2018 New Caledonia – cruising with NZ Dockland 5 friends
It was a beautiful 3-day sail from Vanuatu with wind on the beam at 15 to 20 knots. We managed to clean up a little and managed to get some sleep but we were still feeling the effects of our volcano experience so we needed a quick place to rest and recuperate in Bai Du Caranage. We tied the boat to a mooring and felt very comfortable in this well protected bay. We slept for 12 hours or more and loved the 24 hours of rain we got that washed all the ash, soot and salt off the decks. The boat seemed a little cleaner but the stainless had taken quite a beating from the acid from the volcano and would need some TLC with lots of muscle varnishing.
After 2 days of recuperating we made our way up the long channel to Noumea, the only place to check into New Caladonia. We timed it so that we would arrive there Sunday evening and be ready to check in Monday morning. Immigration is only open 8:00 to 11:00 in the morning so we would have to get started early. The Bai De L’Orphelinat is full of moorings and we anchored in the outskirts were the charts tell you NOT to anchor but everybody seemed to be doing it. It is not a place one would like to anchor for long as it has a lot of swell and the big boats passing by. The local island ferries would send Landfall on a nasty roll and we had to scurry to hang on to anything that would go flying and cause damage to our teak or cause nasty spills, particularly Barbie’s red wine. Early Monday morning we went to shore taking all our vegetables and with the help of marina staff found the location of immigration, customs and bio securities. Unlike other countries, in New Caledonia, the cruisers are required to go to the physical locations versus having officers come to your boat. Always a challenge to figure out the checking in process. Bio security still had to come to the boat and we managed to get a birth in the marina where we opted to stay for a couple of days to continue with the boat cleaning. Easy access to lots of fresh water, shore power, showers, grocery stores and a short walk to the laundromat. We were aware that many of the friends we made while in Dockland 5 were in New Caledonia as well so we were excited about a Dockland 5 reunion. And so it began. First a visit from our friends from Cava and Bravo and later Kindred Spirits. We spent a glorious afternoon recounting our experiences with the help of a bottle wine and a couple of beers. Fortunately, our berth neighbors were tolerant and didn’t mind the raucous talking and laughter.
Once we had re-provisioned we headed to an all weather anchorage and do some ‘buddy’ boating with our good friends.We soon learned that the wind can blow in New Caledonia. For the most part evenings, nights and early mornings were quiet but then gust up to 20 knots during the day. So, this little anchorage offered little wind protection but great protection from the swell. In the evenings we had fun getting together for sundowners. Denny and I spent one afternoon gathering firewood and then had a great evening beach fire with our friends sharing tasty baguettes, French cheese and pates.
We explored the shores surrounding us and us ladies even did a kayak paddle across the bay where we bought some more baguettes. The paddle back was a little nerving as it was against a 25 knot wind but we made it safely with dry baguettes.
After 10 days of together in Ile Uerie we headed back to Noumea to re-provision and get propane.
Our first anchorage alone after saying goodbye to friends was to Ilot Amadee. The island had the tallest lighthouse of New Caledonia and also promised to be a great place for turtles. We had a little problem rolling in our jib as we approached the Island and it was just something else for Denny to fix.. Luckily we managed to take it down without any incident. Amadee was a beautiful little island that catered to all the tourists arriving there with the tour boat. Two days of being part of the tourist circus was enough.
Ilot Koure offered some beautiful pristine white beaches and great snorkeling. It was later that we learned there had been a fatal Bull shark attack but that had happened over 3 years ago. But considering that in the last 10 years there have been 10 shark attacks of which half were fatalities, the likelihood of coming face to face with the great beasts is unlikely. It’s still always a little unnerving for me getting in the water. Denny drove a piece of coral up into his heel while beaching the dinghy so what little snorkeling the weather permitted, I did alone.
We did do a day anchor next to the Ouatio reef pass and the clarity of the water there was unbelievable. We could see the details of the sea bottom in 15 feet of water. I snorkeled around at Denny’s encouragement while he followed in the dinghy. Having him near made me feel a little safer and I spotted many colorful fish, turtles, Manta rays and a couple of small, lazy grey sharks.
We decided that we should visit Ils De Pins with its teal blue waters and beautiful white beaches. It was just a day sail and the winds were promising not to be too strong even if it was on the nose. We made one stop Ilot Ua and we were here with three other boats so there must have been promoted as a good place to go but mainly for the snorkeling. We just made it a one-night stop and it positioned us well for the day sail to Ils De Pins.
It was a tack, tack, tack sail to Kudo and we made it shortly before nightfall. There were about 20 boats here and it was a well-protected bay with little or no swell which was comfortable after the last few anchorages. We spent 5 days here and did a few hikes and kayak paddles.
Denny did one death march with me to a nearby town that boasted a cute restaurant but it was closed by the time we arrived. We were not looking forward to the return hike in the sweltering heat and we were lucky to get picked up by a couple of local women and a baby driving a well-used little pickup. Conversation was difficult as they spoke little English and I spoke minimum French. During our hike back, Denny had found a channel lock pliers on the side of the road and he offered this tool to the ladies as a thank you. The look on their face was hilarious but they accepted the gift, which, according to Denny was a useful gift!!
I did a hike to the highest peak in Ils De Pins called the PicN’Ga. Denny was still feeling the pain from the coral cut on his heel especially since the previous day hike. The view was astounding and worth the grueling up hill hike. Five days here was enough and we were looking forward to a couple more days with our friends in Cava, especially since they were looking for a weather window back to NZ.
We made it back to Anse Majic and grabbed a mooring and spent a day with Cava. Shortly after our arrival they found a great weather window for NZ so, sadly, we parted ways. Kindred Spirit had already left for Australia and Bravo would follow suit shortly. And that’s cruising life, meeting amazing people but always saying hello – goodbye. We did another great uphill hike and were amazed at the diverse colors and terrain from the rest of the anchorages in New Caledonia, mainly the red clay deposits due to the extensive mining in the area. We also found a really neat, hidden little paradise that offered a fresh water shower, although it was a cold one. It was also a great place to do hand laundry. Yes it is living the dream hand washing clothes by hand and cold showers where and if you can get one!
We continued our exploration of the Bay of Prony and anchored in the Baie De Carenage. We found some new hikes here and taking advise from other cruisers, we took a bucket and small bristle brush to wash off the red clay mud and coloring that accumulated on our footwear. The hike brought us to some beautiful waterfalls and to a unique swimming hole with overhanging rocks and pristine clear water that just beckoned us to jump in. Denny took all his clothes off and went in first and was cheered on by a hiker that appeared out of nowhere. It took some convincing for me to follow him mainly because of the cold water but also some inhibition, of which Denny has none. After all the cold water dips we were told of a nearby natural hot spring and it wasn’t hard to find. A gorgeous little man made concrete pool fed by fresh water and a hot spring. We had the warm pool all to ourselves!
Our friend Bob was coming to visit us and then sail to Australia so we had head back to Noumea, as that was to be our meeting and starting point for our next adventure with Bob!