Two and a half years ago, I sailed past New Caledonia on the way to Vanuatu from Sydney. I was sailing aboard Moksha, a Hanse 540 and had just completed my first 1000 Nautical miles of cruising. All of my previous offshore experience had been on racing yachts… now, a short 30 months later, the cruising lifestyle is coming to an end right where it started. Sailing out of New Caledonia for Australia will mark the 25,000th Nautical mile of cruising – for those of you not familiar with nautical terms – I’ve basically been drifting around the world for 45,000 kms at about 12kms per hour. The experiences we’ve had in new Caledonia are just a small part of the reason why!
Land Ahoy… we sight New Caledonia after 4 days at sea en route from Fiji.
Happy faces… Sofi and Jose (asleep) complete their first international offshore passage.
With the weather looking below par, and temperatures in the low 20s, we decided to anchor for the night in a small bay and continue the following day to Noumea to go through formalities and check in.
Ok, OK… so we HAVE to drink a rum n coke and say thank you to Neptune and whoooo?? the girls reluctantly partaking in the traditional Squander arrival ceremony.
After so many months in the tropics, it was strange to be wearing jumpers and hiding down below to stay warm. The girls suggested we should do something French seeing we were in a French territory… we scoured the bilges and found an old jar of pate, a tin of canned Brie and a bottle of Beaujolais that had somehow previously escaped out attention…
Bienvenue a Nouvelle Caledonie.
the next day the sun was shining again, and although not hot it was a lot warmer… we went for a morning swim, ate a slow breakfast and by the time we left for Noumea, we realised we wouldn’t make it there in time to go through Customs…. so…
we found another small bay just outside the city and anchored for our second night in new Caledonia…
the full moon was out in force.
and we cooked up another French feast – baked mahi mahi with the last of our vegetables from Fiji.
Dead calm – it’s almost midnight as the city lights merge with the full moon to illuminate the night.
Woke up early the next morning and pointed Squander at Port Moselle in Noumea.
Andy ready to lift anchor.
Every city has the keen early morning fisherman… I want to be one when I grow up!
We soon had Squander in the Marina and were told that customs, immigration and Quarantine officials would be along shortly and the whole process should not take too long… True to their word Customs arrived soon after and began by asking for our passports, boat papers, port clearances and so on… it wasn’t unusual, but I had a feeling these guys were on a mission…
They meticulously analyzed our passports, and hammered me with questions about where we had all met, why we went here, there and everywhere and I guess something about our ages, travel patterns and the answers i gave them made them very suspicious. They curtly advised that all crew have to stay above deck but cannot leave the boat and i have to stay down below with them as they proceed to do a full search of the boat… one of them left and returned with tools, snake camera, remote microphone and all sorts of cool gadgets.
Nothing was spared, panes were unscrewed, underwear drawers turned upside down, freezer emptied, sealed powdered milk bags sliced open, cake mixes smelt, cameras shoved into every nook and cranny, under the water tank, the fuel tank – it was actually a really interesting experience to see how these guys operate and if it wasn’t for the three hour ordeal – it would have been fun – I got to see a lot of Squander that I hadn’t seen before!
Sofi snuck in an action shot as I answered the questions down below.
The customs guys were professional, but in no way rude or unfriendly – France was in the world cup final and the conversation soon turned to Rugby and the best beer to drink in New Caledonia… they considered fining us for stopping for two nights without checking in, (they asked me to turn on my chartplotter and examined out tracks!!), but they accepted my reasoning and let us off.
We picked up some supplies and bailed out of the city for Illot Maitre, a small island 45 minutes from Noumea…
What now??! a Coastguard vessel and helicopter head for us!
hahaha… got them!! turns out they were just practicing…
We picked up one of the Free moorings and relaxed….
No Andy, they’re not my Buddhist prayer flags….
With the laundry out of the way, it was time to Kite!
The winds were light, so Jose took the opportunity to give Sofi her first kiting lesson.
Ready to go, but the wind totally dropped out…
the girls amused themselves with a game of Pallet.
Strike a pose for the cameras.
Andy playing umpire
And finally the wind kicked in – time to kite!!
Woahhh… where did everyone come from??!
With smiles all around, we returned to Squander for a great dinner and fireworks show right in the anchorage. Still not exactly sure what the occasion was… but hey… why not??!
the next day we were up early and decided to head further afield to explore new playgrounds.
Saying goodbye to Illot Maitre – we will be back.
Jose getting ready for action!
la capitana Argentina is in charge!
Andy Spots our destination.
And soon the friendly locals arrive to greet us…
following the dolphins into the anchorage
Parlez vous Francais?? Andy decides to get amongst the locals for a swim.
An island to ourselves….
anchored off Illot Kouare.
Speeding off towards the nearby reefs for a snorkel.
Incredible visibility – I don’t think we have ever seen water so clear.
Sofi wastes no time exploring the depths – her new favourite sport is spotting sharks and sea snakes – not bad for a city girl!
Our trusty dinghy awaits patiently as always.
a fiery redhead – never seen anything that bright underwater before.
Jose opted for above water snorkeling – with water so clear you don’t even have to get your hair wet.
And as the day drew to a close, it was time to hang up the bikinis, and enjoy a sunset drink.
the wind kicked in early the next day, so we headed ashore to check out the wildlife, explore the island and do some kiting.
Andy was straight in the water making the most of the 20+ knots of wind, the girls caught up on some tanning, whereas i decided to try and have an up close look at the local residents.
Inspiration for a fighter plane??!
Ahhh… Pierre, zer is some human coming to ze nest??!!
