KatieKat 2003 Cruise Chapter Twelve
Fiji - New Caledonia Passage

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8 October 2003Report #1, Leaving Fiji
9 October 2003Report #2, Uneventful
10 October 2003Report #3, Piggy and Autopilot Surfing
11 October 2003Report #4, Groovin'
12 October 2003Report #5, Birthday Calm Before Front
13 October 2003Report #6, Post-Front YUK
14 October 2003Final Report, Inside Havannah Passage
GoFwdTo Noumea, New Caledonia

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This page covers our Fiji to New Caledonia passage, between 8 October and 14 October, 2003. It is comprised of our SailMail e-mails (in italics) complemented by photos taken along the way.

[Map Southwest Pacific] [Chart Fiji New Caledonia]

8 October, 2003 -- Report #1 Leaving Fiji

Report #1
Date: 8 October 2003
Time: 1700
Position: 17deg55minS by 17
Course: 231degM
Speed: 7.5kts (third reef)
Distance to Havannah Passage entrance, New Caledonia: 617nm
Last 24 Hours:
WindSpeed: 25 gusting to 28
Wind Direction: SE
Waves: yes, many

We left the marina around noon and we just came out through Malolo Passage (chart says this is not for big ships). Nasty nasty reefs on both sides of the passage. The wind had picked up to 20+, we were coming out with a decent (1.5kt) ebb tide but the wind was off the port bow so we were motorsailing into a miserable chop. We had left a little later than planned, and now had the sun in front of us - this is not good, as you can't see the water color to judge the depth. Just as we thought we were safely through, the depth alarm (set for 25') sounds off and shows 8.8 ft - and keeps sounding off! Here, I'm trying to head for the pre-determined (imaginary) waypoint
[that I thought was safe - IF you believe the chart, alleged to have lots of inaccuracies] while Kathy's up on deck staring down at the water and not seeing anything but deep blue. According to the chart, we had just gone over the edge and were now beyond the range of the depthsounder, which had decided to simply scare the hell out of us!

[Vuda Point Channel] [Vuda Point Tanks]

Leaving Vuda Point Marina at low tide when the reef is uncovered - in a crosswind this must be fun for larger high-windage boats. In the right photo you can see the oil storage tanks behind the marina.

[Depth 8.8ft]Damn depthsounder! The only error indication is the blinking DEPTH word, while the depth alarm is blasting away. That depth is supposed to represent the last recorded depth before the depthsounder no longer registered. Wish they simply inhibited the numerics and shallow alarm.

[Kathy Checking Depth]Our complacency shattered as we were leaving Malolo Pass, you can see an undressed Kathy peering into the sun trying to find the alleged shallows right after she jumped out of our protected main saloon. I say undressed, because Kathy ALWAYS wears a hat and fully-protective clothing when in the sun.

I'm typing this an hour after the pass and we've settled down on a beam reach with me, once again, trying to slow the boat down. A nasty front had come through last night while we were in the marina, and now the residual confused seas riding on a pretty large swell is making our life a nice continuous roller-coaster ride.

I stopped typing the above and... went from 2nd reef to 3rd reef to 4th reef and when a breaking beam wave came over the entire boat (the port hull went into the curl like a surfer in a pipeline) I took the main down completely. The wind is up to 25-28 knots and we're averaging six knots under jib alone (get up 8 or 9 sometimes) and it's not comfy, especially when we go tilting waaaaaaaaay over on the side of a beam swell + wave. The wind is slowly clocking over behind us so I hope the seas decide to do the same. Luckily, I had just closed up the back end of the boat when the wave hit so we're dry inside the main saloon. Had a few more like it since then ... a little unnerving, but the boat's doing just fine.

It's now 7:30pm and 600nm to go. Nice moon out there - we can see what's out there... but I'd rather not.

BTW, I had done a brief website update just before we left. Happy to report the prop didn't fall off and the unusual engine vibration has disappeared.

Fun start to our passage to Noumea.

[Max Windspeed 29.3]Maximum windspeed recorded for this passage (photo taken later, as the instrument stores this number). At the time, the wind was directly abeam with beam seas - not pleasant.

