Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tasmania or Bust

0800 position 42-54S 147-20E.  Tied to the Visitor's Dock, Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Hobart.

The seeds of this adventure were planted for me a few years ago when I was going through some old photos and found a great one I shot of Rob steering Windward Passage south of Tasmania in 1978.  We hadn't been in contact in years, but I emailed the photo to Rob and he replied indicating that Van Diemen would be heading back to Tasmania in a year or so.  Did I want to come along?

This has been a great seven month odyssey.  I got to sharpen up my boatbuilding skills, visit two continents, seven countries, and dozens of islands, sail 10,000 miles, get reacquainted with old friends, and make some new ones.  It has been time well spent and I am grateful to Rob for the invitation.  I hope you have enjoyed sailing along with us.

The end of one adventure marks the beginning of another.  Lori flies down in a few days and we will spend a couple of weeks exploring Tasmania.  We'll head north to spend Thanksgiving in Australia's Hunter Valley with pal David Schaefer before returning to Hawaii.

Rob steering Windward Passage south of Tasmania, January 1978

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Van Diemen Comes Home

0800 position 42-54S 147-20E.  Tied to the Visitor's Dock, Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Hobart.

 

Van Diemen passed the Iron Pot at the mouth of the River Derwent at 930AM yesterday.  The river narrowed and more and more houses appeared along the shore as we worked our way north.  At 1030 we altered course to check out the skipper of a Laser sailboat that was out in the river for a morning sail and waving at us.  It was Anna, Michael's daughter come out to welcome Van Diemen home.  We got the mainsail down and secured, wove our way between the breakwaters and into the marina at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT), and tied up to their visitor's dock.  At 1045 Van Diemen's voyage home was over.

 

Michael's wife Margo, his daughter Anna, and Geoff's wife Annie came down to greet us.  Rob, Geoff, and Michael are all members of RYCT, and other members stopped by as well to admire Van Diemen and welcome their mates home.

 

At noon Michael and Geoff went home with their families and Rob and I went into town to the Telstra store to sort out our cell phones, both of which weren't working properly.  We got the problems solved and met up again with Michael and Geoff during the afternoon to get the mainsail and jib off of the boat and into the sailmaker.  Both sails need a little bit of work after 10,338 miles of use.

 

As the afternoon wore on the wind started to howl in the rigging of the boats in the marina.  You might have noticed that we used the engine more than normal on our last passage.  We kept the pedal down to get into Hobart before a strong northerly hit.  We barely made it.  I continue to be amazed at how fortunate we have been with the weather on this voyage.

 

Rob grew up in Hobart and one of his lifelong mates, Damon Hawker, invited Rob and me over for dinner, so we caught a cab to Damon's at 6PM.  We were drinking beer and telling stories when my phone rang.  Michael had received a call at home from another member who told him that Van Diemen had broken her forward mooring line and was banging into the pier!  Rob and I were stuck on the far side of town without transportation so Michael, Anna, and Geoff all rushed down and retied the boat. 

 

It turned out that an eye splice in the three quarter inch nylon mooring line had failed.  I have never seen an eye splice fail like that before.  The paint on Van Diemen's quarter was a bit scuffed where she had bumped the pier, but she was otherwise undamaged. 

 

Over the last six months Van Diemen has moored in some pretty risky spots, anchoring in open roadsteads with big swells, on lee shores, in coral strewn lagoons, in busy commercial harbors not meant to accommodate small yachts, too close to other boats that come in to anchor after we do, tied to moorings of questionable integrity...  It seems ironic to me that we had a mooring equipment failure and suffered damage for the first time when we were in the most secure spot we've been in the entire voyage!

 

It poured rain last night and the wind continued to howl.  I would not want to be out at sea in this.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Tasmanian Landfall

0800 position 43-10S 147-37E. 18 miles from Hobart.

Yesterday morning was quite cold, but the day dawned clear and beautiful. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the temperature rose with the sun. The sea was flat and Van Diemen was smoking along toward Tasman Island close reaching at nine knots in the same amount of wind. Sailing doesn't get any better than that. The three Tasmanians aboard spent the day trying to convince me that the weather is always like this in Tasmania. Right. I've been here before and know better.

At 11AM Cape Barren Island was sighted forty miles off the starboard beam, and a couple of hours later the coast of Tasmania was in sight. The wind lifted and lightened during the day as forecast, and at 2PM our speed dropped to below eight knots and we turned on the engine. That's just as well as I was worried about having hot water for my afternoon shower. The heater element in the water heater burned out a few weeks ago but main engine coolant is also piped through the heater to heat water. After an hour of running the engine the water is piping hot.

More and more familiar features on the Tasmanian shore were recognized by the natives as we closed with the coast. With the end so near and the weather so good we decided to set aside one of our normal at-sea rules and all had a beer just before sunset.

It was cold last night with the forecast down to 48 degrees F in Hobart. Fortunately the wind was light so the chill wasn't too bad.

The sun rose this morning just as we turned the corner at Tasman Island. The vertical rock formations there and the Organ Pipes at Cape Raoul twelve miles further west were spectacular in the morning light. We were escorted by whales, dolphin, and albatross as we motor sailed between the two headlands. We are currently crossing Storm Bay. Michael can see his house on the hill above Hobart in the binoculars. Rob is below cooking lamb chops and poached eggs for breakfast. Life is goo.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Bass Strait

0700 position 40-05S 149-38E. Crossing the Bass Strait. 202 miles to Tasman Island

The Bass Strait is notorious for bad weather. Southerly busters, low pressure systems that roll in off of the southern Indian Ocean, come through the strait regularly and punish anybody who is unlucky enough to be there when they do. The Sydney-Hobart Race fleet gets smashed by a buster every couple of years as we did in 1977 when I sailed in the race. That year one third of the 150 boat fleet retired due to damage or sea sickness. We broke our forestay on Bravura, but jury rigged it and when we finished in Hobart the crowd on the dock was ooohing and aaahing and pointing at our bow. The aluminum skin of the boat was dented between the frames over the front third of the boat from falling off of the waves while pounding to windward in the Bass Strait. We couldn't see the bow from aboard the boat and had no idea she had been damaged.

We are not interested in that kind of drama on Van Diemen. That's why we have been playing such close attention to the weather forecasts. It is looking like we will be able to sneak south between busters, but there is still usually some fun in the Bass Strait. Yesterday the wind came out of the south and we pounded to windward for a few hours until it died off again. This morning we are beam reaching along under full jib and reefed mainsail right on course. If the gribs are to be believed we will continue to get lifted all day and should be easy going from here on in.

It is pretty darn cold out here, particularly in the early morning hours. We are all bundled up in wool hats, gloves, fleece, and foul weather gear when it is raining. It rained alot yesterday. The water temperature is down to sixty one degrees F, twenty five degrees colder than it was in the Marquesas a couple of months ago. We're not in the tropics anymore! I put on my foul weather pants for the first time in years and had on the boots Lori insisted I bring as well. I'm glad I brought them now. Thank you Sweetie!

To fight off the chill yesterday morning I made some oatmeal with raisins and Honey Corstorphine's candied walnuts for breakfast to warm us up. It did the trick, and also got Michael's attention. The walnuts hadn't been on his radar. During the afternoon he used some of them to bake cookies.

Michael, Geoff, and I saw the green flash at sunset last night. We were powering along in zero wind and an almost flat sea. A couple of hours later Van Diemen's voyage odometer hit 10,000 nautical miles.

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Tasmania Bound

0630 position 36-43S 150-39E. 40 miles east of Eden, New South Wales. 409 miles to Tasman Island

At 745 yesterday morning we slipped our mooring and got underway on what might be, if we are lucky with the weather, the last passage on this voyage. The forecast keeps changing, but it looks good so far and we may have the opportunity to make the trip to Hobart in a single jump. We blew a couple of blasts on the air horn for Zappa and Marie as we departed. Zappa, who is a yacht broker and the Australian Oyster Yachts representative, gets to fly to Auckland on Thursday for a party with the Oyster bigwigs. Marie has opted out of this passage since Zappa isn't going. We will miss them both. They have been great shipmates since joining Van Diemen in Fiji, and were fantastic hosts during our stay off of Scotland Island. Remaining aboard Van Diemen for the trip south are the three homeward bound Tasmanians, Rob, Geoff, and Michael plus this token Yank.

By 830 we were out through Barranjoey Head at the entrance to Broken Bay where we found smooth seas and a light northerly breeze. As we motor sailed south we were almost immediately entertained by a mama and baby humpback whale pair breeching and pec slapping as we went by. We saw a couple of other whales during the morning and then they disappeared as we got further offshore.

The scenery started to get familiar as we passed by Sydney Heads at 10AM. I'd last seen the heads from this perspective forty years ago while racing outside Sydney Harbor in the Southern Cross Cup and Sydney-Hobart Race. Further south we sailed past famous Bondi Beach and Botany Bay and from then on we started working our way offshore to take maximum advantage of the East Australian Coast Current that flows to the south here at up to four knots. So far we haven't seen more than a knot of current in our favor.

At 230PM the sea breeze had reinforced the northerly to the point that we could shut the engine down for a few hours and sail. That lasted until 5PM when the breeze lightened again and the engine went back on.

At 4PM Geoff and Michael caught a five pound ahi. That will make some nice sahimi or poisson cru tomorrow. Michael had pre-made a beef stroganoff the day before yesterday and we had it for dinner last night. Outstanding.

We are experimenting with a new watch system. Until now we've always had two people up, one on watch and another on standby. For this passage we are one on watch only. Since it will likely be light winds nearly the whole way there's no point in making two people stand around. That means two hours on, six hours off. It's almost like being on a cruise ship!

