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After a cooked breakfast and, with the weather having improved significantly, we decided it would be a waste of a gorgeous sunny day to stay on board. So, we decided to head for the beach, Anse Vata, in particular. That, of course, meant our "first rodeo" on the local buses. Working out what bus to take and then where to get it was a little confused by the "hop-on-hop-off" buses arranged for the passengers of another cruise ship which arrived this morning, but we managed to work it out We decided the best option would be to hop off at the furthest point, Ouen Toro, then spend the day strolling back along the various beach fronts. By late morning we stopped at Amorino La Cialdina to enjoy a cappuccino, which Elaine managed to order without incident. However, sending Roy back to the counter to order a few additional items turned out to be a very bad idea. What we wanted was a chocolate crepe for Elaine and a cone with two scoops of gelato fo r Roy. Well, obviously something definitely got lost in translation when a chocolate crepe filled with two scoops of gelato arrived instead. Needless to say, we were both in fits of laughter. We have no doubt that the server must have thought it was a rather strange order, but, who knows, it may very well end up on their menu as it wasn't too bad at all. By the time we'd walked the 5miles / 8km back to Port de la Moselle we had definitely earned a drink at the Brasserie, where we met two Australian holiday makers who couldn't help but over hear us trying desperately to give the waitress our drinks order in such a way that we stood a chance of actually getting what we wanted. We ended up having a delightful conversation with them and learnt about a few more places in Australia we may want to visit. En route back Paw Paw we stopped by Alchemy I to meet Aaron and Geraldine properly and make arrangements to meet up tomorrow. After leaving them we were called ove r by the crew off Grey Pearl who had just arrived and needed some help on where to anchor, as well as details on the clearing in process. Add to that the various folks we chatted to at the bus stops and it was certainly a day of unexpected encounters.
After anchoring off Ile Ouen last night, we had originally intended to stop at Ilot Amedee and Ilot Maitre en route back to Noumea, but after a very blustery night, we decided to head straight for Noumea instead and we are very glad we did. The weather has turned very nasty indeed with winds up to 28 Kts in the protected area of Port de la Moselle, so we hate to think what it's like outside. With yet another early start, we were safely anchored by 0930, but not before we had to make way for a passing cruise ship. While most sailors will admit "it's a race" as soon as two yachts are sailing together in the same direction, we were obviously "out gunned" on this occasion. We still had plenty of time though to drop off the laundry and enjoy deux grande cafe au lait and French pastries at Le Marche de Noumea. However, with the cruise ship beating us to the port, it was a very busy Saturday morning market. We also enjoyed having decent internet connection again, which meant we were able to catch up on a few landlubber matters. A walk along the promenade to stretch our legs, a visit to the grocery store and a stop at the bank concluded our errands. Afternoon refreshments were enjoyed at Bar Brasserie before heading back to Paw Paw to ride out the bad weather. If we have one criticism of the French islands, and it's the same one that applies to all the French islands we have visited around the world, it is that they do not announce their securite messages or provide the weather forecasts on the VHF radio in English. Very irritating, not to mention potentially dangerous. Guess we will just have to knuckle down and learn French! We had a rather pleasant surprise this afternoon when Aaron, off Alchemy I, another Leopard 46, which had just arrived in the anchorage, came over to introduce himself and suggested we all get together once the weather improves. What a great gesture and to do so in th is dreadful weather. It appears they are heading back to Australia around the same time we intend to do our passage, so we should have a bit of company based on the number of yachts we've met heading the same way.
