TELL-TALES

Rod Heikell's very informal site on sailing around bits of the world and an eclectic collection of things nautical or nearly so.

Skylax blog SOUTH PACIFIC 2009

Skylax blog SOUTH PACIFIC 2009

 

This edited blog will cover our cruising in the SOUTH PACIFIC from NEW ZEALAND up to NEW CALEDONIA and VANUATU and across to CAIRNS in Queensland Australia. Well it will if the wind and sea gods are willing. The latest entries appear first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skylax position reports

We will be posting position reports with Yotreps from September 2007 WHEN WE ARE ON PASSAGE. Position reports can be found at Yotreps from either THE REPORTING BOAT LIST that displays our position and a brief comment on Google Earth or you can download the YOTREPS POSITION REPORTER and locate our track and other data (wind, wave height, bearing) on the world map.

Yotreps   http://www.pangolin.co.nz/yotreps/index.php  has a side bar menu with the reporting boat list and also a button to download the Yotreps Reporter (reporter software) and instructions on how to use it. The software is free.

You can find Skylax either by our call sign or name:

SKYLAX

Call sign   MGAY

Fiji Advance notice reminder

20-10-09

Subject: ADVANCE NOTICE OF ARRIVAL FIJI WATERS

Message:
Appreciate it if you could remind yachts, particularly of French origin, that if they come to Fiji at least 48 hours advanced warning should be given to Customs. Some yacht skippers have been fined up to F$4000 for not complying to Section 11A(2) of the Customs Act.

I have helped a number of skippers from being heavily fined after pleading with customs for their ignorance to these laws, however after next month there will be little I can do for them. Their excuse is that it is not printed in French on their websites.

OUR CONTACT FOR CUSTOMS IS: yachtsreport@frca.org.fj
Website: www.frca.org.fj

Appreciate if you could pass this to other websites. Thanks for any help you can give.

Don Bruce
Manager
Royal Suva Yacht club


Vanuatu to Cairns

19-08-09

The Coral Sea crossing can be a windy and bumpy old affair. The Trades often get reinforced by highs coming off Australia and the fifteen to twenties become thirties and more. So it was.

We left Luganville in comparatively calm weather and had a light wind sail for the first couple of days. We even had to motor for six hours when the wind died away altogether. But we knew from the gribs and especially from a nasty little bump in a nearby isobar on the weatherfaxes that there was a lot more to come.

For the passage to Cairns you need to get north a bit to avoid a whole jig-saw puzzle of reefs and then drop down to the Grafton Passage through the Barrier Reef and into Cairns. Remember you also have to give 96 hours warning of your arrival to Australian customs as well.

From Ocean Passages & Landfalls: From Vanuatu (Vila or Luganville) yachts heading for Cairns will sail to a point N of Sand Cay (around 15°20’S 149°40’E) to clear the reefs S of here. You can then angle down under Bougainville Reef to the Grafton Passage. The alternative of wending your way through the reefs S of Sand Cay has tripped up numbers of boats and electronic charts should not be relied on in this area. Last year several yachts were lost here when relying on electronic charts to get them through.

Surely enough the bump in the isobar on the weatherfax produced a little more than the 25-28 knots the gribs were predicting. By the end of day two we were down to 3rd reef in the main and a patch of jib. It was enough to do 180-190 mile days for the rest of the trip and we arrived in Grafton Passage a week out from Luganville even after a slow start. Perversely the Trades get deflected up the Australian coast from a more southerly direction by the time you arrive and as the Grafton Passage is on a SW course that means you have to beat down the passage to get in.

It wasn’t so much the wind as the seas that were a bitch, although we recorded a top wind speed of 46 knots. There was a wicked cross sea with up to 4 metre breaking crests, usually just where Skylax was, and we had more water in the cockpit than we have had for a long time. Nothing dangerous but very annoying chunks of water sloshing around the cockpit before they drained out. For some reason we had stowed the lifejacket/harnesses in one of the cave lockers in the cockpit and with one spectacular slosh of water the cave locker must have filled. It was enough water to set off the Hanmer immersion mechanisms which meant I had two inflated lifejackets trying to get out the cave locker like a couple of demented blow-up dolls. Well at least they worked and Lu fixed them the next day with the spare cylinders and immersion mechanisms we carry. Everything was salty and we changed clothes twice a day to keep the dreaded saltwater itch from driving us crazy.

We also had a persistent visitor. Every evening a big red footed booby would circle the boat and unlike other boobies that have tried to land, this one was an aerial artiste. I mean he had a wingspan of over a metre (can be up to 1.5 metres my bird book tells me) and still managed to duck and dive between sails and rigging without once getting it wrong. The first night he tucked up on the spinnaker pole. The second night he perched on the back of the bimini and wouldn’t move. Have you seen the size of those beaks up close? The third night he decided the foredeck was home. Now I’m all for boobies, amazing birds, but fishy large booby poop is just a pain and moreover seems to burn through canvas and discolour teak with whatever acid these guys have in their gastric system.

So it was fast. Personally I like it a bit slower and more relaxed, but nothing broke and really we just held on while Skylax and Mole (remember him, Pacific Mole dude the autopilot) did the business. Ahh where would we be without a boat to look after us.

The mad lifejackets coralled down below

 

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Google Earth Port Vila

07-08-09

Port Vila

Annotated Google Earth

For more Annotated Google Earth maps go HERE

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Vila

07-08-09

Vila. Yachting World moorings behind Iririki Island.