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Time to Go

0630 position 33-38S 151-17E. On a mooring off of Zappa and Marie's house, Scotland Island, Broken Bay, New South Wales, Australia

The weather forecast changed again yesterday, and now it is looking like we have a good opportunity to make it all the way to Hobart in a single jump if we leave today. We called Geoff in Hobart and requested his presence. He arrived at 11PM last night.

We spent most of yesterday provisioning and getting the boat ready to go. Michael pre-cooked a couple of dinners, we got the dinghy engine stowed below, and Rob recovered some of his yachting gear that has been stowed in Zappa's boat house for the last seven years.

I have been having trouble getting my phone to work properly. When I first went to the Telstra store last Friday, I foolishly neglected to bring my passport with me. They couldn't sell me a sim card without it. No problem, Michael volunteered to add me to his account, and cancel it when I leave Australia in a month or so. Within a day voice worked fine, but I wasn't getting any data on my phone which I will need to navigate when Lori arrives. Two more trips to the Telstra store did not improve the situation. Unfortunately, since it was on Michael's plan, he had to deal with them. Yesterday afternoon he spent more than two hours on the phone with Telstra trying to sort it out. We still have no resolution. We will have to dig into it again in Hobart.

Rob's phone still doesn't work either, and he's been in to the Telstra store three times as well. If I was looking to invest in Australian telecommunications stock, I would steer clear of Telstra....

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Recovery Day

0630 position 33-38S 151-17E. On a mooring off of Zappa and Marie's house, Scotland Island, Broken Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Yesterday was dedicated to recovering from "lunch" at Piers' house the day before, so not a lot went on. After coffee yesterday morning Michael, Rob, and I went back to Piers' to use his WIFI and then he dropped us back at Van Diemen as he was heading in to Sydney. Zappa and Marie joined us aboard for lunch, and then we all headed in to their house for the afternoon and evening. I took a nap in their guest bedroom.

Michael had gone for a short trek in the bush behind Piers' house and went for a walk around Scotland Island with Zappa, Marie, and their dog Eddie while I was sleeping and Rob was doing internet. Michael was scratching around later and found that he'd picked up two ticks during his adventures, one of which was firmly attached to his neck. We decided that he apparently missed the target as a ladies' man and instead has become a "tick magnet".

We keep looking hard at the weather forecasts for a good opportunity to head south to Hobart. It has been frustrating because the forecasts keep changing. So far we don't see any real good opportunity coming to make our move, but like I said it keeps changing. Stay tuned.

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Lunch with Piers

0630 position 33-38S 151-17E. On a mooring off of Zappa and Marie's house, Scotland Island, Broken Bay, New South Wales, Australia

At noon yesterday we all piled onto Zappa's outboard motor boat and headed north up Broken Bay to Piers and Suzanne's home for "lunch". Most of the west side of Broken Bay is park land except for a few clusters of homes along the shoreline. Piers and Suzanne live in one of those clusters in Towlers Bay, an estuary feeding into Broken Bay about a mile north of Scotland Island. Their home is nestled in the trees fifty feet or so above the Bay and the view looks out on Piers' thirty foot sailboat which is on a mooring out front.

It has been pretty cold here, and a fire was roaring in their fireplace when we arrived. We started with Van Diemen cocktails, expertly made by Piers, in front of the fire. He was, after all, a co-conspirator in the development of the recipe. We moved on to red wine when we sat down for a roast beef lunch. Somehow lunch took all afternoon, and it was starting to get dark by the time we got up from the table and attempted to leave. There was a lot of laughing, and a good time was had by all.

Marie was the soberest among us so she got to drive the boat. She dropped Michael, Rob and I off on Van Diemen on the way home.

There was a movie on my computer called "Cheerleader Camp", and we have been waiting for the right time to enjoy its sophmoric humor. Last night seemed like the appropriate time. I don't believe it won any academy awards.

Rob and I went for coffee with Piers again this morning. That's three mornings in a row, but this was likely the last time. Piers is heading in to his home in the city this afternoon and we may not see him again before we depart Broken Bay.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Broken Bay Rainy Day

0630 position 33-38S 151-17E. On a mooring off of Zappa and Marie's house, Scotland Island, Broken Bay, New South Wales, Australia

We had breakfast aboard Van Diemen yesterday and then went in to Marie and Zappa's at 9AM with our bags of laundry. At 11 we all jumped into Zappa's utility boat and went in to his office in Newport, about ten minutes away at the south end of the harbor. Zappa manages a marina there and also runs a boat brokerage. Zappa, Marie, and Matt keep their cars parked there, and we split up at that point.

Marie drove Geoff to the airport to fly back to Tasmania. Geoff will return to join us next week just before we head south, but in the meantime he has things to do at home.

Zappa, Rob, Michael, and I drove two towns south to the Telstra store where Rob and I bought SIM cards for our phones. From there we returned Zappa to his office and took his car to do some provisioning for Van Diemen.

Michael took off to spend a couple of days with his brother who lives on an arm of the bay and the rest of us returned to Zappa and Marie's in the early afternoon. I spent the rest of the rainy, cold, wet day standing in front of the fireplace trying to get warm.

At 7PM we all jumped in Zappa's boat again and zipped over to Church Point for dinnier in the same cafe that Piers and I had coffee earlier. We met Piers and his wife Suzanne there as well as a couple of Robbie's old sailing pals. A great time was had by all.

As I write this Rob and I are waiting aboard Van Diemen for Piers to pick us up. We are going for coffee again this morning. The rain has stopped and it looks like it will be a beautiful day.

Lori and I had looked at Broken Bay on Google satellite view when I was home in September to get a feel for the place, but satellite view didn't do it justice. You couldn't see the magnificent topography looking down from above. Scotland Island and the surrounding fingers of land are hilly and steep, fully wooded, and beautiful. There is a lot of action with folks coming and going in their small motor boats from their isolated homes around the bay, people working on and using their yachts moored around the bay, ferries and work boats. There are sailboat races every night of the week here. It is a busy place and it is fun to be a part of it.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Scotland Island

0800 position 33-38S 151-17E. On a mooring off of Zappa and Marie's house, Scotland Island, Broken Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Van Diemen had a great day yesterday. at 8AM we entered the channel into Newcastle Harbor and were tied to the Australian Border Force buoy at 830 to await instructions. We were directed to move to the yacht marina at 930 and as soon as we arrived there three uniformed Border Force personnel came aboard to check us in. This was by far the most thorough inspection Van Diemen has been through in the many countries we've visited on this voyage. They even took a hard look at my cholesterol medication to make sure it was legitimate. Zappa's presence aboard was not an issue. He had, in fact, spoken to one of the individuals inspecting the boat and a couple of others in their office before he flew to Lord Howe Island. After Border Force was done the Bio-Security team had a turn. We tried, but we couldn't finish eating all of the prohibited food so they took it. They left with a bag of onions, sweet potatoes, garlic, and some fruit. We did a good job of getting to the meat before they did. All the formalities were finished by 11AM. Rob still had to wander up to the Border Force office to sign something, but we were legal.

We spent the next couple of hours taking advantage of being dockside by hosing the boat down, filling the water tanks, cleaning things up, and communicating with home. The rest of the crews' phones worked so they could check email and place phone calls. I still have to buy an Australian SIM card for my phone. I did get through to Lori on the sat phone though. Zappa wandered up the dock and found a seafood retailer where he bought a couple of kilos of fresh shrimp, sauce, and bread for our lunch.

Rob returned at 1PM, and we were underway shortly thereafter for Pittwater. The afternoon thermal had increased the northeasterly breeze to twenty plus knots, and with two reefs in the mainsail, a full jib, and a knot plus of the East Australian Current behind us we zipped down to Broken Bay. About half way there I was standing in the cockpit looking to windward and a baby humpback whale breached clear of the water just forty feet away from Van Diemen. He continued to breach as we left him behind. I have no idea where mama was. We got a couple of other whale breaching shows before we entered Broken Bay. It was the most marine mammal activity we've seen on this voyage.

The coast of New South Wales is not particularly welcoming. Rugged high headlands are separated by sand beaches in front of brush covered hills. As we sailed south it didn't look like a place you'd find a sheltered paradise. Zappa pointed out the entrance to Broken Bay, and we jybed into the coast to sail between two high headlands, one with a large lighthouse on it. As we headed inland the seas got calmer and the land got greener. A left turn past the southern headland and we were in a calm submerged former river valley. Further on the number of homes along the shore and moored boats in the sheltered estuaries increased. We worked our way in about five miles from the bay's entrance, zigging and zagging left and right as we followed the waterway to come upon Scotland Island where Zappa and Marie live. We picked up one of Zappa's moorings right in front of his house just as the sun was setting. His son Matt came out in a small motor boat and picked us up to take us in to the house.

Zappa and Marie have built a beautiful waterfront home nestled among the trees overlooking the bay. The house was built for entertaining, and that's what they did last night. We had a great time enjoying grilled steaks, rum cocktails, and too much wine. Zappa shuttled us back to Van Diemen about midnight.... I think....

This morning at sunrise I stumbled out of my bunk and staggered back to the swim step to relieve myself. My mind was foggy from too much rum and too little sleep. The rest of the crew was still asleep and I was trying to be quiet. As I was standing there, unit in hand, a small motor boat came up astern of Van Diemen. "Gidday Noodle! Do you want to go for a coffee?" It was Piers Akerman, a Van Diemen crew member who was aboard for the portion of the voyage from Tahiti to Niue. Piers lives on an arm of the harbor and his house, like Zappa and Marie's and the other residents of Scotland Island, is accessible only by boat. He was going in to pick up his morning newspapers, a daily ritual. I jumped aboard and we zipped up the harbor to a waterfront shop/cafe where Piers purchased three newspapers and a coffee for each of us. We sat down and caught up on each others' lives since we were last together more than two months ago. It was great to see him! The rest of the Van Diemen crew was just beginning to stir as he dropped me off on his way home.

