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Kite Boarding Lessons

ouanomaitre

You could hear the scream all the way along the beach! “She’s a screamer”, says Rob as we both look up just in time to see Lyn flying off her board and face-planting in-synch with her kite. It’s her first time up on the board and she comes up beaming from ear to ear, as only Lyn can.

Surfs down

On Monday 12th September the surf was forecast to be small and we said a sad au revoir to Ouano, departing early in the morning. We motored to Tenia in the light south-easter and anchored inside the sand spit at Tenia very close to beach, only boat there in perfect weather.

An idyllic setting soon spoiled a bit by the arrival of a water taxi with a small group of Japanese tourists. We paddled the SUPs ashore and walked around the island, re-familiarising ourselves with the natural splendour of this place.

Lyn spotted a sea hawk’s nest, a subject she has been trying to capture in her photography for some time. She managed to shoot some amazing photos of the mother returning to the nest with food.

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St. Vincent’s shelter

With the wind increasing through the day we sailed on through Canal Ducos, anchoring in the perfect shelter on the North side of Moustique Bay at Ducos Island.

After an afternoon nap we awoke to find the wind had lightened and gone round to the north-east and used the opportunity to get farther South and enjoy a sun-set sail to the inner Uitoe anchorage where we had a beautiful and peaceful evening.

Next morning we departed at the crack of dawn, in order to motor to Maitre Island before the trade winds increased. It is a frequent wind pattern here on the West coast for the strong south-east trade winds to lighten to almost nothing overnight and then build through the day, probably due to the adiabatic effect of cool air flowing down from the inland mountains.

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Moored at Maitre

Serendipitous Shenanigans

We count ourselves as very fortunate as time and again we seem to experience serendipitous moments along our travels. This was such an occasion. Our main purpose of coming to Maitre was to teach Lyn to kite surf, something she has been wanting for a long time, but very difficult on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Last year we had tried, and discovered it was just too hard with my smallest kite being too big for Lyn to learn on. This year we are prepared, with new smaller kites and a twin-tip board.

The serendipity was in us meeting Rob and Carolyn Port from the catamaran Shenanigans. They are friends of friends whom we had met briefly in passing last year. They are keen and proficient kite-surfers. “Carolyn and I love teaching friends how to kite”, says Rob shortly after we met, “we would love to help teach Lyn”. This was to be the beginning of a fun-filled few days and a new enduring friendship with these fun, funny and very sociable Kiwis. Lyn progressed rapidly under their expert tutelage, and by the time the wind died 3 day’s later Lyn was starting to be able to get up on the board, albeit briefly before crashing and burning.

Other noteable events during our time at Maitre:-

  • Drinks (and drinks and drinks) on Shenanigans, Jolifou and Andromeda (Dean Cat, Michael and Iris).
  • Bruce getting kite lines tangled with another French kiter, minor injuries but managed to extract himself with no gear damage.
  • Bruce trying to kite when the water was too shallow, losing a fin on the reef, finding it again at low tide.
  • Leaving all our kites stacked and pumped up on the beach whilst we had coffee at the café and warmed up for the afternoon session.
  • Lyn wading out with her camera and taking some sensational action shots.
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Local showing us how it’s really done

  • Carolyn effortlessly demonstrating the back-loop to Bruce, who entertained with multiple big crashes whilst trying to learn it.

Surfs Up

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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.

Ouano bound

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.

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Leaving Ndukue at first light

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Ile Hugon morning light

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Misty islands and mountains, St. Vincent’s Bay

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.

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St. Vincent’s Left

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.

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Empty perfection

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Old man snap off the top

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Spumy beauty

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The wall awaits

Bonjour Bonte

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.

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Here is Akimbo

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Ness and Pete

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Groundhog day

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.

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The beautiful mountains

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Setting the anchor off the break

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Another perfect sunset

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.

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Rounding Lebris island

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Headed into the inner bay

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.

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Inner anchorage at Presqu’lle Lebris

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Perfect sunset, different background

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.

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Concentrating on beating Akimbo

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Looking back through the entrance

Girl gatherers

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.

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Gatherer collection

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Trying out the technique

Kiting demonstration

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.

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Lyn in the future!

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?).

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The beautiful Pierrette, Bonte in the background

On Monday the 12th we elected to head South again as the surf forecast was bad for the foreseeable future. Au revoir Ouano!

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Surf support boats

 

 

Lord Howe Again

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Lord Howe arises with the dawn

Crash, burble, splash! Some water spattered through the closed coach roof hatch, rudely awaking me from my dozing as Lyn swore loudly from the cockpit. “We’re going too fast, there’s huge waves breaking over the fore-deck”! Somewhat of an exaggeration, the waves weren’t huge, but they were steep and sharp as the building northeasterly wind met a new north-bound current. Swearing under my breath, I stumbled wearily up to the cockpit and helped to furl the jib, with some difficulty as it flogged wildly in the wind.

Our final night on the trip from Newcastle to Lord Howe was proving to be a bitch, the 25 knot wind was stronger and had more northeast and less north than forecast and we were beating into it trying to fetch the island. It was the final act in a trip that was somewhat frustrating with more upwind sailing than we had ever done before and plenty of adverse current.

Friends, boat tasks and a bullet dodged

Before this our cruising plan for the year was going quite well. We had spent two weeks in Newcastle, both working remotely whilst hauling the boat out the water at our favourite boatyard Mid-coast Marine and catching up with our good friends Joe and Belinda (and Karma and Drew). The boat work went mostly really well with many ticks on The List completed including Lyn anti-fouling the boat by herself (for the first time) and me replacing the generator exhaust through-hull fitting and a bit of a Macgyver effort at stopping the lightning cable slapping in the mast. Our friends Jeremy and Mel of “Felice” were also at the Marina, starting their maiden voyage up to the Whitsundays. Jeremy is a marine diesel mechanic and we were very lucky to have him agree to give the engine an once-over whilst they were there.

Jeremy’s experienced eye revealed a few serious and unexpected issues with the engine which could well have resulted in major engine failure. A broken raw water impeller, with bits in the heat exchanger (impeller was replaced recently and I would not have checked it). Leaking oil seal on raw water pump (Jeremy re-conditioned the pump with a new seal I bought up the road – I love Newcastle). Gear lever connected incorrectly.

Most serious, whilst checking the tappet clearances we noticed that there was a cylinder block head bolt loose, which on tightening resulted in the bolt head sheering off easily. Checking the next bolt had the same result. A late Friday afternoon phone-around revealed that there appeared to be zero of these head bolts at any Volvo Penta dealers, the distributor or warehouse in Australia! I ordered the bolts online direct from a European parts dealer – cheap bolts, but about $100 shipping! In the meantime in my quest to get the bolts earlier I had two failed missions – the local high tensile bolts shop had bolts that appeared to be the right size, but turned out to be 7/8th UNF not the required M11 1.25mm. I ordered two Perkins bolts from an Australian online site that I thought were the same (our Volvo Penta is a marinised Perkins), but when they arrived I discovered they were M12, not M11. The fact that engine manufacturers purposefully use unusual sizes like M11 is infuriating! Anyway all ended well as I managed to persuade Jeremy to stay an extra day and the bolts from Europe arrived on Tuesday, earlier than expected.

We like using our mate’s skills when my own are not up to a task, but we do insist on paying them if it is their profession. In this case Jeremy’s time and mate’s rates was so worth every penny spent, heading off a future engine failure that could have spoilt our entire trip.

A frustrating crossing

A good weather window for a direct sail to New Caledonia coincided with the Saturday at the end of our remote work commitments and we were stressing out trying to get everything ready to leave as well as doing the paying work. In the end we decided to pull the pin late on Friday, we were both exhausted and the boat only half-ready – not a good state to be leaving on a long voyage. A health scare of my Dad, David was another good reason, and this gave us the opportunity to leave after he had a successful procedure (shock treatment to rectify cardio arrhythmia).

We finally set sail from Newcastle at about 2PM on Wednesday the 17th of August. The forecast wind was going northerly in the next few days so we elected to head for Lord Howe and await a new weather window there. The trip started beautifully with a mellow flat water reach out past Port Stephens in the forecast north westerly, but here it turned a bit pear-shaped as an unexpected north easterly direction greeted us accompanied by the contrary Australian east coast current. It was the start of quite a rough trip, much more upwind work than we normally choose to take on, and mostly current against us. Final approach to Lord Howe early on Saturday morning was the roughest (as forecast).

With the height of the mountains you see Lord Howe from over 40 miles away and it always looks closer than what it is – which makes for a frustrating approach for the impatient mariner. Finally we were being talked in through the North Passage by Christo, the friendly policeman/port control officer. Learning from our rough mooring experience a year previous, Lyn had requested the inner catamaran mooring off Dawson’s point. We knew it would be better protected, out of the tidal flow of the pass and with our shoal draft (center board up) there would be sufficient depth. After a bit of a struggle getting the lines through the mooring hard eye in the gusty Northerly wind, at the second attempt we were finally moored safely. An over-optimistic meeting time at the jetty for the formalities meant there was little time to relax as we frantically tidied the sails and boat, inflated and launched the dinghy from the foredeck, motor on etc. Christo and Rachel from Border Control were super-friendly and helpful and we were soon back at the boat where we enjoyed a day of rest and recuperation.

