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Dream Caper
Follow Steve & Portia on their 42' Catamaran
Noumea Aquarium
10/12/2011, Noumea, New Caledonia

We were very happy to see this nautilus in the aquarium. They are seldom seen in the ocean because they live at great depths. The nautilus emits a special gas in the shell which causes it to float and movement forward is powered by the water it forces through jets near its mouth.

October 9, 2011

On Sunday, there still was no space for us at the marina. We dinghied to Le Marche, the produce and fish market next to the marina and bought fresh vegetables and fish for dinner. We then took the bus to the aquarium to see the Nautilus swimming and other beautiful fish displays. The aquarium is very well done and it was a joy to visit. We walked along the beaches on the way back to the marina. This place looks and feels like a French town on the Mediterranean. Clean and beautiful. We enjoyed Chocolate Noir (dark chocolate) ice cream at a luscious ice cream/desserts cafe.

Ile des Pins Island to Noumea, New Caledonia
10/12/2011, Noumea, New Caledonia

This photo of our friends on SV Wetnose was taken in Baie de Jokin, Lifou Island while we were snorkeling. L to R, Chuck, Sandi, Pat and Jim.

October 8, 2011

On Saturday, we quietly left Ile des Pins Island at 5:15 am. It gets light at 5:00 am. We motored in flat seas and light winds, and under bright sunny skies. On the way, Humpback Whales entertained us by spouting and then jumping half way out of the water, twice. We arrived at Noumea on the main island of Grande Terre, the capital of New Caledonia, 9 hours later, at 3:00 pm. We hailed the Port Moselle marina but they did not have space available for us at their visitors' dock so we anchored across the bay. This place is filled with boats! It is hard to believe that a population of 95,000 people in Noumea would have so many pleasure boats. We dinghied to the Port Moselle marina and walked into the nearby "Latin Quarter" to look around. We stumbled into La Vielle France patisserie (pastry store) and were totally stunned to find ourselves in an air conditioned French pastry heaven filled with sumptuous eclairs, tarts, cakes, cookies, meringues, and breads. After 3 months in the primitive countries of Vanuatu and Tonga, we went into culture shock when we saw the perfect French pastries displayed before us. When we managed to gather our wits about us, we picked out an eclair, a few profiterols (ice cream in puff pastry), and a baguette, all of which were perfectly delicious.

Last Two Days in Vanuatu
09/24/2011, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Portia in front of the War Horse Saloon Bar & Restaurant outside Port Vila, Vanuatu.

September 24-25, 2011

On Friday, we awoke to bright blue skies. At 10:00 am, we went to the Anchor Inn Restaurant to officially check out of Vanuatu. One of the advantages of being part of an organized rally is the immigration and port officials will come to one place where we can all check out at once rather than making individual trips to their offices. The rally has arranged for the officials in New Caledonia to meet us on Ouvea Island so that we can each check in to their country there rather than having to go to Noumea first. We spent the rest of the day buying a few "tam tams" which are hardwood statues, playing tennis and buying a few provisions for the crossing. Since the crossing will only be 35 hours and we are not allowed to bring any fresh produce into Caledonia, we only bought what we can consume during the next few days. At 4:00 pm, we met again at the Anchor Inn for a free kegger and wine get together with the rally boats. From there we along with the folks on SV Wetnose took a taxi to the War Horse Saloon Bar and Grill and enjoyed an excellent dinner of beef and pork barbecued ribs in this very interesting brewery/restaurant owned by American cruisers who settled here 14 years ago.

On Saturday, we chatted with Gerald, who is cruising with his wife Anse on SV Spirit. They are from the Netherlands. We had briefly met them in Ecuador and later in the Marquesas. Their engine caught on fire 10 miles out of Tonga and they had to be towed in to port. Luckily, he was able to repair the engine in Tonga and they will be continuing on to Australia. We withdrew cash from the ATM to pay our final bill at the marina and filled our gas jerry jug at the service station. When we checked out of the country, we received a duty free certificate for diesel. Since we needed about 52 gallons, that saved us about $70 USD. Lemara who works at the marina and who had purchased our bicycles, bought our sewing machine today. We were very happy to get this heavy weight item off the boat. In the afternoon, Christine, the French woman who bought our kayak and scuba gear met us at the marina dinghy dock. Portia peddled the kayak there. We have enjoyed this kayak immensely and it was sad giving her up. We had a drink with Christine and her husband Paul after which she jumped into the kayak and happily peddled her way to their home around the point. We went out to dinner and watched another beautiful sunset looking out at Port Vila Bay while the mostly New Zealander clientele watched a World Cup Rugby match on TV. In this part of the world, everyone is crazy about rugby. During the US Open Tennis tournament, we were lucky that the bar owner put tennis on one of their 6 TV screens. The other 5 were rugby. We have enjoyed the town of Port Vila. It is surprisingly modern, well kept and full of friendly people. Back at the boat, we took the motor off of the dinghy and stored it in the lazarrette in front of the mast for the crossing to New Caledonia. Over half of the rally boats left today, those who wanted to take advantage of the stronger winds forecasted for today. We leave at 6:00 am tomorrow.

