Friday, 30 September 2011

Baie Tanle & Poum

We finally left Koumac at 0900 on Thursday 29th. after taking on another 167 litres of fuel - not bad considering we had been to Baie de Prony and back to Noumea before heading north. It was sad saying goodbye to Koumac and particularly to Phillippe and Jocelyne and their two young boys. Meeting them again after Whangarei was what cruising is all about. They have given us some good information for anchorages further north. Then there was Mike on "Alchemie" from Falmouth, England who shared his wealth of information and experience.
We headed north up the coast setting courses between coral reefs until the navigation became a bit clearer and we set sail. We practised poling out the genoa and, although no doubt Peter Blake wouldn't have given us a pass mark, we managed quite creditably, thanks to David and his advice and Noel for setting things up in the first place.
We had arranged to meet "Giselle" in Baie de Tanle and as we came past the reef on the end of the point we could see Mary and David on the beach. We anchored a bit further on just past "Giselle" and then there wasn't much time before getting ready for a BBQ on the beach!! Who said cruising was cruisy??!! WE had had a great day with a gentle breeze and generally beautiful conditions with tourquoise water to sail through. Absolutely glorious and we are incredibly lucky to be having such experiences. We BBQ'd some veal steaks and it was great sitting on the beach with the dying embers and a bottle of wine!
This morning we left Tanle and sailed out to Ilot Ouanne which is a small sand island surrounded by coral reefs almost on the barrier reef itself and just inside the barrier reef Passe de la Gazelle, and which had been recommended by Phillippe. We eventually anchored as close to the coral as we could and then went ashore on this little jewel of an island. We had a schnorkel which wasn't so great because of the wave surges from the Pass which wasn't far away but enjoyable nonetheless. As a result there was a lot of sediment stirred up which reduced visibilty. We walked around the island - took all of 30 minutes and then we left for Baie du Croissant on the mainland. Had lunch there on the boat (but no croissants!!) as it was a bit rolly in the SW wind and then took our leave of "Giselle" as they were going back to Tanle to meet their friends on "Lifou" who had had engine trouble in Koumac. We expect to be all together again from tomorrow from Poum north.
We arrived in Poum after 10 miles or so and have to say our first impressions are of disappointment. It's visually unappealing as you sail in but a good sheltered anchorage at position: lat 20 degrees 13.550' S long 164 degrees 02.073' E. We had read in the cruising guide that there was a hotel and restaurant so went ashore feeling hopeful. However, apart from some delightful children we met on the road, we encountered surliness and a feeling of downright hostility. Added to that was the fact that after making enquiries it appeared that the hotel was some 15 mins away - by car!! And the weekly market is held only on a Wednesday which was disappointing as well as we had been looking forward to the possibility of buying some more fresh produce. The question of getting there was one thing and then the notion of possibly having to walk back all that way in the dark with some of the Kanaks we had seen about the place wasn't in any way acceptable so we returned on board for dinner. This is the only place so far that we have felt serious anxiety about security and so have re-hoisted the dinghy on deck for the night and chained up the outboard. Also hoisted the ladder back aboard. All we need now is some of Captain Cook's poop mounted cannon loaded with grape shot!!
We think on balance that if you treat the Kanaks with courtesy you can generally expect a reasonable reception but the unfortunate fact is that drug taking is rife here (Marijuana and Kava - and alcohol) and the result can be quite ugly. So, one has to be quite careful as results of encounters can be quite unpredictable.
We will try again tomorrow and explore the place a bit in daylight to see whether there are any redeeming features for Poum!!
Keep watching this space and
Cheers and love from us...........xoxoxo