At sun-down we watched an approaching cold front of rain and lightning, which turned the wind around to the south west but did not have much in it.

Suicidal bulls

Sunday dawned with perfect weather, a clear blue sky and light wind. After a lazy start we headed ashore for a much-needed shower. The island uses rain water and the lovely soft hot water reminded us of this joy that we had previously experienced when we lived on Scotland Island. We booked the guided climb of Mount Gower (not permitted to do this alone) and then decided to explore the eastern shore. Starting at Middle Beach we worked our way northward along the rocky shoreline, exploring numerous little beach coves and points.

The green lush grass fronting onto steep sea-cliffs and interesting shaped sharp rocky structures is one of the beauties of Lord Howe. It was probably the undoing of a poor dead bull that we found in one of the gullies, who had obviously slipped to his death. Many of the farmers have electric fencing along the cliff line perhaps to prevent this type of tragedy. Later when we came across some younger stronger bulls we wondered if perhaps the old stud just couldn’t bear losing the cow attentions to the newer more virile opponent. Bull suicide.

Just before Ned’s beach we were thwarted by an impassable cliff and forced to abandon the shoreline and climb up to the top. We cut through some farm land and bush, following the orange tape on the bushes, which we assumed to be marking the way. We later discovered that the tape is marking weeding areas, and the many plumbing fixtures we saw are rat poisoning stations.

Mount Gower

On our previous visit last year we had foregone this headline experience of the island, believing we were a bit too unfit for it. It is a full day of steep walking to scale the majestic 920 meter high mountain. This visit we are probably even less in shape, having spent the past few months sitting on bums in front of computers. Nevertheless we decided that we just had to do it. We met the guide Jack Shick and the other hikers at the South gate, taking the dinghy down the lagoon to Kings beach.

From the moment friendly Jack jumped down to the beach and helped us carry the dinghy up above the high water mark, it was clear what a nice person he is. He regaled us with many interesting tales and facts as we walked up the mountain. We found we had a lot in common as he is a sailor and also a keen kite surfer and I was able to get a lot of good information on the best kiting and surfing spots on the island. Jack is a 5th generation islander, inherited the Gower guiding from his dad, has been doing it for 25 years, two times a week and is closing in on his 2000th climb! He also has a boat that he uses for fishing and sight-seeing trips out to Balls Pyramid.

The other hikers on the climb were all older than us, but much more experienced walkers. I was relieved to discover that I appeared to be stronger than most of them and in general I was amazed at how well my body coped with the climb. This was mostly due to the enforced slow pace of the lowest common denominators of the group, which meant frequent rests for us faster walkers. I think also the many rope sections on the steeper parts helped as one could use the arms to take some of the load off the knees. This was a big plus going up, but particularly going down as you can avoid the killer knee jolting. Lyn had no such concerns, clearly the strongest of the group she charged up the mountain on the tail of Jack.

The scenery on the climb was nothing short of spectacular, affording glorious views down into the Lagoon, across to Mount Lidgard and out over the ocean to Balls Pyramid. We walked under some amazing high rock cliffs, with climbing lines that would make our climbing friends’ mouths water. The flora was pretty and diverse and the summit area had an enchanting feeling with moss-covered ground and trees and unique palm tree species. The resident Petrels were away for the day, fishing for food for their chicks in their underground nests but curious Currawongs and Bush Hens provided much entertainment.

Lagoon gale

The benefit of modern weather forecasting is that you know with some certainty what to expect days ahead. The bad side of this is that you have the suspense of waiting, knowing something is coming. After incessant rain and windy south easterlies on Tuesday a secondary low had been forecast for some time to cause gale force winds and huge waves out of the west on Thursday. These conditions are notorious for causing extremely rough conditions in the lagoon, which over the years has caused many horror stories of boats breaking mooring and get damaged.

Christo had assured us that the mooring we were on was rated for a 25 ton boat at 50 knots of wind, plenty strong for JoliFou, however I was not happy with the way the mooring lines attached by passing through the hard eye of the mooring, which has a bit of a sharp edge and the mooring buoy attachment gets wrapped around everything and can also cause rope chafe. Our mooring lines were also long in the tooth and showing signs of wear.

On Wednesday my mission was to devise and create a bullet proof mooring line system. Sacrificing our 100 meter 20mm 3 strand nylon extra anchor rope, I constructed 4 new mooring lines, two of which have hard eyes spliced on one end. We removed the anchor from the bow roller and ran the two hard eye moorings over the anchor rollers and attached to the mooring hard eye using the massively strong Jordan Series Drogue shackles (7 ton working load) which only just squeezed over the eye. Then we also attached the two other mooring lines with bowlines to the mooring hard eye and direct to the bow cleats, leaving them slightly loose so they would only come tight as the boat was thrown sideways.

I then dove down and shackled our anchor chain directly to the mooring chain, keeping it slightly loose as the ultimate backup if the mooring leader line broke. All shackles were cable-tied to ensure they stayed fastened and hosing used to protect the bow lines from chafe. This all was of course hugely over-kill and would probably survive the worst cyclone conditions, but it certainly made me sleep a lot better. As an additional precaution we also unfurled the jib, dropped it and packed it away, which would reduce the windage up front and stop the bow from blowing off sideways so much.

The wind arrived as forecast, but was probably only 30 to 35 knots and an added bonus was it arrived earlier than expected and thus the main strength was during daylight hours, which is always a lot less scary. The waves were quite boisterous but again not as bad as the images conjured up by my dreadful imagination. We both remained on the boat for the day, a dinghy ride in those conditions would have been ill-advised. Needless to say, the hurricane mooring system coped very comfortably.

Office in paradise

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Office In Paradise

Friday dawned sunny and blue, the wind faded to a light south westerly and the lovely relaxing feel of the calm after the storm. Lyn is continuing to do part time marketing work for IWE Group (industrial LED lighting) during this cruise and we went ashore and set up office using the wifi at the Anchorage Café. Lyn did her marketing work and I worked on this blog, choosing photos and taking a couple more of JoliFou on mooring with the big waves behind.

New friends

We invited Jack (the guide) for sun-downers on JoliFou and he brought along his friends Rex and Lisa, islanders who are also really experienced cruising sailors. The left over swell and high tide made for boisterous conditions on the boat, but all guests were seasoned sailors and we had a wonderful evening of stories and hilarity. Rex and Lisa have been cruising on a South African built Miura 38, currently left at Whangerei in New Zealand, and have done some pretty extreme voyaging, including the Patagonian canals which we aspire to in the future. We discovered that we have many friends in common, including Tim and Lisa Stranack from the Pittwater and Jim and Anne of Insatiable 2.

Waking up a bit hung-over this morning, the weather is again raining as we complete this edition of the blog. Lyn has declared that she has never slept better than our week here at Lord Howe, which is hugely ironic considering the bumpy motion and associated noise we have experienced. Her use of ear plugs probably has a lot to do with it.

The weather window appears to be lining up nicely for our departure for New Cal tomorrow morning and we are hopeful of a beautiful fast downwind sail with plenty of broad reaching angles. It will be with a large dollop of sadness that we leave this friendly jewel of an island, we are both feeling a strong affinity with the place and feel a bit half-done in terms of our experiences here. However the wonderful land of New Caledonia awaits and we are very much looking forward to that!

Isle of Pines and Southern Lagoon

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In the prevailing South Easterly trade winds it is not often that one gets a chance to easily get out to the Isle of Pines. We had left there prematurely on receiving the tragic news about Bruce’s brother Tim, and we wanted to return. So on Thursday morning with light westerly winds forecast we took the opportunity to head South East. We decided to take a route through the middle of the Southern lagoon motor-sailing in beautiful perfect weather on a smooth sea. There are some stunningly beautiful islands and reefs with deep drop-offs into clear blue ocean in this lesser frequented area of the lagoon and we vowed to return and spend time here in the future. Arriving at the familiar beauty of Kuto in the late afternoon, we were pleasantly surprised to see “Bob the Cat” whom we had met briefly at Nge island. Dave and Malene are kite-surfers and Dave shares Bruce’s passion for kiting in the surf, always good to find someone to do these things with to increase the enjoyment and safety factor.

In the morning we went ashore and walked down the beautiful beach at Kanumera bay and had a look at the resort on the Eastern side. A very pretty resort which we would recommend although not really our thing. In the afternoon the wind was up a bit and Lyn dropped Dave and Bruce off at “Gaby’s” beach for a kite surf. The kite launching was hectic with many failed attempts, but eventually we had success by moving further down the beach. We kited out to the reef breaks towards Moro Island and had a lot of fun in the waves there before a long beat back into the wind.

