10/27/2010, Noumea, New Caledonia
We've been in the marina now for 3 days, although for some reason it feels like much longer.
We had contemplated the possibility of putting Fly Aweigh on the New Caledonian sales market, because we heard some things that made that seem like a good idea, but the language barrier alone was enough for us to change our minds. We're all hooked up with a broker in Brisbane and we're excited to handle the sale from there and enjoy the last of our island time here. I did make up a flyer to put up on the local yacht club and marina boards, and it looked great -- makes me want to buy the boat myself! But the real deal is the one the broker, Rob just put up on the web, check it out just to see the pictures, if nothing else: www.yachtdomain.com. Go to the Monohull section, 40-50 foot boats, and we're a new listing toward the bottom of the first page.
Part of what we've been doing with our time here is getting set up on the Internet, making calls to Rob, taking more photographs and sending them off, and continuing our de-cluttering of the boat, which means giving things away to other cruisers nearby, a very satisfying process.
We've connected with a few people here on the dock, as I mentioned earlier -- IO, with Mike and Hyo aboard, bound for Brisbane in a few days and planning to put their boat up for sale once there; and the Gifford family on Totem, a delightful group whose company we've really enjoyed, headed for Sydney. The kids are great, the ultimate example of what I love about these home-schooled cruiser kids: bright, curious, adaptable, well-rounded, and usually able to blend in with the adults as well as, or better than, most adults. Siobhan, for example, is my new 6-year old friend, the youngest of the Totemites. She has more maturity than grownups, and man, can she play Gin! Nobody can successfully teach me how to play a card game, I'm way too thick when it comes to understanding all the complicated rules and exceptions. But Siobhan had me up and running after one hand, although she beat me the second game, and I only won the first because she helped me.
Yesterday we all went to the aquarium and had a fabulous time. Siobhan dragged me all through the place, we'd gaze into a tank and ooh and ahh over the fish and crustaceans and then she'd say matter-of-factly, as she firmly yanked my arm, "Okay, then, moving on ..." Meanwhile, Allan lagged behind with Mike from IO, a marine biologist with a wealth of knowledge about the critters before us. I got the benefit of some of his lecture as we sat for a long time in front of the Nautilus tank, learning about how they propel themselves through the water. I was wondering how fun an aquarium would be after all the diving and snorkeling we've done, all the cool things we've seen in their natural habitat. But it was great to be able to look at the critters for a long time, in good light, and they weren't scared off, as they are in the wild. And best of all, we were able to see some of the things that we just can't find on the reef, like huge, rocky Stone Fish, rare and elusive creatures like tiny little shrimp with purple polka dots, and the big orange Frog Fish above, who unfortunately looks rather depressed. I decided I want a season pass to the nearest aquarium when we get home, it's the only way I'll be able to adapt to my reef-free life in Southern California.
Allan and I did a little sojourn around Noumea yesterday afternoon to get the feel of the town. Very interesting, an odd combination of French Caribbean, French Polynesian, and Parisian. A rather small downtown area, easily walkable in 30 minutes, it was nicely laid out with big trees, lots of high-end jewelry and clothing stores with chic fashions on tall, skinny, white mannequins. Meanwhile, most of the local women, (the Kanaks rather than the French) seem to favor colorful Hawaiian-esque mumu's. And that 's what comprises the other half of the clothing stores in town -- traditional flowered fabrics, pareos, mumu's, and men's shirts. "Snak" bars abound, little sandwich shops that serve mostly ham on baguette, as well as pizza and egg rolls. Very common fare throughout French Polynesia, as well.
Today we may leave the marina and head for the anchorage, might get Allan on a windsurfer this afternoon if the wind picks up, and we may also head across the island to the fabulous cultural center here. Day at a time, as we ponder our last crossing to Brisbane in a week or so. No hurry, and yet, we're getting anxious.
10/25/2010, New Caledonia
Good morning from Nouvelle Caledonie, Slip A-27 in the Port Moselle marina. We're enjoying the fresh breeze, the sunny skies, and the low humidity as we await the arrival of the Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine agents before we're allowed to leave the boat.
We've bumped into numerous boats we know from our travels: IO, Totem, Jenny P, and Szysergy, who are here on the dock with us. The exchange of information along the way is crucial to all of us as we check in and out of so many countries, and as soon as you see someone you know who's already here, the exchange begins: how to check in, what Quarantine does with your fruit, veggies, meats and cheeses, where the laundry is, what the exchange rate is, nearest grocery shopping, and, of course, the best pizza. This time, though, a new topic is included in our conversation -- that of selling our boats in Australia, which of the 5 of us here, 3 are planning to do as soon as we get to Brisbane. Or sooner, if our brokers find people who want to look here in New Caledonia. There's lots to know about selling a boat in a foreign country, and the information varies. So we've had a good time today on the dock, since we can't leave, chatting with people and fine-tuning the next step in our plans.
