station in 6 metres of water. The anchor was firmly set as we planned to base ourselves here for a month or so to visit our families and Sydney friends.

Wondabyne station is on the Northern rail line and is only long enough for the rear doors of the rear carriage to pull up alongside. There is approximately one train per hour that is timetabled to stop at the station if required. The creek is more like a bay here and there are some shacks around the waterfront and a few moored boats, the shack and boat owners enjoy this waterway and surrounding national park when they visit by train or boat. We enjoyed approximately a month in Mullet Creek exploring the area by kayak as well as a few walks along the Great North Walk track. We spent many days visiting friends and relatives in Sydney and the Central Coast.

We made it out of Mullet Creek on another high spring tide and headed to Pittwater to spend a day anchored in Careel Bay.  The next day with a good weather window, we continued our voyage south. We arrived late afternoon in Wollongong Harbour then set out at 5am the next morning. The next night we anchored in Jervis Bay. Then it was a shorter voyage to Ulladulla for a night. The next stop was Twofold Bay, Eden as the weather wasn't suitable to continue across Bass Strait. Here we actually stayed for a week before getting a good weather window of more than 48 hours.

While waiting in Twofold Bay, we moved between two anchorages, Boyd Bay and Snug Cove, depending on the wind direction. We explored the Kiah River by kayak and also walked to Eden and along the foreshore tracks. We also caught up with a good friend Bob on his yacht Sylph IV who had recently returned from a multi year voyage encompassing Japan, Alaska, Canada, USA, Mexico then across the Pacific back to Australia.

The required weather window arrived at last and we set out on the 23rd December at 0200 and cleared the NSW coast by 0800. We lost sight of land in the afternoon and sailed on the gentle breeze overnight towards the northern end of Flinders Island. It wasn't until the following afternoon that we saw land just half a mile away as the fog had been getting thicker all day. We altered course to pass through Sisters Passage and again to pass along the stunning shoreline of Flinders Island in the vicinity of Mt Killiecrankie. We talked of a future plan to sea kayak around the islands of the Furneau Group.

The engine was put to use as the breeze had died to a whisper once the sun had risen on Christmas Day. We motored onward and passed the Low Head lighthouse then entered the Tamar River just as the tide turned in our favour. We had just crossed our outbound track just 6 days short of 2 years away and just over 9,300 nautical miles under our keel.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Arrived Coffs Harbour

We arrived at Coffs Harbour at 09:30 on the 1st November 2016 and were able to pick up a courtesy mooring outside the marina area to await Customs clearance (now called Australian Border Force).

Over the last 24 hours of the passage we experienced very strong winds and a cold front which, along with the numbers of ships around us, left us feeling exhausted.

The formalities were completed and we were declared termite free. So this 41 year old vessel has still been able to outrun the infestations of termites that must, by the sounds of it, be rampant through a fair number of vessels made of or containing wood.

We have since sailed to and anchored in the Camden Haven River.

All is well surrounded by the smell of the eucalypts again.

Wayne and Kathy

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Passage Report Saturday

Day 5 of our passage to Australia from New Caledonia.
We are experiencing the Forth day of trade winds with currently South Easterly 15 knots. Since the southerly front arriving last Tuesday, the variation of wind has been from East to South East and from 6 to 18 knots. So very pleasant sailing conditions. We have used the spinnaker and Code "0" when the conditions were lighter and we have the Spinnaker set now from its top down furler on the poker pole in front of the bow as we continue tracking 240 degrees true, we expect to be able to carry it through the night tonight. There is a change in the weather tomorrow according to the Grib Files we download each evening. The wind will back around to the north and increase to over 20 knots by the evening. By midnight tomorrow we should have reached the channel of maximum East Australian Coastal current which sets south along the coast. We will set a new course then, direct to Coffs Harbour with just 100 nm to go. We are monitoring the water temperature to give us this indication.

Over the last 5 days we have seen lots of flying fish and many Gannets that often circle us to see what sea life we may disturb that they are always ready to pounce on. Or are they just taking time out from their fishing to check us out? Usually 2 or 3 laps of the boat and they move off to continue the search for food. We haven't seen any birds in the evenings flying in any particular direction which is an early sign of land nearby, perhaps tomorrow we will see more land based sea birds.