Formalities  

Once in the approaches to the harbour give Yachting World on Ch 16 a call. They are open 0830-1200 and 1300-1700. Anchor off near the very small quarrantine buoy in the outer harbour. Yachting World organise the quarrantine officials to come out to you. You can then come into the inner harbour behind Iririki Island and go on a mooring before completing immigration and customs.

Immigration is in town and customs are at the commercial wharf in Pontoon Bay. The easiest way to get to customs is by the share taxis (mini-buses) that run everywhere (150 Vatu per person). Costs in 2009 were around $US40 for Quarrantine, $US40 for Immigration and $80 for customs if you are clearing out of Vanuatu. To visit the other islands you need to get permission and the paperwork from customs which will usually be in a sealed envelope with lots of stamps on it.

Yachting World

Yachting World have moorings ($US12 per day), a quay where you can go stern-to with a mooring ($US18 per day), a dinghy dock, rubbish disposal, laundry and an excellent restaurant and bar.

There are around 4 metres least depth through the passage over the reef and 30 metres air height under the overhead power cables to Iririki. (If you are near the limit call Yachting World).It is very deep for anchoring here (around 30-45 metres) except close to the northern reef. Yachting World will usually send a boat out to guide you in over the reef and help you tie up to a mooring.

Vila town has ATM's, supermarkets and smaller shops, fresh fruit and veggie market, restaurants and cafes. You can get gas bottles filled at Origin Gas in the S of Paray Bay. The easiest way is to take the bottle down in the dinghy where there is a rough pontoon to tie up to off the gas refilling plant.

The boatyard, 17 44S Boat Yard, is in Pontoon Bay past the commercial wharf.

For more on the SW Pacific go to World Sailing 4

For more on South Pacific cruising generally go to World Sailing 3

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Vanuatu

07-08-09

Vanuatu

Also called ‘The Great Cyclades’ (Bougainville in 1768), ‘The New Hebrides’ (Cook in 1774) and the Sandwich Islands (by Bligh on his epic small boat trip). This chain of islands is something of a crossroads in the SW Pacific with boats from New Zealand on the Barefoot Circuit coming across from Tonga and Fiji before curving down to New Caledonia and then back to NZ and boats en route to Australia and SE Asia leaving from here to Cairns or up to the Solomons.

The island chain has never been a homogeneous group and although basically Melanesian, different languages were spoken on different islands and even between different villages. The islands had a reputation for cannibalism and savagery right up into the 20th century, but today the inhabitants of the different islands are a remarkably gentle and approachable people.

The recent history of the islands was a bizarre rule by both the French and the English who established different institutions to govern the islands in a complicated bipartisan way. The islands became independent in 1980 and the establishment of a common language, Bislama, a variation on Pidgin English, united the villages and islands under a common thread that soothed over old feuds and disputes. The language is quite easy to get a handle on once you hear it and I include some of my favourite phrases below.

Thank You   Tankyu tumas

To hit   Killem

To hit and kill something   Killem ded finis

To ruin   Baggerap

Piano   Wan bigfala bokis, I gat tith, sam I waet, sam I blak, taim yu killem I singalot.

Cruising strategies

Yachts on the Barefoot Circuit will often head for Vila on Efate from Fiji or Tonga. Yachts heading up from New Caledonia will often clear in at Tanna to see the live volcano there before heading on up to Vila.

Yachts must clear in first at a port of entry which are currently Lenakel on Tanna, Vila on Efate, Luganville on Espiritu Santo and Sola on Vanua Lava in the Banks Islands. If you are heading for Tanna then you can go to Port Resolution and a pick-up truck will take you over the island to Lenakel (for a fee). Outside of Vila and Luganville ensure you get receipts for all transactions to present at Vila or Luganville. Yachts must also clear out from a Port of Entry and also get permission to cruise in the different groups of islands. Clearing in and out and permits cost close to $US200 in 2009.

Despite these costs these islands are a huge cruising area and most yachts will be lucky to see a tenth of the anchorages in a cruising season. These are places that take you back in time and the heavily wooded islands and outlying reefs are just stunning. Many of the villages are isolated places where the locals welcome any cruising yachts and will want to trade for fruit and vegetables. Trading goods vary from place to place, but exercise books and pencils, T-shirts, oil, fish hooks and line, balloons (for the kids) and just about anything you have will be welcome. The villagers are not offended if you don’t have items.

Seasons and weather

It's the Tropics so it rains...OK

Weather patterns here are much as for New Caledonia except being further N temperatures are more tropical. The islands lie in the cyclone belt and are hit by cyclones so most yachts leave for the cyclone season from November to May, although the boatyard in Vila has tie-downs and is reported to be a secure place to leave a yacht in the cyclone season – check with your insurer.

Like New Caledonia you do get depressions producing westerlies in the normal cruising season and you need to plan ahead to find shelter if westerlies are forecast.

Ashore

Port Vila on Efate has by far the best shopping and yacht facilities in Vanuatu. There is laundry, wifi, supermarket and fresh fruit and veggie market, yacht repair facilities and a boatyard. There is also a fuel dock and a gas filling plant. After that Luganville is virtually the only other place where you will be able to get provisions and fuel and water. Around the islands you can always find fruit and vegetables and the locals will often row out in their outrigger canoes to trade. There are a few local shops in places, but don’t count on getting too much in these.

Facilities

Vila is the centre for yacht repairs and also has the only viable yard for hauling. In Luganville basic repairs can be made and there are a few hardware shops. Spare parts can be flown in from NZ or Australia.