At sunrise this morning it was drizzling, and as I write this it is pouring. A southerly front came through during the night and it looks like rain for the next day or so. We just beat this weather system in to Broken Bay, and it looks like our next opportunity to head south won't come for five days or so. This is a pretty nice place to be stuck though. I can't believe how lucky were were with weather all the way here from New Caledonia. I'd rather be lucky than good....

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Carnivore's Cruise

I misaddressed the "Bureaucracy" blog two days ago so it didn't post. Lori let me know, and I sent it out again last night. Sorry about that.

0600 position 32-49S 152-11E. 19 miles from Newcastle

We motor sailed all day yesterday with the wind light and directly behind us. It was very pleasant, but we would rather have been sailing. At 9PM last night the wind finally backed far enough to the north that we could sail and we shut the engine down. We sailed all night, and have just turned the engine back on at 540 this morning as the wind died off again.

Other vessels popping up on the AIS have provided entertainment for the crew on watch for most of the trip. We would usually only see one at a time, and they'd be a long way off. As we closed with the Australian coast last night the ship traffic increased. When I went off watch at midnight there were five ships on the AIS, one of which was in sight. This morning I count twenty. It is like a freeway out here. The boys told me that Zappa had to take evasive action during his watch to avoid one of them.

Yesterday was meat day aboard the mighty Van Diemen. After our grilled sausage and eggs breakfast Marie made a nice chicken salad for lunch. The lovely smell of Michael's beef stew simmering woke me up for dinner. Nobody goes to bed hungry on this boat. This morning for breakfast we are having a grilled lamb sausage appetizer followed by grilled lamb chops and proscuito.

I can just see the coast of Australia ahead of us as the rising sun is lighting the horizon behind us. It's been forty years since I last made landfall on this coast in a sailboat. I have goose bumps just like the last time.

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Bureaucracy

0600 position 31-33S 159-05E. On a mooring off of Lord Howe Island, Tasman Sea

First off, I must apologize for yesterday's misleading blog title. I have been reading The Saturday editions of the Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph in the Anchorage Cafe over lunch for the past couple of days, and I believe the sensationalism permeating those tabloids has rubbed off on me.

We ran into the sole Lord Howe policeman on the pier when we landed two days ago, and he told us then that there might be a problem with Zappa joining us for the sail to Australia. Visiting vessels are not normally allowed to take on additional crew in Lord Howe. He was trying to get an exception since Zappa had been aboard when we arrived in Norfolk, but he needed to wait for instructions from the mainland. "I hope common sense will prevail," he told us, "but common sense and Border Force don't often agree." Yesterday morning our policeman called on the VHF radio to inform us that permission had been denied. Zappa will not be permitted to fly in and join the boat in Lord Howe today as planned. But wait, it gets better.

Van Diemen's considerable size allows us to have a spare dinghy, and it comes in handy at times like these. We inflated and launched it this morning and transferred the outboard engine over from the damaged dinghy. The spare dinghy is smaller than the RIB, and we can't all fit aboard at once. Rob, Geoff, and Marie dinghied ashore to manage bicycles, call Zappa to let him know the bad news, and do some last minute shopping while Michael and I stood anchor watch aboard Van Diemen.

Zappa, in the meantime, had been in touch with the Australian Border Force to try to facilitate our arrival on the mainland. "You were on the boat when she cleared in at Norfolk, mate?" they asked him. Zappa replied in the affirmative. "Then you must be aboard when she clears into Australia," they insisted. Ah, bureaucracy. I feel like I'm back in the USA. So now Zappa will join us as planned. But wait, it gets better.

At 430PM yesterday afternoon Michael and I were below and heard desperate shouting from on deck, "We're sinking!" The fabric floor of the spare dinghy was apparently a lot less watertight than it used to be. The inflatable dinghy had gallons of water in it as our returning shore crew pulled up along side Van Diemen. There was, in fact, a seam separation large enough to see through where the floor connected to one of the tubes. Marie had also taken a spill getting into the dinghy on the beach and was completely soaked. They used everything at hand, including Geoff's Sebago boat shoe and and the cowling for the outboard, as bailers to stay ahead of the water flooding into the dinghy. The new outboard that Rob had purchased in Noumea was on the dinghy, and Rob said if the rubber boat sank he had decided to go down with the ship. We got the crew and inflatable aboard safely though and have attempted a seam repair. We'll have to launch the dinghy and test the repair when we go in to pick up Zappa this afternoon. Stay tuned.

We've also moved up our departure from Lord Howe Island to this afternoon after Zappa flies in. There is a low pressure system moving north towards Sydney that should arrive there on Friday, and we want to be nestled in securely on the Australian coast by then. The current plan is to sail directly to Sydney, which should take just under two days, clear customs there on Thursday morning, and zip north to Pittwater that afternoon. We should have a pleasant run all the way to the coast in brisk easterly winds.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Australia Bound

0700 position 32-33S 156-20E. 229 miles from Newcastle, Australia

I drew the short straw yesterday and got to pick up Zappa in the newly repaired dinghy. Fortunately, it all went smoothly and the repair held. I landed the dinghy on the beach by the airport and went to the terminal to meet our arriving crew member. As we walked back to the dinghy Zappa told me "You're not going to believe it, mate. As I was waiting for my flight customs rang and told me that I couldn't fly to Lord Howe! Unbelievable! The guy I spoke to had been misinformed of the situation though. It was all OK after I explained it to him." We were a bit concerned that this comedy would continue with the Lord Howe policeman chasing us down in his motor launch, blue light flashing, as we sailed away. Fortunately, we didn't see any sign of a pursuit.

At 2PM we slipped our mooring and were underway. Our destination is Newcastle where we plan to clear in and then head immediately to Pittwater where Zappa and Marie live, forty miles to the south. Van Diemen smoked along on a port tack broad reach with a full jib and single reefed mainsail until the wind began to die off at 10PM. We turned on the engine and have been motor sailing ever since.

The gribs predicted the wind direction correctly, and it slowly backed during the night. At 4AM we jybed to starboard tack. The forecast missed the mark on wind strength though. Since the engine went on we've only seen half of the predicted seventeen knot breeze.

I woke up just before 6AM this morning and went on deck to find Geoff, Zappa, and Marie in their jackets and wool hats trying to stay warm in the damp chill of dawn. Zappa was standing there by the smoking barbecue, tongs in hand, with a big grin on his face. "There's a lot of meat we've got to eat before we get to the coast, mate," was his morning greeting. "We don't want the customs man to get it!" It wasn't even fully light out yet. I guess Marie took inventory during their early morning watch and determined that we'll be eating meat breakfast, lunch, and dinner until we get to Australia so the prohibited imports won't get confiscated. I'm not going to bother putting the fishing lines out.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Shark Attack!

0800 position 31-33S 159-05E. On a mooring off of Lord Howe Island, Tasman Sea

You might notice from our position description above that we are now in the Tasman Sea when we were in the Coral Sea yesterday. There has been much debate aboard the good ship Van Diemen regarding which sea Lord Howe Island lies in, Coral or Tasman. The mystery was solved yesterday as I was reading a Wikipedia description of Lord Howe Island to the crew that Lori had emailed to me. It stated that the island lies in the Tasman Sea, and as we all know, Wikipedia is never wrong. There you have it.

The first half of our day yesterday was similar to the day before. The morning was spent on the boat doing more laundry and relaxing. The wind backed off a bit during the morning and just before noon we dinghied in to drop off Geoff and Marie on the beach close to Van Diemen where they had stashed their rental bikes in the bushes the afternoon before. Rob, Michael and I continued on north to the jetty where we landed and set up the folding bike that Rob had brought ashore from Van Diemen. We all met up in the Anchorage Restaurant again for WIFI and lunch.

After lunch our three bicyclists took a beach tour of the island. Michael and I hiked the hills in the middle of the island and it was close to one of the windward beaches that we came upon an endemic and endangered Lord Howe Woodhen, of which a mere 220 remain in the wild. This little guy was nosing around in the leaf litter looking for lunch just three feet away from us, and Michael got some great video of him.

Michael and I returned to the same beach we did the day before at 430PM for a dinghy pickup. Geoff and I were carrying hand held VHF radios, and the plan was to call Van Diemen for pickup when we were ready. There was no dinghy hanging behind Van Diemen though, and nobody to call. It looked like our other three adventurers were still ashore. At 515PM the dinghy came around the point and into view with Rob, Geoff, and Marie aboard, but something was clearly wrong. They were all sitting on the same side of the boat. As they approached the beach to pick us up there was a sense of urgency in Rob's voice. "You need to get aboard in a hurry! We can't linger here!"

The starboard tube of the inflatable RIB dinghy had a two foot long tear in its bottom and was completely empty. It is within the realm of possibility that the dinghy was attacked by a great white shark, but the evidence seems to indicate that minutes earlier they ran over one of the many spires of coral or sharp basalt that litter Lord Howe's lagoon. Fortunately, the port side and forward tubes were still intact and full of air. It was nip and tuck getting the dinghy, now with five of us aboard, back to Van Diemen without swamping. We made it, however, and got the dinghy hoisted safely up on deck and secured.

Van Diemen cocktails were required all around to steady our nerves after that near death experience.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Australia's Gem"

0800 position 31-33S 159-05E. On a mooring off of Lord Howe Island, Coral Sea

Lord Howe Island is a five mile long arc of land with an average width of about a half mile. What's left of the rim of an ancient volcano, the north-south oriented island boasts the world's southern most barrier reef on its concave western side. There are four passes through the barrier reef, three of which have mooring fields installed inside them. We are on a mooring in the southern most field just inside "Man of War Pass", the only pass deep enough to accommodate Van Diemen's eight and a half foot draft. We are currently the only visiting yacht on the island.

