Our sailing adventure started May 23, 2017 when we left the Gold Coast seaway with our crew Josie Lowther and Greg Hollis on board SV Sans Souci. We were all looking forward with in-trepidation to enjoying the exciting crossing to New Caledonia. In all there were 20 boats participating in the Down Under East rally led by John Hembrow SV Songlines, all heading out at the same time.
it didn’t take long for the boats to disappear as they all headed on a different course. We had radio contact with all the boats to start with but as the distance between us widened we found we could no longer transmit, we were receiving so could listen to all the conversations going on but could not participate. We were lucky we at least had the Iridium Go which most of the 20 boats had installed and were able to email and message each other over the next 5 days. We also has our AIS operating so could see many of the boats traveling with us.
Josie (my sister) was our galley bitch and was to prepare all our lunches and dinners for the rest of our journey. Unfortunately she became seasick on the first day, however she still managed to feed us. We had the best meals provided around the clock. No alcohol however until the third day when my sister and I decided we should have a glass of wine for lunch.
The first night out on the water was a bit uncomfortable, we had a two metre swell happening with 15-16 knot SE we motor sailed through the night reaching 8.8 knots at times. We had our watches arranged for 4 hours, I started the first watch at 6pm followed by Hugh at 10pm then Greg at 2 pm. I always find it difficult to sleep on the first night and so be it, I went 24 hours before I finally got to sleep.
The next morning the winds had eased and were around 8 knots SE, we were motor sailing with both motors. The boys put the screecher out around lunch time, it ran for a couple of hours giving us 6 knots with the Port motor running. It was fun and games a bit later when they decided to give the spinnaker a run. We had not used it before as it was a swap with Tony and Vicki Little from L’ Attitudes. It was bright yellow and a tad too small for our boat but the boys managed to get a bit of mileage out of her until we saw a storm heading our way and decided it was time to come down. Alas the sock got stuck and they were unable to retrieve it in the normal manner. One had to winch in on the port side whilst the other had to lower the halyard. Greg then dived on the spinnaker and pulled it safely to the trampolines. When things had settled down and spinnaker safely tucked away the main and headsail went up again and the winds now at 20 knot southerly allowed us to enjoy our first sail which took us through the night. Our galley bitch was fully recovered from her sea sickness and was in great form making us scones jam and cream for morning tea.
We covered a lot of ground overnight and still had good winds 15 SE for most of the day we continued to enjoy a good sail and our galley bitch produced a lovely salmon salad for lunch with coleslaw and our first glass of wine (girls only). Caught a striped tuna….had to throw it back. Vindaloo curry for dinner…keep it coming Josie
Still moving along nicely we had a good reach 15-18 ESE. Only 180 NM from Noumea. We did our washing which was a bit of fun trying to peg things on the line. The whole cockpit was full of washing blowing in the breeze.
it was time to send our parents ashes and message in the bottle that our youngest sister Vicki had put together 18 months ago. We sprinkled most of mum and dads ashes at Bridgewater Bay, Portland Victoria, at a huge family gathering. We had all written a brief message and our contact email addresses on the message in the bottle, we also included some of our parents ashes and $5 which was to help with their traveling expenses. We were hopeful that if someone found the bottle and opened it that they would once again send them on their journey.
We had a meeting at dinner time to decide whether we pushed on to get to New Caledonia early afternoon the next day. It was decided that we would give Sans Souci everything she had to save spending another day on the water. We gunned both motors and full sails and made good time through what was a rough sleepless night.
We are now on the last leg of our journey only 30nm to go to Noumea.
We washed our sheets and towels whilst making our way to the lagoon at New Caledonia, we had ships everywhere and a P&O passenger ship came into the lagoon just behind us.
We celebrated with a luscious lunch of smoked chicken and antipasto, coleslaw and baguettes cooked in the oven. Washed down with a delicious bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne.
We made our way into the Harbour at Port Moselle playing our Down Under music as we circled all the boats that had arrived ahead of us. It had taken us 5 days 6 hours and 27 minutes to reach the lagoon of New Caledonia.
Our leader of the Down Under East rally, John Hembrow SV Songlines instructed us to contact Port Moselle by VHF radio 67 and he told us to be patient. Apparently apart from our 20 boats there were also several other large groups all trying to get cleared through customs. The skipper of the boat Hugh, had to take the dinghy into the marina and fill out all the paper work for customs. He then returned with a dinghy number that allowed us to take the dinghy into the marina for three days. We then had to wait for customs who were being transported around the Harbour by our leader John Hembrow, he had arranged for all our boats to be cleared on the day. When customs finally got to us we had to surrender our single potato, a few onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumber and any other fruit or vegetables we may have had. We saved our cabbage and carrots by making coleslaw and cooked potatoes eggs and onion to make potato salad. Also squeezed our lemons and limes and threw away the skins. Customs were very good and quick and before long we were cleared to go ashore for the first time in 6 days. We had to remain in the Harbour as the marina was full to bursting. we met many other members of our group ashore and had a celebration at the bar for sundowners.
After we all settled in and most boats arrived, we attended the Bonjour Les Marines welcome dinner organized by our leader DUR, John Hembrow and Herve. It was a pretty spectacular night with a special welcome by Wechecha traditional music and Kanak sounds and rhythm.