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Maintenance at Koumac NC

David has been helpful in discussing methods of poling out the headsails and, while we have been reluctant to do this sailing in confined waters and shorthanded, we now have a workable system. During this process we noticed that the Genoa had the beginnings of a tear along a line of stitching and so we started by asking Phillippe if we could borrow his sewing machine to fix it but he offered to do the job on his boat. So we took the Genoa off the forestay and he took it away. In the meantime we went into town again for a last topping up of provisions and to buy some presents for Phillippe and Jocelyne and the children for helping us out. We bought some wine and cheese and for the children some books, colouring pencils etc. Also a copy of "Treasure Island" ("Isle de Tresor") all in French for when they are a little older.
Had dinner at Skippers Restaurant last night again and today have been finishing off the sail repairs by hand - which is s job pushing the thick needle through several layers of sailcloth and the canvas anti UV strip down the side of the sail. However, we eventually finished and then hoisted it back up the forestay. Then re-sorting the stowage area under the forrard bunk again (always a mission) because we wanted to get out the items we have for giveaways to local villages. Most of it had been destined for Vanuatu but now we will present it to the chiefs of villages in the far north (Isles Belep) and no doubt at places on the east coast. The custom is to make a formal visit to the local chiefs as a courtesy in order to make contact for on-going contacts/bartering etc.
Now a siesta, then a walk and a quiet night in before finally taking our leave of Koumac early tomorrow morning. We will need to pay a visit to the fuel dock on our way out and then will head for Poum (30 miles north) but we may spend a night on the way in Baie Tanle which has a choice of good anchorages.
One thing which must be mentioned - on our trips into town and back to the marina (a 45 min walk) we have become quite adept at hitch hiking. Something Jim has never done before in his life but he has a good teacher in Gina!! The locals are very friendly and usually there is no shortage of offers of rides. Yesterday for example we were given a lift by a very pleasant guy who spoke good English and who turned out to be the local director of an Australian company which leases heavy equipment (eg. 60 ton dump trucks) to the local mining industry. He was from Noumea and was staying with relatives at the marina while up here on business.
There is absolutely no doubt that this cruising life definitely lends itself to the meeting of all sorts of people, sometimes in the most unlikely of places. That's one of the main attractions for us.
Keep watching this space!!!!!!

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

More on Koumac

Our time has mostly alternated between the marina and the Foire site. Only about 30 mins walk and a fascinating glimpse into rural New Caledonian life. So much like NZ (with a French accent!!) with all the things you would see at an A & P Show. On Saturday morning we decided to walk into Koumac itself to purchase some provisions and that we did. Unfortunately whenever there is some event like the Foire being held over a weekend they prohibit the sale of alcohol so you can't even buy a bottle of wine at the supermarket from 1200 on Friday to am Monday. We just hoped that our supplies held out!!
Then in the afternoon we went back to the Foire specifically to see the Rodeo. Jean in particular was very keen because she recalled times at the Warkworth Rodeo where her brothers both rode - later Keith becoming a "pick up" rider which involves going alongside the bucking bronco after the bell has gone to drag the hapless rider off - if indeed he hadn't already been thrown off. Then there was "bull dogging" where a rider comes alongside a bull calf (who is usually quite angry!) and leaps off his horse onto the calf, grabs it by the horns and wrestles it onto its back. Very exciting, especially for Jim who had never seen a real live rodeo before but Jean felt a lot of it was fairly bland compared with what used to happen at Warkworth. Still, it was fascinating to see something like that on a tropical Pacific Island, although as we've said before this place is only barely tropical and has a very extensive pastoral infrastructure. Last night for instance we had invited David and Mary to dinner on board and planned to sit in the cockpit but it was too cold. We had spent about an hour smashing the shells of the crabs we had been given at Baie de Chasseloup. They had been thawing all day and we planned a crab salad but Jim didn't like the look of them. However, we prepared them and David and Mary pronounced them excellent. They arrived from the anchorage in their dinghy and tied up just astern of us. Fortunately they brought a bottle of wine because we were down to our last one. Jim and David discussed our method of poling out the headsails and sorted a few things out so we might feel a bit more confident of doing that because when navigating around coral in the lagoon one needs the ability to good rid of sails maybe in a hurry!
Very tired last night (Sunday) after all our fair-going and fell into bed. Going into Koumac today to try to obtain some LPG (the bottle fittings are all different) and more provisions - wine etc!! Probably leaving here tomorrow or Wed for further north. Poum will be the next stop about 30 miles further north. By then we will be getting close to the top of the island. We intend to go about 30 miles further north to les Isles Belep (still within the main lagoon) and then will be turning the corner to head south down the east coast.
Keep watching this space!
Cheers and lots of love
Jim and Jean (Gina)
P.S. Don't forget to visit the website for ALL our fascinating adventures!!

