25 January 2020 | Scarborough marina, Redcliffe Peninsula, Queensland
16 January 2020 | Christchurch
22 December 2019 | Christchurch, New Zealand
16 December 2019 | Christchurch, Canterbury, NZ
28 November 2019 | Christchurch, SI, New Zealand
19 November 2019 | Picton, Marlborough, NZ
04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
29 October 2019 | Nelson, South Island, NZ
22 October 2019 | Christchurch, Te Waka o Māui, New Zealand
15 October 2019 | Scarborough, Queensland
05 October 2019 | Scarborough marina, near Brisbane, Australia
16 August 2019 | Southport Spit, Gold Coast, Australia
06 August 2019 | South Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast, Queensland
15 July 2019 | Boatworks, Coomera River, Gold Coast
25 May 2019 | Biggera Waters, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
12 April 2019 | Coomera River, Gold Coast, Australia
02 April 2019 | Southport, The Gold Coast, Australia
16 March 2019 | Southport, Gold Coast, Australia
09 March 2019 | Currigee, South Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast
Sand Island Sailing
23 December 2018 | South Moreton Bay, Queensland
Alison and Geoff, gusty south easterlies
We are anchored in the passage between Lamb and Macleay Islands to the North and Karagarra Island to the South in a well protected part of South Moreton Bay near Brisbane. We are now only 25 nm from Southport through the maze of shallow waterways that lie behind North and South Stradbroke Islands but are not heading south yet, as Christmas and New Year are almost upon us. Anyone with a boat of some kind - big, small or ugly - gets out on the water after Christmas, making it awfully busy!
Saraoni in the sheltered passage between Macleay and Karragarra Islands in Southern Moreton Bay
We have made good progress since the Sandy Strait. We first had to cross the Wide Bay Bar that acts as a shallow entrance and exit point at the southern mouth of the strait. It can only be safely crossed when the swell is down at around high tide on a flood tide. It was pretty bumpy but only the same as the last 4 crossings we have made. A pleasant overnighter under a full moon brought us down to Moreton Bay.
Waiting for the tide to rise near Inskip Point before crossing the bar south of Fraser Island.
The coast of Queensland to the North of the Tweed River is composed of a series of huge sand islands - the Stradbrokes, Bribie, Moreton and Fraser. They are built from sand swept up from New South Wales and dumped as Australia makes a left turn. To the north of Fraser lies a gap before the first of the Great Barrier Reefs begins in fits and starts. It's that gap that makes it an easy target for yachts making it to Australia. Moreton Bay is full of sand banks and shallow water and can be treacherous when summer storms greet the offshore visitor.
Three of the rather weird Glasshouse Mountains, Beerburrum, Tibrogargan and Beerwah, old volcanic plugs, rise above sandy Bribie Island on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane.
Saraoni running before a north easterly wind off the west coast of Moreton Island
We've met up with old yachtie friends on this trip. Ralph has been bringing his catamaran, El Misti, back from South East Asia where we last saw him and his partner, Jenn, eight years ago. He's had to do it all single-handed as Jenn is recovering from a foot injury.
Ralph is bringing El Misti back to SE Queensland after a single handed marathon from Timor - seen here off Rainbow Beach after crossing the Wide Bay Bar safely.
Meanwhile, Rosie and Mike have also just arrived back from South East Asia and by coincidence have a home perched a half kilometre from us on Lamb Island with their yacht, Shakti, on a mooring, conveniently just below them in the channel. We last saw these two on their old boat, Jemimah, in the Andaman Islands.
These South Moreton Bay islands have become a resting place for yachties who have taken advantage of cheap land prices and sheltered water. Cheap and frequent ferry services between the islands and the mainland where Brisbane can be reached as well as increasing services make them attractive places to swallow the anchor, or keep it stowed until the next adventure. We might use this area as a base if the Beneteau passes inspection next month, if only to get our stuff transferred over from Saraoni and get Saraoni ready for sale, but for the next couple of weeks we are looking for some cleaner water off one of those big sand islands.
As for New Year resolutions, humanity collectively has some pretty challenging hurdles to jump. Can the planet remain habitable for all of the present generation's kids and grand-kids? Can the current rapid loss of biodiversity be arrested? Can democracy survive? Can the trend towards ever increasing levels of income and assets inequality be tackled? Good Luck, Planet Earth. You need every bit you can get! Perhaps, thousands more Greta Thunbergs
might swing it!
