We were wishing for our last passage (999
miles) to be a "dream sail", one we felt we deserved, was long overdue, and
one to finish on and remember fondly.
We left at 3pm on Thursday 9th Nov. The first day
and a half was a dream sail. And we have had precious few (if any) of those.
Flat seas and a little breeze although overcast. By Saturday as we approached
the southern tip of New Caledonia the seas became big and confused. The sky was
100% overcast and drizzling. The "dream sail" was over. So soon!
Saturday night it rained non-stop all night. This
was more of a problem than usual because I expected a lot of shipping to be
going in and out of Noumea and visibility was very poor. By mid morning Sunday
the rain had stopped and I saw a container ship about a mile away. Lord knows
how many ships had passed us unseen during the night in the rain. Incidentally
it was the first non-fishing ship we had seen in months and months. Maybe since
Panama in fact. By lunch time the wind had died and we had the Perkins purring.
But only for a couple of hours. A light breeze had come back.
1 AM Monday morning I saw stars. It was
a clear sky. The first since Vanuatu. 587 miles to go. That same night I saw
another ship. It came within 2 miles also. Monday Tuesday and Wednesday were
delightful. Clear blue sky by day and a million stars by night and a
breathtaking moon rising on my watch. The wind was light and the sea not rough.
In fact during this time we motored again for 10 hours. Back to the "dream
When the moon first rises there is no other
colour like it. It is not orange, or pink, or yellow. It is it's own unique
colour. Very enchanting. Before the moon comes up the Milky Way is so bright and
with so many stars that it looks like thin cloud with the moon shining through
it from behind.
By dinner time Wednesday the weather was
With 260 miles to go (oh so close now) it was now
just after midnight on Thursday morning. Now the wind was up to 22
knots and on the nose. I put a second reef in. "Dream sail" gone.
By the morning the wind was 25 to 28 knots with very big seas. Worse still was
that the wind was from the north west. We wanted to go west. The seas were so
big by now we had to bear away. We were no longer heading toward Bunderberg.
"The Dream" was shattered and replaced by near nightmare. It was about as bad as
you can get without actually being in a storm.
We had run into a cold front. And boy it was cold.
Not just any cold front mind you, an historic cold front.
Let me explain. THE WEATHER WAS MAKING THE
NEWS! Wednesday night on radio Australia we heard that it had snowed in
Melbourne..........unusual even in winter ......this was in November!!!! More
disturbingly, in Bunderberg ( where we were about 240 miles from) it hailed the
size of cricket balls and the wind had ripped some roofs off. This was not
comforting news. Meanwhile our watches continued with us wearing jumpers, long
pants and socks inside the boat. Outside, the boat was being lashed by waves and
spray.It was impossible to go outside and not be soacked. The next night
(Thursday) on the radio they said that it had SNOWED IN
QUEENSLAND..........IN NOVEMBER!!!!!!! Summer was only 2 weeks away. It
hadn't snowed this late in the year in QLD since October 1941, when the
Germans were occupying most of Europe. That's 65 years ago. We were getting a
great welcome to "The Sunshine State".
Friday continued much the same on Ripple although
the wind direction allowed us to steer for Bunderberg. 130 miles to go. We had
large seas all the way to the entrance of the Burnett River. We arrived at the
customs dock in Bunderberg much relieved at 10.30 am Saturday 18th
November exactly 9 months since leaving White Bay, Jost Van Dyke and sailed nine
thousand two hundred and twelve miles. We had made it to Australia.
Stay tuned. This is not the end. There is still 550
miles and about 3 weeks to Sydney.
And an exciting competion for all our readers
comming up next.