Voyage 15

New Caledonia to Australia
December 10-17, 2017

Day 1 – Sunday, December 10, 2017

newcaledonia-australiatnAfter spending a little over a week in Nouméa, New Caledonia, I decided it was time to sail to my next port of call, which would be Cairns, Australia.  I expected this voyage would take about a week.  There is little between New Caledonia and Australia, so this cruise will be mostly open ocean.  After being in port for over a week, I’m ready to head to sea.  I am also looking forward to spending my first Christmas in Australia.

At about 9:15 am, I had all of my supplies on board, all of my boat’s equipment was looking ship-shape, and the weather was good.  The wind was light when I raised anchor, at only about 6 knots.  The farther away from Nouméa I got, the stronger the wind got.

By about noon, I had cleared the reefs to the west of New Caledonia.  I hit some very shallow spots, but I was able to get through with no trouble.  When I was in deeper water, I turned west-northwest.  My GPS reported that my next waypoint was 226 nm away and that would take me a little over 24 hours to reach.  It was time to settle in for a nice afternoon of sailing.  New Caledonia was fading away behind me.  The winds were around 10 knots and I was making about 6.5 knots SOG.  I was sailing a broad reach, port side.

12/10/2017 0543 UTC – 22º 12.25′ S 165º 41.71′ E

At about 4:45 PM, I recorded my position.  I had a little under 200 nm to go for my first waypoint.  I’m not making good speed because of the light winds.  The advantage to the light winds is that the sailing is calm.  It was a beautiful day today.  There were almost no clouds in the sky.  I can no longer see New Caledonia, so I am clearly out to sea now.  I enjoy an early dinner, then I set the auto-pilot to follow my course track.  I expect that tonight would be a good night for sleep because there is nothing but ocean ahead of me for many hours.

Day 2 – Monday, December 11, 2017

I was up at 5:30 AM and I came up on deck to the view of a beautiful sunrise.  The clear skies were replaced by mostly cloudy skies, but the temperature was a comfortable 77ºF, so I was not complaining.

12/10/2017 1844 UTC – 21º 57.22′ S 164º 9.85′ E

Overnight, I traveled about 80 nm.  That’s a respectable distance, but certainly not fast.  The GPS is reporting about 20 hours to the next waypoint.  At that point, I will be approaching some more shallow water, so I will need to watch my course.

12/11/2017 0500 UTC – 21º 40.62′ S 163º 2.12′ E

I had another nice day of sailing.  The wind was mostly around 10 knots, but would reach up to 15 knots occasionally.  My boat speed was 5.5-7 knots.  The seas had some swells and the sky cleared in the afternoon.  I was not expecting any problems as I approached my first waypoint, my arrival being in a few hours.  I decided I would set the auto-pilot to make the turn when the waypoint was reached.  The turn would be just a few degrees to starboard.

At about 10:25 PM, I passed the waypoint and the auto-pilot made the programmed turn.  When I was sure I was on course.  I called it a night and headed below for bed.

Day 3 – Tuesday, December 12, 2017

12/11/2017 1825 UTC – 21º 16.93′ S 161º 28.05′ E

I was up at 5:30 AM again.  I didn’t get as much sleep last night as usual because I turned in a bit late due to the passing of a waypoint.  It was mostly cloudy this morning, but it was also a very comfortable 76ºF.  My next waypoint is at the Bellona Plateau in about 150 nm, which I should reach tomorrow morning.  After that point, I will turn more northwest and head for the Coral Sea Islands.  That will be my longest leg of this journey.  For now, I’ll just enjoy warm temperatures, a gently rolling sea, wind of about 12 knots and boat speed of about 6.5 knots.

As the day progressed, the wind speed increased, the seas got a bit rougher, and it became more overcast.  By about 5:00 PM, the wind was blowing 15-20 knots.  If it wasn’t for the wind direction coming from directly astern, I would have been making a very good SOG.  With a wind speed of 17 knots, I was barely doing 7 knots.  Such is the case when making a downwind run in a catamaran.

12/12/2017 0628 UTC – 20º 50.48′ S 160º 11.11′ E

At 5:30 PM, I was a little over 80 nm from Bellona Plateau.  The sky ahead looked quite dark.  I had a feeling that tonight was going to be rougher than any night so far on this voyage.  I set the auto-pilot to follow the course track and I went below to make sure loose items were secured, in preparation for a rough night.

Day 4 – Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I awoke at a little before 2:30 AM.  The boat wasn’t rolling quite as bad as when I went to bed last night.  I decided to get up and check the helm.  The wind was blowing fairly steady at 20 knots and my boat speed was above 7 knots.  I was about 2-1/2 from crossing the Bellona Plateau.  I decided to let the auto-pilot handle the waypoint crossing because the water should be no more shallow than about 300 meters.  I headed back to bed.

I was back up at 5:00 AM.  I went through the pass I charted near the Bellona Plateau and I made a course adjustment slightly to port.  The GPS now reports that the next waypoint at the Coral Sea Islands is 607 nm, which should take me about 3-1/2 days of sailing.  After I recorded my position report, I enjoyed a cup of tea and watched the sunrise.

12/12/2017 1805 UTC – 20º 24.02′ S 158º 46.97′ E

The height of the swells increased during the day.  The wind continued to be about 20 knots and the wind direction turned south a bit, which gave me a better wind angle to the mainsail.  My speed was consistently over 8 knots for most of the afternoon.  At 4:45 PM, I was 519 nm from the Coral Sea Islands.  The weather forecast is for the same winds for the next several days.  All I’m doing is monitoring the equipment on the boat, including the auto-pilot, and enjoying the open sea.

