Wally’s Adventures or National Lampoon’s Vacation

So we went into Noumea and were very fortunate to get a berth in the marina. (Anchoring out in the designated anchorage is not much fun. It’s crowded and lots of boats and ships go past creating lots of wake. When the winds pick up, it’s not very comfortable.) The visitor’s wharf is very old and a bit dodgy but is walking distance to most services and there are shower facilities ashore – although you have to press a button to keep the water going. I counted 10 seconds between each press, and seeing as I washed my hair that was a lot of presses. I don’t think there’s been a drought here, when it rains, it rains, so I don’t understand. Anyhoo, we got in about lunchtime and hit the supermarket. The supermarket sells alcohol, except on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons. Haven’t found out the reason for that. But we restocked food for the next 10 days and had a granny trolley full and a trolley suitcase full so there was no room for grog anyway. Next day we took all the laundry to be washed, 3 loads full (there are no coin laundrettes in the whole country, good on em, employment for some); then went to the local market right near the marina. When I first went to this market I thought it was dreadful. Now I think it’s wonderful! Lots of greens and I now grab  pineapples and pawpaws instead of looking for nice apples which are all imported. Buy local! Back to the boat to unpack and a much needed coffee. Then back to the supermarket for the grog. Bit of beer, wine, rum and gin! Bought more baguettes and cheese.

So now we are all stocked up. Next job is the new bridle for when we go on a mooring ball. Think I explained earlier how we can’t use the same bridle system for anchoring and mooring without mucking around. So off to the chandlery, also within walking distance. The guys in there know us very well.

Thursday evening a whole lot of Aussies met ashore at our ‘local’ Le Bout de Monde (the end of the world!) for a drink before a 15 minute walk to a local park where thousands of people are gathering for the Lantern walk, the night before Bastille Day. Lots of orderly crowds in queues which we sort of jumped by following another little queue that was intersecting! I was given two lanterns (I’m special). They are red white and blue for France and have a little candle in them. Very quickly everyone there has a lantern or two and off the procession goes thru the town towards Place de Cocotiers (coconuts) for dancing and music and a fireworks display. Leanne and I were tired of walking and hungry so when I realized we were near the Chinese restaurant we ducked in there for some garlic, ginger, prawns and veg. Yummo. And we heard rather than saw the fireworks and music.

Next day was the military parade for Bastille Day, and I have to say rather boring. Lots of standing around. There was an Aussie bagpipe band, mostly old-timers wearing kilts who played a sort of version of Waltzing Matilda plus various other tunes while marching down the street in front of the dignitaries who must have been very tired standing for so long. There was a New Zealand navy ship band and then of course several French army platoons and marines. Interestingly there were quite a few Kanaks (indigenous) in the crowds. We wondered if there would be. It will be very interesting to see the result next year when there is a referendum about independence. After the fire trucks and ambulances and police vehicles, the dog squad and the horse squad (all 6 of them) went thru, and they brought the Aussie band back about 3 times, I told Ron it was time to leave! Repeat, repeat.

Saturday the market was on again and guess who was there?! Yep the Aussie kilt wearing bagpipe playing band!! The local band started at 4.00am at the market. It was fortunately lovely music as I woke to the sound then drifted in and out of sleep to it. I really didn’t mind. But their speakers were directed towards the marina. Thanks guys. Bought more greens – can never have enough greens can you? And some olives from the posh olive/dip stall that only operates on a Saturday.

Sunday night was a bbq aboard Jerry’s boat Aqualibrium. He’d invited every man and his dog – I think there were 12 aboard at one stage – so we bbq’d ours aboard our own boat and ate and then went back for another drink. Lucky he has a big boat.

Next day we had to wait til the office opened at 8am to pay our bill, then took off to the fuel dock. Should have looked first as it was busy so we had to hover for about half an hour for our turn. Bought more baguettes there too!

Off we went to Baie Uie where Easy Tiger was. Their Rocket Guide isn’t working so wanted to take some notes from ours. It was a lovely big bay and we had it all to ourselves. Surrounded by beautiful velvety mountains with red soil. Down the bottom end atop the hills are the windmills which we could see from the other side at Baie de Prony. It blew 20 knots as we were coming into anchor – of course. Next morning Leanne and Steve picked me up in the dinghy to go get their crab pots. They weren’t expecting anything so were very surprised and happy to find one huge crab and 5 smaller ones plus a fish!!!! And here is the reason for the title of the post. ‘Did you check the tides guys?’ I asked as the dinghy bottomed out. ‘Um, nup’. So at one stage Leanne and I had to get out of the dinghy to push, sank up to our knees in red mud. Leanne was getting a little freaked out about what might be under the mud and I was trying not to be infected by her fear. As we were hunting crabs, all I could think about was a crab nipping my toes. Steve manhandled a paddle before making us get out and I told him he was doing a sterling job of turning us in circles. He assured me he was in control. Greg, we needed your sweeping skills. That’s when we had to jump out and push. Finally got into some deeper water, had to wash red mud off our legs. But it happened again and that’s where the Wally’s Adventures tag came up. But we were rewarded by one huge crab and 4 smaller ones. I have to say it was the tuna bait that did it – and Ron caught the tuna on the way to the bay. I told him it was too big to eat – cigueterra potential – so he was most upset when we cut it up for bait and gave a huge lot to Leanne to set the crab pots. But we were rewarded with a lovely crab meal last night aboard Easy Tiger. Scored some videos too, thanks guys.

