Voyage 14

New Zealand to New Caledonia
November 21-28, 2017

Voyage Planning and Preparations – Monday, November 20, 2017

I’ve been in Auckland for a couple of days and I’m cold.  It’s 58ºF, which is a lot colder than I’ve been used to for the past few months.  After buying groceries and other supplies, I started planning where my next port of call would be.

newzealand-newcaledoniatnI had considered sailing to the Gold Coast of Australia, specifically to Cairns, which is along the Great Barrier Reef.  The problem with sailing directly to the Gold Coast from New Zealand is that the voyage would be over 2,000 nm.  That length of a voyage is not impossible, but I would prefer a voyage about half that distance.  I also needed to take into account the winds available to me at Cairns and what possible ports I could sail to after that.  For the next week, the winds north of Australia will be light and not really going anywhere.  The winds will be favorable to the north.

I finally settled on a voyage to New Caledonia, with a pass and possible stop at Norfolk Island, which is about halfway to Nouméa.  I decided I would set sail in the morning.

Day 1 – Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I awoke at about 4:30 AM.  The wind was barely 2 knots out of the north.  The problem was that I needed to sail north.  I checked the winds around the North Island and found that, on the outside of Great Barrier Island, the winds were much stronger and were out of the southeast.  Since I was leaving Auckland today, I’d need to head to the east side of Great Barrier Island in order to pick up the trade winds.  With the winds being so light in Commercial Harbor, I decided I would get started before sunrise.

At about 5:00 AM, I raised anchor, set the sails, and headed east.  It was very dark.  Having a speed of only about 2 knots was not a bad thing heading out of the harbor in the dark.

Sunrise was at about 6:30 AM.  Once I got out of the harbor, the winds were up to about 3 knots and still mostly out of the north.  I was having to sail back out the same way I sailed in 3 days ago.

At a little before 11:00 AM, I was not quite halfway across the Haukari Gulf.  The wind speed was up to about 5 knots, but it was still coming out of the north.  I should start seeing the wind change direction once I get past Port Jackson, heading to the south side of Great Barrier Island.  The one nice thing about light winds is that the water is so calm, which gives me a smooth ride.

At about 2:00 PM, I was approaching the point of land near Port Jackson.  It was slow-going because the wind had shifted to north-northeast and I was having to sail close hauled.  My speed was only about 4 knots even though the wind speed was about 8 knots.  Once I pass the east side of Port Jackson, I should be able to turn almost directly east and pick up a better wind angle.

When I got east of the point where Port Jackson and Fletcher Bay are located.  I set the auto-pilot to follow the wind close to a beam reach on the port side.  My speed was fairly steady now at 5-6 knots.  I’ll continue east until the wind shifts around to the east, then I should be able to turn northbound.

At about 6:00 PM, I was south and just a bit east of Great Barrier Island.  Earlier in the day, I could see how the wind was at about 090º directly east of Great Barrier Island.  Unfortunately, this evening’s wind outlook was not good.  The light, northerly winds had moved to the east and my trade winds, which had been on the east side of Great Barrier Island, were gone.  I looked ahead in the forecast and the trade winds are not expected to return for about 24 hours.  If I was farther east, I could pick up some good easterly winds, but it would take me too long to go east to find wind.  Besides, I don’t want to go east, I want to go north.

After looking at sheltering options, I chose Tryphena Harbor on the south side of Great Barrier Island.  I plotted a course there and the GPS reported that I’d be there in about 2-1/2 hours.  It’s a good thing that I have no schedule.  I get there when I get there.  The wind speed had dropped to about 4 knots.  The sea looks more like a lake than the ocean.  It’s so calm.  This is quite different from the 30 knot winds and high seas I experienced a few days ago in these very waters.

11/21/2017 0516 UTC – 36º 25.72′ S 175º 37.73′ E

There was just very little wind this evening.  At 8:10 PM, the sun had just set and my GPS said I still had more than 30 minutes until I could turn into the harbor.  It was actually about 9:15 PM when I finally got into the harbor and dropped anchor.  Tryphena Harbor is a beautiful anchorage, that is what I can see of it in the dark.  I’m looking forward to a full night’s sleep, very little boat movement, and a beautiful morning tomorrow.

Day 2 – Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I awoke at a little before 5:00 AM.  The wind was still light, out of the north.  I checked the forecast and it suggested that I would be able to head out sometime this afternoon.  I proceeded to have breakfast and then I got a welcomed surprise.