Cyclones and Crocodiles ...a Very Australian Christmas!
11 December 2018 | Great Sandy Strait, Queensland, Australia
Alison and Geoff, light easterlies
We left Port Bundaberg early this morning, punched our way out of the bumpy, shallow entrance channel and are now anchored behind Big Woody Island at the northern end of Sandy Strait, the complex system of often shallow waterways that lie behind World Heritage listed Fraser Island (K'gari) and the Queensland coast. This is an area we know well. We have spent two Christmases in the past here. exploring the many anchorages, scrambling along the sandy tracks on Fraser Island amongst the island's bush and hidden jewel like dune lakes. There is plenty of wildlife here from dolphins, turtles and dugongs in the water to wallabies, goannas and dingos on land, in addition to large numbers of 4WD tourists!
Anchored behind Big Woody Island at the northern end of Great Sandy Strait
Migratory waders like this whimbrel spotted near Port Bundaberg are making their way south when the wind allows them - like us!
We have enjoyed our times here in the past, but this season it may be a little different! Tropical cyclone Owen, the same system that fizzled out a week or so ago as it approached from its birthplace in the Solomons, has now reformed as a category 1 cyclone and is forecast to strengthen in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is then expected to track right across land to the North East Queensland coast and then down the coast to Fraser Island and even Brisbane as an 'intensive system,' with destructive winds and very heavy rain. Great! Well, just as well we don't have 2 boats to look after!!
Update: TC Owen is causing a nuisance in the Gulf, but is now no longer forecast to come down as far as here.
One of the snuggest anchorages on the Fraser West coast is Garry's Anchorage, well known by every yachtie that passes this way. It often has a yacht aground at one end or another, an easy mistake in this complex network of channels. A new sign has been erected on the shore: "Warning: estuarine crocodiles." We used to make jokes about crocs in this area. The last time we were in Queensland, the slow southward march of the scaly reptiles had only reached the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton. Despite the odd, false sighting of crocs further south there was never any confirmed sighting. That's now changed. Several crocs have taken up residence in the Mary River estuary and the mangrove areas of the Strait. A 4 metre croc has been seen several times off popular beaches on the Fraser west coast but is wily enough not to be tempted by the pig's head that has been used to try and trap him (or her).
Saltwater crocodiles have expanded their range and increased in numbers since they became protected, so it's not surprising they have now reoccupied their old stamping grounds. The heavily populated Moreton Bay and Broadwater areas further south are likely to be the last frontier that still provides suitable croc breeding and feeding habitat, although with climate change could crocs be seen soon off Bondi beach?!!
The sign at Garry's anchorage. No crocs seen so far, but quite a few dugongs and turtles.
Dingoes are pretty habituated to humans on Fraser Island, so much so that campgrounds have to have fences around them like some of the campgrounds in North America have to keep bears out.
04 December 2018 | Tweed Heads, NSW, Australia
Alison and Geoff, hot and sultry
Photo above: Saraoni waiting patiently in Port Bundaberg
We are in Tweed Heads, just south of the Queensland / New South Wales border and, thank goodness, driving the last 400 km or so north tomorrow to Saraoni, which has been waiting patiently back in Bundaberg.
The weather has been chaotic for some here and a portent of the climate calamity that the Australian federal government and its backers in the coal industry seem in no desire to address. In Sydney, a huge dust storm enveloped the city, whipped up by strong north westerlies blowing over dry land, followed by torrential rain the like of which Sydney has rarely if ever before experienced. Up in Central Queensland, bush fires spread so quickly and were so destructive that they were labelled "catastrophic" by the Queensland government, a label never before used. An early cyclone, Owen, is now heading for the Queensland coast to tease weary emergency workers.
We have been on the road for three weeks and feel tired of roads and traffic. Christmas is on the horizon and the holiday traffic and crowds are going to make driving even more tedious. We have made two separate offers on yachts, one in the Pittwater, just north of Sydney, and the other in Southport on the Gold Coast. They are both Beneteau 473s and about the same age and more or less the same inside. We have tossed a coin and settled on Sundari, the Gold Coast boat, although probably either would have been fine acquisitions, although quite different in design from our first two boats.
Neither boat is "turn key" and we would have had to adapt either boat to our standards and in particular get whichever boat we chose ready for an off-shore passage next year.
