Friday, October 16, 2015

Visiting Norfolk Island -

There are very few landing spots on Norfolk Island; it is a steep cliffy volcanic island. We stopped as the wind and waves were anticipated to pick up, so we were anchored in wind and waves. The first day we looked longingly at shore, but the landing looked wild! We watched one small boat go in and they appeared to be struggling. There is a little breakwater with a jetty and a crane. Waves were breaking entirely across the opening between the breakwater and the cliff. So as much as we wanted to go ashore, it was windy, rainy, and looked like a treacherous landing.

The boat was about as smooth as being at sea. We were rolling around on the waves. One particularly rogue wave caught Cassidy and my attention as it approached. It hit us at a 45-degree angle to the bow and we couldn't see the horizon otherwise. It lifted us up by the starboard hull, pounded it's entire length of the cabin, then slammed into the port hull relocating our shelves, books, and full container of gasoline from the cockpit into the main salon. Fortunately most of our things were already stowed as if we were at sea, so we were ready for some rough seas, but this wave did more than anything underway.

The next morning, it was still grey and raining, but slightly more calm. We had marching orders from our weather router that we needed to get out of Norfolk by late that morning. I was quite interested in going to shore before our departure. The entry looked possible, so we launched the dinghy, geared up in rain clothes and jackets, grabbed a snack, and headed in. A local man met us on the jetty, helped us unload onto the ramp, and then helped us pull the dinghy up the stairs. He offered to drive us around town, show us the local sites, and take us shopping or whatever we needed. We told him we only had $60 US with us, but whatever he was happy to do would be great with us.

He insisted that he had a day off, he was supposed to offload the cargo ship, but due to weather it can't come for another day or two, so he'd love to just be our host. His name was Barry Christian and he is 5th generation descendent of Fletcher Christian, who was involved in the Mutiny on the Bounty at Pitcairn Island. A large group of those involved in the Mutiny came to Norfolk Island from Pitcairn. They have an annual celebration on the island of the arrival of the group from Pitcairn, where they dress in traditional dress and re-enact the arrival. There is also a large stage with a Bounty ship and even a pool that they row over to "Tahiti" in. This play is for tourists every Tuesday and he played Fletcher Christian for 10 years in it.

There is a small medical clinic with 3 doctors, but any specialty care has to go to mainland Australia. At the airport was a twin-engine airplane. Apparently someone flew in with a license for only a single engine craft, no flight plan and it was filled with drugs going from New Zealand to Fiji. Maybe he thought a small town would work with him on this?? There was also a "ghost ship" that he showed us. They saw it offshore drifting, no motor and no sails, so went to see if everything was all right onboard. It was covered in barnacles and no one was onboard. Apparently someone in New Zealand owned it. He had reportedly scuttled the boat and possibly collected the insurance money on it over a year ago. They contacted him a few months prior and he said he'd come for it, but he hasn't. It was nice of them to try to contact him, but by salvage rights, it's their boat. If he's not interested, the locals should fix it up and have their own boat!

He explained to us that their local legislature had lined their own pockets and the government was broke. They had failed to do the "remediation" requested by Australia, so Australia was going to take over governing them.

They have 52 cruise ships per year that pass the island, but only 3 were able to stop this year due to the landing. The Australian government is going to help invest in building a breakwater and better landing for cruise ships to help the local economy sustain itself. At the market we saw the layout of the 3-year re-investment plan. With a population of 1800, when a cruise ship lands another 1800 people per day on that island, it'll be bustling for sure! But they have about 30,000 tourists, which come by air annually, so tourism is their main industry. They also export seeds of the indigenous Norfolk pine (a beautiful, tall pine tree that takes up to 200 years to grow). He said the main export is to Belgium. I thought that strange, but whatever works for everyone. They were beautiful trees, but it seems like Belgium would have a closer source for pines.

He also said that they are the biggest seller of Legos in the southern hemisphere. A ship brings them, and then a woman there who started the industry sorts them and mails them out through mail order. Because it goes through Norfolk, it's duty free apparently. Strange how we've set up the world that by shipping things to some remote place, then back out of that remote place, it becomes cheaper. . . But good for that woman I suppose. She's found her niche!

We had a wonderful day! What a great way to get some fresh air, solid ground, and learn so much about a local town!! Barry used to give tours for one of the companies in town, so was quite knowledgeable in all areas, their history as a penal colony, the immigration of the Bounty survivors, current and local economics and government, sea and air rescue (which he takes part in and told us some stories), etc. They celebrate Thanksgiving on this island because about half of the crew on the Bounty were American whalers I think he said. So still to this day, they celebrate American Thanksgiving.

We are fortunate to have made a friend in Norfolk! Could not imagine better hospitality and a better way to spend just one day getting to know a place and stretch our legs and revitalize for our second stretch of the passage. Thank you Barry for an excellent day!! If we can make our way back, we'd very much like to. And if you're crossing from New Caledonia to New Zealand, it's a recommended stop if weather allows!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Stopover, Norfolk Island -

Perfectly placed half way from New Caledonia and New Zealand is Norfolk Island. It's a gorgeous, cliff island about 35 square kilometers with a population about 1,800 (it's in my encyclopedia). It is home of the Norfolk pine, mostly a tourism industry.

We've had a good passage thus far. We left when it was windy and wavy in order for a more smooth approach to New Zealand. We sailed nicely for almost 2 days (bumpy for the first 36 hours). We had to aim farther west than our goal due to the winds, we kept it at 30 degrees to our port side, and we can't aim any higher into the wind. We did great, as we entered into the high and light winds, we turned and motored to Norfolk. We are now nicely sheltered when the winds blow up to 35 knots in the next day or two, then we are lined up for a nice approach to New Zealand when the winds come around. In the meanwhile, we can explore this beautiful mountainous island, which is described as a culture of neighborliness, self-help and bartering. I find that to be a GREAT description, one that I would be proud of. We can also claim to have sailed to Australia, as it is an Australian territory.

There are grey clouds looming on the horizon, so we may get some rain and squalls over the next few days as we sit between weather systems. That would be great to wash the salt off our rigging, solar panels, and hatches. We definitely took on a few (or more) big waves along the way. Had a great pizza dinner, everyone is filled up and ready for a great night sleep before going to shore to check in and check it out!!! Happy for the stop, glad someone thought to put an island just midway on our journey!


Norfolk Island -

We are safely nestled in cozy Sydney Bay. The water is a luscious green that is super clear. I can make out pebbles on the bottom in the 25 feet of water we are anchored in.  We had a good sail with a triple reefed main, and have found this to work very well for us.  
No need for late night reefing!

The first day and a half was quite rough with three different wave directions keeping the boat in constant motion. I am not really sure how the mono-hull sailors do it. We even had some books fall off the shelf!

The plan is to enjoy this beautiful island until a perfect window opens to jump for New Zealand.

Everybody is doing great and we even spotted a sandy beach! What else could you want?


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Off to the Land of the Kiwi

Waited for the wind to come off our nose, now we're headed out for hopefully a relatively short and uneventful passage to New Zealand!!