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9 October, 2003 -- Report #2 Uneventful

Report #2
Date: 9 October 2003
Time: 1400hrsFijiTime
Position: 18deg42minS 175deg24minE
Course: 231edegM
Speed: 6kts
Distance to Havannah Passage entrance, New Caledonia: 509nm
Last 24 Hours: 124nm (sailed on jib alone for about 12 hours)
WindSpeed: 12kts
Wind Direction: SE
Waves: small, riding on a 2m swell

During the night the seas and wind finally eased up but we continued sailing on the jib alone for some peace and relaxation, at the expense of speed.

Mopped up the boat - that wave had slopped in through the open head compartment hatch (never happened before) to the extent that I had to use the sump pump to empty it! The cockpit also had a mini-swimming pool for a short time, but the huge scuppers really worked.

I finally hoisted the main just after daybreak as the wind continued to decrease. It has turned into a lovely day, and we've been broad reaching in relatively light winds (10kts); they've just now started to come up and as I type this at almost 3:00pm the wind is up to 15 and boatie's doing 7.5 knots, but it's beginning to get lumpy...

We're still a little woozy from yesterday's ordeal ... something to be said for starting passages in calm weather in order to get acclimatized.

Enough jabbering,

Bye from the sunny South Pacific,

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10 October, 2003 -- Report #3 Piggy and Surfing Under Autopilot

Report #3
Date: 10 October 2003
Time: 0800Fiji
Position: 19deg31minS by 173deg37minE
Course: 232degM
Speed: 6kts (third reef in main)
Distance to Havannah Passage entrance, New Caledonia: 397nm
Last 24 Hours: 142nm (that's better, but spent all night with 4th reef)
WindSpeed: 18-20kts
Wind Direction: SE, clocking around to the east
Waves: plenty and confused - maybe 1m on 2m swell. It's bumpy!

Hi all!

I'm becoming used to it - there is no such critter as 20 knot winds in the open ocean without an associated yukky chop. Makes me long for the 30-knot winds off Candlestick Park with zero waves.

Yesterday evening, just like the evening before, the winds came up and changed direction slightly so they were on the beam again. We're resigned to it, but kept the boat moving reasonably with a fourth reef in the mainsail throughout the night. Had another wave break over us (nothing like the first one the previous night), but we were well buttoned-up so no water got inside. This is still much better than having to beat into this stuff.

The big discussion onboard: Piggy was dislodged and found to be lying on the bed! For those of you not staying up with the website, Piggy is a little wooden figurine that sits on a rubber mat on the DVD player on the TV tray in front of our bunk, and has never budged no matter how bumpy it's been. The discussion centers around the strong possibility that one of us kicked Piggy off his perch ... so, can we claim he's never budged, or do we 'fess up and say we found him toppled?

[Piggy on Rubber NonSkid] [Piggy on Blanket] [Piggy Moved]

The left photo shows Piggy in his normal position. The second photo shows Piggy toppled down onto the blanket. Did one of us kick him? The third photo, taken later on in this passage, shows that Piggy had somehow wriggled off his perch in the bouncy conditions we experienced.

From the preceding, you can see that one has to be a little wacko to do this, and it doesn't take much to amuse oneself...

Ocean sailing is greatly recommended as a weight-reduction regimen. I guess we're just making allowance for those great French pastries when we get to Noumea.
[It's not that we were barfing, it's because we simply had no appetite in these conditions].

Presently (0830) the wind is still around 20 and has swung aft quite a bit so we may put up the spinnaker as our mainsail is quite inefficient when we're running. Hmmm, it just hit 25 knots ... maybe I'll just wing out the jib... wait, one -


Life is never dull out here: I went forward and rigged up the snatch block then wung out the jib. Wind up to 25. Looked stable but the jib was pumping as the wind was still a little off to one side, when all of a sudden POW the snapshackle opened up, the jib went flogging with the block attached to the jibsheet (not good if it hits something), so a quick exercise in pulling the jib back onto its original (stbd) position. Whew! Lost the strap for attaching the block, but I have plenty more. Wind is still 25, but the way the boat's corkscrewing on these beam seas I may drop down to the fourth reef...

Kathy just woke up wondering what all the noise was...


Right after I wrote the above, we caught a wave and took off - boat peaked at 13.2 knots, the autopilot happily not budging. Love it when racing, not when passagemaking ... so we put a fourth reef into the main and have now settled down to a sedate 7.5 knots. Like I said, never dull...

Enough for now,

Hope y'all have a great day!