Because of the pre-Christmas boating rush we won't be able to haul Sundari out for a hull survey until early January, so the jury is still out whether we seal the deal with the ex surfer business owner or not. It's enough time for us to sail Saraoni down to its old haunts in the Broadwater and "Bum's Bay" near Sea World. This is a mad place to be over Christmas as we remember from the last time we were there, so we won't be in a hurry.
Lovely Sandy Strait and Fraser Island are on the way, so we shall probably dawdle down that direction before making the final leap in open water from the Wide Bay Bar to Moreton Bay then thread the needle through the shallow, winding passages of the Broadwater in early January.
We have a lot of work to do organising both boats if we buy Sundari during the rest of January, then we are going to escape to the South Island for a couple of months to get fit amongst the mountains before returning to figure out how to get Saraoni ready for its end game, at least with us.
"Sundari" - a Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 473 in its berth in Southport. We've made an offer on it, but still have to seal the deal after an early January out of water hull survey to make sure it is seaworthy.
Eeny, Meeney, Miney......
20 November 2018 | Lake Tuggerah, NSW Central Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff, strengthening northerlies, warm and windy!
Photo shows 3 emus defying the odds in farmland early in the morning near the mighty River Clarence, NSW Northern Rivers.
Eeny, meeney, miney, mo....with which boat should we go? We are down near Sydney on the New South Wales Central Coast after a fast trip down the Pacific Highway from the Gold Coast. We put Saraoni into a berth in Port Bundaberg last Thursday and hired a car for three weeks and have already seen 7 boats, located between Scarborough in Moreton Bay and Southport in the Gold Coast. We are now nearly 1300 km south of Bundaberg and in the rapidly developing part of the Australian East Coast - the best way to see this area is by boat as the roads, residential and camping areas are already overcrowded.
The NSW coast is a part of Australia, south of the Southport Seaway in Queensland, which is open to the ocean swells and is punctuated every so often by a river mouth or harbour with a barred entrance. Port Stephens, just north of Newcastle, is the first easy harbour to approach in swelly conditions.
We have been as far south with Saraoni as Yamba on the river Clarence, our southernmost turning point just after purchasing the boat in Queensland's Whitsundays. The Tasman in June 1998 was in malevolent mood and a providential offer of a job in Darwin's Kormilda College meant a return to the far north for three years rather than a winter crossing to New Zealand.
As far as the search for a Saraoni replacement, no yacht we have seen has been perfect..... for the price (!), so we have made up a list of preferences. We are looking at 2 more in the Pittwater, just north of Sydney tomorrow, partly because we are taking our broken Parsun outboard under NZ warranty into the Sydney Parsun dealer for a replacement. We reckon that we will make an offer on a new boat within the next few days and have, as all good yachties should have, plan A, B and C ready!
Watch this space for developments!
Cocky near Wynnum in Queensland having a chuckle at human pretentions.
Return to the Rum City
11 November 2018 | Bundaberg, South East Queensland, Australia
Alison and Geoff, sunny, windy and warm
Photo shows the Town Reach at Bundaberg on the Burnett River. You can anchor right near the heart of town now as the 2013 flood destroyed the marina, the up river moorings and many of the boats. The flood reached the Burnett Bridge shown in the background and was a frightening experience for many Bundy residents.
We are anchored in the Town Reach just by the Bundaberg city centre, waiting for the Go West! rally boats to disappear from the Port Bundy marina so we can put Saraoni in it for a few weeks while we hunt for boats near Brisbane.
Bundy has changed very little over the last 12 years. It used to be Australia's equivalent of Whangarei, with many cruisers choosing to spend the cyclone season either upriver near the city or downstream at Port Bundaberg. Climate change is gradually taking its toll on Oz. We have arrived yet again in the middle of a dreadful drought, although the Burnett's banks seem green enough.
Two bad floods that 'should never have happened' destroyed the city moorings, marina and many upstream yachts, making it no longer a harbour of choice for locals and visitors during the wet season.
Bundy is still a very useful city to provision from. It's an unpretentious place, surrounded by vege and sugar fields, its vistas stretching to the ever flat horizon. The coastal settlements of Burnett Heads, Bargara, Coral Cove and others have attracted retirees in their hundreds like many other East Coast locations.
For us, apart from the easy and free access to the city centre, the attraction lies in the abundant birdlife that is probably finding the city attractive because of the dry conditions elsewhere. The huge fruit bat colony that once existed just beyond the Burnett Bridge, has relocated since the 2013 flood to the safety of the Baldwin Swamp, where many birds and other creatures make their home. As in 2006, hundreds of birds, especially herons and ibises, are nesting noisily in the Botanical Gardens just a few kilometres away.
