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Tuesday, June 05, 2018
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
New Caledonia August – Oct 2017
New Caledonia is a French territory comprising dozens of islands in the South Pacific. It’s known for its palm-lined beaches and marine-life-rich lagoon, which, at 24,000 sq. km, is among the world’s largest. A massive barrier reef surrounds the main island, Grand Terre, a major scuba-diving destination. The capital, Noumea, is home to French-influenced restaurants and luxury boutiques selling Parisian Fashions. It is also the world capital for a relatively new sport, Kite-Foiling due to the ever constant 20 – 30 kt trade winds, and relatively flat calm waters of this large protected lagoon. There is a very active sailing/boating/water sport related industry which make it a destination location for thrill seekers the world over.
The Kanak are the indigenous Melanesian peoples of New Caledonia and make up approx. 39 percent of the current population. Unfortunately, they are excluded from the French economy even to this day.
British explorer, Capt. James Cook, was the first European to sight New Caledonia on September 4, 1744 on his second voyage. He named it New Caledonia as the northeast of the island reminded him of Scotland.
Our first order of business was to effect repairs to the boat. It took a few days to get organized. Our search for a Raymarine technician turned out to be quite challenging but we finally managed to locate a local old time Rasta named Jean Luc who turned out be not only a very efficient Raymarine technician, but a wonderful friend. We happily recommend him to anyone.
Long before arriving in New Caledonia we had heard of an abandoned dog named Moose residing on a small islet called Isle de Casy. As the story goes, a resort had once thrived on the island, but some years ago, had been badly damaged during cyclone season and never restored. The resort owners departed, leaving Moose behind.
As luck would have it, on our very first day in Noumea we met a man named Guy Kane. He liked the look of our cockpit enclosure (the Florida room, designed by Kaija which affords us all weather protection) and asked to take pictures so that he could create something similar for his new boat.
We had already heard of a Veterinary name Guy (from our friends Brett and Ana S/c Impi) who had started a GoFund Me for Moose to help pay for his care. Well, small world that it is, this man, Guy was the very same vet and so without further ado, we became friends, after all, any friend of Moose’s was a friend of ours. Guy would use his small ultralight plane and fly the 40 miles to visit Moose on his small island and tend to his medical needs.
Dr. Guy Kane and Lovely Wife Sonja
We spent many wonderful day visiting with Moose.
It was sailing season, and as such, Moose was certainly not lonely. In fact, he had become somewhat famous with cruisers and locals alike, and if anything, being in his advanced years, some days he would disappear to find some peace and quiet.
But rest assured, if you were first ashore in the morning, Moose would be there waiting to be your guide for a leisurely stroll around the island.
Moose was his own master. He did not answer to anyone in particular, but made everyone feel welcome on his little island hideaway. Young and old, rich or poor, he treated everyone, including visiting dogs, the same, warmly. His was a kind and gentle spirit.
It was with great sadness that on December 20 2017 (shortly after our departure) we learned that Moose crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to join so many of our gone but never forgotten loved pets.
Go Rest High on that High on the Mountain
R.I.P. Moose - Dec 2017
We were fortunate and blessed to have met and spent so many wonderful hours with him. The GoFund Me cause continues in Moose’s honor. A project for a monument in his memory is underway and the ongoing funds are being used to assist Dr. Guy in his spaying and neutering program for cats and dogs throughout New Caledonia.
To date more than 100 of these operations have been paid for thru the kindness of fellow cruisers and supporters of Moose’s GoFund Me account. Moose has his own FB page, Mouss De L’ilot Casy (French spelling.) He is an international dog with friends all over the world.
Just prior to leaving Fiji, Gary discovered one day while playing tennis with Svetlana (left) & Jodi, that he had a his legs were not as young as theirs. He also discovered that he had a Hernia!
It was not chronic, but was a concern, especially when spending extended periods on the high seas, miles from any help should help be needed. As luck would have it, Dr Guy introduced Gary to his Kite Foiling buddy, Dr. Gabriel Fayet whose specialty just happened to be hernias.