Reading

Rocket Guide to Vanuatu (CD)

Yacht Miz Mae’s Guide to Vanuatu Nicola Rhind

Vanuatu Bob Tiews & Thalia Hearne South Pacific Cruising Series

For more on the SW Pacific go to World Sailing 4

For more on South Pacific cruising generally go to World Sailing 3

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12-07-09

So what sort of boats do people cruise in? II

Like the informal survey of boats around Skylax in Papeete, these photos are a snapshot, nothing scientific, of the boats around Skylax in the anchorage behind Iriki Island in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Some I know and some I don't. So in case you were wondering what sort of boat you need, and getting totally confused by the flashy adverts in yachting magazines, the recommendations from 'experts' and other bad advice, here are the people actually doing it around Skylax. As I say, nothing scientific here...

Older 55ft Australian cruising ketch. Crew of 2-3. Ferro construction?

Steel Endurance 38

Older Halberg Rassey 42. Crew of 2.

Hylas 46? Crew of 2.

38-40ft steel cruiser. Crew of 2.

Tom & Vicky Jackson's Sunstone. S&S 40 built by McGruer in 1964. Has covered more miles than most of us have had hot dinners.

12-07-09

Frank’s Pikelets

In NZ pikelets were common fare when I grew up and they are a good treat to make on passage. They are sometimes known as Scottish Pancakes, I guess they are effectively mini-pancakes. Frank made them for me on passage in the Indian Ocean on a slow day and eating hot pikelets with butter and jam in the middle of the ocean is just a great treat. They are also great for breakfast.

For 4 (or a very 2)

2 cups flour

2 eggs

Teaspoon baking powder

Dessert spoon of sugar

Mix thoroughly to a thick pouring consistency and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Heat a pan with a drizzle of oil in it and when hot use a big spoon to put a dollop of mixture in and cook 3 or 4 at a time depending on the size of the pan. Turn and cook on the other side when browned and bubbles pop.

New Caledonia

09-07-09

Isle des Pins

New Caledonia

New Caledonia along with French Polynesia is the other French Territoire autre Mer in the Pacific. It is something of a question mark for many cruisers though not to Australian and New Zealand cruisers who regularly use it as a stepping stone around the SW Pacific. Although in the Tropics it is some 20 degrees south of the equator so has a slightly cooler climate than islands closer to the equator though its seascape conforms to ideas of the Tropics: coral reefs, coconut palms and white sandy beaches with temperatures in the low 20’s C.

New Caledonia also has a large resident population of yachts and the best yacht repair facilities outside of New Zealand and Australia in this part of the world. If you have problems around the islands or en route to them then New Caledonia is the place to head for. Add to this French patisseries and baguettes, some half decent restaurants and French supermarkets with a selection of French cheeses and other goodies and New Caledonia takes on a whole new perspective.

Cruising Strategies

Yachts that have spent the summer in New Zealand will often include New Caledonia as part of a tour around Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu before heading for northern Australia. Some yachts will head directly for New Caledonia from New Zealand and then cruise around the island before heading for Vanuatu and then on to Australia.

There are various passes into the lagoon inside the barrier reef extending some 40 miles south of the island. Most yachts will use Passe de Boulari on the west side which has the iconic lighthouse Phare Amedee (53 metres high) with a leading mark in front showing the way in on 050° true. If you are late getting in you can anchor off under the islet Phare Amedee is on. The lighthouse was designed by Eiffel: he of the Parisian tower. Passage through the lagoon should be made in daylight and although electronic charts are reasonably accurate they should not be relied on absolutely. You will need a detailed paper chart as well. You can also use the main ship pass further up from Boulari, or Passe de Sarcelle on the east side or between Isle des Pins and the reefs to the west. Again you must have good detailed charts and transit the lagoon in daylight. All yachts must first go to Noumea to clear in although the authorities helpfully give you three days to leave New Caledonian waters so you can do a little cruise around the lagoon before setting off to Vanuatu or elsewhere.

There are ample cruising opportunities around New Caledonia, which is the fourth largest island in the Pacific after North and South Island in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. A barrier reef encloses most of the island encompassing a large body of water to the south. Its said it is the largest lagoon in the world though bit of PR is difficult to reconcile when you have huge lagoons in the Tuamotus and the body of water enclosed by the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia. There are also lots of bays and harbours along the west and east coast of the main island and also good cruising around the Loyalty group to the east. There is enough here to keep many occupied for a season or more.

Seasons and weather

New Caledonia conforms to the seasons for the other South Pacific islands with the cyclone season running from November to May in the southern hemisphere summer. A lot of local boats stay in New Caledonia for this season with pretty good shelter in the inner harbour at Port Moselle and a possible hurricane hole at Baie de Prony. Most yachts will be cruising New Caledonia in the southern hemisphere winter from May to November.

Although the trades blow over New Caledonia in the winter, you also get a fair number of westerlies. You also get small depressions (yes, you do get depressions outside of the cyclone season although they do not develop into Tropical Storms) which can bring gales and rain to New Caledonia.

Ashore

Noumea has several large supermarkets and an excellent local market with fresh fruit and vegetables and good fish and prawns close to Port Moselle. There are other smaller shops and all the infrastructure you would expect of a small city of 100,000. There are laundries nearby and internet cafes in Noumea. You can refill gas bottles (including Camping Gaz). There is a large hospital and good local clinics. New Caledonia is not a malaria area.

There are flights from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji to New Caledonia and flights to Paris.

 

Port Moselle Marina Photo Lu Michell

Market near Port Moselle Photo Lu Michell

Facilities

Good yacht repair facilities and a yard at Noumea. You can get stainless steel welding done, engine repairs and sail and canvas work. Good chandlers in Noumea and at the boatyard and also good hardware shops. Spares can be quickly flown in from NZ and Australia. Outside of Noumea there is a large Zone Industriale where there are a whole range of services and shops including large hardware shops like Mr Bricolage. Here you source hard to get items although you will need to take a taxi or get a hire car or use the local bus service.

