Vanuatu to New Caledonia - Day 1 - 19 35.175S 169 34.264E

Mike and Liz Downing
Sun 30 Sep 2012 03:40
We've had lovely weather this week on Tanna, unlike Fiji. Soon after we left Fiji the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone), a special area like the doldrums, descended over the country and the weather has been very wet and hot, with violent thunderstorms. It sounds like the wet season has already started there (it's supposed to start in November) and we're glad we left when we did. Although the days here have been sunny and warm, the winds have been in the south, making it quite chilly in the evenings. Our next destination is in a southwesterly direction, so south winds are not a brilliant direction. But today the winds have gone round to east South east, much better for going southwest and we left Port Resolution on Tanna at 10.00 this morning. Our noonday position is above, but being just a couple of hours after we left, not far off the island. To get clear of the island we had to head to the northeast for about 6 miles, tack round to head south down the east coast of Tanna and then bear away to head off on 220T, almost southwest. The wind was very fickle (5-15kts) coming down the east coast and combined with a confused, sloppy sea with the occasional wave dead on the bow, it was a bit stop-start, getting up to 6.5kts and then down to 3.5kts. A bit frustrating, but now, having cleared the southern end of the island, it's more consistent and we're making around 6kts. The passage is about 280 miles, but the last 40 or so to the capital Noumea are within the reef that surrounds New Caledonia. So we have to go through the pass in the reef and need to get there at slack water or with an in-going tide. To get there at the right time is tricky when the winds are light and inconsistent. If we get there too soon, we'll have to wait for the tide, but if too late we may have to wait for the next day as we want to do the passage inside the reef in the light. It is possible to do it at night as, from what we've read, the French buoyage system there is excellent - we haven't seen proper buoys since we left New Zealand, but for the first time through we would like to see where we're going!

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