October 16

Today began at midnight (last night) with the big left turn after passing Chesterfield Reef. After following a course of 242M for 4 days, we finally cleared the largest obstacle between us and Australia, this collection of reefs and islands owned by France (New Caledonia). Many boats make this a stopping point on the way to Oz, but lacking a proper chart (although the CMap computer chart appears to be good, it fails to chart at all several of the reefs in the near vicinity leaving one to wonder). Furthermore, the French are hard asses about boats stopping there without proper clearance, which can only be secured in Noumea.

One story we heard last week was about a Canadian boat which stopped there and was overflown by a French surveillance plane. A patrol boat appeared several hours later and ordered them to proceed directly to Noumea where presumably they would be prosecuted. The boat in question (according to the story) upped anchor and left via the Western pass and proceeded instead directly to Australia. You might, given examples of French largesse (like the sinking of the Green peace "Rainbow Warrior" while moored in Auckland, New Zealand some years ago) expect at this point they were fired upon. Fortunately this did not occur. The owner of the yacht was contacted, however, by mail and was informed quite clearly that his yacht (and himself personally) would be considered persona non-grata if he should present himself at any (ANY) French port or indeed Metropolitan France. He was told he would be deported immediately and his yacht confiscated. These people are nuts! Damn good thing they can cook or else...

Meanwhile, after running downwind for a day the big left turn put us (as expected) on a beam reach and we quickly accelerated to about 8.5k over ground. The wind speed was about 15-16k and the seas were very calm. We scudded along all night like that and the day dawned with some clouds on the horizon but plenty of sunshine. The wind has been from the East (ESE in fact) all day between 11 - 14k. The seas remain extremely calm and we have been making steady progress at about 6.5 - 7k. The only drawback of this tack is that we are well heeled over and this makes moving about below somewhat difficult.

By 11am the sky was covered with light clouds (about 70% cover) obscuring the sun a great deal of the time. But by 1pm they have moved on and we have a crystal clear day with hardly a cloud left in the sky. In short, one of the most beautiful days on the water we have ever seen. In fact, this may well be the most perfect day of sailing we have ever experienced. With the exception of a slight change in course sometime tomorrow night (to avoid Cato Reef) we will continue on this heading until we reach Moreton Bay, the gateway to Brisbane, Australia. We have app. 490nm to go which we expect (at an average of 6.5k) to take us about 75 hours or 3 days and 3 hours.

This would put us at the mouth of Moreton bay at app. 4pm local time which is not good since it is a further 4 hours of complex navigation to reach the port of entry at Scarborough Marina through the giant mud flat which is Moreton Bay. We need to gain about 4 more hours and time our arrival for no later then 1pm in order to make it safely to Scarborough. Otherwise we will have to slow down so as to arrive at dawn the following day, a full 12 hours later. This is a common problem when making long passages and it is never easy to predict arrival times when dealing with the vagaries of the wind and seas. If the wind holds steady we may be able to gain the time needed, however, any calms (which have been predicted by some forecasts) could slow us down enough that we will need to delay our arrival till the following morning.

At 8pm, or thereabouts, the wind has shifted to the Northeast and decreased to 10k. We are no longer on a close reach but instead have the wind now on the port quarter. As a result we are making little over 4k over ground and will probably resort to motor-sailing soon. So much for the perfect passage!