Although we took this photo of a large lionfish in the Noumea Aquarium, we saw one almost exactly like it 17 miles offshore on the outer reef when we went scuba diving.
October 11, 2011
On Tuesday morning at 7:15, the Abyss Plongee dive shop picked us up for a 2-tank dive. There were 12 divers and 2 bilingual (French/English) divemasters on board the red inflatable diveboat powered by two 200 horsepower engines. All the other divers were French. We donned 7 mil (thick) full length wetsuits which kept us very warm and then zipped 17 miles to the outer reef where we saw lots of colorful hard coral and Napoleon fish (Giant Wrasse). After an interval wait of 1 hour and after hot tea and cookies, we zoomed to the entrance to the north pass where we dove with lots of very large groupers which come here at this time of year to reproduce. Our divemaster said that in a few weeks there will be hundreds of them. We saw over 20 large grey sharks in one group and a large lion fish. Visibility was 80-100'. We enjoyed both these dives very much.
This horned cowfish which was just 3" long was stunning to see at the Noumea Aquarium.
October 10, 2011
On Monday, we moved to a side tie at the marina right in front of the restaurant. We happily filled our fresh water tanks and washed off the boat. In early evening, our friends Michael and Penny (British) from SV Yvonne who we met in Ecuador came over for drinks and munchies. They are putting their boat on the hard tomorrow and returning to London for 5 months.
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.
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.
October 4-7, 2011
On Tuesday morning we decided to brave the cool 76 degree water and snorkel the reef ¼ mile from us. On the way there, we saw Gene and Gloria (Americans) from SV Pincoya rowing their dinghy. The transmission on their outboard had gone out. We towed them the mile or so to where their boat was anchored and then returned to the snorkel site. The reef was surprisingly healthy with lots of hard corals in clear water. Although we had on our thicker dive skins, we could only stay in for 30 minutes because of the cold. After lunch, because we were anchored in a shallow area (at low tide we only had 1.5 feet under our keels), we motored out of the anchorage at high tide. Just 5 miles south we stopped and anchored off the beautiful white sand beach of Ouameo. The west winds made it a bit rolly, but not bad.
On Wednesday morning, we went ashore in the hopes of going scuba diving, but there was no room on the dive boat until Saturday. We walked the beach for an hour, accompanied by a sweet black dog who escorted up and down the beach but disappeared when we returned to the dinghy. In the afternoon, we made the 1.5 hour trip from Ouameo to Kuto, down the west side of Ile des Pins. We had GPS waypoints that took us safely around reefs, making it a 7 mile trip rather than a 20 mile trip on a route that goes outside the reef area. Immediately after high tide when the current began ebbing against us which was the safe time to pick our way through the reefs because we have more control going into the current than with it, Portia steered to the 12 GPS waypoints while Steve carefully watched for reefs. We arrived at 4:00 pm in the Kuto anchorage where our friends, David and Mary Margaret (Americans) on SV Leu Cat greeted us. Within the hour we were enjoying a nice visit on SV Leu Cat (Lagoon 44) along with John and Lucie (Canadians) on SV Tyee (Catana 43).
On Thursday, we along with David and Mary Margaret rented a tiny car from the local hotel to explore the island. We visited the Catholic church in Vao, saw the local pirogues (outrigger canoes with sails), and a number of religious statues. On the east coast at Baie D'Oro we walked to the Piscine Naturelle (Natural Swimming Pool) where sea water flows into a natural pool area surrounded by pines and craggy rock formations. It was a very pretty setting. Since a cruise ship had arrived this morning, 60 swimmers were in the pool with 40 lounging nearby. It really was a public swimming pool. We ate lunch at the Meridien Hotel where they only allowed us to order from their snack menu since we did not have a reservation. After fancy drinks, sandwiches with fries and ice cream desserts, our bill came to $45 USD each. Excellent food but big prices as is the case everywhere in New Caledonia, which is very French, similar to French Polynesia. New Caledonia was claimed by the French in 1853 as a penal colony and only since 1998 has the political climate calmed down between the Kanaks (local Melanesians, 45% of the population) and the Europeans, 35% of the population. The other 20% are Asian and Polynesians. All New Caledonians are French citizens. We visited two caves, the larger one housed a local queen during tribal wars, and also the ruins of a large prison complex. It was a fun day with good friends.
On Friday, we were able to connect to landbased internet using SV Leu Cat's internet account and took care of some matters that occurred during the last 2 weeks while we had no landbased internet. In the evening we had a scrumptuous dinner of New Zealand barbecued steaks on SV Leu Cat. We contributed appetizer size egg foo yung made from the mung beans that Portia had sprouted and some fine tequila that we have been carrying on Dream Caper since we left California. It was a fun evening. SV Leu Cat is heading to Bundenberg, Australia in the next good weather window which may be next week, but we probably won't see them there since we are going to Brisbane, some 200 miles south of Bundenberg. It is difficult parting with good friends, not knowing when we will see them again. We leave for Noumea on the main island of Grande Terre early tomorrow morning.
October 2,-3, 2011
113 Mile Crossing
Sunday: We enjoyed light north winds blowing us south with less than 3 foot seas. At 3:00 am, we heard John on SV Windflower, the lead boat for the ICA rally, on the VHF radio. He was about 7 miles ahead of us heading to our destination, a small island area named Gadje, just north of Ile de Pins. When asked why he was not taking the planned rally route around the northern part of Grande Terre, he said that the expected stormy weather in the next two days changed his mind and he plans to hole up in the protected anchorage at Gadje. We then learned there were a few other rally boats near us heading the same direction. We spotted two of them within 3 miles of us and tracked them on the radar. A brightly lit cruise ship came within 7 mles of us earlier in the night. Because of the light winds we had full sails up and one engine on to assist, making 7 knots. We backed off to 6 knots since we did not want to arrive before the sun could light the reefs which we will need to avoid to get into the anchorage. We decided to cross overnight with the specific purpose of arriving with plenty of light and time to safely maneuver through the reefs. The sunrise was unusual in that it was a bright red ball usually associated with a sunset in a misty sky, going up, instead of down. We passed through the ½ mile wide reef entrance without problem at 8:00 am and motored through the islands to anchor in 8 feet. At low tide we showed only 1.5 feet under our keel. This seems to be the catamaran anchorage whereas the monohulls are anchored in deeper waters south of us. We rested and relaxed during the morning and early afternoon. The skies were overcast with a misty covering. High today 80. SV Pancoya arrived, announced that they had caught a large mahi mahi and invited all rally boats over for a barbecue at 4:00 pm. We happily agreed and showed up with sushi as our contribution. The cruisers on the 6 boats at this dinner were 5 New Zealanders, 2 Australians, one Brit and 4 Americans (SV Pancoya and us). It was a nice evening.
Monday: It lightly rained with lightening and some thunder during the previous night. It was heavily overcast and rained off and on most of the day. We stayed holed up and did chores, read, relaxed, played Scrabble and watched some videos before cooking up bulgoki beef and paprika chicken on the barbecue for dinner. It was a good down-time day. The nights continue to be 69-70 degrees, requiring a blanket to sleep. Water temperature is a cool 76 degrees.