At a little after 7:00 AM, the wind shifted to the east-northeast.  As long as the wind would allow me to sail north from Great Barrier Island, I was ready to go.  I secured what needed to be secured, raised anchor, and I was under way by about 7:45 AM

11/21/2017 1843 UTC – 36º 19.02′ S 175º 28.33′ E

At about 10:15 AM, I was in between Little Barrier Island and Great Barrier Island.  The winds were still light, but I was now sailing a close reach on the starboard side.  My boat speed was basically matching the wind speed.  The GPS reported that I would reach abeam the Cape Brett Lighthouse in about 18 hours.  I had hoped that the wind would pick up shortly.  The wind forecast had other plans.

When I checked the wind forecast for the next 6 hours, it suggested that, if I continued toward the northeast coast of the North Island, I would shortly run into a head wind.  What I needed to do was to get a ways to the east, but that was not possible with the wind coming from the northeast.  I decided my best bet was to sail north, which had my wind angle on the starboard side, between close hauled and a close reach.  I’ll sail this way for a while and watch the winds.  In 24 hours, the trade winds should pick up, but, in the meantime, I’m sure spending a lot of time trying to get out of New Zealand.

The wind direction was not very consistent.  At 10:35 AM, I switch the auto-pilot from the course of 360º to the setting to follow the wind with a 45-50º wind angle on the mainsail.  I was losing too much speed when the wind moved toward the bow.

Around 2:00 PM, I found myself about 5 nm north of Great Barrier Island.  The wind speed was still not much more than 5 knots, but my SOG had picked up occasionally to 5 knots.  At least for today, the wind forecast has been accurate.  I looked back along the east coast of the North Island and the wind was back out of the north there.  Had I chosen to say on my original course, I would have been forced to find a place to anchor for the night again.  I was continuing to head almost due north.  The seas were still very calm and it was mostly overcast.

11/22/2017 0545 UTC – 35º 38.48′ S 175º 18.61′ E

At 6:45 PM, I did my evening navigation checks before heading below for the night.  The winds continue to be light, with my boat speed being only 3-5 knots.  It is very slow going and this won’t change until I get up into the trade winds, or until they meet me where I am.  I kept the auto-pilot set to follow the wind and figured I would check at least once tonight to see if the wind situation improved.  At least I will get a good night’s sleep tonight because the sea is as smooth as glass.  That’s the one thing about sailing, you either have speed or you have smooth.  You can’t have both.

At about 11:00 PM, I checked the helm and found that the wind had moved more to the east.  It allowed me to change the wind angle to a broad reach, which gave me a little extra speed.  The speed increase wasn’t much because the winds were still light.  Once I had finished adjusting the auto-pilot, I went back below and back to bed.

Day 3 – Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving Day!  Well, it’s Thanksgiving Day where I am.  Back home in Washington, it’s still Wednesday.  It was around 2:00 AM when I checked the helm again.  The wind had increased to 5-10 knots and it was mostly from the east-northeast.  I changed the auto-pilot so that it would follow a course to Norfolk Island because I had enough wind angle to the mainsail to make good speed.  The wind forecast suggested that the wind speed would increase as I got farther north.  When the auto-pilot was set, I headed back to bed.

11/22/2017 1800 UTC – 34º 52.83′ S 174º 55.95′ E

I was up at 7:00 AM and ready for a peaceful day at sea.  The wind speed was still 5-10 knots and the direction had not changed from early this morning.  I adjusted the course a bit to account for current drift and then I prepared to enjoy a day at sea.  I was still abeam the northeast coast of the North Island of New Zealand.  I probably won’t be north of New Zealand until sometime this evening.

11/23/2017 0505 UTC – 34º 14.09′ S 174º 12.4′ E

At around 6:00 PM, the wind started to increase.  The wind was now mostly about 10 knots.  As the wind picked up, so did my boat speed.  I’m about 50 nm east of the northern tip of the North Island of New Zealand.  I’m finally on my way after 3 days.  It certainly took me a lot longer to leave New Zealand than it did to arrive.  The wind angle on the mainsail and heading looked good as I prepared to turn in for the night.  The skies are mostly clear.  Tomorrow should be another good day.

Day 4 – Friday, November 24, 2017

I was up at about 4:00 AM.  The wind was steady from the east-northeast at 10-12 knots.  My boat speed was about 6.5 knots, but my SOG was only about 6 knots because of the current.  It’s very clear with lots of stars out and it is about 63ºF.  I’m looking forward to getting farther north where it’s warm again.  The GPS says I have about 380 nm until I reach Norfolk Island, which is about 2-1/2 days sailing at my current speed.  So far, the weather forecast looks good for my voyage.

