Thurs 20 August, 6:21 PM (Isle of Pines, New Caledonia)

It seems sou’westers are the same the world over … wet, cold and uncomfortable. So it was that we spent last night battling to get around the bottom of New Caledonia, into weather that would make you homesick for Bass Strait.

From the relative shelter of the Loyalty Islands, which lie to the east (and in the lee) of New Caledonia, we tacked 75 miles south to Walpole Island, hoping to then tack kind of west out into the Coral Sea.  But it was not to be.  The strength of the south westerly kept our track more northerly than we’d like, so early morning we decided to travel on a few miles and make a stopover on the Isle of Pines.  Not the resort side, but a small bay on the east side called
Baie de Oro (Which Tony says means Bay of Gold)

Because we haven’t cleared customs, quarantine or immigration into New Caledonia, there’s no thought of us going ashore, but just to be safe, I’ve hoisted my (enormous) French flag.  Looks like something off Hornblower … come to think of it, if it was on Hownblower I’d be a target!

On the food side of things, we’ve been sharing it around a bit.  But I must say, Tony is showing himself to be a dab hand in the galley.  He knocked up a wonderful dinner last night, under what must be described as “difficult conditions” and today upon arrival at this turquoise and white sand paradise he had an omelet with beans, fresh tomatoes and toast whipped up in 30 minutes.

As a newcomer to ocean sailing Kevin is doing famously.  Although he says he should have read the fine print on the travel brochure before signing up.  I asked him for a response to his first 3 days at sea and he said … “interesting”.  I asked for some more specifics, and he said something about all the bruises from simply moving around and wishing he could take a leak in under 30 minutes.  (You might have to use your imagination here, but combine several layers of clothing, including wet weather gear, constant boat movement, always needing to keep one hand for the ship and the effects of gravity and you begin to understand his frustration and why bottling it up is often the best option).

Justin … “had a wonderful first 3 days” and that’s a direct quote. He wet his bed last night too … or more to the point … his bed got wet.  Having successfully sealed the hatch on the front cabin, he paid less attention to his own, resulting in something more than the occasional drip making it’s way in.  Justin also nearly saved our lovely big red bucket from going over the side, as we pounded through some lumpy seas, but he chose instead to keep his feet dry.      The bucket came loose from it’s position at the mast and was floating down the scuppers in the direction of his waiting arms, but before it could make the distance to the cockpit, another wave came by and lifted it up, out and over the handrails … into the Big Blue.  And Justin’s feet remained dry.

Terrence has maintained his quiet, thorough way aboard and is the first to reach for the washing-up bucket when the dishes start piling up in the evening. He’s making good progress through his books too and if sailing on Chimere isn’t enough he’s half way through Eric Hiscock’s landmark work, “Around The World in Wanderer 2”.  Like all of us, Terrence has pulled out the winter woollies, with this particular tropical paradise best enjoyed behind thermals.

At the moment, Tony is up to his shoulders in the pantry, head buried amongst the boxes of food.  Stacked up behind him … a couple of tins of tuna (no we haven’t caught any) a tin of chick peas, two sachets of tomato paste, a packet of pasta, some fresh onions and oil … is this guy good or what …
Apparently, Tony, our own answer to Iron Chef … or as we call him  “Ocean-Chef Tony” is cooking here, just like he does at home, although Tony says he’ll get into trouble if I write that …

After what I’m sure will be a wonderful night’s sleep (tonight) we plan to exit here early tomorrow and try again to get around the southern point.  The wind has gone a bit more southerly and so we will (hopefully) be able to set a westerly course and then take advantage of whatever comes along from the Highs and Lows we expect to meet as we inch our way to Sydney.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and wonderful Isle of Pines!

Rob