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Friday, 23 September 2011

Foire de Koumac

This morning dawned fine and clear but already beginning to blow by 0700. So, we abandoned thoughts of doing last night's dinner dishes and hastily weighed anchor - or as hastily as it was possible with all the mud that came up on the chain and anchor. This is one of those times when we are very grateful for Noel's suggestion to install a deckwash pump. It certainly saves the anchor locker.
One of the marina guys came out in a dinghy offering a tow when we got in in order to turn us in a very confined space but all went well and we turned 180 degrees by the usual method of going astern halfway through the turn. The marina is very small and the entrance requires a very tight turn in a 10 metre wide entrance by nearly 180 degrees. And then once into the inner part another 180 degree turn to come alongside. And all between very unforgiving looking rock walls!! But we didn't require the tug which made us feel quite smug!! The wind was already approaching 15 knots and later in the day was up to 25 knots - all SE. Makes things difficult and we are hoping that the conditions lessen for when we turn the northern corner to head down the east coast. However, we have a strategy and that is to head offshore to the northernmost of the Loyalties (Ouvea), then back in and then out again a bit further south for Lifou (south of Ouvea). This means tacking to windward but on angles of our choosing so hopefully it'll work.
Anyway, after we berthed we visited the Capitainerie (marina office) where there is a delightful female person who had helped us yesterday and this morning with berthing. She explained the workings of the laundry/toilettes etc and made us feel very welcome. After we had tidied the boat and ourselves (a never ending task!!) Phillipe and Jocelyne and their 2 little boys came over from their boat "Dune" to welcome us. We had met them in NZ and had a long-standing arrangement to meet them again at Koumac where they have a rural property. We hope to visit them there in the next couple of days. We then made radio contact with David and Mary who were still out on the anchorage and arranged to meet them at the Foire de Koumac. This is an annual agricultural show which is fascinating and so like NZ. Just a little more tropical.
After attending to the laundry we started walking towards the Foire (Fair) site and met David and Mary who had come ashore in their dinghy. 400 francs per person to enter which seemed reasonable and then began a most fascinating day. We had been sorry to miss the Foire de Bourail when we had the car but this made up for it. Probably an exact duplication. All sorts of agricultural equipment were on display and very impressive animals. The horses (mostly quarter horses) were beautiful and so well looked after. Jean was most impressed and just itching to have a ride!! Then there were all manner of other livestock from exotic species of fowls and geese to obviously highly prized bulls. There were Limousin, Charolais and Brahma. We made the acquaintance of a Charolais bull with very handsome curly hair on his forehead and he seemed to like being scratched there!! Probably just as well he was behind a solid fence though!
We had a snack lunch and found some Indian food with the stall manned by a delightful young Indian woman who came from Mauritius and who had married a Frenchman. Her English was excellent.
Then we saw some dressage eventing and after what had become a long day we bought a pawpaw and some oranges as well as a venison salami-like sausage and made our way back to the boat (only about a 30 minute walk). David and Mary came on board later for a cup of tea and then it was time for a shower and dinner on board - pinenut and ham pasta. Now early to bed to be all fresh and bushy tailed for the 2nd day of the Foire tomorrow. We are looking forward to the rodeo events. A walk into Koumac is also planned before going to the Foire.
As always watch this space.
Lots of love
Jim and Gina (Jean)
P.S. We send these blogs not only to the blogsite but also to a random selection of individual addresses. So, if you are a lucky recipient (!) don't forget to look at the blogsite as well as there will be blogs that haven't been sent directly to you. These are not to be missed!!!!
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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Baie de Chasseloup a Koumac

