June 2010: New Zealand to New Caledonia

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

To monitor our position reports to YOTREPS please click here).

This is the second NZ to Newcal run for ADAGIO. The first was our maiden voyage in September 2000 with David and Susan aboard. The 2000 passage was peaceful. The 2010 passage, while not exactly peaceful, was enhanced because Vanessa McKay was able to join us. And potential dramas were avoided thanks to the typically adroit routing advice from Rick Shema. Rick has advised us for ten years now, and we continue to feel that professional weather expertise is a very high-return investment. Especially Rick’s enroute oversight, which on this passage rewarded us with a comfortable trip and, unlike some less fortunate boats on this run, no serious gear breakage.

For fellow cruisers who would like to know more about how we work with Rick Shema enroute, you can review our passage email traffic here [PDF]. For brevity I have omitted most of our Yotreps position reports. We transmit these reports both to Rick and to Yotreps — that is why you will read Rick commenting on our course and speed when it appears we did not send him anything. Yotreps is also why Rick didn’t receive our first position report out of NZ — there are some oddities about addressing a Yotreps report to multiple email addresses.

Before departure we had estimated about a 4.5 day passage from Opua to Noumea. We expected a LOW pressure system to form east of New Caledonia, which was projected to track far enough southeast so that our NZ to Newcal rhumb line was OK. On Monday 14 June we were the first yacht to clear out of Opua, NZ, collecting our “duty free” and straightaway dropping our docklines. As it turned out, the 4.5 days became a seven day passage because we elected to sail west and clockwise around the approaching LOW. So ADAGIO made landfall at the Amadee entrance to New Caledonia’s southern lagoon around 0800 on 21 June.

Day 1: just before sunset the jib head shackle exploded, so we had to get the jib lashed down pronto. Steve and Vanessa took advantage of the Reef-Rite jib furler “Kiwi Slides” which keep the luff captive in the foil (similar to traditional headsail hanks). The foil captures the luff, so we could fold and lash the jib to the trampoline perimeter rope. We will retrieve the jib halyard in daylight and hopefully easier seas.

Day 2: around 0700 15 June we received an enroute update from Rick Shema indicating that the New Caledonia LOW was likely to track further west than we had hoped:

(…) You mentioned a slow SOG and that is of concern due to the low pressure system forming just east of New Cal, south of 20S (it may be tropical) and heading just to the east of your route, which is too close for comfort.

Therefore, I would adjust your route to head for an aim-point (AP1) near 30 00S 165 00E. You may not need to head that far west, but for now we don’t know and better safe than sorry.

The radio propagation gods were pro-ADAGIO that morning, allowing us to successfully download via Sailmail an updated GFS model. We ran a revised MaxSea weather “optimal routing” using the new GFS model + ADAGIO’s “cruising performance polars” (which are about 80% of the Morrelli and Melvin design polars).

MaxSea routing table

MaxSea routing table

Above is a tabulation of our 0500NZT 16 June routing calculated by Maxsea [full size PDF]. From such projections we can assess a number of issues — e.g., given the expected sea state, do we think we can keep up the projected pace on the planned route in order to “stay ahead of the LOW”.

A movie is an easy way to visualize the combination of the modeled winds, sea state and ADAGIO’s projected performance. See here {requires Adobe Flash} for an animation of the estimated ADAGIO course vs. the progress of the LOW system.

The Maxsea animation has a small Date-Time clock displayed at bottom-center. The frame at left (click the thumbnail for the full size image) is for 6/18/10 7:53 where we judge we can safely turn north for New Caledonia. The color shading encodes the projected sea state in terms of Significant Wave Height. The color key at lower left shows the numeric values. E.g., the seas SE of the LOW center are 7 to 8 meters with winds in the 35-40 kn. range. For ADAGIO we expect to be sailing into 3 to 4 meter seas on western edge of the LOW system. That is about what happened in the real world. Following are a sample of our log entries for the rest of the passage.

Day 3: Log entries “00:24: Wind has been ranging 16 to 20 knots TWS, seas more comfortable. Time to set the reacher when Steve gets up.

15:44: Vanessa volunteered to go up the mast to attach a messenger line to the jib halyard. We furled all sails, then turned downwind to about 165 TWA to stabilize the boat for Vanessa’s ascent. We used the topper for a safety line, main halyard for the hoist — a fairly quick round trip — but definitely not an easy one. Vanessa has some new bruises but no serious injuries.

17:22: The starboard reacher tweaker line suffered a cover failure where it comes out of the jammer, so Steve and Vanessa replaced the line with a new Dacron 12mm double-braid. This is a good reminder of how much load the reacher tweakers take.”

Day 4: Log entries “3:01: Vanessa surfed at 13 knots. We are rocketing along in comfortable seas, averaging 7 to 9 knots boat speed, making good time. We are 140 nm se of Norfolk Island, and 202 nm from our AP1 waypoint. Our little refugee finch is still perched on the jackline by the back door, feathers puffed up for warmth. Perhaps it would like some of our sesame seeds for breakfast. Baro is down a point.

05:43: Wind up to 20 kts at times, boat speed hit 11.3 kts. AWS still below 16 kts. Wonderful sailing in comfortable seas. 182 nm to AP1 ETA 20 hours?