Ah, the Quarantine guy just came and went, poking through our fridge with rubber gloves on, helping us separate our trash into "organics" and "other" so the organics can be incinerated. We did pretty well, thanks to smoothies: I was able to blend everything into a yummy green smoothie before he came -- mango, pineapple, banana, apple, and the last of our frozen greens. So all I lost was an egg, some cucumber, and a few mushy tomatoes to the incinerator. Apparently if Customs doesn't show within 2 hours, the marina office just faxes all the info to them and we no longer wait for their arrival. So now all we need is the Immigration folks and we're free to roam.
And by roam, that would mean: looking for an Internet provider, a cell phone sim card, the laundry, and finally, the free cocktail that comes in the marina welcome package. The marina is centrally located within walking distance of everything here in town, and it's rumored to be a fun town, the biggest city we've seen since Papeete. We've gained some knowledge about good snorkeling and diving spots, so we're excited to go hang with our fish buddies in a few days, but in the meantime, some time in a cosmopolitan city like Noumea sounds fun!
10/23/2010, New Caledonia
Ahh, calm. Quiet. A blissful lack of movement, under cool, cloudy skies. Anchor down, boat clean from numerous rainstorms, cabin clean because I got a burst of energy, wine chilled. Allan happily immersed in a book, birds chirping on the hill nearby, fish splashing, the sun setting behind the clouds.
We dropped anchor just south of Port Moselle, Noumea and will stay the night until we can check in with Customs and Quarantine tomorrow morning. The anchorages here are all full of boats, and we had to look for awhile to find a spot. But it's calm inside the large fringing reef that surrounds this island, and the air is still, and, as I mentioned, pleasantly cool. We moved farther south on this passage, from 17 46S to 22 17S, and the water temperature has dropped a full 10 degrees to a chilly 74. And though the cabin thermometer reads 83 degrees, it's cold outside and a light rain is gently falling as I enjoy the last of the sunset and the first of a nice bottle of Chardonnay.
The boat feels huge, and accommodating. It's interesting -- underway, we use less than half the boat. We only sleep in the aft cabin. Going forward is treacherous at times and you bang your shoulders here and crash your hips there, the bow bounces and lurches furiously. If we need a tool, or some string -- going into the workroom is a major expedition. We spend most of our time in the cockpit. If it's raining or the sea is splashing over the boat, there's only a 3' x 3' place to sit, big enough for one, huddled against the dodger for protection. The galley is an awful place to be, and the main cabin is somewhere we go only for Radio Net check-ins and blurb-posting. So now that we're back in the anchorage, the entire boat is open to us again, and it feels like a condo! No bathtub, though ...
Allan checked in to the Penguin Net tonight, to tell them we made it safely and thank them for being there. It's fun to hear how the boats enroute to New Zealand are doing. That's a challenging passage, I hear, and so far everyone this week has been in up to 4 meter seas (13 feet) with winds sometimes reaching 30 knots, frequent squalls, and in the case of one boat, the need to heave-to, drop a sea anchor, and hold position for over 2 days. That's not something we've had to do, although we do have a sea anchor, a drogue, and a storm sail, and we're prepared should something like that to happen. So far -- one passage to go -- we haven't needed them.
Our friends Michael and Gloria on Paikea Mist are in Tonga, and in touch with Bob McDavitt, the Kiwi weather router we've been working with who specializes in this region. Bob says there may not be another good weather window until the middle of November, so Paikea Mist is getting ready to leap now. Rod and Elisabeth on Proximity are in Fiji, anxious and chomping at the bit to get going. We listen to the Net and hear the names of boats we've been following for months and months and catch up on their progress as they make their final passage of the cruising season to wait out hurricane season here in the Southern Hemisphere. It's a small world, and the Nets make it smaller. We appreciate the opportunity to knit ourselves together, to form a group of caring people, sharing an adventure. In some cases, as this one, we only chat with these folks for a few days. We may never meet them. But should something happen and a boat not check in to the Net for a day or two, someone has our name and last known coordinates, and can put that out there to the group. And then, someone knows someone who knows someone who knows you and has your Dad's phone number, and before you know it, help is on the way. Or something like that.
But I digress, and I can only blame Passage-tigue. In fact, as I write, (thank God for laptops) I'm deleting more than half of what I write because it's drivel, I'm rambling, I have no focus and I think it's boring. So I guess the main point of this blurb is to tell you that we've arrived safely, we have lots on our plate in the coming weeks, and we're tired. Really tired. Time to cook some of that fish we finally have a yen for, and turn in for a good 12-hour night.
10/22/2010, Enroute to New Caledonia
Well, I got so into this passage thing, I guess, that I added a day to our remaining time! We have just over 24 hours to go as I write -- we should arrive Sunday evening.
