We flew home and a had a great visit with the family. The grandies are all growing and it was fun to see the changes. It was freezing in Melbourne tho and even more freezing in Gellibrand where we went to visit some friends overnight.
On our return, we had Jenne visit us for 10 days. Through no fault of her own she missed her connection in Sydney so we needed to wait in port an extra day. The Friday morning of our original planned departure was flat calm so we had to get out of our med berth and get into an ‘ordinary’ berth. We enlisted the help of Forfar from Squander and between us we managed to get out of the berth without mishap. Anchored out in the anchorage and waited til another cat left and then we went into his berth. We met a family from an Aus boat, I won’t name them cos their 14 yo son fell out of a tree and damaged his arm. It appeared to be broken. But they wouldn’t take him to hospital as ‘you do not want to get into the New Cal health system’ and ‘today is the day we have a buyer coming to see our boat, we’ve worked towards this day for 2 years’. What the? We saw them 10 days later and they still hadn’t had their son’s arm x-rayed. They were going to sail to Aus and deal with it there. Ye Gods.
So we had a lovely 10 days with Jenne although the weather wasn’t terrific. We saw some new places, revisited some old ones. Didn’t get to the southern lagoon where we wanted to show her some beautiful waters. One anchorage we were in, a charter motor cat dragged anchor at 1.30am. We were up cos the wind picked up and we started yelling to wake them up. The owner of the yacht they were just about to hit woke up and he was yelling too. They finally woke and managed to move right away. Two other boats dragged too but fortunately not near us.Anyway she had a good time, so did we and it was over all too soon.
Back into Noumea and we were very excited to get a berth again. It turned out to be in a shared berth with a very fancy motor yacht with very little clearance between us. Why does it have to be so exciting?!! Took Jenne to our favourite Chinese restaurant – I managed to get lost so it took us a while to find it. Did all the provisioning. Jenne had some kinesio to do on a few of our friends.
So with our friends we discussed the next steps to get to Vanuatu. Our friends were keen on going to Tanna, a more southern island than Efate (where the capital is).
The plan was to sail as far down the coast as possible that afternoon. We only did 5 nm before we decided to call it quits. Conditions were not ideal and we did not have to bust a gut. So we pulled in to birthday bay. Took us ages to get hooked, we think the current was very strong. From there we headed all the way around the corner of New Caledonia into Ile Nuo on a terrific run. It’s on the south east coast. Gorgeous lagoon where we sat out a few days of thunderstorms. From there we headed up to Port Bouquet, a 50nm run and right at the entrance to the port we swung into the wind to take the main down. It wouldn’t come down. The halyard had so many twists in it. Took us half an hour and Ron finally manhandled it down. We met another Leopard, Joie de Vivre (even the owners called it Joy de….)! Our friends decided it was good conditions next day to keep going and head over to Ouvea. We decided we needed to fix the pulley before we attempted a big sail. Fortunately Sans Souci offered to stay with us and go the next day. Ron fixed the pulley by inserting a screw which will prevent it from twisting. We had a dinghy run around the large bay, stunning scenery. Saw a couple of fishing boats, that’s all. Up at the crack o dawn next morning. Anchor is stuck. Turning every which way to get it out. Then the winch started moving, then pins dropped out of it into the anchor well, the chain starts running out. The winch is broken. Spent the next 50 minutes manhandling the chain. Sans Souci had already started out but they turned back and Hugh suggested attaching the bridle back & then hauling the anchor out that way. That did the trick. Then they both hauled the chain and anchor up. We had inadvertently hooked into the only coral bommie in the anchorage. Typical!
Poor Ron was exhausted. After we went out the reef pass we should have put up the main sail but Ron was just too exhausted, so we hauled out the genoa which we can do from the cockpit.
Heading over to Ouvea in light winds, 10knots or so, then gusting up to 17kn. But the seas. First they started off as big rolling swell. Easy to handle. Then it levelled off a bit. Only to pick up again but short, sharp waves still the size of a car. Coming up our stern quarter. Very uncomfortable and unsettling I have to say. We were averaging 7 knots though so that was good. Love our engines! So I’m writing this to distract myself. In a message, Alan C says ‘you could be home doing the washing’! At this point, that would be preferable. Hopefully, tomorrow when I’m sitting at anchor (that should be fun getting the anchor in by hand) in lovely crystal clear water, it will have been worth it.
Well, we made it. I have to say that was the least enjoyable trip I’ve ever had. I was anxious most of the time. At times we had 4m waves which slewed the boat sideways, then you go up then race down and start all over again. I was so relieved after 10 hours to get inside the lagoon of this most beautiful atoll. If ever you want a laid back beach holiday come here. The water is that aquamarine colour, the beach is kilometres long of white sand. There’s not a lot to do in this place. We’d arranged a van to take 10 of us on a 3 hour tour of the island. The van that turned up could only seat 8. Too funny. There was an ‘extra’ boat here, Joie de Vivre, the owners of whom we’d only just met and it was pretty obvious that they should step out, but noooo, they didn’t volunteer. So Ron and I did. And one door closes and another opens. We were offered two seats in the next little tour with one other couple. Japanese couple who turned out to be the nicest people. Mariko spoke very good English and hubby Yoshi a little. Well we had a 5 hour tour with a guide Jave who spoke no English – my little French came in handy otherwise we’d have learnt nothing! Kept meeting our friends in their van along the way and comparing notes. Their guide said nothing and none of them spoke French so they missed me! They also stopped for lunch and had to buy it – kind of like a subway with chips IN it!!!! I was starving by the time we got back but happy not to have had to buy lunch. Mariko and I had wonderful conversations, she asking all about Australia, me about Japan. We have swapped contact details and ‘if you ever get to……’. They came down to the beach and watched us dinghy back out to our boat and waved. Yoshi would love a boat. We wanted them to come aboard but unfortunately that was their last day, they were flying to Noumea that afternoon.
We are anchored outside Hotel Paradis – aptly named. The staff here are not very friendly. You have to keep at it to get a smile – and service! Today we all went ashore for a long lunch at the pool restaurant after I had made sure yesterday it would be open today (as well as the main restaurant). There was a sign in the pool bar saying ‘open every day’. Well today was the exception. Not open!!!! We wanted to eat what they’d had on offer 2 days prior that some of the gang had sampled. They’d said the coconut crab was divine. So after much negotiation – again my French came in handy – we got crab dishes – 7 of us out of the 10. Well none of the dishes were hot, barely tepid. But tasty. With rice and salad. Lots of beer and wine of course. A fun lunch not least cos of the food and service! We had our waitress smiling in the end.
We can swim off the back of the boat. The water is crystal clear and that beautiful picture postcard colour. Tomorrow Ron and I leave the gang and head up north of the atoll to a closer anchorage to the exit pass north and the following morning we leave early to sail 30 hours on our own to Vanuatu. Slightly daunted but we’ll be fine. The rest of the gang is going to Tanna, a more southern island in Vanuatu, to see the volcano. We were not keen to go there as the anchorage can be tricky, if the wind is blowing a certain way your boat can be covered in volcanic ash, and we have Greg and Pru arriving on the 10th so really not enough time to do it all. We can fly from Port Vila down to Tanna if the gang comes to Vila and says ‘you must do it!’.
Next stop Port Vila, Vanuatu.