Our mooring is at the southern limit of civilization on the island. Further south, Lord Howe's rugged mountains rise majestically to a hight of 2,836 feet. The shear sea cliffs on the southern half of those mountains rival those on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, the highest in the world. There are a few hiking trails in the mountains, but no other access. Most of Lord Howe's 400 person permanent population resides on the northern end of the island where some flat land can be found. The only pier on the island is there, two miles to the north of our mooring. We all piled into the dinghy and powered up to the pier yesterday morning after spending a couple of hours doing laundry.

Ashore we found a beautifully manicured wonderland clearly focused on the island's main industry, tourism. Limited to a maximum of 400 at any time, visiting tourists arriving by plane have a number of hotels and lodges to choose from. Birding, hiking, golfing, diving, snorkeling, sport fishing, or hanging out on the beach are the primary leisure activities. Tourists move about the island primarily on bicycles that can be rented in a number of places. Summer is high season on Lord Howe, and since it is early spring in the southern hemisphere there aren't many tourists here. It hasn't warmed up yet either. We saw a few hardy souls swimming, but the beaches are mostly empty.

The Van Diemen crew did a quick orientation tour of town and then settled in for lunch and WIFI at the Anchorage restaurant. After lunch we split up. Marie and Geoff rented bikes to tour the island, Rob dinghied back to Van Diemen, and I followed Michael up into Lord Howe's southern hills to get some exercise and look for birds. Michael is an avid bird watcher, and he was like a kid in a candy store all afternoon with his bird sightings. Lord Howe is renown for its many species of sea birds. It is the only location where the endemic and endangered Lord Howe woodhen can be found. I believe that is the only species on Michael's "must find" list that he didn't see yesterday. That's OK. He has three more days to locate it.

Michael and I returned to Van Diemen just before sunset tired and thirsty to find the rest of the crew already aboard. All had had a good day.

As the sun set last night the wind started to blow, and it blew hard all night long. Fortunately, the wind was coming out of the east and Van Diemen was protected by the arc of the island in that direction. Unfortunately, the hills of the island caused the wind to accelerate as it rushed down their leeward slopes and slammed us here on our mooring. We saw gusts as high as thirty five knots and our mooring lines groaned and complained under the strain. This wind was a mystery. The gribs did not predict more than eighteen knots of breeze last night. I wonder what it is like here when it really blows? It was quite cold too. The 40 degree F sleeping bag I have been nursing through the heat of the tropics is now the perfect bunk mate since Lori is not here to keep me warm.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Lord Howe Landfall

0630 position 31-33S 159-05E. On a mooring off of Lord Howe Island, Coral Sea

At 8AM yesterday the cry of "fish on!" brought me scrambling up on deck from the chart table. Both hand lines had hooked up and the fish were diving. Perhaps ahi? Rob throttled back and we landed them both, a couple of large aku, and threw the larger one back. We left one line out hoping to catch something different as we closed in on Lord Howe.

At 930AM the rain stopped and the breeze started filling in from the southeast. It wasn't quite strong enough to sail at the 8 knot minimum speed required to make it to our destination before sunset, so we continued motor sailing. The confused seas gradually got organized with the new wind and the ship's jerky motion disappeared.

The "When will we sight Lord Howe?" competition was won by Marie when the island was twenty eight miles away with her absolutely spot on guess of 12PM. There was a bit of controversy though. I had guessed 1PM, and because of my cataracts I didn't sight the island until 1PM... Hmm... As we got closer to the island more and more sea birds wheeled around us. Van Diemen rounded the nearly 2,000 foot high sea cliffs on Lord Howe's southern coast and headed up the island's western shore for the southern mooring field.

We had been in VHF radio contact with a friendly competent fellow at "Lord Howe Maritime" since we got within five miles of the island. He drove his truck up onto the hill above the mooring field and guided us in using a hand held VHF. We picked up one of the five empty mooring balls, got the boat put to bed, and settled down in the cockpit to enjoy a celebratory Van Diemen cocktail.

I decided to serve the fresh aku three ways. The first appetizer was a Tahitian style poisson cru to go with our cocktail. Then, as the sun was setting and the crew was debating about the possibility of a green flash, we enjoyed sashimi with shoyu and wasabi. For dinner I prepared blackened aku medallions, roasted garlic and pine nut seasoned green beans, and rice. I am hoping that the three tuna preparations combined with the beef sausage fried rice I made for breakfast yesterday will earn me an honorable mention in the Van Diemen cooking competition.

After dinner we watched some videos from earlier in the trip. The crew was particularly impressed with the one of Rob diving into Mariner's Cave in Tonga.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Food Fight

0700 position 31-17S 160-27E. 67 nautical miles to Lord Howe Island. Day's run 223 nautical miles

Van Diemen motor sailed all day in light airs and flat seas as the wind slowly backed from the east to the north. At 5PM we shut the engine down so Rob could change a worn and squeaky belt on the engine. By the time he finished the job the wind had filled in and we were averaging over eight knots of speed under sail so we left the engine off. The wind continued to fill in as the evening progressed, peaking at close to twenty knots out of the north at midnight. At 7AM this morning the northern tip of the front slapped us, it started pouring rain, and the wind died. As I write this we are bouncing around under power in confused seas and drizzle. This should clear shortly as the front moves away to the west. In a couple of hours we should be able to see Lord Howe Island on the horizon ahead of us. We should arrive there mid-afternoon.

The gribs showed the front approaching from the west, and it looked like we were just going to kiss the north end of it this morning. Predicted wind strength, direction, and the timing of the frontal passage was remarkably accurate to within minutes. How do they do that out here in the middle of nowhere?

It has been quite cold out here. During the night watches you'll find the Van Diemen crew dressed in their long underwear, fleece, socks, hats, and gloves for the Hawaiian. Add foul weather gear when it is raining. Water temperature is hovering around seventy degrees F.

Michael went wild in the galley again yesterday. I woke up from my afternoon off-watch nap to find that high tea was being served in the saloon. He had taken his freshly baked scones out of the oven just minutes earlier and they were being served with clotted cream and raspberry and pomegranate preserves. Fortunately, I had been trained in England by a certified professional in the proper handling of the scone during a high tea ceremony, and did not disgrace myself or the American people.

I was supposed to make dinner last night, but the pressure of having to follow Michael's meringue, orange chicken, and scones was bearing heavily on me. Marie, who was looking for something to do, came to the rescue and volunteered to cook. She made a grilled sausage and vegetable medley that stood up well against our previous meals. I have recommitted to cooking today, and am hoping for some fresh fish for dinner. We hooked but lost a couple of tuna yesterday. I have a feeling that today is the day. We are starting the day off with some Hawaiian style fried rice, and I need to get on it.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Underway for Lord Howe

0700 position 30-02S 164-22E. 200 nautical miles from Norfolk Island, 290 nautical miles to Lord Howe Island

Van Diemen got underway from Ball Bay at 830AM yesterday, and by 930 the engine was off and we were beam reaching on port tack at eight knots headed directly for Lord Howe Island. Seas remained almost flat all day as the wind slowly lifted us.

Michael was busy all afternoon in the galley first making a meringue with whipped cream that he set aside for desert and then a baked chicken dish in an orange sauce with rice and vegetables for the main course. I believe he got inspired at the Norfolk Island Show. Nobody goes to bed hungry aboard Van Diemen.

At 730PM the breeze came far enough aft that we couldn't maintain an eight knot average speed and we turned on the engine. The wind has been backing ever since and is now blowing from the northeast at eight knots. Since we are headed southwest we can't use it. The forecast says it will continue to back to the north so we may be sailing again sometime this morning.

We have lots of fun aboard Van Diemen, and we drink a lot of rum. Yesterday afternoon Zappa launched a note in an empty rum bottle offering a $10 reward to who ever finds the bottle and sends him an email, and Zappa isn't even aboard the boat! We figured this way Zappa would feel like he'd participated in the passage even if he had to miss it.

It is always desirable to make landfall during daylight hours, especially landfall in an unfamiliar location. When the passage is less than 600 miles we can usually predict how long the journey will take within six hours or so. That allows us to time our departure and optimize the probability that we will arrive at our destination during the day. That strategy has worked well for all of our shorter passages on this voyage, and we were using the same approach to time our departure for Lord Howe Island. During our planning discussions there was some confusion and disagreement on the distance from Norfolk to Lord Howe. One of us would measure the distance on the chart plotter and it would come out to 560 miles. Someone else's measurement would be 490 miles on their Iphone navigation software. We finally resorted to measuring the distance the old fashioned way using dividers and the paper chart. 490 miles. Hmmm. Rob played around with the chart plotter and discovered that "someone" had switched the distance units from "nautical miles" to "statute miles".

We have no idea when this change in the units setting occurred. Thinking back on Van Diemen's remarkable performance on the passage from New Caledonia to Norfolk though (days runs of 225 and 229 miles as measured on the chart plotter and stated in this blog), it appears that the switch took place before we left Noumea. It sure seemed easy to get those high mileage days, and we were pretty proud of our sailing skills... Why would the plotter manufacturer even give you the option of using statue miles? They are of no value navigating at sea.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Show Day

0600 position 29-03S 167-58E. At anchor in Ball Bay, Norfolk Island

After breakfast yesterday morning we pulled the hook and powered Van Diemen around to Sydney Bay to see if the swell had moderated as the forecast had predicted. It was still bumpy, but safe enough to stay and land, so we reanchored in our original spot and dinghied ashore to find Zappa, Marie, and Michael waiting for us on the pier. We hoisted the dinghy out of the water and drove up into town to start provisioning for the passage to Australia via Lord Howe Island. We likely won't find many supplies in Lord Howe, a much smaller and more sparsely populated island. The provisions were staged at Claire and Jimmy's house and we headed down to the Olive for lunch.