Isle des Pins - the tall thin pines like telegraph poles are the ones referred too)

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Roasst veggies & pasta

27-06-09

Roast vegetables and pasta

For 2 or 4… just adjust the quantity of vegetables and pasta.

Any of the following vegetables: onions, garlic (roasted garlic is fruity sweet), squash, peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergine … anything similar. For example onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes works well.

Olive oil

Seasoning

Pasta of choice: penne, shells or twirls are good.

Slice up the vegetables into mouth-sized bits (except for tomatoes) and put into a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Some dried rosemary, thyme or basil over the top works well. Bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes. Put the tomatoes in after 15 minutes.

Put the pasta on before the veggies will be finished and cook till al dente.

Mix in the veggies with the pasta and if you want to drizzle a little lemon juice over the top.

Done.

26-06-09

Looking at weather when leaving NZ and the addendum of what really happened...

This includes the initial bit I wrote on weather with the weather we experienced on the way to New Caledonia ... yep, not Fiji but New Cal.

The low and the squash zone before leaving Opua

Leaving NZ: looking at weatherWell, we should be leaving tomorrow after waiting for the low (described by the NZ Met Service as a complex low…) to pass through. There was 40 knots forecast for Brett (our area) and 50+ knots recorded at Cape Reinga (the northernmost tip of NZ) so we had cappuccinos and breakfast in the marina café and went for a walk along the beach. Tomorrow, well tomorrow is a new day and we will look at the weather again tomorrow. I’ll do an addendum to the below to tell you how Skylax and her passengers got on.

Weather when leaving NZ for New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga

Weather in NZ is determined by high and lows moving eastwards from Australia. A lot of these lows cross the bottom of Australia and then track over the South Island of NZ. Some of them track over the North Island and you often get fronts tracking over the North Island. Most cross the middle or southern North Island, but not all.

Highs in this part of the southwest Pacific can be really high. 1030 is common and there are a significant number of 1040’s. These are much higher than you get in say the North Atlantic around Europe. Bob McDavitt, NZ’s weather guru (officially he is the NZ MetService Weather Ambassador), says that when ‘highs are a 1030 the weather gets dirty, when highs are a 1040 the weather gets naughty’. We’ll see why in a mo.

So the highs and lows trundle across to NZ from Australia. The problem is what Bob McDavitt calls the squash zones. When you get a big fat high and a deep low next to each other, you get squash zones where the isobars are very tight together and there is a lot of wind.

Leaving NZ encompasses the same problems as getting to NZ (see Analysis Paralysis: The passage from Tonga to NZ). Most cruising yachts will not be able to get to Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia without hitting a front somewhere along the way. Yachts usually leave at the end of the Southern Pacific cyclone season (November to May) in late April to May. Some like us are a bit later (mid-June) and there are a number of yacht races from NZ to the islands in June. Picking the weather is really a matter of looking for a front lite to take on. Once a low has moved through the wind will go SW and then you hop on its coat-tails and go assuming there is nothing else naughty around.

One of the talking points for this trip is the 1994 June ‘bomb’. Yachts set out at the end of May with a 1030 high over NZ. In the Tropics a low formed. As Bob McDavitt points out, lows do form in the Tropics outside cyclone season and can generate gale force winds. This low started out between Vanuatu and Fiji and from Friday noon to Saturday noon dropped from 1001 to 986 hPa. In the next 24 hours it dropped to 978 hPa. This low squashed up against the 1030 high over NZ produced winds over 60 knots and seas of 10-14 metres. Over this period sixteen yachts set off EPIRBS and 21 people were rescued. Three people were lost and seven boats lost. The ‘bomb’ is embedded in the NZ yachting psyche much like the 1979 Fastnet in the UK and the 1999 Sydney Hobart in Aus.

I’ve mentioned Bob McDavitt and wholeheartedly recommend his book on SW Pacific weather Mariners Met Pack: South West Pacific. It has some of the clearest explanations and best advice on interpreting weather in this part of the world that I’ve yet to encounter. You can get it from Boatbooks NZ.

What actually happened and why we are in New Caledonia

Sitting in Opua we watched a tropical low develop between New Caledonia and Vanuatu and predicted to move off over Fiji. With a 1030 high sitting in the Tasman off the west coast of NZ this looked like a re-play of the June 1994 ‘bomb’ scenario. On Tuesday the 16th June we looked at the weather in the morning and the tropical low was shown as filling and eventually disappearing to virtually nothing. So we stowed the boat, bought some pies for lunch and set off at midday for Fiji. On the morning of Wednesday the 17th the tropical low was shown as deepening again and moving just south of Fiji right into the area we would be in. The high sitting in the Tasman had reached 1035. A bit of hurried looking at charts and weather to the west got us thinking about skirting this low by going west and so we put Skylax’s nose over and shaped a course for New Caledonia. By the time we got there the low should have moved over to Fiji.

For two days through Wednesday and into early Friday the 19th the weather was pleasant southerlies if a bit light at night when we could only make 3-4 knots at times, and that in a more westerly direction than our rhumb line course.

