Ships Log: May - August 2005

August 30, 2005
Suva or Lautoka? Just follow the wind...
This is like an old fashioned serial. We spent the night off the western reef of Viti Levu working our way down to the northern pass to enter. On the last day of the trip the wind turned more east and stronger which pushed us north of the rumb line, so we got to tack back along the reef until dawn. The small flaw in this plan was that the weather was not cooperating. At dawn we had big black clouds, rain, gusts over 30 kts and bad visibility so we reached on and off shore until it cleared. At about 9am we had just about given up and pretty much decided to fight the winds to go 20 miles further south to the official marked and range lighted pass, when the weather started to clear. With this sign from the weather gods we turned and ran for the northern pass. Once in we had another 25 miles to go. This made up for the miserable night as the sail behind the reef was in flat water with 20 kts of breeze on the beam.
We had an enjoyable sail around islands, reefs and sand keys in beautiful clear blue water and sun. We had the anchor down in Lautoka by 2 pm and ready to tackle customs, quarantine and immigration. In Fiji nothing goes fast, every form is in triplicate with carbon paper and there a lot of forms (they learned from the British, the portrait of the Queen smiled at me while I wrote). The process started at 3pm and ended at 6 (about average time).
The only surprise was that the quarantine officer had to spray the Astor because we had come from Vanuatu (a malaria country). He said that this was the first boat he had to spray in 7 years on the job. So much for sailing the wrong way. The cure was for him to walk through the boat with a spray can marked "Airline flight spray" and do a sprit in each cabin. We feel much better now knowing that Fiji is safe from malaria. Cheers, Richard

August 29, 2005
Suva or Lautoka? Just follow the wind...
Well, the weather is not allowing us to go to Suva at this point so we are heading for Lautoka. We are all happy about that after all we love Musket Cove.
Here's the information for Sun., Aug 28 @ 0100: Lat: 17 50 S Long: 174 57 E, Speed 5.6, Wind: 20 a, Direction: ESE, Seas: 1.5 meter
Sailing with double reefed main, 2 stay sails. We are 116 miles from the upper pass into Fiji that leads to Lautoka.
All is well on board but ready to be there as it is rough tonight.
Thanks for everything ~~~Lani

Update Sun., Aug.28 1300: Lat: 17 35 S Long: 176.03 E, Speed 5, Wind: 20 a, Direction: SE, Seas: 1.5 meter, 100% cloud cover. The ride is smoother than last night.
We have 52 miles to go but that is due east and at our current rate we are due to arrive @ 12 midnight - so we will heave to and wait til dawn to enter???
Cheers, Richard

August 27, 2005
Suva or Lautoka? Just follow the wind...
We are back on the rum line to Suva. Late in the day on Friday we had a bit of local weather that forced us to head north but as I came on watch at 1:00 am we are again headed to Suva. Hooray!
All is well on board. The seas are not too bad considering we are going to weather.
Information on Sat., Aug 27 @ 0100: Lat: 18 06S Long: 172 23 E, Speed 6.1, Wind: 14 a, Direction: SSE, water temp.: 79.4 Seas: 1.5 meter
Update:1300 Hours: Well it looks like it will be Lautoka at this time but we will see
Here is our current information: Lat: 18 07 S Long: 172 46 E, Speed 6.9, Wind: 19 a, Direction: SE, water temp.: 79.4 Seas: 1.5 meter
Where is the easterly that the grib files showed???

August 26, 2005
Astor to Fiji
We are on our way to Fiji. We cleared Port Villa around 2 p.m and currently we are headed for Suva but if the wind changes we will go to Lautoka. We are traveling east on a S/SW wind - just hope it holds. So far it is really nice.
2:00 a.m. local time details: Lat: 17 57S Long: 169 36 E, Speed 7.2, Wind: 15 a, Direction: Se, water temp.: 80.5
This should be a 3-4 day trip.
Update for Friday @ 1400 Hrs
Lat: 18 08S Long: 180 08 E, Speed 8.4, Wind: 14 a, Direction: SSE, water temp.: 80.
Got the weather fish up and #2 jib - life is great - just keep your fingers crossed