Autopilot and Surfing.
Hey, after thinking about it, we may have discovered a way to surf the boat under autopilot! When I said the autopilot didn't budge during our surf - this is GOOD. In the past, when the boat bore off to go surfing, the autopilot (in compass-control mode) would attempt to correct and execute exactly the WRONG maneuver: turn the boat back on course INTO the wind! This could spell doom for a multihull (you always BEAR OFF to stabilize a multihull when reaching). Now, what I just discovered is that when the autopilot is set to TRACK mode (i.e., controlled by the GPS cross-track error) it is relatively insensitive to short-term disturbances and thus allows them to proceed without immediate correction. In this case, the boat bore off and went happily surfing and the autopilot did nothing about it. Like I said, this is GOOD, and I will have to do some more testing on our way to Australia to see if this is a consistent response. If it is, I will no longer be too worried about the boat taking off surfing while we are plodding along during a passage. Don't get me wrong, if I were racing or even day-sailing, then I would always try to get the boat up on a surf!

[Max Boatspeed 13.2kts]Our peak surfing speed - we've gone faster in the past. How nice to have the instruments store the maximum boatspeed and windspeed readings for later retrieval. In addition, note the erroneous depth being displayed with blinking DEPTH letters whenever it's too deep for the depthsounder to register - better to show nothing, I think.

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11 October, 2003 -- Report #4 Groovin'

Report #4
Date: 11 October 2003
Time: 0900
Position: 20deg34minS by 171deg31minE
Course: 227degM
Speed: 6kts
Distance to Havannah Passage entrance, New Caledonia: 263
Last 24 Hours: 130nm
WindSpeed: 13- 16kts
Wind Direction: turning Easterly (behind us)
Waves: Nice, as they're in-line with the boat. 1ft on 1m swell

Hi Everybody!

Finally, we're in the groove - we each had enough sleep last night so the woozies are all gone. Both Kathy and I are feeling sprightly again.

Beautiful sunshiny day. Overnight the wind had dropped, so we had quite a few hours of slow sailing which affected our average speed. :-( Right now trying to make up for it by flying the blue (intermediate) spinnaker AND mainsail (unusual for us) - too chicken to put up the BUS (Big Ugly Spinnaker).

Altered course to the south a little bit in order to avoid some seamounts and something labeled on the chart "Submarine Volcano" at around 21degSx170.4degE.

Caught two more flying fish on our foredeck, but they were too small to eat.

All's well and the boat continues to do wonderfully. Nice not to have any politics out here at sea, and you should see how wonderfully supportive of each other the cruisers of all nationalities are out here.

'Bye for now.

[Yaqona Root Package] [Floating Yaqona Root Packages]

We still had four Yaqona root packages aboard when we left Fiji. These were to be used as gifts for the village chiefs and the kava sevusevu ceremony. Inasmuch as they're claimed to be mildly narcotic (I think the drink tastes like dishwater), we tossed them overboard to ensure we couldn't be accused of being drug-runners :-). Bio-degradeable root, newspaper, and non-synthetic string, in case you were concerned about ocean pollution.

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12 October, 2003 -- Report #5 Birthday Calm Before Approaching Front

Report #5
Date: 12 October 2003
Time: 0800
Position: 21deg19minS by 170deg00.000minE!
Course: 236degM
Speed: 4.5kts, motoring
Distance to Havannah Passage entrance, New Caledonia: 170nm
Last 24 Hours: I'm afraid to look... exactly 100nm (min. wind)
WindSpeed: zippo, nada, nothing, nic,
Wind Direction: round and round and round
Waves: flat as a milkpond would be with no breeze

Yesterday was a truly lovely day, and we flew spinnakers all day long and on into the evening, as the wind gradually petered out. Would you believe there are two other boats in sight - they're Aussie boats on the final legs of their circumnavigations (one left in '96, the other 22 years ago!).

We "wafted" through the night, with the blue spinnaker gently pulling us along at about 3 knots in the 8-10 knot tailbreeze. Flat seas and a beautiful moonlit night. Peaceful. Finally, at 0300 we threw in the towel, lowered the chute, and fired up the iron genny ... actually, it's aluminium (that's aluminum). We've been putting along ever since in the flat calm.

[Big Ugly Spinnaker] [Blue Spin Nerissa Sail]

If you'll look closely in the right photo you'll see the sail of Nerissa- one of the boats in our group. They subsequently motored ahead far faster than we did and thus spent less time in the upcoming nasties.