11/23/2017 1905 UTC – 33º 14.16′ S 172º 59.11′ E

I was a little late in recording my morning position report by about an hour.  One thing I was considering this morning was the time zone I would be in once I get to Norfolk Island.  Both Norfolk Island and New Caledonia are ahead of UTC by 11 hours.  That makes my upcoming time zone -5 hours + 1 day compared to Washington State.  For the next 2 days, I will have my ship time as UTC+12, which made it 7:05 AM when I made this morning’s position report.

Wind speed, wind direction and my course remain unchanged.  During the past couple of hours, it has gotten overcast.  I am entering a band of clouds that stretches from New Zealand all the way to New Caledonia.  It’s looking like I won’t see the sun much for the next few days.

The only remarkable thing about today was that the wind speed increased during the day.  By about 4:00 PM, the wind was blowing 10-15 knots and my boat speed was up to as high as 8 knots at times.  This increase in speed has improved my ETA to Norfolk Island.  The GPS reports that I should be there in 36-38 hours.  This estimate should be fairly accurate because the wind forecast says the wind speed should stay about the same.

11/24/2017 0526 UTC – 32º 18.29′ S 172º 0.4′ E

When I was ready to head below, I was still on course and was traveling 6.5-7 knots.  I made a slight adjustment to my heading to adjust for the changing current and then, at about 7:00 PM, I headed below for bed.

Day 5 – November 25, 2017

I got up to check the helm and noticed the GPS had reset the local time to Norfolk Island and New Caledonia time, so it was 12:20 AM.  The wind speed had increased, so my boat speed was around 7 knots.  I made another heading adjustment and then headed back to bed.

11/24/2017 1712 UTC – 31º 20.27′ S 170º 42.5′ E

I was up at about 4:15 AM.  The wind speed and direction were unchanged.  The boat speed was fairly constant at 7 knots, it was overcast and the temperature was almost 66ºF.  At 4:30 AM, I could see the sky just starting to get light to the east.  I enjoyed a cup of tea and waited for the sunrise.

A little after 9:00 AM, the wind speed increased to over 15 knots.  This got my boat speed up over 8 knots at times.  The sea is a little rougher than it was earlier this morning, but it’s still not bad.

Today was an uneventful day at sea.  The wind speed and direction didn’t change much.  The only course corrections I needed to make were on account of changes in the current.  At about 4:00 PM, I had a little over 100 nm before reaching Norfolk Island.  I had hoped that I would pass Norfolk in daylight, but my speed is making that increasingly unlikely.

11/25/2017 0513 UTC – 30º 11.26′ S 169º 27.57′ E

At about 6:00 PM, I made a check of the helm, adjusted my course slightly, and headed for bed.  At the speed I am approaching Norfolk Island, I figured I’d be up early in the morning.

Day 6 – Sunday, November 26, 2017

I was up at about 1:30 AM to check my course.  The GPS reported that I was 27 nm from Norfolk Island.  Unfortunately, I will arrive there before dawn.  Since I have good winds and I am still alright with supplies, I will just sail by without stopping there.  The current had shifted overnight and my heading was directly toward the island, so I had to turn the helm a few degrees to starboard.  I was planning to pass the east side of the island, then I would turn north and head for New Caledonia.  I decided to go back to bed for a couple of hours and I would be back at the helm at around 4:00 AM.

I was back at the helm at a little before 4:00 AM.  I was a little more than 7 nm out and I could not see the island.  It was a very dark night since it was overcast.

11/25/2017 1709 UTC – 29º 5.13′ S 168º 4.84′ E

At 4:30 AM, I was about 2 nm from Steels Point on the east coast of Norfolk Island.  This island must not have much height because I’m just starting to see light in the eastern sky and I still cannot make out any features of the island.

At 4:50 AM, I passed Steels Point and made my turn to the north.  I could see the coastline now, mostly because of the dawning light.  I could see that the island doesn’t have much elevation.  Once I made the turn and passed my waypoint, the GPS reported 383 nm to New Caledonia, with an estimated transit time of a little over 2 days.  The sun broke the horizon at 4:52 AM, which is awful early for sunrise.  Now I’m sailing almost on a beam reach.  The wind speed is a little over 12 knots and my SOG is 7.5 knots.  I’m guessing I’ll need a nap sometime today after having been up so early this morning.  Onward to New Caledonia.

