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Alchemy II
Relaxing at Ile des Pins
August 20 2015, Ile des Pins

A relaxing day spent enjoying the turquoise waters of Ile des Pins. Seems a very peaceful and relaxed spot - at least during the New Cal winter. Beautiful anchorage, well protected spot. Still no fishing luck. Matt managed to catch a remora (otherwise known as a sucker-fish), thinking it was a small shark (Sally had reluctantly given permission for him catch a shark - as long as she didn't have to do anything, and could hide down below deck). Back to reading he "Cruiser's handbook of fishing" (Matt's bible of late). The picture is of Kanumera, a sacred rock strictly off limits to tourists. Okay to photograph though.

Just a LITTLE more upwind work - but worth it
August 19 2015, Ile des Pins

It's been a while since an update - so it's a bit tough to remember what was last reported (still having no, or only limited, joy with New Cal internet). We headed back to Noumea on Friday night, so we could pick up Tammy on Saturday night (flying in to spend a week or so with us. We headed off to the New Cal museum, which was great. Lots of info on traditional Kanak life (at least, life in the past). There seem to be some serious undercurrents in New Cal, re the traditional Kanak inhabitants, and the French colonisers. Not so different to home really, although the Kanak population here seems pretty big compared with the French/European.

We also did the obligatory runs to the fish/veg market, the supermarket, and the hardware store . We made a few unsuccessful attempts to stock up the booze locker. Alcohol is sold in supermarkets and corner stores here - but apparently not on public holidays (you can still buy everything else...), and also apparently not after 12pm on Sat, Sun and Mon at the supermarket we went to. We did find out we could buy alcohol from one rather boutique looking wine store, which required us to ring a buzzer, and wait for the shop owner to let us in (after a rather lengthy wait). We were keen to accommodate Tam's modest request to have a cold beer waiting for when she arrived - only problem was, the only beer in the boutique shop was a couple of cans of VB, along with some rather provocatively labeled Belgian beer proudly displayed on a very small unrefrigerated shelf at the back of the store. We didn't dare ask how much the VB cost, deciding instead Tam would have to settle for a gin and tonic (she coped okay, by the way). Finally managed to successfully purchase alcohol at 8am on Monday morning.

Before sailing to the Ile des Pins today, we spent yesterday at Ile Ouen (posted pic) - beautiful spot. Our borrowed (15 year old) guide book to New Caledonia said there was an old jade mine to be explored, and good food to be had, served by a "man who loved the sea". When we dinghied ashore there was no mine to be found, and no man who loved the sea (with the exception of Matt, and a Kiwi sailor anchored in the same bay). Never mind - we were happy hanging out on the boat. Matt and Sally went for a snorkel, finding an absolutely beautiful array of coral, and a good number of reef fish. The guilts got the best of Tam, who after finishing her rather high brow novel (so she claims...) managed a few laps of the boat - possibly so she could claim decent drinks and nibbles rights shortly thereafter.

Nice drinks and nibbles last night on the neighbouring Kiwi boat, with lots of knowledge gleaned from the seasoned cruisers aboard (including how to access functional - yes, functional - internet in New Cal).

Planning to spend the next few days exploring the rather unique Ile des Pins, until Tam flies out in a few days. Looking forward to trying the much publicised lobster on offer.

More and more this feels like cruising
August 11 2015, Ile Ndukue

We spent Monday night at Ile Ndue, anchored possibly a little too close to the island - and the coral reef. After anchoring last night, we were a little disparaging of another boat at the anchorage, which seemed to be anchored an unreasonable distance out from the shore ("very conservative"). We were on the northern side of the island, with light south/south easterly winds forecast. Had we bothered to check the Predict Wind service we've paid good money to use, we would have seen the wind was forecast to go north east during the night (not forecast at all on the New Cal lagoon marine forecast). In the middle of the night, Sally leaps up, exclaiming (not for the first time unfortunately...) - "That's our anchor alarm!". As usual, Matt was soundly sleeping (either a little too relaxed, or high end hearing not too flash - probably a little of each). Turned out okay - ish. Winds were light, and we checked periodically that we were okay in our present spot. The next morning we went for a snorkel, and noticed a coral bommie only a boat length or so away from our boat. Would have made a nasty mess of our keel had we anchored a few metres further in! So maybe, just maybe, we'll be a tad more conservative anchoring amongst reefs from now on. After leaving Nudue, we headed for Bai Maa - at Sally's urging (our cruising guide had promised good fishing). Matt not s.o keen - it meant heading back towards Noumea a mile or too. How was this progress?? Anyway, he coped okay, and we spend a couple of relaxing hours in a beautiful bay, with a couple of other boats around. But no fish. Hmmm.... Early afternoon, the decision was made to head further north, to a rather promising looking anchorage called "Ille Ndukue". We had a lovely sail there, with a side on 10 knot breeze. Beautiful isolated anchorage, with mangrove lined shores. Went ashore for a bit of a walk, collected some pumice, and marvelled at how wild and unpopulated New Cal seems to be (based on the small glimpses we've had). One more day of doing whatever we like, then heading back for Noumea on Thursday (weather looking a little uninviting on Fri and Sat, so we thought a few city based cultural activities would be the go). Also want to get back to pick up Tam, who's flying in on Saturday to join us for some R&R for a week.

