By 0530 this morning the south-easterlies we were expecting kicked in, so, up went the mainsail and off went the engines. By 0900 though, we started to encounter some squalls, so back out on deck to furl the head sail and reef the main. Fortunately the rain passed fairly swiftly and gave Paw Paw a nice freshwater rinse, but with slightly stronger winds than forecast, we decided to keep the main reefed before unfurling a full head sail and with that we had transitioned into the high pressure area - sunny blue skies with a scattering of puffy white clouds. Of course, with all this activity a few dolphins popped by to see what was going on. If the forecast holds we should enjoy these conditions until tomorrow night, following which the winds are expected to become light and variable as we reach the centre of the high. In the interim, we're getting the rest we need and making the best of our last passage of the season.
After a very rolly night, we woke to a beautiful sunrise, following which it was time to weigh anchor. Having cleared the pass between Recif To and Recif Le Sournois, we entered the Coral Sea. With that, it was goodbye to New Caledonia and goodbye to the South Pacific Ocean.
We had expected to motor-sail for the first 24 hours of this leg, but around 1300 we entered the transition zone between the low pressure system which had just passed southeast of New Caledonia and the leading edge of the approaching high pressure system. That meant we picked up winds of 10 to 15 Kts, clocking around from the southwest through south to southeast much sooner than forecast and allowed us to switch off the motors and enjoy boat speeds of between 6 and 8 Kts as the wind speed strengthened and weakened. That definitely gave our VMG (Velocity Made Good) a boost for the day. In layman's terms, VMG is a measurement used to help us capitalise on our SOG (Speed Over Ground) and COG (Course Over Ground) that will give us the most direct course to our destination.
By 1600 though, in very lumpy seas, the winds dropped, so on went the motors again. Thankfully that only lasted for less than two hours before the winds picked up again and by sunset we were reefed down for the night and sailing at 6.5 Kts in 12 Kts of wind. However, just when we thought we'd be able to sail through the night and pick up the slightly stronger south-easterlies forecast for tomorrow, the wind shifted to the east at around 2200 and dropped, causing the mainsail to slam in the swell. So, under a clear moonless starry night we are motor-sailing again, but on headsail alone.
It certainly has been a mixed bag for the day, none of which was forecast as usual. We'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. Having a large pod of dolphins crossing Paw Paw's bow as we exited the pass this morning was a lovely send off though.
This morning, after a relatively restful night and a delicious cooked breakfast, we weighed anchor and enjoyed a slow sail / motor-sail to Ilot Amédée, where the iconic Amédée Lighthouse is situated, approximately 25NM from Noumea, thus completing leg 2 of our Australian passage.Built in 1865, this 16-sided tapered cast iron tower with balcony and lantern is an impressive structure, standing at 184 ft / 56 metres tall, with a range of 20NM. It is one of the tallest lighthouses in the world and is still operational to this day.The metal components were made by Rigolet in northeast Paris in 1862 and the tower was constructed in Paris as a demonstration. It was then disassembled into pieces and transported along the River Seine to the port of Le Havre for its voyage to New Caledonia. The foundation stone was laid on 18 January 1865 and it was first lit on 15 November 1865, the saint day of the
Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. Its light signals the entrance to the passage of Boulari, one of only three natural passages in the reef surrounding New Caledonia. On the other side of the world, the Roches-Douvres Light in the English Channel is the twin brother of the Amédée lighthouse.Once we were anchored, we dinghied ashore, enjoyed our first swim without a wetsuit since leaving Fiji, then climbed the 247 steps to the balcony of the lighthouse and enjoyed the magnificent views. Back on board, we completed our last To Dos in preparation for our final leg to Australia, but, unfortunately, a good night's sleep may elude us as this is one of the rolliest anchorages we've been in for some time. The winds have turned to the north and the swell is coming out of the east - Delightful - Not!
