KatieKat New Caledonia Cruise

Click on date to jump to it
KatieKat Cruise Index Webpage
November 2000New Caledonia to Australia Webpage
28 October 2000Leaving Noumea
27 October 2000Pirogue
25 October 2000Pacific Arts Festival
22 October 2000Autopilot Update
20 October 2000Baie du Carenage
18 October 2000Ilot Brosse
12 October 2000Joe's Birthday
10 October 2000ile des Pins
9 October 2000Bonne Anse
8 October 2000ile Ouen
6 October 2000Some Old Aussie Menus
5 October 2000Baie Uie
3 October 2000Amedee Lighthouse
2 October 2000Web Access and Digital Camera
30 Sept. 2000New Caledonia Tourists
26 Sept. 2000Where Are We?
25 Sept. 2000Port Moselle
23 Sept. 2000Sail Handling and Shroud Tension
22 Sept. 2000Autopilot Musings
21 Sept. 2000Weatherfax
20 Sept. 2000Decadence at Sea
24 Sept. 2000Passage to New Caledonia
Jun-Sept 2000KatieKat Cruise June-Sept. 2000 Webpage
Mar-Jun 2000Pre-Cruise Webpage March - June 2000

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The purpose of the cruise webpages is to let family and friends know what is going on in our lives, with occasional sailing-related derailments. The "Interest" column identifies the target audience, and is intended to spare you baby-picture slide-show agony. This is one long continuous page, and clicking on any of the underlined dates above should jump your screen to the appropriate section on this page (or you can use the scrollbar on the right to navigate up and down this page). Good luck and let me know of any bugs, as I'm still learning this html stuff! Joe Siudzinski

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28 October, 2000 -- Leaving Noumea

We're sailing back to Australia (Brisbane/Manly), leaving on Sunday, so you won't hear from us for a week or so. The only change I've made to the boat is the addition of a detachable 4mm wire forestay which is hoisted with the spinnaker halyard and which will be used to mount the heavy-weather jib off my Telstar - plan on using this scheme if winds will be steadily above about 25-30 knots in order not to abuse the primary jib by partially furling it. If it really gets windy, then I'll also be taking the primary jib down off its furler entirely - and I have a small storm jib I could also hoist if I wanted to keep sailing. Hoping for some good tailwinds for the passage.

[Menu]This was one of the few menus that was actually accompanied by a translation - otherwise, we've been having fun poking through the dictionary.

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27 October, 2000 -- Pirogues

I was quite interested in the attachment scheme used for the crossarm to the outrigger on the Isle of Pines pirogues, which are still actively being made the old-fashioned way - although they're now primarily used to give rides to tourists. The attachment scheme relies upon a piece of wood with a natural fork in it - two of these pieces are inserted into holes in the solid-wood outrigger and are crossed and form the support for the crossbeam going over to the main hull. This crossbeam is lashed to these supports. Then a small-diameter beam is placed lengthwise (fore-aft) on top of the crossbeams and lashed down very tightly by running a rope or wire around it and the crossbeam and down around the outrigger a couple of times and then compressing it using a Spanish windlass.

[Proa]Isle of Pines pirogue, showing the crossbeam attachment scheme. This particular pirogue also had some additional struts attached to the outrigger and crossbeam.

[Proa]This was part of a baby outrigger canoe (about 2m long) being built at the Festival village - it does not have the fore-aft beam running across the crossbeams.

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25 October, 2000 -- Pacific Arts Festival

The Festival of Pacific Arts is held every four years - this year it just happens to be held in Noumea, and we're enjoying the festivities. A few snapshots -

[Boats]Crew of the Cook Islands voyaging canoe (catamaran in background center) being ferried ashore for the formal welcoming ceremony, accompanied by various decorated small outrigger canoes and pirogues. That was a pretty extensive voyage from the Cook Islands to New Caledonia, made just for the festival.

[Painted Warriers]Parade held as part of the boat-welcoming ceremony.

[Parade]Still part of the parade. Each island's representatives had congregated on the beach and performed their native songs and dances during the boat-welcoming ceremonies.

[Dancers]Dancers from all over the Pacific are part of the festivities.

[Dancers]Sorry, I don't remember which island group these dancers represent.

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22 October, 2000 -- Autopilot Update

You've already read about the problems I've been having with the Raytheon/Autohelm autopilot (see 22 September, below). Well, I installed the brand-new belt, reset the configuration back to stock factory settings, and... the darn thing still produces a wiggly course! After methodically varying the many parameters again (some of which produce an increasingly unstable system), the only thing that really seemed to solve the problem was to change the "Drive Type" from "1" (Soft Drive, for mechanically driven vessels - which this is) to a "2" (whatever this means) - I was reluctant to change this, fearing that this setting may have caused the damage to the first belt; however, it's the only thing I've found so far that works. If any Seawind owners are reading this, I'd appreciate an e-mail with some hints of what works for you. When I return to Australia, Raytheon/Autohelm techreps and I are going to have a long talk... UPDATE: Problem solved - see 15 November writeup.

