New Caledonia...here we come!
23 August 2014 | Noumea, New Caledonia
Barbara/ light rain
We had a good passage to New Caledonia…covering 130 miles the first 24 hrs and then through to Havannah Pass by the afternoon of the third day. The Havannah Pass can be an exciting place to sail, with tides of up to 5 knts, as you go through the coral reefs. We, however, went through in calm seas and with about 2 knts of tide with us. We decided to stop for the night, picking up a mooring in Port de Boise. New Caledonia is very different from its neighbour, Vanuatu. This was first evident as we sailed through the Loyalty Islands. Streetlights, lights on buildings and vehicle headlights were visible, unlike Vanuatu where the shores were almost always dark, perhaps with the occasional LED light or a fire glowing. Arriving at Grande Terre, the main island of New Cal, the landscape is also very different. The South of the island is rich in ore, iron and nickel and evidence of mining can clearly be seen. The ground is a dark red colour and tall thin pine trees grow in clumps. There are coconut palms, but not nearly in the same numbers as in Vanuatu, where the large plantations had row upon row of palms disappearing over the skyline.
Our night in Port de Boise was very calm and we slept well after two night doing watches. The next day we set off for Noumea. We were not officially meant to stop as we had not yet cleared into New Cal, but flying our “Q” flag (Quarantine) along with our courtesy French flag, we did not go ashore or mingle with anyone else. The wind was smack on the nose all day, despite course changes of over 90 degrees and by early afternoon, our speed had reduced to 2 knts, wind against tide and it was clear that we would not make Noumea before nightfall. So, we stopped a second night, in Baie Ire, a popular spot. Just after dinner, the boat was suddenly lit up by another boat with huge spotlights bearing down on us. Simon was sure it would be the Police r Border Security, coming to smack our wrists for stopping before we had cleared in. However, it turned out to be a motor cruiser, which proceeded to anchor about 6 inches off our stern. Simon wanted to know the French for ‘You’re far too close froggie’, but fortunately, they realized this, lifted the anchor and went to park further away, illuminating all the other boats in the anchorage on the way.
An early start and a clear sunny morning and we motor sailed up towards Noumea. There are brilliant navigational markers here (unlike in Vanuatu), which make the sailing easy. Out Chart plotter seems to be happier here too, giving accurate positioning – no more sailing on land for us! The wind died completely about an hour out, so we were able to stow sails and tidy the boat for our arrival. Just off the Isle de Canard, we saw two very large humpback whales. What incredible creatures! Lots of fish were jumping too, but once again…not onto our line!
Arrival at Noumea couldn’t be easier. One radio call (English) and we were being guided into a berth. To our surprise, not only was there a port assistant there, but also John, who used to be opposite us in the Marina in Nelson, on his boat Maristella. He is about 2 berths away from us again! He has been here for a week or so, so was able to give us some good information, as did another John from Australia next door.
Simon went straight to the office, where paperwork was exchanged. We filled out customs forms and were told to stay on our boat until quarantine had visited and then until 3pm., when Customs may or may not visit. We had lunch and waited. The Quarantine chap was very nice and helpful and didn’t make us throw anything away (we had made sure we had no fruit/veg/meat). By 3pm, Customs hadn’t turned up, so we went off to the supermarket – amazingly well stocked, but fairly pricey. Our friends on AnniNad and Gypsea Heart are also on the same pontoon, so we took advantage of the free drinks provided with our berthing fee, to catch up on their news. There are some vendors who park their food vans in the car park by the marina, so we got some reasonably priced takeaways, which we ate on Gypsea Heart. This was followed by more birthday cake and some delicious port.
It is certainly not as warm here as Vanuatu, and has rained a lot since we arrived. We have had to delve into our under bunk clothes bags for long sleeves and long trousers! It is, of course, winter here, but the perfect temperature for walking around and exploring (20-25 degrees). Immigration was a breeze (we came in on our EU passports) and so we are now legally here!
We are a group of people coming for sundowners on our boat tonight and have booked a meal at Chez Toto, the most French looking of French restaurants, to celebrate Simon’s 50th on Saturday. The weather is looking good for sailing down towards the Isle de Pins by Tuesday or Wednesday, so in the meantime we will make to most of the local market, good shops and places such as the Cultural Centre, Maritime Museum and Aquarium. We are also watching our waistlines expand as we cannot resist the fresh bread and croissants, so readily available! Not to mention the cheese…the beautiful pate and of course a great selection of very reasonably priced wines…..