Yours Truly, A
10/22/2010, Enroute to New Caledonia
Snippets: I awake at almost 5 am feeling downright rested and realize Allan has given me 7 hours to sleep! He said he felt fine -- watched some movies, ate some leftover pasta and had just begun to ponder waking me up when I came into the cockpit. As he settles into the bunk, I sit in the cool morning air with a bowl of fresh Fijian pineapple and survey the scene: the full moon is low on the western horizon, nestled amongst soft gray clouds, while the rising sun, obscured by the overcast, is softly lighting up the sky. The sea swells have moved a bit more to the stern, so Fly Aweigh is surfing down gentle waves now, much more comfortable than those wallops from the side that throw the boat into big figure 8's and wreak havoc on the inhabitants.
I miss my kitty, Max. I have a yen for Oatmeal Scones from Some Crust Bakery in Claremont, California, and a really good cup of coffee with half and half. I settle for ramen noodles.
The SSB radio is distorted by a loud hum today, some sort of electrical interference that I can't track down, so checking into the Penguin Net on 8104 this morning isn't possible. The Nets have been great on this trip across the Pacific; we're not really as involved as some people, because we have other ways of reporting our position daily (this blurb, for one; a daily position report via email to Micheal and Gloria on Paikea Mist, for another) but it's a comfort to have the Net there twice a day and hear how those headed for New Zealand are doing. We're the only boat on the Penguin Net right now that's headed west. Everyone else is southbound. It's a rather quiet Net with only about 6 boats participating right now, but we hear from Michael and Gloria, who are still in Tonga, that a pack of boats just left from Nuku'alofa, so things should get a little busier.
Lunchtime: ramen noodles. A little redundant, maybe, but good. The wind is moving behind us, the ride is getting uncomfortable again, and by 4pm we're considering sailing quite a bit father south to stay on a better angle, and then cutting up north toward the southern tip of the island. It adds a few hours, but that's life.
The day has gone by quickly, it seems. Two more days to go; at this point it looks like we'll get into Noumea after hours on Sunday and drop anchor, then move to the Visitor's Dock Monday morning for clearance. Until tomorrow ...
10/22/2010, Enroute to New Caledonia
Better today. The wind has dropped off a bit but we're splooshing along at 6-7 knots; the sea, while still an active 8-10 feet, seems a little better organized; and best of all, we're both feeling better.
Sleep and read. Eat some crackers, have some water, sip a Coke, read. Have a nap. Read. Eat a cookie. Read some more. Make some tea. Wring out the laundry that for some reason didn't spin in the washer this morning when the generator was on, so now it's wet and heavy. Then drape it about the cabin on hangers and over fishing poles, since it's too salty outside. Have some brown rice with butter and pepper. Take a nap. Write a blurb. Eat some nuts.
Waves have been occasionally breaking over the boat, we've gotten sort of used to that, it's especially dramatic when we're down below and the sounds of water crashing on the fiberglass and rolling down the windows feels completely aquatic. Last night I heard a wet splashy sound on the port side while I was finishing up my Harry Potter book. We're surrounded by wet splashy sounds, so it took me a minute to register that it was a non-normal sound, and when I went to investigate I saw a very large flying fish, flapping it's wings furiously in the scupper. I tried to grab it and flip it overboard, but it was too slippery, and the feel of my hand sent it into a renewed flapping fit causing it to slip away and scuttle farther toward the bow, into the "No Trespass Zone." (We don't go forward of the cockpit when it's night and we're alone on watch.) I tried to get him with the end of the cork-protected gaff, but it was no use. He stopped flapping after a minute, and I thought about the people I've who collect the flying fish from the deck in the morning and have them for breakfast ... probably not what we'd have for breakfast, but an interesting thought.
No, for breakfast we had crackers. And tea, and Coke. It's not a very nutritious life, but the apples, the lettuce, the carrots, even the lentil loaf just don't sound good. It's taken me almost the entire trip, since last October, to realize that I really don't have to provision before a passage; just make some brown rice and have plenty of crackers, juice and plain cookies in the snack box. It wasn't always like that; on the 22-day crossing from Mexico to the Marquesas we ate like royalty, even from the first day. But since then, we've been less and less interested in cooking and eating while underway, and I'm not sure why. I theorize that we were so emotionally wound up for that first big ocean crossing, an endeavor none of the four of us had ever tackled before, and maybe we were just spun up for it. We were also a bit overly ambitious. Now, with just the two of us, it's easier to be lazy, and it's only for a few days at a time, and we're never sure which fruits and vegetables and meats and dairy will be admitted into the next country, so it's best to be understocked. Live and learn.
In fact, as we near the end, we're astonished at the sudden compilation of things we're finally "getting." Oh, THAT'S how that works! This is the most comfy spot to read! This is how we use this thingy! Here's a better place to keep that! We've streamlined pre-passage prep, figured out where to sleep under changing conditions, have our watch schedule dialed-in, and have stuff better organized. Yep, live and learn.