Our shore crew spent a lot of time at "Show Day 2017", the annual fair put on by The Royal Norfolk Island Agricultural and Horticultural Society, while the anchor watch was stranded in Ball Bay. There were a surprising number of categories in the friendly competition between neighbors at the show. Fifty four categories in the "Vegetables and Farm Produce" section including "turkey eggs"; twenty eight categories of "Fruit", forty nine categories in "Cooking", thirty seven categories of "Preserves" including my personal favorite "home brew", "Potted Plants", "Cut Flowers","Live Stock",... , eighteen sections in all with a total of 675 categories. The crew had a great time and took lots of pictures to share with those of us stuck out on the boat.

After lunch we took a tour of the island heading up to Mount Pitt, the second highest peak, down to Cascade Bay to check it out for possible future visits by boat, and to some scenic overlooks on the northwestern end of the island. Late in the afternoon we cleared out with customs, ferried crew and provisions back to Van Diemen in two dinghy trips, and moved the boat back around to Ball Bay where it would be a calmer anchorage for our last night at Norfolk Island. We set the anchor just as the sun was setting behind the island.

Norfolk Island was a fantastic stopover during this voyage. It was a beautiful, unique, rugged, isolated, and compact oasis of civilization in the middle of the Coral Sea. Claire and Jimmy's over the top hospitality made us feel like locals and all of us would love to spend more time here.

The wind was out of the north when we arrived at Norfolk Island four days ago. It backed to the southwest soon thereafter and has blown from that direction the whole time we were here. At 5AM this morning the wind shifted to the southeast just as the forecast had predicted. That will give us favorable winds, at least for now, on the 490 mile passage southwest to Lord Howe Island. Like Norfolk Island, Lord Howe sits nearly alone (both have one or two smaller islands nearby) hundreds of miles from its closest neighbor. The forecast calls for winds out of the eastern quadrant for the next three days so we should have a pleasant sail. We will have breakfast, get the boat ready for sea, and likely be underway sometime this morning.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Ball Bay

0800 position 29-03S 167-58E. At anchor in Ball Bay, Norfolk Island

We suspect that Ball bay was so named because the "beach" is composed of bowling ball sized rocks that roll around in the surf. On a good day like yesterday the surf was small, about a foot high, but trying to get a footing on the rolling moss covered rocks would be nearly impossible. It is almost guaranteed that somebody would get hurt getting in or out of the dinghy or carrying it ashore so we did not attempt to land.

There was no way to get ashore on Norfolk Island yesterday. Sydney Bay was out due to the high surf. Ball Bay was out due to the beach conditions. The last option, Cascade Bay on the north side of the island was "off limits". The ship that was off loading cargo onto the pier at Sydney Bay when we arrived has moved to Cascade Bay to continue the operation there. Our crew ashore told us that the Island Council has closed the facility at Cascade Bay to the public while the ship is being unloaded.

Zappa, who is currently ashore, has decided to fly home to Sydney from Norfolk Island today. He will get some work done and rejoin Van Diemen in Lord Howe Island next week. He hopes to get enough accomplished while he is home to be able to stay with the boat until we reach Hobart. Zappa needs his passport to fly though, and it was aboard Van Diemen. Rob and Geoff dinghied in yesterday morning and threw a dry bag into the surf with Zappa's passport in it. The wind was blowing the right direction and the bag drifted into the surf where the boys waiting ashore retrieved it. Success!

The anchor watch had an otherwise lazy day in Ball Bay catching up on sleep missed the night before, reading, and telling stories. It was movie night at the Van Diemen Theater featuring the Australian classic, Two Hands. Our ambassadors ashore reportedly attended "the show", the three day long annual island fair which ended yesterday, and had a great time.

If the swell has come back down as forecast we should be able to move back to Sydney Bay today to retrieve our shipmates. We are still planning on departing tomorrow for Lord Howe Island when the wind shifts around to the west.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ying and Yang

0800 position 29-03S 167-58E. At anchor in Ball Bay, Norfolk Island

Yesterday morning the crew dinghied ashore to be met by the Quintal family and we spent a few hours touring the ruins of the penal colony that once thrived here. The chart indicated that we were anchored in Sydney Bay, but a sign ashore said it was called Slaughter Bay. Claire confirmed that the name had been changed to honor the many people slaughtered here in the name of the King's justice.

The prisoners on Norfolk did an amazing amount of rock and mortar construction, ruins of which can be seen near the pier. Many structures have been restored as well. Houses, offices, churches, a hospital, mills, boat houses, barracks, salt works, a lime kiln, stables, and storm water culverts all line the waterfront. Further down the coast was a sign in the pine trees indicating that artifacts from a prehistoric Polynesian settlement were excavated there. I didn't know the Polynesians made it as far west as Norfolk Island. The grave yard on the far end of the beach was fascinating. Still in use today, most folks who died on the island since its discovery by Captain Cook are buried there. Many of the grave stones offer interesting clues into life on Norfolk. A few headstones state that the deceased were "executed for mutiny". One was "killed accidentally by a whale". How did they know that the whale didn't do it on purpose? A fellow with good genes died at age 105 in 1895, but it looked like a lot of folks died in their twenties. There were dozens of Quintals.

We drove to the other end of the island and went to Dino's Restaurant, a converted house out in the country, for lunch. In business for fifteen years now, it was reputed to be the best restaurant on the island, and we could see why. The food was great. After lunch Jimmy and Claire took us on a hike through the "Hundred Acres Forest". I half expected to see Winnie the Pooh pop out from behind a tree.

We have been concerned about a 3 meter southwest swell that was scheduled to arrive last night. Sydney/Slaughter Bay is exposed to waves from that direction and Jimmy said he didn't think that we'd be comfortable there after the swell arrived. The sea was starting to build when we went back to the boat to get ready for dinner ashore. Rob decided to stay aboard to mind Van Diemen but encouraged the rest of us to go. While dinghying back to the pier we were hit by a rather large breaking wave. We managed to keep the dinghy upright, but it got our attention. Geoff and I decided that we'd go back to the boat and stay with Rob after getting Marie safely ashore. It would have been difficult for Rob to move Van Diemen on his own if the anchorage became untenable, and we likely wouldn't have been able to get out to the boat later in the building surf.

Our decision turned out to be a good one. At 230AM this morning Van Diemen was pitching and rolling excessively in the backwash off of the cliffs to the north. The swells were growing larger and larger and the boat would jerk and stretch the nylon anchor chain snubber as she rode over the top of each wave crest. The increasing swells weren't scheduled to peak in size until 5AM, and it seemed like only a matter of time before something broke under all the stress. It wasn't safe to stay put any longer so we weighed anchor and powered around to Ball Bay on Norfolk's eastern shore. Ball Bay provided good shelter from the southwest swell, and we found it to be calm in comparison. We tucked in deep in the bay and anchored in fifty feet of water. We were all back in our bunks and sound asleep by 330AM.

One of the plaques we read while touring the ruins yesterday discussed the shipwreck of HMS Sirius in Sydney Bay in 1790. In a situation similar to our own last night, HMS Sirius was driven ashore and destroyed during a southwesterly storm. Their story would likely have ended differently if they'd had the weather forecasting tools, GPS, and a diesel engine like Van Diemen does.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Norfolk Island

0800 position 29-04S 167-56E. At anchor in Sydney Bay, Norfolk Island

Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of the voyage. We broad reached into Norfolk Island as the sun rose in the morning sky. As Van Diemen got closer we could see the majestic Norfolk pine trees that cover the rugged island standing guard around the green meadows below. The cliffs of the island's north coast were lined with large and widely spaced estates. Seas were breaking against the sea cliffs. We rounded the island's eastern end, taking care to avoid some rocks shown on the chart and jybed onto starboard tack. First Phillip Island, which lies three miles south of Norfolk, then Nepean Island, which protects south facing Sydney Bay from easterly swells, came into view. As we got closer a large cargo ship anchored in Sydney Bay came into view. We rolled up the jib, rounded Nepean Island, headed up into Sydney Bay, and dropped the mainsail. The seas smoothed out as we entered the bay and we dropped the anchor in the lee of a headland just to the west of the island's small boat pier.

Our arrival in Norfolk was a milestone for the Van Diemen crew. Zappa and Marie's daughter Claire lives on the island with her Bounty mutineer descendent husband Jimmy Quintal and their two small children. It had been nearly six months since the family last got together. Claire is an environmental scientist and manages the island's waste and water systems. Jimmy works for the island council. He is a building inspector but does other things too including handle cargo. Yesterday he was working to unload the freighter and we waved to him on one of his shuttle trips to the ship.

Norfolk Island is very similar to Niue, an island country we visited a few months ago on this voyage, in that it does not have a protected harbor. All goods and materials that arrive by sea to support the island's 1,800 inhabitants must be transferred from ship to shore via lighter. The lighters are loaded using the ship's crane and unloaded at the pier using a mobile crane onto trucks which then transports the cargo to its final destination. The process is slow, dangerous, inefficient, and expensive. The forty foot lighters were working to transfer cargo ashore as we approached our anchorage.

Norfolk Island is teeming with history. First discovered by Captain Cook, it was used initially as one of England's penal colonies. Restored ruins from the island's penal colony days fill the area behind the pier. The island was later used as a resettlement area for the inhabitants of Pitcarin Island who's population had grown to exceed the island's capacity to support itself and were facing starvation. Many of Norfolk Island's current inhabitants, including the Quintals, can trace their ancestry back to the Bounty mutineers that once lived on Pitcarin.

