KatieKat 2003 Cruise Chapter Sixteen
- New Caledonia to Australia Passage Day Two -

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26 October 2003Passage Second Day
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This webpage covers the second day's passage sail. It focuses on the weather and presents the information that was available prior to the dramatic change which occurred the following evening. This is boring stuff and I'm including it because I had gone back and extracted it in order to figure out what happened, and this gives you some insight into our daily onboard routine and thought process. Our actual Passage Report SailMail e-mails are shown in italics.

26 October, 2003 -- Passage, Second Day

All night long we calmly sailed along downwind with the jib wung out opposite the reefed mainsail. The winds gradually lightened and it was nice and peaceful and we were enjoying the sail.

In the middle of the night, we downloaded the following using the downstairs receiver - image quality is inexplicably poor (it looks even worse after I filtered and reduced its resolution to include on this website):

[Aus 36 Hour Prognosis] [NZ MSL Analysis]

The left one is the Australian 36-hour Prognosis and looked absolutely benign to my untrained eye. The right one is New Zealand's MSL analysis and shows a front coming off Australia and moving southeast (at 25 knots?). It's 3:00am and should this be any cause for concern? I didn't think so... (sigh)

This morning's weatherfax downloads yielded the following MSL Analyses:

[Aus MSL Analysis] [NZ MSL Analysis]

On the left is the Australian MSL analysis and on the right is the New Zealand MSL Analysis. Both (I think, as I can't read the NZ WxFax) are "Valid 1800 25 October 2003 UTC" which means about 5am New Caledonia time.

The Australian MSL analysis shows a long trough line emanating from the low just northeast of Tasmania, but doesn't give any cause for concern as it is still well inland. The NZ WxFax shows a funny-looking line paralleling the east coast of Australia but stretching up to almost our latitude; however, the front to its right shows an arrow going southeast at ten knots, so, once again, little cause for concern.

[Australia Prognosis] At 1030am I downloaded the Australian 36-hour Prognosis which, with all the time delays, is really a 24-hour lookahead as it is valid around noon our time tomorrow (Monday, the 27th). The low to the southeast of Tasmania is moving southeast and, although it shows a definite trough, at first glance it appears to be well below our latitude.

What I had failed to notice is the bump in the isobar way up on the northern Australian coast west of northern Queensland. Does this indicate a continuation of the trough all the way up there?

The New Zealand 30-hour and 48-hour prognoses which I downloaded at midday (1130am and 1230pm, respectively) show the following:

[NZ 30 Hour Prognosis] [NZ 48 Hour Prognosis]

In retrospect, I should have paid very careful attention to the left weatherfax, as the end of the tail of the cold front emanating from that low east of Tasmania would prove to be critical. The 48-hour weatherfax appears benign for our area.

In the left weatherfax I couldn't make out the direction and speed of that now well-defined cold front which follows closely on the heels of a warm front which appears to be heading southeast straight into New Zealand. Also need to recognize that the chart is tilted in that area. The left weatherfax is applicable around midday tomorrow (27th).

NewCal to Australia Passage Report#2
Date: Sunday, 26 October 2003
Time: 1300hrs New Caledonia time
Position: 23deg10minS by 163deg53minE
Course: 237degM
Speed: 4.0-4.5kts
Distance to Moreton Bay Entrance: 623nm
Last 24 Hours: 135nm
WindSpeed: 10kts
Wind Direction: dead behind us
Waves: minimal

Right after sending out yesterday's passage report we reefed down to our second reef as we were in danger of setting some sort of a new KatieKat speed record (besides, for a while it was getting uncomfortable). As the evening came the winds diminished but we simply left in the second reef for the night and by late evening the winds had dropped and shifted to dead astern so we wung out the jib. Today we've been dawdling along flying the Big Ugly Spinnaker.
In the first three hours (yesterday) we did indeed cover 23nm (average speed 7.67kts) and in the first six hours it was 44nm (av'g 7.3kts), but it was down to exactly 80nm (6.7kts) for the first twelve hours.

Nothing new to report - we're busy sleeping, eating, or downloading weatherfaxes. Kathy's already devouring a book. Leaving in good weather has indeed allowed us to quickly settle down to the passagemaking routine.

[GRIB Noon 27th] The GRIB file for midday today, Sunday the 26th.

The winds are exactly what was predicted on the GRIB chart (which I actually downloaded this morning): a ten-knot tailwind. We were having a lovely sail and life was good - it had to be, because the BUS only comes out in very stable conditions.

[Big Ugly Spinnaker] An old photo of the upper portion of our BUS (Big Ugly Spinnaker) in light airs. Nowadays I never use it in conjunction with the mainsail which I invariably drop in order to provide clean airflow for the BUS.

Yes, we were dawdling, as the seas were calm and it was very relaxing slowly running in the light tailwind. No need to hurry, and we were on a course very slightly north of our rhumb line as we wanted to pass between two seamounts midway between Noumea and Brisbane.

[Chart] [Chart Showing Seamounts]

This chart shows our year 2000 passage to/from New Caledonia as well as our present one. The two banks are clearly shown and one is so shallow (30') that some boats have actually anchored out there in the middle of the ocean! With any winds, these banks are to be avoided like the plague, as the seas they generate are truly a mess! The octagonal symbol I use for a GPS waypoint.

That afternoon's Australian and New Zealand analyses show the following:

[Aus MSL Analysis] [NZ MSL Analysis]

I'm experimenting with showing you blown-up portions of the weatherfaxes. The item of interest still is the tail of the trough line of the low which is off the SE coast of Australia.

That evening's MSL Analysis weatherfaxes were little different and merely showed the low off the SE coast of Australia advancing slightly, with little change to the trough tail.

[NZ MSL Analysis] The 3:00am New Zealand MSL Analysis showed the tail of that cold front ending a little above Fraser Island and thus, with the trough line moving eastwards, my take was that we should be well above it when it passed our longitude. Perhaps I should have also been listening to the Australian high-seas voice broadcasts?... I'll see if I can retrieve them.

You'll recall the GRIB file which showed that we would be having northerlies by midday on Monday, the 27th. The winds were now shifting to the northnortheast, and, taking from tomorrow's Passage Report: In the late evening the wind picked up a little and shifted and we broad-reached pleasantly all night long with a double-reefed mainsail.

[GRIB Noon 27th] The GRIB file for midday Monday, the 27th, showing the wind having shifted to the north by then. To think that I totally ignored the very sharp (90-degree) jog in that isobar!!

Thus, the second day at sea ended with a continuation of our pleasant sailing conditions, ...and we were still totally oblivious of what was to come. :-)


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