July 27, 2005
Next Stop: Epi Island
It seems the weather this year has been very strange. We get too much wind or none at all and lots of rain, This has not stopped us from moving though. We left Port Vila and are currently anchored in Lamen Bay on the Island of Epi, just 90 miles north of Port Villa, Vanuatu. Had a good sail in gray and misty weather. We are all asking where is the SUN?!
We hope to swim with the Dugong and large turtles here before returning to Port meet up with Ross & Lynette our friends from Australia.
From Port Villa we hopefully will head out to Fiji
~~~Lani & Richard

July 19, 2005
In Port Vila
We have just arrived in Port Vila after an overnight passage from Port Resolution, Tanna. The weather forecast was for 10-15 kts from the south east. The reality was 25+ kts from the ESE with very confused seas, 10-15 foot 20-30 feet apart from all directions. We were doing 9+ kts DDW with a double reefed main and staysails sheeted flat. A very wet wild ride, the weather God is still having fun with us.
Cheers, Richard

July 11, 2005
Anchor Down
We are anchor down at Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu. We arrived at 9:30 AM after a slow motor from Noumea, New Caledonia. The weather prediction was for 10-15 kts from the south east but there was never more than 5 true for the entire trip, so we motored the whole way (230 miles). There was very little boat movement because the ocean was flat and glassy. The sky was gray with dark rain cells but even those did not have wind in them. So far this has been a very odd season for weather, it either blows a gale or there is no wind at all. The calms seem to have a 10 day span. There has been more calm days so far this season than we had all last season. The really good news is that Tanna is warm and sunny with lush jungle and 76 degree clear blue water. We have organized lobsters for tomorrow from the natives in exchange for flashlight batteries, life is hell.
Cheers, Richard

July 9, 2005
Next Stop: Vanuatu
We are on our way to Tanna, Vanuatu. It is a short hop from Noumea, New Caledonia. We decided to do this passage in 2 over nights and arrive in the a.m. instead of arriving at sunset like the last time we visited. As I read the computer we should arrive around 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. It is amazing how flat the ocean is. There has been no wind for the passage and we are happily motoring along with our smaller propeller.
We have had good luck fishing landing a big Spanish Mackerel & 2 med sized yellow fin tuna - YUM.
All is well on board & we are looking forward to returning to Vanuatu. Tanna has the most accessible active volcano in the world & it is an amazing site. Jim & Glenda are looking forward to seeing it.
We will let you know when we get there ~~~Lani
At 1400 hr. Our position is: Lat: 20 38 S Long:168 27 E, Course 34, Speed 5.5 motoring with 2 staysails, Wind 8k apparent WNW 95% cloud cover with light showers.

June 16, 2005
Cruising New Caledonia
We have finally made it to the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia. We had a perfect weather window and motor sailed here in 2 days of lazy going. In our many times in New Caledonia the weather has never stayed good enough for the 60 mile passage. The wind usually blows 20-25 kts on the nose with big waves and reefs all around. This time we had 5 kts of breeze and flat water.
The Island is very pretty with long white beaches, tall pines and palms. We plan to go ashore tomorrow to explore and find the French bakery, some things are very important.
Cheers, Richard

June 8, 2005
Hi from New Caledonia
We have been doing boat projects and enjoying Noumea with it's native market and good French food.
We tried to sail to the Isle of Pines last week but ruptured a hydraulic hose for the windlass, Oil every where, so we came back for repairs. This is a good country for repairs because of its large yachting base.
If the weather is good in the morning we will try again as all is fixed.
Cheers, Richard

May 29, 2005
Arrival in Noumea
We are officially in Noumea, New Caledonia. We entered the pass at 8am and motored the 7 miles through the lagoon to Port Mozelle marina for Customs clearance.
Clearing is an all day process, Forms at 10:30, Immigration at 12 noon, Customs at 1:30 and quarantine at 3:30, but this is the way it works in the islands. The process is easy and pleasant and at no cost, if fact they give you one night at the marina free and a free drink at the marina bar.
The weather today is warm, 80, and overcast, although it could rain tonight. We will spend a few days in Noumea relaxing before heading for the Isle of Pines.
Cheers, Richard

May 28, 2005
Hove to
Day 8
A real sailing day! The breeze came up at 9am today to about 10kts on the nose. Sailing at 30-35 degrees to the wind we were just able to sail to our waypoint, Doumbea Pass. That is the pass north of the lighthouse pass. We have, of course, arrived at the reef well past sundown so we are hove to 3 miles out until tomorrow. We should enter the pass at about 10am and proceed to the Custom dock for check in.
Looking forward to the native market for fresh produce and croissants.
Cheers, Richard

May 27, 2005
A bit of progress
Day 7
Today we have had great sailing, 10kts of breeze just behind the beam until the late afternoon when it eased to 6-7. We managed to keep the boat speed up until 6pm. We are now motoring in calm conditions. This is the first passage I can think of where the wind has died every night, usually the winds increase when the sun sets. Tomorrow we reach New Caledonia hopefully while the sun is still up so that we can go through the pass into the lagoon. Position at 6pm: 23 49S 164 04E wind 0, course 043mag waves 1 meter 148 miles to go. Cheers, Richard

May 26, 2005
Still searching for wind
Day 6