We have had a busy social life since arriving in Bundy. Heather and John, who we have known since 1998, live here and still have their Adams 30, 'Kindred Spirit' moored down the river, while there are many other yachties nearby we know, some we met either in New Zealand or across the oceans.
Bundaberg is home to hundreds of noisy birds and other creatures. From the top and from left to right: darter, pukeko (Aussies call them purple swamp hens), sacred ibis, rainbow lorikeet, fruit bat, pied stilt, pelican, cattle egret in breeding plumage, bearded water dragon.
Rum Done Over
01 November 2018 | Burnett River, near Bundaberg, Queensland.
Alison and Geoff, sunny and warm
Anchored just around the corner from Port Bundaberg marina in the lower reaches of the Burnett River after what turned out to be a rather rum customs clearance in the rum city. The Border Force official (new Aussie combo of Immigration and Customs) told us that she was going to put Saraoni on a 'control permit' while in Australia or we would have to pay import tax 'immediately.' This rather bizarre decision was then revoked within a few hours by a much more clued up official (the Regional Commander) who took our control permit off us and said that Saraoni would be considered 'imported'.
Apparently Australia has a rule (that few seem to know about) that demands an Australian boat has to be 'exported' when leaving the country for any extended period, then 'imported' when it is brought back, at which point it may, or may not, attract duty. The duty is only likely to be levied if improvements have been done overseas and the boat's value increased. We never 'exported' the boat when we left Australia last in 2008, as we didn't know we had to, and no customs officials in Darwin told us we had to, hence apparently creating a dilemma. It seems that the same issue has happened quite a lot recently, something that hasn't been helped by a total lack of information on the Border Force website and inconsistent knowledge of the rules by some of the officials themselves.
Anyway, we have to hang around for a bit as we need a 'timber inspection.' We're going up the river to the city of Bundaberg, 8 miles up, and catching up with old friends and Bundaberg residents, Heather and John, who have sailed with us in PNG, Australia, New Zealand and Greece. We were last in Bundy in the 2006/2007 cyclone season when we taught for a few months in local high schools.
A small mob of roos are sheltering from the sun on one of the river banks. Herons, shags and sacred kingfishers stalk fish close by and the anchorage is calm and peaceful after a week of rocking and rolling on the ocean.
Day 7 on the Rum Run
31 October 2018 | 110 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
Currently less than 70 miles out from Fraser Island off the South Queensland coast. We make 'landfall' at the light marking the end of Breaksea Spit which juts out from the North end of Frraser Island. The wind has slackkened off a bit and turned to the east. We are wing and wing hoping to get past the 2 knot southbound offshore East Australian current before passing the spit and making an overnight passage across the relatively well protected Hervey Bay down to the entrance to the Burnett River and Port Bundaberg where we clear into Australia. Saw our first boobies yesterday, probably nesting on remote Cato Island, well to the north of our track. ETA Bundy is tomorrow, Thursday morning and back to the sound of the kookaburra. Oo oo aah aah ooh aah ooh!
Day 6 on the Rum Run
30 October 2018 | 240 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
What a difference a day can make! The trades arrived back gently yesterday afternoon then Bang! a trough passed over with sheet lightning and rain. Now the sky has cleared a bit and we have south east winds up to 20 knots and swells from the south and south east. Should have similar all the way into the Queensland coast, saving us from rationing the diesel. ETA Bundy is noon Thursday.
Day 5 on the Rum Run
29 October 2018 | 360 nm from Bundy
Alison and Geoff
Slow progress yesterday, although comfortable enough. Had a countercurrent again most of the day of up to 1.5 knots. At one point we stopped the engine to top up with fuel and check the oil and noticed that we were making 1.5 knots back towards New Cal but pointing towards Oz! Weird.
Had a light westerly headwind until 4 pm when it shifted to the South and we could sail until the wind died a few hours ago. The ocean is now flat and glassy. The wind should fill in later tonight from the SE and we should have that all the way into the Burnett River. ETA Bundy is noon Thursday.