On Saturday we headed the short distance out to Moro Island, anchoring Jolifou in a really pretty little lagoon close to the protected side of the island, the only yacht there. We went ashore and walked right around the island, negotiating the really sharp coral rock and vegetation along the unusual and scenic coast. At three separate places we saw groups of up to 10 small black-tip reef sharks really close to the shore, the most sharks we have seen in one place. We had a nice skinny-dip on the warm protected beach side of the island before returning to Jolifou for lunch. On the way back to Kuto we spotted the Manta ray that we had swum with previously in Kuto bay, in a special and surreal moment it swam right up to the boat and stuck it’s head up towards us, as though saying hello! Lyn was tempted to dive in, but thought better of it in the fading light and cold wind.

Next day Lyn tried in vain to find her manta, paddling around Kuto bay, but alas it was not to be. We sailed up to Gadji around the outside of the western reef, rather than doing the tricky, coral-dodging inner western passage which we had done previously. Arriving at about lunchtime we had a look at the beautiful Ngie island (I know they all sound the same) fringing Bumbu pass before heading toward the inner Gadji anchorage. It was only a couple of hours after low tide so we knew from previous experience it would be tight getting in, even for us, but with Lyn carefully calling the way we managed to squeeze in through the western entrance. All alone in the anchorage, until Bob the Cat arrived in the late afternoon. We invited them to join us for a fire and dinner on the nearby beach, which was a very merry affair as we became better acquainted with our new friends.

For us this trip to Gadji was mostly about scuba diving, we had not dived our previous time here, which was cut short, so there was unfinished business to do. Befriending Malene and Dave and having them here at Gadji was really serendipitous because Dave is a very competent scuba diver and Malene is an ex scuba instructor, who unfortunately can no longer dive due to a lung condition – the perfect support boat! We managed to piece together a third set of scuba gear for Dave using equipment of the previous owner of the boat and we were all set. The new dive compressor really came into its own as we did a dive a day for the next 5 days in really good weather conditions, sunny and light winds.

We dived a site at the drop-off straight out from the anchorage, then the “Valley of Gorgones” and “The Garden of Eden” which are both at the Bumbu reef pass area. “The Garden of Eden” was the favourite, a beautiful deep drop-off and huge expanse of undulating pristine coral reef terrain, arches, mounds, gorges and valleys with prolific fish. The best dive was in the late afternoon on an incoming tide when there were much more fish, including a huge Napoleon wrasse, a large school of barracuda passing by us about a meter away and quite a few large sharks – feeding time I guess. This is a drift dive through the pass and the guide warns to only do with a support boat. We did have support boat on a couple of occasions, but we also perfected diving towing the dinghy on a long rope, which worked really well. With a short length of chain at the end and a rope long enough so the holder could get deep enough, it was really not a big hassle to hold the dinghy and tow it along, swapping the holder every now and again taking turns for swim-through areas. What you lose by having to tow the dinghy you gain by having the freedom to end the dive wherever you choose, and it certainly adds a lot to the safety factor.

Other Gadji highlights were:-

  • Exploring Ngie island on the Monday afternoon, mostly the outside by dinghy as the interior is very difficult vegetation, then back to the anchorage by following the outer reef drop-off and by way of the East Gadji bay area.
  • Sundowners on Bob the Cat on Tuesday evening and Pizza night on Jolifou on Wednesday. It was great to find out more about Dave and Malene. They are both scientists, Dave an oceanographer and Malene a marine biologist. Dave was born in Canada, grew up mostly in the UK, and in fact it turns out was a member of the youth UK Laser sailing squad at the same time that Bruce was sailing in the UK senior squad. Malene is Danish by birth. They met whilst they were both hitching rides across the ocean on yachts and now hail from Raglan in New Zealand. Their boys Matias and Luca are full of energy and the joys of life and it is a pleasure to see how well they get on, entertaining each other for hours on end with games such as swinging on the jibsheets, using the netting as trampoline and making potions (Harry Potter is big on Bob the Cat). Matias made Lyn some bravery potion which we are keeping in a special bottle for when required.DSCN4545
  • On the Wednesday morning it was quite calm out at the dive spot and there were two French catamarans rafted up together and drifting around (not on anchor) as a few of the crew had a dive on “Garden of Eden”. There are many crazy French sailors let me tell you and these were a prime example. Later they tried to get into the inner anchorage through the wrong entrance at low tide, hitting on numerous occasions before finally getting in using the correct way, then proceeded to leave a few minutes later!

On Friday we fare welled Bob the Cat as they set off headed for Ovea in the Loyalty islands. We would love to have joined them but our time in New Cal was coming to an end. After a final dive we used the nice Easterly wind to set sail for Kuto, having a close look at Du-Ami and Du-Ana islands on the way, but neither were suitable for comfortable anchorage in the conditions. A huge cruise ship was anchored in the bay, similar to the one we will be on in April next year for Bruce’s sister Jacqui’s 50th birthday. It will be great to show the family and friends going on this trip some of what we have seen in this beautiful place. We spent a bit of time stalking a dugong mother and calf before anchoring in the familiar beauty of Kuto bay and cracking the drinks out.

On Saturday morning Lyn rode her Brompton along the beautiful coastal road to Vao market for some much needed fresh food stocks. With using the dive compressor and dinghy a lot recently, petrol stocks were also low and Bruce set off walking up the road towards the service station with the empty jerry cans. A delightful local Kanaki couple stopped and gave him a lift to the service station, waited for him to fill the tanks and then took him all the way back to the dinghy. This is an example of how friendly and helpful the locals here are. In the afternoon we used some of that fuel, taking the dinghy on an adventure through the breakers on the reef to explore Ouro bay, which was a bit disappointing. On the way back we stopped at Bayonnaise island which has a beautiful beach with sea snakes, shells and coral fragments of all shapes and sizes.

Dave and Malene had told us how much they had enjoyed the Southern lagoon islands which we had passed by previously, so with the weather forecast looking good we headed off that way on Sunday morning. An absolutely perfect broad reach in the moderate North Easterly had us arriving at Kouare island in the late afternoon. This island has the best anchorages in the southern lagoon, with 3 locations providing good shelter in all wind directions and is one of the prettiest we have come across. Unfortunately tho, there is a dark side to it. A local French sailor was attacked and killed here by a bull shark in just May this year, whilst snorkeling close to the boat. It must have been a horrific scene and is the stuff of nightmares for us cruising sailors who are often in the water and consider close to the boat as the safest place to be. Also we believe that bull sharks are territorial, so the perpetrator could still be in the area, and in fact when “Bob the Cat” was here another boat spotted a large shark in the anchorage. There was not going to be any water time here for us.

On the plus side, whilst keeping dry on the boat and enjoying drinks and a beautiful sunset, we experienced a beautiful phenomenon which we later discovered is a regular event at these outer southern lagoon islands. The brown sea-birds (sorry I don’t know the name of the species) start gathering as the sun sets and concentrating on the island, on which they sleep for the night. For some reason they don’t just fly straight to the island tho, but rather spend a long time flying beautifully back and forth, gliding close over the water before finally settling on the land. It is mesmerizing watching them as first just a few, but later literally hundreds, maybe into the thousands of birds flock across a back-drop of an orange sunset sky.

Next morning we set off for Nda island, which as far as we know has no recorded shark attacks. We were able to anchor in a beautiful spot close to the beach whilst Bruce filled the dive tanks and Lyn did the bedding laundry. In the late afternoon we did a mellow shallow water dive on one of the huge coral bommies near the island, lots of colourful fish and a sea snake that kept coming at us until finally getting a big fright and swimming away. At sunset a few birds appeared and we remarked that this island didn’t seem to have the same bird influx as Kouare. How wrong we were, as later the gathering happened and the sunset sky became filled with their graceful writhing. For a change we decided to enjoy a dinner date under the stars on the foredeck. A delicious meal serenaded by bird song and Abba, beautiful night sky with a setting moon.

On Tuesday morning we headed north to a dive site called “Ecstasy” at Uatio pass. After scoping out the exact location using the GPS on Jolifou, we anchored inside the reef at quite a boisterous location and headed off to the dive in the dinghy. Lyn was concerned about the safety with the tide starting to get stronger so elected to be support boat captain whilst Bruce did the dive solo. It is a fantastic dive site, befitting the name, with a huge deep drop-off and grand terrain similar to “Garden of Eden” and plenty of fish. Unfortunately tho it is a pretty deep site for recreational diving, even the reef before the drop-off is over 30 meters deep in places, so it is very easy to get very deep without realizing it. Diving solo, Bruce was quite conservative and didn’t go below 30 meters, with a long time at shallower depth later to ensure decompression. Nevertheless a really spectacular dive and Lyn was able too follow the bubbles the whole way for an easy pickup, just as well because the current was sweeping pretty quickly by the end. We didn’t dally at this sketchy anchorage as we set off to Ua island for the night. AFPLI Another F’n Perfect Lagoon Island. Beautiful coral, reef sharks, sea snakes on the beach, flocking bird sunset.

Next morning we sailed further northward to Mato island, which is not AFPLI as it is quite different, a high island with anchorage on the windward side protected by extensive reefs and two little spit beaches at either end. We picked the southern beach and started traversing around the island clock-wise with rock climbing moves just above the water before reaching a beach filled with beautiful stones to Lyn’s delight. From the beach we bush-bashed up to the top of the island where there is majestic aerial views of the reef (spotting groups of reef sharks), anchorage and neighbouring islands. Following the official track down to the northern beach the weather was starting to turn bad. We negotiated the rocky eastern shoreline, dodging many sea snakes and getting soaked by the rain. We would have loved to spend more time at Mato but it was not a great place to be in the building south easterly wind and rain, so we took on a rough and wet trip with the reward being excellent shelter at Magic bay, East Prony.

