Into the Coral Sea
Sun 28 Sep 2008 04:30
Sunday the 28th September.
I am approaching the Argo Bank, hardly a nautical hazard with 200 metres of sea over it, but a landmark, figuratively speaking, as it marks our entry into the Coral Sea, and the halfway stage of our sail from New Caledonia to Australia. I presume that the Bank takes its name from the Argonauts, rather than from our Hight Street Argos, and I am reminded again of the European history of Pacific exploration. If compared with the Polynesians, they had it easy with the prevailing easterly winds, they had so many other logistical and navigational handicaps it really seems miraculous that they managed to land anywhere, rather than run aground on a reef, and let alone sail all the way back. The Amadee Lighthouse in New Caledonia is a case in point: indeed a fine building, and placed with a leading mark to show the way through the Boulari reef pass that would otherwise be extremely difficult in many circumstances. Usually GPS shows the way, but on this occasion the coordinates were all wrong, and old fashioned navigation was required: but before they built the lighthouse?? Reefs really are most treacherous, we have seen many many wrecks on them.
I have also been reading another Australian novel (The Resurrectionist; James Bradley) which dwellls a little on the interesting question of how modern day Australians have evolved / benefited from from their English criminal ancestry (grave robbers, in this particular case). As I've also read Bill Bryson's 'Down Under' (a retirement present from work: thanks again, Alf) I feel fully equiped to deal with the Australian Psyche! That just leaves the next 450 miles of Ocean (obviously I hope to avoid the coral bit, at least on this trip!). The weather so far has been mixed, really wet and cloudy for the first three days, and winds from many directions, necessitating many rig changes. Geoff will remember how daunting these were in the early days but I have ironed out a lot of the wrinkles, and have several permanent ropes: sheets and guys, set up. I do a mean midnight nude spinaker pole dance under the deck floodlight in less than ten minutes. I just hope no one has left a hidden camera! The weather is brighter now with some fresher winds to speed us along. Tomorrow however a flat calm is forecast, and then I don't know where the wind will come from: these latitudes are called the variables for this reason. Anyway touch wood and a big smile to the weather gods.
If you have been to Australia you will be aware of their rather robust approach to quarantine issues (fly spray in the planes etc). Their approach to ships is similar: no food or insects are to come ashore. I am eating the pick of what is left, for example a rather nice tin of finest goose liver pate, that I couldn't resist in French Polynesia, has been in the lunchtime sandwiches for the last couple of days, and today it was the turn of a tin of smoked salmon pate, and a jar of artechokes. Generally though I have had quite enough of tinned/packet food. The flavours are not too bad, but they have a dreary uniform texture which really puts your appetite away. Maybe dieters should try anything, any amount, so long as it comes out of a tin. Back to the insects though, what will become of my poor friends the weevils? I see then all the time now, they have breakfast with me, they live in the loo, and over my bed. They come up on deck when the sun shines, and they just love sugar, rice, pasta, and best of all flour. I've squashed millions, but they just keep on coming. They have got into all my sealed packets of flour, and so, in the absence of a sieve, my bread has a protein suppliment. If the Aussie Customs decide that the boat needs fumigating, I have to pay, but maybe it will be worth it!
Thats it for now; Bundy, here we come!