One phone call from Guy, and Dr. Gabriel made a ‘house call’ to the boat, examined Gary and said it needed to be treated sooner than later…the sooner the better. This was on a Friday, he arranged for the operation to happen the following Wednesday. It would take place at the brand new Hospital which was absolutely first class.
Gary was the first person to occupy the private room and the nursing staff, despite our language barrier, were not only competent, but extremely kind and gentle. The operation was a complete success and Gary did not feel a lick of discomfort from the moment he entered the hospital.
As hospitals, Dr's and Operations go…it was a very pleasant experience.
Our sailing lifestyle affords many an opportunity to meet and make new friends.
While visiting Moose, we met a lovely couple from New Zealand. Rob and Margie on their boat Windstar. We felt like kindred spirits and enjoyed spending time with them.
We all enjoyed hiking and they introduced us to a fellow cruiser Richard Chesher to was to be our tour guide to a lovely waterfall hidden deep in the forest.
He is a retired Marine Biologist Expat who has written a terrific cruising guide “The Rocket Cruising Guide to New Caledonia”.
He provided a great deal of insight of the local flora and fauna in particular 'Orchids' were his speciality. It was a beautiful day and a lovely hike. A fun day had by all.
The next day we sailed south to the bottom of the lagoon to Isle de Pins, a wonderful day sail and a fun destination. We anchored in a protected anchorage and were treated by visiting Manta Rays.
We spent a few days on this exotic little island. It was a fun stop and afforded us a great hike to the highest point on the island (859 meters), which was a full day event.
We sailed a few short miles south to Ilot Brosse which afforded us 2 new experiences.
1st, Kaija discovered the mystery of the Coral snake which till this time, we thought to be a water snake.
However, we soon discovered that they are equally comfortable on land, or climbing in your shorts, and they very much enjoy basking in the afternoon sun shedding their old skin and rejuvenating. They arrive looking old and wrinkled, and leave looking young and new…kinda like a Spa for snakes :o).
The 2nd new experience was baking scones on a stick over an open fire. This was taught to us by Rob and Margie…mmmmm good…
...if your stick is just the right size, the end product is the perfect wrap for a delicious hot dog…as the old saying goes…Try It…You’ll LIKE IT! :o)
Pic of scone.
We had a lovely day sail to the south west corner of the lagoon, to visit Ilot Amedee where one of the few remaining active lighthouses operates. We enjoyed the mandatory climb to the top of the lighthouse which is 56 meters, 247 steps making it one of the tallest lighthouses in the world.
It was the first metallic lighthouse constructed in France then shipped to New Caledonia. It was first lit on November 15 1865, the Saint Day of the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III.
Pic of lighthouse
This is a weekend getaway for the locals and very popular with Kite foilers, wind surfers and visiting tourists who come for the beautiful white sand beaches, excellent buffet style feasts and perfect weather almost year round.
We anchored in 10 feet of emerald colour water over a white sandy bottom and almost immediately were thrilled to see so many turtles swimming lazily by. This is a snorkeler’s paradise!
It was also the weekend of the annual BlueScope Regatta. This local race has categories for sailboats, hobiecats, outrigger canoes, stand-up paddle boarders, kite foilers and windsurfers. The course was over 30 miles ending at Noumea, quite a feat considering the last three categories are all Stand Up events!
BlueScope Regatta Weekend 2017
It seemed we had just arrived and our three month visa was up. We enjoyed each stop along the way, the highlites were Moose, Dr’s Guy and Gabriel, Jean Luc, and almost forgot to mention the incredible delectable pasties from Petit Choux…words cannot express how tasty the Pain O Chocolat is!.
It was nearing the end of October and time for us to ‘Go West’ as part of the Go West Rally heading for Bundaberg Australia. We reprovisioned, checked out and on the morning of October 27 departed Isle d’Maitre and made our way out of the lagoon thru the reef into open water…sailing almost due west for 7 days to the Land Down Unda.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
August 2017 Vuda Marina Fiji to Noumea, New Caledonia
We spent our final week in Fiji doing the many tasks that need be done to prepare the boat and crew for an extended time at sea. After provisioning and final preparations were complete we had one item left on our Fiji bucket list. We had heard much about the wonderful folks at Robinson Crusoe Island and their hospitality. We made our reservations and enjoyed our last Fiji feast entertained by true native Fijians doing what they do so well.