 

Surfing Lessons

She sucks out of the ocean from nowhere and suddenly there is a wall of water surging powerfully towards me. I’m scared but I turn and paddle, feeling the surge of power pick me up and start propelling me forward. Momentarily teetering at the top, I paddle harder and manage to get the board speeding downward, what now is a vertical drop. Standing up and extending the body with straight legs and up on my toes, I teeter on the verge of balance before landing on the board and leaning into the bottom turn, shooting away from her thunderous lip. Now I am in control. I use her powerful nature as I wish, laying down tracks as I turn off the top and sight down a hollow, fast line. Respect is demanded and fear never far away, a slip will hurt badly, shallow reef is waiting to cut me to shreds, she is wanting to pound me with her force and squeeze the breath from my body. The speed is exhilarating, everything moving, feeling the power through the board as it chatters over the water and squirts from turn to turn. Shooting through the hollow sections one after the other I manage to escape time and again until I fade over the back and allow her to spend herself completely on the reef.

On Sunday the 25th October we slept in on anchor at Citroen bay after the wild night of dancing and rugby. A new swell was coming and the plan was to head north to the surf breaks along with Akimbo. We took the dinghy to the fuel dock at CNC for essential stocks of dinghy fuel, beer and toilet paper. There is a shortcut between Citroen and Orhphelinat bays, a small archway tunnel through the sea wall, and we took it despite the large no-entry sign above it (all cruisers do this). On approaching the fuel dock there was a Gendarme calling us over – damn! Fortunately he let us off with a warning but it meant we had to take the long way around the point on return. We spent most of the rest of the day motoring to the Tenia island area and decided to overnight at Puen Island as the wind had come up a bit and Tenia is not the most comfortable anchorage.

Next morning we left really early to do the remaining few hours to Ouano, we went straight to the reef pass surf break and Pete and Bruce were very happy to once again enjoy great waves at what is now a very familiar surf break. Late that afternoon, back at the Ouano Bay anchorage Lyn decided to go for a run, having endured a day sitting on the boat watching surfing. She ran along the shore road from the bay, past the stunning lookouts and the lovely picnic barbecue areas and up the hill overlooking the local favourite kite-surfing beach. Engrossed in the beautiful colours of the sunset sky, she lost track of time and ran further and longer than expected, arriving back at the dinghy dock after dark to a worried husband.

5 AM, Jethro Tull’s “Wondering Aloud” wakes me from a deep sleep. I rise gradually, my body aches all over from surf punishment, and yet I will gladly do it all again today. Lyn rolls over and drifts back into sleep as I start the engine and stumble up on deck to raise the anchor. Ouano bay is still like glass, the full moon setting in the west, the sun rising in the east, stunning beauty all around. I look across to Akimbo and see that Pete is also getting ready to leave. After negotiating the tricky but now very familiar anchorage exit I engage the auto-pilot, set course for the reef pass and pop downstairs to make a coffee. The coffee and piercing guitar riffs of Hendrix’s “All along the watchtower” begin to change my mood and invigorate me for the waves of the day. Now that the body is moving again the aches are subsiding and I do some stretching exercises as the Jolifou heads the 4 miles towards the surf break. Contact lenses in, sunnies on as I peer into the distance to see what Ouano has in store for us today. Empty perfect peeling lefts come more into focus as we arrive at the break. A slightly reluctant Lyn drags herself out of bed to help set the anchor. We have done this many times before at this location so we are no longer concerned about the holding on the coral slate bottom wide of the break. We know the drill: lots of chain and don’t back down on it too hard. The wave size is about 6 to 8 feet and I select my board for the day; the 6’3” Firewire Hell-Razor with AM2 fins. It is a bit colder this morning but I don’t want wetsuit weight added to the burden of my tired aching arms, so it’s board-shorts and short sleeve rashie. We launch the dinghy and Lyn taxis me out to the take-off zone, hooting at a perfect set thundering down the reef. Another perfect surf day begins.

The next few days were spent in the familiar Ouano surfing mode. Wake up really early, motor out to the break, early surf, back to boat for breakfast or lunch, another surf in the afternoon, sail back to Ouano Bay. On Tuesday we walked up the hill for the beautiful sunset full moon rising, isn’t nature awesome? On Wednesday Akimbo joined us for a fire on the beach for dinner and a stunning moon rising over the bay.

For some reason this surf trip we found there were more local surfers during the week than the previous trip where we often had the place to ourselves between weekends. It may be because there had not been a good swell in some time, or it may be that the locals get out more later in the season as the water and weather is a bit warmer. On Thursday morning it was particularly crowded with 4 surf boats and small waves as the predicted swell pulse had not arrived. Pete and Bruce had a short surf in the morning but wisely decided to save their energy for later. This payed off later in the afternoon as the boats left before the swell picked up and we had one of the best sessions ever, 4 to 6 foot with 2 or 3 guys out. So many good waves, the arms were almost falling off by the time Bruce finally called it a day and waved Lyn over for the pick-up.

By Friday we were all feeling rather surfed out and the weekend had a very windy forecast and would be crowded with locals. Akimbo headed South towards Noumea as their stocks were getting low. Jolifou went out to Ouano for one more session. It was windy and quite big making it a bit wild and Bruce was quite pleased when another boat arrived so he was not the only surfer out. The boat had 3 very cool locals, middle-aged mediocre surfers who were very friendly and full of stoke. On being asked if he had taken the day off work, the one guy answered: “I don’t usually work”. It made for a really enjoyable session despite the fact that many waves were a bit too south and fat. Bruce had quite a few big drop wipe-outs but also a few excellent waves. That was enough for the day and we set off South planning on spending some time at Tenia Island. On the way we stopped at Testard Island for lunch, a very pretty island where we went ashore and explored the pretty beaches and holiday shacks. On the beach we came across the biggest sea snake we have seen yet, really beautiful and not too perturbed by our proximity. We found a mobile phone at one of the shacks and managed to get through the French language barrier and do a good deed by contacting the owner. Then it was a short hop further South to Puen Island for the night.

Next day the south easterly was still blowing hard as we motored the short distance up to Tenia. Differing from previous visits, we decided to try to anchor to the south of the sand-spit in hopes of smoother water. We picked our way into the shallows and found a good sandy spot quite close in, which was quite a good anchorage despite a small swell bending in and the howling wind. Nevertheless we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boat and also the cross-wind and chop would mean a very wet dinghy ride into the beach. We elected to have a lazy day on the boat and just enjoy the beautiful spectacle of Tenia Island and a lot of kiters that were out. The plan was then to get further south, hoping that we could get to Noumea in time to watch the rugby final between Australia and New Zealand. We thought the going would be easier by getting some shelter from the wind and waves inside St. Vincent’s Bay under Ducos Island. It was a rough passage through the pass sailing under half-furled jib with wind against tide, but as we rounded the corner of Ducos Island it was sheltered and we could motor very nicely down the northern coast of the island. Rounding the eastern corner of Ducos and heading into the 5 miles of open water between us and Ndukue Island it was a different story. We were slamming the huge chop and making very little headway motoring at about 2.5 knots. We could have put up the mainsail and beat into the wind or motor-sailed but it would be a rough passage with wear and tear on sails and motor. In the end we made the correct cruisers choice and turned around back to Moustique Bay for the night. The rugby would not be watched, but we had excellent shelter as the only boat in the bay and a lovely night, waking at 3AM to listen to the game on streaming voice commentary. Well done the All Blacks, certainly well-deserved winners.

Having foregone the rugby final, the pressure to get to Noumea was now off and we decided to enjoy the beautiful Tenia region for longer. We had previously noted that on a big swell there is a really good beginners surfing setup on the inside northern corner of St. Vincent’s pass. A slow little right-hander breaks here over fairly benign coral and then goes to deeper water. With the wind a bit lighter in the morning we decided to use the opportunity to give Lyn a surfing lesson. We anchored Jolifou at Tenia in the same place as the previous day and took the dinghy to “Lyn’s surf spot”. Lyn’s biggest problem in surfing has been the paddling, her arms are not fit for it. Initially she was not able to catch the waves but she worked on her paddling technique and eventually she caught a big wave, stood up and rode it all the way! She is now a super-stoked frothing grommet, I haven’t seen her so excited in a long time. In the afternoon the wind was up and Bruce launched the kite at Tenia where there were many keen kiters camped for the weekend. Venturing further out to the waves at Lyn’s surf break, he couldn’t resist the temptation and continued the 2 miles upwind to St. Vincents Left where there were 6 others kiting the waves with support boats. He had a few waves but cut it a bit short as he was concerned that Lyn may not know where he was and be worried. It was a fun down-winder back to Tenia kiting and then on Jolifou to Puen which we elected as a nice quiet anchorage for the night.

