Passage from New Zealand to New Caledonia

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By June, numerous friends had departed for Fiji, Tonga or Vanuatu. We were following their progress on the cruisers’ web site: (Yachts in Transit). Yachts sailing to Vanuatu were laden with supplies, tools and medicines for the people whose villages had been leveled by cyclone PAM. Over the years, these cruisers had made friends with the locals who lived on many of the islands, and organized among themselves just which boats would take supplies to which remote islands. They even helped to distribute supplies that had arrived in Vanuatu by ships from other countries.

On 22 June we departed Town Basin Marina and berthed in Marsden Cove Marina, where we checked out of New Zealand, bought duty-free fuel and prepared ADAGIO for sea. On 23 June we departed New Zealand for New Caledonia. It was not long before we were joined by the first Albatross of our passage. As we sailed before the wind under jib and reacher sails during the first day, the true wind speed increased from the teens then up to 30 knots after dinner. We furled the headsails and sailed under third reefed mainsail. The wind continued to blow in the mid-twenties throughout the night with gusts in small squalls. The sea state was from astern at 3 to 3.5 meters height. We sailed 185 nautical miles during the first 24 hours.

Soon after lunch, on our second day out, we heard a loud Bang! the sound of the halyard for our enormous reaching sail parting, dropping the sail overboard, still attached to the boat by its two sheets, and to the furling drum at the bow. “All hands on deck!”

We suited up in wet weather gear and went forward to examine the situation. The sail was streaming out, between the hulls, in the water under the boat. Our first concern was that no lines become entangled in our two engine propellers.

Using our super sharp serrated boating knives, we sawed through each of the two sheets, allowing the sail to be held only by the tack of the sail attached to the furling drum just forward of the main beam where our two anchors are stowed.

At first we thought that the best thing to do was to cut the whole thing loose. Then we saw how relatively peacefully the sail was streaming out along the inside of the port bow. By alternating between the two anchor windlasses, and each with a long line, we were able to bring the sail aboard, bit by bit, over the main beam. With much cleverness and skilled problem-solving, not to mention a lot of hard work, we were able to save our expensive sail and still retain all of our fingers and toes.

For something like this to happen is of course a real Bummer. However, we are grateful that the episode occurred in broad daylight rather than at “0-dark-thirty, and with a few showers rather than thundering rain, to rinse off the salt spray from the bounding seas surrounding us. We lashed the sail securely onto the foredeck, waiting for morning daylight when we could sort it out and stow it into the starboard bow locker. It closely resembled a large zebra pelt, the new white sail fabric striped with black lines from ADAGIO’s new black anti-foul paint. We motor-sailed under reefed mainsail and starboard engine, until morning when we hoped the winds and seas would settle down a bit.

On 25 June, at 0600 hrs, beginning my 6 hour watch, I wrote in the log, “Wind still up in the mid to high twenties. Seas over 2 metres. Sky is beginning to glow in the east. Our position is just to the SSW of the Tui Seamount, the Kiwi Seamount and the Three Kings Ridge. We are motor sailing directly towards New Caledonia. Seas are still a bit rough. Sailing under 4th reefed mainsail, which we will hoist to first reef when the sun is shining.”

Forecast was for increasing seas and decreasing wind over the next 24 hours.
We covered 169 nautical miles during our second 24 hours out. Albatross continued to visit, including a sizeable Wandering Albatross. Flying fish landed on deck and occasionally smashed against a window, leaving behind a telltail splotch of slime and scales. We hoisted the mainsail and unfurled the jib, making for a more comfortable ride, occasionally surfing on a wave at 10 to 14 knots boat speed.

With many changes in true wind speed and true wind direction, we were kept busy adjusting our course. During our third day, we covered 189 nautical miles. By day 4, we were sailing under a bright blue sky, before 2.5 m seas, with true windspeed in the teens.

When we were ready to reef the mainsail, we discovered that the halyard would not feed up the mast to lower the sail. Perhaps the main halyard was fouled inside the mast, tangled up with the broken reacher halyard. It did not take us long to pull some of the reacher halyard out through the hole where it fed into the mast, thus freeing the main halyard. Whew!

After each passage we have made to New Caledonia, rains have washed off the heavy layer of salt crystals that covered ADAGIO, and this was no exception. Albatrosses had visited us at sea, always appearing when the wind is strongest and seas highest, making photography a bit difficult, but a pleasure to see. A pod of welcoming dolphins joined us as we entered the Southern Lagoon. From our bow pulpits we tried to work out their social status. There were four “guys” who competed heavily for prime positions on the port bow wave, knocking each other about at times. A Matriarch and a young dolphin stayed together near the starboard bow, and out of the fray. A seventh dolphin of medium size flitted back and forth between the two groups. I imagine she was a young female. Who knows? They were certainly having fun. I whistled and sang to them. From time to time a dolphin would turn on its side and look up at me. Wooo Hoooo!

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