The sun has just set and all is peaceful as we listen to the water swoosh along the hull

Wayne and Kathy

At 29/10/2016 07:55 (utc) our position was 26°56'S 157°13'E
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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Position Report bound Coffs Harbour

We departed yesterday, tuesday 25 Oct, from the lagoon off Noumea at 0700. It was very light so we motor sailed SW towards a band of cloud on the horizon. Five hours later we picked up a SSW 18 knot wind and we set full headsail and 1 reefed mainsail. The sea built up quickly with the front and we settled into the usual 1st day of a passage routine.

We have maintained the good conditions through the night and are tracking towards Cape Byron to keep north of the High and we expect Northerly winds on the weekend to help us track south along with the usual East Australian coast current that is strong between Byron and Coffs at the present time (BOM web site). A highlight of the night was seeing a flying fish take off about 10 metres from the starboard bow and flew then hovered next to the navigation light for about 10 seconds then floated back down into the sea.

All is well onboard as the sea is moderating this morning. We have 742 nm to Coffs
At 25/10/2016 21:08 (utc) our position was 23°15.08'S 164°04.23'E
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Monday, 24 October 2016

Farewell New Caledonia

Tomorrow, Tuesday 25 October we will be heading back to Australia. We cleared out this morning with the pleasant and organised government officials, bought our last baguettes, filled up with duty free fuel and sailed out to Ilot Nge. It is a little sandy island with a splash of vegetation in the centre providing a home for numerous birds. Not long after picking up a visitors mooring we had a turtle surfacing beside the boat. After doing a big cook up and last minute jobs we swam ashore and were able to swim beside a pretty big turtle for part of the way. It was a wonderful experience and a nice farewell from New Caledonia.

Now going back in time to fill you in since our previous blog post ....From Iles des Pines we sailed to Ilot Ndo, in the southern lagoon with a steady beam reach and sunny skies. On nearing the island we dropped the sails and switched on the engine to navigate our way through the reef to our anchorage for the night. From up on the ratlines I could distinctly see the deep water pass surrounded by reef. I also spied several reef sharks in the shallows near the island. Mmm...did we really want a swim? After anchoring in a gulch within the reef we rowed the dinghy ashore and discovered that the island was very popular with banded sea snakes. Their tracks were everywhere and we saw about twenty snakes as we walked around the island's shoreline. It only took about 15 minutes so you can imagine how small it was.

The next day we left early and headed across to another tiny island called Ilot Kouare. We had a light north westerly breeze and ran with just the headsail across 'unchartered waters'. This was an area on the chart that was greyed out and was labeled as such. But keeping a careful eye out we safely navigated around the reefs and Ilots. We arrived around lunchtime missing all the coral heads as we closed in on the island. We anchored in beautiful clear water and it wasn't long before we had three remoras or were they small grey sharks? hanging around the hull. Again we rowed ashore and walked around the island in no time at all. Sea snake tracks were once again everywhere on the beach leading up to the line of vegetation. But we only saw one making its way to the water. Perhaps we saw more at the previous island because it was dusk when we went ashore. As we rowed back to Ambler we spotted a reef shark in the shallows.

With strong winds predicted for the next couple of days we left the Ilots behind and sailed north to Port Koube on the Ile Ouen. Here we spent two nights surrounded by high eroded hillsides. Port Koube is a large natural harbour with no settlements. We spent one day kayaking around the shoreline. The beaches here were red mud as was the anchor and chain when we pulled it up.

On Friday 7th we left Ile Ouen and sailed a short distance to Bai de Prony on the mainland of New Caledonia. It's a huge natural harbour with many protected anchorages similar to Broken Bay in NSW. First we headed to the eastern arm and picked up a mooring in a little bay called Anse Majic. As we entered the little bay the water was tranquil, there was hardly a puff of wind and the birdsong was vibrant. We enjoyed 2 nights in this lovely spot. From the anchorage we walked to Cape Ndua lighthouse and marvelled at the spectacular vista of the nearby reefs and islands. The dark red earth of the track contrasted with the greens of the coastal scrub covering the hillside. We also kayaked around the east arm and found a watering point set up with a hose from a creek.