After getting Van Diemen put to bed the whole crew dinghied into the pier to clear customs and immigration. Like Niue, boats can not be left in the water because they will be quickly damaged or destroyed by the waves. Instead, a crane lifts all boats out of the water and onto the pier and that's what we did with our dinghy after we all climbed out of her. As we were walking up towards the end of the pier a tourist who was watching the cargo ship operations approached us and started asking questions about our cruise. After a few rounds of questions and answers it was "Where are you from?". It turns out that both she and Rob were from Hobart. A couple of rounds later they determined that her husband was Rob's first cousin. At that point they recognized each other (it had been a few years), and a second mini family reunion occurred on the pier at Norfolk while the Quintal/Bell family reunion took place a few feet away. The customs/immigration officer took it easy on us. It turns out he was Jimmy's high school classmate.

Jimmy was going to be working all day unloading the ship so he loaned us his truck. The crew piled in and we followed Claire up into town. The island is stunningly beautiful. Widely spaced Norfolk pines line the road ways and border fields full of grazing cattle. There are few fences, and care must be taken while driving to avoid hitting cows that wander across the roads or graze on the grass nearby. "Burnt Pine Township", Norfolk Island's only town, is centrally located in the middle of the central plateau, and is a neatly organized and charming spot that caters to both the island's locals and visiting tourists. We enjoyed a great lunch at the Olive Cafe and got to know Claire, her three year old son Hunter, and infant daughter Lilly.

Following an afternoon nap aboard Van Diemen we headed back into town and to Claire and Jimmy's for dinner. Their two story house was constructed almost entirely of Norfolk pine that was cut right there on the property. Jimmy regaled us with stories of the day's effort to unload cargo from the ship offshore. This was a new ship apparently unsuitable for this specialized use, and there were some near disasters during the day. Numerous automobiles aboard the ship were damaged by cargo that could not be safely controlled as the ship rolled, a container full of glass intended for a construction site on the island was broken, and one of Jimmy's mates nearly got crushed by suspended cargo that got away from the handling crew. The situation was so bad that the operation was stopped early for the day.

The beautiful weather we enjoyed yesterday ended during the night and we got some rain to wash the salt off of Van Diemen's deck. It is a bit more rocky here in the anchorage this morning as the wind has shifted to the west, a more exposed direction for this south facing bay. The forecast calls for a large southwest swell tonight, which will be interesting, but the wind should be kind to us until our planned departure in two days.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Norfolk Island In Sight!

0600 position 28-43S 167-46E. Day's run 225 miles. 27 miles from Norfolk Island

The wind continued to drop off slowly all day yesterday, and by late afternoon Van Diemen was under full sail. The seas smoothed out even more as well, and by sunset yesterday we were slipping along in the kind of weather they promise in the tourist brochures. We witnessed a beautiful sunset and when the crew was done ooing and aahing, turned around, and watched the full moon rise up out of the sea. Having the moon to light the night sky has been an added bonus on this picture perfect passage.

Geoff caught a nice little aku late in the afternoon giving us just enough time to clean the fish and chill the meat so it was ready to be eaten as a sashimi appetizer before dinner.

We had been sailing to the west of rhumb line since departing New Caledonia, unable to lay Norfolk close reaching on port tack. We were counting on the wind to back to the north last night as forecast, and the weather gods did not let us down. The easterly wind backed off at 9PM and we motor sailed for three hours. When I came on watch at midnight the wind had started filling in from the north so we shut down the noise maker and have been broad reaching at nine knots ever since.

At sunrise this morning Norfolk Island could be seen poking up out of the sea ahead of us. We should be trying to figure out where to anchor at about 10AM.

We are clearly not in the tropics anymore. Water temperature is down to 68 degrees, and last night the crew uniform was wool hats, jackets, long pants and shoes. It is great sleeping weather.

One of the many topics of conversation aboard Van Diemen is the selection of a new cruising boat for Zappa and Marie. They are setting their sights on retirement and going cruising on their own boat, and it is time to start narrowing in on the perfect vessel that meets their needs.

Shopping for a boat is arguably one of the best parts of boat ownership, and we get to help. Zappa and Marie have been asking the rest of the crew for their opinions on manufacturer (they want a used production boat), length, rig (cutter or sloop), engine (direct drive or sail drive), mainsail (roller furling or conventional), ground tackle, cabin layout, ventilation, navigation systems, communication systems, dinghy stowage (davits or foredeck), one steering wheel or two, gen set, water maker, and aesthetics. The boat must be pleasing to the eye. Of course, we all have opinions on these, and we don't always agree. That makes for some fun discussions.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Coral Sea Memories

0600 position 25-35S 166-39E. Day's run 229 miles. 252 miles to go to Norfolk Island.

Yesterday morning as we were clearing New Caledonia's barrier reef Michael and I were looking at the paper chart of our route to Norfolk Island. It is always prudent to validate the accuracy of vector (digital) charts by comparing them with raster (paper) charts when you are in unfamiliar waters. As we examined the paper chart I realized that it was the same one Rob had used to navigate with when I sailed with him aboard Windward Passage forty years ago. I could see Windward Passage's track north from the coast of Australia into the Coral Sea and right into the path of a tropical cyclone plotted in pencil on the chart.

We had no idea that a cyclone was brewing when we departed Maloolaba, a small boat harbor just north of Brisbane, in late February 1978. It got overcast as the coast of Australia disappeared to the west and the weather started deteriorating. We learned about the storm on the high seas weather radio, but by that time there was nowhere to hide. It looked like the storm, which was moving to the east, would pass by to the north of us. Since the winds rotate clockwise around a low pressure system in the southern hemisphere, that would put the wind behind us as we headed north. That part was fortunate; The wind was pushing us in the direction we wanted to go.

Our first concern was a couple of reefs directly in our path in the Coral Sea. Back then we had no satellite navigation systems; We navigated with a sextant. Since it was 100% overcast we couldn't take any celestial sights, so we were navigating by DR (dead reckoning). We hadn't had a position fix for more than 24 hours when we passed through the forty mile wide channel between the reefs, and we strained to see the lighthouses on both before sunrise. We never saw either, but we did pass a cargo vessel that was pitching and rolling in the heavy wind and seas just holding its own and barely making headway as it traveled in the other direction.

As the winds and seas increased we reefed the sails down more and more until we were eventually running under bare poles. I remember the boat surging to ten knots of speed on the front of the waves and dropping to four knots on the backs, power provided solely by the wind on the rigging. It got windier and windier, I have no idea how windy because our anemometer wasn't working, but it was difficult to stand up on deck without holding on.

The seas were getting larger and breaking more often as well. We had been getting hit occasionally by big breakers, but they hadn't been a problem as long as the boat was aimed straight down the waves when they hit. The breakers would hit Windward Passage's wide transom, some water would come aboard, and the boat would surf out in front of the wave. On the second night of the storm when it was the windiest, I recall dozing in my bunk below when I heard a particularly large breaking wave approaching. Apparently Les Gabriel, who was on helm at the time, didn't get the boat square to the seas because the breaking wave broached the boat and knocked us down putting Windward Passage's mast into the water.

Windward Passage was twenty one feet wide and had a centerline bulkhead just aft of the main mast. The ten foot wide crew cabin was on the starboard side of the bulkhead with six berths, two uppers and two lowers against the hull and an upper and lower berth against the bulkhead forward. There was a bureau of drawers aft of the bulkhead bunks. All four of the bunks against the hull were occupied when we broached, with the centerline pair of bunks empty. I was in the aft lower berth and managed to stay there by holding on when we broached, but my three adjacent shipmates, who were asleep, flew across the cabin, the one above me landing on top of the bureau of drawers and the other two in the bunks across the cabin.

I pulled on my foul weather gear and hurried into the aft cabin to find Rob at the chart table as Windward Passage started to right herself. He had been below entering the log when we broached. We rushed up on deck to find Les, who had been thrown out to the end of his harness tether line as the boat laid on her side, back on deck when she righted herself. He was uninjured but in shock, so Rob and I carried him below after another crew member came on deck to take the wheel.

The broach resulted in a significant amount of damage. The bow pulpit was badly bent, three lifeline stanchions had been ripped out of the deck, and the fold up seats on both sides of the centerline cockpit behind the mast were torn off of their hinges. One of my shipmates in the crew cabin had landed head first against the centerline bulkhead and we thought at first that he might have injured his neck, but a day later he was up and about.

Twelve hours later later the cyclone had moved far enough to the east that the weather started improving, and a day later it was flat calm and we were under power.

Thinking back on that storm, I was surprised that I was never frightened. I think we were all operating in a state of mild shock, still completely functional but somehow insulated from fear. I regret that I never took any photos during the rough stuff. Every time I came on watch conditions were worse than before, and I thought that trend would continue. I figured that I'd get pictures during the next watch, and then the next thing I knew the worst was over. No point in taking pictures then.

Good times, and I'm glad Rob still has that chart as a memento.

We have been concerned that the windy trade wind conditions over the past few days would have built an uncomfortable sea offshore, but we were surprised to find remarkably smooth conditions once we cleared New Caledonia's barrier reef. We have been screaming south on a close reach averaging better than eight knots with hardly a drop of water on deck. We departed with a triple reefed mainsail and double reefed jib, and with the wind up near twenty knots we still have plenty of power. We haven't quite been able to lay Norfolk, but the forecast indicates that we will start to get lifted soon.