Day 4 on the Rum Run
28 October 2018 | 460 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
Calm morning after light head winds and countercurrent yesterday so only making slow progress towards the Queensland coast. Keeping an eye on the diesel stock as we don't expect significant sailing wind until Tuesday morning. Current was positive again over night, but back to negative again now, about a knot against us. 4 other yachts on same passage we are keeping in touch with. Just passed a fishing boat out of sight and drifting, probably grabbing some sleep in the calm. Our track passes between 2 offshore banks, so expect more fishing boats around. Link for position is https://www.yit.nz/yacht/saraoni
Day 3 on the Rum Run
27 October 2018 | 560 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
Photo shows this morning's calm sea!
Light winds and a full moon overnight. Yesterday one cup of coffee flew from one end of the saloon to the other but apart from spraying its contents didn't actually break. Haven't seen any other boats today and lost contact with the yacht behind. Slowly motorsailing westwards towards the Australian mainland for the 3rd time. Not much wind for the next day or so and a countercurrent of about a knot at the moment. Our at sea email is email@example.com.
Day 2 on the Rum Run
26 October 2018 | 670 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
Light winds today after a bumpy, lurchy day yesterday. Will be looking for a mooring in Bundy when we get there while we check out a few boats further South. Might also be flying to Auckland as there is another boat for sale there we are interested in.
This ocean passage could very well be the last moana for this little Aussie battler.
24 October 2018 | Ilot Maitre New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, warm and sunny
Just left Iliot Maitre for Bundaberg, Queensland, 790 miles away. Brilliant blue sky day after 40 knots yesterday bouncing around on the mooring. Mixed bag to Oz, some good wind, and some no wind! Should take a week.
Last Dip into the Southern Lagoon?
09 October 2018 | Isle Mato, Southern Lagoon, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, sunny and not too windy!
Saraoni's swimming pool - anchored near the Kouare pass on the Outer Barrier
We are anchored in Isle Mato's inner lagoon - a lagoon inside New Cal.'s massive Southern Lagoon. The weather has been benign - light trade winds and plenty of sun so we have been meandering around some of the little cays that dot this expanse as well as out to the outer barrier. The last time we passed that way was in 1987 after a torrid trip up from the Bay of Islands in our first boat 'Corsair,' but just on the other side of the rollers!
Approaching tiny Isle Kouare
Isle Ua and Uaito make an easy trade wind anchorage and good snorkelling
The water inside the lagoon is generally not sparklingly clear. It has a light silty appearance, but out on the main reef, the water is as clear as gin. We are heading back tomorrow to stop at Recif Tabu, near Isle Amedee. The reefs nearer Noumea have been protected for longer as reserves, so are brimming with life, although the coral is better where we have been the last few days.
With time edging on, the first yachts have already been heading down to NZ, while Oz bound boats have been leaving in dribs and drabs every week or two. There are now, as usual at this time of the year, many yachts in and around the lagoon as the season nears an end. We haven't made a decision yet as to where we head Saraoni. We have 3 yachts lined up in Grenada and St Vincent int the Caribbean, all worthwhile, 2 more near Brisbane and 2 more in Sydney.
If we buy a boat in Australia, we will then sail the new boat as well as Saraoni to NZ across the Tasman. If we buy a boat in the Caribbean, we would preferably leave Saraoni in Tutukaka and then sail the new boat to Panama and back across the Pacific, which would take a year. We will have to make a final decision next week!
Dolphins all over the world love to ride a bow wave - these New Cal. ones are no exception!
15 September 2018 | Baie d'Orphelinat, Noumea, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, 15 knots Easterly wind
Photo shows one of the lovely beaches on Mare Island near the main village of Tadine.
We're back in Noumea after a week rocking and rolling off the gendarmerie in the bay at Mare. With the end of the sailing season in sight, we are now having to make decisions about what we do over the next few years with one 20 year chapter of our life coming to an end. We know we said that last year, so we should add that we are very cautious about what we intend to do, mainly because we haven't a clue!
Noumea is full of yachts, many of which are pretty scrappy* and used for live aboards working in the big smoke, but there are some nice boats here, too. We've had our eye on at least 4 or 5 and have had a good look at each of them. We're looking at a larger, lighter boat, easier to sail in light winds and faster than Saraoni with its heavy long keel. There are 5 Beneteau 473s here and we are definitely interested in one of these models, a complete break from the past as our last two boats have emphasised safety over speed and comfort!
The benefit of buying a boat here in Noumea is obviously that Saraoni is here and we can transfer heaps of personal stuff from one boat over to another. It still gives us the challenge of getting 2 boats back to NZ before the cyclone season really kicks in, or at least taking them to Oz, an easier prospect.