On Monday we anchored just inside Lyn’s surf spot and set off on the dinghy for lesson 2. Lyn had got it and suddenly she was catching everything she paddled for, standing up and hardly ever falling off. She couldn’t get enough as she caught wave after wave, assisted by rides back out in the coach boat. Eventually the wind started to get up and the arms could do no more, so we continued with our plan for the day and headed out to St. Vincent’s Left where we anchored just inside the reef near the surf break in quite unsettled waters. After lunch Bruce got out the 12 meter kite and it was time for our 3rd attempt at launching from the boat, nervously as our success rate at this point was just 50%. Today’s technique would be to lay out the lines from the bar in the cockpit, forward along the side deck, around the inner forestay and back on the other side, pump up the kite on the sugar-scoop half in the water, attach the lines. Then Lyn walks the bar around the boat as Bruce lets the kite out from the sugar-scoop holding the lines in his hands. The kite half took off a couple of times, lines cutting into Bruce’s hands, Lyn running around the boat with the bar and Bruce grabbing it and being launched from the boat! End result is good, but technique needs work. It was all worthwhile as Bruce had an awesome kite surf, best ever, all alone in 4 to 6 foot peeling waves with the perfect cross-offshore wind angle. It’s one of the most fun things to do, surfing across the wave face and whenever you need speed to make a section you just engage the kite for power and shoot down the line. After a long session we managed to get Bruce, board and kite back on the boat despite a 2 knot current trying to thwart our efforts. Then we had a nice downwind sail to Moustique bay for the night. The sundowners tasted extra good after such a wonderful day.

Stocks were now getting low and it was time to get to Noumea. Early in the morning there was no wind and we started motoring South, but by the time we were outside St. Vincents bay the South Easterly had already kicked in for the day, so we aborted and spent a lazy day on the boat at the nice protected anchorage between Mathieu Island and Uitoe.

On Wednesday morning we set off early to try our luck again. This time the wind stayed off long enough for us to complete the 4 hour motor to Noumea, where we anchored near Insatiable 2 in Orphelinat bay and had a quick catch-up before commencing our food and drink shopping. The stocking up exercise was a bit more tricky than usual because there was a cruise ship in town meaning we couldn’t use the dock opposite the supermarket. We used a combination of a pretty sketchy ride on the loaded Brompton fold-up bike and Lyn pushing the shopping trolly to get the food back to the dinghy at Port Moselle marina. Then it was out to Maitre Island where Bruce had a good kite, practicing jumps with his strapped board followed by drinks on the beach with Pete and Ness from Akimbo. It was a slightly sad occasion as their time was nearly up (Aussies and Kiwis are allowed 3 months in NC) and they were leaving soon so would be our last contact with them for a while. They have been such great friends for us this trip and our cruising and New Caledonia mentors. Miss them already!

Rugby

“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.

Rebel With a Cause

Tim Savage 1960 – 2015

One of my earliest memories is when Tim and I ran away from home. We were 2 and 4 years old at the time. This event is a little bit of a cameo of our relationship and his influence on me in my life. We woke up early in the morning one day and Tim convinced me that we should run away from home. I don’t think he had a specific good reason why we should do this, certainly it was not due to any beef with Mom and Dad, at that time and ever since we have been blessed by the most loving and supportive parents one could hope for. It was just one of those adventurous ideas that always seemed to occur to him. At first I was unconvinced; what about Mom and Dad? Wouldn’t we get into trouble? How would we manage to get out of the house unseen? What about tidal waves? Our fear of tidal waves was a big thing with us at the time, something we often talked about as we lay in our beds at night and despite Mom’s soothing assurances, we were unconvinced.

Typical of Tim, he talked me into it. It would be fun, we would have lots of exciting adventures together, tidal waves would be no problem because we would wear flippers, goggles and snorkels. So off we set down the street, protected by our snorkelling gear. This was the first of many, many occasions when Tim talked me into going along with one of his ill-advised ideas even when he was no longer double my age. He always had a lower threshold of what he thought was okay to do than me and yet he was always somehow able to convince me to do it.

As young boys we used to ride our bikes into the sugar cane fields, taking home-made cannons with ball-bearings and huge fireworks crackers. “Let’s shoot that sign” says Tim, and soon there were bullet holes in the steel sign.

There were the times he talked me into helping to push Moms car out the garage and driveway so baby-sitting gran wouldn’t realise he was “borrowing” it for the night. He would be off to party with his friends (I never went with) and never once got caught. The one time gran thought she had seen something and told my Mom, Mom didn’t believe her. “Not my Tim!”

The time we stood at the crack of dawn with our surfboards ready to surf the legendary Vic bay, contemplating the fearsome and violent reputation of “Mouse”, the locals-only enforcer. “Carpe Diem, seize the day” says Tim. One of my most memorable surf sessions ever, and no sign of “Mouse”.

We used to skateboard a huge hill at a new development called Sunningdale. Tim was the first to go straight right from the top and talked me into trying it. It was an exhilarating adrenaline rush, but a speed wobble soon ensued, resulting in wipe-out and serious roasties!

I know that all of his friends will have similar memories. Tim was much more often the one saying “yes we should” rather than “no we shouldn’t”, whether it was having another drink at a party or paddling out for a surf at dawn in cold sharky waters.

Tim was also a very competitive person and we certainly had the usual sibling rivalry. We used to spar with boxing gloves in the front yard until Mom hid them away one day (she never admitted doing this until we were much older). We tried to outdo each other in all sports, and in sailing we competed alongside and against each other. Tim had huge natural talent as a sailor. In the Sprog class sailing in the big waves of a Durban North-Easterly blow he was legendary. No-one else was quite as in-synch with the waves as he was, weaving his way upwind and then surfing downwind. He won multiple South African titles in the Sprog (including 2 with Pauline as crew) and would have won much more if he had continued to commit to the sport. Those of us who have played a game of pool with Tim will know full well the strength of his competitive streak, as well as his passion for his version of the rules. He even had a printed version of his rules posted at the local pub in Sunbury, the “Sunbury Rules”.

My whole life in many of the things that I do, mostly the adventurous fun things, Tim is in my mind. I always think of wanting to share the experience with him because he is such an infectious and adventurous soul. In a way I am always measuring up against him, not so much in a competitive way, but in some deep need for approval of a big brother that I have always looked up to. It will always be my great regret that we will never be able to have Tim come along and share some adventures on the Jolifou. I will however choose to believe that he is always with us in spirit, egging us on during the times that we are hesitant or cautious of doing something outside the comfort zone. During our recent time in London with the family someone coined the phrase: “What would Tim do?” and that is now our new motto.

Tim was a talented and enthusiastic musician, a born entertainer and social animal. His open mike events at various pubs in Sunbury were popular affairs and typical of Tim he was just as supportive of those having a go with little talent as he was with the more gifted musicians. He always had time for people and he would really genuinely be engaged and interested in what they had to say. At his memorial service I was touched by how many friends and work colleagues were there and were clearly deeply upset at their loss.

Talking with Pauline a few nights ago she pointed out that many people might not realise that Tim also had a very serious side. Those close to him will have seen his passion for perfection in everything that he created. This was probably most prevalent in his hobby of modifying his motor bikes. I had a look at his forum posts on one of the many mods he did on his Kawasaki, replacing the entire swing arm and rear wheel with one from a different model. He documented his work meticulously with parts list and annotated photos which other forum members were full of praise for. His carpentry work is absolutely immaculate and of course there is his sound equipment. Pauline’s brother Nick and I were having a look at his home entertainment equipment, thinking we might use some of it for the sound from the TV for his memorial ceremony. After a little while we both looked at each other and realised we were thinking the same thing. Tim would have been looking down on us and saying: “Don’t you bloody well touch my stuff! Do you know how long it took me to get that sounding just right?” At the same time we also realised how important it would be to him for the sound from the music videos to be good. If only Tim had been here to help us with that.

In the serious vein Tim also was a really responsible and devoted provider for his family. This was important to him and he has worked really hard his whole life to support his family and I know he leaves them well cared for and able to survive comfortably without him.

He was a loving and caring son, regularly phoning Mom and Dad from abroad to catch up on things. I know that his passing is the worst nightmare for my parents. Mom keeps saying to me that no parent should outlive their child and I know how awfully hard this is for them.

In some ways I think Tim was a bit of a conflicted personality. Devil on one shoulder, angel on the other. On the one shoulder he was a risk taker and adventurer, often doing stuff that many would consider a bad idea. On the other shoulder he was quite cautious, careful and meticulous about some things. We were having a glass of red with Tim’s friends John and Neil and talking about this and the term “rebel without a cause” cropped up. I think Tim was a rebel, but I know he had a cause. His cause was the great loves of his life, his wife Pauline, son Dylan and Daughter Emily. Clearly he achieved this cause, and would be so proud of the amazing legacy he is leaving behind.