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19-20 October, 2000 -- Baie du Carenage

Had a great broad reach back from the Isle of Pines to the Bay of Prony, where we stayed overnight before going to Noumea. In Prony we anchored in the Baie du Carenage - I put on my mask and snorkel and very bright silver swim fins and jumped in and tried to check the anchor, but it was too murky, so I swam a couple of hundred yards to visit a neighboring boat - the skipper told me that this little bay was reputed to be a shark breeding ground and that someone last week had seen this great BIG thing in the water... I'm happy to be able to write this, although my teeth are still chattering after that interminably long swim back to KatieKat (the other skipper had offered to dinghy me back to my boat, but being the dumb pseudo-macho men-are-from-Mars type, I had declined the offer).

[Shark]This is what I was wondering about - read the above writeup.

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18-19 October, 2000 -- Ilot Brosse

After a week in Kuto Bay we had a short weather window and sailed to nearby Ilot Brosse (Brush Island). We snaked through the reef and plopped down the anchor in the sand patch in the center, surrounded by the coral reefs and coral heads. No sooner had we dropped anchor when we saw the Isle of Pines covered with thick black clouds - they were drowned in a deluge while we just had a few drops even though we were only a couple of miles away! That night, with the changing weather, the boat went round and round its anchor, setting off the alarm many times - but the anchor held perfectly - I dove down and checked it in the morning, and it had simply rotated and continuously reset, with no sign of dragging.

[Joe looking for reefs]The cloudy weather makes it that much more difficult to see the coral heads, and the higher the angle the better. I climbed up on top of the boom while Kathy steered - the hands-free FM transceivers make communication far easier than yelling.

[View Aft]View aft of the anchored boat, with the Isle of Pines in the distance. The reef behind the boat can be easily seen, now that the sun is out the next day. It is only a couple of feet below the water surface.

[View Aft]View of Ilot Brosse in front of the anchored boat. The coral heads can be easily seen. We sure saw lots of seasnakes in the brush, on the beach, and in the water.

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12 October, 2000 -- Joe's Birthday

So what's it like having a birthday on a beautiful tropical island in the South Pacific? I'm simply thankful for having wonderful friends and family and the opportunity to enjoy this during my lifetime.

[Birthday Breakfast]A birthday french toast breakfast, with the saved-for-the-occasion bottle of Bundaberg Rum maple syrup.

[Birthday Snails]The two-dozen huge escargot (an island specialty) were just the appetizer for the main meal.

[Kathy Snails]Hi Mom! Bet you can't believe I'm actually eating these things! Save some for me from your garden :-)

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10-17 October, 2000 -- Isle of Pines

Had a great impromptu race to windward from Bonne Anse to the Isle of Pines (sailed 54 miles for the roughly 35 mile distance) with a Manta 40 cat, a 39-ft tri, and an aluminum 40-ft monohull - we stomped them, despite towing BikeBoat!

The Isle of Pines and its surrounding islets is everything you've ever imagined a South Seas tropical island should look like - unbelievably fine white powdered sand, coral reefs, warm air, steady tradewinds, and crystal-clear water at the outlying islets. We took too many photos to include on this page. CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR ISLE OF PINES PHOTOS.

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9 October, 2000 -- Bonne Anse and Cap Ndoua Phare

On the way to Isle of Pines, stopped for the night in a nice little bay off Bonne Anse inlet in the Baie de Prony and took what we thought would be a short walk but which ended up being a great long hike UP to the Cap Ndoua lighthouse.

[KatieKat and BikeBoat]A cruiser's typical view. BikeBoat sure makes a great tender!

[Lighthouse]Close to the end of the climb! Note the red rock, typical in this area.

[Joe Lighthouse]It was rather windy up here - the view was magnificent!

[Kathy View]View looking westjust off the lighthouse. Behind Kathy on the left is Isle Ouen. We sailed through that pass behind her (named the Woodin Canal) earlier that day.

[Kathy Snorkeling]Kathy looking for sharks while admiring the varied coral and fish.

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7-9 October, 2000 -- ile Ouen - Baie de la Tortue

We stayed hunkered down in Baie Uie for two full days while the winds howled and rain pelted us - relaxed and read and became very laid-back. No wonder Cook named it New Caledonia - just like Bonny Scotland (but warmer)! Finally realized that rain forest means that it's the wet part of the island and the sun might never show (the guidebook failed to mention this), so we then ventured out for a short and bumpy two-hour beat to ile Ouen - the climate difference being notable with only about a five mile geographical separation: the clouds parted and the rain stopped, but the winds continued. On the chart ile Ouen is the large island southeast of Baie Uie - mustn't miss landing on it, because there's a huge nasty reef to the south and southwest of it. The Bruce anchor is holding us in place marvelously (it's so nice to be able to dive down and see how it set). Beat a neighboring inflatable with a 2-hp outboard dead upwind to the beach with BikeBoat - they were really struggling, whilst we roared past them (and with only one leg, to boot)! Went for a hike up into the hills, but didn't get to the abandoned jade mines.

[KatieKat Anchored]When anchoring, I shackle the chain to the bridle - keeps the boat rock-solid into the wind, unlike some of the neighboring weaving monohulls.