It was another early morning start to weigh anchor and set sail for Ile Ouen. Sailing wing-on-wing, something we haven't done since our passage from St Lucia to Colombia, we made good progress at around 6 Kts. With a few birds around Roy decided to put out the handline, but no luck. He was, however, determined to have fish for dinner, so, fortunately the freezer was very accomodating. A selection of mahi mahi, tuna and prawns did the trick, accompanied by a glass or two of Ch√Ęteau Sainte Marotine, with its powerful and expressive nose and the pallet structure amble and complex - Loosely translated, it smelt like petrol and tasted like vinegar - Only joking - A very nice wine indeed! Pity we can't take wine into Australia, otherwise we'd purchase a few more bottles. We arrived in good time to assess the bay we had chosen for the night, Turtle Bay, but based on the weather conditions, we opted instead for Baie Ouenni / Baie Tioae. It is a very s trange bay, though, and is definitely not protected from the wind as we had hoped, given that it is on the leeside behind the rather large landmass of Ile Ouen. It seems the wind is coming around the southern end of the island and straight up into the anchorage, keeping the yachts parallel to the shoreline. Fortunately we're protected from the sea which is a far better alternative. This evening, while watching the sunset snd seeing another "green flash" , we had the good fortune of having dugongs come within a boat length of Paw Paw's stern. They were very shy at first, staying about 200m off, but eventually curiosity got the better of them and we're glad it did! A day full of natural beauty is topped off with a beautiful full moon tonight.
Yesterday morning Roy walked to the shop to get some fresh baguettes, while Elaine stayed on board to give her body a rest from all the exercises and walking. He had no sooner returned when we spotted Blue Summit (Kate and Steve), whom we haven't seen since Fiji, entering the anchorage. Once they were settled, they wasted no time in dinghying over to Paw Paw for morning tea and a chance to catch up. With so many cruising stories to exchange, we continued later over sundowners on Blue Summit. We also continued work on our website articles and videos, but don't hold your breath on the Fiji article. It's taking forever!This morning, Roy took another walk to the shop, while Elaine, seated on the patio of Hotel Kou-Bugny, reflected on our sailing season, which was, once again, coming to a close. We'd had the opportunity to talk to Keenan and Brooke earlier, but it was talking to our two and half year old grandson, William, that brought home the p rice we pay for our lifestyle. Listening to him say: "I love you grandma" and "I love you grandpa" just melted our hearts. Looking out over the fabulous turquoise blue waters, Elaine couldn't help but acknowledge that our decision to sail around the world, is indeed a selfish one; taking ourselves away from our loved ones for extended periods of time. It is, however, a balancing act which most cruisers have to manage. We realise that unforeseen circumstances prevented us from getting back to the USA in July / August, as previously planned, but we're hoping that, as we approach a more accessible part of the world, visits will be more regular. Our melancholy mood was definitely lifted though, when we took our last walk along one of the beautiful beaches of Ile des Pins, Baie de Kanumera and stopped in at the Oure Tera Beach Resort for morning coffee, followed by an afternoon of seeing dugongs, dolphins and turtles swimming around Paw Paw.We topped off our da y in the company of friends; Blue Summit, Lettin' Go (Ann and Cran) and Vivacious (Jane and Russ) enjoying sundowners on Paw Paw and basking in the laughter of some hilarious sailing stories.
Thankfully, yesterday morning's radio check with the participants of the magnet confirmed that we had fixed our SSB/HF radio issue and could be heard as far afield as Fiji and Vanuatu. With that resolved it was time to return to our explorations of Ile des Pins, but not before Roy took a walk to the shop for a fresh baguette, while Elaine enjoyed coffee on the patio of the Hotel Kou-Bugny's restaurant.