Forever Young

Brother Tim

Brother Tim

Something you don’t ever want to hear on a boat is the sat phone ringing in the early hours of the morning. Only our close family have this number and it is likely to be bad news. Our minds were reeling as we missed the call and sent a message to call us on our New Cal mobile number. Our parents are getting old and have had health scares and Bruce’s brother in law Guy is fighting cancer, and this was all going through our heads as we waited. I answered the phone with trepidation and it was my sister Jacqui: “Tim is dead”. No, not Tim! My brother Tim is 55 and was in very good shape health wise, this was a total shock and we were numbed with a mix of denial and grief. Suddenly our beautiful surroundings and adventure meant nothing at all.

Kuto Bay

Kuto Bay

On Wednesday the 16th of September the forecast was for a moderate North Easterly wind which we planned on using to sail the 40 miles from Prony Bay to the Isle of Pines. We motored for a short while until the breeze filled in and we started sailing on a pleasant 60 degree wind angle. “Insatiable 2” and a catamaran named “Impi” left shortly after us. I2 was really quick on this wind angle and Jim slowly reeled us in, eventually taking a comfortable win in race 2 of our series as we enjoyed a building breeze but quite nice flat water in the lee of the lagoon reefs and islands on the way. It looked like there were many good surf-able waves breaking on the reefs, but we weren’t close enough to tell for sure. The highlight of the trip was seeing a pod of whales really close to us as we passed Du-Ami isle, which was very exciting as this was the first whales we had seen since leaving Sydney. We arrived in the stunning Kuto bay in the late afternoon and found a spot to anchor amongst about 10 other cruising yachts, the most we have seen in one place so far this trip apart from in Noumea. We took the dinghy ashore for a quick look around and a sundowner on the beach. Kuto has a magnificent white sand beach and is one of the most beautiful bays we have come across, the resort, wharf and other civilization does not detract too much from the natural beauty.

As we were drinking our sundowners on the beach we watched the catamaran “Impi” pull up their anchor and move from their spot close to the beach to far out in the anchorage. It seemed a strange thing to do as they had been securely anchored in a good spot. We later found out that there had been a Tsunami warning on the radio (earthquake in Chili) which our friends on I2 were trying to relay to us. Later that night it was downgraded, but we slept soundly, blissfully unaware of the possible danger. In the morning there was much excitement as we spotted a manta ray in the anchorage. It is Lyn’s dream to swim with a Manta so she jumped in with snorkeling gear but didn’t manage to intercept it. We went ashore for a walk to search for a man named Gaby who runs a camp ground at the adjacent bay and is touted by Lonely Planet as the man to talk to for permission to kite surf here. For some reason the local Kanaks generally don’t allow kite surfing around the Isle of Pines. A sudden downpour had us sheltering in a bus shelter for half an hour. Gaby was away but we did enjoy a walk around his beautiful camping ground and meet a litter of very cute puppies. We then hiked up Nga peak where you have stunning 360 degree views of Kuto and the whole island.

On Friday the 18th we decided to motor Jolifou a short distance around the corner to the town of Vao so that we could visit the market and stock up. It was a somewhat tense passage as we had the sun in our eyes and couldn’t see the shallow reef very well as we followed the waypoints provided in the cruising guide. Our efforts were rewarded by a really scenic large shallow sandy anchorage area, good for our shoal draft, and we were the only boat there. We took the dinghy to the beach at the recommended landing place, admiring the pretty gravesite carvings, and walked up the most charming street with quaint houses, puppies and children playing in the street. Vao has a lovely laid back friendly feel to it. The market was nice and although we got there a bit late and stocks were low we were able to buy some good fresh veggies, and then some baguettes from the general store down the road. On returning to Jolifou there were a couple of the beautiful Pirogue boats arounds which the locals use to take tours through the nearby Upi Bay (locals only in this bay, no yachts or dinghies). We returned to Kuto, where we found the anchorage was filling up with a few more Island Cruising Association (cruising rally) boats arriving. Bruce took the dinghy and his surfboard to see if he could find a wave to surf on the reef out towards Moro Island. There was potential, but in the end he decided not to take the chance on his own and a long way from the anchorage.

We went for a paddle board around Kuto bay and spotted the manta ray again. Bruce stayed with it while Lyn rushed back to the boat to get her face mask. Finally Lyn fulfilled her dream, swimming with this beautiful manta for ages, diving down and touching it, and even “dancing” with it as it rolled onto its back and vertical and waved its wings. A truly memorable experience! Bruce had a go too and also enjoyed its company for a while before we returned to the boat, freezing cold. To cap off a great day, Akimbo arrived as the sun was setting and we celebrated the occasion with drinks on I2.

Next day we decided to paddle the standups over to Gaby’s beach. On the way we stopped by “Impi” and said hello. As expected from the name, there was a South African connection. Brent and Anna are lovely people. Confessing to be out of alcohol (Isle of Pines is a dry island), they asked us around for a cup of coffee at sunset. At Gaby’s campsite we were delighted to meet the man himself as well as a lovely Australian lady named Lisa who entertained us with stories of her passion for the island and her “retirement project” to help with infrastructure and social problems. Gaby was most accommodating with his beach, describing the surf spot when the swell is up and absolutely happy with me kite surfing there. He has built an amazing campsite here and is clearly an energetic and fun character. We highly recommend his campsite (Camping Les Rouleaux) to any traveler to the island.

Farewell to Brent and Anna on Impi

Farewell to Brent and Anna on Impi

We are not the “coffee at sunset” types, so arrived at Impi with a bottle of cold bubbles and some beers to share. I think this has bought us friends for life! We had a hilarious evening exchanging life stories and it was great to enjoy the South African sense of humour which Brent abounds in. Anna is actually not South African, but is Flemish Belgian, and speaks fluent French which is a huge advantage in this part of the world. Brent got fed up with the black empowerment policies being imposed on his successful company in Cape Town and wound up the company, bought Impi (a Lagoon 45) and they have been cruising for four years. They are very keen scuba divers and have an excellent blog site and YouTube channel where Brent is constantly putting up interesting and entertaining videos. He is really clued up on the latest navigation software and safety technology and we learned a lot from him in a short space of time.

Farewell Cruise Ship

Farewell Cruise Ship

On Monday a huge cruise ship arrived, along with all the fake trappings ashore. We feel really blessed to be able to enjoy this place without the crowds that cruise ship passengers are obliged to always take with them to paradise. In the afternoon the wind was up and Lyn dropped Bruce off in the dinghy at Gaby’s beach for a kite surf. It was great fun, an excellent spot for it but the wind started to get a few holes in it so it was a bit of a curtailed session. That night our new friends Brent and Anna from Impi came to Jolifou for dinner. We discussed going diving together at Gadji on the other side of the island, but unfortunately they had to head for Noumea where they were taking delivery of a new sail and need to start looking at a weather window for departure to New Zealand. We have vowed to get together again next season.

Kuto is not a good place to be when the wind is from the South West as the swell and waves come directly into the bay. There are also not many good options for Westerly wind anchorages around the island so with a forecast of South Westerly winds for Thursday our friends on Insatiable 2 and Akimbo elected to return to Prony Bay on the main island. We chose rather to head up to Gadji on the North West tip of the Isle of Pines, where there is a shoal draft anchorage sheltered from all wind directions and some excellent dive sites. We decided to take the inner Western passage to Gadji, which is really shallow and tricky, winding between shallow reef and coral heads. Fortunately we had a detailed waypoint route to follow, but Lyn was on the bow the whole way, calling the shallow spots. We enjoyed a brief lunch anchor and rest at Ouameo Bay before tackling the most hairy section as we entered the anchorage area from the Southern approach. Our efforts were rewarded as we found ourselves alone in an absolutely idyllic setting, a cozy sand bottom anchorage of 1 to 2 meters deep surrounded by beautiful beaches and little mushroom shaped islands. We took the dinghy over to a little beach and enjoyed one of our most beautiful sunsets to date.

On Monday we paddled the standups to explore the outer reef islands north of the anchorage, investigating possible scuba spots. There is very little available in the way of scuba guides for New Cal but Bruce had photographed an old French guide book from the library and we knew the approximate location of a dive called “The Caves of Gadji”. We located what we think is the start point for this dive and then paddled along the drop-off of the reef and then back in through a very shallow reef pass, with Bruce catching a little wave, then falling off and having to dive for his sunnies! In the afternoon the wind had got up and we decided to shelve diving plans for the day.

Next morning was beautiful, sunny and still so we decided to use the opportunity to paddle and explore the little islands to the west of the anchorage. Most of the islands and rocks here are overhanging mushroom-like shapes with interesting secret little beaches, gullies and caves along their low cliff shores. It was a lot of fun paddling close along the edges and peering into the caves. In the afternoon we took our snorkel gear and the paddle boards to the outer reef and had a bit of a snorkel along the drop-off, saw a few sharks and some very pretty fish. We look forward to scuba diving here in the future.

At about 2AM on Wednesday the 23rd   of September we got the phone call with the tragic news about Bruce’s brother Tim. He was a very healthy man, just 55, and yet had passed away in his home with a suspected heart attack possibly caused by a nerve disorder. This was such a shock to us all, and his poor wife Pauline was in South Africa at the time visiting her ailing parents. We needed to get back to Noumea and fly to London as soon as possible to support Bruce’s parents and Tim’s family. Unfortunately the wind was blowing quite strongly from the North West, exactly the wrong direction for sailing to Noumea. We decided to wait for better winds rather than risk damaging the boat and spent the rest of that day and the next making arrangements for the boat, flights etc., grieving and coming to terms with the shocking news.

