Day 151, Year 2: Arrival in New Caledonia
Date: Saturday, September 23, 2007
Weather: Beautiful Day; No Wind
Latitude: 20 degrees 40.934 minutes
Longitude: 164 degrees 56.890 minutes
Location: Baie de Hienghene, Grand Terre, New Caledonia
Last night was the what is referred to as “dead calm.” As the sun set, a reddish haze set in all around the horizon. The water was totally glassy, and that along with the haze was almost eerie. The last time we remember having an evening like this was the night we crossed the equator. The calmness stayed with us throughout the night and we could see the reflections of little pinpoints of light from the stars in the water. Around 1 AM, we changed course just slightly to head to a new waypoint,
and the course was just right to allow a path of moonlight to lead the way. The first night out of Vanuatu, I felt chilled, so last night Mark got out a polar fleece blanket for me. I still have this cold and the night air didn’t feel as good as it usually does. Even though last night was much warmer, I still enjoyed cuddling in that blanket and following the moonlight. Not long after the sun came up this morning, we started getting a little wind. Not much, but enough that I could let out the
mainsail, cut back on the RPM’s, and still maintain our 5.2 knots that would allow us to arrive in mid-afternoon. Galaxie and Ranger arrived a couple of hours before us, and we dropped anchor around 2:00 in the afternoon.
Paul on Ranger and Simon on Galaxie were headed into town about the time we arrived. Not long after we anchored, we got a radio call from Paul telling us that everything in town was closed until Tuesday–everything, that is, except the gendarmarie or police station. Monday is New Caledonia Day and people here are certainly taking the holiday seriously. The gendarme explained that we would have to wait until Tuesday to check-in, but he called Noumea and found that with a copy of our passports and
boat documentation on file in his office, we were free to roam about this area until Tuesday morning. So the good news is that we are not confined to our boats. If the gendarme is correct and we can fully check-in on Tuesday without having to make a land trip to Noumea, that will be fantastic. It is just another one of those cases where we have to wait and see.
Mark and I took a dinghy ride over to the Mission D’Ouare on the far side of the bay. There is a tribu or Kanak village there and Hienghene’s Catholic mission. It was just after high tide, but even so it got very shallow the nearer we got to shore. We finally had to pull up the dinghy motor and row the last little bit. We had hoped to find out what time mass would be tomorrow morning so we could attend. We thought that if we attended church we might get an invitation into the village. But we
had one huge problem. We speak no French and no one we met could speak any English. There were no adults to be found. We could hear that they were all in the village singing and dancing. There were a number of teenagers around, but try as we might, we could not successfully communicate. So shallow water and a lack of information will keep us from attending mass. Instead, we will probably just explore the area by dinghy.
In the late afternoon, Incognita and Scot Free II came sailing in. We are all anchored with La Poule Couveuse (the brooding chicken) and Le Sphinx surrounding us. These rock formations are beautiful and remind me of a cross between the Bay of Islands in New Zealand and the islands of the Marquesas. As in the Marquesas, we need to brush up on our French. “Bon Jour”, “Au Revoir”, “Merci Beaucoup”, and “Parlez-vous Anglais?” are about as much as we can handle. I guess we’ll pull out the French
dictionary and carry it with us.
While looking at the chart today, we realized we are now in the Coral Sea and will remain so until we reach northern Australia next season. This is still part of the South Pacific, but sets itself apart. Just looking at our latitude and longitude, it is easy to see that we are in a different part of the world. In our study of the computer guide to New Caledonia, we see that we will also start getting our weather from JCUMetSat, James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, instead of from MetVuw
in New Zealand. And it is very cool here in the evening. That should be a welcome relief from the hot and steamy nights in Vanuatu, but I’m not sure I’m ready for cool. These are a few of the differences we are noticing, but I’m sure we are going to find many other differences as we get closer to Australia and to a more modern society. We feel so blessed to have been able to share the traditional values and lifestyles of the people of the Western Pacific. And I’m sure we are going to continue
to enjoy each and every new place we visit. But right now, we just feel a little emptiness having just left Vanuatu–a very special place on Planet Earth. Now on to New Caledonia.
Day 150, Year 2: Passage from Vanuatu to New Caledonia, Day 2
Date: Thursday, September 21, 2007
Weather: Beautiful Day; Totally Calm Seas; Variable Wind, Now Down to 3-5 Knots
Latitude: 19 degrees 30.600 minutes
Longitude: 166 degrees 34.626 minutes
Location: Passage from Efate, Vanuatu to New Caledonia
When on passage, I write the daily log and then go back and fill in the weather and lat and lon just before sending so it will be as up-to-date as possible. I guess this got me in trouble yesterday. I started the log talking about “gentlemen never sail to weather” and then in the weather line I said we were on a beam reach. Well, both were correct. When I started writing the log in late afternoon we had been bashing into the wind in confused seas all day, but by the time I finished the log and
was ready to send, we had changed course for our new destination which put us on a beautiful beam reach. So if you noticed the inconsistency, that is the explanation.