Thanks for the comments
August 10 2015, Ile Ndue

We'd like to thank all the people who've written comments on the blog - it's been great to read them. We can only do this in port when we have access to the internet, but it's a real treat for us.

Happy birthday to Julia for last week - hope you had a great day, and were spoilt by family and friends.

Re-posting (looks like this didn't work)
August 10 2015, Ile Ndue

After spending Sunday night at Ilot Mbe Kouen, we headed back to Noumea to finish off some official paperwork we'd overlooked (turned out we didn't actually need to go back at all in the end...). We took the cheap option Sunday night, and anchored amongst the moorings just outside Port Moselle Marina (allowed to do so, but space is pretty tight). First thing Monday morning Matt headed in to the Immigration office, while Sally eagerly headed to the markets, with a coffee and croissant planned before stocking up on some more local fish, fruit and veg. Most disappointing to find out the market closes on a Monday! Managed to find a bakery instead. The croissants are great here - but the coffee seems to be another story. Lucky for Matt, he doesn't drink coffee. I (Sally) have had zero luck getting a good coffee so far (despite desperate pleas of "FORT (strong) s'il vous plait"). In fact, after my most recent attempt, I'm calling it quits on ordering coffee, I haven't been able to finish a cup I've been served yet! From now on I'll be relying on the stove top machine on the boat.

We headed north again yesterday (Monday) morning with a lovely 10 knot side on breeze. We're anchored at another stereotypical island, with one other boat. Beautiful backdrop of seemingly uninhabited mountains on the mainland (Grande Terre) which stretch as far as the eye can see. Planning some snorkeling this morning, then will probably head across to the mainland, and anchor in a bay which we've read is supposed to be good for fishing. So far, Matt's had zero luck with fish (good job the market's full of them!). We've tried to find out info about fishing rules and regulations - seems like there aren't any really. Well, there are a few - but pretty lenient! Seems to be the French way here - people just do their own thing. This philosophy seems to extend to driving - it's a bit of a sport not getting run over crossing the street. We were a little confused at cars zooming straight through what seemed to be pedestrian crossings. We asked a local police officer - he explained that yes, the drivers WERE supposed to stop for pedestrians, but that - well - you know the French! (shrugging his shoulders). Best advice he had for us: make eye contact with the driver as you stride out across the road! (seems to work - so far at least...)

Pretty tropical! (Sunday morning)
August 8 2015, Ilot Mbe Kouen

We're currently anchored off a rather stereotypical sandy cay, about 12 miles west of Nourmea, just inside the fringing coral reef (that extends all around New Caledonia). It's quite tiny - about 150m long. We went ashore briefly yesterday. Little bits of coral scattered all about. We found some beautiful round shells (coral?) with a flower type motif on the top. Will post a picture afterwards.

We said our farewells to Bob on Friday - he's been a great crew (he's off following his scuba interests for a few days).

We had a very relaxed sail across from Noumea yesterday, sunshine, sparkling blue water, and 10 knots of side on breeze. Nice contrast from some of our recent sailing experiences.

Before leaving Noumea, we stocked up on fish, fruit and veg at the local market. Great to try new foods, and experiment with cooking them. They have fresh turmeric, galangal and of course, coconuts here! (We're yet to attempt to open the coconut we bought). It's been a bit of a challenge to buy decent red wine - we've been trying to do the right thing, and buy French wine, however when requesting something akin to an Australian Cab Sav or Shiraz, we've been given very pale, light - but maybe "refreshing" (??) red wines. We'll have to work that one out.

Sign in the Port Moselle showers
August 5 2015, Port Moselle, Noumea

It seems the yachties at Port Moselle Marina have had a fairly relaxed attitude to using the marina showers. The very formal sign on the wall at the entrance to the female showers and toilets basically says "Following numerous complaints from out clients, we ask male users to respect the separate male/female showers. Couples who wish to take a shower together are asked to do so in the adjacent men's showers". Hard to imagine this kind of sign necessary in Australia! Maybe it's to do with the very French libertarian vibe here.