On Friday we looked at the weather again and while the gribs showed not much more than 20-25 knots from the east and SE, the weatherfaxes showed a little indentation in the isobars over New Caledonia. This became a small low towards Vanuatu with a front over New Caledonia. By Friday night we had 30-35 knots from the east to SE and by Saturday we had 30-40 knots with gusts up to 45 knots from the east. To make things interesting the roller reefing line for the genny had chafed on the drum and exploded with a bang Saturday night letting the whole genny out. We got it in to a small patch of genny and tied off the line to the forward mooring cleat.

Sunday was pretty much the same with 30-40 knots, but at least the front had moved off to the north of New Caledonia and the squash zone was lessened between the low and the 1035 high still sitting solidly over NZ. With three reefs in the main (and our 3rd reef is a deep one) and the patch of jib Skylax flew towards Noumea doing 170 NM days in pretty difficult seas of around 3-4 metres with breaking crests. There was a lot of water over the deck and in the cockpit but I opted for the policy of keeping the boat going fast in this weather and as long as we didn’t nose-dive into too many seas this worked well. I think Moitessier was the first to adopt this sort of tactic is heavy weather in the 1968 race around the world. Instead of trailing warps to slow Joshua down he kept sail up and ran at speed with the weather.

After a slow start we came through the Passe de Boulari with its huge lighthouse at the entrance in six days with a distance travelled of 986 miles. I won’t say the entry through the pass with 35 knots and rain squalls reducing visibility to not a lot was a piece of cake, but we got through OK and then motor-sailed up the narrowish channel in the lagoon to Noumea.

Its not the sort of first passage you look forward to, but Skylax looked after us a treat. As a friend Peter likes to say, ‘You don’t learn a whole lot out there about life, the meaning of life or anything remotely resembling that, but you do learn a whole lot about your boat’.

Looks like the low is filling (see grib file at beginning of this entry for comparison

Lu's annotated fax. That small bulge in the isobars near New Cal are what caused the weather we had

Weather for Ocean Passages

15-06-09

Weather for Ocean Passages

Lu has just written a useful guide for weather when on passage. It covers both the bandwidth rich and the bandwidth poor.

Weather for Ocean Passages

We are all now accustomed to fast broadband internet connections, with myriad options for obtaining weather forecasts over the web, but once away from a wifi connection, getting good weather info gets trickier.

In the main collecting points for ocean passages, be it Las Palmas, Lanzarote or Tenerife in the Canaries for Atlantic crossings, or Panama at the start of the Coconut Milk Run, it is easy to get connected to wifi for as much passage planning weather as you like, and below I list a few of our favourite sources for the bandwidth rich:

 

Weatheronline

 

www.weatheronline.co.uk

A familiar and easy to navigate site with sensible map scales for graphic forecasts. Also has synoptic charts.

Passage Weather

 

www.passageweather.com

Good clear graphics and a good range of chart areas.

Grib US

 

www.grib.us

Download the free grib viewer and sign up for a free account and you can get 7 day grib files on demand.

US National Weather Service

 

weather.noaa.gov/

 

Had to mention this as an excellent all-round weather info website with great links to other sources.

Jcomm Weather

 

//weather.gmdss.org/

 

A text only site in English, maintained by Meteo-France, giving the official forecasts for each MetArea. As text only it also works well for the bandwidth impaired.

MetArea Issuing Auth Area covered

 

II France NE Atlantic to 35°W and down to 6°S

IV USA NW Atlantic from 35°W and down to 7°N

XII USA NE Pacific down to 3°24S and across to 180°(Panama to Galapagos)

XVI USA E Pacific from 3°24S-18°21S, Peru to 120°W

XIV NZ SW Pacific (Marquesas to Fiji to NZ)

For a detailed map of world Metareas there is a link on the Jcomm website.

Internet Weather Sources for the Bandwith Impaired

 

Once out of wifi range, links to the internet are, unless you have a large satellite dome and almost unlimited funds, severely limited.

This usually means access is limited to satellite phones with hefty data charges, or SSB with a Pactor modem. Both have their advantages, but they are both limited by the connection speed, which makes the old dial-up speeds look good. In any case, surfing is out of the question, so most of us rely on some form of data retrieval from certain websites, and having it sent to us as an email. This can be done using several systems, but most depend on a strictly formatted request email in order to carry out the correct instruction. Get one character or space wrong, and you will receive nothing, or an email of gobbledegook. Some programs get around this by giving you a request form to fill out, which makes things much easier. The important thing to remember is that you are sending an electronic request – if the link, or any part of the request is incorrect, it cannot be delivered. This includes any typos, or any web address changes you are unaware of. The request must be sent in Plain Text Format, not in HTML. Many email providers, like Yahoo, default to HTML, and you need to change your settings to plain text. Likewise if you send through a portal like MS Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. Others like Airmail default to plain text so you won't have a problem.

FOR MORE GO TO LU'S RADIO PAGE AND WEATHER FOR OCEAN PASSAGES

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14-06-09

Passage maps

Before leaving Lu makes up passage maps that we can use to plot weather, other boat positions off a radio net, dangers to navigation. We use Virtual Passage Planner to work up the scale of map we need and then put a VPP track on it for Skylax, but you can use whatever map you can get hold of as long as its got lat and longs on it. We then print off half a dozen or so on A4 sheets to use on passage. It saves drawing over charts, lots of rubbing out, and you can just use a new map when you need it.

For this trip we chose the area for the SW Pacific and printed them off (in B&W).

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Leaving NZ: looking at weather

14-06-09

Leaving NZ: looking at weather

Well, we should be leaving tomorrow after waiting for the low (described by the NZ Met Service as a complex low…) to pass through. There was 40 knots forecast for Brett (our area) and 50+ knots recorded at Cape Reinga (the northernmost tip of NZ) so we had cappuccinos and breakfast in the marina café and went for a walk along the beach. Tomorrow, well tomorrow is a new day and we will look at the weather again tomorrow. I’ll do an addendum to the below to tell you how Skylax and her passengers got on.