[Ouen Aerodrome]The aerodrome consists of a bumpy grass strip. Happily, the boat is anchored just slightly off the flight path, although the only plane we've seen land was on the water.

[Seaplane Landing]When cruising, you never know what you'll see next.

[Ouen View]That's KatieKat dead center. One of the huge reefs is to the left of the island in this photo. Another small reef is on the right just above the leaves. The airstrip is behind the boulder on the left.

[Ouen Crevette]Neither of us being experts at this, it took us a while to figure out how to tear the heads off and then dig into these crevettes, uh, prawns. Messy and terribly time-consuming considering the end quantity, but I guess they were delicious with the remoulade (mayo flavored with mustard).

[Ouen Coconuts]If you'll look closely, you'll see lots of coconuts up there - and there are lots of huge coconuts lying under the trees, and I wonder how many people get killed annually getting bonked by these things?

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6 October, 2000 -- More Australian Menus

While anchored in Bai Uie I was cleaning up the computer files and ran across some more photos of menus I had taken in Australia...

[Menu Salad]I like salads, but...

[Menu Pizza]About that Austintasty...

[Menu Croc]Decisions, decisions... happy to see the croc was not local!

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5 October, 2000 -- Baie Uie

By the third day at Amedee, the winds had whipped up, so we bumpily sailed over to the main island and anchored in an ostensibly protected bay (Baie Uie) between some quite steep hills but which had 30-knot williwaws whapping us all night long (reminiscent of Alaska and British Columbia). 90-ft of chain attached to the big Bruce anchor and bridle in 14-ft of water and we ain't budging! I'm writing this in the morning as the wind is howling and the rain is pouring and we are super-snug and dry inside (even with the main saloon overhead hatch cracked open a notch) - Kathy finally catching up on some long-postponed reading.

[Towing BikeBoat]A rough tow for BikeBoat from Amadee to Uie.

[Kathy rum]Kathy searching for a cookbook recipe while steeling herself for preparing dinner with some rare Bundaberg Black rum after the bumpy sail across from Amadee to Uie. The veal/potatoes/veggies/salad dinner was delicious!

[Kathy reading]Kathy happily reading a Patrick O'Brien seafaring novel while 20-knot winds (gusting to 30) and rain pelt the boat.

[SW NC Chart]A portion of the chart of southwest New Caledonia showing the area we just travelled.

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3 October, 2000 -- Amedee Lighthouse

A great smooth 3-hour sail from Noumea back to the lagoon reef entrance and the beautiful Islot Amedee, on which is situated the lighthouse dating back to 1865. The lighthouse is made out of metal plates and girders and was prefabricated (and pre-assembled, then disassembled for shipment) in France prior to being brought out here. Really a welcoming sight, visible over 20 miles at sea, which we used when coming in. As you know from my past commentary, I love lighthouses - so you'll have to suffer through some of the photos I took of this one. The little islet of Amadee, with its own little reef, is quite a tourist attraction - diving in the clear waters is very popular. We stayed here for a couple of days, snorkeling in the crystal-clear water around the coral reefs right by the boat - zillions of fish of all different varieties, including some cute little sharks.

[Amedee KatieKat]KatieKat at anchor by the Amadee lighthouse. The small structure on the right provides the range light - you line up the light on it with the lighthouse and that defines the channel when coming through the reef. Behind it, you can see some of the waves breaking over the reef.

[Amedee Joe]Happy tourist.

[Amedee Kathy]Not an unhappy tourist, either.

[Amedee Inside]The view looking straight down the stairwell down the center of the lighthouse. The protective netting is a recent addition, thwarting a fun ride down the bannister.

[Amedee Inside]Kathy near the top of climbing the 247 steps - who needs a gym?

[Amedee View]View from the lighthouse - that's KatieKat in the middle. The main reef is barely visible and extends across the horizon, whereas a portion of the small Amadee reef is visible in front of and to the side of the boat.

[Amedee Joe]Joe on top of Amedee lighthouse, with KatieKat in the background.

[Amedee Kathy]Kathy, with New Caledonia in the background.

[Amedee Beach]Photo of KatieKat taken from the beach at Amedee - in the left background, the tiny spec is a freighter which went on the reef in 1970. Lots of wrecks around here.

[Amedee Joe Dive]Getting ready for another snorkeling excursion.

[Amedee Chart]Chart detail showing Amedee lighthouse and leads.

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2 October, 2000 -- Web Access and Digital Camera

This is just a short discussion on how I was able to access and update this website in Noumea, and a brief description of the digital image process I go through in putting the pictures up on this website.

Since I don't have an ISP in New Caledonia I approached the Internet Cafe called EDGE and they kindly allowed me to plug my Macintosh directly into their server using the built-in Ethernet port. For a fee identical to their normal usage fees I now have high-speed Web access and can update the website and download my e-mail. An added bonus is that I don't have to suffer with the French keyboard, which has a number of keys relocated from what we're used to (keys such as a, m, w...). The only problem I have is that sending e-mail can only be done through one of my web accounts (my preference is Yahoo) and I haven't yet tried to use Outlook Express directly so I just pre-compose my messages in a word processor and copy/paste into YahooMail while online.