Matt's Performance Art Report
August 5 2015, Port Moselle, Noumea

Shortly after tying up at the marina after arriving in Noumea, we were entertained by an exquisite 15 minutes of performance art. There were maybe 50 trucks (later found out over 100) parked in the marina - mining trucks. There's a strike on and they start up - a cacophony of horns - wailing out then BANG! - serious bangs as the trucks raise their rigs and motor forward, braking hard to sounds of their trailer lids smashing - trucks inch forward and then reverse. They seem to coordinate in waves akin to bag pipes with background drones blaring, interspersed with steel cymbals crashing a demanding tone. As if by orchestration they slowly fade with a few persistent until the end. MONA would be so impressed with such a spectacle - and to think it cost only these workers their jobs.

The picture is of Matt the next day, posing in his own interpretation of a Geoffrey Smart painting.

We're officially in a new country
August 5 2015, Port Moselle, Noumea. Thursday morning.

After a very l--o--n--g trip, we've finally made it to Noumea in New Caledonia, arriving early afternoon on Wednesday. Ironically, it's been easier to post updates using the HF radio while we've been at sea, compared with trying to do it in port using the marina's free (but not working...) internet service. (still relying of HF now).

Our last night at sea (Tues) was a relatively quiet one, motor sailing the last 24 hours or so of the trip. The wind sort of did what our Predict Wind subscription predicted, but luckily for us, we had more wind from the east, which meant we were able to sail directly to Noumea for the last part of the trip, rather than having to tack. Matt was heard to say he'd been reconsidering his approach of "doesn't matter how much there is, as long as it's behind you/do NOT sail upwind." This was in light of the the nasty wave/dodger removal incident sailing down wind across to Lord Howe Island. However after a few days of sailing upwind, the boat smashing and crashing into and onto waves, he is now adamant his original position was correct, and that we should never ever sail upwind again while cruising! (We're really hoping that the anchorage back in Lord Howe copped an absolute walloping in the few of days after we left, vindicating our decision to leave early!)

On the way in to Noumea, a couple of hump back whales crossed our path, which was a real treat. Had to be mindful to continue navigating during this time, with plenty of reefs about.

We completed most of the official entry requirements last night. We're pleased to report that the three month supply of parmesan cheese bought from the Italian Pantry in Hobart was not confiscated! The last hurdle for us is Customs - oddly enough, what we thought was an oversupply of alcohol has turned out to be well within the allowed limits (we'll need to find a local bottle shop soon...). The only remaining issue seems to be whether we'll we need to pay tax on the 4kg of essential Lavazza coffee beans we've brought along (there's a miserly 500g limit allowed). Nice that that seems our biggest problem at the moment (although Matt would probably say that repairing the throttle lever that was smashed off by a flailing reef line when dropping the main sail is a bit of an issue - we've been using a jury rigged system since, and had no reverse gear to use when coming in to the marina. Was kind of funny, trying to explain to the smiling French speaking marina worker we had no reverse as we headed into the berth with what seemed like a bit too much speed on. We weren't quite sure if she understood or not, using a combination of English, broken French, and distressed looks to try to communicate our situation. She just continued smiling and nodding. All turned out okay - the boat, the marina, and our pride undamaged.

Hopefully we'll line up some internet access soon, which will make it easier to post some pictures.

Still a way to go
August 2 2015, Coral Sea

Monday morning, and we're still on our way to Noumea. Looks like another couple of days yet. Leaving Lord Howe Island Friday certainly hasn't made for the easiest passage (lots of upwind sailing, fairly bumpy), but still seems a better option than staying in an anchorage with pretty dodgy conditions on the way. Sally is happy to report the Paihia Bomb seasickness tabs are working a treat (I should be really really sick by now). Nothing too much to report - just sailing along - and along - and along. We'll get there eventually. Bit too lazy to try to upload a picture - pretty much just imagine lots of blue water, and you have it. (there is a pic of Matt taking a shower on the transom (back of the boat) in the middle of the Coral Sea - but we may leave that one off, for modesty reasons)

We're officially tropical (I think)
July 31 2015, Coral Sea, Friday 9am

Been sailing for the last 24 hours or so. Pretty good conditions (probably the best part of the trip we'll have, as it's looking like we'll need to motor for about 24 hours or so, then two days sailing pretty close to the wind). Happy to be on the move though. We had a beautiful full moon through last night. We crossed above the 30th parallel this morning, which I think means we're now out of the Tasman Sea, and into the Coral Sea (and the tropics). Even have a screenshot (which hopefully has uploaded) to prove it. Another four days or so until New Cal.

