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WATSON 60 “BASTION” MAIDEN VOYAGE

Our plan is to take a run up to New Caledonia, approx. 1000 miles to the north of New Zealand. With the cyclone season beginning December and lasting through to Easter there is time for a short excursion then back to New Zealand for a summer of coastal cruising.

Weather map

First we have to wait out this weather pattern, two intense lows with associated fronts that brought high winds over the whole country causing a lot of damage. This is Saturday the 13th Oct.

Weather map

And for Sunday 14th October, the weather pattern has passed by. Time to get a move on as the best time for departure is always as soon after bad weather as possible. Approaching is a large high bringing a south west wind, ideal for us; it would be good to be two days ahead of any North West wind change that might occur. 

In any event we were caught by the NW a day and half out 20-25knots with a change finally to the SE half a day out from Noumea.
 
 
“Clearing out” from Port Whangarei is now completed at the new marina at One Tree Point, just inside the harbour entrance. We have good company while waiting on the formalities; the topsail schooner “R. Tucker Thompson” built by friends over 30 years ago and now a charter vessel.
 
Mt Manaia
 
Ten minutes after customs clearance, with stamped passports tucked away, Mt Manaia at the entrance of Whangarei harbour is slipping astern as we are eager to get to sea.

Poor Nights

Bowling along the coast at nine knots we pass the Poor Knights Islands. Capt. Cook named these for their resemblance to a dead knight lying on the battle field. As youngsters we lived out on the coast and this was the view from our house. The light SW wind – we are in the lee of the land – is evident.

Cape Brett

CapeBrett and our final waypoint before Noumea, New Caledonia. 

North Cape sun set

Sunset has us abreast North Cape, unseen below the horizon. On a personal note, this voyage marks my 108th passing.

Midday the next day we have the NW, earlier than hoped for. It’s a push against it on our port bow for the next three days. 

The Tasman Sea will never give ideal conditions. It always offers up something; a front, a low, a high; with strong winds around its periphery. The weather (and sea temperatures) may be why this is such a rich little ocean for sea life. Veterans of Tasman passages understand these realities and work accordingly.
 
Dinner table
 
We are blessed with a compliment of four. Four good conversationalists, all good watch keepers and two of whom are good cooks. Food demand seems to double at sea with no fear of weight gain!

Flying Fish

Two days out and the first fish is landed, a flying fish, caught with no help from the crew.

Chart

Arriving two hours before daybreak we have idled up towards the reef entrance. Even though we have modern and reliable electronics and the entrance is well lit, we always prefer to make landfall in daylight and will time our entry into the lagoon as the sun rises. 

Amadee Island Lighthouse

Amadee Island Lighthouse stands as a beacon as we pass through the reef entrance. The high mountains of the mainland can be seen in the haze. The sight of these mountains reminded Capt. Cook of Scotland when he discovered this island in 1771 and prompted him to call it “New Caledonia” 

Reef

Looking along the reef we can just make out the hulk of a WW2 Liberty ship sitting high and dry. The reef around New Caledonia is a shipping burial ground. It has claimed, among many others the “La France”, the largest sailing vessel ever and the beautiful little  “Huia” a New Zealand trading schooner and holder of the record time for crossing the Tasman; Sydney to Auckland; carrying a load of dynamite!

Port Moselle

And here we are sitting in a comfortable berth in Port Moselle marina, a stones throw from down town Noumea. A true French colonial town with European character and flair rolled up with native Kanack and Indochinese influences in the middle of the Pacific.

We are exactly, to the hour, five days out from Port Whangarei with “nothing of consequence to report”.
 
I have managed to take an extraordinary amount of video footage on this and the return voyage. In ten days of steaming we had eight days of what could be called bad weather. This footage is being put together and will be posted with comments soon.

Last Updated (Monday, 12 November 2012 07:03)

 
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