Cruising with HappyCat

01 November 2012
20 October 2012
19 October 2012
17 October 2012
12 October 2012
29 September 2012
24 September 2012
20 August 2012
06 August 2012
01 August 2012
28 July 2012
27 July 2012
26 July 2012
25 July 2012

Coffs Harbor, Australia

01 November 2012
We arrived at Coffs just after sunset, with calls from Pete Johnston. Marty and Pete were on shore to greet us!! What a wonderful feeling! And quite emotional. It felt like we were back home....
The trip had a bit of everything, for us and especially for Craig, his maiden sail. After he got his sea legs through the beginning rough patch, we than had a few days of motoring. Heavy weather followed, where HC was covered with so much salt water, more than we had ever experienced. And as per our wishes, right before we arrived an impressive lightening storm, (new for us) with buckets of rain, pumelled us for a few hours, giving HC a wonderful wash. It was a little hairy at time as we all stood watching out at 4 in the morning... But what a befitting way to end our journey!

Dunbae Pass, New Caledonia

25 October 2012
At last we have a weather window, and at 5:00a.m with Just Jane and Samson, we pull anchor and begin our journey.
As we entered the Dunbae Pass, a fleet of Australian Navy ships were coming in, and all the marines were standing on deck looking at us. It was not long until I realized why. The sea became one huge washing machine of huge swell from all over! Even for us in a cat, we were tossed around all over! Craig was getting a good introduction on the sea worthiness of dear Happy Cat!
We expect the journey to take 6 days and nights.

Ilot Signal

20 October 2012
Good thing the winds were from behind us as we made our way West to Ilot Signal. Now the seas have even become quite sloppy, even within this coral reefed island. So far, its been a tricky place to get from a to b.
Tucked ourselves as close to the island, picking up another mooring. All these moorings are free by the way, a first in all these years!
We went ashore, and had a very pleasant walk around the uninhhabited island, which has a great informative board walk amongst the native shrub.

Ilot Amedee

19 October 2012
Early start, before the winds picked up, to the famous light house. Picked up a mooring, which are a plenty. Nice walk around the island, but don’t expect much in terms of a coffee shop. It caters all for the tourist boats that bring it copious amounts of people every day.
Its definitely worth the trip to visit this historic iron light house, brought over entirely in sections from France, in 1864. Designed by the same architect that did the Eiffel Tower. It is one of the tallest light houses in the world. Impressive view from the top, which is accessed by climbing the many stairs!
We decided not to stay the night at this lovely spot, and opted to go back to Maitre, for another night, and wifi!

Ilot Maitre, New Caledonia

18 October 2012
After provisioning for our w.e. trip to Iles des Pines, this morning, we set off for Canal Woodin, where we hoped to spend the night on route to Iles des Pines. But unfortunately the winds just kept picking up, right on our nose. The seas even got a bit choppy, with a current against us. Needless to say, our progress was not getting us very far, so after a bit of consulting with Kylie and Craig, we decided to call off the attempt to get to Iles des Pines. So back we went to our previous mooring on Maitre. For us its quite nice to return to familiar grounds, but very frustrating for Kylie, who really had her hopes to visit Iles des Pines. But thats boating for you, the weather commands at all times!!!
Sundowners on Ganga, celebrating Ben's birthday!

Neumea, New Caledonia

17 October 2012
We managed to at last get a birth in the marina yesterday. What a nice treat! Its also nice to catch up with our friends who are also birthed here. Craig and Kylie arrived to Neumea last night. Nice to meet the new owners of HC!.

Ilot Maitre, New Caledonia

15 October 2012
After a bustling Saturday morning market, especially the fish section, with large colorful lobsters, amongst all the other impressive fish, we motored 6nm to Ilot Maitre. A tiny island with a resort and lots fantastic moorings, all free! The added bonus, that the yacht friendly resort has free wifi, and one can even use the beach barbecues provided.
For us though, the weather progressively turned on us. The winds picked up and even a period of 24 hrs of cold rain! We felt we were completing a cycle, as we are coming to the end of our time on HC, having picked her up in a period of cold rain.
It was a good opportunity to give HC a good tidy.

Port Moselle, New Caledonia

12 October 2012
We got really lucky with our sail down to NC. After a bit of a rough start on the first 24 hours, it finished to be almost perfect, and HC loved the beam reach and constant 17kts of wind. 3 days and 2 nights later, we anchored outside the marina, for they had no room for us to do the check in procedures. But we took our dingy in the next day, and with instructions and a map from the very friendly staff we checked in, costing us nothing, and we did not have quarantine come aboard, just lots of questions of food items on board, to which we replied that we either threw them in the rubbish bags, or ate them. (we did too, 3 days of eating lots of food!)
Strange place, very present the heavy industry in minning that exsist, with orange smoke billowing out of stacks on the shore near the center. Certainly not as friendly as Vanuatu, and quite a mixture of cultures, and characters, of which there is a colorful bunch on permanent moorings around us. Ex-convict grand children we reckon! France had a large prison here in its hay day on Iles des Pines.
The sea food market is impressive though, right next to the marina, filled with all sorts of fish, and shell fish. Vegy market is disappointing and very expensive!
We decided to stay out anchored by the point, the air is fresher and its an easy dingy ride in to the friendly marina.