Weather when leaving NZ for New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga

Weather in NZ is determined by high and lows moving eastwards from Australia. A lot of these lows cross the bottom of Australia and then track over the South Island of NZ. Some of them track over the North Island and you often get fronts tracking over the North Island. Most cross the middle or southern North Island, but not all.

Highs in this part of the southwest Pacific can be really high. 1030 is common and there are a significant number of 1040’s. These are much higher than you get in say the North Atlantic around Europe. Bob McDavitt, NZ’s weather guru (officially he is the NZ MetService Weather Ambassador), says that when ‘highs are a 1030 the weather gets dirty, when highs are a 1040 the weather gets naughty’. We’ll see why in a mo.

So the highs and lows trundle across to NZ from Australia. The problem is what Bob McDavitt calls the squash zones. When you get a big fat high and a deep low next to each other, you get squash zones where the isobars are very tight together and there is a lot of wind.

Leaving NZ encompasses the same problems as getting to NZ (see Analysis Paralysis: The passage from Tonga to NZ). Most cruising yachts will not be able to get to Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia without hitting a front somewhere along the way. Yachts usually leave at the end of the Southern Pacific cyclone season (November to May) in late April to May. Some like us are a bit later (mid-June) and there are a number of yacht races from NZ to the islands in June. Picking the weather is really a matter of looking for a front lite to take on. Once a low has moved through the wind will go SW and then you hop on its coat-tails and go assuming there is nothing else naughty around.

One of the talking points for this trip is the 1994 June ‘bomb’. Yachts set out at the end of May with a 1030 high over NZ. In the Tropics a low formed. As Bob McDavitt points out, lows do form in the Tropics outside cyclone season and can generate gale force winds. This low started out between Vanuatu and Fiji and from Friday noon to Saturday noon dropped from 1001 to 986 hPa. In the next 24 hours it dropped to 978 hPa. This low squashed up against the 1030 high over NZ produced winds over 60 knots and seas of 10-14 metres. Over this period sixteen yachts set off EPIRBS and 21 people were rescued. Three people were lost and seven boats lost. The ‘bomb’ is embedded in the NZ yachting psyche much like the 1979 Fastnet in the UK and the 1999 Sydney Hobart in Aus.

I’ve mentioned Bob McDavitt and wholeheartedly recommend his book on SW Pacific weather Mariners Met Pack: South West Pacific. It has some of the clearest explanations and best advice on interpreting weather in this part of the world that I’ve yet to encounter. You can get it from Boatbooks NZ.

Metpack SW Pacific. The photo on the front is from the June 1994 bomb.

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Slowly from Auckland to Opua

11-06-09

Slowly from Auckland to Opua

Broken Islands Passage into Fitzroy on Great Barrier Island

Auckland was an easy lazy time. Sure we had things to do most important of which was to get the new sail from Evolution Sails (Rodney Keenan formerly Quantum) and the old repaired genny as well. The new 110% genny is in a cruising laminate and weighs more than the old 140% in dacron. Anyway more on that later and I’ll give my reasons later in more detail for getting a sail in glued laminate after all my objections in previous posts.

(Earlier)After a bit of research I cried off the composite laminate sail I really wanted… For more see Practical Boat Stuff 4.

Eventually we decided we had to stop stocking up in wonderful Kiwi supermarkets, take leave of leaving parties and too much sav blanc, make the boat ready for sea and just…go. We left Westhaven Marina for Ponui Island and in light winds only managed to sail for a couple of hours. I’ve several friends who profess to like sailing around in the winter more than the summer. Well there aren’t a lot of boats around and the skies are huge and the visibility almost shocking at 20 or 25 miles, but you do need a heater. We had so many layers on we gave Michelin Man a run for girth size.

From Ponui (just off Waiheke) we pottered across to Great Barrier Island with strict instructions from Grum that we had to do the passage inside the Broken Islands to get into Fitzroy. Yeah thanks Grum, we don’t need too much heart-in-mouth stuff just yet, but at least with loaned large scale charts and calm weather it worked OK.

Barrier is another world seemingly a thousand miles from Auckland and not the actual 50 that separates it. It’s so quiet you tend to speak in hushed tones. The light is a watery white and the steep hills are densely covered in bush. We anchored in Fitzroy, had a quick glass of sav blanc in the cockpit and then disappeared below to get warm. Luckily Lu had the foresight to buy a hot water bottle in Auckland and we went to bed early with it… just to keep warm.

        

Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier (both photos)

We had intended to go direct from Barrier to Opua, but light winds dictated a stop at Tutukaka. Besides I was intrigued with friends stories about how you surf into the bay between two rocky pinnacles. Fortunately there was not too much swell running and the entrance was benign, just as well as you line up the entrance marks to get through the narrow rocky entrance. I can see what friends mean when any onshore swell is running as even in calm conditions there is a pronounced increase in the swell size in the entrance. We filled up with diesel at the marina and then anchored out in the bay before an early morning start to Opua.

We sailed, motored, sailed, motored to Opua in the light conditions. Given a bit of wind, like 5-6 knots, the new genoa is great and pulls like a truck, a big truck, but we haven’t had a chance to test it in any real wind yet or see how well it performs when reefed. With a large scale chart we cut the corner between Cape Brett and the off-lying islet and steamed down and into Opua Marina. As always they are friendly, helpful and seem just downright pleased to see you.