I've almost completely abandoned 35mm photography and instead have gone digital - my camera is an Olympus D-340R 1.3 megapixel and our evening ritual has become the review of the day's photos on the computer. I use rechargeable AA NiMh batteries, which last significantly longer than NiCads. I have two 8Mb SmartMedia cards which each hold 18 jpeg-compressed images at the high-quality mode I usually shoot at (in low-res mode, I could cram in 122 images). I have a PCMCIA card for the Mac and the image upload off the SmartMedia card is extremely fast (much much faster than using the RS232 cable). Once the image is in the computer, I crop, scale, reduce the resolution to the web-standard 72dpi, and often increase the image intensity (for the benefit of PC users) prior to storing it for upload to my website. I've standardized the image sizes: the thumbnail photos you see on this webpage are 1" high at 72dpi, wheareas the larger images are 5" high at 72dpi - the larger photo filling the screen of users using low-resolution monitors.

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30 September, 2000 -- New Caledonia Tourists

I'm nursing a sore neck right now, from checking out all the beautiful topless girls on the beaches... (sorry, no pictures). The Noumea open-air market is located about 200 metres from the boat so we've been indulging in the fantastic French pastries for breakfast (not to mention the baguettes). Did a one-day inland guided tour and got to see some rain forest and petroglyphs - just as there were in Alaska - and no one knows the origin of the petroglyphs! We've just obtained a visa which allows us to stay in New Caledonia into November (otherwise, it's a 30-day max limit), so we'll be taking off on Monday and go cruise around the islands for a few weeks - which means we'll be out of internet connectivity and won't be updating this website nor answering e-mails for a while. Hope to come back with some nice photos.

[Joe Kathy Hilltop]Just a couple of tourists having their snapshot taken.

[Kathy Flowers]Kathy loves flowers.

[Steam Engine]This'll have to do in lieu of the topless girls.

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26 September, 2000 -- Where Are We?

Thanks, Larry, for suggesting that I might provide some visual reference relating to where we are in the world. I keep forgetting to do that.

[Tasman Sea]The big picture. Australia is on the left with the Great Barrier Reef up above it. New Zealand is down at the bottom right. Fiji is in the upper right-hand corner. New Caledonia is in the upper center, with the Loyalty Islands just to the northeast and Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) further northeast.

[Track to NC]A closer view of the same chart, showing our noontime positions during passage to New Caledonia.

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25 September, 2000 -- Port Moselle

Port Moselle is one of the modern marinas in Noumea, New Caledonia. As we came in with our fenders prepared to dock, we were escorted up to the seawall for a Med-style moor and went through a little bit of a scramble to relocate the lines, but managed to tie up smartly, much to the disappointment of the eager onlookers. We ended up next to Ross Turner and his family on a JarcatCC29 - we recognized each other from the multihulls e-mail list that I used to subscribe to before setting off. This morning after the open-air market (which is right next to the marina) and breakfast we're going to look for the internet cafe as everything was closed over the weekend - and if you're reading this it means I found an ISP.

[Port Moselle]Lots of real heavy-duty ocean cruisers are here for a short while.

[Gangplank]The real trick is to go down carrying all six bags of groceries at one time. The blue box on the foredeck contains the parachute sea anchor and its floats (but not the anchor line which is very heavy and which I stow down low in the starboard hull). I was appalled to find this box completely full of water when we arrived! I'll be stowing the sea anchor in the port forward storage locker during the return trip.

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23 September, 2000 -- Sail Handling and Shroud Tension Musings

During this passage to New Caledonia, the mainsail handling systems worked ok - as you recall, I have four reefing points on the mainsail and have left the first reef unused, so my first reef is really the sail's second reef, the second is the third, and the third reef is the fourth one I had specially added. Also, on this boat, I had specified that the main halyard winch be mast mounted - which I find to be much easier when singlehanding, as one is right there and able to secure the reefing tack at the boom and tension the sail at the same time - as I said before, most people would probably prefer the stock setup of bringing the main halyard aft to the cockpit.

Ok, so how does it all work? ONCE THE SAIL IS UP, putting in or taking out a reef by going forward to the mast and winching up or letting down the main halyard and attaching the reefing tack is very easy, as is later pulling out the reefed clew from the cockpit. What isn't easy is getting the sail up in the first place. You'll recall that the Seawind has this wonderful zipped sailcover held up with lazy jacks, so when you drop the sail it all gets stowed nicely and you just zip the bag closed and it's all put away. When hoisting the mainsail, this system necessitates that the boom and sail are pointing directly into the wind, because otherwise the full-length batten edges snag on the lazy jacks - well, try doing this singlehandedly in the middle of the night after having totally dropped the mainsail when a particularly nasty squall came through and it's still blowing 20 and the seas are all over the place and you don't want to use the motor - it would be doable if only one could see the lazyjacks in the dark - the spreader light illuminates the foredeck and not the mainsail. Thus, what it entails is having Kathy shine a light on the mainsail while steering as I hoist the main - it's just a matter of proper timing to get the sail up between the lazy jacks as the main flops from side to side. I've actually become pretty good at it by myself under sail alone during daylight with the boat on autopilot.