Our next anchorage in Bai de Prony was at Ile Casey. We really enjoyed our time here even though it poured rain for most of the time. There was great snorkelling and the walk around the island was stunning. There were a variety of forests within in the island from towering pines to giant fig trees to coastal forests all interrupted with sandy white beaches. The island at one time had a small hotel but this was being taken over by the bush. It was an intriguing little island.

The next couple of nights we spent anchored in the further most reaches of Bai de Prony in its western arm called Baie du Carenage and Baie des Kaoris. The scenery that surrounded us was of green bushclad hillsides. Apparently the locals use this bay as a hurricane anchorage. Each bay ended in a mangrove creek and at high tide we were able to kayak to where the first rapids began. We discovered another water point, this time the hose came from an underground spring. One day we walked to the first settlement called Prony and looked at the ruins that were left. It's hot work walking in this heat so we soaked our tired bodies in the 'lukewarm spring' at the head of Baie des Kaoris.

After spending another night at Ile Casey we had a brisk sail out of Bai de Prony and west through Canal Woodin to Bai Uie. As we sailed through Canal Woodin we cracked 10 knots boat speed with the wind and current with us. We spent 3 windy days and nights in Bai Uie and only managed to go ashore once for a short walk on the beach. Being on board gave us a chance to give Ambler a thorough spring clean.

By Tuesday 18th the wind had abated and we had a great beam reach back to Noumea. We have spent the last week anchored in Port Moselle, Noumea with strong winds. Most days we've spent half the day ashore walking and exploring and the rest of the time we've been preparing Ambler for our passage back to Australia.

All is ready for sea on board.

At 23/10/2016 07:57 (utc) our position was 22°19.54S 166°19.11'E
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Monday, 17 October 2016

Cruising New Caledonia - Part One - Isles de Pines

Since our arrival in New Caledonia, we have done a bit of exploring by sail, sea kayak, snorkel and foot.

We left Noumea on Thursday 27th Sept and our first stop was to pick up a mooring at Ilot Maitre just 3 nautical miles from the harbour. We dived into the crystal clear blue tinged water to snorkel around a couple of coral reefs nearby. We found them to be the most colourful we have experienced this year, perhaps it's the cooler water temperatures here, roughly 24 degrees as against the 26 degrees of Fiji and Tonga. We also saw many turtles and some very big fish that were unafraid of us as we snorkeled about. Needless to say it was a marine reserve and they appear to know it!

The moorings laid for our use were 2 ton concrete blocks with a rope shackled to them and a buoyed loop at the surface which we pass our own line through and back to the bow cleat. There is another submerged float to keep the lower part of the rope free of coral.

We stayed overnight and kayaked first thing in the morning around the island then sailed for Ilot Ouen where we found an anchorage for the night in Baie de la Tortue. This island is a large, hilly land mass with some eroded areas but is mostly forested and scrubby all over. There are many other anchorages around the island and a few settled areas around the shores.

We awoke early the next morning to sail through a shallow narrow passage in the reefs to the south of the island with Kathy up our ratlines spotting for coral heads. A couple of small motor boats passed us with the first giving us an incredulous look and the next one actually failing to take a turn soon enough and struck a shoal then slowly made its way onward with the outboard trimmed up. Anyway we made it through and then made our way to the normal shipping route where we were able to relax and enjoy the rest of the day sailing with our asymmetric spinnaker to Isle de Pines, roughly 40nm south east of the mainland. On arrival we conned our way into a very busy anchorage in Bai de Kanumera which is on the south west corner of the island.

We stayed for 3 nights and enjoyed a walk to Pic Nga which is the highest point at 260 metres on the Isle de Pines. The views were amazing with all the shades of blue represented in the surrounding shallow and deep waters of the island. The track to the top was fairly direct and traversed a low farming area then ascended via an open ridge over weathered loose rock then re entered forest and scrub on the mostly flat top which afforded many views from different lookouts. The bird life was mostly made up of many vocal small insect and honey eaters which were hard to spot but sounded delightful. The pines that give their name to the island are incredibly tall and slender with not a lot of foliage spread for their height. The next day we paddled around the southern shoreline of the island then back via a few small offshore islands. On getting back to the boat we noted a huge crowd ashore on the beaches and snorkelling in the bay and discovered the P&O cruise ship Pacific Pearl was anchored nearby. We stayed aboard avoiding the crowds and later found out we had friends from Tasmania who had briefly escaped the winter and were perhaps among the crowd.