There are many decisions to make, one of which is the payment of import tax. Taking a boat into NZ incurs a 20% tax from anywhere except Australia, from where it is is only 15%. We are guessing that Saraoni may be hard to sell and don't fancy spending too much money on keeping it safe while we sell it. The advantage of taking it back to NZ is that we have our own marina berth there - the Penguin Pad - which costs us virtually nothing to keep Saraoni in safety while it is up for sale.
If we don't choose a boat here, Australia and French Poly have the next best selection of boats.
Stay tuned for updates!
Another lovely Mare beach
Mare, like Lifou and Ouvea, the other loyalty islands, is an upraised limestone (coral) platform. Mare and Lifou do not have the protection of a barrier reef and lagoon like Ouvea, making the anchorages less protected and somewhat swelly.
A quiet Mare Island road north of Tadine.
* One real survivor in Noumea's live aboard anchorage off Port Moselle is the iconic 'Operculum.' We first came across this boat in Kerikeri's Town Basin back in 1987 when we were just getting used to our first boat, Corsair. It was owned by British/ Chinese /Russian / French (?) Henry and his French wife Yanique. Yanique had sailed around the world by herself one and a half times in her own yacht before settling down with Henry in Martinique. They sailed Operculum to the Bay of Islands and bought land along the Kerikeri River. We first met Yanique when kiwifruit packing. She would row swiftly from Operculum to the Town Basin jetty and wave to us with one or two of her feet as she passed by!
We last saw Yanique in Whangarei in 2006 before our circumnavigation and she said that she was going to sail Operculum to Noumea to sell it there. It's still here, having survived 12 cyclone seasons and looking a little worse for wear - probably the roughest boat in Noumea, but with a story to tell!
Henry at one point decided that Operculum should have some new portholes, but rather than buy them, he just decided to paint them on the sides of the yacht! In the Cooks, on the way to NZ, he fancied turning Operculum into a ketch, so he chopped down a pine tree and stuck it up at the back of the boat. Voila!
Operculum of London in Port Moselle. Think the mizzen has been chopped down and the 'portholes' have rubbed off!
Lukim Yu Wantaim, Vanuatu!
02 September 2018 | Mare, Isles Loyaute, New Cal
Alison and Geoff, hot and sunny
Unnerving! - the reef break at Lenakel by the anchorage.
We're heading back to the Loyalties after a pleasant, but brief, stop in Lenakel, Tanna's somewhat decrepit main centre. We are taking advantage of a nice beam wind to make the 130 mile hop back to Marè in the Loyalties where we will stop for a few days while a big fat high (bfh) rolls by below us, strengthening the trade winds to an uncomfortable strength.
Our main purpose in going to Vanuatu was to extend our customs limit on Saraoni in New Cal. By leaving and re-entering we are allowed another 6 months before an import tax of 18% is payable. We don't need an extra 6 months, but we do want enough time to choose when to make the hop down to Aotearoa rather than be forced out by the Douanes
It's a bit of a culture shock going to Vanuatu. New Cal. is an affluent western country, albeit with an indigenous 3rd world layer. Kanaky in New Cal. is like Vanuatu, but bolstered by an economic subsidy from the French state. Is Vanuatu poor? In many ways, it is, but the ni-Vanuatu are a resilient, self-reliant lot. The majority of the people own their own land, build their own homes, grow all their own food, have few problems with crime or violence and have retained a strong identity with their family, tribe, language and culture. There's no easy economic value to place on all that, otherwise they would probably be considered a lot wealthier.
We'll be back in Vanuatu on our next trip up to the islands, whenever that is. It's not such an easy country to visit, as the chain of islands stretches South East / North West. Any progress along the chain makes it agonising getting back against the trades. It's easier to head on to the Solomons, then PNG and Australia.
Tanna, in particular, is a popular, but tricky place to visit. It's the second island in the chain from the South after Aneityum, where we stopped last year. The only safe anchorage is Port Resolution. This is close to Tanna's famous active volcano, Mt Yasur, but there is no way to clear Customs and Immigration there, no bank and no fuel unless you pay someone to take you over to Lenakel, an expensive 1 and a half hour ride on a rough road. Lenakel has the services, but it's not close to the volcano; its 'anchorage' is pretty hairy at the best of time and has to be abandoned quickly in any onshore winds, or big southerly swell. We must have had two of Lenakel's calmest days, but the rollers crashing on the reef that gave the anchorage some shelter, were still quite spectacularly unnerving!
