Sunday, 30 October 2011

Dodging Whales

So, we’re working our way down the Queensland coast and had to dodge Humpbacks in a few places. We came up upon a momma and her calf having a good ole time slapping the water with their tails, over and over again, sounded like canon blasts. We didn’t even see them, having a nice little spinnaker run down the coast on a lovely sunny day. Then all of a sudden, there they were, 20 meters off the port beam. They didn’t seem to mind, just ignored us and kept playing with each other. The young one was doing flips. Looked like it would be fun to be a whale, splashing about in warm sunny waters. Here, momma was laying upside down on her back smacking the water.

Well, we are tucked up inside the harbour of Mooloolaba, waiting for weather to pass through. Had a lovely day sail down from Fraser today. We got up at sun rise, about 4:30 and left at 5:00am to cross the bar at Wide Bay and head down here, 60 miles hence. We spent the day before wiggling our way through the “Great Sandy Straights” behind Fraser Island. Spent the night before in front of Kingfisher Bay resort, went for a walk in the bush there. Beautiful place, I liked the straights, though we sure had to pay attention as it was full of sand bars and little islets. We had to time it right with the tides, caught a flood heading down, but had to get it right so it would ebb out on the lower stretches. All went well and we tucked behind Pelican Bay, a sandy point just before the bar and waited for morning to make the grand exit into open sea. Luckily, the weather’s been calm, so was easy as. It gets pretty nasty there in blustery conditions.

Anyway, the Wx is a bit crazy, today NE, tomorrow SE to 30, maybe 40. Then on Wednesday back to NE and Thursday back to SE. So, guess Wednesday is the day to do the last 50 miles to Manly, near the mouth of the Brisbane river. Good timing as Julie needs to catch a plane out of Brisbane on Thursday. We’ll  hold up here for the summer, at least that’s plan at the moment. As a friend once said, life happens while you’re making other plans...

So, that’s the news from EQ, where the winds are fair, the seas following and the crew content. (sure was today anyway). Cheers all.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

We're Here in New Caledonia

We finally arrived in Port Moselle, Noumea, New Caledonia. Well, actually we arrived two days ago, but had to first find a French créperie, after of course doing the quarantine/customs/immigration dance. All good as they let us keep some of our fresh food we got in Vanuatu.

We had a good two day passage. Did more motoring then I like with light airs the first day, but finally the wind kicked in a little and had a lovely sail coming into the Loyalty Islands to the east of New Cal. The skies were clear and sunny during the day and ¾ moon for the first part of the night, then a bright star-lit night until morning. Jupiter was shinning bright right overhead. Another boat left Port Resolution just after us (folks we hiked to the mountain with), so had their company on the journey across to here. It turned out there were many yachts all headed to the same place, so was a busy night keeping track of them all. I like it better when there’s no one around. Makes for a better night’s sleep. J

New Cal has one of the biggest barrier reefs in the world. We came through the pass at 3:00 in the morning. Luckily, the skies were clear the wind light. We were a bit ahead of the tide so came in with 3 ½ knots of current pushing us in through the reef. But the charts are excellent and navigation lights all working, so no big dramas. But then we had another 50 miles to motor to get to Noumea, arriving about 10:00 am. Noumea is a reasonably big city (for the south Pacific islands) and the officials work 7 days a week as there are lots of boats here, so didn’t have to wait until Monday morning. So after all that and a nana nap, we managed to have dinner at the local water front bar and watch the All Blacks give Argentina a good thumping for the quarter-finals. It was actually a good game, though the best was listening to all the Kiwi’s in the crowd yelling and jumping up and down. And of course all the Aussies in the crowd were cheering on Argentina. I think they know what’s coming next weekend when Oz takes on NZ in the semi-finals. J

Monday morning we managed to give the boat a good wash since we are tied to a dock again with a fresh water spigot. It was nice to get all the black volcano ash of the boat, well at least most of it. Speaking of volcano ash here’s some pic’s of Port Resolution and Mt Yasur.

Port Resolution, named after Cook’s Ship. A bit roll-ee and open to the NE, but well worth it. Wish they’d get the charts sorted. There were steam vents all along the rock walls and up on the hills behind the water. We could have boiled our lobster (yes, fresh lobster for dinner) in a vent instead of on the stove had we been so inclined. This place is geologically very unstable, at least for human habitation, but many people have lived here for many years. A very independent lot.

We could have hired some locals with a big 4-wheel drive pickup to take us up, but we decided to walk and get some exercise. Another couple off another boat joined us for an enjoyable afternoon walk through the jungle. Here’s the walk up the mountain.

 Very hot steam vents everywhere, which really started spewing when a truck passed over the road. Made you wonder if the whole place was going to go up any second. But it didn’t and we made it to the top, gingerly creeping to the edge of ‘doom’. J


And here was our first look into the abyss. I was wondering if anyone brought the ring to cast into Mordor.


The mountain was booming away, incredible loud, like cannon blasts, echoing off the side walls, hot lava rocketing skyward, the ground rumbling under our feet. It made us flitch every time until we got use to it, beginning to believe we might actually survive the fiery depths of mother earth’s moods.

Then we had to stay for sunset. J We’ve seen many wonder-filled and glorious sunsets, but never one like this.

Here's a particularly spectacular blast, generally about every 5 minutes. Normally, it would be rumbling away, spewing here and there. But then everything would go quiet for a bit and wa-la, big ba-boom and the mountain would sway again.

And then as we were thinking about catching a ride back in the dark (didn’t want to hike back for 3 hours in the dark jungle), mother earth was kind enough to give us the grand finale.

So, we did manage to get a ride back, a very bouncy ride back, standing in the back of a big pickup. And we made our way back to the boat with big smiles on our face, content to be floating in cool water without being covered in hot magma or the earth opening up under our feet to be forever encrusted in the depths of the earth.

And the next day we pulled the hook with the rumbling mountain in the background and headed west again.

That’s the news from Equanimity, where the winds are fair, the seas following and the crew content.