On Friday the wind was a little lighter and had swung to the West more. Still not great conditions, but we decided to head for Noumea anyway. Departing at first light with a falling tide approaching half tide we picked our way through the western entrance to the anchorage with a few very shallow moments. The course to Woodin channel was close-hauled on port tack and we used the staysail and double-reefed mainsail. On the way Lyn was finalizing our arrangements, waiting on confirmation from Port Moselle Marina that we could leave the boat there because our flight bookings depended on this. Eventually they confirmed we could leave the boat there, BUT would need someone to move it to a different berth whilst we were away. Pete and Ness suggested we ask a good friend of theirs, David Plumley, whom we had met briefly. David was our hero, agreeing to move the boat in our absence and also arranging with the Marina, coming down to see how the boat worked etc. We didn’t want David to have to be responsible for the boat whilst we were away, so we also asked Chloe from Noumea Ocean Services who agreed to do this at a really low price. We highly recommend her to any cruisers who might be reading this.

From Woodin channel we motored and motor-sailed. The current was with us and against the wind through the channel and there was really rough waves on the exit of the channel. After a very long day of sailing and stressful organizing we arrived at Noumea just after dark, parked the boat and started the big tidy up. Exhausted but more relaxed now that we were safely docked, we noticed that our friends Brent and Anna from Impi were also on the dock and had a nice drink and catchup with them.

The airport shuttle was picking us up at 9:30 in the morning so it was a quite frenetic morning securing the boat away, meeting up with David and Chloe and packing. Then it was a very long and sad trip to London via Sydney and Dubai. I won’t write much here about our time in London. We were very glad we both went, for ourselves and to support the family. It was so good to re-inforce our bond with Tim’s family who are devastated but drawing strength from their love and closeness with each other. We had not seen them for much too long and it is such a regret that we didn’t do this whilst Tim was there. It was also good to see how loved Tim is, so many friends genuinely grieving at this loss. The memorial and funeral were truly beautiful and fitting for such a great man. I may post my eulogy to Tim on another blog post if I feel I can do him justice.

Hot Springs, Waterfalls and Red Mud

“You go ashore for a look around darling, I will look after your curry on the stove”. This extremely rare selfless offer is made in an attempt to placate a long suffering wife, who has been putting up with a selfish surfer and know-it-all Captain for far too long. Shortly afterwards the Captain falls asleep, dreaming of perfect waves with the aroma of delicious food. Awakened by the return of the chef, and to the smell of burning curry! “Oh s**t, this is NOT going to improve crew morale!”

They say that variety is the spice of life and New Caledonia certainly has that on offer. Prony Bay is a perfect example as a place where you can find a stark contrast to the beach, reef, and ocean mode. Long walks, rivers, waterfalls, barren mars-scapes, hot springs. A chance to flirt once again with the earth element of the soul.

22 September 2015

On Thursday the 10th we had a great forecast to sail to Prony Bay in a south westerly wind. Lyn posted our latest blog with much difficulty due to the quantity of photos and poor signal, but managed to get it done by reducing their size. We had a marvelous sail along the coast, reaching along inside Ouen Island and through Woodin channel. We stopped for lunch at Casy Island in the middle of the bay, picking up a mooring on the northern side, the only boat there. This is an absolutely stunning spot, the boat is moored within a stone’s throw from the narrow beach and beautiful overhanging trees. The water is clean and inviting, there is perfect calm shelter from the wind and the only sound is the tweeting of little birds on the shore. All of which lulls a tired Captain into a pleasant afternoon sleep.

Fortunately Lyn returned from her walk on the island filled with excitement of the beauty she had seen, which made her far more forgiving on the lazy Captain than might otherwise have been the case (perhaps he will pay later). Weaving her galley magic, she rescued the curry with more sauce and a second cook. In the meantime we decided to head further into the bay for the night and sailed with headsail only into East Carenage bay, dropping anchor in this perfectly sheltered anchorage with only one other boat there. We were serenaded by the variety of bird songs from the shore as we sipped sun-downers and later enjoyed the twice-cooked curry which actually turned out to be delicious.

Next morning we took the dinghy up the river a bit to the hot springs wharf, a tricky dinghy trip to dodge the shallow areas which would have been much harder without the online guide information we had on the route. It was a pleasure to plunge into the bath-like spring and clean the crusty salt from our skin. This is a great little spot with a man-made pool with the spring water flowing through it, benches and pagoda etc. Not natural but nevertheless very nice and not a soul there apart from us.  Fresh and clean we walked upstream to the nearby cascades and continued rock-hopping up the river, one of our favourite activities, and further high up the valley along a section of the renowned GR1 walking track. The river is very pretty and the surrounding countryside has an alluring, although somewhat stark charm, with low vegetation broken by bright red mud areas of eroded soil or mining damage which has been inflicted over the years.

After lunch on Jolifou we took the dinghy through East Carenage bay to the dinghy landing on the Prony blue river and walked up to the nearby swimming holes, which are large and deep and would be a great place to hang out on a hot summer’s day. We met two gorgeous puppies from the “La Cabane” camping area and Lyn was all over them, getting her dog fix in the absence of our beloved Silus.

On Saturday we moved Jolifou to West Carenage bay, which is also a great anchorage. We took the standup paddle boards up the Prony River and left them up on the banks whilst we walked to Prony village. It was a long, tiring, but interesting walk, and the village is quite charming, with convict ruins, displays and some fascinating trees with roots integral with the rocks and buildings. We had to visit the puppies again on the way back and Bruce had a quick chat with the owner and look around at the charming camping area whilst Lyn had her puppy time.

Next morning we packed a picnic lunch and set off on the walking path up the Carenage River to the waterfall. This is a gorgeous area which again we had all to ourselves, not seeing another soul the whole day. We took the opportunity to take our clothes off and bathe in the refreshing pool at the base of the falls and then warmed up in the sun on the hot rocks. As we do, we had to explore further so we climbed to the top of the waterfall and had a fun time negotiating jumps across the water between rocks and doing a bit of bouldering rock climbing. After lunch we took the direct route back down, rock-hopping all the way down the cascades and river, an excellent adventure!

On Monday the weather improved with the trade winds moderating, sunny skies and flat calm inside the anchorage. We had a vague plan to try to scuba dive the Prony Aguille, which is a really unusual pyramid shaped mound, formed by hot spring water rising up through the ocean bed. Unfortunately by the time we got out there the trades had started blowing again and the visibility would be very poor, so we changed plan and returned to the Northern mooring on Casy Island. This little island is right up there with the most beautiful we have seen. It has a huge variety of contrasting landscape and vegetation, from the many pristine white sand beaches and rocks, through green forests of a variety of trees and the stark contrast of the mars-like barren red area at the top.

Walking around the island as we passed through the area close to the abandoned resort and wharf on the Western side, we came across a large dog. Lyn, of course, tried to say hello and pet him, but unusually the dog was not interested and remained quite aloof though not unfriendly. As we continued our walk the dog trotted past us and started leading us along the pathway. We would cut across to a beach and walk along it and the dog would shadow us, mostly remaining on the path. On one occasion he entered the water and appeared to be looking to catch fish. This strange and independent dog remained close to us all the way around the island. We have since discovered that his name is “Moose” and he was left abandoned on the island some years ago, surviving by living off fish from the fishermen, but also catching his own fish and foraging for crabs in the rocks. We have heard of other cruisers having the same “guide dog” experience.

That afternoon we fired up our new L&W dive compressor for the first time and it worked really well as we topped up three tanks in a short space of time. Our NZ friends Brent and Deb from Gucci arrived with three new friends aboard and we had a great night with them on the beach, cooking dinner around an open fire. We spent the night on the mooring and next morning Gucci set off towards the Isle of Pines, in a forecast of strong trade winds on the nose which we would not choose to take on if we can avoid it. We motored up into Bonne Anse inside the eastern peninsula of Prony Bay and took shelter on a mooring in Anse Magic Bay. We were delighted to see Jim and Anne arrive on Insatiable 2 and went around to enjoy sundowners with them and catch up with the latest news and gossip.

On Wednesday morning we paddled the standups down the peninsula to the pretty little beach on the end. Lyn walked down the outer shore finding nautilus shells and spotting a reef shark in the shallows. We took the boards and snorkel gear out onto the reef to a gulley we had spotted and had a nice snorkel, stunningly beautiful variety of colours of brain and stag corals etc., saw a huge eel and lots of pretty tiny fish but not much else. We paid for our fun with a really tough paddle back against the stiff wind that had built up over the day, dodging into the little bays along the way to try and get some shelter. Jim and Anne came around for Sundowners on Jolifou, always a pleasure. That night we heard a lot of fish jumping and grabbed the big spotlight to illuminate a bay full of jumping fish, quite extraordinary!

Next morning we set off to the Isle of Pines, watch this space.