So, yes, we did change course and we are now headed to Hienghene (yen-ghen) on the northeast coast of the main island in New Caledonia, Grand Terre. Simon and Maree on Galaxie from New Zealand, Donna and Gerry on Scot Free II and Bruce and Jennine on Incognita of Canada, and Paul and Marie on Ranger also made the change. We are going to have plenty of company on arrival. Arriving in this new destination will mean that one or both of us will need to make the six and a half hour bus ride to Noumea
to do the Immigration check-in, or we will have to rent a car with others and drive. This will be an adventure all of its own, but however we do it, it will be a great chance to see the southern half of Grand Terre. This is a very long island, over two hundred and twenty-five miles long by my estimation. We will be north of the mid-line and Noumea is all the way south. Captain Cook was here in 1774 and he named it New Caledonia because the northeast coast where he landed (yes, we are following
him once again) reminded him of the highlands of Scotland. Scotland was called Caledonia by the Romans, thus the name New Caledonia. While in New Caledonia, we will meet Kanaks, once known as the indigenee by the French. These are the Melanesians. Then there are the Caldoches. These are white people who were born in New Caledonia, either the ancestors of French settlers or of those sent here by France when New Caledonia was a penal colony. Caldoches who live in urban areas evidently prefer
to be called Caledonians and those living in the bush are called Broussards. Metros or Zoreilles are French people not born in New Caledonia. Add to this mix Polynesian’s, some Asians, and a few ni-Vanuatu. During World War II, more than 40,000 American troops were stationed in New Caledonia, and I’m sure the Americans left their mark as well.
Our destination of Hienghene is a center of Kanak culture, so I hope to be able to visit a village nearby. As we approach, we will be greeted by the Linderalique Rocks. These are dramatic limestone rock formations starting about ten kilometers south of Hienghene. We should arrive by this time tomorrow, so hopefully the next log will come from Windbird sitting in the Baie de Hienghene anchored close to some beautiful rock formations.
Day 149, Year 2: Passage to New Caledonia, Day 1
Date: Thursday, September 20, 2007
Weather: Totally Overcast; Winds SE 14, Beam Reach Doing 6 Knots
Latitude: 18 degrees 07.320 minutes
Longitude: 168 degrees 04.580 minutes
Location: Passage from Efate, Vanuatu to New Caledonia
Gentlemen never sail to weather. So Mark asks, “What gentlemen?” So here we are sloshing into the wind on our 48-hour sail to New Caledonia. I’ve intentionally not said where we are going in New Caledonia as we are not quite sure. We got all sorts of mixed information about check-in. The latest book and computer program on sailing New Caledonia are unfortunately out-of-date. The website information on Noonsite was better, but still not clear. We talked with people who have been there this
season, and even then we got mixed information. So we set out just after noon today and our hope was to sail to a port named We on an island named Lifou in the Loyalty Islands. We is Lifou’s main town and it sits along the waterfront of the Baie de Chateaubriand. And yes, New Caledonia is French. These islands are are to the north and east of Grand Terre, the main island in New Cal. We had been told by many cruisers that you can go to We and check in with Quarantine and Customs and that they
will then give you seven days to get to Noumea, the main city in New Caledonia where we would then check in with Immigration. BUT I just heard a conversation on the VHF radio between Simon on Galaxie and another boat headed our direction and the news was not good. The other boat (not sure of the name) said they called the port captain in We today and that we will only be given three days to get to Noumea. That totally negates the whole reason for going there. We had hoped to be able to use the
seven days to explore the Loyalty Islands, but three days will not give us any time to explore. And if we go on to Noumea, we will never be able to get back north to the Loyalties in the short time we have to spend in New Cal. Captain Mark is taking his mandatory afternoon passage nap and he has not yet heard the bad news. During the night, we will have to study the situation and decide what to do. There is a port on the northeast coast of the main island where we could go and check in with Customs
and Quarantine. We would then have to take a bus to Noumea to check in with Immigration and that would be a two-day affair as it is a seven hour bus ride. But if we do that, we would then be able to sail sixty miles to the East, not easy to do, but possible, to the Loyalties. We could then explore those islands, head south to the Iles de Pines, supposedly the most beautiful spot in New Cal, and then on to Noumea. So we either take our gamble and go to We hoping they will give us the seven days,
or we change course and go for the port of Hienghene (yen-ghen). I guess we will just have to see where the wind blows us.
So we don’t know where we are going, but we sure know where we have been. Vanuatu rates a 10+ on our scale of places to cruise. If we had another season to spend in the South Pacific, I would spend the entire time in Vanuatu. We love Fiji, but we got to spend almost three months there. We arrived in Vanuatu on August 4, so we had just about six weeks there. That was enough time to see the highlights, but we could spend months exploring further north and staying longer times in the places we
did visit. Vanuatu comes closest to the sailor’s dream of a South Pacific where people still live a traditional lifestyle and where beauty abounds both on land and under the sea. Our experience at the festival in North Ambrym was the highlight of our South Pacific cruising experience. And visiting the volcano, Mt. Yasur, on Tanna is right up there as well. Our visit in the village on Uri Island and our underwater explorations in their giant clam reserve were also spectacular. We connected more
easily with the people of Fiji and that is another highlight. Both Fiji and Vanuatu will always have a special place in our hearts, and right now our minds are filled to the brim with memories of simply spectacular, and almost unbelievable experiences.
The captain is up now and is on the navigation computer trying to figure out where we should go. We talked to Ranger who is traveling with us and they are also working on a plan. But for now, “somewhere” in New Caledonia is our destination.