Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Land of Oz

The day after we arrived in Australia, the weather took a turn for the worse.  Weather windows don’t last forever and it was nice to be in a marina slip when the High Wind and Sea Warnings were being broadcast.

Jellyfish in Moreton Bay
The Rivergate Marina is 6 miles up the Brisbane River fairly close to town.  It would have been a nice place to stay except for the $90/day price tag and that it is located in an industrial area. 

Oscar had been at the marina since his arrival from New Caledonia 4 days prior.  He had a rental car and took us to reprovision at the supermarket since we had eaten everything on the boat in anticipation of Customs and Quarantine taking it anyway.  I also bought an automotive battery charger and extension cable so that Tortuguita’s batteries could be charged from shore power.  Australia has 220 volt/50 cycle power.  Our US Charger/Inverter is 100 volt/60 cycle so even though the Aussie auto charger is only 20 Amps, compared to our 100 Amp US charger, that should be good enough when plugged in full time.

Australia is like the US.  1st world in all aspects.  Roads, infrastructure, shopping, and communication are just like the US.  Also, just like the US, there is no Australian culture.  Just like the US, we have no American Culture.  After experiencing so many traditional lifestyles crossing the South Pacific, we very much miss that.

Everything is expensive here.  Even more expensive than French Polynesia.  The supermarkets are well stocked and Booker did a good job looking for values.  A sandwich will cost $10, burger and fries $15, a beer $8, cup of coffee $5, and a dinner buffet $50.  Surprisingly, the Australian wine prices were of good value.  A bottle of nice white in the Bottle Shop will cost $7-$10.  They make good money here.  They have to!  We are looking forward to US prices again.

We will be leaving for the Gold Coast on Saturday.  Oscar will be single handing ZENITUDE so he will follow us through the winding rivers to make his navigation job easier.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Perfect Passage

Since Mexico, we have spent about 80 days sailing.  We are constantly watching the weather to find the next time period that would give us a safe and comfortable sail to our next destination.  Sometimes we’ve had to wait a week, other times, three weeks for this window of opportunity.

There is no such thing, at least so far, as the perfect weather window.  The models do not forecast very well past 3 days and you sometimes have to deal with what Mother Nature throws at you.  When evaluating the weather windows, I am willing to accept mostly good, some bad, but no ugly in the forecast.  You do not launch out knowing that you will hit bad weather.  That happens enough on it’s own.  The weather in the S. Pacific has been rough and people we have met have said this year is worse than any other.  It is not even an El Nino year.

Spinnaker and Main together
The latitudes between New Caledonia and Australia are not in the trade wind region like most of our trip.  Weather in the Coral Sea and south is determined by High and Low pressure areas and mostly Cold fronts pushing up from the high latitudes.  The Southern Ocean is where most of the weather is generated and the storms there have been causing a southerly component in the waves our entire time in the S. Pacific.

We had beam seas from Fiji and it was not comfortable but safe.  We wanted east wind and east swell since the heading to Brisbane was to the southwest.  Getting hit by waves from behind is better than getting hit from the side or front.

A beautiful day under spinnaker
Plenty of ships approaching Brisbane
Well, somehow the stars all aligned and we had the best weather ever in 8 years for a passage.  The only bad part was the first 18 hours when the seas were 10 feet with a primary swell on the beam and secondary wind waves from behind.  For the next 5 days we had east wind and east swell.  The winds were a perfect 15-20 knots except for an 18 hour period of light winds when we had to motor. There were no fronts or troughs to cross, no squalls, and not even any rain.   We even had to slow down a little to not arrive at the Moreton Bay Channel before sunrise but that also coincided with low tide and the changing tide gave us a nice push down toward and in to the Brisbane River.  We pulled up to the gated Quarantine Dock at the Rivergate Marina.  Customs/Immigration and Quarantine showed up within 30 minutes and we were cleared in by lunch.

We could not have asked for a better passage to finish up the South Pacific.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

New Caledonia

We made it to 'New Cal' in 5 days.  We were helped by 4 knots of current that was flowing in to the Havannah Pass.  The sun was setting and we still had 6 hours to go to Noumea so we picked up a mooring in quiet little Majic Bay and continued the next day.  Our friend Oscar, on ZENITUDE, was waiting for us when we came in to Marina Port Moselle.  He arranged for us to get a slip when all the other boats had to anchor out.  We hadn’t seen Oscar since Key West in Jan 2010 so it was a nice reunion.  He walked us through the clearing in process and we spent a lot of time with Oscar touring around, drinking great French red wine and eating smelly French cheeses.  The French really do know how to enjoy life.

New Caledonia was supposedly the setting for McHale’s Navy.  Not.  This place is nothing like what I expected because of that TV show.  It is a huge mountainous vegetated island.  Noumea has the feel of French St. Maarten only 10 times as big.  There is incredible wealth here because of the mining operations and the prices are just as incredible.  The lunch salad bar by the marina was $50 US for both of us.   The fruit and vegetable market was a convenient 100 meters from the marina.  Prices were like French Polynesia, expensive.

There is a large Melanesian population in New Cal but they seem to be living very much poverty level.  They don’t seem to have a cultural identity like the Fijians or Samoans so have gravitated toward Rastafarian.  Maybe the loss of culture was part of the French colonization process.  The French people here are the ones with the wealth and culture.  Just an observation.

Musket Cove

A Low was coming down from the tropics and it looked like heavy rain and winds were coming to Fiji so we headed a day early to Mololo Island where the Musket Cove Marina and Yacht Club is located.  They just finished up the 30th Annual Regatta the day before we arrived.  Musket Cove is a great place.  Lifetime Membership is $3 US but you must have sailed there from somewhere outside of Fiji.  We are member numbers 16,181 and 16,182.  Probably the largest Yacht Club membership in the world. This allows us to receive reciprocal privileges from other Yacht Clubs throughout the world.  Much cheaper than keeping a membership in Harvey Cedars for $1000 per year. We will need this in Australia.

We were on a mooring with LIGHTSPEED and CYNERGY nearby.
Every night the staff stocks a barbeque area with wood and everyone is welcome to bring and cook their own food or you can buy pre-made packs that you then cook on the grills.  It is a great idea and makes a wonderful time to meet others and socialize.  We made use of this every night, even the couple of nights that we had rain.

Initially we weren’t too concerned about the America’s Cup race.  However, every day when the race was on, the management set up an internet video feed to a big screen in the bar.  Even though it looked like the US was getting their butts kicked, we still went and watched.  Out of the 100+ people watching, almost all were Kiwis and Aussies.  There were probably 5 Americans in the whole place.  Well, after the Americans started to win, there were a lot of quiet pissed off people in that room.  I think they all are still in shock that they got beaten so badly.  They take their sailing very seriously down under.  We delayed our departure from Fiji so we could watch the final race and then sailed to Lautoka to clear out.  ELFRUN had been waiting there for 2 weeks so we joined up with them for the formalities.

We left Lautoka to anchor for the night behind the Cloudbreak Reef where there is one of the best surf spots in the world.  There is a floating restaurant called Cloud 9 where we were going to spend the remainder of our Fiji Dollars.  The wind was whooping and it wouldn’t have been a good night so we went back to Musket Cove with ELFRUN for another barbeque dinner.

We left at sunrise for the 700 mile trip to New Caledonia.