 

We are waiting for a weather window for Fiji at the moment and I’ll write further about that later. Bob McDavit does an excellent little book on weather in the southwest Pacific (Mariners Met Pac: SW Pacific) that you can get from Boat Books NZ and I’d recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone coming down here and sailing around NZ.

 

Early morning mist in Opua

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29-05-09

What did we do without …cable ties

Cable ties just get used for more and more things on Skylax. We have used them for the usual things and some unusual and quick-fix solutions as well.

1.   Of course to tidy up cables in the bilge and under head-lining. Just make sure you get rid of the cut-off tails so they don’t clog limber holes in the bilge.

Around things like the prop shaft you really need to make sure cables don't get caught up. Years ago I was delivering an old steel schooner to Greece and on entering Kos harbour was surprised, no I was sh****** myself when the Morse control disappeared into the bowels of the boat with an almighty bang and the engine shuddered to a halt. Once we had the anchor down I went below to find the gear and throttle morse cables had been laid along the prop shaft and inevitably the shaft had collected one of the cables and wrapped it around the shaft at speed, pulling the whole morse control out of the plywood plinth. Anyway that was just the start of our troubles on that delivery ...

2.   Use a cable tie instead of seizing wire to make sure shackles stay done up…Nope, they haven’t chafed through yet.

Locking the mainsheet shackle

3.   Use coloured cable ties to mark the anchor chain. You can make up your own colour-coded system but we use the colours of the spectrum – you know, Richard Of York Gained Battles In Vain. In practice the cable ties have never been a problem on our vertical Lofrans winch. Ties on the 0-40 metres commonly used chain last around a season, ties on 40-80 metres last two seasons. Some of them may get chomped off on the sea bottom, but there will be enough left to identify the length of chain out.

4.   We have used them for emergency repairs between the mainsail slide and mainsail when the original ties (both sewn tape and plastic clips) have failed. On Skylax we will often put two cable ties in for a repair. While you are rocking around on passage using cable ties is a lot easier than anything else and has got us safely through the Strait of Gibraltar with a 40 knot levanter on the nose.

5.   Use them for attaching dodgers and the like.

dodgers on Skylax

7.   Use them to make Lu’s cheap alternative to store bought backstay spacers for the SSB aerial. See Lu’s Radio Page.

8.   I’ve used them to hold the wooden boom on Tetranora together after a glue failure – from Aden to SE Asia. Now I always carry some super-size cable ties (the big ones can be re-used) for any similar emergency repair that might be needed.

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26-05-09

Ionian update for Vathi on Meganisi

Steve Miller on 'Ithaca' (his yacht not the island) sent in the following on Vathi on Meganisi in the Greek Ionian. Not South Pacific I know but useful info that ought to be out there. Many thanks Steve.

Text and photos © Steve Miller except for the useful photo sent by Joe at CYS in Levkas.

Hi Rod,
A couple of items of interest from the Ionian……………
 
Mitikas.
There are 12 new concrete floating pontoons in the “old” harbour at Mitikas and I suspect these will be positioned in the harbour running N-S providing extra moorings for visiting yachtsmen– unless the locals get there first!
 
 
Vathi (Meganissi)
The new marina / harbour is now almost complete and yachts are starting to use it; see attached pdf file with photographs and plan. There are no lazy lines at the moment and I don’t k now if these are planned.  The water / electric pedestals are fitted but not yet connected.
 
However, there are a few points about this new harbour that need mentioning; the last one is most important.
1.   The Meganissi ferry now docks virtually in the middle of the Marina and judging by the ramp / slipway, this looks to be a permanent arrangement and is not ideal for either yachtsmen or ferry.
2.  I have been told that ballasting rocks around the edge are inconsistent and that in some places only bows-to mooring is possible.  This isn’t helped by the water clarity; although not as murky as down in the village, it’s not clear enough (about 1m) to see the bottom.  There is plenty of depth inside the North Mole, no rocks since it was built of concrete blocks.
3.  There appears to be a submerged rock about 15 – 20m eastwards from the westernmost point of the “bay”.  Whilst I was taking the enclosed photographs, a Sunsail Beneteau 363 left the quayside (fortunately slowly) and came to a very rapid and hard stop.  This wasn’t mud – it almost certainly had to be Rock.  This “bay” was always very shoal and I do not believe the bedrock was too far down; there may be other hi-spots and I suspect a full survey from a dinghy is in order………….
 

And some sad news ... I never met Jim but we corresponded over the years. Hopefully now in some nautical Valhalla


Finally, I know Jim Parish made a number of contributions to you for your pilot books and regrettably I have to tell you that Jim died suddenly of a big heart attack on the 12th May whilst walking in Cumbria with his wife Zhi.  My wife and I first met Jim in Longos on Paxos in 2000; at that time, he was on “Scarlet O’Hara” an Etap 26 he sailed from Hull down the North Sea, through the French Canals and into the Med.  Sometime around 2002 Jim sold Scarlet and bought “Red of Hull”, an Etap 32i on which he spent sailing between Corfu and Cephalonia for another 5 seasons or so before setting off back to the UK although he did have a final circumnavigation cruise of the Peloponnese before doing so.  Red of Hull is currently in the French canal system somewhere.
 
All the best,
 
 
Steve Miller

 

These photos from Joe at Contract Yacht Services

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22-05-09

Auckland

The first time out after time out is always a bit scary. Just to get out of the berth at Gulf Harbour I guage the wind direction, which lines to let off first, a nervous look around and a warm goodbye to Paul the dockmaster and we are off. It all goes pretty smoothly and we motor out of the channel into the marina and Skylax moves to the light swell. Main up, one reef in just for the nerves and we only have our tiny jib on until we get the bigger genoas back from the sailmaker.

