Saturday, August 6, 2011

Welcome home!

There has been a pattern of dolphins farewelling and welcoming us on big legs, but things have gone to a new level! I was cooking lunch, and thought to look out the window for a first glimpse of Tasmania, and there it was! Upstairs for a better look. "There is Tasmania!!!" then Sam says "and there are some dolphins", and after a few secs looking… "no, they are not dolphins!!!". Across the horizon was a wall of spouts! We closed fast on them, it was not easy to stop the boat, two headsails poled out, so we just sailed into the middle of the whales. A few had to move for us, reluctantly rolled to the side. We did have a couple of bumps, but they seemed fairly unconcerned. I stood at the bow and watched the tails pass under us, and Sam took photos while trying to decide whether to pat them!
I thought there were 200 (I have practised counting audiences…) Sam thought 150, either way there were a lot of them! 8-10 metres, we presume they're minke whales. That had to be the wildlife highlight of the whole year!
The Bass Strait crossing was very easy, fair wind, no swell. We still had mostly good winds down the coast of Tassie, but a bit of motoring as well. Stopped for a sleep at Maria Island, then Anne and exchange student Pierre met us at Dunalley for the last little sail to Hobart. We struggled up the river and found our mooring about 10pm in the dark and it was done. Ellida is home, I'm home, journey over. It's wonderful to be home, it was wonderful to cross the oceans, to visit new countries, meet with so many kind people.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eat Your Tinsel, Miss Fish

Stephen, my hair-dresser, gave me a few lures. One, a cute little red thing caught some fine fish before it was lost in the bad patch of big yellow-fin tuna that claimed so many hooks and some lures before we reached Australian shores. Another of his lures is a shocking tousle of tinsel looking for it's Christmas Tree. It is not a thing of beauty, but the gut feeling is that something so attention seeking must surely find a fish. Stephen, however said he had towed it half way across the Pacific and never a bite, so there was a challenge. I dragged it from Fiji and it was ignored by one and all. We hooked a Tip-Top 12 grain bag off NSW, quite a fighter when full of water, and showed great colours as it was played in. An albatross made a similar error of judgement and was released unharmed, but neither of them went for the tinsel. This morning, however, just off Eden, I found the fish that would. Both crash lines went out, Steve Scott's light purple squid, the lure that broke the drought and just keeps catching, and finally, The Tinsel! Two nice fat albacore.
We're having a very easy run down the coast. Light winds so a lot of motoring, but calm seas and a few fast sails as well.
Here's a pic of our last view of the mainland before crossing the treacherous Tasman Sea.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hey, Sydney, look me!

We got away from Tuncurry/Forster at first light. It's been a slow day, light variable winds, mostly on the nose, so either motoring at 2.5kn, or motor-sailing in the wrong direction at 4. We did some of both, but now doing a respectable 4.5kn towards home. It was a lovely day on the water anyhow, sunny and calm, nice coastline, Seal Rocks, Broughton Islands. We had some close up whale time, one went vertical and poked his head up to watch us for a while. Another popped up in our wake, a bit of a surprise. We should pass Newcastle tonight, and Sydney around lunchtime.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thar she, Thar she, Thar she…

Finally escaped from Coff's Harbour and had a glorious 24 hours. We always seem to have a dolphin escort before big adventures, and a pair visited us in the marina, popping up between boats, and said goodbye to us at the harbour entrance. Still a reasonable swell from the big winds, but a smooth sea and heaps of whales. So many we stopped counting! They are all heading north, we are heading south. The East Australian Current helped us along, just like in Finding Nemo, we were up to 7kn in the night, with just one sail and not much wind. A night of lights. Lights of towns, a bit different from the empty oceans. Lights of ships, there are many many ships, one even radioed us to see if we were planning to stay in front of him. Great shooting stars, great stars actually. Very bright lightening on the horizon. Dolphins running alongside, lighting up with phosphorescence.
Morning brought a nice little tuna, first Australian fish, but also a forecast of more southerly wind. The wind has already started to turn and stopped our move south, so we're motoring into Forster/Tuncurry to anchor for a night or two. Forecast is good once this SW bit is over.
Sam did some great work on the wind vane steering and it's even better than before. He also scaled the mast repeatedly till we finally got the wind speed/direction instrument working. On the down side, the little tiller pilot, known in the family as 'Nav-boy' has died, too much water in his motor. He steered the boat for months and months, we'll miss him.