A bit later Ron and I in our kayak, and Leanne in hers, went for a beautiful paddle up the river again. The water was a little higher by now but there were a couple of places where I jumped out to give us a push – Leanne thought that was hysterical that the lighter person, female, jumps out to push the gentleman. Well he wasn’t jumping out fast enough for me. It was a beautiful red mud river, probably a lot of mining dust in there too. Some of the mountains around make me think of pictures of morocco – they look like fortifications in the hills. On our way back we briefly saw a mumma and baby dolphin but they didn’t want to play. We also espied a whole lot of coconuts on a little beach so when we got back to the boats we jumped back in the dinghies and around to the beach to collect coconuts. Brought the axe and leatherman and the boys had fun cracking them open and eating the flesh. Then Leanne and I decided they should keep some for pina coladas. After an hour and a half of coconut peeling I was over it. But we had to have four cups. Back aboard we hunted around for white rum, coconut cream and fortunately I had pineapple, Leanne had mint, so pina coladas in our little coconut cups (after Ron hacksawed the tops off but kept the lids, so cute) were had before our crab dinner. A perfect end to a stunning day and we each have a little memento.

So next day, we are anticipating very big wnw winds so even though we’d have been fine where we were, Easy Tiger was ready for a change of scenery. As the winds were supposed to be nothing, we decided to head for an anchorage about 10nm away and go the scenic route, anchor up for a snorkel then go to the protected bay. Wally said ‘what could possibly go wrong’? Well we had to go thru a reef pass. I’m up front on watch for bommies, only trouble is it’s just after low tide (should go thru at half high tide), and it’s early in the day (should go midday when the sun is right above you and you can see where the coral is). I was like a cat on a hot tin roof, jumping at shadows. We had waypoints to follow (from our Cruising Guide), even so, you have to keep a lookout. At one stage I could see a dark patch approaching and instead of pointing away from it, I pointed to it, so Ron quite understandably was steering right towards it, I had to yell, no sorry, go the other way. Trouble was we were in a spot where a northerly tide and a southerly tide were meeting causing eddies, so controlling the boat was a little difficult. Oops. He managed to get us under control and on we went. After, he said he would prefer to go the long, less scenic route!

So we decide that it’s too cold to go snorkelling on the reef, and I had woken up during the night with a bit of a cold, so we carried on to the next anchorage where we are supposed to be able to shelter from the next big blow. So of course it’s blowing 18knots when we have to anchor, and blowing from the direction that is going to take us on to the shore if we drag. So don’t drag. Took us a couple of goes to get the right spot and we’re a little further out from shore than we’d like but we were 5th in so all the best spots are gone – of course. So not the most pleasant afternoon, being hammered by 15knot easterlies when we’re in an anchorage best for westerlies. The wind finally dies down after a few hours, then a big swell comes in which has us rocking from side to side. Unprepared, things go flying. Luckily nothing breaks, especially our little coconut cocktail cups! So now we are just (not) looking forward to the big blow from the west. Fingers crossed it hits when expected – daylight – as it’s always scarier doing anchor watch at night, not to mention missing sleep.

Next morning now and we spent a perfectly peaceful night, however, we slept fitfully as we kind of expected the big winds to come early which sometimes happens. It started at about 6am and we jumped out of bed. One, two gusts, then full blown. Averaging 20-25knots, with gusts to 38knots (for the uninitiated that’s 70kph which according to the Beaufort scale is a gale which ‘breaks twigs off trees; generally impedes a pedestrian’s progress’ – I’ve just been reading ‘Defining the Wind’ by Scott Huler; an entertaining read about Beaufort who had a passion for observation and categorization). Biggest I’ve ever experienced. The only thing we were worried about was because we anchored in an easterly, and now we’re in a big westerly, that means the chain has swung full circle and that’s when the anchor could lift as the shank is kind of the wrong way. But our little baby held, must be well-buried. (Ron also cheerily said he was worried about the chain snapping – thanks Ron.) The big gusts lasted for over an hour. One of our friends’ boats dragged, but fortunately they were on to it and managed not to hit anything. But it took them another 3 goes to get set again. It’s nervewracking for them, and unsettling for everyone else to be helpless and just watch and be with them in spirit. It could easily be any one of us. So this is the sailing life. It’s not all peaches and cream, or even sun and sand. High highs and very low lows. Not for the fainthearted. I was fairly relaxed about it all but I wouldn’t have been had we dragged and had to move. But I’ve seen it can be done so just must be sanguine about it and cope. So now a bit a later in the morning, the wind is unsettled, it will eventually swing more south-west and once it does, we will stop swinging around our chain.

Tomorrow we will head back towards Noumea to arrive there on Monday where our berth (hopefully) awaits. Heading home on the Thursday.

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