30 May 2015 | Noumea
Hello All! We are now cruising in New Caledonia. We arrived about 3 weeks ago. When we came up North from New Zealand we took an "illegal" detour and stopped first in Isle d'Pins. It is a resort area with a very expensive hotel and lots of fine white sandy beaches. The weather on arrival was wet and windy and we were content to rest up and do little exploration. We met up with two French boats that were cruising there and delaying their formal arrival as well. One couple was in a fast light 39 footer and made the trip from New Zealand in a day less than we. They averaged about 9 knots and even got up on a plane surfing down the waves. The captain, Didier, is a general Practioner and his wife Dominique is a dentist. She still works about 6 months a year and sails the other 6 months. They are going on to Indonesia as well so we'll be seeing them more along the way.
After several days, we started moving the boat west towards, Noumea but since Friday was a public holiday we took another 3 days to arrive.
That Monday, we came into the visitor's dock and underwent formal arrival visiting Customs, Immigration and having the boat inspected by a "Quarantine Officer" to confiscate all fresh fruits, vegetables and anything else they didn't like. It was all very arbitrary and our officer was quite pleased he didn't have to come aboard because we handed him a plastic bag full of our restricted items. Because of the holiday, he had a backlog of visitors and was happy to save time! I had to walk across town about 20 minutes to find the immigration office, but once there they were very polite and efficient in stamping our passport.
We stayed about a week at the marina where we reveled in the availability of groceries, pastries,food and nautical parts. It took about that long to make the few repairs that were awaiting landfall.
We were surprised with how backwards this first world appearing town was when it came to Internet. We have been in some very remote island kingdoms with far superior
Internet infrastructure than this relatively affluent French colony. We struggled for days to buy a data Simm card but because of bureaucracy and monopolies that was impossible! Instead, I had to get up at 5 am and sit on the floor of a closed restaurant and steal internet to catch up on email and skype. We are now 9 hours earlier than EDT. Once we had gotten our Internet fix we left the marina to go cruising but almost immediately we received by radio email a notice that our paperwork necessary to initiate formal application for a visa from the Indonesian Consulate had been sent to our land email address. Only after we arrived at the consulate after a long walk did we discover that we didn't have all of the necessary papers and that we still had to wait for another email. We got so fed up we decided to go cruising right away and deal with our paperwork at the end of our visit here when we need to return to Noumea for provision and departure.
We left the next day to work our way to the Loyalty Islands where we were told that they were the jewels of the realm. It took 4 days of day-sailing and a long 12 haul over open ocean to travel the 140 miles or so to get to Atoll D'Ouvea. It is pretty here but we have been spoiled and had hoped it would be as special as the Tuomotus were in French Polynesia. We are now cruising with two other French boats and expect to go to some remote areas for snorkeling. Most of the French sailors we meet speak English quite well and have been very helpful to us in procuring whatever supplies that we needed but didn't know what to ask for. We plan to stay here about another week when a new front should arrive that would allow us to sail back towards Noumea and Isle D'Pins.
We are now back in Noumea after a 20 hour motor passage with almost no wind and a full moon. We did have a beautiful sunset and sunrise. See photo. We started our Indonesian paperwork and have applied for our Australian visas online.
From the Crew of Always Saturday