We have posted a few photos taken while in Vanuatu. Click on Photo Gallery.

Dream Caper Back in the Water
09/23/2011, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Nuts strung on sticks in the produce market. We don't know the name of these but they taste like mild almonds.

September 21-22, 2011

The weather cooperated and the two coats of black anti-fouling paint dried as did the gelcoat. On Wednesday after lunch, the elaborate process of getting Dream Caper relaunched began. The wheels were attached to the ibeam platform on which she was sitting and the connections made to the tractor which would move the trailer. The tractor moved the trailer 50' and a steering arm broke and had to be welded. During this process, Steve and Portia launched our dinghy which was on a hand trailer because it had needed a little repair, and went to the port authority to pay our port fees so we could get customs clearance out of Vanuatu on Friday. After the welding was complete, Dream Caper was slowly moved through the yard having to maneuver between other boats on the hard, out the gate, down the loading ramp, and into the water. When poised to start the descent into the water, Dream Caper is at the most dangerous angle. It is during this time that we imagine her tilting unbalanced and tumbling off the trailer, ending in a crumpled heap. Because of the boatyard's careful handling, that did not happen and she floated prettily off the trailer. [Photos have been posted. Click on PHOTO GALLERY.]

We turned on the starboard engine and got an immediate engine alarm, and shut it down. When we turned on the port engine it would not start. Our stern was still connected to the mooring which we used to pull us off the trailer so we were secure while Steve repaired the disconnected wiring on the port engine and inspected the problem in the starboard engine. While in the yard, we had the engine compartments thoroughly cleaned and the worker must have bumped the wiring and caused some water to get under the secondary seal into the saildrive which set off the seal alarm. With the engines running, we were able to manueveur up to a nearby mooring for the night. Jim, Lynn, Sandy and Chuck, from SV Wetnose arrived a few minutes later in their dinghy. They were taking pictures of boats in the ICA Rally race within the bay which were rounding a marker right in front of our boat. We then took the dinghy to the apartment and moved our belongings out in one dinghy load. Upon our return, we could hear the fresh water pump running. The water hose to our stern step shower in the starboard engine compartment had disconnected and our water tanks were totally empty. Ahhh, the joys of boat life!

On Thursday, we moved Dream Caper across the bay to the Yachting World marina fuel dock where we filled our diesel and water tanks before taking a mooring. We dinghied to the produce market had a nice lunch in a waterfront restaurant. Steve attended an ICA Rally meeting to learn where to sail in New Caledonia while Portia washed and sanitized the fresh produce. It rained most of the day.

Tennis Chameleons
09/22/2011, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Chameleons watching us playing tennis at the Port Vila Tennis Club! Notice the red court and net in the background. Okay, so our game didn't really excite them.

September 17-20, 2011

We had a great weekend first playing tennis at the courts up the hill and then at the Port Vila Tennis Center where we played a fun doubles match with Gary, an American cruiser we met here who spends the New Zealand winters in Vanuatu and the rest of the time in New Zealand, and Alex, a local pharmacist who moved here from Spain 2 years ago. Last week, at the marina and internet cafe, we posted a list of items for sale off Dream Caper. If we can sell them now then we won't have that chore when we arrive in Australia. A French woman who recently moved to Vanuatu from Australia came by the apartment and commited to buying most of our scuba gear and later phoned us agreeing to buy our Hobie (foot pedaled) kayak. We are thrilled that our beloved kayak will be staying in Vanuatu in these beautiful islands. She and her husband live on the beach and our kayak will be perfect for them. They will pick up there merchandise on Saturday when she returns from Papua New Guinea.

We continued to practice our tennis enjoying the physical exercise and visiting the boatyard daily. Instead of launching Dream Caper on Friday, September 17, our initial date, more delays occurred mostly because the weather has been too wet either to paint or for the gelcoat repairs to dry. Dream Caper's hulls look great, very smooth and nicely painted. A few chips and cracks in the gelcoat have been repaired. She will now launch on Wednesday, September 21, after being on the hard for 16 days.