Last night the wind eased up a bit and we unrolled the jib. I got kamakazi attacked twice during the night by flying fish. One hit me on the arm and the other whacked me in the head. Fortunately, I had my foul weather gear on at the time so I didn't get slimed.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

No Yanks Allowed

0600 position 22-20S 166-26E. Underway for Norfolk Island

There weren't any available slips in Port Moselle Marina when we arrived back in Noumea yesterday morning so we picked up the same mooring we used a couple of days ago. This time the whole crew ventured ashore. Rob went to do battle with the authorities, Zappa and Marie headed to the marina cafe to check email, and Michael, Geoff, and I went to Champion Supermarket to spend the last of our French Polynesian Francs. We returned to the cafe an hour later with beer, wine, and some odds and ends.

Zappa had been communicating with his daughter, Claire, on Norfolk Island while we shopped. She was helping us with our ship's application to enter Australia and other formalities. Everything was in order except they couldn't locate the visa application for the sole foreigner aboard Van Diemen, me. Zappa asked me about it in the cafe. "What, I need a visa to go to Australia?" was my response.

Rob returned victorious from customs and immigration, and we all returned to Van Diemen to have lunch and stow our booty. Shortly after noon we powered into the fuel dock to fill the boat with duty free fuel, something we couldn't do until after we cleared out of the country. Once we hit the dock, Zappa and I headed towards the Australian Consulate to deal with my visa application. We decided to see if we could do it on-line first though, and stopped in the marina cafe where we could get WIFI. One has to buy something to use their WIFI so we had a couple of beers. The Australian government web site indicated that we could apply for my visa on-line, but the site wouldn't let me into the the secure application section citing some security issue probably related to the cafe WIFI. Hmmm. After some thought, and a few sips of beer, Zappa came up with the brilliant idea to call Claire on the telephone on Norfolk Island and get her to fill out the application on-line while I dictated my passport information over the phone. It worked, and a few minutes later I had my visa. I'm glad we got this resolved before Van Diemen arrived in Norfolk Island. It would have been a bummer to be stuck on the boat while the rest of the crew was having fun ashore.

After fueling was completed we returned to the same mooring on the leeward side of Noumea harbor. During trade wind weather the breeze increases in Noumea during the heat of the day, peaking in strength at about 2PM, the same time we returned to pick up our mooring. It was blowing about twenty five knots, and as soon as we were secured the gal in the boat next to us yelled over to tell us that Zephyr of Lymington was dragging her anchor again.

Zappa, Michael, Geoff, and I lept into action and dinghied over to the far side of the mooring field to find Zephyr tied up to a derelict boat on a mooring and very close to going aground on the lee shore. Her English crew was nowhere to be found. There was a scruffy New Caledonian native aboard messing around near the bow, but his dialect of French was such that Michael, who speaks French well enough to get into trouble, couldn't communicate with him. This guy clearly didn't know what he was doing on the boat, so the Van Diemen crew took over. We got the engine started, the windlass working (the breaker had tripped), the anchor up, and the boat cast off from the derelict we were tied to. We powered out of the mooring field and into the fairway where the local guy insisted that we anchor. Anchoring is prohibited in the fairway where big ships come and go so we refused, and took the boat instead towards an open area near where Van Diemen was anchored, the same place we anchored Zephyr the first time her anchor dragged. As we powered along a small outboard came along side with another New Caledonian native in it screaming at us that Zephyr was "My boat, my boat!" and gesturing angrily at us. We didn't know what the hell was going on. We met Zephyr's skipper, Micky, after her first anchor dragging episode so we knew that she didn't belong to the angry local. After multiple communication attempts with the natives we came to the conclusion that the two, a father/son team in cahoots, were trying to claim salvage rights to Zephyr because she had dragged anchor... Right... When they saw that we weren't biting the son jumped off of Zephyr on to his father's skiff and they took off. We anchored Zephyr securely, which Micky seems to have a problem doing, and returned to Van Diemen. Micky returned in his dinghy about an hour later again grateful and more embarrassed about the incident than he was the first time around.

At 530AM this morning we raised the triple reefed mainsail, slipped our mooring, and took off headed south for Norfolk Island. It is a 480 mile passage and if we average at least eight knots, something Van Diemen should be able to do if the weather cooperates, we will arrive there before sunset on Saturday.

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No Yanks Allowed

0600 position 22-20S 166-26E. Underway for Norfolk Island

There weren't any available slips in Port Moselle Marina when we arrived back in Noumea yesterday morning so we picked up the same mooring we used a couple of days ago. This time the whole crew ventured ashore. Rob went to do battle with the authorities, Zappa and Marie headed to the marina cafe to check email, and Michael, Geoff, and I went to Champion Supermarket to spend the last of our French Polynesian Francs. We returned to the cafe an hour later with beer, wine, and some odds and ends.

Zappa had been communicating with his daughter, Claire, on Norfolk Island while we shopped. She was helping us with our ship's application to enter Australia and other formalities. Everything was in order except they couldn't locate the visa application for the sole foreigner aboard Van Diemen, me. Zappa asked me about it in the cafe. "What, I need a visa to go to Australia?" was my response.

Rob returned victorious from customs and immigration, and we all returned to Van Diemen to have lunch and stow our booty. Shortly after noon we powered into the fuel dock to fill the boat with duty free fuel, something we couldn't do until after we cleared out of the country. Once we hit the dock, Zappa and I headed towards the Australian Consulate to deal with my visa application. We decided to see if we could do it on-line first though, and stopped in the marina cafe where we could get WIFI. One has to buy something to use their WIFI so we had a couple of beers. The Australian government web site indicated that we could apply for my visa on-line, but the site wouldn't let me into the the secure application section citing some security issue probably related to the cafe WIFI. Hmmm. After some thought, and a few sips of beer, Zappa came up with the brilliant idea to call Claire on the telephone on Norfolk Island and get her to fill out the application on-line while I dictated my passport information over the phone. It worked, and a few minutes later I had my visa. I'm glad we got this resolved before Van Diemen arrived in Norfolk Island. It would have been a bummer to be stuck on the boat while the rest of the crew was having fun ashore.

After fueling was completed we returned to the same mooring on the leeward side of Noumea harbor. During trade wind weather the breeze increases in Noumea during the heat of the day, peaking in strength at about 2PM, the same time we returned to pick up our mooring. It was blowing about twenty five knots, and as soon as we were secured the gal in the boat next to us yelled over to tell us that Zephyr of Lymington was dragging her anchor again.

Zappa, Michael, Geoff, and I lept into action and dinghied over to the far side of the mooring field to find Zephyr tied up to a derelict boat on a mooring and very close to going aground on the lee shore. Her English crew was nowhere to be found. There was a scruffy New Caledonian native aboard messing around near the bow, but his dialect of French was such that Michael, who speaks French well enough to get into trouble, couldn't communicate with him. This guy clearly didn't know what he was doing on the boat, so the Van Diemen crew took over. We got the engine started, the windlass working (the breaker had tripped), the anchor up, and the boat cast off from the derelict we were tied to. We powered out of the mooring field and into the fairway where the local guy insisted that we anchor. Anchoring is prohibited in the fairway where big ships come and go so we refused, and took the boat instead towards an open area near where Van Diemen was anchored, the same place we anchored Zephyr the first time her anchor dragged. As we powered along a small outboard came along side with another New Caledonian native in it screaming at us that Zephyr was "My boat, my boat!" and gesturing angrily at us. We didn't know what the hell was going on. We met Zephyr's skipper, Micky, after her first anchor dragging episode so we knew that she didn't belong to the angry local. After multiple communication attempts with the natives we came to the conclusion that the two, a father/son team in cahoots, were trying to claim salvage rights to Zephyr because she had dragged anchor... Right... When they saw that we weren't biting the son jumped off of Zephyr on to his father's skiff and they took off. We anchored Zephyr securely, which Micky seems to have a problem doing, and returned to Van Diemen. Micky returned in his dinghy about an hour later again grateful and more embarrassed about the incident than he was the first time around.

At 530AM this morning we raised the triple reefed mainsail, slipped our mooring, and took off headed south for Norfolk Island. It is a 480 mile passage and if we average at least eight knots, something Van Diemen should be able to do if the weather cooperates, we will arrive there before sunset on Saturday.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Back to Noumea

0630 position 22-14S 166-21E. Underway powering back toward Noumea.

Yesterday was spent messing about at anchor in Maa Bay. The entire crew turned to on projects during the morning. We've been unable to start the main engine without first starting the generator due to a faulty switch. Rob and Zappa pulled a new wire and installed a new switch to correct the problem. Rob also changed the engine oil. Michael baked two loaves of bread. Geoff cleaned the grass off of Van Diemen's water line. I polished stainless. Marie did laundry and cleaned up after five boys. After our boat projects were completed the crew went ashore to walk the beach. The area behind the quarter mile long beach fronting the bay looked like it was a park, but the sign on the beach was faded so we couldn't read it.

The afternoon was spent reading, napping, and socializing. A forty foot Bavaria, "Distracted", joined us in the anchorage so we wouldn't be lonely. What kind of a boat name is "Distracted"?

After a couple of Van Diemen cocktails before sunset, grilled lamb chops for dinner, and chocolate for desert, we had a movie night and watched "August Rush".

At 6AM we pulled the hook to sprint back to Noumea before the trade winds fill in down the coast. We need to do some final provisioning and check out of the country. It is looking like we will have a great weather window starting tomorrow to get down to Norfolk Island, 480 miles to the south and spend a few days there before the next bit of bumpy weather fills in.

This blog is going out a bit early today. We will be busy once we arrive back in Noumea in an hour or so. We are hoping to get a slip in the marina today so we can give Van Diemen a good washing, make it easier to provision, and deal with the officials.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Zephyr of Lymington

0800 position 22-12S 166-21E. At anchor in Maa Bay, New Caledonia

Yesterday there was a bit of excitement in Noumea's mooring field. When he woke up in the morning Zappa noticed the crew from "Zephyr of Lymington", a fifty foot English sloop, messing with a smaller sailboat that had dragged their anchor and drifted into the larger boat during the night. Zephyr's crew moved the smaller boat astern and appeared to secure it, then went ashore in their dinghy. Zephyr started dragging anchor shortly after her crew departed, and she ended up banging against a third boat there in the mooring field.

