Sailing home

Coordinates: 28deg04S, 155deg40E
We’re off. After a few days initial delay waiting out strong South Easterlies and then further info on cyclone Evan, we’ve found our window and we departed Brisbane Monday afternoon. The forecast was good, or at least light winds for the first few days, so we topped up with diesel in anticipation of some motoring. The cupboards were groaning with as much fresh food as Rebecca could reasonably buy without denying the whole population of Scarborough their own rations, and the departure checklist completed.

Actually we were ready to go several days ago, but sat watching cyclone Evan wreak it’s vengeance on poor old Samoa, with Fiji next in its sights. The big question was where would it go after that, and for awhile the predictions suggested it would travel south to New Zealand in a trajectory beautifully timed to coincide with our arrival. Our trusty forecaster and friend Dave told us in no uncertain terms to stay put, so we waited and watched. Increasingly the view of professional meteorologists was that it would still head South from Fiji but disperse as it covers colder waters, and by the time it reached NZ be no more than a bit of a breezy depression. We had our own somewhat breezy depression as we sat in Brisbane facing the possibility of a long long delay to our crossing, but the wind Gods have now smiled on us and indicated that it’s time to depart.

We feel hugely fortunate to have two special crew to help us with this passage – James and Charlotte Johnstone. As siblings and Fred’s 1st cousies, they share the same eccentric streaks. Charlotte has just turned 50, and clearly wanted something to persuade herself that she wasn’t over the hill. Meanwhile James has always been a bit of a mad bugger and so was game from the start. Remarkably, the prospect of being cooped up in a 42ft floating box with the Nolan family at sea for 10-12 days doesn’t seem to have deterred them. This alone, you’d think, would be grounds for questioning their sanity. But for us their presence means great company, a lot more sleep, and overall the potential to turn an otherwise drudgery-filled passage into a fun trip.

The cyclone-fuelled delay gave us the opportunity to show off the Tangalooma Wrecks to our two new crew members, and we spent a very happy couple of days out there enjoying the beach and working through our passage preparation jobs. Charlotte and James are sharing a double cabin and bed, for the first time perhaps since they were kids, so we figured this should lead to some interesting anecdotes. Sure enough, Charlotte surfaced from her cabin one morning with a disgusted look on her face, complaining that she’d mistaken James’ thrush cream for toothpaste and despite repeated rinsing was struggling to banish the after-taste. This tickled the boys no end, and has led to their fanciful design of a range of new toothpastes, each one more disgusting than before. I shan’t lower the tone of this blog with the details.

At time of writing we’re about 140 miles off the Australian coast at the end of our 2nd day at sea. Poor Charlotte is still struggling with her seasick demons, but everyone else seems pretty well and we’re starting to drop into our passage routine. 1330 miles is a long way, and at this stage it feels like we’ve got a lifetime of endless ocean in front of us… not a wonderfully uplifting thought. But the forecasts are for light winds and presumably small seas for the next few days, and this alone will reduce stress levels (and hopefully bring Charlotte’s appetite back).

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