The disquieting news is that there is a front ahead of us, and should pass over us around midnight tonight. Just hope it has no lightning. The humidity has shot up tremendously in the last few hours.

'Nuff for now - hope everyone has a great day!

Joe + Kathy,
already passed the submarine volcanos - shucks, I was hoping for a fireworks display for my birthday.

[Joe Headphones]Kathy took this photo in the nice weather as I was in the process of connecting with SailMail on the SSB. Good view showing our cruising table setup.

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13 October, 2003 -- Report #6 Post-Front YUK

Report #6
Date: 13 October 2003
Time: 0700NewCal, 0800Fiji
Position: Partially airborne, 21deg52degS by 168deg27minE
Course: 237degM
Speed: trying for 4 knots, in-between being airborne
Distance to Havannah Passage entrance, New Caledonia: 77.3nm
Last 24 Hours: 95 miles, I think
WindSpeed: 18-20kts
Wind Direction: SSW and we want to go WSW YUK!
Waves: Lumpy, bumpy, irregular, confused, you think of a bad word, that's it!

Yesterday the winds died out and we spent a lovely day gently motorsailing in a flat calm. Had I realized what was to come, I'd have put the pedal to the metal!

The highlight of the day
[yesterday] was the hot sunshower we each took. Refreshing.

[Sun Shower Setup] [Sun Shower Closeup]

No, you don't get to see the great photo of Kathy taking a shower! In this warm weather, the sun-heated shower works great, and washes some of the salt out of the cockpit. The intermediate block I had added to the boom for an external reefing line proves convenient.

The predicted front arrived in the early evening[yesterday], and it was a pussycat. Washed the boat a little, winds weren't much over 20, and there was no lightning. Using the radar, I was able to turn and avoid the larger squalls.

[Approaching Front] [Gap in Front]

The approaching front sure looks ominous. The right photo shows the clear area in the front that I found on the radar and we were able to get through with minimal fuss.

What came AFTER the front passed is I would not describe as pleasant (expletive deleted): the wind piped up from the SW at 20 knots and out of nowhere this horrible sea state developed. It certainly wasn't wind-generated alone, but must be caused by a current and perhaps seamounts under us, because it was/is simply like sailing outside the Golden Gate in the infamous 'Potato Patch'. Look inside a top-loading washing machine and you get the picture. This lasted all night long and is still going on as I type this, but now slightly diminished.

I experimented with all sorts of techniques to keep the boat moving and yet not have it take off (as it wants to if I ease up the least little bit). The objective was/is to sail as close to the wind as possible because that's where we want to go. I finally ended up by being undercanvassed: I actually partially roller-reefed the jib (I've only done this once before, as it is poor practice) and triple-reefed the main AND had one of the engines ticking over and motorsailed with the autopilot set to the apparent wind. The motor allowed the boat to punch through the waves without being stopped by them, and the inadequate sail area kept the boat from taking off but yet had some drive and a stabilizing effect. With daylight and a slightly diminished wind, I've pulled out the full jib and put the motor away and we're doing ok plodding along. Remember, I could bear off slightly and take off like a bat out of hell - the boat would probably take it, but I don't think we could (unless we were racing, of course).

[Reefed Jib]The sailshape is not as bad as I had remembered it, and having both jibsheets tensioned helps. In retrospect, I should have rigged my heavy-weather jib, hoisted on a separate forestay using the spinnaker halyard.

I love the fact that the Seawind is a very wide boat - the stability is wonderful. A downside in these conditions is that you now have each hull attacking a different wave/swell, so the motion is, uh, irregular. I can't say we're comfortable, but inside the main saloon the boat's motion is tolerable - nothing falls off these rubber non-slips on the table! The good news [I should have written - 'comforting'] is that some larger monohulls sailing in our vicinity are feeling pretty uncomfortable.

In the night a boobie bird landed on the bow pulpit and tried to hang on - he kept losing his balance, taking off, landing again (amazing to watch him compensate for the boat's pitching)... kept this up for about an hour, trying swapping bows, until he finally gave up and flew away (in disgust, I'm sure). Wish I could have told him to land on a midships railing.

[Bird on Starboard Pulpit] [Bird on Port Pulpit]

Here's the tweetie that tried to hitch a ride. Poor guy, he could NOT keep his balance as the bow pitched in the waves - the photos completely fail to convey the conditions.

