This is a quick recap from our passage between New Caledonia and Chesterfield reef… these are a collection of the satellite emails we sent home daily to our family back home… The crew for this passage was Wade (American, Captain); Etienne (New Caledonia, Head Chef) , Paul (New Zealand, Happiness officer). Our head chef was an exquisite french trained cook who loved cooking so much he often told others to get out of our kitchen. However this did not impact either of the other crew for our happiness officer was always with a smile and a pro at bringing joy to the rest of the ship no matter what was going on.
Oct 31: First day at sea! Hello family! Well our first day went well… it wasn’t exactly “uneventful” but all the events were positive ones. After some last minute running around the dock, a last shore bathroom stop, and quick shore showers, we said goodbye to our good friend Chloe around 9am and took off! We put away our docklines and fenders since we won’t be needing those for a while and focused on the sails. Right on target the wind was blowing 15 knots from the South East. Etienne took the drivers seat and put the bow of the boat into the wind while Paul and Wade hoisted the main sail. We went ahead and put a reef in the main expecting the winds to come up later and being willing to sacrifice speed for safety on our first night out together. Sails up we pointed the bow for the edge of the reef and sailed for the pass out of New Caledonia a good 3 hours away. While we were going over some safety information, Etienne spotted a pod of dolphins which swam over and played on our bow for a while! A sign of good luck. Just after they left we sailed through the pass into the open ocean. Luckily the sea state was not too bad out there and we all managed to stay free of sea sickness. We did have a few nibbles on our fishing lines… most notably a gigantic marlin grabbed our bait and took off with it. Not having wire leader he snapped our line but he was not happy about the hook and did some spectacular jumps right near the back of the boat. A huge fish maybe 6 feet or a meter and a half not including his bill. It’s always the one that got away! Anyhow, we are sailing now with spinnaker and single reef mainsail in 20 knots of wind. All is good. We just checked the weather again and the conditions are projected to remain good as planned. -Lots of love from the men of Coco De Mer,Wade, Paul, Etienne.
Nov 1: We are sailing quite nicely. The weather gods and Neptune have been good to us. We have 20 knots of wind directly behind the boat and very calm seas for that wind level. So it’s a fast comfortable ride we are enjoying. We have our spinnaker set and she is dragging us along. We did a little more reading about the Chesterfield reef and turns out the best spot for anchoring is about 60 miles further than we expected to we’ll head there but won’t arrive until tomorrow morning. Our weather pattern looks to be the same until we get there so that’s great. However the latest model shows a storm system building in Brisbane area in about a week around when we are thinking of heading there… we will keep a close eye on that and adjust plans accordingly. Paul was our chef yesterday and he cooked up a nice sausage, mashed potatoes and fresh veggie salad dinner. Hit the spot. Otherwise we had a little drama with our spinnaker sail getting itself wrapped up in knot around the Jib but we luckily got it untangled easily thanks to Paul’s clever idea of unfurling the jib a bit. Spinnaker also got dropped in the ocean briefly but we got it back on board quickly and without much fuss. So all good! Spirits are high and we are looking forward to finding some coconuts on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean tomorrow!
Nov 2: We are darn close to arriving at chesterfield reef… we should enter the lagoon in about an hour and then need to motor 2 hours to our anchor spot behind a tiny little island in the middle of no where Pacific Ocean! Yesterday was relatively uneventful other than our spinnaker take down skills have improved dramatically. We are pros now. Our first test occurred when we snagged a fish, Paul grabbed the rod, Wade steered the boat and got the engines on and Etienne was chief of bagging the sail along with Wade’s assistance… having two people bag the sail seems to make a huge difference in how easy it is. Unfortunately we were greeted with a big toothed barracuda at the end of our line. We threw him back, re-deployed the lines, set the sails, turned off the motors and almost immediately got another hit on our line! Sails dropped, motor on, Etienne reeled this one in, another set of big jaws on a cuda. Around 10pm the winds built and Etienne was on watch, he went down and woke wade about the change in conditions… just as wade came up the boat caught a wave and surfed at 16 knots for about 30 seconds in 27 knot breeze under spinnaker. Wade woke Paul and the spinnaker came down among a well practiced system and a crew working well as a team. We traded for a more conservative sail plan for the rest of the night. This morning the spinnaker is back up and we are closing in on our first goal. Lots of love from the men of Coco!!!