The past few days just seem to have flown by. On Thursday morning we enjoyed a breakfast at Le Marche de Noumea with Blue Summit (Kate and Steve), but as we all savoured our French pastries and cafe au lait, we knew the inevitable was approaching - saying goodbye to the last of our World ARC friends, as we head west and Blue Summit returns to New Zealand. It was a very sad goodbye as we've come to appreciate their friendship over this past year and will definitely miss their company.It was the start of a chain reaction though, as we had a few more goodbyes to say to friends old and new - Vivacious / Kit Cat (Jane and Russ), Lettin' Go (Ann and Cran) and Georgia (Chris and Paul). Unfortunately we missed Raya (Ros and Rick), but we'll see them and possibly Georgia again in Sydney. With that, a very strange emptiness settled over the anchorage yesterday morning as yacht after yacht sailed out of Baie de la Moselle bound for Ne w
Zealand. This morning was our turn to leave after enjoying our last breakfast of French pastries and café au lait at Le Marche de Noumea. As we sailied out of Port de la Moselle for the last time, bound for Australia, we had a lovely surprise with Lettin' Go sounding their ship's horn and waving us off.Having watched the weather for the past week or more, the weather window we've been waiting for, opened up sooner than we expected, so it was a mad rush yesterday and today to get the last of our preparations completed - clearout, move Paw Paw to the fuel dock to fill up with diesel, drop in at the dentist to pick up Elaine's dental records so that our dentist in the USA can complete her root canal treatment when we visit family next month, complete our provisioning, cook all our passage meals, complete and distribute all our passage documentation, complete our final checklist activities and squeeze in some quic k phone
calls to family.This morning we completed the first leg of our passage with an extremely fast sail over to Ilot Maitre, where we're spending the night. Once we were anchored and had lunch we headed ashore to enjoy a walk around the island, watch the numerous kite surfers and enjoy some refreshments at the resort in order to spend the last of our French Francs. Then we had the pleasure of bumping into Plastik Plankton (Kathy and Wolgang) whom we'll hopefully also see again in Sydney as they depart for Australia later this week. We topped off the day with a barbecue aboard. Now it's early to bed to get the rest we need before our watch schedule begins.
With Elaine's toothache deteriorating significantly overnight, she was very grateful to have secured an early morning emergency dentist appointment. Unfortunately a panoramic x-ray revealed that a major infection had developed underneath her 35 year old gold crown. Although contained, there is extensive decay and root canal treatment is also required. Thank goodness we're not in Vanuatu, but rather in New Caledonia, where medical and dental facilities are excellent, not to mention relatively inexpensive. Armed with antibiotics, painkillers and a follow-up appointment to have all the work completed in a few days once the antibiotics have cleared up the infection, we decided that we may as well do some more sightseeing around Noumea. A bus ride took us to the Centre d'Art, housed in the 1881 prison and from there a short walk took us to the Maison Celieres colonial mansion. We rounded off our morning with a delicious lunch along the waterfr ont at
La Sorbetiere. On route back to Paw Paw we had a lovely surprise when we bumped into Blue Summit (Kate and Steve) on the dinghy dock; they had just arrived in Noumea. This morning we enjoyed a light breakfast at Le Marche de Noumea, then enjoyed a stroll before meeting Blue Summit and Lettin' Go (Ann and Cran) for lunch. Given that Blue Summit were new to Noumea, we opted to take a bus to Baie des Citrones, where a good time was had by all at Les Trois Brasseurs.With the wind picking up yet again, we enjoyed another movie night on board.
Today was a very strange day for us. We had originally decided to stay onboard to give Elaine's legs and feet a rest and to get some boat projects out of the way. In particular, repairing the water leak in our port hotwater heater. We then decided that, with the wind picking up and the anchorage getting quite lumpy, we would take the advise of Alchemy I (Geraldine and George) and head for a beautiful protected anchorage in Anse Kuendu on Ile Nou, spend a night or two, then head for Ilot Maitre later in the week.
Not realising how small the anchorage of Anse Kuendu was, when we arrived to discover two other yachts there, including Alchemy I, we decided there was no point in trying to shoehorn in, especially given the very shallow reefs on either side. With that we decided to just motor over to Ilot Maitre instead.
Knowing Ilot Maitre is a marine / nature reserve, we knew we would have to pick up a mooring ball, since anchoring is prohibited. What we hadn't realised was that many of the ICA rally yachts that were in Noumea had decided to move to Ilot Maitre today and, as we arrived, we saw one of them pick up what looked like the last ball. After motoring up and down in search of a vacant ball and making a general call to all the yachts on the mooring balls to please advise us if there were indeed any moorings open, we received feedback that there was one, but in very shallow water.
With that we decided to hang out for a little while just to make sure a yacht wasn't leaving, although we had assumed they would have advised us of their intentions when we made the general VHF radio call. Well, you can all guess what's coming, right?