We have signed up to participate in the ICA (Island Cruising Association) Rally from Vanuatu to New Caledonia. Although we normally would not join in a rally like this because we prefer sailing more independently, this group has arranged for customs, immigration and quarantine to meet them in the Loyalty Islands east of New Caledonia's big island of Grande Terre where boats normally have to go to check in at Noumea before going back to the Loyalty Islands. We have heard that the Loyalty Islands are spectacular and decided to take this opportunity to stop there on the way. Sailing back from Noumea to the Loyalty Islands is too difficult, wind and sea wise. So, we are now part of this group of 26 boats, the majority of which are cruisers from New Zealand. As it turns out, our friends Sandy (ex-cruiser) and Chuck from Marina del Rey, who joined us on Dream Caper in the San Blas Islands in Panama several years ago, are here sailing with their California friends Jim and Pat on SV Wetnose in the rally. After the ICA rally orientation meeting on Tuesday, the six of us enjoyed dinner out. As far as we know, we 6 of us are the only Americans in the rally. The timing of this rally also coincides with our desired departure times. We will leave Sunday for the 35 hour crossing to Ouvea Island in the Loyalty Islands. From Ouvea Island the rally officially heads north around Grande Terre for the following 3 weeks. We will, instead, head south to Lifuo Island, Ile de Pins (Island of Pines) and then Noumea where we will check out of New Caledonia for the crossing to Brisbane, Australia around October 15.

Living in Port Vila
09/16/2011, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Dream Caper is now ready for the black anti-fouling paint. The old bottom paint has been scraped off, she has been sanded and two coats of undercoat paint applied. She looks pristine clean!

September 12-16, 2011 Port Vila, Vanuatu

Monday: We had an enjoyable morning watching the US Open Women's Tennis Finals in the comfort of our apartment. We brought one of our bicycles from Dream Caper to show Lemara, an employee at the "marina". She decided to buy both of our twin red foldable bicycles for her twin 13 year old daughters. We are advertising items for sale, hoping to sell them before we arrive Australia. In the afternoon, we did a one-tank dive just outside the bay of Port Vila. After lunch we were picked up by Big Blue Divers and did one dive at Pango Cove dive site where the coral wasn't particularly great but Divemaster Marco pointed out two small nudibranchs, a Notodoris Minor (a 4" bright yellow with black dots nudibranch), and a Blue Ribbon Eel. We saw a pipefish, small shrimp in a carpet-like sea anemone that withdrew and disappeared down a hole when touched, and some large puffer fish. It was a very enjoyable dive.

Tuesday: It rained all day, almost non-stop. We stay holed up in the apartment watching the US Open Men's Tennis Finals.

Wednesday: We did a 2-tank dive this morning, one on the reef and one on a wreck which sank in 1987. It was enjoyable swimming through the various rooms of the wreck. We have enjoyed the 5 dives each we have done with Big Blue Divers. Between dives they serve coffee or tea with cookies and fresh fruit and there are usually 4-5 staff on every trip. Today, there were 4 staff and us, 3 paying divers. In late afternoon, we took the free ferry, only 1 block from our apartment, across to Iririki Island, a resort island we can see from our apartment deck. We played tennis on their fake turf courts mostly in the rain. This kind of surface can be wet during play and is not slippery. When the rain turned to a heavy downpour, we retired to the resort's large restaurant for happy hour and snacks.

Thursday: On our visit to the boatyard, we were told that due to the rain and cloudy weather, the anti-fouling painting and gelcoat repairs will not be completed until Monday which means Dream Caper will go back into the water on Tuesday, after 15 days on the hard. This is 5 days longer than planned, but this is a boat so it is not surprising. We visited with SV Tyee with whom we spent some time in the Tuomotus last year. John, Lucie and their two sons, from Canada, are also heading toward New Caledonia and probably Australia. They too are putting their catamaran up for sale. We find that many people like ourselves have gotten burned out from the many passages that they have had to make while cruising the S. Pacific.

Friday: We walked two blocks up the hill and played tennis on two courts next to the Melanesian Hotel. It felt good to get some exercise and to practice our strokes and serves. After a quick trip to the boatyard by taxi, Steve read and relaxed while Portia listened to continuing legal education internet courses which are required to keep her Oregon State Bar membership active. Since we have a reasonable internet connection in the apartment, Portia has been making a significant dent in the 45 hour requirement.

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Who: Steven Stecher and Portia Igarashi
Port: San Rafael, California
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