Nov 3: We are safely anchored inside the chesterfield reef. As we were sailing in we got three good bites on our lines. The first fish we pulled in was a small frigate mackerel, listed as poor on the food quality chart, so he got to swim off and rejoin his friends. Our second bite was a massive fish, the rod was bent way over as we struggled to bring him in. He took nearly all the line on the reel as he ran out as well. And he want deep, sure signs of a big tuna… however that second bite turned into an unpleasant third as an unwelcome visitor, a shark, took our tuna as we were bringing him in. We arrived yesterday around 1pm and promptly dropped the dingy to dig our feet into the sandy spit of an island we are tucked behind. Wade went for a kite surf in a perfect small bay, Etienne located a nautilus on the beach for his keepsake, and Paul took to the water for a snorkel among massive amounts of sea cucumbers. We headed back to the boat for an afternoon bottle of wine, cheese and meats, hey, chesterfield is still considered French. When we pulled in there was another small monohull maybe 35 feet long in the anchorage. Then just before sunset another boat, friends we had met before, Dan and Christy, from California. There is a lot more to chesterfield then we expected. From where we are now, we can see at least 10 sandy islands and a strong reef. The winds are strong, 20 knots but the sea is well broken by the reef so it’s quite comfortable. We’ll check the weather and formulate a plan for how long we will stay based on that.
Nov 4 : Yesterday was a great day in Chesterfield. We started our day with the last of our french croissant egg sandwiches on the back patio. Then we headed off and introduced ourselves to our neighbors and set up a sundowner party for later on in the day. Time to explore! So we grabbed snorkel gear and started to check things out. We dropped the dingy anchor near a bommie and hoped in to find an amazing coral garden. It was filled with big brown sea snakes, reef sharks, all sorts of fish, sharks and other marine life. The sights on our spear gun must need calibration as we missed all our shots at parrot fish circling the reef. Luckily we have a well provisioned boat or we would starve to death. After an afternoon glass of wine, wade popped out for a kite session and Etienne and Paul went to work in the galley preparing a hell of a spread for our upcoming party. As the sun produced another perfect sunset, wade wrapped up his kite session with a good landing back at Coco and our neighbor friends arrived. 9pm is commonly referred to as sailors midnight as we all get tired from long days in the sun and go to bed early. However this particular party lasted until real midnight. Etienne played host making drinks preparing plates and strumming his ukulele. Wade and Paul just focused on consuming the Ti Punch he made and stimulating the conversation, slackers! Anyhow, we had a great night here in the middle of no where with our friends a couple from Norway and California. We have been studying the weather and have decided to depart this afternoon to arrive before this storm that is building off the coast of Oz next week. Leaving at that time affords us an extra half day breathing room at sea before the winds shift and build. Also since we have time to spare before Paul departs we are going to head for Bundaberg rather than Brisbane. Then as the weather allows we will work the coast down to Brisbane, should be a nice cruise.
Nov 5: Hello from the ocean! We had a great last day in Chesterfield yesterday. Snorkeling, Diving, Kiteboarding, and walking on the beach. We bid farewell to our friends and everyone left the anchorage within a few hours of each other. We still saw the Norwegians this morning but don’t see them right now. Upon leaving Chesterfield reef, Etienne and Paul rigged and launched the spinnaker completely unassisted… so they are feeling pretty confident as sailors at the moment. We had good winds through the night and they just died out this morning so we are using the iron wind now to propel us along. Conditions all appear as we expect with us arriving at least 12 hours in Bundaberg before the winds pick up… so plenty of extra time. Calm seas and just puttering along so far today. Lots of Love from Coco.
Nov 6: Motoring… Well, over here at 22 24.665S by 154 38.135E there is not much action happening. We have been under the power of diesel fuel for 24 hours now and that means laziness. Well not entire laziness… the reason my update is a bit delayed is we have been in deep religious discussion this morning. Good debates and no clear answers have yet been discovered. Anyhow, we are motoring along and should jump on the free ride of the Eastern Australia Current later this afternoon. Similar to the Gulf Stream it flows south and should help us pick up some speed. We are looking hopeful at the weather forecast and might get some good wind tonight to help us finish our trip. Everything still looks good for arrival well before the weather changes. Lots of love from the sea! -Wade, Etienne, Paul.
Nov 7: Hello from Australian waters. We have about 50 miles to go to Bundaberg. We are starting to see some shipping traffic and cargo boats. I think we had about 20 boats on the AIS system showing up on our radar last night, but none closer than 30 miles. We spent the day yesterday wondering if there are any more fish in the ocean since none are biting our lines. We played some video games, a card game, watched some TV, read some books, chatted about life, philosophy, education, politics and that type thing. Etienne fixed us a really nice dinner of “Boudin” which is a black sausage filled with animal blood and apples… so we are still enjoying French cuisine and the benefits of a French man who loves to cook on board! Yesterday he explained why a microwave is the devil and should never be used to prepare food for human consumption, such high standards. Anyhow, spirits are high and we are excited for our arrival hopefully before the customs office closes this afternoon! Lots of love from the Men of Coco.
Nov 7: Anchor’s down. We have safely arrived in Bundaberg but the customs office was already full, so we dropped anchor and celebrated on board the boat with wine, cheese, champagne, and hot showers!