Too bad from an overall perspective, as this gives one a definite reluctance to totally drop the mainsail when it might be prudent to do so. This is one area that I have no idea what to suggest as an improvement at this time - the lazy jacks and built-in sailcover are such a nice feature that I would not want to give them up. I noticed that some boats support and route their lazy jacks in a different pattern ... I'll work on it...

A side benefit to all this activity is that my starboard arm muscle is really getting well-toned: Alec, watch out the next time you want to arm-wrestle!

By the way, the boat sails very well with reefed mainsail, with the very slight drop in boatspeed being well worth the peace of mind, especially when sailing at night. Actually, boatspeed doesn't drop much, because a well-filled reefed main has the equivalent driving power of a full main that's loosened up and spilling

The jib system works very well, and it took a while to develop a technique of rolling in the furler on starboard tack in very heavy winds when the winch is needed both to hold the jibsheet and pull in the furler - the trick is to use the starboard winch to pull in the starboartd jibsheet and keep the sail from flogging too much as the port winch is used to furl it. I was reluctant to sail in the heavier winds with the jib partially furled - it seems to me that the jibsheet angle needs to be lower (i.e., the jibsheet turning block brought forward) as one furls in the jib - I may try rigging something with snatch blocks if I will be sailing in heavier winds on one tack for a long time. I'm very glad I ordered the furling jib with the boat, as I've spent all too much time changing headsails on pitching foredecks on my previous boats (thanks, Gary).

A note about main shroud tension - (shrouds are the two aft wires which hold the mast up) - after an initial few months of sailing they should be re-tensioned (this is recommended in the Seawind manual). Well, I hadn't done this and felt the wires were adequately taught before we left; however, after the first two days where we took some pretty hard continuous beating to windward, the shrouds did indeed loosen up a little. As I wasn't comfortable with the leeward shroud flopping around and occasionally imparting a noticeable shudder through the whole boat as it loaded up, I thought I ought to do someting - I don't have two wrenches large enough onboard to loosen the rigging screws, so I simply ran a tackle athwartships and pre-tensioned the wires that way (see the photo below). Worked just fine during the trip, thank you, and now I'm looking to buy a big spanner to do the job right.

[Lazy Jacks]Sailcover and lazy jacks. When hoisting the main, one needs to have the sail slide up between the two sets of spaghetti.

[Rig Tensioner]Makeshift shroud pre-tensioner.

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22 September, 2000 -- Autopilot Musings

Ok, it's time to talk about the autopilot and let me say from the outset that on this passage I did finally get it to work quite well - its windvane mode was especially welcome as the windshifts were continuous for a good part of the trip. The boat is equipped with an Autohelm 4000+ wheel-drive system with no rudder reference transducer - it's a good system, integrated with other instruments such as windspeed and direction, boatspeed, depth, etc., and well suited to the boat.

From the outset, the system had never produced a steady stable course - it never seems to learn and continues to overshoot, giving a wandering wake (especially noticeable when motoring). These wanderings do average out and the boat DOES maintain a pre-set compass or windvane heading. There are enough programming variables to lead one to think that there must be a setting which will work - I've tried every one of them, methodically varying each parameter and seeing how the system reacts (it's a pain, because you have to hold one button for 14 seconds to access programming mode each time you want to change something!). I called up Raytheon and the techrep allowed as the turn rate setting (degrees/sec which the book only calls degrees) needed to be lowered (the book says the range is five to 20 degrees whereas I can program between five and 40 degrees[/sec]) - didn't seem to help. Let's just say that I think I (maybe finally) got it to work by changing the "Drive Type" from the recommended "1" (Soft Drive for a mechanically driven steering system) to a "2", whatever that does - hint to Raytheon/Autohelm: you could elaborate further on what each one of those parameters means and what the response should be if it is set correctly!!

In talking with other Seawind owners about the autopilot, I get a mixed response - the first owners I met had coastal cruised extensively and had experienced no problems at all (and like a dummy, I didn't access their system to see exactly what the settings on their autopilot were!), whereas others I talked with experienced the same problems I'm having and are resigned to always having a wandering wake.

As I said, I finally did get the thing to work seemingly well on this turbulent trip (where course stability at any given instant is a moot point as the boat is jostled continuously) and I was particularly pleased with its wind vane mode whereby the autopilot follows the wind instead of a compass and it also has this neat feature which sounds off an alarm if the compass heading changes by more than x degrees (programmable) while in this windvane mode

The Autohelm finally got its revenge for all my fiddling, and about 150 miles out of Noumea it stopped working - slippage in the drivetrain as the autopilot tries to turn the wheel. I just finished disassembling it and the drivebelt is badly distorted between a couple of teeth.

Update 9/26: have a new belt, and one of the untested theories around here is that the old belt was stretched all along and had slippage which resulted in the continuous overshoot. I'll do an update on this one after our next test sail. Update 10/22: that theory was all wet; however, UPDATE 11/15: Autohelm problem solved - see 15 November writeup.

