Day 176, Year 2: Arrival in Noumea with a Stop at Maitre Island
Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Weather: Sunny Day; Winds ESE 20
Latitude: S 22 degrees 17.144 minutes
Longitude: E 166 degrees 26.143 minutes
Location: Noumea, New Caledonia
Here we are in Noumea, a city with a population around 150,000. This is a big city by South Pacific standards. Suva in Fiji had a population of 170,000, so I think it must be the largest, but Papeete in Tahiti also had a sizeable population. Tahiti had a population of about 180,000 people, but I don’t remember what percentage lived in the city. Comparisons aside, we have left the simple beauty of islands where people still live simply, eat only what they grow and catch, and where the lights go
out with the setting sun. From the anchorage here, we can see the neon lights of a nightclub. We have not been downtown yet, but from here this looks like the most modern city we have seen since Auckland in New Zealand.
We left Uere Island this morning and sailed about five miles to Maitre Island. Maitre is a small island only three miles from Noumea. As we approached the island, all we could see were the modern “huts” built out over the water. This is the Coral Palms Island Resort. There were mooring balls in front of the hotel, so we picked up one and then took our dinghy to another mooring ball closer to the reef. While we were still in the dinghy, we saw a green turtle just lying on the surface of the water.
He would put his head up to look at us and then put it down again, but he didn’t dive down. Finally we got just a little too close and he took the plunge. Once we were in the water, I saw one more turtle, but the stars of the show today were the large fish–not super large, but just larger than we normally see. Normally when we snorkel, we see fish no longer than a foot. But today many of the fish were closer to two feet long. There were various groupers, chocolate hinds, unicornfish, and pencilstreaked
rabbitfish. The Picassafish today were definitely larger than usual. We saw a couple of different varieties of sweeplips with their black, white, and yellow stripes and polka dots and a number of polka-dotted fish that were either groupers or Harlequin Thicklips. This is what we would call a silty reef with some coral and lots of grass. It was fun swimming with the larger fish, but the coral where we were was very sparse. I’m not sure I would go back, but I was glad that we made the stop.
On our way back to Windbird we stopped to talk to John and Helen on Ubi Bene, a New Zealand boat that we have heard on the radio but not met before. Then we were off for the big city. We did not go to the Port Moselle Marina. Both Scot Free and Ranger are there at a dock. We decided we would anchor and save the money so spend on some of the fine French cuisine here. We are anchored in Baie de l’Orphelinant. We had planned to dinghy around to Port Moselle once we got settled, but we opted to
just dinghy around l’Orphelinant and then sit in the cockpit and watch the sights. The French navy trains in this bay and we watched dinghy after dinghy being overturn and then righted again by the trainees. There was a late afternoon yacht club race with lots of showy spinnakers, and a beautiful sunset. Tomorrow we will head out early and explore downtown Noumea.