“Where you from man?” asks the very cool looking French kid in the very short-sleeved tight t-shirt. His expression implies he is not expecting anywhere on earth. Perhaps it’s my wild dancing style, or Lyn’s or Pete, Ness, Warwick or Lainy, clearly we are out of place and not from this planet, this club of twenty-somethings, looking cool, buff and polished. What are these old long-haired sun-burnt creatures writhing on our dance floor? “Australia” I say and explain that we are from the mother ship lying at anchor on the mirror-like water outside, illuminated by bright white spotlights. He smiles knowingly, that makes sense ….. boat people.
Our flight back from London arrived on the night of Friday the 16th of October. We got to the boat at Port Moselle marina late at night to find that the batteries were very low due to the shore power becoming disconnected. We would have to discard some meat from the freezer, but otherwise very happy to find Jolifou in perfect order just as we had left her, a big thanks to David Plumley and Chloe Morin! Next morning we slept in and then caught up with David and Chloe. Lyn threw away the dodgy meat and cooked everything else that was salvageable.
On Sunday morning we used our jetlag wisely by waking up at 2AM and listening to a streaming voice commentary of the South Africa vs Wales quarter final of the rugby world cup. A real nail-biter until the end but with the right result. We had a brief sleep before waking at 6 and joining Pete (from Akimbo) and many other mad Kiwi and French cruisers at the marina café to watch the New Zealand vs France game, an embarrassment for France but many happy Kiwis. We were delighted to bump into our old friend from the Pittwater Matt Cudmore, who is on the final stages of his huge South Pacific cruise. We also met Warwick and Lainy from Fusio who are as mad keen Kiwi as they get!
That night we hosted a dinner on Jolifou to thank David Plumley for all his generous help in our time of need. Unfortunately his partner Marilee could not make it as she was suffering a severe bout of back ache. Jim and Ann from I2 came along too and despite a shortage of wine (Lyn could not buy because Sunday) a delicious meal of pulled pork and merry time was had by all!
Next morning we again did the jetlag wake-up and listened to Australia vs Scotland, another nail-biter with a good result. We needed to leave the marina by 9, so we anchored just off the Marina whilst Lyn did a big shop and Bruce bought and fitted a new kill switch for the outboard. Then we motored the short distance out to Maitre island where Bruce had a great kite. Maitre is an absolutely perfect flat water kite-boarding location, with a huge level and shallow sand-bottom area on the South East side so whenever the trades are blowing (most days) you will find many kiters there including the Noumea-based kite schools. It is a perfect location for beginners and on Tuesday morning we decided to take the opportunity to give Lyn her first kiting lesson, starting with her watching a good instructional dvd we have, then moving ashore for the practical side. Unfortunately our smallest kite (a BWS 8 meter) is a little too powerful for a beginner of Lyn’s size in the 20 knot winds of the day, but with Bruce holding her down Lyn was able to learn a lot about safety, rigging, launching, landing and controlling the kite in the air. We then had a heap of fun body dragging (at speed) with Bruce controlling the kite and Lyn hanging on to him! There were a few concerned looks from the nearby too-cool-for-school French kite instructors, as it may not have been clear that we knew what we were doing. Akimbo arrived in the afternoon and invited us to sundowners along with Warwick and Lainy from Fusio. Sundowners developed into a late (for cruisers) night as we had a hilarious time, drank way too much and found our way back to the boat at about 10 pm.
On Wednesday the 21st Lyn had her second kite lesson, again the wind was a bit too strong but she got much more confident controlling the kite. Bruce then had a bit of a kite and we then had more fun doing the double body drag. Thursday was like ground-hog day (in a very nice way), another lesson for Lyn and Bruce kite session. That night we had a delicious dinner on Akimbo.
Next morning Akimbo and Jolifou set off for Dumbea pass to look for surf. We went to the southern side of the pass where the left-hand surf break happens and were pleasantly surprised to see that there are two good moorings there just wide of the break, which we gratefully utilized. Not so lucky on the surf though, conditions were perfect with hardly any wind but the swell was tiny. Perfect little lefts were peeling down the shallow coral. Bruce still had to have a go of course and spent about an hour trying to get a decent ride. There was just not enough power to get the speed to make the fast sections and the incoming tide also made the paddle out a little harder than desired. It is however a beautiful spot which is sure to have excellent waves in a bigger swell. It also will be a great kiting spot because although the waves are quite hollow they open up to deep water which would help the safety aspect. We motored the short distance to Nge island where we had a good paddle around on the stand-ups, seeing a couple of reef sharks. On seeing a medium sized reef shark close to the beach near some toddlers swimming, we thought it best to warn the dad. His response (assumed translation from French): “Come on kids, look at this there is a shark!” as they all snorkel towards it. A refreshing response compared with what most Australian parents would do?
Fusio was also at Nge and they invited us and Akimbo for sundowners. Fusio is a 46 foot custom Davidson design, 20 years old but very modern looking. She is a beautiful boat, built from epoxy sheathed kauri wood. There is a deep center cockpit with low hard dodger that feels really safe and an expansive aft deck that opens to a wide sugar-scoop platform. Really nice and clean on-deck systems and the interior is a nice spacious open design with artistically curvey wood work of expert joinery. Some-one put a lot of time and effort into building this boat and it is one of the few we have seen that have made us slightly envious when compared with our Jolifou. As expected with this crowd, sundowners went on very late. On the way back to Jolifou in the dinghy there was the sound of dolphins breathing all around, but we didn’t actually see one.
Saturday morning dawned with glassy water and sunshine. We took the paddle boards and Ness joined us on her “Mellow Yellow” kayak for a paddle. Working our way around the outside of the fringing reef, enjoying the beautiful coral, baby white-tip reef sharks and turtles, we realized that the falling tide and drying reef was blocking us from re-entering the island lagoon. Ness elected to turn back but we continued and completed a long and tiring full circumnavigation of the reef. The Springboks were due to play the All Blacks in the semi-finals at 2AM the next morning and the mission of Akimbo, Fusion and Jolifou was to find somewhere we could watch the game live on TV. We made a loose arrangement to meet up in Citroen bay, Noumea later where there are many bars and restaurants. Jolifou used a light easterly wind to sail to Maitre island where we picked up a mooring for lunch and made enquiries at the resort about possible TV options, but with no joy. We sailed on to Citroen bay in a moderate south easterly and anchored in really close to the beach off a night club. Fusio and Akimbo came to Jolifou for drinks and then we all piled into Fusio’s little dinghy and went ashore to the beach. At this stage we still had not found a rugby venue despite Fusio asking at many bars along the beach front earlier, they all close at 2AM. Right opposite the dinghy was a little bar/restaurant called La Fiesta and Lyn says: “Why don’t we ask here?” The rest of us had little hope and were astounded when a beaming Lyn returns saying all we need to do is knock on the door at 2AM!
So, what to do until 2AM then? What would Tim do? We go to the nightclub and dance like crazy amongst kids half our age, surprisingly accepting of these very un-cool oldies. It was quite surreal to look out from the club to Jolifou anchored right there, illuminated by the spotlights of the club on a smooth windless sea. Arriving at La Fiesta at 2AM with trepidation, we were pleasantly surprised when the door was indeed opened and there were about 15 locals there with the rugby playing on a huge TV. Could not have imagined a better venue and atmosphere despite most of the locals supporting the All Blacks. It was a really exciting match with the wrong result, but the Bok supporters’ mood was smoothed by some huge and delicious Irish coffees.