Now, being a little paranoid in this entire area of autopilots (based on past experiences), I had brought with me a SIMRAD/NAVICO WP-10 completely self-contained wheel steering autopilot. Since this unit is designed to be mounted on a steering pedestal, it took me a long time to figure out how to mount it on the port bulkhead and onto the other steering wheel. It was finally after three months of agonizing that I got up the courage to drill the necessary 2"dia. hole and a few smaller ones for the mounting hardware (that's one of the problems with getting a new boat - drilling holes into it to mount additional stuff is traumatic). I had to completely disassemble the Navico unit and cut and splice some extension wiring into it because the control head did not fit between the steering wheel and the bulkhead; furthermore, I still haven't figured out an unobtrusive control head mounting scheme, so the thing is held onto the grab rail with tie-wraps. Anyway, after all the trouble of mounting this Navico unit it was with bated breath (or something like that) that I tried it out for the first time after running through their simple setup procedure... WOW, straight out of the box with factory settings this autopilot steers a STRAIGHT LINE. How refreshing!! I've now very extensively used this Simrad/Navico autopilot and swear by it - whether under power or any point of sail under any seastate this thing works beautifully, and it's quieter than the Autohelm to boot.

During the crossing from Australia to New Caledonia I was primarily using the Autohelm (except when under power) because -
(1) I got it to now work pretty well and the controls are conveniently located in front of the starboard steering station and it is the starboard back door flap we keep open at night so I can quickly disconnect the autopilot and take over steering manually.
(2) It is tied in to the windvane and that was my primary operating mode for most of the trip.
(3) I'm saving the Navico unit to keep it in pristine shape.

When the Autohelm conked out the Simrad/Navico unit steered us nice and straight the rest of the way to Noumea.

[Autohelm Apart]The Autohelm autopilot disassembled for belt replacement.

[Autohelm Belt]The Autohelm autopilot belt showing the distortion and stretch - enough to result in drive slippage.

[Navico]The Simrad/Navico autopilot installation, with the control head (temporarily?) attached to the vertical grabrail.

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21 September, 2000 -- Weatherfax

One of the nice-to-have things onboard a boat in the middle of the ocean is a weatherfax, as weather charts of various types are broadcast by Australia, New Zealand, and the US in Guam in this part of the world. Doing it on the cheap, I brought along my Radio Shack "communications" receiver - coupling its audio output into my Macintosh audio input allows direct weatherfax signal decoding with the help of some great software called WeatherMaq produced by Quintessence Designs. Another program called MultiMode, shareware by Chris Smolinski, does the job as well. While browsing through a Radio Shack store in Brisbane, I picked up a shortwave antenna amplifier (it has a two-band tuner in it) - all this stuff runs off 12vdc, and it really works.

Now, for antennas, sailboats usually use an insulated backstay or cut down one of the shrouds and put insulators in it and then attach and run the wire down to the communications transceivers. They also add grounding plates under the hull if the keel isn't metal. Now, all I wanted was to listen and I wasn't about to cut one of the two monster shrouds holding my mast up (and I don't have a backstay) so I considered a whip antenna to mount on the targa bar. Trouble is, that cost more than the receiver itself (full-blown SSB communications and a ham license are on the list of things to get/do). While experimenting with weatherfax reception while at the dock in Manly, I had temporarily rigged up a wire running across the boat - worked great, and for a couple of weeks before our trip I was regularly downloading weatherfaxes and trying to correlate them to the weather at hand. At the last minute, just before departing Manly, I realized that there was no reason why a half-dipole consisting of a length of horizontal wire running the length of the boat shouldn't work - so I concocted a couple of antenna supports out of pvc tubing attached to the stanchions and, voila, there it was - and it worked! (I fully expected the forward antenna support to be demolished by either the seas or the spinnaker, but it survived intact). I merely led the antenna wire through the hatch above my desk and into the preamp, and was able to tune frequencies from 5- 25 MHz with good results. The signal strength was excellent, and for most of the trip we were receiving Australian and a few New Zealand weatherfaxes on a regular basis. I'm now scratching my head trying to figure out how to improve on this system and make it a less temporary kluge.

I ended up using the lower sideband, with the frequency offset up about 2.1KHz off nominal, and then taking the saved image in the Mac and inverting it and cleaning it up before printing on the onboard Epson 740 inkjet. A collection of current Mean Sea Level Analyses and a separate collection of MSL Prognosis charts give a good real-time picture of developing trends. I am in the process of studying my 500HPa charts and applicable chapters in Dashew's weather book to see if I can figure out for myself what's going to happen. Interesting learning experience.

[Radio Setup]The radio setup in the study, with the antenna feeding into the preamp/tuner which feeds the receiver which feeds audio into the Macintosh.

[Radio Antenna]The radio antenna, supported with a pvc tube off the pulpit and a second pvc tube off a stanchion by the rear port by the study. Sorry, no action photos showing waves breaking over this setup - this kluge actually survived intact.

[Weather Charts]A part of the collection of weather charts used throughout the passage.