The Deer Hunters

BANG! Slightly hung-over from drinks on Insatiable 2, we were rudely waken from our early morning slumber. “What was that!?” A loud bang on a yacht is NOT something any sailor wants to hear. It usually indicates some form of major and life-threatening damage – hitting something, mast down, engine blowing up. BANG, BANG, BANG! The sound of galloping hooves. We look out the hatch and there is a herd of wild horses galloping along the beach and up the hill.

View from the top

View from the top

My first thought was that someone was herding the horses using explosives? Then I saw a man holding a rifle, BANG, BANG, BANG, and a herd of frightened deer bolting away through the thickets towards the other side of the island. It looked like they had escaped, but then I noticed a deer lying prone on the ground with another hunter approaching it. The 6 hunters then all stood still like statues, guns at the ready. The drama had only just begun to unfold.

6 September 2016   

At time of writing this the swell is a bit down and a couple days of Westerly winds forecast so we decided to cut the cord with the surfing of Ouano and move a bit further afield, at least for a while. On Thursday night (3 September) we had a bit of an “au revoir” dinner party on Jolifou with Perret, Patrice, Ness and Pete featuring Lyn’s world famous slow roast lamb, roasted pumpkin with sesame seeds. Perret had brought gelato for desert and this was a rare treat with Lyn’s berry sorbet. The red wine and interesting conversation flowed. Patrice enthralled us again with his conspiracy theories and explanation of his archaeological work. He has been studying ancient cultures such as the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans for over 30 years and he analyzes drawings and symbols on rocks (including local finds) extracting images, which often prove his theories of an extraterrestrial presence cooperating with mankind at that time. We love his obvious passion for this work and are fascinated by the topic but the jury is still out on whether we are totally on board with this. We will look at his website http://www.ultimate-archeology.com with an open mind when we have a good internet connection.

In the morning a nice south westerly wind gradually filled in across the lagoon, perfect for our sail southwards to St. Vincents bay. Insatiable 2 had the same plan and they do say that if there are two cruising boats headed in the same direction then there is a race on! Insatiable is a 46 foot cutter with lovely racy sleek lines and Jim would have fancied his chances, but ultimately Jolifou taking a short cut inside Konduyo island as the wind backed more to the south gave us a better wind angle which translated to an unassailable lead (horizon job?). We later heard that Jim spent a day cleaning his bottom as a result of this defeat.

We needed to top up the diesel a bit so sailed to Port Quenghi marina at the bottom of the bay, which is suitable only for shoal drafted vessels. Even with the small draft of Jolifou at 1m (board up) we had a few white knuckle moments on final approach to the marina entrance as we zig-zagged down what appeared to be the deepest channels in the muddy water. No English and no credit cards here so we handed over all the cash we had and managed to communicate to the nice French man to give us as much diesel as that would buy. We got 114 liters for 13000 cfp, which actually is a rather good price when compared with Australia (somewhere around 150 dollars). We spent the night in Moustique bay on Ducos island, which is a lovely anchorage, and had a delicious curry dinner on Insatiable 2 with Anne and Jim.

Saturday morning was the deer hunting show. We had front seats to the drama which was unfolding in a basin in the land really close to our anchorage position. The main herd of deer had escaped to safety during the initial salvo, but a few poor stragglers remained, frozen and hiding in the thickets. This the hunters knew, and they waited patiently. A deer would be spooked from its hiding spot into the open by a hunter approaching or just plain losing its nerve. Then all hell would break loose with hunters firing numerous rounds at the fleeing animal. I must say that I think most of them were very poor shots because often the deer would actually make it to safety unscathed despite not being particularly quick or nimble in their fleeing. It was almost farcical but eventually they would find their mark, usually only injuring and laming the poor animal, which would then pathetically stumble around trying to escape its inevitable fate. On one occasion a blood thirsty hunter indulged his perversion by finishing the defenseless animal off cutting its throat with his hunting knife. What a man!

Deer hunting is quite prolific in New Caledonia. Deer are obviously not an indigenous species and back in the day after they were introduced to New Cal there was a time that they were a bit of a pest, destroying the indigenous vegetation. In some cases they apparently spread to different islands by swimming to escape a fire at their original home. So historically the hunting of deer has been encouraged to keep the population down. In more recent years private land owners have stocked their land for their own sport and food, and in some cases there are commercial operations with foreign tourists paying to hunt. We hate the act of hunting and cannot condone it, even if the deer are bred for that purpose you cannot justify the cruelty of killing them in an often painful way.

By around about midday, the hunters had killed enough. Four deer in total were dragged down the hillside and loaded onto their smallish tinny, plus the 6 hunters, and they set off slowly back towards the mainland. Their families would eat venison that night (and presumably quite some nights into the future). We took the opportunity to head ashore for a walk, climbing up the steep ridge of the nearby hill/mini-mountain. Near the top there is a magical area of rock and trees where we were able to indulge our rock-climbing passion a little before summiting to a marvelous view of St. Vincent’s bay and surrounds. We had a good view of the arrival of our friends on Eos 2 in the anchorage before we descended down the other ridge. That night we had Anne and Jim of I2 and Lani, Slade, Keani and Amahikai of E2 for dinner on Jolifou, a tasty and merry affair as always, featuring Moroccan chicken and Lyn’s delicious first attempt at baking fresh sourdough bread rolls.

15 September 2015

On Sunday the 6th we awoke to a forecast of a southerly wind direction (rather than the prevailing south-east) and decided to use it to continue south eastwards towards Noumea. With the prevailing south easterly winds here it is really easy to travel north westward up the lagoon, but when it comes to the return one needs to use every opportunity to avoid a windward slog. Early on there was no wind at all and we motored through St. Vincents bay enjoying the passing scenery of the bay islands. It was glassy windless conditions out in the lagoon so we decided to head out to the reef at Uitoe pass and anchored in a gorgeous spot just inside the reef. Bruce noticed that there were a couple of surfers riding the right-hander on the reef and took the dinghy out there for a surf. A fun little wave but nothing like as good as Ouano. Lyn explored the reef on her paddle board. Shortly after returning to the boat a cloud bank came in from the South accompanied by a gusty southerly change and suddenly this was no longer a good place to be! We upped anchor and sailed with headsail only to the excellent sheltered anchorage of Maa bay, just before Noumea. We had a nice quiet night there despite a French boat inexplicably wanting to anchor right on top of us in a huge anchorage with only one other boat.

Next morning we left early for the short motor to Noumea before the wind came up. We filled up with diesel at the CNC marina (yacht club) and then anchored in Orphelinat bay. We took the dinghy to drop Lyn at the supermarket for a big stock-up shop and Bruce continued on across the bay to the chandlery for some odds and ends. We learned that Aussie gas tanks can be filled by Noumea Yacht services (no one else does it and Herve fills by gravity feed from a local bottle). That evening we decided to treat ourselves to dinner ashore. In Citroen bay we found a really nice bar (called La Barca) which has excellent atmosphere and is obviously popular with the locals. It was surprising to see the number of locals out on a Monday night. Our mistake was eating there as the tapas menu food was really ordinary! On Tuesday the fresh food market was open and Lyn completed her stocking up mission. We picked up the gas tanks and were treated to the drama of a fire on some old tug boats in the harbor, which we had front seat views to as we bought dinghy fuel at the fuel dock. We had intended leaving Noumea for Prony bay that afternoon, but the easterly was blowing strongly so we elected to remain another night.

With the wind from the north east the next morning, we decided to head out for the famous Amedee island near Boulari pass, a really pretty island with excellent coral very close to the moorings. When we arrived we were the only boat there and Lyn lost her hat whilst we were deciding on a mooring in the roughish waves and it sank before we could get back to it. Bruce dove for the hat and had a bit of a look around seeing a few sucker fish that had decided to adopt the Jolifou. They are funny looking fish and not very perturbed by humans. We took the dinghy ashore, rescuing the New Zealand crew of “Guchi” on the way as they struggled to row against the wind and waves. At the dinghy beach we were treated to the spectacle of three small white tip sharks over the shallow reef and also three sea snakes in the nearby rocks. We walked around the island marveling at the lighthouse, which is an impressive structure but was unfortunately closed to public access. It is an extremely beauitiful island, unfortunately spoiled by some fake touristy infrastructure. There is a cordoned off food area reserved for the people who pay for the tour out on the ferry boat, complete with waiters dressed up in grass skirts, Polynesian music band etc. – very cruise ship touristy and not what we like at all!

Wind turbins on the New Caledonia mountains

Wind turbins on the New Caledonia mountains

That afternoon, with the wind staying in the north east we decided to head back to the mainland for the night. Uere Island was as good as we could lay without a rough sail. A sucker fish came along for the ride, remaining attached just off the stern all the way across. Even after we started the engine it remained in place and only left us after enduring the prop wash for quite some time. Uere island anchorage is excellent protection and a really scenic spot very close to Noumea. It took 2 attempts before we were able to anchor in a nice position evenly spaced between a small boat on a mooring and two swimming platforms, but it was worth it as we ended up nice and close to shore in a great spot. We had a nice peaceful night there in company of 3 other boats including our new friends on Guchi. Next morning a nice south westerly was blowing and we set sail eastwards for Prony Bay. More on that next blog.