Around the World with Bob and Christine Harper: Breakaway, Heading for New Caledonia - Time to Hoist Sails Again

Article excerpt

Auckland, 30 degrees south

BELFAST Lough lies about 54 degrees north of the equator. The Arctic starts at 65.5 degrees north. Each degree is sixty nautical miles and a nautical mile is roughly 1.1 land miles. So we only live slightly less than 700 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Is it any wonder our weather at times is poor?

Auckland is at 30 degrees south of the equator which puts it somewhere between 1600 and 1700 miles north of Antartica.

There is a subtle difference. We have protection from America; the land masses in the Northern hemisphere are greater. Down here, there is no protection. The winds of the south blow form the west with nothing to stop them.

They are called the roaring forties, the name for gales in the Southern Hemisphere that the square-riggers of old searched out to achieve speed, but at the cost of hellish conditions for sailors and often the loss of ships and crew.

Autumn has now arrived in New Zealand and it's time for us to move on again.

The weather is still fair though today it rained and blew a bit. In three days we start moving north towards the sun.

Destination Whangarei

WE WILL go into Whangarei for the next few weeks to prepare "Breakaway" for New Caledonia, the last of the Pacific Islands before Australia.

Whangarei offers good shelter, as the anchorage is fifteen miles up river. There we will meet old friends from the Pacific.

Some are staying here for another season, a few are moving along, much in the same direction as us.

An offshore cruising yacht is usually easily identified in a marina. Everything on deck is lashed down. The aft end is adorned with solar panels, wind vane steering gear, wind generators and sometimes a few potted plants.

On occasion, there's a mongrel dog pacing up and down, or a cat climbing the rigging.

The weekend sailors can spot the breed immediately and stop for a yarn, usually inviting us out for a drink or a meal, and more often than not a night ashore with all the luxuries of toilets, showers and a bed that doesn't move. You know the beds I mean, the ones that don't rock you to sleep.

Bigotry can still travel

YESTERDAY a Dublin-registered yacht pulled into the next pontoon. I went across to say hello, making myself known. It seems he had already been told there was another Irish yacht in the marina.

It didn't take him long to inform me that Breakaway wasn't Irish as she flew a British flag. Now when we left Co Antrim was still in the island of Ireland.

I'll not mention the yacht's name to protect the guilty, but after passing the time of day, I left him to get on with his own brand of bigotry.

Fortunately his type is rare in the cruising community. Country of origin, social status or wealth doesn't normally matter, just people out with the same dream.

Flags are good for telling you the direction the wind is blowing.

Breakaway a boat again

TODAY was spent turning Breakaway into a boat again. It has been a country cottage for the last four months.

The sails are holding up well. There were a few stitches but they should certainly hold up for the next leg to Australia. By then they will have to be looked at again.

Christine is stocking up on food. This entails a 20-minute walk to the bus stop. From there it is only a short bus ride to the supermarket.

New Caledonia is one of the French islands of the Pacific and this makes it one of the most expensive stopovers, so we have to prepare and stock up, like camels crossing the desert. …