Here is Sam posing before the waves that kept us in Coff's Harbour, then Ellida, illegally parked in Tuncurry, followed by some close up whale time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Caledonia pics

So here we were. Mare, Loyalty Group, then passing Grand Terre, New Caledonia. The Araucaria pines were the highlight for Matt, although you can see he was pretty excited with his mahi-mahi, and we were all very pleased when the repaired wind vane steering was re-commissioned! And before you complain about too many fish photos.... there were many fish that missed their photo shoot, it could be worse. Very fishy waters, or maybe it was the change to Steve's little mauve squid lure.. We did lose a few more lures and a lot of broken hooks on the way to Australia, big yellowfin I think.
Ellida is now parked at Coffs Harbour waiting for some nasty southerly weather to pass. Malindi and Bilge came down from Brisbane, spent a night on the boat and have gone home taking Matt with them. We miss him, he was a wonderful shipmate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How Cold My Nose..

Tonight I put on socks for the first time in a year, last night I enjoyed warming chilled knees and nose under the blankets. The year of boat is coming to an end. 322 miles, three days to Coff's Harbour now.
This passage from New Caledonia to Australia has been a little frustrating, half the time we have been motoring, had two days into headwinds and just two days of good sailing so far, but there have been rewards. The sea has been very calm, even some glassy times. The other night we crossed the Capel Bank. Most exciting to be over just 60m of water instead of the usual kilometres. There was even a 10m patch further south. At sunrise the Wind dropped right away so I downed sail and put a line in... then wind came back. So put sails up again. The wind died. Dropped sails put line down, had bites! Lost bait, changed hooks and dropped line again, then wind really came back and I could barely get to the bottom, so back to sailing and no fish. Something big took the skirt and half the hook of the lure on the crash line, so I nearly caught fish twice that day.
Ellida came with a broken wind vane steering system, but Paul had said he could never get it working properly, so I hadn't worried too much about it. Nausica said I should fix it, Marcel nagged about it and found some bits of metal to repair it with and in Curacao we finished the repairs. Now, finally, Matt put the last bit's back on, attached the vane and tried it out. WOW!! it is a fantastic thing, they were all right! It works beautifully keeping Ellida sailing nicely as the wind moves around. Finally after crossing half the world.
I should mention here, how wonderful it is to have Matt and Sam on the boat. Three competent sailors. I have relaxed, perhaps too much, but they are both able to take on all the tasks and responsibilities of the boat. I'm extremely lucky to have them!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Escape from New Caledonia!

The journey from Fiji took a turn for the worse as the wind on our nose ignored the forecast of a gradual increase to 17 kn and went straight to 25. Horrid conditions and even the captain had to have a sleep before he could eat his dinner! Faced with another few days of tacking into it to make Noumea, we decided to sail across to the island of Mare in the Loyalty Group and anchored in Baie du Nord. This is completely forbidden as Noumea is the only port of entry and you must clear into the country before anchoring anywhere, so I was very much hoping not to meet any French authorities. We spent a few glorious days in this wonderful bay. Crystal clear water, turtles, mantas, wonderful coral right on the shoreline. Matt was excited to see the Araucarias. These are southern hemisphere pines found only in a few countries and New Caledonia has thirteen! species. Going ashore didn't really fit with our true story of sheltering from adverse winds, but eventually we went and actually touched the Araucarias. Fished from the boat and caught a big trigger fish, which the locals assured us was a very good one to eat.
One evening we were all looking in the general direction of the set sun when a huge humpback broached and crashed back into the sea, then spent some time lolling on it's side waving it's flukes in the air. It was nice to hear the villagers up the bay yahooing and cheering as well! Just to top the evening off a large manta ray swam up to the side of the boat, turned and swam directly under us, and in so doing, snagged both our fishing lines, breaking them off! We were sad to leave, but when the wind allowed we set off on an overnight crossing to the Grand Terre of New Caledonia.
Entered the pass at a good tide, caught a couple of skipjack tuna and put one into salt and lime cure, then spent a nice day sailing through the channels past reef and islands towards the west. Forecast said wait 12 hours, so we dropped anchor illegally yet again, in Baie Ire on Ile Ouen. I'm so glad we did, another gorgeous anchorage with totally different vegetation and soil from Mare. Turtles and an Osprey diving on a fish. As we looked for a good spot to drop anchor I chose a striking Araucaria Columnaris and headed for it. Next time I glanced up there was our Osprey, perched on the highest tip.
Matt is taking over as the most enthusiastic fisher, and soon had a line on the bottom. In just a few minutes we had three lovely little snapper ready for dinner.
First light, anchor was up and we made our way across the remaining 22 miles to Amedee Island with it's famous lighthouse, and out the pass into the Pacific, without meeting any gendarmes. Now there's just eight or nine hundred miles of water and Ellida will be back in Australia, having completed her circumnavigation. Wind is a bit light tonight so motor is on, but we caught a nice fat yellow-fin tuna and all stomachs are well.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Towards New Caledonia