The third day we went ashore early and walked to the bakery to buy some baguettes. We then headed back for breakfast and got under weigh for a lively sail around to the eastern side of the island to anchor in Bai de Ugo. We had to negotiate a few more coral areas on the way so we just unfurled our genoa for the passage. On arrival into the bay it had clouded over which made it difficult to see the shoals from the ratline ladder so we had a cautious look around to find a suitable anchorage and narrowly missed a coral patch by hitting full noise reverse, we then executed a tight 180 degree (3 point) turn to get out of a mine field of coral heads. We were helped and advised by a newly launched Alloy Dashew designed FPB (F.... Power Boat) that we anchored next to in a perfect sandy area. We were invited over for drinks and a tour of the vessel after we were settled in. These boats are very well appointed and built in Whangarei, New Zealand. Perhaps a small scale cruise ship complete with stabilisers! We spent several days enjoying the crystal clear waters of this bay. We kayaked around the lagoon formed by the outer reef and the scattered limestone islets topped with towering pines, at low tide we walked along a dry, sandy creek bed to a natural swimming hole on a junction with another creek. This bay was breathtakingly beautiful and was a great anchorage in the westerly winds.

When the westerly wind went back to the south east we sailed around the northern end of Iles des Pines and anchored in Bai de Gadj on the north west corner of the island. This was once again a stunning place with clear water, numerous limestone islands and fantastic snorkelling. Here we snorkeled at a reef drop off and saw numerous large beautifully coloured fish. After a few days spent in this lovely anchorage we decided to sail for Ilot Ndo, a tiny island in the southern lagoon. As we sailed slowly out of the bay in light wind with the code zero ghosting us along we were treated to an amazing display of a humpback whale breaching. As the whale crossed our path ahead of us we realised it was a mother and calf. We felt very privileged to see these magnificent creature so close. The wind strengthened once we cleared the bay and outer reef so we replaced the code zero for the genoa and had a nice sail across to Ilot Ndo.

Stay tuned for more of our adventures in New Caledonia.

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Monday, 19 September 2016

Noumea, New Caledonia

Bonjour

We arrived at the entrance to Havannah Passage, New Caledonia at first light on Sunday morning having had to motor since 2.30am to make the flood tide in the pass, as the wind had died out. We began the next 40 nautical miles of navigation through reef and island passages, arriving in Port Moselle to anchor at 14:40.

Since last Tuesday's post we sailed in beautiful sunny conditions with just our genoa set in the 20 plus knot winds through to Thursday morning when the winds began to moderate to around 15kn. We then set a double reefed main through to Friday midnight shaking out the reefs as the wind moderated further. We enjoyed watching the full moon rise and set each night. At first light on Saturday we exchanged the genoa for our 0.5oz code zero sail. The breeze continued to fade throughout Saturday and disappeared on Sunday at 02:30. At this point we started the engine and passed an outbound cargo ship heading to Vanuatu. We were able to shut down the engine at 09:00 Sunday in favour of the code zero and full main again. The sailing was enjoyable as we cruised past many anchorages and bays we hope to explore later. The lush tropical bush gave way to eroded multi coloured rock and soil hills and gullies, perhaps mined in the past for the rich deposits of nickel.

As we neared Noumea there were hundreds of sailing vessels out enjoying the good trade winds. They ranged from wind surfers through to super yachts. It was a great sight with sails billowing on the iridescent blue waters.

Today we went into town and visited the Immigration, Customs and Quarantine Offices to clear in. It was a nice, easy, welcoming and free procedure, so refreshing. After that we practiced our basic school grade French on the shopkeepers. We're glad most of them speak English!

We covered 678nm in 5 days and 8 hours on the passage from Fiji.
All is bien on board.
Kathy and Wayne

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