Yesterday we continued our explorations on foot after arranging our car hire for today's adventure. First stop was a walk to the penal colony ruins on Presqu'ile de Kuto. From there we walked along the beautiful beach bordering Baie de Kanumera, stopping in at Oure Tera Beach Resort for coffee and a stroll around their gardens. Once back on Paw Paw for the afternoon, Roy spent some time collating our latest videos and Elaine continued work on our new website article, since we're definitely falling behind on those.

This morning we were up early again to prepare our picnic lunch and collect the hired car by 0800. With that, we set off in an anticlockwise direction around the island. Our travels took us through the tribus de Comagna, Voa, Youati, Quatchia, Touete, Gadji and Kere. The only village we didn't visit was Tribu de Wapan as this was a little off the beaten track. Besides the spectacular scenery and views, we certainly had some very interesting sights to visit along the way and thoroughly enjoyed the diversity
Yesterday morning we woke without the alarm, but it was still at 0500, so we decided to catch up with Keenan then take an early morning walk to the boulangerie for freshly baked French pastries and fruit juice.

Once we'd consumed that while sitting on cut off logs outside the boulangerie, we took a short stroll to some of the nearby ruins from when Ile des Pins was a French penal colony. We completed a rather long walk with a stroll on the beautiful powdery white beach of Baie De Kuto, before stopping for a coffee at the local restaurant and heading over to Baie de Kanumera. The photographs of the views we enjoyed hopefully speak for themselves. Simply stunning!

It hasn't been all play though. Yesterday Elaine gave the dinghy a much needed clean, since it still had remnants of volcanic ash from Tanna Island in Vanuatu and bright orange dust from our hike up to Cap Ndoua in Anse Majic. We also no ticed something odd about our SSB /HF radio when we tried to call into the magnet yesterday, given that we haven't used it since our passage from New Zealand to Fiji. Our suspicions were confirmed this morning with our failed radio check. Roy then spent the rest of the morning replacing the high voltage cable between the ATU and the antenna as well as soldering the connections on the ATU Control cable, all of which had corroded. A left over gremlin from our passage from hell when all the waves were breaking into the starboard engine compartment while Roy repaired the steering sheath and where this unit is housed. He also tackled our stern navigation light which speed working again.

Elaine enjoyed a day of pottering around while repairing our velcro holds for the cockpit cushions, updating our log books, cleaning all the mud of our hiking shoes in preparations for our biosecurity check in Australia and making some edits to our blog postings that, for some strange reason, are omitting the paragraph formats.

A turtle and a dugong was curious enough to surface near Paw Paw as well. Guess they also wanted to take a peek at all the activity onboard!

After waking up to the alarm clock at daybreak yesterday morning and checking the weather for our sail to Ile des Pins, we decided to stay put and enjoy some magic in Anse Majic, given that the forecast indicated at least 15 Kts of wind on the nose. With that we went straight back to bed.

Once we surfaced again, we'd no sooner enjoyed a cooked breakfast when Time Bandit hailed us to find out why we hadn't left. Turned out they'd changed their plans to sail onto Noumea as well. As a result we ended up spending a very pleasant day in their company and that of their friends off Randivag (Lisa and Sven).

The day started with a dinghy ride ashore, followed by a fabulous hike up to the lighthouse on Cap Ndoua, where we enjoyed spectacular sea views out towards Canal de la Havannah, Ile Ouen and Ile des Pins and mountain views over Grande Terre. By the time we returned it was mid-afternoon, which meant a nap was definitely in order. Ro y also made more temporary repairs to our headsail, since the tape didn't last at all. Sometimes we just have to shake our heads in dismay at some of the yachting products sold, which are definitely not "fit -for-purpose". What's more irritating is that usually we've long since left the destination where we've purchased these products, so there's absolutely no recourse.

We wrapped up our day with all of us congregating on Time Bandit for sundowners and enjoyed the opportunity to exchange adventures of our sailing season, given that we'd all sailed to different destinations in Fiji and Vanuatu. Having enjoyed our very unexpected day together and, since we're all continuing west over the next month or so, we said our goodbyes in the hope of seeing each other again somewhere in Australia.

It was a case of "take two" this morning, only this time we were up at daybreak to enjoy very favourable winds. Under full sails and a bright, crisp, sunny day, we sailied at speeds of up to 8 Kts on a beam reach, with numerous flocks of migratory birds for company. We were literally surrounded for hours as they flew past Paw Paw. Then, as we entered Baie de Kuto on Ile de Pins (aka Island of Pines) we spotted dugongs to our starboard side, but this didn't compare to the breathtaking views that awaited us as we anchored - Snow white powdery beaches, trimmed with the most unusual looking pine trees mixed with coconut palms, lapped by gorgeous clear turquoise waters. It didn't take us long to beach the dinghy so that we could start our reconnaissance and the scenery just got better with each step that we took.

First stop was the local store, where we purchased an ice-cream. Then we walked to the hotel for some refreshments on their verandah and savoured the scenery, before returning to Paw Paw to enjoy a fabulous sunset. Paradise indeed!

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