-Various yachts on permanent moorings in front of the marina entrance, with smoke stacks in the distance-

Port Vila, Efata, Vanuatu

29 September 2012
We arrived in Port Vila with barely enough time to do all the necessary running around to check in, before the close of the day. and w.e.! James ran around flat tack! Once checked in, we picked up one of many mooring buoys in this extremely protected and spacious bay.
Best surprise for us was to hear Elaine from Virgo's Child. Both Virgo's Child and Island Fling were on the moorings. So nice to reunite again. Even Ganga dropped in for a few days.
The Waterfront Restaurant has a great little dingy dock, and is an easy walk into town and the fantastic market.
What strikes one first is the very distinct different culture of the locals. Their features and skin tone is far more indigenous of areas like Papua New Guinea. Their lovely happy disposition is overwhelming. People with just the basics in life, and so happy. The lovely ladies sitting on floor mats in front of their market stalls, arranging their produce, chatting and laughing away.
Sally took the reign and organized a bus to take us to the cascades, the first day, and than on a half day tour towards the Eastern Coast, with wonderful beaches near Eton, the Blue Lagoon, and a visit to a turtle sanctuary. The Mele Cascades like soft pillows, forming natural steps and bathing holes. Well worth a visit, even though it is a popular tourist spot.
We wish we could spend more time visiting the Northern group of islands, there seams to be a lot to see, but we must keep heading towards New Caledonia.

-A very common sight, beaming happy kids-

Sail to Vanuatu,

24 September 2012
With Sali and Burke we enjoyed another round of going to the market at Loutoki, and a gentle sail to Muscat Cove, to cook a delicious meal on the provided barbecues.
We spent a night anchored in Loutoki bay, to enable us to check out early, (after market and Fiji meats, which have some great products, fabulous bacon and ham) You do need to have your boat at the bay, and be ready to board and leave within the hour! First time to experience such strict check out procedures.
Bit of a rough start for Burke who found it hard to find his sea legs, but on day 4 we all enjoyed a delicious sampling of mahi maji, which we caught. Sali was a trooper, running around all the time, learning all about sailing HC, and in the kitchen cooking up a storm. Nice to have....

Malolo Is. Muscat Cove, Fiji

18 September 2012
We arrived back to sunny Fiji, and were kindly picked up by Kelvin, James’s cousin who now lives in Fiji. After a few days airing Happy Cat, and enjoing Vuda marina and its little ocean side restaurant we took Kelvin and Glenyis, and his son Matthew’s family out to Muscat Cove. Its a lovely well protected anchorage with plenty of mooring balls. The facilities for cruisers are great, including a sandy bar, with large barbecue facilities. All you have to do is bring your own food! Wood and even plates knives and condiments are provided. A good supermarket provides any missing factors.
Though unfortunately we were not able to see much of Fiji, we loved what we saw. There was a good mix of races, the Indians providing an good balance, especially in the cuisine. The markets were one of the cheapest we have ever experienced, offering some interesting varieties of mountain greens.
On Friday Sali, an old colleague of James’s, and Burke arrive. They are interested in purchasing a boat in the future, and keen to join us on the leg to Vanuatu.

Vuda Marina, Fiji

20 August 2012
I left James on Happy Cat with his friends and together they sailed to Fiji, arriving in Suva Suva.
I will report more on their time, but for now, HC sits in Vuda Marina while we have a few weeks in New Zealand.

Neiafu,

06 August 2012
Felicitiy and her friends leave us on Friday, and after a quiet w.e. and a major de cluttering of Happy Cat, I too leave on Monday, back to NZ for 6 weeks, part of my application for residency.
James is now joined by his friends Nathan and Darren, and together they will take HC to Fiji
-The night before, we had a wonderful impromptu meal on HC with Ganga and Whippersnapper in the bay of Kapa-

Kenutu Island, Vavau’u

06 August 2012
We were keen to find some whales, so with the company of Mark and Hugh from Whippersnapper, we arrived to these Eastern most Islands and found this nice anchorage. There is some good snorkeling on the outer reef, just take your dingy over. And on the island there is a path that takes you to the other side, the entrance is marked with a buoy tied to the tree.
- If you are brave enough, in the vicinity you can do some work on your cat! -

Nuku Island

01 August 2012
Milan left the next day from Neiafu, and after a few nights there on the moorings, viewing the Olympics, and catching up with our friends at the pleasant Aquarium, we sailed over to the island of Nuku. One of those bucolic little islands, with white sandy beaches. We chose to anchor for the night, and were rewarded in the early hours with sounds of singing birds, as opposed to roosters, which seam to be everywhere!

Kapa Island

28 July 2012
Bailey and Scott arrive that afternoon, and we headed off immediately to one of our favorite anchorages for the night, in Kapa Is. Bailey who is training for the ironmam, enjoyed her swim around the bay, back and forth, and back and forth....
Sundowners on the beach was repeated, with a combination of ota ika and sashimi, before dinner of roast rack of lambs that Milan had brought with him from NZ!
Next morning, Felicity and her friends went for a walk to the quaint hamlet, nestled amongst the trees, and surrounded by grass and pigs.