The crew of Van Diemen, good citizens always ready to help the less fortunate, lept into action. Zappa, Michael, and Geoff raced over to Zephyr in the dinghy, got her engine started, and reanchored the boat in a better location. Shortly after getting the boat secured Zephyr's crew returned in their dingy. All's well that ends well, but Zephyr's topsides got a bit scarred when she was lying against the boat in the mooring field.

Coincidentally, my wife Lori was involved with hosting Zephyr in this summer's Transpac Race to Hawaii. She helped pals Clay and Gail Hutchinson welcome Zephyr when she arrived in Honolulu and got to meet her all English crew. Zephyr is on a round the world tour and will be participating in the Sydney-Hobart Race in December.

After the chaos in the mooring field was sorted out, Rob, Zappa, Michael, and Geoff dinghied ashore to clear Customs and Immigration. They returned shortly after noon having legally entered us into the country and we pulled the anchor to go exploring. During the morning the trades had increased to well over twenty five knots, so we knew we didn't want to head east into it. We headed down wind to the west instead. There were a couple of anchorages within a reasonable distance, and we chose a spot with good protection from the wind and waves seven miles from Noumea in Maa Bay.

We had a relaxing afternoon in Maa drinking beer, eating pupus, and reminiscing. While chatting with Geoff Wells, we realized that he, Rob, and I had attended the same New Years Eve party in 1977 in Hobart. Rob, a native Tasmanian, had arranged a bus to take a bunch of his American sailing friends who had just finished the Sydney-Hobart Race out to a party in the country. I don't recall meeting Geoff there, but it was a memorable party. I remember morning twilight beginning remarkably early (I think it was 230 AM) while I was still dancing the night away, something I was not used to living in the tropics.

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Zephyr of Lymington

0800 position 22-12S 166-21E. At anchor in Maa Bay, New Caledonia

Yesterday there was a bit of excitement in Noumea's mooring field. When he woke up in the morning Zappa noticed the crew from "Zephyr of Lymington", a fifty foot English sloop, messing with a smaller sailboat that had dragged their anchor and drifted into the larger boat during the night. Zephyr's crew moved the smaller boat astern and appeared to secure it, then went ashore in their dinghy. Zephyr started dragging anchor shortly after her crew departed, and she ended up banging against a third boat there in the mooring field.

The crew of Van Diemen, good citizens always ready to help the less fortunate, lept into action. Zappa, Michael, and Geoff raced over to Zephyr in the dinghy, got her engine started, and reanchored the boat in a better location. Shortly after getting the boat secured Zephyr's crew returned in their dingy. All's well that ends well, but Zephyr's topsides got a bit scarred when she was lying against the boat in the mooring field.

Coincidentally, my wife Lori was involved with hosting Zephyr in this summer's Transpac Race to Hawaii. She helped pals Clay and Gail Hutchinson welcome Zephyr when she arrived in Honolulu and got to meet her all English crew. Zephyr is on a round the world tour and will be participating in the Sydney-Hobart Race in December.

After the chaos in the mooring field was sorted out, Rob, Zappa, Michael, and Geoff dinghied ashore to clear Customs and Immigration. They returned shortly after noon having legally entered us into the country and we pulled the anchor to go exploring. During the morning the trades had increased to well over twenty five knots, so we knew we didn't want to head east into it. We headed down wind to the west instead. There were a couple of anchorages within a reasonable distance, and we chose a spot with good protection from the wind and waves seven miles from Noumea in Maa Bay.

We had a relaxing afternoon in Maa drinking beer, eating pupus, and reminiscing. While chatting with Geoff Wells, we realized that he, Rob, and I had attended the same New Years Eve party in 1977 in Hobart. Rob, a native Tasmanian, had arranged a bus to take a bunch of his American sailing friends who had just finished the Sydney-Hobart Race out to a party in the country. I don't recall meeting Geoff there, but it was a memorable party. I remember morning twilight beginning remarkably early (I think it was 230 AM) while I was still dancing the night away, something I was not used to living in the tropics.

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

On a Mooring in Noumea

0800 position 22-17S 166-26E. On a mooring outside of Port Moselle Marina, Noumea, New Caledonia

Yesterday was provisioning day aboard the mighty Van Diemen. Shortly after breakfast the rest of the crew dinghied ashore to shop and check email. I stayed aboard to mind the boat, write the blog, catch up on emails, and bake some brownies. The crew returned shortly before noon in the dinghy loaded to the gunwales with food. Noumea provides our last opportunity to provision before we reach the coast of Australia.

Marie made a beautiful salad for lunch and I grilled up the last of the aku to go with it. There was a lot of reading and napping during the afternoon.

Dr. Michael Vaughan got started early in the afternoon making the crust for a pizza he was putting together for dinner. I have no experience with bread making, so it was fun to watch. Michael spent all afternoon messing around with the dough, and while it was resting or rising he made the pizza's toppings. It took him all afternoon to prepare and cook, and it was fantastic when it was done. In addition to cooking dinner when it was his turn at sea, and again last night, Michael has cooked us two grilled sandwich lunches.

Michael's child-like and persistent enthusiasm, boundless energy, and personal mannerisms remind me of one of my other sailing mentors and heros, Skip Steveley, with whom I've sailed six Transpac races. Merlin's skipper in five of those races, Skip nevertheless ran the foredeck on the boat because he loved it up there and left the back of the boat to the rest of us. I vividly recall the first sunrise aboard Merlin in my first Transpac aboard her. Skip woke me up to come on watch by handing me a plate of bacon and eggs as I got out of my bunk. I was thinking that this was pretty special treatment, and this excessive kindness continued. It turned out that Skip had ulterior motives, and after a couple of days he broke down and confessed. Merlin was always a contender for first to finish honors in Transpac. The "Don Vaughn" trophy, given to the MVP of the first to finish boat, was awarded based on a vote of that boat's crew. Skip had won the Don Vaughn trophy in the previous Transpac aboard "Charlie", and he knew how to lobby for votes.

At cocktail hour I introduced our newer crew members to "The Van Diemen". We had two rounds.

We woke up this morning to find that the southeast trade winds had returned to New Caledonia. The trades are forecast to stick around for four more days and then shift to the northeast, north, and northwest as the high pressure area generating these winds moves off to the east. That may provide our best opportunity to sprint south to Norfolk Island. In the mean time, we have a couple of days to explore the anchorages here inside New Caledonia's barrier reef. Now all we have to do is clear customs and immigration...

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Exploring Noumea

Shortly after we secured Van Diemen to the marina dock labeled "Visitors" yesterday, a very attractive woman who worked for the marina walked down the pier and told us that we needed to leave because another boat was expected shortly. "Are they visitors?", we asked her.

"Oui, Messieurs", she answered.

"But we are visitors too," we pleaded, "and we were here first." She would not be swayed. The other visitors apparently had some pull, so we cast off and powered across the harbor to the anchorage. We dropped the hook on the fringes of a mix of visiting, local, and what looked like derelict boats to await the arrival of the quarantine officer. Three hours later a dinghy from another cruising boat delivered the officer who was moving through the anchorage inspecting the day's arrivals.

We've been allowed to keep prohibited food items in the other countries we've visited because the food was going to be consumed on the boat. This quarantine officer was a bit more of a stickler, and he took our lamb sausages, three Fijian steaks, some celery, and a big bag of chicken. Zappa and Marie brought some vacuum packed prime Australian fillets with them when they joined the boat, and I suspect there would have been a fight if the officer had insisted on confiscating them, but since the meat was Australian he let us keep it. He also let us keep our ham and eggs, but only if we ate it all right away, so we had the world's largest omelet for lunch. Once again we weren't hungry on Van Diemen.

After our friend from quarantine departed we took down the yellow "Q" flag, all piled into the dinghy, and went ashore. Our mission was to find WIFI, a place to watch the Australian Rules football season championship game, and get a beer. A bar that fit the bill was right there next to the dinghy dock, but that was too easy to be the right answer. We needed to explore and see if there wasn't some place better. First we hiked down town where we found free WIFI advertised on lamp posts. It was indeed free and pretty fast too. We all caught up on our email and I got in a Whatsapp video chat with Lori. Asking around, we were told that a good bar to watch the football game would be the Fiesta Cafe "just over the hill".

We wisely decided to travel via taxi, and split up into two vehicles to get there. "Just over the hill" ended up being a couple of miles away, and when we arrived we found The Fiesta just closing for the day (it was Saturday). We had released the first taxi before figuring out that the bar was closed but held the second taxi to send half of the group back to the marina. Michael, Marie, and I started walking back hoping to flag down a taxi on the way. Of course, there were no taxis to be found out here in the boonies. About half way back we found a citizen sitting on a bench who helped us catch a bus back to town. We arrived back at the marina about an hour behind the first group. We found them in the marina bar drinking beer and watching the game. The game, beer, and food were all good so we stayed there for dinner finally returning to Van Diemen at 8PM. A second bottle of wine was consumed aboard along with a tutorial card game of "May I", a version of gin rummy.

This morning at sunrise we were awoken by a man shouting from a power boat along side, "Bonjour Messieurs! A ship, she is coming. You must move!" We scrambled to get the engine on, hoist the anchor, and pick up a vacant mooring out of the fairway just before a 600+ foot cruise liner entered the harbor. Hopefully we can either hang on this mooring or get a slip in the harbor until we clear customs and immigration first thing on Monday morning.

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