From being initially unimpressed with Chasseloup with its rather featureless landscape we ended with a vastly different impression due to having met a lovely family who live just above the beach in a very pleasant house with about 5 hectares and a swimming pool. We decided the day after we arrived to walk/hitch hike into the local village of Voh. As it's about 5 kms it really wasn't too much of an option to walk and we were picked up by a very pleasant guy in a double cab ute. He turned out to be Gael Bresil who is part of the family referred to. He took us into the village and then said that he was returning in about an hour and could bring us back. We accepted with alacrity and managed to buy some provisions as well as have some lunch at a roadside restaurant. Jean had crudites which is a salad with many raw vegetables and Jim had marinated raw Tuna - both were delicious and went down well with a few glasses of wine! Gael joined us for coffee afterwards and then he drove us back to the bay which is a lovely tranquil anchorage. There is a sailing school which operates from a shed on the beach and there was a school in progress when we arrived. They sail Optimists and appear to cater for 7-9 yr olds. Great to see and the kids really were enjoying themselves sailing out into the bay and around us at anchor. We later met the instructor who spoke excellent English and told us that he had a yacht and intended to sail to NZ next year and would be going to Napier. When asked why Napier in particular, he replied that his son was studying at Lindisfarne College in Hastings - such a small world!! To come across someone like that in a remote part of New Caledonia it's just amazing. We had invited Gael on board for a drink in the evening. He had been a tugboat skipper towing barges full of nickel ore to ships anchored in the lagoon from where it was loaded using the ship's gear with mechanical grabs. Nowadays there are nickel ports everywhere but the old system of anchoring off is still used where it may not be possible to get ships in close. We actually sailed past 2 vessels (one waiting and one loading nickel ore from barges) on the way up to Koumac off Baie de Gomen where there is another nickel port servicing barges.
On Wednesday "Giselle of Argylle" came into the anchorage and it was good to be together with David and Mary again. Gael has invited us ashore for drinks with his family at his home in the evening and he also lent us a crab pot complete with dead fish for bait (!) which we used without success throughout the day. However, not to worry as they gave us several frozen crabs which we will consume soon! They made some vinaigrette sauce to go with the crabs and they also gave us some Aubergines from their garden. Such kindness. They also gave us the crab pot but it is awkward to stow on a 38' yacht although it is collapsible. Maybe we will catch some crabs eventually!! We had a walk ashore during which Jim managed to ring Charlotte in Christchurch from a phone box on the beach which felt so bizarre from a remote location like that. We had a catch up with David and Mary and then went ashore again to Gael's house where we had a very pleasant time eating hors d'oeuvres and drinking wine. We gave them our last bottle of 2003 French Farm Pinot Noir to enjoy later. Gina conversed in English with Gael's wife Brigitte who is a primary school "Directrice" with responsibility for 3 schools. Brigitte's English was quite good. Jim meantime conversed in broken French with Gael and managed to understand about 60%!! Gael was telling him about anchorages and showing him his collection of paper charts of the island. He had some spares and insisted that we take two in spite of our protests. Their younger daughter was still at school and spoke English as well so, although she was shy about speaking English to us, she did a good job of translating when necessary.
All in all it was a lovely evening spent with such warm and friendly people and we will not forget them or their kindness to us. We are hoping to see them in Koumac this weekend or maybe later in Noumea.
Anyway, this morning we sadly took our leave of Baie de Chasseloup and followed "Giselle" out of the bay on a heading to hopefully take us clear of the coral reefs. We are a little distrustful of our electronic charts but they are only a little "out" at times!! Certainly navigating among coral reefs in lagoons is nothing like navigating around NZ where one spies headlands and islands and steers around them. In lagoon navigation there is generally very little of that nature and if there is there is usually an extensive shallow coral reef around the extremities. So, one is limited to man made markers and eyeballs. Fortunately in New Caledonia there are plenty of channel markers and isolated danger marks although they are not everywhere. So, diligent observation and the correct use of charts (whether electronic or paper) is paramount. When you haven't been to these places before it can become confusing and not a little stressful!!
We wended our way through the lagoon northwards keeping a sharp lookout for channel markers. The wind started out very light but gradually built during the day to 20 + knots. A typical SE wind pattern for this time of year. Fortunately it was more or less behind us and we motorsailed with little problem. "Giselle" set a large lightweight downwind sail and drew away from us. We were reluctant to put up anything too big in case we had made a mistake with our navigation and had to take evasive action in a hurry so sailed more slowly and conservatively We eventually arrived at our last waypoint and turned in towards Koumac. The Barrier Reef during our passage north today is on average 3-4 miles from the land so gives plenty of scope for lagoon sailing except that you have to be constantly aware of one's position vis-a-vis the smaller reefs in the lagoon. Most of them are marked and if the sun is shining and reasonably overhead they can be seen but if it's overcast it's a different story!! Very tricky and sometimes nervewracking navigation!! As we approached Koumac the wind did not lessen and we radioed the marina to see whether they had a space for us. They did but advised us to anchor until the morning because the high winds would make berthing difficult. So we dropped the anchor in what meagre shelter was available but had to re-anchor 3 times before we were satisfied with our position with other moored boats around. Each time we picked up again in strong winds we had to wash the chain and anchor as the bottom must be thick gloopy mud! Anyway, finally we were reasonably satisfied beside "Giselle" after all that although the wind was still blowing hard across the anchorage and the boat was moving around quite a bit. We cooked a stirfry for dinner and fell into bed secure in the knowledge that our trusty Rocna anchor was doing the job. The GPS confirmed that.
Cheers again from us
Jim and Gina

