New Caledonia towards Australia
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Sun 14 Jun 2009 06:35
One thousand six hundred and twenty miles at between four and six miles an hour. It is no wonder that these longer passages seem to stretch away into the dim distance. We have been going for two days now and it seems like a week. We appear to have made no impression at all on the little window that gives estimated time to go before arrival. We are pootling along in fine weather with a light wind from dead astern. With such a distance to run we do not want to use the engine unless we have to - particularly because it might not be easy to refuel on Thursday Island.
We had a false start on Thursday. An hour out from the fuelling dock the autopilot stopped steering the boat, exactly as before. Frustrating! It was very difficult to maintain my usual sang froid. We had to turn back and negotiate a return to the marina - not easy because we had been asked (very politely) to leave to make room for others. The electronics engineers were back on board within fifteen minutes and this time they diagnosed worn brushes in the linear drive motor (we had had the drive unit serviced in New Zealand as part of our programme of routine maintenance). Of course they had already sold us a new course computer at vast expense but they suggested that it was always useful to carry a spare! We were not amused. On the other hand they were delightful chaps, doing their best with the information they had been given and they turned up pronto. At the same time we thought we had a problem with the new alternator but this turned out to be a false alarm. We left again after twenty-four hours and after two days at sea all appears to be well.
We made good use of the extra time ashore. We had another good meal in the marina cafe and sailed the following day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
All in all we greatly enjoyed our time back in Noumea. The social life on A pontoon (Visiteurs) was particularly pleasant. We made new and met old friends. Our neighbour Gerard kept us amused with endless advice and stories including vivid descriptions of a schoolboy's life in occupied France during the war. We were delighted when, three days after we arrived, Destiny came in with Aussies John and Shauna de Launey, longstanding members of the Ocean Cruising Club that we first met in Port Vila, Vanuatu last year. We spent two great evenings with them.
We are settling into the routine now and hoping that time will pass more quickly as we get on.