I’ve never been much of a bird watcher, but these guys are cool!
preparing for landing.
They fly out to sea and back all day collecting seaweed to make nests out of.
and the fighter planes share the island with these weapon birds…
….nice fuselage, and well designed landing gear stows away seamlessly.
With the bird watching out of the way, it was time to get a quick kite in before the storm rolled in.
Andy heads back to shore as the clouds roll in…
I followed soon after…
We are going to miss this life – #1
The next few days are a blur as I lay in bed with some serious stomach bug, pretty weird as no one else got it – maybe it was the birds??!
after 3-4 days, we sailed 10 miles north to Illot Mato for some more kiting and in my case some more recovery time , eating plain pasta and catching up on some movies.
Anchored in illot Mato – Squander on the right and “El Regalo” from the USA on the left
Andy and Jose attacked the bay throwing double back loops, grabs, back loop transitions and all sorts of funky shit – nice work guys!
Jose spots a back loop landing as Andy charges in the distance
that afternoon Andy and Sofi decided to hike to the top of the island and managed to get some incredible shots.
the Dinghy anchored down below.
El Regalo and Squander dance at anchor.
Sofi trying to pick up Squander
Need good light to get into these anchorages – would hate to do it on a cloudy day…
The next day we decided to head back to Noumea to pick up some supplies, catch up on emails and decide what to do next.
The dinghy spinning out of control as we sail in 30 knots – probably should have pulled it out of the water for the trip.
I went to Uni with a guy that used to eat MARS bars with a knife and fork, and now another phenomenon right before our eyes – Sofi eats Oranges with a knife and fork!
Fish heads for $6 a piece… we were a bit late at the local fish markets!
Traffic, street signs, paved roads – all seems quite hectic!
What happens when you leave Jose and Sofi for 15 minutes in a shop….
First officer Jose
Baby Sofi… what the??
having dragged the girls away form the shop and the shop keepers who were loving the entertainment, we decided to try and do something unusual – some urban sight seeing!
a meeeewwZeeeeeUm…. we almost went inside!
With the weather forecast being spot on for kiting, we moved back to Illot Maitre.
The stainless steel balustrade reflecting the sunset…. We kited all of the next day and didn’t take a single photo!
As the day drew to a close, Scott. Nancy and their young son Seb pulled up in Traveler and invited us over for dinner. We gladly accepted and had a great night – thanks guys!!
The mornings are often glassy – Jose getting ready for a morning swim!
back flip off the bow to start the day! We enjoyed another great day of kiting, before the wind finally backed off and allowed us to head south again towards baie du Prony and onto ille de Pins (Isle of Pines)
Ille Montravel, at the entrance of baye du Prony.
It.s about 5 miles ‘in land’ to get to the anchorage we were heading for.
We eventually dropped anchor and transferred to the dinghy to go in search of the hot springs for a sunset nature bath!
Such a contrast to the reefs and blue water that lies only 5 miles away.
We eventually found the hot springs
and quickly jumped in for a self timer photo, before….
…the girls commandeered the hot tub for some important business!
French hot springs have never smelt so fresh!
Another sunset announces the beginning of night.
Heading back to Squander – you have to look out for crocodiles after sunset and hit them in the head with an oar so that they don’t bite your dinghy!
oooops…. sometimes you miss and they swallow your oar!
with so many attractions, we weren’t sure what to do – eventually we opted for a hike…
We navigated as far as we could with our dinghy
Tied her to a tree and went exploring
A rare sight – everyone wearing shoes!
Sofi decided she need a quick swim before continuing.
Bonjour messieur, can I borrow you rally car for an hour or so??
No shit sherlock….
yeah follow me, the path is this way!
ok… maybe it’s not… anyone got any ideas?!
Follow the light… back on track!
reminds me of some new logo – like a BHP re branding??!
Andy ready to roll – an early departure for Ile de Pins.
the anchorage sleeps….
as Squander glides towards the open sea again.
We were only a few miles offshore when all three lines went off at once!!!
we lost one, but managed to reel in 2 decent Big Eye tuna
Model number 1, likes Sushi and teriyaki seared tuna steaks.
Model number 2 prefers sashimi and curried Soy fillets.
Arriving in Kueto Bay, on the Isle of pines.
Anchored in Paradise
The peak is calling, Andy and Sofi make the early morning departure…
The view from half way up.
Andy checking out the sights.
Squander anchored in the distance.
Sofi hoping a BIG plane will land and save her a walk back….
We will miss this life shot #34578
Afternoon sight seeing
we will miss this life shot #45234
should we have another beer… hmmm… nah the tide is rising and the dinghy is about to float away, may as well head back!
That evening I checked the weather and the window we’d been looking for was coming. It was Wednesday evening and it looked like Saturday would be the perfect day to leave…. it was time to head back to Noumea and checkout… but not before we checked out one more island.
Sofi has developed into a keen fisherwoman!
We had a relaxing day, catching up on blog writing, reading, and making a wish list of all the fish we wanted to catch on the 60 mile journey the next day!
And what a day it was… 2Tuna, 1 Mahi mahi, 1 Golden Jack and two Spanish Mackerel!
Andy bagging the Mahi Mahi!
the first Spanish mackerel was huge and we decided to throw it back.
The second one was a more manageable size – they look very similar to Wahoo!
Sofi continuing her fishing education!
We got back to Noumea on Thursday night and early on Friday morning went into the marina for a night, provisioned and checked out… we’re expecting to set sail on Saturday and should be in Lord Howe Island on Thursday – our first landfall in Australia and only 400 odd nautical Miles from Sydney!!
See you soon Australia!!