One of our main attractions to the cruising life-style is that it enables us to go to great places for the action sports that we enjoy. I am a keen surfer and Sydney is generally a poor place for surfing, with crowded and inconsistent beach breaks mainly on offer. New Caledonia has some excellent surf, but the swell is not consistent, depending on strong low pressure system South Westerlies in the Tasman Sea to push swell northward. So with quite a good swell forecast to arrive on Tuesday it was time to head up the North West coast to my favourite surf break, Ouano.
We left Port Moselle marina on Monday 5th September just after midday, after a morning largely wasted on a wild goose chase to eventually find some Sika 291 sealant which we needed to replace to our friends on Chance whom we had borrowed from over the weekend. The wind was light from the east and we were forced to motor-sail in order to reach our planned overnight anchorage inside the beautiful Ndukue Island.
Leaving quite early the next morning, we did a drive-by past the St. Vincent’s pass lefthander, which looked really good but decided to press on to Ouano for my first surf.
We arrived at Ouano at 11, anchoring off the surf break. Unfortunately the south easterly wind had picked up by then, three surfers were just leaving and I ended up being alone in the line-up, always a bit scary, especially as there was the odd bomb set coming through and I am far from at my best physically at the moment. Nevertheless it was well worthwhile with a few excellent waves ridden until the arms gave up.
Arriving in the inner Ouano Bay anchorage we were delighted to see our friends Patrice and Pierrette from the grand schooner “Bonte”, and invited them around for a drink and a catchup. Just as the sun was setting we noticed another yacht approaching and there was much speculation as to who it could be, surely not “Akimbo” as we only expected them in a couple of days’ time, but indeed it was and we soon had them over and joining the party.
On Wednesday morning at first light the calm tranquility of the anchorage was broken by the sound of anchor’s being raised as “Akimbo” and “JoliFou” began the daily surf routine which we had perfected last year. Motor out to the break, anchor off, hit the waves, eat and relax back on the boat, sail back in as the South Easterly wind picked up in the early afternoon. The waves were a bit smaller than the previous day, but it was a really fun session.
That afternoon the wind increased steadily and the Ouano anchorage, although secure does get a little choppy and wind exposed which meant not the best night’s sleep.
Come in she said I’ll give you, shelter from the storm
Thursday the 8th was forecast to be little swell and strong trade winds, so no surfing. With the wind increasing in strength in the afternoon, facing another uncomfortable night and looking for something to do, we decided to undertake a short sail down to a more sheltered anchorage at Presqu’lle Lebris. It was pretty rough out in the lagoon, but with just a half-furled jib it was a relatively cruisy sail.
After a few nervous moments negotiating the final approach in shallow and murky water we were rewarded by a lovely anchorage which was indeed a lot quieter than Ouano.
Not big Friday
Awaking early the next day we headed out for the reef with me feeling quite nervous. The surf forecast was expecting a 2.5 meter, 16 second swell, which I know translates to pretty heavy conditions. Conditions that this old and unfit body was ill-equipped for. I was fully prepared to spend the day just watching from the channel, so it was a pleasant surprise when we got out there and realized it was quite a manageable size. In fact Pete and I had an excellent session, so many good waves were ridden until the arms were nearly dropping off.
We had a really nice jib-only sail back into Ouano anchorage – all the way almost to the anchorage spot before furling the jib and starting the motor. This is something that Pete (Akimbo) and I always try to achieve, but is not always easy because the wind angle through the channel between the coral bommies is quite tight. We always have Lyn ready to start the engine if it’s turning pear-shaped.
Drinks on Akimbo that night was a rowdy affair and with small surf and weekend crowds expected the girls planned a Saturday morning of local-knowledge fishing lessons from Pierrette. Lyn got her finger bitten by a crab whilst they were digging for shell-fish on the bank and she returned with a collection of shell-fish (not sure what they are called) mostly dug up by the experienced Pierrette.
The perfect glassy calm morning gave way to a building South Easterly, and in the afternoon I decided it was time to break out the new 8m Ozone Revo kite and figure out how to ride a twin-tip (I normally kite surf on strapless surfboards and we had recently bought a twin-tip for Lyn to learn on). As fate and Sod’s law would have it, this coincided with the wind deciding to die down in a petulant gusty way. Kitemare ensued as I was forced to body drag to the downwind sandbank, self-recue (pack up on the water) the kite, and return to Jolifou with tail between legs, confidence severely dented – maybe this twin-tip thing was not so easy after all? This demonstration did not inspire confidence in my future student.
A good kiting spot
Thankfully there was no wind and small fun surf on Sunday morning and we snuck a quick session in before the local crowds arrived.
The wind increased again in the afternoon and Lyn, Ness and I took on a long walk to check out a popular kitesurfing beach just South of Ouano bay. This is a great spot for it, much better than gusty Ouano bay. There were many good kiters out, who made riding the twin-tip look easy as Lyn captured their jumps on her camera.
I had decided to leave my kiting gear behind on the boat as the walk was too far with it (or had I lost my mojo?).
On Monday the 12th we elected to head South again as the surf forecast was bad for the foreseeable future. Au revoir Ouano!