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Monday, 19 September 2011

20 degrees 57.956' S 164 degrees 39.512' E

Well, we arrived at the above position in Baie de Chasseloup at Noon today (19/09). We had sailed all day yesterday and last night outside the reef until we arrived at 1000 at the waypoint off the reef pass (Passe du Ducos). We'd had a slightly frustrating passage because the wind was directly behind us (SE) which is a difficult point of sailing so we sailed downwind vectors, at one point being about 30 miles out in the Coral Sea. We left in a flat calm through the Passe de Ouari and had a conversation with our Aussie acquaintances as they passed us on their way out to surf the reef. On our way through the pass we could see about a dozen boats anchored just inside with their occupants riding the giant waves just past the end of the reef into the pass itself. That's all OK but if you get it wrong............!! Having said that, the Ouari surfing is reputed to be the best in New Caledonia and produces a great example of the much sought after left hand break.
All day the wind increased and we were having a great sail (260T), even if it was towards Australia!! We gybed over at 1830 just as it was getting dark onto 010T. At that point we were heading back to the coast so we were a little on edge although we were well offshore. As we headed back inshore on an oblique course to the coast we could see some very bright amber lights seemingly suspended in the air. We speculated that it might have been a UFO come to pick us up!! Gina in particular was very disappointed when it became apparent as we came closer that they were in fact part of a nickel loading port as she had been looking forward to making the acquaintance of some extraterrestrial beings! As the night progressed the wind increased until we had at times up to 25 knots. When it became dark we had rolled away the genoa and were sailing with just a reefed main but were still making over 5 knots. This old girl's hard to slow down!! Very rolly with the waves on our starboard quarter which made it quite uncomfortable. In the early hours we gybed away again from the coast but then the wind became quite fickle changing direction every so often and dropping down to 12 knots then back up again to around 20. This caused our self steering (Mrs. Fleming) to throw the odd wobbly which, because we had the wind close aft, threatened an accidental gybe at times but that didn't happen.
We'd had some delicious homemade soup for dinner made with ingredients from the Noumea market and homemade oatmeal cookies with local cheese during the day. Then for breakfast this morning oatmeal porridge with molasses and yoghurt - great way to start the day and not too bad for Jim's Diabetes!
In the early hours of the morning we decided we'd had enough of the sleeplessnes and constant motion and decided we'd head directly for Ducos ASAP. So, we started the iron sail and motorsailed until we arrived off the pass. As we came in the dawn came up over the mountains of New Caledonia on a cloudless morning and it makes you realise that life isn't all bad! It's a wonderful experience to see the dawn come up at sea, especially on a day like this and after the few cold hours before the dawn. On that note, this place is far from being tropical at this time of year. We were as cold as being in NZ in the spring or autumn and had jerseys and wet weather gear on all night just to keep warm.
When we arrived and were starting to enter the pass and our depthsounder was starting to come to life again, albeit showing over 200' at the entrance, we then found that our chartplotter wasn't altogether accurate when it came to close navigation through the reef pass and in fact would have had us on the reef itself, so we navigated in visually which was quite easy because the pass is actually quite wide and deep and we could see where the waves were breaking. However, once in it became very confusing as it seems there has been a recent nickel loading port developed here and there were additional channel markers which were not mentioned in our cruising guide. Eventually however we sorted ourselves out and recognised a buoy marking the end of an inner reef which we came around and then into the anchorage. It's a wide bay typical of this coast - but looks interesting for a walk ashore tomorrow though.
After the stress of finding our way in we were very glad to be dropping the anchor in about 11' of water. After the sleepless night and the aforementioned stress we were feeling very tired. Gina had in an inspired moment found a hitherto forgotten bottle of Highland Park malt whisky in a clothes locker. This predated our departure from NZ and was a very welcome and unexpected find. So, we gave the bottle a bit of a hammering and then fell asleep for an hour or two!! We have now had a great dinner of Singapore curried chicken and some red wine, a cup of tea and some more Highland Park!
So, cruising is characterised by contrasts. On the one hand we had last night out in the open sea and tonight very civilised by comparison. But don't anyone run away with the idea that it is all cruisy because, as our experience on the trip up from NZ and the last 24 hours shows, it certainly is anything but. However, it is all worth it, if only for the challenges successfully met. And of course there are all sorts of other benefits with seeing places otherwise inaccessible and last but by no means least, the wonderful people we meet along the way.
We had left Mary and David on "Giselle" at Chambeyron but they left there today and are coast hopping via Baie de Bourail and Pouembout. We thought that maybe we should also have done that but, as they all involve sailing outside the reef anyway, and as we had already seen Bourail and its beach when we travelled up this way by car, we decided to cover the ground (about 90 miles) in one passage. We are thinking though that when we leave here in a day or two we might go up to Koumac outside the reef again as the countryside around here until one gets north of Koumac is fairly uninspiring and lagoon navigation isn't the easiest. More later as usual!!
Cheers from us..............
P.S. Don't forget our website for ALL the fascinating details of our nautical doings!!

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Friday, 16 September 2011

Tiare Taporo about to head north

It's a beautiful day here in NC with the sun shining and a 10-15 knot SE. It is now 1300 on the 17th. and we are getting ready to leave for the northern lagoon tomorrow morning. We should be off the Passe du Ducos earlyish on the 19th. all being well. David and Mary have cycled into La Foa - something they have been wanting to do. We had been there when we had the car so another visit was not so pressing. Gina and Jim went ashore earlier with our bed sheets and washed them in a bucket under a tap at the head of a launching ramp!! Such are the joys of cruising. The place is busy today (Sat.) with lots of 4x4's and boat trailers as their owners have headed out to fish or surf the reef. A very NZ like scene.
Nothing else to report - will be in touch again soon. Cheers.........................

