If you wanted to pick a spot in New Caledonia that “has it all”, for us it would be Tenia Island. This heart-shaped island 30 miles North West of Noumea forms the Northern flank of St. Vincents pass through the outer reef. It is quite typical of the many sandy lagoon islands, but is larger and probably the most beautiful. Amongst other things, it offers a variety of great locations for the action sports that we love – kite-surfing (flat water in the lagoon, waves out at the pass), scuba diving (and snorkelling of course) and surfing.
With the on-shore Easterly wind, grey skies and our friends departing, Oro felt like a desolate place, nothing like the paradise it had been on our previous visit with offshore wind and sunny skies. We had planned on going around to Kuto, but with the wrong wind direction we completely changed plans and decided to head towards Noumea with our ultimate goal being the surf and kiting of Tenia Island. It was a very pleasant reaching angle sailing through the reefs to spend the night at Magic Bay within the Prony BAY area where we enjoyed a quiet evening with dinner for the first time in over a month.
Here is Akimbo
Akimbo was also at Magic and the next morning Pete and Ness came over for coffee and a catch up, telling us about their trip to Lifou in the Loyalty Islands. A strong Easterly wind was blowing, and with poled out jib only and a favourable tide we sailed through the Woodin Canal to Maitre Island for the night. It was a boisterous night on the Maitre moorings as the wind went round to north of East, making us wish we had rather anchored at Citroen Bay.
Next morning it was a stocking up mission in Noumea after we anchored off the Marina. Markets, rubbish, dinghy fuel, Marine Corail chandlery and dropped Lyn off behind the cruise ship at the sea wall stone steps to go to Casino supermarket. Supermarket shop was much longer than normal due to it being full of cruise ship passengers. We cannot comprehend why cruise ship passengers would want to spend their one day in Noumea on buying food in a supermarket, when food is inclusive in the cruise fare?
After stopping at the Nespresso shop in Orphelina Bay for the essential coffee pods supply, we were glad to leave Noumea, sailing with jib only to Signal Island where we were greeted by a dugong. We snorkeled to the beach, watching pretty little fish eating the coral a big eel and a beautiful big turtle which allowed us to swim really close and touch his shell.
We walked around the pretty little island, which is a bird sanctuary and then enjoyed a stunning sunset with thousands of birds flocking to the island. A couple of cute little “tits?” seemed to make the dinghy their home for the night and we didn’t have the heart to kick them off and lift it out the water as we normally do. Our reward – bird poo all over the outboard cover!
A perfect spot
Friday the 11th November was a beautiful calm and sunny morning as we motored to False Pass at the outer lagoon reef. We had a bit of fun practicing our uncharted reef navigating and dodging coral bommies to the inside of the reef as close as possible to the surf break (surf too small). We anchored in a perfect little shallow gap between the reef and Lyn went up the mast to take photos. We snorkelled to a nearby gully with lots of pretty little fish, then dried in the warm sun on the foredeck, soaking up the beauty of this glorious spot.
In the afternoon we sailed towards Tenia in the building WSW wind but decided to stop at Hugon Island for the night due to its good Westerly protection. We walked up the hill for the stunning sunset, startling the resident goats.
St. Vincent surf
With us running a bit low on diesel, we elected to sail out of the bay at Hugon in a light South Easterly breeze, anchoring inside the reef at the St. Vincent reef pass left surf break. The waves were better than expected so I jumped in and had a really fun little surf.
Just for fun and for the first time ever, we sailed off anchor with just a 2nd reef mainsail, which worked really well. At Tenia Island we anchored close to shore in the shallows east of the sand spit. During a SUP paddle around the island we bumped into Guy (the flying vet) who was there by boat this time, camping with a bunch of friends. We later joined Guy and Sonja and their mad friends for sundowners. Language barriers reduced with alcohol intake as we marvelled at the flocking birds show as they gathered for their night on the island.
Horn of Tenia
Sunday was again a still and sunny morning, perfect for our scuba trip out over the inner reef to the horn of Tenia hook on the outer reef. It was gorgeous out there, with a few divers, snorkelers and also surfers surfing some nice looking little left handers (wished I’d taken the board along). We had an amazing dive at this beautiful spot with deep drop-off, gorges and swim-throughs, stunning coral and lots of large fish, not at all scared of humans. On the way back to the anchorage we saw two huge turtles mating. After lunch we went out there again, this time with surfboard and I surfed the break all alone, with Lyn taking photos.
It was difficult to be in the right spot for the waves, but had a few excellent rides. Back to JF then across to the island, now deserted as weekenders had all taken water taxis home. A beautiful sunset from our own private spot.
A scuba scare
Next morning we filled all 4 dive tanks and went for another dive out at the hook. With the dinghy tied to the mooring over one of the huge bommies, in my haste to get ready I dropped one of my lead bags, so we started our dive by going straight down to look for it. Not finding it at the edge of the coral, we started working our way down a slope of coral scree and sand. Suddenly Lyn’s dive computer started beeping madly, we were at 45 meters with 4 minutes of air remaining at this depth!! It was a big fright and we immediately abandoned the lead and went up to enjoy the dive at shallower depths. Back at Tenia we sun-baked on the hot beach to warm up. In the afternoon we decided to head North inside Puen island to the Borake anchorage as the wind was forecast to blow moderate from the North, turning our anchorage at Tenia into a lee shore. We sailed most of the way there, a very mellow spot just off the public slipway, and enjoyed watching dolphins in the distance over sundowners.
Outer reef exploration
On Tuesday 15th November the forecast was heralding developed super trade-winds to arrive with the expected surf swell, so we abandoned our original idea of heading to Ouano for the surfing and decided to get back South in the forecast South Westerly breeze whilst it was easy. Sailing out to St. Vincents pass, the small waves were not even breaking on the low tide. It was beautiful conditions so we decided to sail outside the reef, which was a lovely mellow sail.
We re-entered the lagoon through Utoie pass and stopped at Mbe Kouen island for lunch, but the red bird-protection flag prevented us from going ashore. We spent a strange night at Legionnaires Island with rain squalls and wind from all directions.
Next day we motored to Maitre Island, with our newest kiting convert eager to get back on it!