Neiafu, Vava’u

27 July 2012
Other than the friendly Mariners Bar, run by Marika, we found the island people not as friendly and receptive as we expected. We all went for a bit of a run/bike or walk North of the island, and came away feeling that the effort to get to Ha’apai, especially on a tight schedule, is probably not worth it. Stay in the Vava’u group!
The over night sail North was wonderful, the seas had flattened, beam reach from 15kts, falling to 7 by the time we got there, but we still maintained a good speed through out.
It was still dark by the time we arrived to the island group, so we decided to drop anchor where we knew was sand between Mala and Utungake I.
A few hours later, we approached the moorings of Neiafu, and could see that 6 of our fellow yachts had made it to Tonga. It was nice to catch up again!

Lifuka I. Ha’apai

26 July 2012
After last nights ordeal, the seas were still troubled and the winds still at 17kts, The Easterly direction to Lifuka was motoring into wind and chop.
Mariners Cafe, run by Magda, serves a delicious Oto Ika, amongst other things, all nicely prepared by Fatuu, who even gave us a demonstration on how to prepare the coconut milk for the oto ika. We found ourselves spending quite a few hours there, with wi-fi, nice co. wine and food.

Haafeva I. Ha’apai

25 July 2012

I pass the keyboard to Felicity, to describe the next 24 hours....

After a calm night we awoke to sunny skies and a gentle wind to help us on our way north. With our first true taste of Tongan sunshine Milan and I could finally enjoy some much anticipated sunbathing on the deck. After a pleasant sail we arrived at Haafeva mid-afternoon and opted for the western anchorage. A kiwi yacht which was anchored on the east side decided to follow suit and trailed in alongside. With calm seas and low winds forecast we put out 25m chain in 4m depth in an attempt to protect the coral beds - We had patches of coral underneath us and large beds surrounded much of the anchorage. We made the most of the sunny weather and enjoyed the prettiest snorkel of the trip so far.
Back on board Happy Cat we noticed a strange cloud formation on the horizon. It didn’t look threatening and dad was confident in the Windguru forecast so as we slurped back a sundowner or two and enjoyed the sunset no one was concerned... How wrong we were! As the sun dropped out of sight the clouds rolled in, the winds picked up, and the rain lashed down. Skipper James preached “Wind before rain, we’ll sail again” which calmed my initial nerves... But not for long. We sat down to another of Marina’s fabulous meals and were temporarily distracted by the food and conversation as the swell and gales began to build around us. Halfway through the meal we were jolted into action by the panic-causing screech of the iPad anchor alarm. Happy Cat was on the quick course to a night on top of a coral bed.

Dad and Marina leapt into action to prevent imminent disaster, while I sat in a frozen stupor at the dinner table. After ten or so panic-stricken minutes they returned to the meal, confident enough that the anchor had re-set itself and would hold for the time being.

With no appetite to finish dinner I was now acutely aware of the near and present danger. Survival tactics kicked in - I mapped out my escape route, had my sneakers ready to go (in case I had to swim over coral beds), moved lifejackets into the galley and had a lesson(?!) from Marina in how to put one on.

The storm roared outside and the wind was now at 36kt with no sign of letting up. Huge waves smashed across the back of the boat and things started to creak and groan as were were battered around... I was keeping one eye on our depth reading which sat at only 3.2m. This combination of factors wasn’t conducive for sleeping, however somehow Milan conked out in our room at 10.30pm and dad napped on and off in the galley. Marina and I resembled wide-eyed meercats as we sat together wondering how on earth these blokes could sleep at a time like this! Marina kept a close eye on the garmin and tracked the zigzag spreading across the screen as our anchor slowly dragged while the storm raged on. It was a small comfort to see the anchor light of our neighbours wobbling in and out of view - We weren’t going through this alone.

In the early hours of the morning, after reassurance from dad that even if we landed on the coral we wouldn’t have to abandon ship, I was convinced to head to bed and ‘wait it out’. It was a fitful sleep interlaced with many peeks out of the cabin window to reassure myself I could still see some lights on land.Finally after 8 hours of bashing around the storm started to let up at about 4am... We were going to live to sail another day...

Nomuka Iki, Ha’apai

24 July 2012
It was a nice ~20nm sail North to Nomuka Ika. Although we anchored on the Northern, and today, exposed side of the island, there was so much good sand, that we felt comfortable with our hold.
On shore, we tried to find the old prison, but to no avail.
Milan did a stellar job in climbing a coconut tree, and secure some young coconuts, for our rum cocktails later. Yum!
Vessel Name: Happy Cat
Vessel Make/Model: Lagoon 421
Hailing Port: Napier, New Zealand
Crew: James Joll & Marina Jackson
About: James is from New Zealand and Marina is from Venezuela. Our new 'home' is our catamaran, and we expect to cruise for many years to come, having started from La Rochelle, France, and always trying to chase the sun!
Happy Cat's Photos - Siracusa
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Added 4 November 2011