Motor, Motor, Motor! There has been no wind and the seas are flat as a southern Cal morning. We are making slow progress to conserve fuel. Just had a rain squall go past and even it did not have wind, at least it's a warm and pleasant trip so far.
Position 24 57S 161 58 E, 5 kts breeze on the stern, 1/2 meter swell course 046mag 280 miles to go.
Cheers, Richard

May 25, 2005
Lost the wind:
Day 5
We have had some lovely sailing on flat water until today. Currently (3:20 p.m. on May 25) we are motoring on flat seas. It is beautiful really. It is so flat that I am fixing pizza for dinner & everyone is looking forward to it, Getting a little tied of casserole like dinners although they have been especially good. We have dragged a lure from the time we left Sydney and only caught a 12 inch mackerel. Darn!!! I was wondering about designing a gimbaled BBQ for the fish- Richard should be able to do that. However, if we don't catch any fish I guess that we will not need it.
Our crew is working out splendidly. Glenda has risen to the challenge and is doing great. She is having to learn to sail as well as all the other "stuff" on ASTOR.
I am having a great time as the seas a smooth & that makes cooking easier.
Looks like we will be in on Sunday unless we can get in a fast day soon.
Position at 6pm: 26 18S 159 49E Seas calm with slight swell, sky clear, wind 0, 420 miles to go
Cheers, Lani
***Update: Just landed a 5 foot Dorado - so much for pizza***

May 24, 2005
Found the wind
Day 4
The weather Gods have been smiling on us for the last 24 hrs. Astor beam reached at 8-10 kts until about 12:30am when we had a 50 degree shift on the nose. After midnight is always the best time for major sail changes, so, all hands on deck to take down the reaching gollywobbler and #2 genny and replace them with main & fore staysails and #3 jib. That left us hard to weather about 20 degrees north of our desired course. The good news is that the breeze stayed light and seas flat. By 8 am the wind came back around enough to put us on the rumb line. At 9 we hoisted the weather fisherman for more speed and have held that rig all day. Yesterdays 24hr run was just short of 180 miles, without the motor, so things are improving. The weather remains settled and sunny.
Position at 6:30 pm: 28 04S 158 35E, speed 6.5 kts, wind 11 apt ESE, seas 1/2 meter. course 036 mag, 70% cloud, 535 miles to go
Cheers, Richard & Lani

May 23, 2005
Slow progress
Day 3
Day 3 and all is well on Astor, progress towards New Caledonia is slow but steady. We are in the middle of a large high pressure system so the weather is very settled with light breezes. We sailed until 1:30 am last night when the wind just stopped, so sails down except for staysails and motor on. We motored until 8 this morning when the breeze returned. We have been sailing since then, playing the shifts and puffs while trying to stay on course averaging about 6 kts for our efforts. We would like to complain about this but the weather is perfect and we are going in the right direction.
Position at 6:30PM, 30 10S 156 22E wind 9kts SE Sky clear 706 miles to go sea state 1/2 meter SE
Cheers, Richard & Lani

May 22, 2005
Day 2
After motoring through the night this morning the breeze arrived. It came out of the SSE at about 12kts. We hoisted the main, reaching gollywobbler and the #2 genny. We have been deep reaching on the rumb line at about 8kts across the water, 6kts across the bottom because we are still battling the Australian coastal current. The weather has beautiful, about 70 with puffy white clouds, hope it holds.
Position: 31 57S 154 05E, wind 13kts SSE , course 042mag 856miles to go, sea 1 meter cross swells.
Cheers, Richard & Lani

May 21, 2005
Moving on:
We are back on the ocean again. It was sad to leave Sydney this time as we do not know exactly where the winds will take us. We had 4 farewell parties and last night a wonderful birthday party for Ross MacDonald & myself. Enough partying... we need to be at sea again.
We were packed and ready to leave Sydney 2 weeks ago when the weather window vanished. There was a low off Lord Howe Island that came, went, & returned over a 12 day period. So we waited.
The good ship Astor cleared the Sydney Heads at 8:15 this morning on a course for New Caledonia. We had a great reach on a westerly breeze for about 2 hours and then it went light. It is now 8 pm and we are motoring along at about 5 kts fighting the coastal current. There is no wind and the seas are flat with a southern ocean swell to rock the boat. We expect light conditions for the next few days if the weather god are correct. It still feels good to be underway.
Our great crew includes Jim Lockhart & Glenda & once again David Lovell. All have sailed previously with us and that makes it even more fun.
Position: 33 04.424S 152 20.685E , apparent wind 2kts, sea state 1/2 meter, course 015 mag.
Cheers, Richard & Lani

May 2005
Quarterly Update:
G'Day followers and friends.
All is well aboard Astor. The months that have passed since our last update found us traveling the globe(by air rather than the seas), catching up with family and friends, preparing the decks of Astor, and enjoying the company of the new crew.
Early in the year, we were visited by Daniel and Mariah for a couple of weeks. Shortly after we managed to get away and followed them back home to the states and they played host to us for a while. It was good to spend some time with the kids, and while in the states, we managed to catch up with a few friends as well as some minor business, errands, and tasks.
Back aboard, today you can find us in a buzz of activity. With the season looming over us, we are working like mad to get last minute projects done. It doesn't matter how long you do this, there is always a "to do" list of things that need to get done.
We are planning to leave Sydney for New Caledonia in the early weeks of May. We have Jim and Glenda, and David Lovell staying on and are fine additions to the crew list this year.
We will keep you posted. Watch for updates soon!
Cheers, Richard