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

At anchor at Baie de Chambeyron

Apparently this is the premier reef surfing spot in New Caledonia. Yesterday we went ashore again and met the operator of a reef surfing boat and there were 2 Australians staying here who had also come for the surfing. You need to be somewhat of an experienced surfer to surf coral reefs because if you make a mistake...............!! They usually surf the southern side of a reef pass where the reef curves around into the pass and this produces the much sought after left hand break.
We've been having a relatively quiet time watching the weather and trying work out when to leave for the north when the current SE weather pattern dies down a bit. In the next couple of days the wind is expected to lessen and go more to the east which would suit us quite well. However, no sign of that at the moment. We've been also trying to work out whether to break the journey north by going into the Baie de Bourail which doesn't give any access to the northern or southern lagoon, or whether to keep going for the Passe de Duroc which is at the southern extremity of the navigable part of the northern lagoon. If we do the latter it is 85 miles just for the ocean passage part so will involve at least one overnight sail. Navigation will be important so that we don't get too close to the reef!!
This morning (it is now 1000 on the 16th.) David from "Giselle" went out to the reef with the surfers and is going to try his luck in the breakers! As the crow flies the outer reef from here is about 5 miles. They left about an hour and a half ago in a fast boat so will be interesting to hear all about the exploits when they return. Wetsuits are important, not just to protect against the water temperature, but also to ward off the occasional brush with coral which can produce very nasty septic wounds which can take forever to heal. Not our cup of tea but guess if you're a keen surfer.............. Gina's been doing the washing by hand and everything now hanging from the lifelines! She's about to make some oatmeal cracker biscuits and a loaf of soda bread made from Spelt Flour so it's all go here!!
That's it for now folks!!
Lots of love from us
Jim and Jean (Gina)

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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Tiare Taporo's adventures in the NC Lagoon

Well today we had intended to go back to Ilot Tenia where David wanted to surf on the reef and we would do some schnorkeling but the wind was still from the SE and was getting up to 20 knots even relatively early in the morning which would make the anchorage out there untenable. So, we decided to head north to a tidal creek not in the cruising guide but which would give access to La Foa where David and Mary were very anxious to visit after reading our earlier blog about the cuisine at the Hotel Banu!! However, the anchorage is at least 10 miles from La Foa and the difficulty is getting transport into town without breaking the bank. The anchorage itself, while secure, is in a shallow tidal estuary which has very little protection against wind and is singularly without visual merit.
We had an uneventful trip north to here today but had to follow a fairly tortuous path avoiding shallow patches and reefs through the lagoon. We had up to 25 knots of wind particularly towards the latter stages of the journey. This part of NC is quite uninteresting - much as our car trip up the island. Completely unlike the lushness of the E coast. The landscape is arid and the islands where anchorage is possible equally boring. All surrounded by very extensive coral reefs which usually would make an approach to anchor difficult and unrewarding. We had an extensive walk ashore this afternoon and for part of that walked across what passes for a farm in this part of the world. It seemed to be a deer farm judging from the fences but we didn't see any deer. We did however have to scale the deer fence at one stage which was a bit taxing. Then we had a beer at the local pub where they were showing the Rugby match between Tonga and Canada being played in Whangarei. Quite bizarre being in a remote place like this and watching something like that. We didn't see Murray Wilkinson sitting there!! We hope Whangarei gets its money's worth from the $18M investment in the stadium. Hard to imagine from just 1 or 2 RWC matches.
We are at anchor at position 21 degrees 51' S 165 degrees 49' E and the wind has died down. It is now 2215 on the 14th. Sept. Time for bed and whatever adventures await on the morrow. We'll probably stay here tomorrow but then will be leaving for the north. We are at the northernmost extremity of lagoon navigation now and the next 100 miles or so will be outside the lagoon in the Coral Sea.
Cheers and watch this space.....................