12/13/2017 0610 UTC – 19º 59.37′ S 157º 12.98′ E

At 5:30 PM, I made my usual cocktail, set the auto-pilot to stay on my course track, and I headed below.  It was overcast and I doubted that I would see much of a sunset this everning.

Day 5 – Thursday, December 14, 2017

I was up this morning at about 6:00 AM.  Overnight, I transitioned into the time zone for Eastern Australia, so I had an extra hour of sleep this morning and I am now -6 hours + 1 day from west coast US time.  I found that the wind had calmed a bit during the night and it was now blowing around 15 knots.  This resulted in a slightly reduced boat speed of about 6.5 knots.  The sea is still rolling, but it should still be a nice sailing day.  It’s partly cloudy, so that’s an improvement from the cloudy skies yesterday.

12/13/2017 2010 UTC – 19º 35.64′ S 155º 25.13′ E

The GPS reports that I have 407 nm to the Coral Sea Islands, which is a little over 2 days away.  I’m still making good progress.

12/14/2017 0656 UTC – 19º 11.54′ S 154º 9.12′ E

At around 6:00 PM, I prepared to retire below for the evening.  Today was a good sail.  I saw more sunshine today than I did yesterday.  One day closer to Australia!

Day 6 – Friday, December 15, 2017

I was up at 5:00 AM.  It was still dark out and the wind was under 15 knots for the first time in several days.  It looks like today will be a carbon copy of yesterday, perhaps a little less wind.  At 5:21 AM, the GPS reported 249 nm to Coral Sea Islands.  I looked forward to another peaceful day at sea.

12/14/2017 1921 UTC – 18º 50.12′ S 152º 40.41′ E

At a little before noon, the wind was blowing about 12 knots.  My boat speed had slowed to less than 7 knots.  The GPS reported a little over a day left to the next waypoint.  It looks like I should arrive at the Coral Sea Islands sometime late tomorrow afternoon.  There were few scattered clouds in the sky and the temperature was a comfortable 80ºF.  I checked the weather forecast and these light winds are not supposed to last.  By tomorrow, the winds should be back closer to 20 knots.  It looks like it’ll be a fast run for my final lap to Cairns.

12/15/2017 0643 UTC – 18º 28.92′ S 151º 22.56′ E

By about 5:00 PM, I was feeling quite tired.  I decided to call it a day.  The one thing about having nice weather is that there is very little for me to do as the skipper.  All I am doing is monitoring the auto-pilot and insuring that I am on course.  Tomorrow, I should reach the Coral Sea Islands.

Day 7 – Saturday, December 16, 2017

One thing about going to bed early is that I tend to wake up early.  I was up at 4:30 AM this morning.  The seas and winds are pretty much the same as they have been for the past 3 days.  I checked the course and found that I was only 91 nm away from Sand Cay, which is near my waypoint in the Coral Sea Islands.

12/15/2017 1850 UTC – 18º 7.58′ S 149º 49.64′ E

At about 3:30 PM, I was a little more than 20 nm from Sand Cay.  It looks like I’ll arrive there around sunset.  The wind speed is starting to increase.  It’s gusting to 18 knots now.  The forecast had the increase for earlier today.  The forecast was just a little off.

12/16/2017 0725 UTC – 17º 47.44′ S 148º 37.29′ E

At 6:55 PM, I passed Sand Cay and turned slightly to starboard, aimed for my rendezvous with the Great Barrier Reef.   At my current pace, I should arrive at the eastern edge of the reef shortly before noon tomorrow.  I verified the auto-pilot was in command, then I headed below for the night.

Day 8 – Sunday, December 17, 2017

I was up at a little after 5:00 AM this morning,  The wind was still blowing at about 17 knots.  The direction changed overnight to coming from almost directly astern.  Surprisingly, my speed is still right around 7 knots, which is not bad for a dead run.  The GPS reported about 52 nm to the Great Barrier Reef.  I should be there in about 7 hours.  The sky looks mostly clear, but it is still dark out.  The temperature is a balmy 82º F.  The weather is certainly warmer here than it was in New Zealand a few weeks ago.

12/16/2017 1911 UTC – 17º 22.15′ S 147º 19.29′ E

At 11:45 AM, I was 10 nm from my waypoint just inside the eastern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef.  The depth of the water has gone from about 2,000 meters to 300 meters.  The wind is now blowing below 15 knots and the seas are more calm than they were earlier this morning.  The only negative is that it is mostly cloudy.  I’m looking forward to my arrival at the Great Barrier Reef.

I passed the waypoint at about 1:30 PM, then turned a bit to starboard again and headed across the Great Barrier Reef.  I had chosen a route where the water was mostly 40-50 meters deep.  I caught sight of some sea birds, which is always a comforting sight, especially after having traveled over 1,000 nm over open ocean.

At about 2:30 PM, I caught my first sight of the east coast of Australia.  I should reach the western edge of the Great Barrier Reef in about 90 minutes, then it’s just a few more miles to my destination, Cairns.

By 4:15 PM, I was on the last leg of my voyage, after having cleared the Great Barrier Reef.  At 7:35 PM, I found a good place in the harbor near Cairns and dropped anchor.  Given the hour that I arrived, I think I will secure the boat, get a good night’s sleep, and then head into town in the morning.

12/17/2017 0935 UTC – 16º 51.76′ S 145º 51.03′ E