The next thing we see is another rally yacht arriving and, after making a radio call, they are advised by a rally yacht on one of the mooring balls that they were leaving and that the new arrival could have their ball, even though both yachts had seen us waiting for a vacancy. One accepts the fact that mooring balls can be in demand, but such balant hostility definitely shows a rather ugly side of sailing, one we haven't experienced since arriving in Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas some eighteen months ago, when a number of World ARC rally yachts ignored our radio calls for help.
This is a rare occurrence, as most cruisers will rush to the aid of others and we have certainly rendered our fair share of assistance in the past. It's just a little more disturbing though when these are yachts we've come to know since seeing them in New Zealand and in most of the destinations we've visited this season. Let's hope it's a good while before we encounter anything like this again!
Anyway, it turned out we wouldn't have been any more protected at Ilot Maitre than we are back here in Baie de la Moselle and we had the pleasure of a very brisk sail at 8.5 Kts on headsail alone right back to our exact anchoring spot. All things considered it's a good job we did return, as Elaine's tooth has really started to play up. Fortunately she was able to get a dentist appointment for early tomorrow morning.
We spent most of yesterday getting through the initial preparations for our passage to Australia. This included clearing out and cleaning all the food cupboards so as not to pick up any biosecurity issues on arrival, getting dinghy fuel and completely the provisioning needed for our passage meals. To do the latter we took a walk to the Carrefour Supermache, but we were very disappointed to find the bulk of the products American rather than French, no to mention extremely expensive. Casino Johnson Supermarche turned out to be a far better option. We topped off the day catching up with family in Ireland, but not before we were invited aboard Alchemy I for sundowners and where we spent a very enjoyable evening with Geraldine and George, learning about all the modifications and improvements that they have made to their Leopard 46, as well as acquiring additional information and insights about sailing around Australia, especiall y
Sydney. Today we decided to venture much further afield, heading over to the east coast of New Caledonia by bus, where we visited the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. Since our arrival in New Caledonia we have savoured the French culture, but today was an opportunity to explore the indigenous Kanak culture.During our walk along the Kanak "pathway", we learnt about Tea Kanake, the mystical founder of the Kanak people, and the five stages of life that the Kanaks believe in.Stage 1: The Origin of Being - At the dawn of the world, the moon placed a tooth on a rock emerging from the primeval sea. The warmth of the moon's rays caused the tooth to decay from which the first living being appeared and Tea Kanake is born.Stage 2: The Earth that Nourishes - Born without knowledge, Tea Kanake asks the spirits for the knowledge he needs to live on earth. He learns about the
magic of the stones and the grass, how to work the land and to understand the properties of the plants. He starts to grow yams and taros. Yams play a key role in Kanak society and are given the same respect as a human being. It is condidered the symbol of a man and the life of each clan is governed by the yam farming cycle. Community life revolves around the planting, care and harvesting of yams and the yam cycle determines the date of all major events from the ritual induction of a chief, to birth, marriages and mournings.Stage 3: The Land of the Ancestors - Tea Kanake builds his house after he exchanges some yams. The spirits also teach him how to live in a community. He plants the tall pines which mark the sacred and tabu places and he speaks the first words of Kanak oratory. Stage 4: Tea Kanake Visits the Land of the Dead - In order to know all about human life, Tea Kanake deci des to
experience death. He enters the Banyan tree, which is the body of the spirit. Through its roots that reach down into the underground, he visits the land of the dead and is transformed in this womb.Stage 5: Tea Kanake is Reborn as a New Man - Like the shoots that sprout from a cut tree trunk, Tea Kanake, the eternal bearer of the Kanak message, passes through the hole in the rock, the symbol of rebirth. He breaths his solemn words into the ironwood tree, where they will song on forever. From these words a new era begins. It was a fascinating glimpse into the Kanak belief system and one very similar to the circle of life we learnt about in Tahiti. Amongst other aspects, we also explored the "Mwakaa", the traditional ceremonial grounds, which is a place for formal speeches and ceremonial exchange of gifts, known as "custom", similar to Vanuatu. The three chiefly homes of the grounds were,
not only a fabulous display of Kanak architecture, but they also represent the three main Kanak clan groupings - the southern clan, the northern clan and the Loyalty Islands clan.Before leaving the grounds, Roy decided to hedge his beats and placed a few coins on the magical rock, to be sure, to be sure!