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Monday, 12 September 2011

Circumnavigation of New Calaedonia

We are anchored off Ilot Puen tonight in position 21 degrees 58' S 165 degrees 57' E after a 24 mile passage north from Baie Maa where we were last night. We are now about 30 miles north of Noumea. It was challenging navigating inside the lagoon avoiding the reefs but we had faith in our trusty chart plotter (thanks to David on "Giselle") and the French charts which are accurate. It was a beautiful day and we motorsailed most of the way as to begin with the wind was under 5 knots. Saw some dolphins on the way. However, the wind picked up later just when we were intending to anchor at Ilot Tenia which is right out on the barrier reef on the northern side of the Passe de St. Vincent. We had an anxious time approaching the anchorage as the water depth decreased rapidly to 10' but it was so clear it was like floating in air. However, it was blowing hard by then from the SE so we didn't stay long and headed for the mainland where we are now. We'll probably go back out there early tomorrow before the wind gets up to have a schnorkel on the reef. Then it'll probably be back here before we exit the lagoon to head north. This is about the northernmost extremity where lagoon navigation is possible and then it will be a 120 mile overnight passage to Koumac which will get us back into our ocean passage making psyche again!!
It really was spectacular today - the water colour ranged from deep blue (60-80') to tourquiose (about 30') to much shallower which made Jean in particular very nervous! The water is so clear that it is possible to see the bottom easily at around 20' and the magnifying effect of the water makes it look closer than it is. We could easily see the ocean swells breaking on the barrier reef and at a distance of 3 miles or so it was an eerie sight as all one could see was the splash of white as they broke and sometimes when there was a big one it was possible to see the dark shape of the wave as well.
Last night Mary and David came aboard with some raw prawns they had bought in Noumea and we cooked them on our BBQ. They were delicious and we had a very pleasant evening. Before that we had gone ashore at Baie Maa and had a good walk which stirred up the old limbs again!!
Keep tuned for more fascinating adventures,
Lots of love
Jim and Jean (Gina)

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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Away at last around the island

Hi all,
We are leaving Noumea tomorrow to start a clockwise circumnavigation of New Cal. All sorts of advice as to which is the best way to go around and all conflicting!! The difficulty is that NC lies NW-SE and the prevailing wind is SE so one is bound to get it on the nose at some time - the saving grace is that doing a coastal cruise one can hole up somewhere until conditions become somewhat more benign! Going up the west coast there is roughly an 80 mile stretch where it is necessary to go outside the reef as it is not navigable inside. However, although this will involve an overnight passage, the northern lagoon is wonderful by all accounts and we are looking forward to it. Coming down the east coast we will go out to the Loyalties (esp. Ouvea) which is supposed to be a must see.
We are very grateful to David on "Giselle of Argylle" who has been of invaluable assistance in getting our Maxsea chartplotting programme to work again on our laptop. We hasten to add that it is a totally legitimate copy but there was a glitch with a software update that Maxsea wasn't happy with. However, it has reinforced our intention to put Maxsea onto a dedicated chartplotter rather than the laptop as a chartplotter is marine orientated and far more robust. We couldn't even switch the laptop on when we first arrived at the Amedee Pass because of the sea conditions at the time which would have seen the computer on the floor in several pieces!! And these are the very situations where one needs this information so when we get to Australia we'll be addressing this for sure. At least the passage to Australia should be far easier than the passage we had out of NZ. Fingers crossed!!!
Anyway, watch this space for our blow by blow account of the circumnavigation. New Caledonia is 200 miles long so we are looking at a minimum voyage including a detour out to the Loyalties, of 5-600 miles.
We have been doing last minute shopping for provisions in the local Casino Supermarket, our local butchery and of course the Municipal Market. At the latter we are becoming quite well-known and are now treated like locals. There is a large circular coffee bar in the middle of the market and all we have to do is arrive there and we are served the usual - deux cafes noirs et un croissant - 700 Pacific Francs (NZD10). A great way to start the day watching the comings and goings of the characters who inhabit the market and talking to the various stall holders. Such a wonderful array of fresh food including (as well as fruit and veg) all manner of meats and pates and a mind boggling selection of fresh fish. We will miss it for sure when we leave.
Cheers to all and love from us
Jim and Jean (Gina)
P.S. Please email us with news of home as we always enjoy hearing hearing what's happening apart from reading Granny Herald on the internet!!

