KatieKat 2003 Cruise Chapter Thirteen
- New Caledonia -

Click on underlined text to jump to it. Underlined dates pertain to this webpage.
GoBackTo Fiji to New Caledonia Passage
16 October 2003Autopilot
15-19 October 2003Noumea Scenes
20 October 2003Going Island-Hopping
24 October 2003New Caledonia Cruisin'
GoFwdTo New Caledonia to Australia Passage

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16 October, 2003 -- Autopilot

A few hours before we pulled into Noumea, our Autohelm autopilot decided it had worked too hard for the past 6000nm since its last belt replacement and stretched the darn thing. Not bad mileage, as I consider this a routine maintenance replacement item. What's funny is that the same thing happened three years ago when we were also approaching Noumea. Perhaps it's the British autopilot allergic to a French territory? :-)

Actually, the belt going out was probably my fault: during the passage I had forgotten to periodically turn off the instruments and then turn them back on again so that the drive gear would rotate the belt and 'zero-out' on a different spot on the belt AND earlier in the passage while I was fiddling with the settings trying to get the boat to pinch up I drove the autopilot into the stops very briefly - doing this certainly stresses the belt.

Anyway, I not only replaced the belt, but lubricated all the rollers (the latest repair kit doesn't mention this whereas an earlier repair kit even contained the special grease to do this), replaced the driving gear (it's still ok, but was sloppy in its mounting) and, for good measure, drilled a hole in the engagement lever so I could easily attach a bungie to it in the future if a stretching belt should cause the lever to pop open and I needed a "get-home" fix. Happily, I had a brand-new spare belt onboard - the local Raymarine Autohelm distributor was completely out of them, and the next shipment wasn't expected for a month (HELLO: right now this place is a huge South Pacific crossroads for cruising boats heading to either Australia or New Zealand - no belts in stock? Wake up, somebody!). This is the fourth belt in 14,000nm, with almost exactly 6000nm on each of the last two belts.

The reason I'm dwelling on this is that the autopilot is an absolutely indispensible piece of boat equipment when one is sailing shorthanded, as we are. It steers the boat 99.99...% of the time, and does a helluva lot better job than either of us consistently could in most conditions. The power drain is negligible because the boat is so well balanced and has excellent directional stability. When passagemaking we usually run the autopilot in 'Track' mode, controlled by the cross-track error from the GPS when heading for a pre-set waypoint. When really close-hauled, we run in 'Wind-Vane' mode, so the boat follows the inevitable windshifts and optimizes its windward performance. Otherwise, the autopilot is run in 'Auto' mode using its own compass.

[Autopilot Repair] [Autopilot Repair] [Autopilot Repair]

The left photo shows the starboard steering wheel removed and the autopilot drive mechanism exposed. The second photo shows the versatile main saloon table converted into a workbench. The third photo shows me drilling a hole into the engagement lever in case I need to run a string and bungie through it in the future.

Hey, I love my Autohelm autopilot ever since I finally figured out the appropriate programming three years ago (see autopilot settings). It's been an untiring and faithful crewmember and I wouldn't leave home without it (and Raymarine didn't even pay me to say that!). As a backup, I have a Navico Simrad autopilot mounted completely independently on the other wheel - had to use it three times so far (each time after a belt stretch in the Autohelm). Me handsteer? NO WAY! - been there, done that, for over 30 years, thank you.

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15-19 October, 2003 -- Noumea Scenes

It was nice returning to familiar surroundings. We had been here exactly three years ago, on KatieKat's maiden offshore passage. Some things have changed - new buses! Others haven't - a sewer still empties into the yacht basin, the smell as bad as I remember it.

[KatieKat at Noumea Dock]KatieKat at Port Moselle Marina in Noumea. Why are we pointing away from the dock while all the other boats are pointing in? Answer: note the short finger-pier. We elegantly step off our boat directly from the transom steps onto the dock, unlike our neighbors.

[WW2 Memorial] [WW2 Memorial Inscription]

Close to the marina and harbor is the well-maintained World War II Memorial thanking the US armed forces. Just a reminder, New Caledonia is a French territory.

[Kathy Cars] [Joe Car]

Both Kathy and I like small cars - these cute things seem ideal for this island.

[Noumea Seawind] [Noumea Seawind] [Noumea Seawind]

Hey, another Seawind! Kathy's checking out the differences between this boat and KatieKat. We subsequently met the owners, Annie and Daniel Paillard, and gave them a tour of KatieKat - it's fun comparing notes. No, they didn't sail it here, but Royce Black (Seawind's delivery skipper) did.

[Noumea Market] [Noumea Market]

This great Noumea market is part of the marina complex. Not only for fresh veggies, but we run over here before breakfast to get our baguettes and fantastic French pastries.

[Christopher Cross Concert Announcement]Can you believe this? A few days ago, while beating our way to New Caledonia, Kathy had mentioned that the Chris Cross song Sailing should have been set to the 1812 Overture - here we are in New Caledonia, and he's giving a concert! Deja Vu? We'll see if we can be back in town to attend the concert...

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20 October, 2003 -- Going Island-Hopping

Decided not to join a whole group of boats which are leaving today. We would have had to motor for almost four days and then would have to face a front followed by SW winds during the final approach to Australia. So, we're off to visit some of the islands in the vicinity of Noumea for some snorkeling and further R&R. After a rainy weekend, the weather this morning is beautiful and should stay calm for the next few days.

24 October, 2003 -- New Caledonia Cruisin'

We're back in Noumea after a few days of cruising some of the local islands. The water was warm, the weather was good (one rainy day), and the pace relaxing.

[Rain-Covered Windown]Really love our Seawind when at anchor in the rain! The main saloon aft end to the cockpit is wide open, and yet we're wonderfully sheltered as the boat points into the wind. This rain washed most of the city grime off the boat.

[Joe Snorkel] [Joe Snorkel] [Kathy Snorkel]

We did a lot of snorkeling, our favorite being the Amadee lighthouse. The forward ladder on our boat is wonderful for getting in/out of the water.

[Amadee Dawn]Like I said, Amadee Lighthouse and its surrounding island and reef is our favorite. This is a shot taken soon after sunrise.

[Lights]In one of our anchorages there was a hillside not far from us that had the strangest lighting - at first glance, it looked like a huge ship at night passing us. Couldn't get the boat to sit still for the time-lapse photo of the scene.

[Kathy Seawind]Coming back into the marina in Noumea we pass the other Seawind 1000.

We plan on attending the Christopher Cross concert this evening, and are making preparations for departure to Australia - like I said before, we no longer predict WHEN we will be leaving, as it can change in an instant with the latest weather forecast.

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