Welcome to Robinson Crusoe Island
...a taste of Fiji.
After our final visit to Vuda Marina to fuel up, enjoy a wonderful House Special lunch of fresh caught Waloo fish’n chips (without a doubt some of the best EVER),
Manager of Vuda Resort Restaurant…Mr. Keith!
we checked out with Customs and said our Bula Bula Goodbyes to the staff who have been so good to us during our 3 yr stay in this beautiful country of Fiji.
Vuda Marina Staff…some of the friendliest EVER!
As we were ready to drop our mooring lines, the staff sang a Fiji Blessing to us in their native language with harmony that is so wonderfully FIJIAN…
a mix of sad and happy emotions of our final Fiji Farewell.
Vuda Marina Staff Singing Fiji Farewell!
We made our way south to Port Denerau for our last overnight stay in this enchanted land before our 700 mile passage to New Caledonia.
After patiently waiting for a 6 day weather window we departed early morning Aug 5 with clear sunny skies and the exotic fragrances of Fiji wafting over the stern. As the late afternoon breeze freshened we looked back for our final glimpse at our native home for the past three years.
It was time now to look ahead to New Caledonia, a French outpost with a foreign language and some of the tastiest pastries on the planet…mmmm :o).
Our first two days were uneventful with clear skies and almost a full moon and comfortable sea state. We had one encounter with a fishing boat that was not transmitting on AIS, and seemed to be making an effort to intercept us. As we are ever mindful of unwelcome guests on the high seas, we turned off our AIS, sped up and left them behind…no worries.
Day 3 brought about our first real challenge of the passage when ‘Otto’ (autopilot) decided he was taking a break. This proved unfortunate for us as the wind and seas continued to build and hand steering for the final 350 miles was not going to be fun. Along with the heavier winds came the rain and squalls which forced us to shorten sail in less than ideal conditions, but despite the challenges, Capt and 1st Mate rose to the occasion and ‘got er done’.
Day 4 was more of the same with some of the biggest seas we have experience in our 15 yrs of cruising. When we say ‘house sized swell’ we do so to provide some visual image of the conditions we were in. Thankfully, the wind and swell were somewhat in harmony coming from the stern which allowed us to surf along making good speed and time. If there was any good news it was that hand steering in these conditions can be classified as extremely exciting…albeit challenging and exhausting.
Day 5 we were approx. 4 hrs from the eastern reef entrance to the south lagoon of New Caledonia and doing our best to make time to coincide with the incoming flood tide when the wind decided to back around to the nose. This necessitated firing up the ‘iron genny’ (engine) and driving headlong into a very boisterous sea with waves now cascading over the bow and along the deck. As the sun was fading over the hills of New Caledonia we made our way thru the reef into the southern lagoon and a petite bay and safe anchorage and dropped the hook. It was dark, time to lick our wounds and get some rest. Assessing the damage would have to wait till the light of another day.
As morning broke, and we awoke, as yet our eyes still blinking…we took stock of the damage. We discovered that our mainsail had torn out a couple of cars and our headsail was torn and would need some serious repairs and one of our deck dorades (those wind scoopy things on the deck) was AWOL, obviously washed away by one of the many large waves that pummeled our deck during the last few hours at sea. This in itself was remarkable considering it had been held in place with 7 stout deck screws, a reminder of just how forceful and savage the sea can be.
But no worries, we were safe and all of the above could be repaired or replaced. As we enjoyed our first morning coffee in this new land we noticed that the name on the chart for the bay in which we were anchored was Cap de Canibales. Haha…perhaps a good idea not to linger.
We set sail and made our way towards Noumea feeling stronger and ready for the final few miles to the capital city of New Caledonia, for our check in and introduction to this exotic French paradise.
Traditional indigenous Kanak Tribal carvings
One of many French Roman Catholic Cathedrals of Noumea.
We have read and heard much about this French Colonial outpost and we look forward to experiencing it first hand.