Day 175, Year 2: Another Day at Uere Island
Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Weather: Sunny Day; Winds ESE 15-20
Location: Uere Island, New Caledonia

We decided to stay put today, do a little boat work, and just enjoy where we are. And that we did. I started the day by doing most of the stainless on deck and then washing down the teak deck. We manage to polish the stainless about every two months, but this is the first time I have cleaned the teak deck this season. I just used dish detergent, but it really brightened up. While I did this, Mark worked on his computer backing up photos on CD’s. We keep our originals on Mark’s computer and
then transfer them to our Maxtor hard drive. When Mark’s computer gets full, he then makes a second back-up on CD and erases the photos from his computer. That’s scary because we would really hate to lose our photos from this trip, but we do have them backed up on the hard drive and CD–not as tangible as a negative, but we will just have to hope that technology holds out for us.

While we were sitting in the main saloon working on pictures, I heard the strangest noise. Mark rushed up on deck to see what it was and reported back that the marine gendarme, like our Coast Guard, had just dropped anchor right next to us. We figured they were going to come aboard all boats in the anchorage and check to see if we were legally checked into New Caledonia. But they didn’t drop their dinghy in the water and didn’t come visiting. Mark was hesitant to get into the water the finish
the bottom cleaning with them next door. This island is not part of the Southern Marine Reserve, but since we are not clear on the laws here, we didn’t want to take a chance. So we headed to shore to go for a walk. Scot Free had already gone in, and Ranger came in when we did. We walked on the island with Marie and Paul, forging our way through tall grass and bushes and made our way to the high end of the island nearest Noumea. There we found some transmitter shacks and three men with a tractor
and trailer. They were obviously delivering something. We saw the road that they had used to bring the tractor up the hill, so we walked back that way. We ended up on the beach in the first place we anchored yesterday, and then walked back around to the horseshoe-shaped bay we are anchored in. We found Donna and Gerry of Scot Free sitting on the beach sifting through the thousands of very small shells around them. Marie and I saw Donna’ bounty and decided that we would like to sit and sift ourselves.
I already had a couple of “not perfect” nautilus shells that we had found on our walk, and I enjoyed collecting the very tiny but beautiful shells from the shell beach. Eventually we made our way back to the dinghies. Mark, Paul, and Gerry got back first and were watching a chicken-like bird with a red beak. It was not very close and by the time I got my camera out of my backpack, it was gone. From the little I saw and the description the guys gave, it sounded very much like a pukeko. This is
a bird we saw in New Zealand, and I assumed it lived only there. Donna and I tried to follow the bird into the bush where it escaped, but it was out of sight. On our way back to Windbird in the dinghy, Mark spotted a couple more of these birds on the beach. so I got out my camera and we headed slowly back to shore. I was able to get some pictures, and sure enough, the birds are definitely pukeko. They look a little like a chicken, except that they have longer legs. Their beaks are bright red
and the upper part of their body is blue. The wings and back are black with a touch of white on the tail feathers. I got out my New Zealand bird book and found that these birds nest between September and December. They either nest in pairs or in communities, and they share the incubation of the eggs between several birds. So I figure we were seeing the birds that were off-duty out foraging for food. We saw these birds several times in New Zealand, but they always escaped before I could get a
good picture. I was thrilled to get the pictures today.

In the late afternoon , our gendarme neighbor pulled up anchor and left the anchorage. Mark immediately got out the snuba gear and headed under the boat to complete the bottom cleaning. Australia is really, really picky about letting boats in that might be harboring creatures. Since we do all of our bottom painting and cleaning ourselves, we have no certificates declaring dates that the work was done. We are hoping that a clean appearance will be enough to keep us from having to immediately haul
our boat out of the water for a bottom cleaning when we arrive.

As we sat sifting through the shells on the beach today, we all lamented about the end of our South Pacific cruising days. There’s still a lot of world to see, but we know the South Pacific will always hold a special place in our hearts. The beautiful people, the beauty of land, the wildness . . . it is a wonderful part of Planet Earth.