Next stop - Noumea, New Caledonia

Rumpelteazer Pacific Crossing
Robert Holbrook
Fri 16 May 2008 06:58




Our visit to Vuda Point marina on Monday evening was particularly interesting to Robert as there were a large number of trenches dug into the land around the circular marina into which boats’ keels are lowered, and the hulls supported on tyres, to protect the boats during the cyclone season. 



Vuda Point was also of interest to Pippa as there was a wifi point (requiring her to sit outside the gents shower room in the late evening) so that she could download our previous blog with lots of pictures! 


The next morning, Tuesday 13th, we motored back to Denarau Port to collect the outboard cowling which had had a fitting repaired overnight.  Having checked that our FedEx package (new main halyard, solid state electronic control box for the port engine and the Garmin chart for Queensland) was not sitting in Denarau awaiting the ferry to Malolo island, we set off for Musket Cove, 12 miles north west, to await its arrival. 


Robert discovered to our dismay that the package was still at Nadi airport on the mainland and, having finally cleared Customs, it had missed the bus to Denarau for the last ferry to Musket Cove on Tuesday evening.  Robert insisted that they used a taxi, for which he was more than willing to pay, and the package duly arrived on the last ferry.  Celebratory drinks on board, but not before Susie and Robert sewed the new main halyard onto the messenger rope and pulled it gingerly through the central rope tunnel to the base of the mast.


We were up early on Wednesday morning to winch Robert up the mast.  Because the main halyard is two-to-one purchase, he had to tie off one end of the halyard at the top of the mast. 


We left our mooring in Musket Cove at 7.30am and headed south of west towards Vanuatu under full sail.  The wind was from east south east and then moved more into the north, and we sailed wing-on-wing at around 5 knots.  Soon the wind changed direction again and by lunchtime we were reaching with the wind more from the south. 


Robert and Charles unpacked the other bits from the FedEx package and spent a satisfying time together wiring in the new solid state electronic unit – the ‘brains’ of the port engine control box. 



Sadly the third part of the package is of no use to us – the Garmin chart is the wrong one and won’t fit our GPS.  So it’s back to paper charts for our final leg to Australia!


During the course of Wednesday the wind grew, as did the sea.  Rumpelteazer was being buffeted by big rollers as they hit us on the beam and on the port quarter.  Spray and green water kept hitting any of us preferring to be outside rather than inside the saloon.  It was also raining, again.  With a reef in the main and a reduced jib we were romping along, in winds of 18 to 25 knots on the beam.  Intermittent rain storms kept appearing on the radar but fortunately many passed us ahead or behind, giving us only a limited wetting and increase in wind.  The downside was that the strong winds and confused sea gave us all an extremely uncomfortable and noisy night, and an uneasy time for the night watches.  We agreed that in future a second reef in the main would make life more pleasant.


Wednesday was also the day on which we discovered we had been infiltrated – we found a mild infestation of cockroaches in the corner of the galley, lurking in a collection of plastic bags.  We also discovered weevils, brought on board in packets of cereal and pasta.  However careful we thought we had been, the little varmints can still find a way of getting on board!


Thursday was Charles’ birthday, and we celebrated it with cards and presents and with a delicious chocolate cake for tea, with 6 candles.




It was also a day when the sun made a brief appearance through the rain, causing a beautiful rainbow behind us.  With a continuing big rolling sea and high winds from the south – in the range of 25 to 30 knots – we put the third reef in the main and settled down for a more comfortable evening and night.  We had a bright moon and a few stars for the first time for a while, so sailing at night suddenly became a lot more enjoyable.


We also continued to make good progress – our 24 hour runs to midday on Thursday and Friday were 153 and 193 miles respectively, giving average speeds for the two days of 6.2 and 8 knots.


At the time of writing (Friday 5pm, local time) we are passing the flat-topped island of Futuna, the most easterly of the Vanuatu islands.  It is apparently an extinct volcano and has 400 inhabitants.        


Until today, our next port of call was to have been Tanna in the south of the Vanuatu islands.  We were looking forward to exploring the volcano.  Sadly our plans have had to change – the Gribfiles indicate that the wind will go around to the West and blow quite hard (upwards of 30 knots) from Monday.  This means that we need to get more miles under our belt before we are forced to stop.  We have decided to press on, miss out Vanuatu and head for Noumea in New Caledonia.  We hope to arrive in Noumea on the morning of Sunday 18th May, local time.