07 September 2010 | Noumea, New Caledonia
First Mate Hels
Today is a bit of a milestone for the Nika crew. It was exactly one year ago that we left Split, Croatia bound homewards and apart from two nights living on the boat on the hardstand we have not slept on shore in that whole time. Reminiscing over the year, helped by our computer screensaver being a random scroll through our trip photoes, it can only be described as a pretty amazing year! To think we set off into the unknown not really knowing much about boat cruising life and with so many miles to cover and now it is fantastic to think we have covered so many sea miles and are close to home! At one level it has all felt quite surreal. At another level it all seems quite normal and living in our house will feel weird!
Enough philosophising for now!!!
What you really wish to hear is where are we and how was the passage from Fiji to here. In a nutshell we had a mixture of winds and overall an ok passage excepting that as we head more south the tradewinds "back" more to the south so we are sailing more on the beam and hence the ride is less comfortable! Amazingly most of our trip has been downwind sailing and apart from a gentle roll one often does not heal over much at all. As you sail more close hauled the ride gets faster but the healing makes moving around down below difficult. Work in the galley is especially tricky.
Thankfully, the kids have developed great sea legs and a terrific sense of balance and, so far, we have had zero accidents. Even managing without our main companionway stairs (whilst they were being revarnished) we managed to leap around without incident!
The cold on this passage was rather a shock to the system. At times we were in full thermals, beanies and full Musto wet weather gear and still cold! Give me skis and a blizzard and I will be the first out there making tracks but somehow on a yacht with your precious kids on board, heading into a cold front is less attractive. We definitely have become tropical cruisers where one can wear a swimsuit and a sarong year round!
To escape the cold winds and to avoid a nighttime entry into New Caledonia we made an unexpected pit stop at a northern anchorage on the island of Anatom which is the southern most island of Vanuatu. Feeling a bit like illegal immigrants as we had not officially checked into the country we lay low. We felt more comfortable when the local village chief rowed out in his dugout canoe for a chat and assured us "it was ok man. No problem". Armed with some whisky, some petrol for his outboard and some pressies for the kids he left a happy man. The following morning he arrived bearing a bunch of super sweet oranges, some fish and a bunch of coconuts. All very welcome!
After an easy overnight sail we arrived at the port of We on Lifou which is one of the Loyalty islands which lie to the east of the main island of New Caledonia. Most of the inhabitants are the local tribes and it is not nearly as French as we imagine Noumea will be.
Being back in the land of fresh baguettes the skipper is in great form. Each meal generally consists of baguettes, French pate de foie with lashings of French butter. All washed down with a Panamanian cardboard Clos red vino! Nice!!! Speaking of our grog supplies you will be pleased to hear that Nika's extensive alcoholic supplies are dwindling nicely and will be appropriately rationed before we hit Aussie customs! With Grandad Pete, who is partial to a drop or two, soon to join us in Noumea we should have no trouble polishing it all off.
Happily chilling out in We catching up on some boat work we were pleasantly surprised and delighted when our neighbour on the boat next to us invited us on a tour of the island in his car. It turns out he lives in Noumea and travels as a doctor up to the islands from time to time. This trip he sailed his yacht up leaving his family in Noumea. We had a lovely afternoon at a gorgeous beach and to thank him for his efforts we took him out for a lovely meal.
We have found people generally on this trip to be extremely kind and helpful and can't tell you how many times complete strangers have helped us out. There is something about the cruising community or maybe travellers which brings out the best in people. It reminds me of the time in Aruba at the Hageen Daaz icecream shop. I merrily ordered double scoops for the whole family and the kids were quickly licking away. When I went to pay I was slightly horrified to learn that the Dutch gilders I had were not acceptable (despite Aruba being one of the 3 Dutch Antille islands) and that the only acceptable currency was Aruban gilders or US dollars. Blushing a deep shade of purple I was taken aback as I realised the money we had saved from Curacao (another island in the Dutch Antilles) was useless. Thankfully a nice American lady next to me helped us out handing me 10USD and assured me that it was her "good deed for the day!"
The kids are in fine form. Tykes has become an absolute card shark having learnt Uno from the Sloane kids back in Tonga. He is happy to play the game all day long and is really quite hard to beat. As an added bonus he has now learnt his numbers from 1-9 and can read the word "Wild". Not a bad first word for him I guess!
Jesse and Zoe are cruising along. We are in Maths mode at the moment desperately trying to make it all a bit more interesting and apply it to everyday life! Zoe has her hair beaded a la Fiji style and is looking gorgeous!
Next up we will make our way around to the bottom of New Caledonia and to Noumea. Grandad Pete will join us there. It will be great to see Pete again and for the master seaman to see how much we have all learned since he left us in the Caribbean many months ago.
We hope, weather permitting, to leave for Bundaberg around Friday or Saturday 11th September. With a 5 day passage in store it will be our last big paddock to cross (yippee) and we can then enjoy some coastal cruising in Queensland before heading to Sydney town! We are starting to get really excited about being back in Oz and catching up with everyone. We can almost smell Oz and we are starting to dream of being back home. Hopefully by the time we are home the country will have a Prime Minister. Apart from that I guess not much will have really changed! Over and out for now until our next update!