Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Heading for Solomons

This morning we set off for Gizo in the Solomon Islands, a passage of 700 miles. Winds are light, at least for the next few days, so we're expecting the passage to take a week.
Yesterday we made our final dive on a patch reef about a mile from the boat. The dive site seemed popular with the local sharks and was also home to a very curious sea snake. It swam after me for some distance before I managed to escape. It freaked me out somewhat. I don't like deadly snakes!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Week Two at Chesterfield Reef

We've now been here two weeks. The weather finally settled last week when a trough came through. The wind backed around the compass but, happily, while it was blowing from the north it was very light - zero protection here from that direction. Once it had settled in the west on Wednesday we moved to the southern anchorage. Although still moderate, we were facing a five mile fetch across the atoll with our stern towards the beach. At the southern anchorage we were still facing the reef but at a distance of less than a mile.
Now the wind has backed further round to the east, still light, and we're planning to return to the eastern anchorage. Conditions outside should be conducive to our next passage in a couple of days.
We've made a few dives, mainly near our southern anchorage.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Week One at Chesterfield Reef


It's blown hard for the week we've been here. It started the day we arrived and is just easing today, a week later.
At first it was 25-30 out of the south and our South Point anchorage was the place to be, but after a couple of days the wind started backing to the southeast. On Wednesday, we moved to the anchorage on the east side. Today, the wind is east 15-20 and this anchorage is the place to be.
Three other boats arrived Tuesday. They're part of a rally from Brisbane to Vanuatu. They had our good winds the first couple of days, but then heavier conditions until they got here. Other members of the rally fleet reportedly carried on to Huon Atoll to the east. Now the weather's settling, I expect they'll leave soon to complete their passage.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chesterfield Reef

We've arrived safely at Chesterfield Reef (Latitude: 19 57.69S, Longitude: 158 28.42E)
It was a nice passage. Surprisingly, instead of southeast trades, we had light west to southwest winds for almost the whole trip - the winds strengthened and moved south only hours before we arrived. We motored for half the time and sailed the rest. It took us 4 days so that's an average speed of only 4.5 knots. But seas were quiet.
Chesterfield Reef is part of a huge system of reefs that border part of a shallow bank or lagoon which is 70 miles long (north-south) and 40 miles wide (east west). The atoll is also bordered by Bampton Reef to the north. There are a number of small coral and sand islets on the reef, and we are anchored by Loop Islet at the southernmost point, as winds are now southerly. We anchored right here during our last visit in 2008.
Chesterfield is uninhabited but belongs to New Caledonia. The New Caledonia authorities are generally tolerant of boats on passage stopping off here. We've seen no other boats, so far.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Halfway to Chesterfield Reef

We're 260 miles from Bundaberg and have 180 miles to go. Conditions have been light winds from the SW - very unusual in a SE Trades area. We've just taken the spinnaker in after 36 hours - our longest spinnaker run since our passage from Galapagos to French Polynesia in 2007!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We're outa here!

We've just left Bundaberg headed for Chesterfield Reef - 400 miles away. Wind is flat calm with a small swell - we're motoring. We'll stay at Chesterfield for a week or two and then head 600 miles north to the Solomon Islands. It's weird being at sea after all this time near the coast.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Preparing to leave

We’re about ready to leave Australia for the Solomon Islands. We’ve been waiting in Bundaberg for a few packages - meds from the USA, for example. Now, we just have a Solomon Islands Cruising Guide to arrive from New Zealand and we’ll be set.

We’ve completed provisioning, except for last minute fresh veg. Tigger goes to the vet tomorrow for his health certificate. We get his Export Permit from Australian Quarantine on Tuesday, and we’ll clear with Customs on Wednesday. Somewhere in there we’ll load up with fuel.

Then it’s next stop Chesterfield Reef for a few days, if weather permits.