Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cyclone Choices: Making the Decision

Over the past few months, I have sent a lot of emails with a line that looked like this: “Our current and almost definite plan is to head to Tasmania for cyclone season.  We’ll check in at Newcastle or Sydney, and wait for the weather to be right early in January to make the last hop to Hobart.”

Now, because you have been paying attention, you know that cruisers are totally unreliable when it comes to reporting their own plans.  And so it was with us.  Erik and I were 98% sure we were going to Tas.  We were keen on Tas. We had heard nothing but great things about the place: not many boats make the trip down, the cruising is spectacular, the people are great.  They understand cruisers there, which has not always been our experience in Australia.  In short, it sounded perfect.

But we’re not in Tasmania.  We’re not even in Australia.  We are still in Noumea, with a cyclone-secure berth waiting at the marina and the kids enrolled in school.  What happened?  In a phrase, the cruising life happened.

We had three reasonable options as cyclone season approached: Tasmania, New Zealand, and New Caledonia.  Looking at the map at the head of this post, you can see that it is about 1700 NM to Hobart from here.  That isn’t the end of the world; we like long passages.  About a thousand miles to Sydney, then pop south when the time comes.  But it isn't 1700 NM of bobbing along the Equator; it is 1700 NM through the Tasman Sea (no joke) and the Bass Strait (even worse.) Papillon is in good shape, but we don’t trust the motor right now. Until we pull and replace that manky thrust bearing, we don’t want to run the engine more than we have to. The local specialists won't have time until the new year, so a quick fix is out.  Even though we almost never use the engine on passage, we would be fools to knowingly enter an iffy situation in the Tasman with less-than-trustworthy engine power. Distance and conditions were a big strike against Tasmania.

What about option #2: Whangarei, the Sequel?  We know the town, the people, the yard, and like them all.  It is only 900 NM.  But again, the Tasman.  You still have to get from here to there, and you are sure to encounter at least one bit of weather.  Shorter than Australia, but still dumb with the engine issue.  And since we are already here: advantage – Noumea.

While we were debating our repair needs, work happened. And for once, I don’t mean: “we fixed a bunch of stuff.” I mean the “we want to pay you money to do things for us,” kind of work.  Money is always welcome around here, because - duh - boat parts.  It is possible that Erik will work for a few months in the new year, which begs the question: why sail all the way to Tasmania only to sit in one spot for months on end while Erik is away working, then have to fight our way north again when he is done? That’s a lot of sailing for little benefit. Ditto Whangarei. I’ve spent enough months in the cold, cold rain for a little while, thank you anyway.  If we are going to put down roots for a few months, why not be somewhere we can still swim?  And learn French?  We were lucky enough to get a spot at the marina for cyclone season (and they have their cyclone procedures down), so the boat will be safe.  A quick check of our insurance policy showed it was okay from that angle.  And there we were: Noumea for the win.

An extraordinary volume of paperwork later, here we are, a family with a mission.  This season we are going to correct one of our great failures as parents, and will finally teach the girls a second language.  Indy started school on Thursday, and has already begun correcting my pronunciation.
Off to school, and loving every minute of it.
I started classes, too, and am doing my best to drag out tenses and vocabulary that haven’t crossed my mind in twenty years.  (Side note: the Red Cross in Noumea offers French lessons for adults for $50 per year. PER YEAR.  For three hours of coursework and an hour of conversation every week!  I’ve never heard of such a bargain.)  Stylish will begin as soon as a place opens up in her school, and, in the meantime, Erik is getting her started.  I expect the girls to be helping me with my homework very shortly.

And that is why 98% sure is not 100% sure.  And we didn’t get Tasmania this year after all.  Another time.  And I expect we are going to have a great time continuing to explore New Caledonia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the hardest lessons to remember as a cruiser...plans are not plans...they are ideas of what might be nice but probably won't actually work out unless the maintenance and weather gods decree. Enjoy the classes!