Bit more chilly

Rich Carey
Sun 23 Sep 2018 22:55
169 19.636E, 21 11.064S

Not since way back in Turkey has x86 been sitting in cool waters, but now she's clipping the edge of some. I say clipping, because as we head south into cooler, those waters are warming towards summer. If it was a month later, the tootsies would not be borderline "Oy! Where socks?". I've also got the saloon sealed up in the dark time, where it would normally have at least one door open. With it sealed, you don't hear the rigging talking, quite as well - thus in the dead of night you need to listen more acutely for complaints.

This passage has been different - totally gone are the prevalent trades. Now it's about lows and highs, with the Tasman throwing constant lows up from the south. Of this leg to South Caledonia, four days have so far been upwind sailing. The sails pull upwind nicely, but the wind piles the waves up in front of you, and the slamming and the shuddering is relentless. Yesterday I did without coffee, because I threw a cup all over the galley counter-top. I'd been carefully poring red hot into the cup, lest I spill red hot on self - success - but then the full cup took off.

The night before the coffee wash-down, the lively conditions had stretched beyond breakage, the credibility of all forecasts, and thus I was caught at dark o clock with full sail and 25 knots. This being now so not uncommon, one barely grimaces, while jauntily throwing back the cot sheet - although there is briefly heard a "O for f**k sake" above howling wind. With full sail pulling upwind at 10 knots in 25 knots, with a big sea, the side stays on the leeward side are a sight to behold - as few times as possible in a lifetime. The stays while not quite banjo strings, are designed to be VERY stiff, because the 1/2 ton mast is not attached to the boat, rather it sits on a four inch stump. This allows it to flex and move a little under the tremendous forces of nature, hauling eleven tons of must have human oddities, and 'Stick' across butt kicking ocean. When it leans off the upwind stays, leeward are relaxed - but in this case where completely on holiday. I was reminded as I stood appraising the free swinging stays, of some dramatic suspension bridge failures - the thoughts heightened my resolve to reef posty darn hasty.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the South Pacific land masses, are the reefs. One of the worst things about the South Pacific land masses are the reefs. This juxtaposition is most acute when approaching land, on passage. The first picture shows the zoomed out view of my approach to New Caledonia, tomorrow - the one land lubbers would normally see - and the second the zoomed in view for mariners. Now I'd like to say that it looks nastier than it is, but ...! Besides all that hard stuff, there's the sea state, the visibility, the tidal flow, and the fact that it would be a darn good idea to arrive in daylight. That last one is now of primary consideration, as the challenges just keep on coming. Next is that once into the reefs, it's 50 nautical miles to Noumea port - all through reef - which is 10 hours of motoring (obviously no sailing within the reefs). To get to the port in daylight, I need to get to the start of the reefs by 08:00 am latest. With 134nm to go and 22 hours to do that in, I need to be averaging a bit under 6 knots/hour - that's a bit of a quick average. It's maybe doable, but means I need to be watching the sails all the time (tuning), and keeping as much sail up as possible (but more cautious at night). However, missing the window is no disaster, it just becomes a matter of legality ... I can enter any time I like in daylight, but then as I'm not going to make it up to Noumea before dark, I have to anchor somewhere, which is not allowed, as I'll not be cleared into the country. The useful side on my situation is that I'm alone, and the fact that it would be dangerous to continue, cannot be ignored by Mr Jobsworth. He would counter that the boat should not have entered the reef until the following morning, but I would parry that hovering outside for 20 odd hours in open water, tired, was not sensible. As long as I don't go ashore, I'm most likely safe from incarceration.
So 'challenge on'. Assuming I make the 'Noumea run' window, I'm going to be arriving at the start of 'Red Route One' (go Connery), tired, and stood at the helm hand steering all of the 10 hours. But that's why arrival beer is one of the best experiences ever.

This morning the VHF reminding me that it's turned on, with a one sided discourse from some darn German on channel 16 (emergency and contact channel). The two of them (his partner in crime too distant for me to hear), having decided that they were so alone that they could use 16 for their 1/2 hour chit chat. You'd have thought I'd welcome some human evidence, but since I only know "can ich halb ein beer, bitter", such was not the case.

All's well on x86, bumping & grinding on a distinctly different style of solo passage.

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