We are 2/3 of the way to New Caledonia now. The first day and a half were really unpleasant with 25 kn and a messy 3 m sea. This was a tough start for Sam and Matt and they were thoroughly sea-sick. Captains have no such luxury so I just had to pretend all was well, but I certainly felt better back inside the reef in Fiji. On the bright side, we made excellent progress, doing 6-7 kn most of the time. Conditions gradually improved and stomachs came to some arrangement with inner ears. Morale took a huge boost as we started to catch some fish. We've landed three little tuna so far, and ate a whole one last night for the first decent meal of this leg. We've had 24 hours of rain and the wind has dropped and turned on our nose. Motor sailing now at just 4 kn and about 200 miles to go. The sea in front of us has some interesting features on the chart. Volcanic activity 1996, reefs with wrecks, discoloured water reported, shoals and isolated islands, so tomorrow we'll be navigating with caution!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Moce Fiji

Well the girls have flown home and left the three boys to do the blue job. We had to wait an extra few days in Lautoka for the new wind instrument to arrive in the mail, a combination of 'still day' in Suva, customs working hours, a weekend etc. We used the time well, putting the boat in a marina at Vuda Point and doing lots of preparation. Ate some more new foods, 'Drumsticks', a seed pod you can make curry with. Parcel arrived so we cleared out of Fiji, but rather than doing the correct thing and leaving straight away, we anchored at Momi Bay, just inside the reef to wait for the weather to improve. We had two sleeps there and Sam spent half a day on top of the mast fitting the new instrument. We now know why the old one fell off. It should have two clamps attaching it, but there was only one. When Matt found half a clamp in a drawer we understood. The previous owner must have dropped a bit from the mast and watched it splash overboard! The new one is very well fixed with nylock nuts and we don't expect it to go anywhere.
Weather was still a little strong but improving so we headed out through the pass and into the ocean again.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lautoka Market

Some pics, mostly from the market. At the bottom you can see the wild yam from the forest we bought. It weighs about 10kg! Above that are Ivi, you boil or bake them, a bit like chestnuts but better. We caught more fish, made kimchi.
Anne and Sabine have flown home, Matt and Sam are here and hopefully we will sail tomorrow for home. First we'll have to get the anchor up, it seems to be caught on a mooring....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lautoka to Malomo Lai Lai Island, Musket Cove Resort. 19th-22nd June

We arrived at Malomo Lai Lai, our island resort of sun and fun, at first made invisible by teeming rain and fog... but once the veil parted, we could negotiate the passage through the aqua coral reefs and drop anchor. There were 20 or more anchored yachts with a backdrop of coconut palms and sandy beaches and scenes of fun, fun, fun!
Rob paid a $1 registration fee at the marina, which meant we could use all the facilities at both resorts, 'Musket Cove' and 'Plantation', the Ellida being an international yacht.
Sabine was up at sunrise the next morning ready for day one, and her mission was for her first time ever, to do some wake-boarding and Dad has to go in the boat too! So out they went, Beanie stood up on the board for 2 seconds and crash…two more tries.. the same, and then like magic she was upright and staying that way, scooting around the bay, past the Ellida and all the way back without falling, looking almost professional! Ouch! That was along squat!
It's day two and the girls have had swims in the many pools, paw paw slushies and sun-baked hours relaxing, reading books drawn from the book-swap library. It was also an exciting day because the new crew, brother Sam and friend Matt, arrived on the ferry. We have a nice crowd on board the Ellida!!
Day three and the captain sends the boys to do a mandatory snorkel on the reef before they get down to scrubbing the bottom of the boat. Sam has been dubbed the Sail Master so he tackled the job of adjusting the new furling and stays… up the mast twice in one day!
Meanwhile the girls…languishing at the beach today with iced coffees and potato wedges. Beanie played a game of volley ball and rounded up the other teenagers and kids for a game of soccer on the beach in the cool evening air. Our last day of the resort is over! Tomorrow it's back to Lautoka to get to the post office, market and customs in readiness for the boy's next adventurous crossing of the Pacific!

You can see the view from the mast, Sam loves to go up there.

Monday, June 20, 2011