New Caledonia to Australia (Bundaberg) - Day 3 - 23 31.041S 161 18.292E

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 15 Oct 2012 04:37
Have just realised that in yesterday's position I forgot to put 'S' after the latitude. Not knowing what the default is, I hope it didn't put us in the northern hemisphere! If it did, we can't fix it until we have fast internet access again. Anyway, we are definitely still in the southern hemisphere. Those with sharp eyes will see from our position above that we have just crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, so no longer in the tropics. Out here the days are quite chilly when there's no sun and the nights are definitely cold, needing full wet weather gear to stay warm.

The weather's been a mixed bag over the last 24 hours. All yesterday and most of last night it was overcast and the forecast trough went through, bringing quite a lot of heavy rain and a few flashes of lightning (not close to us). The wind also dropped down and swung round to the east. It was a struggle to keep up boat speed which dropped to 2.5kts on a few occasions, but by heading more south we managed to keep it at 4 to 5kts most of the time until the trough had passed and the winds returned to 15-20kts from the SE, where they have so far stayed. Having been so overcast for the whole passage, it was a delight in the early hours to see a light in the sky, then many lights as the cloud cleared and sky became full of stars. It's been clear all day today, so a beautiful sunny day with a deep blue sea.

Despite the low speeds overnight, the noon-to-noon run was 147.8 sea miles. This is particularly good as we've had a current of 0.5 to 1kt against us most of the way. The charts indicate a west going current, so this east going current is a doubly whammy - firstly we had assumed we would have 0.5 to 1kt of current with us, which we're not getting, and secondly we certainly didn't expect to have a current against us. From a route planning perspective, we're losing between 24 and 48 miles a day. Not what we wanted! With a double reefed main and most of our inner genoa out we're making 6-7kts, so going along nicely. The sea has built a little further with a swell of about 3 metres from the south, but it's not a problem and it's forecast to start dropping down again tomorrow. At noon we had 499.8 miles to go.

For those who do not know their seas, we're crossing the Coral Sea. To the south is the Tasman Sea, but up at these latitudes, we're in the middle of the Coral Sea. And something we hadn't realised until looking at the paper chart (it's not easy to spot it on electronic charts) is that there is a chain of sea mounts right across the middle, running north to south. Some of these go from a depth of 2500 metres up to just 10 metres! So the route has to be planned to go through one of the gaps to avoid any build up of the seas. Our route takes us between the Argo Bank and Kelso Bank, and we should be going through tonight if the winds hold.

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