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20 September, 2000 -- Decadence at Sea

Say what you will, passagemaking nowadays has changed somewhat even from what I remember a few years ago. Although we don't have a satellite phone nor satellite TV system nor radar nor many other luxury gadgets, I really appreciate the creature conveniences we do enjoy. Some photos tell it all.

[Censored]Kathy watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on our eyeball TV set while getting comfortable steering a compass course on the evening of our first day offshore.

[Censored]Kathy taking a hot fresh-water shower in the middle of the ocean.

[Ice Cream]That's real ice cream we're eating!

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24 September, 2000 -- Passage to New Caledonia

New Caledonia is located about 800 miles east of Australia, across the southern end of the Coral Sea. If you're reading this, that means we made it :-)

The statistics for the passage:
From Manly to Noumea (across the southern end of the Coral Sea), the GPS says we sailed 939nm and the boat log says 818.2nm (hmm, I thought the knotmeter was reading low, especially in the turbulent conditions). Once in the ocean, we put on 4.7 hours onto the port engine and 43.3 hours onto the starboard engine (the one used to power us through the calms). We departed Manly on Thursday, September 14, although we didn't exit the Southport Sea Entrance until Friday afternoon, and arrived in Noumea on Saturday morning, September 23. Our best noon-noon run was on the second-to-last day where we sailed 135nm primarily under triple-reefed main and consciously trying to slow the boat down so we wouldn't arrive in NC too early the next day. The rest of the passage times weren't good because I was being awfully conservative at the outset and then we had lots of intermittent winds with long periods of calms and we didn't start using the motor until well into the passage. Maximum windspeeds experienced were just under 30 knots in some of the squalls, with normal steady-state maxima of around 22 knots.

Talk about the best-laid plans... we had spent months talking with cruisers regarding the best approach for a passage to New Caledonia. The consensus was to start off as low down the coast as possible (Coff's Harbour being a prime candidate), head East the whole way until headed by the southeasterly trades, then pinch up to make Noumea all on one tack. Just before leaving we went to the Met office in Brisbane and confirmed the forecasts as being SouthEasterly. Although we missed a nice northerly due to some delays just before departure, we were pointing hard and sailing down the coast on the evening of the opening day of the Olympic Games, and we continued pointing tightly until we got to the imaginary waypoint where we were to make our turn NorthEast - and what do we get when we get there? - a NorthEast breeze dead on the nose! It wasn't until the last day or so that the wind clocked around and we had decent close reaching conditions - trouble is, the seas were so awfully confused that I had to keep the boatspeed down.

The first couple of days were quite turbulent, as the southerly-going Australian coastal current bouncing against the southeast winds creates quite a washing-machine effect. At one point we were really going topsy-turvy and it was only later that we realized that we were over something called the Britania Seamount - I don't know if that's what caused it, but it sure was interesting! I kept promising Kathy that ocean sailing was not like this, and, sure enough, on the third day of our passage everything became orderly and we went on to have a great couple of days of relatively smooth seas. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a massive high, and the winds became light to non-existent. I finally gave up, and we ended up motoring for many many hours until about halfway across.

The Seawind has proven to be a good passagemaking boat, the layout being really comfortable at sea. The midships main berth has minimal motion, allowing for a good rest. The boat's motion is lively, which makes me feel good that we haven't loaded down the boat - and thus, it's quite dry on deck. The galley layout makes it really great to brace oneself in the rougher stuff. Being quite conservative in cruising, I put in reefs early, but boatspeed wasn't too shabby when we had wind even when reefed. Towards the end of the trip when, indeed, the wind had clocked around and we were on a beam reach heading for Noumea - I had to take pains to rein in the boat and keep it down under 8 knots as we needed to arrive after daybreak in order to cross the reef (besides, it was awfully bouncy).

I guess what surprised me about the sail across are three things:
1. The variability of the wind direction in the middle of the ocean - it would shift around back and forth, the included angle being as much as 120 degrees, although usually not more than 60 degrees. The only thing I could figure out from the weatherfaxes is that we were on the edge of the isobar curving around the high pressure center - but then, what do I know?
2. The variability of the windstrength - winds seemed to continuously vary between 12 and 22 knots, and as soon as I would put in or take out a reef then the change would occur - we're talking three or four times an hour! I finally gave up and we sailed mostly on the second reef.
3. The turbulence of the water - I had expected the normal chop on top of ocean swells, with the messy chop diminishing as we went further offshore; instead, we got the washing-machine effect for much of the passage.

Talking with some long-distance cruisers here in Noumea, they allowed as coming here was one of the more uncomfortable passages many of them had made.

We established a watch routine and were each able to get sufficient sleep during the passage. When it wasn't too nasty, Kathy spent her time reading and boning up on her French, while I was occupied downloading and interpreting the weatherfaxes and significantly revising this website - my main concern being damaging the computer hard drive when an occasional nasty wave would whump and shudder the entire boat.

So, how did the boat do? Wonderfully! So, how did we do - uh, ok I guess. Let me talk about the boat first -

The living quarters of the boat stayed bone dry until we hit some significantly heavier seas on about the fourth day out - I had forgotten to replace the Nicro solar vents with caps, and we did indeed get a little bit of water inside as some waves swept over the hulls - after putting the caps on and mopping up, we stayed nice and dry below again. We zipped closed the main saloon enclosure every evening or when it became particularly nasty, and it stayed really dry up there the whole time.