It was another easy day of sailing.  The wind speed continues to be about 12-17 knots and my boat speed is mostly between 7 and 8 knots.  Once the sun got higher in the sky, it was mostly clear.  By about 3:00 PM, it started getting cloudy again.

11/26/2017 0456 UTC – 27º 40.03′ S 167º 49.02′ E

At 4:00 PM, the GPS reported that I had 300 nm to go to reach my waypoint south of New Caledonia.  At my current speed, I have about 1 day 15 hours to go.  It looks like, unless the winds change, I should arrive at New Caledonia on Tuesday morning.  Since I didn’t sleep much during the day and I was up so early this morning, I’m thinking that heading for bed early sounds like a great idea.  I set the auto-pilot to stay on course and headed below.  If anything major changes with my course setting, I’m sure the auto-pilot alarm will get my attention.

Day 7 – Monday, November 27, 2017

I was awake at about 4:30 AM.  Overnight, the wind has increased and is now blowing 15-20 knots.  I am sailing with the current right now, which is a little over 1/2 knot, so with a boat speed of 8 knots, I’m traveling 8.6 knots SOG.  It is mostly cloudy and the seas are rougher today than they have been in some time.  It would have been difficult to sleep longer because things were being tossed around below.

11/26/2017 1754 UTC – 26º 1.77′ S 167º 38.8′ E

The sun rose at about 4:53 AM and the sea was much more visible.  I’m guessing that today will be a rough day at sea.  The GPS reports that I have 201 nm to go and, with a speed of 8.4 knots, I will be there in 24 hours.  Realistically, I should be arriving at New Caledonia just after sun-up tomorrow morning.

Later in the day, most of the clouds cleared and the wind calmed a bit.  By about 2:00 PM, the wind speed was under 15 knots.  The sea was not nearly as rough as it had been last night.  The wind direction is still almost directly from the east and I’m still on a beam reach.  At 2:20 PM, I have 141 nm to go and the GPS reports my time enroute as 17 hours.  I continue to make good progress.

11/27/2017 0559 UTC – 24º 25.08′ S 167º 23.27′ E

At about 5:00 PM, the wind had picked up a bit and the sea was a bit rougher.  There were also more clouds than earlier this afternoon.  My boat speed was under 8 knots mostly.  The GPS says 103 nm and a little over 13 hours to go.  I stayed at the helm until about 6:30 PM, when I made my last course adjustment before heading below.  As for tomorrow, I was looking forward to my arrival in Nouméa, the capital city of New Caledonia.

Day 8 – Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I got up briefly at about 3:00 AM this morning to check the helm.  I found that, since I was only about 30 nm from the next waypoint, I was a bit east of my course track.  I steered a few degrees to port.  The GPS says I have a little over 3 hours before I reach the waypoint.  I guess I’ll go back to bed for a little longer.

11/27/2017 1758 UTC – 22º 54.26′ S 167º 13.71′ E

I was up again at a little before 5:00 AM.  The dawn light was just coming up.  It’s interesting how the sun comes up a little later each day as I travel west.  I was about 12 nm south of my first waypoint at New Caledonia.  The GPS reported that I would be there in about 90 minutes.  From that point, the water starts getting shallow and I will have to be alert because there are a lot of too shallow spots between me and Nouméa.

At a little before 6:00 AM, I was about 30 minutes from the waypoint.  I looked at my course and decided I could bypass the next waypoint because I had good depths between my current position and where I would enter the reef that is south of New Caledonia.  The next waypoint is 18 nm and I should be there in under 3 hours.

At 6:15 AM, I got my first sight of the southern coast of New Caledonia.  My voyages are enjoyable, but it is especially exciting when I first sight the land of a new destination.  One thing I can say about the weather in New Caledonia.  It is warmer than it was in New Zealand.  The temperature is here is about 76ºF with mostly clear skies.

An assignment IRL kept me from watching the entry into the reef area of New Caledonia.  I passed into the reef at around 8:30 AM.  Some of the route was sailed on auto-pilot, but the last part I sailed manually.

At about 2:15 PM, I passed Duck Island and then turned north toward with the intention of anchoring in Orphelinat Bay.  At 2:45 PM, I dropped anchor, lowered the sails and secured the helm.  Welcome to New Caledonia.  Dinner in Nouméa sounds good to me.

11/28/2017 0346 UTC – 22º 17.14′ S 166º 25.91′ E