Time to move on
July 30 2015, Lord Howe Island

Although the weather's not fantastic for leaving now, the anchorage here is not good for the weather over the next couple of days, so we're heading to New Cal. It'll be a fairly long trip - probably almost 5 days, because the winds won't be from a great direction. We're keen to move on though, and start enjoying some of that tropical Pacific weather! Hope all's well with everyone at home.

Couple more days at Lord Howe
July 29 2015, Lagoon at Lord Howe

Taking it easy today. Weather has settled, and we enjoyed a lovely sunny calm(ish) morning - until the keel stated scraping the coral bed. Oops- not good in a marine park. Relocated after Matt did a bit of reconnaissance work with a lead line, taking some depth soundings.
Looks like we'll probably head off on Saturday or Sunday, leaving a couple of days to do some snorkelling.
Word of caution for those thinking of travelling to Lord Howe: chocolate coasts $9 a block, so stock up at Cadbury's before you leave home.
We're moored to the left of the jetty in the picture, out a fair way, just inside the coral reef.

To stay or go
July 27 2015, Lord Howe Island

Have spent the last two nights anchored just inside the lagoon with strong south westerly winds blowing straight in. Hasn't made for a particularly comfortable anchorage, but nice to be on a mooring which the local policeman says is rated as okay in up to 70 knots of wind (he did go on to say they'd "lost" a boat from the same mooring recently - had been the owner's fault, using dodgy lines. Somehow in the night the boat had come off the mooring, been pushed out to sea though the very narrow pass, and then washed back over the reef by waves. The people on board knew nothing about it until they were aground! Or so the story goes as told by the policeman. He said the boat was okay in the end).

Matt and Bob have pretty much repaired our poor battered and bruised dodger. Sally has been working flat out on getting computing and HF systems up and running well for better access to weather info. Never seems to be enough time - hoping that'll change before long.s

We're looking like heading off to Noumea either tomorrow (Wed), or Sunday. Had a bit of time over on the island yesterday - very relaxed and friendly vibe. If we're here 'till Sunday it'll be great to do a bit more exploring.

Lord Howe Island - we made it!
July 26 2015, Lord Howe Island

Finally reached Lord Howe Island. Was looking like an easy day, but in typical fashion, two hours out from our destination, we got hit with more 30kt winds (and just after deciding it would be good to shake out the reef). Made it through the narrow pass into the lagoon at Lord Howe, with very helpful advice from the authorities here. Bit disconcerting to come through a narrow channel with waves breaking over reefs on either side. Bob's headed off to the shore for a bit, Matt and Sally opted for relaxing and a good bottle of wine to celebrate our arrival. Some repairs needed before heading further afield to New Caledonia (and a bit of recovery time). Hopefully this all shows up on the blog okay - it's all been done via our HF radio (no mobile phone or internet access here). Hope all's well with family and friends back home.

Late Lunch at Lord Howe?
July 24 2015, 30 miles west of Lord Island

We're close now - can see Lord Howe Island in the distance. Fairly quiet night last night, motor sailing with less than 10 knots of breeze. Needed a quiet night, as we'd had a pretty eventful early morning (altercation with a rather nasty wave which had built up in the 30+ knot conditions). Good news is we were able to get a good view of the fourth reef PJs had put in the main sail for us - bad news is that was because there was no dodger left to obscure it (dodger's looking repairable thankfully - Matt had spent a huge amount of time constructing the thing). Looking forward to opening a nice bottle of wine in a few hours.

Half Way between Sydney and Lord Howe
July 24 2015

All going okay. Lots more wind than forecast. Getting to try out the new number 4 reef. Hopefully at Lord Howe early afternoon tomorrow.

Left Sydney
July 23 2015

5:30am start, heading for North Hoew Island

Heading to Lord Howe Island tomorrow
July 23 2015, Watson's Bay

Way too tired to be writing this (was up until 2:30 last night organising supplies ad storage). Zonked.
Very straightforward clearing through "Border Force Australia" (aka Customs) today, ready to head off very early tomorrow morning, expecting to arrive in Lord Howe during daylight hours on Sunday.

Back to Birkenhead Point from Neutral Bay
July 21 2015, Birkenhead Point

Headed back up the river to Birkenhead Point on Tues morning to do some more work on the boat in flat conditions (Neutral Bay's a great location, but the waves from the ferries turn the boat into something like a Luna Park ride!). Matt up the mast again, but not able to easily fix our wind indicator troubles. Back to the local Whitworths, more $$ spent.
Looking ahead, we'll probably leave for Lord Howe Island on Friday morning.
Picture above is the bridge just north of where we are.

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