Skylax leans slightly with the wind and we truckling along at 5 and bit knots. Ahead there is black cloud and a bit more wind and soon we are hard on the wind, 20-24 apparent, hitting 8 knots. Smooth water and a clean bottom eh...

We follow the edge of the big ship channel around the edge of Rangitoto and there is Auckland, the harbour bridge (50 years old this year), the Sky Tower, the skycrapers and a few yachts ambling downwind. Then a fleet of Young 88's emerges from the bridge, spinnakers up trying to make some progress against the flood. It's cold, its been raining, but the sky clears for us coming into Westhaven Marina. The good folks here have a couple of helpers at the berth as I get it more or less right going astern betwixt tide and wind into the narrow slot between the pile and the finger pontoon.

Skylax... first 'voyage' for 2009.

 

 

                                                                       Young 88's out to play

 

Westhaven Marina under the bridge looking down from St Marys Bay

20-05-09

New Turkish Regulations

This just in from Yusuf on the new Turkish Regulations. Things seem a bit fluid at the moment so you will need to play it by ear.

Many thanks to Yusuf at Yachtworks in Turgutreis.

New Procedure for Yachts entering Turkey
Further to our News of 11.4.2009:
The Transitlog can now only be activated through the Internet and only after Harbour Dues (For yachts with 11 NRT and more), Lighthouse Dues (for yachts with 30 NRT and more) have been paid in.
Two days ago attempts to the contrary resulted in the cancellation of the almost complete document by the Harbourmaster.
Although there is still some confusion prevailing, our preliminary understanding of  the procedure is as follows:
1)      Obtain a Transitlog Form, as usual, from the Chamber of Seatrade, from a Marina or from an Agent. The costs of the form have not changed.
2)      Register your data at the web site designated to that purpose. Obtain a registration number. Web site is in Turkish and a Turkish Citizency Number or an Agency Code is required.
3)      If vessel is over 11 NRT place “Harbour Dues/ Port of Entry Tax”. The amount is minimal. However, the tax has to be paid at a branch office of Türkiye Garanti Bankasý or, if an account is entertained with them,  through their Internet banking.
4)      If vessel is over 30 NRT place “Lighthouse Dues”. The Dues have to be paid at a branch office of Türkiye Ziraat Bankasý or, if an account is entertained with them,  through their Internet banking.
5)      Have your receipts checked at the Harbourmaster’s Office. The Harbourmaster will also print the data you have stored in their base onto the blank form you provide.
6)      Complete remaining stamps. Wet stamps and signatures are required.
7)      Done.
Agencies will carry out the required procedures for some service fee. I have heard service fees starting with Eu 35.00 approx, but I heard also about fees in the vicinity of Eu 150.00 – for the same amount of work. Agency fees are not regulated.
Some Marinas have applied for some sort of Agency Code, in the meantime they try to help out informally. This help is presently connived. Other Marinas support their in house agent and their clearance fees are nominal.
Recommendations for the time being:  Carry a Tonnage Certificate, or a document showing some tonnage value under 11 tons. Compare agency fees if you are compelled to use one. The Chamber of Seatrade may help to some degree, voluntarily and as time permits.
I will keep you informed.
Fair Winds.
 
Important:  The information above has been put together with care. However, yachtWORKS and the author will not assume any responsibility arising from inaccuracies in this information, which, by its very nature may also get outdated within time. Interested parties are strongly advised to seek up to date information prior to any action.


Yusuf Civelekoglu

18-05-09

Splash!

And finally we go in the water. Phil at Gulf Harbour Riggers and the rest of the crew there have been brilliant. They gave us options. They measured the costs. And the work is simply first class. And the same for Luke who replaced the chain plates and other work. I'll write a bit about my various experiences with crevice corrosion at a later date.

So after some work by us putting things back on board, fixing bits, Skylax is in the water at Gulf Harbour. We will be trundling down to Westhaven Marina for a bit before a little cruise around the bay.

Yeah ... it rains in NZ... a lot.

Nice bum

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14-05-09

Water Pumps

If you have an old Yanmar 4JH like mine, the water pump is in the most inaccessible place going. It’s tucked under the alternator and just in front of the starter motor. Plus there is an engine mount adjacent as well. Getting two hands into this space is a nightmare and involves contortions that leave me with aching muscles for days.

Anyway the impeller needs to be changed so I got the backing plate off and managed to semi-insert a puller to get the old impeller out, or at least part of the way out until I could get a screwdriver in there to lever it the rest of the way out. Not recommended practice I know.

Now the big problem is getting the new impeller in when the space is so enclosed that it is impossible to get fingers around the impeller to bend the blades the right way and fit it in (clockwise, clockwise clockwise Rod). And then I had my Eureka moment. I’m sure others have had it too. I put a cable tie around the impeller, bending the blades the correct way, and then slid it half in. The outside casing pushes the cable tie outwards and then off and bingo: one impeller on.

Now I just hope that raw water pump is working when we go in the water.

And this photo doesn't come close to showing how inaccessible the water pump is...at least on later Yanmars they put it in a more accessible position.

 

With the cable tie - now that works a treat in that tiny little space.

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03-05-09

If you are in the Mediterranean don't forget the supplements for 2009 Lu has been toiling away on. Go to the Skylax blog London 2009 where there are links or to the Supplements page and look for 2009 entries.

Us ... we are packed and ready to get the cab to the airport. OHHH yes...

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