Another difference between the close neighbours of New Cal. and Vanuatu - it's a lot warmer further north! The southern winter sailing months in New Cal. are more like a NZ summer. It's great for walking and cycling, but a bit on the cool side for swimming, snorkelling and diving. Tanna was a lot warmer; the water off Lenakel was crystal clear and significantly warmer than New Cal.
Thanks must go to Iau and Willie, Lenakel's Customs and Immigration officers. Iau kept in touch with us all the way from Kuto in the Isle of Pines. What bureaucrat anywhere in the world would send you a personalised email after leaving a country thanking you for visiting and wishing you a safe trip? Can you imagine that when flying into and out of somewhere as an ordinary tourist? Vanuatu Customs is up there in our estimation for general niceness, with Fiji and Yemen. Maybe Yemen is still ahead! The Port official in Aden actually burst out in song after welcoming us on radio when our yachtie convoy of 20 arrived off that country's troubled port city back in 2010. More was to come when we checked in, when all we got were smiles, and 'Salaam Aleikums!' Poor Yemen and the Yemenis, now devastated by a forgotten but deadly civil war, sponsored and subsidised by the U.S. and the Saudis.
Coastal supply boat at the Lenakel wharf
Coastal supply boat leaving Lenake
Outrigger with a Mercury outboard
Just Passing Mare
30 August 2018 | Cap Boyes Mare Iles Loyaute
Alison and Geoff, 10 kn Southerly,clear sky
We are just off Cap Boyes, the SE tip of Ile Mare, the most southern of the 3 main Loyalty Islands and there is an internet signal!
The passage has been rock and rolly so far with wind right behind us. 140 miles to Lenakel on the west side of Tanna. We saw a few whales spouting as we punched our way out of Kuto yesterday morning and a spectacular display by a spinner dolphin.
Tanna Here we Come!
29 August 2018 | Kuto, Isle of Pines
Alison and Geoff, cloudy and cool
Photo shows the Kuto Peninsula on the Isle of Pines
We're off to the volcanic island of Tanna in Southern Vanuatu, 220 miles from where we are in the Isle of Pines. Our trip has been delayed by a series of troughs passing by and some very wet weather. Tanna's two anchorages are both a bit dodgy, making it a difficult choice deciding where to head to, but we need to renew our allotted customs period here in New Cal. and Tanna is the nearest place to get a new clearance from, so off we go! 10 to 15 south to south east winds expected.
Humpback mother and last year's calf seen in the lagoon near Noumea
A group of carnivorous Nepenthes spotted in the maquis miniere behind Prony Bay.
Noonsite, the international cruisers' site did a feature
Snakes Alive !
01 August 2018 | Baie Majic, Baie de Prony, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, sunny and warm when out of the wind!
Angry silver gulls giving a tricot raye what for as it slithers up the beach on Ilot Maitre for a nap in the sun
We are hanging off a mooring buoy in pretty Baie Majic, tucked up in the East Rade of Baie de Prony, having made use of a once a fortnight westerly to get here from the big smoke, rather than the usual bash against the trades. In fact, the trades have not been well established at all this year, in intensity anyway. An El Niño is apparently looming, which might just suit us later this year as it means an easier passage down to NZ. A La Niña is easier from Tonga, but not from here, as we discovered too late last year.
We spent a couple of weeks in Noumea, doing what you do in big smokes everywhere....spending money! But we also had time to hike up the last of the big three mountains within easy reach of Noumea - Mt Koghis. It's a dreadful track up there, so we contented ourselves with reaching the 'Gendarme's Hat', a steep sided hill, with a magnificent view across the city and the southern lagoon and out to sea beyond the barrier reef.
Noumea from Mt Koghis. Ilot Maitre can be seen as the larger cay with attached reef on the right above the city; The outer barrier is in the distance.
Mt Khogis is the nearest accessible mountain to Noumea
We also spent time at Ilot Maitre, the nearest coral cay to the city, only a couple of miles off, and the only one in New Cal with a hotel on it. The provincial government provides free mooring buoys here in the lee of the reef, so it's a comfortable place to stay, despite the busy boat and tourist traffic. Huge fish live here too, as it is a marine reserve.
Looking back to Noumea from touristy Ilot Maitre. Twin peaked Mt Koghis is in the background.