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Decision time

We are starting to look at weather windows again and debating our strategy for Vanuatu. However, we are starting more and more to think about circumnavigating New Caledonia as opposed to going to Vanuatu for a number of reasons. Not least of which is that a number of yachties have told us that as more and more tourists go to Vanuatu (particularly on cruise ships with 1100 at a time) the locals are becoming more and more grasping in a financial sense and that in fact costs there are starting to rival New Caledonia - and that's saying something!! Allied with the fact that we were so delayed with leaving NZ due to illness etc we would not have very much time there. The alternative is to circumnavigate NC and visit the Loyalties at leisure which in the end may prove to be a better apprenticeship for us for sailing in tropical waters where coral reefs abound. At least here the French charts are true to reality which is more than can be said of places like Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu.
Then we would sail for Australia and maybe next year visit the Louisiades (PNG), Solomons and Vanuatu before returning to Australia via NC again. This would mean delaying by a year our plans for Indonesia and Malaysia and at our time of life that's also a consideration. However, a number of people have spoken very highly of the Solomons as it's still unspoilt which alas can't be said anymore of Vanuatu. There is an Italian yacht berthed alongside us at the moment and they have come down from the Phillipines via PNG and the Solomons and they can't praise it highly enough, whereas they weren't so complimentary about Vanuatu.
So, we're in an indecisive phase but we really need to make the decision by early next week at the latest.
We have been very fortunate to be berthed on our other side beside "Giselle". David from "Giselle" has spent a great deal of time sorting out our problems with our chart plotting system. And giving us some alternatives which are also now on our computer. We had lost the connectivity between the boat's GPS and the computer so were not able to see our position on the screen. There's been a lot of practice with plotting positions on paper charts in the meantime which is no bad thing but it's also good to see the situation at a glance on screen. We are very grateful to David for troubleshooting our problem which in the end turned out to be a broken wire connection where a soldered joint had come adrift. David had a soldering iron and fixed the problem once it had been diagnosed so we're back in business again.
Today we first went to the market for some more supplies and then McDonalds for the internet as the marina cafe for some reason blocks internet access to Sailmail where we get our weather prognoses. Goodness knows why. Then we went to a local chandlery and bought some nuts and bolts to fix the brackets on our dinghy seat and also indulged ourselves at Chez Toto again for lunch. More delicious snails - as if we needed to tell you that! A bit of food shopping and checking out the local duty free where prices are surprisingly competitive rounded out the day!
So now after a very light supper we are ready for bed. Tomorrow fixing the dinghy seat and organising a method of getting the staysail down without going right to the bow where one tends to do a very good impression of getting drowned when it's rough!!
Watch this space...............
Jim and Jean (Gina)

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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Noumea again

03/09 Back in town!! Can't help liking this place - even with all its French frustrations. We went to the Saturday market this morning and enjoyed a croissant between us as well as 2 cafes noirs. Bought some fruit, veges and pate and then went to McDonalds (!) as we'd heard that their internet connection was superior - but it wasn't!! Still, we managed to send some emails.
02/09 Yesterday we left Ilot Maitre mid morning after calling Port Moselle Marina on VHF 67 and headed to Noumea about 3 miles away - same distance as Roberton Is. to Paroa Bay in the BOI. However, approaching Noumea on that different angle gave a confusing visual aspect to the entrance and Jim became quite disorientated which we later put down to a highish blood sugar level which was 11.5 when we tested it after we arrived in the marina. He's not very responsible when it comes to taking his medication and in fact had forgotten to take it for the 2 preceding nights. It's a minimal dose as his sugar level is usually only marginally above normal but it shows how the medication (or lack thereof) does affect things. After that and feeling pretty miserable he took a normal dose and went to sleep, then woke up after an hour or so feeling somewhat better with a sugar level of 5!! Jean had been feeling very much under the weather as well - possibly another virus, but after a strenuous episode of sorting the storage under our forrard bunk she seemed to be starting to come right.
Beautiful homemade chicken noodle soup with lots of veges for dinner (at least as good as we had had in Malaysia) and an early night. We both felt much better the following morning.
01/09 "Giselle" left the Rade de l'Est, Prony for Noumea at 0630 and very shortly afterwards so did we. A beautiful day and we motorsailed all the way through the Canal Woodin with the last of the flood tide which was the reason for leaving early. Going against the tide through there is a bit like pushing it uphill with a rake!! Then on to the Isle Porc-Epic whence we made a slight course change for Ilot Maitre. Most reefs in the lagoon are well marked but one needs to be sure of the position to avoid those that aren't. We arrived at the Ilot and picked up a mooring buoy for the night. Then decided to go ashore to inspect the posh resort with its over water bungalows to see how the other half lives. We wandered around - everything very upmarket - but almost no-one there. Then, just because we were there we decided to have a drink in spite of a sign which said that the bar was out of bounds to anyone who was not a guest. The price for a can of Heinecken and a Perrier water was 1350 francs (NZD20)so we won't be going there again.
Back on the boat for dinner which Jim cooked as Jean was starting to feel distinctly unwell. We had Escallope de Veau and the last of our veges and fell into bed with the wind starting to gust 15 knots and occasionally higher. Still, we were reasonably sheltered although the anchorage became a bit jobbly. We had doubled up the mooring lines so were quite secure. "Vite Vite" a German catamaran we had known at Norsand moored just in front of us.
This blog is written back to front just to keep you on your toes!!
Cheers and love again from us
J & J (G)

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