On day two I was sitting in the cockpit in the sun, reading a book and thinking how nice the day was, when suddenly the movement of the boat changed. It wasn’t a hugely obvious change, but after living on the boat for so long you tend to become in tune with little variations (even me, with no sailing experience to speak of, can now pick up very subtle changes in the way we are sailing, usually requiring some kind of sail or course alteration). I looked up, and saw the wheel turn full lock to port, then full lock to starboard, and I felt sick as I hollered down to Stu that the auto helm was playing up again. My sick feeling was justified when Stu confirmed that we would have to hand steer as the problem was most likely the fluxgate compass and therefore not something that we could fix on the way like last time. Typically, within an hour or two of starting to hand steer the weather went downhill.
We spent the next three days in rough seas wearing our wet weather gear and unsuccessfully trying to dodge the constant spray coming over the decks. We had managed to stay within sight of Stu’s parents and the steering was made so much easier by using their lights to steer by rather than the compass, particularly on the last night when we decided to push through the tricky navigational part as we hit the channel heading to Noumea, and find an anchorage for the night. This was by far the worst weather of the trip, made so much worse by the fact that we had not been able to sleep for the past 24 hours and were insanely tired. At about 2:00 in the morning we finally found a sheltered bay, dropped anchor, and went to bed – for more than an hour at a time and in a still, quiet boat. Bliss.
Not much to look at, but at the time and with the conditions it was absolute heaven on earth!
The next day we raised the anchor and set off on the last 30 miles to Noumea. This was not without more dramas of course, as we burnt out the anchor winch motor getting the anchor up. This caused a few tense moments and Mr Crabby made an appearance for an hour or so, but day was beautiful and the sailing was quite good, and after a reasonably good night’s sleep and with the thought of getting to Port Moselle marina in a few hours even he wasn’t able to hang around for long!