It's also inhabited by tricot rayes
, pretty coral snakes, although the tourists aren't told! These little kraits have tiny mouths, but also have some of the most potent venom of all the world's snakes. The day we ambled around the cay, there were plenty of snakes out on dry land, most of them asleep in the sun, although the odd snake wandering out of the sea for a nap was definitely not appreciated by the island's resident silver gulls!
4 of about a dozen banded sea snakes / tricot rayes, dozing in the sun on Ilot Maitre. We've seen up to a hundred on land in the breeding season near the isle of Pines
We've been up the long, winding path to Cap Ndua to gaze out on the southern lagoon twice already. It's a fantastic view and normally you can see humpback whales from here. Between 150 to 200 of them make their way up from Antarctica on their annual holiday jaunt - a tenth of the numbers in Tonga, but steadily increasing each year. No luck today or yesterday. Are the whales a bit slow arriving this year? We will have to go back to Noumea soon to clear customs, then make our way up to Tanna in Vanuatu before it gets too late.
Back moored off the Isle Casy wharf in Prony
Casy Island's late, independent minded much loved dog, Moose, has just got a plaque in his memory erected where he normally hung out waiting for visitors. Probably made by crew of South African yacht Impi recently arrived back from Oz.
What's with all the turtles? We counted about a dozen close inshore as we wandered around little Redika Island on our way back from Prony today - more than we saw during the whole trip around Grande Terre!
Closing the Loop at Ilot Tenia
13 July 2018 | Baie de St Vincente, Grande Terre, New Cal.
Alison and Geoff, calm and drizzly
Photo shows Saraoni once again anchored in the Southern lagoon near Isle Konduya
We finally closed the loop at Ilot Tenia on the outer barrier near Baie de St Vincente yesterday after our 500 mile leisurely perambulation around New Caledonia's largest island. It's always satisfying to circumnavigate anything large and Grande Terre was large enough for a 2 month trip with over 30 excellent anchorages.
Lovely, remote, Ilot Tenia on the edge of the barrier where we closed the loop
We arrived back in the Southern lagoon a week ago after a 60 mile sprint down outside the western barrier reef. The tip of a front emanating from a deep low passing across the Tasman to the south of us wafted through, shifting the wind from a useful north easterly back to an annoying southeasterly, but we made it back through the pass in the dark and dropped anchor in calm conditions.
Unusually calm days since have allowed us to visit normally uncomfortable coral cays like Konduya and Tenia, as well as spot marine life. We've seen dolphins and dugongs, as well as turtles in the shallow, clear water 'flying' across the sea grass beds.
Konduya Island in the Southern lagoon
An osprey on Konduya island - each cay seems to have a resident pair of ospreys
The osprey pair on Ilot Tenia
These small sacred kingfishers are common all over New Caledonia and the same species as in Australia and New Zealand.
At lovely Ilot Tenia, in almost perfect conditions we saw a 2.5m grey shark which was a little offputting. When Alison finally got into the water, she saw what she said was the biggest moray eel she had ever seen, with a head the size of a child's. She couldn't get back into the dinghy as the water was too deep, but the moray had already retreated to somewhere it too felt safe!
Best of all was an encounter with some manta rays in the Lepredour Channel. They must have been feeding on a plankton plume in the channel, accompanied by their constant companions, a bunch of remoras. Because the sea was so calm, we just dropped Saraoni's anchor and jumped in the water with the camera!
Mantas are gentle giants that just feed on plankton and do not have the potentially dangerous barb that sting rays have. We were able to get really close to the mantas who politely ignored us as they glided effortlessly through the water.
Manta feeding - note the large mouth like that of a baleen whale
Manta in the Lepredour Channel
Remoras attached to their reluctant chum
We have had almost constant internet cover here everywhere we have been. It's rather surreal when cruising in these remote lagoons reading about the chaotic events in Britain with the disastrous arrival of President Tchump. Why was he ever allowed to visit? All power to Sadiq Khan in London, Magid Magid in Sheffield, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, the baby blimp and the many tens of thousands of people who gave Tchump an unwelcome.
There is a nasty trend towards bigotry and nationalism in both Europe and the U.S. - at a time when the world is dangerously hotting up, income disparities growing and biodiversity shrinking. Humanity needs more international co-operation than ever before, not less. The recent cave rescue in Thailand was a welcome sign that people from many nations can help each other for the common good.
We are now heading back to Noumea to make plans for our trip to Vanuatu.