The Seawind does NOT hobbyhorse, thank goodness; nevertheless, as a sharp wave comes in, the boat rapidly pitches up and over it - not a pleasant sensation, especially coming back down the wave's backside. In this situation, contrast our relativly dry foredeck with that of a typical monohull which would simply crash through the wave. Our bow travels a tremendous distance vertically, but the midships main saloon just experiences a slight (but uncomfortable) twitching. Hey, beating to weather in confused seas is not nice, no matter what kind of a small sailboat you're on. After we arrived in Noumea and talked with some of the other cruisers who had experienced these same conditions, EVERYBODY had been miserable! One of the boats had had an enthusiastic novice (whom we met in Fiji) who was about to buy a sailing yacht and wanted to 'experience' an ocean passage - he packed up and flew home, vowing never to step aboard a boat again! :-)

Kathy's doing fine, having happily slept the night away ... our midships master cabin also experiences minimal motion. Let her sleep, as she's been great about letting me sleep the last few nights. Kathy wedges herself into the crevice on the inboard side of the bunk, covers her head with a pillow, clutches Monkey, and describes herself as being akin to a bedraggled gopher.

Adam, you would not be BBQing in these conditions!

OK, enough venting. Didn't get much sleep, but it was nice to have the moon lighting up the weird seascape. We're actually on a schedule, because the tide turns at Havannah Passage at 0330 tomorrow morning, and I'd like to catch it at the beginning of the flood. The GPS says we'll make it with a couple of hours to spare... (if the wind doesn't shift...). As we get close to New Caledonia, the reefs and land should block the seas and everything should quiet down in about ten hours.

'Nuff, already. This ocean sailing seems to be either feast or famine...

Hope y'all are having a nicer day than we are. :-)

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14 October, 2003 -- Final Report - Inside Havannah Passage

Final Report
Date: 14 October 2003
Time: 0600
Position: Inside Havannah Passage
Course: 257degM
Speed: 6kts
Distance to Havannah Passage entrance, New Caledonia: 15nm BEHIND us
Last 24 Hours: 100nm
WindSpeed: 13kts
Wind Direction: South
Waves: Nada, nil, zip, 6", nic

Oh, was it nice to get inside Havannah Passage this morning! Immediately, the waves disappeared and life became pleasant again. Came in while it was still dark, just a little after slack tide. Piece of cake (as Dave Campbell, RIP, used to say). Even dodging a couple of ships didn't diminish our enthusiasm.

Yesterday, as you may have gathered from the Report, was not a nice day - but we just slogged it out. Boat did wonderfully bashing through all that stuff. Kathy says that the Chistopher Cross (sp?) sailing song should be set to the 1812 Overture.

WAIT A MINUTE! Based on some of the e-mails I've received, this comment has been misinterpreted! We DO NOT have bridgedeck pounding! Every once in a blue moon a wave does hit underneath, but it is rare and not an issue. What we do have, however, is whapping of the engine nacelles - they are situated so low over the water and protrude significantly, that in these confused seas they do experience a fair number of annoying whaps. Now, what Kathy was referring to was the occasional take-off that we do over a sharp wave: coming straight back down its backside does result in a loud BOOM! in the bow area of the boat. Slowing the boat down mitigates this condition.

We DID achieve another milestone (literally): our GPS crossed 14,000nm since we started our cruise on KatieKat 3-1/2 years ago.

[4014 Nautical Miles]14,014 Nautical Miles (the 10,000 is truncated). Does that altitude reading mean we're airborne?

My attempts at updating the website while underway were thwarted by the bouncing (not considered good for hard drives), so it may take a couple of days before you see the update. Sorry, no action photos of waves breaking over the top of the boat.

It's another 25 miles or so to Noumea, but it's nicely sheltered water within the lagoon - even the winds have now dropped - have to shake out the reef ... (after breakfast). Kathy is beaming, as she can see land again, and is looking forward to the pastries, croissants, cheese, and baguettes to fill in the void she has developed between her body and her pants (that's engineer talk).

[Kathy Happy] [Kathy Hanging On]

After 700 miles, get a load of that smile on Kathy's face at the sight of land in these sheltered waters! Contrast that with the right photo as we're leaving Fiji in the turbulent waters through Malolo Pass where she had to seriously hang on and peer out after the invalid depthsounder alarm scare.

So, end of another passage. Thanks for being patient with these Reports.

Joe + Kathy

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