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

12:49: Excellent boat speed between 8 and 13 knots. Steve tightened the leech and foot lines on the reacher. A rollicking good ride under a cloudy sky with blue skies ahead and sun trying to appear. Showers all around. ETA at AP1 is in 20 hours plus or minus. Shearwaters and one albatross today. The finch was gone from its perch by morning. Perhaps he is “boat hopping” to Australia.

Click the thumbnail at left for a new gallery of Dorothy’s albatross photos.

14:41: Up 10 to AWA 120. I’m steering up in the lulls, down in the puffs. 203 nm travelled in past 24 hrs.

20:54: Rick forecasts increased seas between midnight and 0600 tomorrow morning. Sailing towards the lovely crescent moon. TWS is decreasing so boat speed between 6.4 and 7.5 kts. Crescent moon, a few clouds around, stars, peaceful but slower. 10 hrs to AP2 at this speed.

22:38 The wind has returned to 18kn TWS so boat speed is back up to 5 min average of 9.2kn”

Day 5: Log entries “00:00 Continuing to nibble as much northing as possible/comfortable. Try up 5 degrees to AWA 110, trim reacher. OK, works. Speed 8.6 kn avg. Adverse current down from 1kn to .4kn

02:04: Try up 5 degrees to 95 awa. Ease reacher tweaker, trim sheet. Trim main. Ride bumpier for sure. Speed 9.5kn.

02:25 We are rocketing along; wave slams not very frequent. Milky Way is amazing, like a Hubble image. We are averaging 9.4kn in 17kn TWS 133 TWA on reacher and 2nd reef.

5:16: Reached our layline north of AP1; furled reacher, set jib, turned to AWA 60 for Noumea.

9:36: Reef-rite boom furler pin is not engaged so furling line is oscillating in-out at the entry fairlead. Cover of the line is in bad shape, Spectra core looks OK. Furl the main. Timing is not bad, as it looks like we are going to be a motorboat the rest of this passage.”

Day 6: Log entries “0:03: Smoother seas now, very bright crescent moon just setting. Radar is clear. 297 nm and 52 hours to Amadee light. ETA 0500 hrs on Monday 21 June

09:54 There are two primary seas running = 73mg and 110mg, can’t judge the wave period well. Speed 6.3kn at 2500 port engine.

00:07: Still motoring in a more gentle swell. Beautiful sunset that we photographed hoping to see a green flash. 188 nm and 33 hours to Amadee Light.

Day 7: Log entries “13:07 Rain showers washed the salt off of the boat. Nice. Swell is still with us, wind has increased a bit. 94 nm from Amadee Light, 17 hrs at this speed. Beautiful clouds all around.”

Day 8: Log entries “08:00 Landfall New Caledonia at Amadee, ADAGIO has cleared the entrance.”

Day 13: So here we are moored at Ilot Maitre: sea temp about 23C, wind about 20kn SE trades, water = clean, internet = fast/free, green flash at sunset = check. What’s not to like?

9 thoughts on “June 2010: New Zealand to New Caledonia

  1. Hi Steve and Dorothy,
    Sounds like a great trip. I’ve never seen a green flash. You two are most inspiring in your voyages and admirable with your appetite for the woners of the world.


  2. G’day Dorothy and Steve – congratulations on another successful passage. The ‘Kiwi Slides’ look like good gear and I’ve emailed Reef Rite for more details. Keeping the larger headsail under control while changing to a smaller one has always been a concern for me and those slides look like they might make it a bit easier.

    Happy sailing,



  3. Hi Steve, Dorothy
    Rick seems to have earned his ‘pay’ on this trip! And Steve always says that most of his info is ordinary, but its the extraordinary info that keeps you out of trouble that you’re really paying for. Well done on another successful passage.
    Cheryl and I are in Maleny, Queensland. Heading back to Tassie in a week or two. Cheers, Leo


    • >> its the extraordinary info that keeps you out of trouble that you’re really paying for.

      Indeed. That especially includes keeping a watch on ADAGIO’s local weather situation well ahead of the boat. We think the value of a professional like Rick Shema is much higher than yacht insurance.


  4. Hi Dorothy and Steve,

    I enjoyed reading your detailed account of your trip. Adrian and I sailed to New Caledonia and Vanuatu in 2008 and had a super trip. Now we’re off to Bolivia and Chile – but not under sail this time. More rich experiences, though.

    Keep on enjoying the richness of your experience, too.

    Warmest wishes,



  5. Steve & Dorothy, Hi. The weather information available today is literaly incredible to me but I couldn’t help noticing it still comes down to seamanship.

    Congratulations on another good passage.

    Aloha, Bill and Maryann


    • Bill & Maryann — what a treat to hear from you!
      (…) it still comes down to seamanship
      Indeed, as you guys know better than we. I’ll speculate that the weather info we have access to now has an indirect effect on our seamanship — especially because more accurate enroute weather-outlooks help us spend less time in gnarly weather than you had to endure on S/Y PELAGIC II. So you have heaps more actual experience dealing with horrible seas and broken gear.
      Following seas, Steve and Dorothy


    • Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for your congrats! Sorry we missed your note — we’ve been exploring the east of Newcal where there is no internet access.

      All the best, Steve & Dorothy


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