The boat handled all the seas very well, and never did we experience a situation where we wondered about its ultimate stability. Occasional wild gyrations did indeed occur as some diverse wave patterns decided to converge under us, but the boat just wiggled through it and kept on moving. Every once in a while some converging seas would throw a wave up onto the boat - my reaction would typically be one of annoyance "aw, cut it out!" rather than an expletive.

As you can see from the photographs, we had stuff just sitting on the table and desk and counters, with nothing strapped down. I extensively use the flexible rubber non-skid material (the kind you buy for kitchen cupboard liners), or Velcro for some of the more permanent instruments, and this is more than adequate to keep everything in its place. The main saloon table, the galley, and the main bunk are located very close to the center of rotation (gyration?) of the boat and indeed experience minimal motion at sea.

The boat has good bridgedeck clearance and I finally figured out that boat speed through this mess significantly determined one's comfort: at speeds under about 4 knots there would be a noticeable increase in the slapping of the boat's undersides, especially the outboard motor housings. Between four and seven knots, there might be an occasional whap. Above seven knots, things really smoothed out and became quiet and it would be rare to have anything go thump. Now, when I say slap, whap, or thump (all meaning the same thing) - this is nothing compared to what I've experienced with my Telstar trimaran nor the bone-jarring impacts on some monohulls - hey, it's all relative. As I mentioned earlier, an occasional wave would impart a shock to the boat, but as best I can describe it this shock would be a sharp rap which wouldn't move anything but yet was something that did make me fear for my computer's hard drive.

Even though the higher speeds produced the noticeably smoother ride, I'm still in my infancy of offshore cruising on this boat and was reluctant to just let the boat's speed keep climbing (what a difference compared to coastal racing!). Even though the winds were only in the low 20's, I would reef down enough to keep eight knots as our normal upper limit.

Regarding sail handling and autopilot issues, I'll address these in separate writeups.

What went wrong and what broke? The Autohelm autopilot got a little sick a day before the end of the trip but the backup worked great. Our stern navigation light went out - burned out bulb - about halfway through the passage. The screw holding the Harken main halyard winch drum loosened and the drum almost fell off - didn't see it happen at night and only caught it in the morning. After the trip, noticed a lot of chafe on the sailcover where the lazy jack tensioning line rubbed right through the cover. That's about it for problems. No drama, as they say in Australia.

To sum up my impressions of the boat in this first sea crossing, I'm very pleased - no, Seawind isn't paying me to say this :-)

So how did we do? Although we didn't get seasick, both of us were somewhat queasy towards the end of the passage when the boat was corkscrewing along for two solid days. We each slept reasonably well, although I ended up dozing a lot on the main saloon settee in order to be close to the action as conditions changed. Kathy had pre-prepared lots of meals and she valiantly fixed them so we ate quite well the whole time. We started out with a rigorous watch system, but found that we could each better accommodate the other's sleep cycle needs by simply letting the other person sleep when they wanted to. The couple of days of calms and smooth seas were very pleasant, but the nasty sea turbulence for most of the passage would classify it more as "grin and bear it" rather than "whee, isn't this fun!". Having a moon at night at the start of the passage was really nice, and we missed it towards the end. I'm sure Kathy thought at least once that staring at a database on a computer screen in the office was indeed preferable to having waves crashing onto a corkscrewing boat in the middle of the ocean on a howling windy night!

OK, so there you have it - that was our first real offshore passage, and sorry for boring you'all with so much narrative. A few photos from the passage are shown below, taken during the nice periods during our sail - I realized after the trip that I hadn't taken any photos of the nasty seas!

I'll be addressing a few specific topics in subsequent writeups, and we are now looking forward to exploring this beautiful island of New Caledonia.

[BikeBoat Ready for Sea]The SeaCycle prepared with emergency gear inside the basket, including a 406 EPIRB, food, water, a handheld VHF with solar battery recharge, flares and dye markers, a space blanket, and a small drogue and line. The straps securing BikeBoat to KatieKat are held in with quick-release snapshackles. Hope to never have to use this as a liferaft, but it's ready just in case.

[Joe Sextant]Obligatory sextant shooting photograph - still remember how to use the darn thing, and we were only a couple of miles off from where the GPS says we were! Uh, actually it was more like seven miles...

[Kathy Dolphins]Kathy trying to communicate with the friendly dolphins.

[Ocean Sunrise]Mid-ocean sunrise.

[Joe Snoozing]Joe hard at work sailing across the ocean.

[Tomato]Seasick tomato plant - the tomato we ate just before arriving in Noumea and it was delicious!

[Kathy Night at Sea]Kathy trying to look happy during one of our calmer stretches at night at sea. That's juice, not wine, in that glass.

[Amedee Lighthouse]Amedee Lighthouse at the entrance into Boulari Pass through the barrier reef near Noumea, New Caledonia. To the right on the boat is my makeshift PVC shortwave antenna support which survived all the pounding.

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