New Caledonia… then home!

Two and a half years ago, I sailed past New Caledonia on the way to Vanuatu from Sydney. I was sailing aboard Moksha, a Hanse 540 and had just completed my first 1000 Nautical miles of cruising. All of my previous offshore experience had been on racing yachts... now, a short 30 months later, the cruising lifestyle is coming to an end right where it started. Sailing out of New Caledonia for Australia will mark the 25,000th Nautical mile of cruising - for those of you not familiar with nautical terms - I've basically been drifting around the world for 45,000 kms at about 12kms per hour. The experiences we've had in new Caledonia are just a small part of the reason why! IMG_4935 Land Ahoy... we sight New Caledonia after 4 days at sea en route from Fiji. IMG_4942 Happy faces... Sofi and Jose (asleep) complete their first international offshore passage. IMG_4936 With the weather looking below par, and temperatures in the low 20s, we decided to anchor for the night in a small bay and continue the following day to Noumea to go through formalities and check in. IMG_4947 Ok, OK... so we HAVE to drink a rum n coke and say thank you to Neptune and whoooo??  the girls reluctantly partaking in the traditional Squander arrival ceremony. After so many months in the tropics, it was strange to be wearing jumpers and hiding down below to stay warm. The girls suggested we should do something French seeing we were in a French territory... we scoured the bilges and found an old jar of pate, a tin of canned Brie and a bottle of Beaujolais that had somehow previously escaped out attention...  IMG_4953 Bienvenue a Nouvelle Caledonie. IMG_4960 the next day the sun was shining again, and although not hot it was a lot warmer... we went for a morning swim, ate a slow breakfast and by the time we left for Noumea, we realised we wouldn't make it there in time to go through Customs.... so...  IMG_4969 we found another small bay just outside the city and anchored for our second night in new Caledonia... IMG_4970 the full moon was out in force. IMG_4973 and we cooked up another French feast - baked mahi mahi with the last of our vegetables from Fiji. IMG_4981 Dead calm - it's almost midnight as the city lights merge with the full moon to illuminate the night.   IMG_4998 Woke up early the next morning and pointed Squander at Port Moselle in Noumea. IMG_5008 Andy ready to lift anchor. IMG_5009 Every city has the keen early morning fisherman... I want to be one when I grow up! IMG_5355 We soon had Squander in the Marina and were told that customs, immigration and Quarantine officials would be along shortly and the whole process should not take too long... True to their word Customs arrived soon after and began by asking for our passports, boat papers, port clearances and so on... it wasn't unusual, but I had a feeling these guys were on a mission... They meticulously analyzed our passports, and hammered me with questions about where we had all met, why we went here, there and everywhere  and I guess something about our ages, travel patterns and the answers i gave them made them very suspicious. They curtly advised that all crew have to stay above deck but cannot leave the boat and i have to stay down below with them as they proceed to do a full search of the boat... one of them left and returned with tools, snake camera, remote microphone and all sorts of cool gadgets. IMG_5010 Nothing was spared, panes were unscrewed, underwear drawers turned upside down, freezer emptied, sealed powdered milk bags sliced open, cake mixes smelt, cameras shoved into every nook and cranny, under the water tank, the fuel tank - it was actually a really interesting experience to see how these guys operate and if it wasn't for the three hour ordeal - it would have been fun - I got to see a lot of Squander that I hadn't seen before! DSC02414 Sofi snuck in an action shot as I answered the questions down below. The customs guys were professional, but in no way rude or unfriendly - France was in the world cup final and the conversation soon turned to Rugby and the best beer to drink in New Caledonia... they considered fining us for stopping for two nights without checking in, (they asked me to turn on my chartplotter and examined out tracks!!), but they accepted my reasoning and let us off. IMG_5018 We picked up some supplies and bailed out of the city for Illot Maitre, a small island 45 minutes from Noumea...  IMG_5014 What now??! a Coastguard vessel and helicopter head for us!IMG_5019 hahaha... got them!! turns out they were just practicing... IMG_5033 We picked up one of the Free moorings and relaxed....  IMG_5025 No Andy, they're not my Buddhist prayer flags....IMG_5029 With the laundry out of the way, it was time to Kite!  IMG_5041 The winds were light, so Jose took the opportunity to give Sofi her first kiting lesson. IMG_5044 Ready to go, but the wind totally dropped out...  IMG_5051 the girls amused themselves with a game of Pallet. IMG_5058 Strike a pose for the cameras. IMG_5064 Andy playing umpire IMG_5079 And finally the wind kicked in - time to kite!! IMG_5069-1 Woahhh... where did everyone come from??! With smiles all around, we returned to Squander for a great dinner and fireworks show right in the anchorage. Still not exactly sure what the occasion was... but hey... why not??!       IMG_5083   IMG_5089 IMG_5091  IMG_5099 the next day we were up early and decided to head further afield to explore new playgrounds. IMG_5094 Saying goodbye to Illot Maitre - we will be back. IMG_5107 Jose getting ready for action! IMG_5113 la capitana Argentina is in charge! IMG_5124 Calm. IMG_5130 Andy Spots our destination. IMG_5144 And soon the friendly locals arrive to greet us... IMG_5146 following the dolphins into the anchorage IMG_5147 IMG_5143 Parlez vous Francais?? Andy decides to get amongst the locals for a swim. IMG_5197 An island to ourselves.... IMG_5150 anchored off Illot Kouare.  IMG_5152 Speeding off towards the nearby reefs for a snorkel.   IMG_5157 Incredible visibility - I don't think we have ever seen water so clear. IMG_5160 Sofi wastes no time exploring the depths - her new favourite sport is spotting sharks and sea snakes - not bad for a city girl!IMG_5167 IMG_5169 IMG_5172 Our trusty dinghy awaits patiently as always. IMG_5173 a fiery redhead - never seen anything that bright underwater before. IMG_5175 IMG_5187 Jose opted for above water snorkeling - with water so clear you don't even have to get your hair wet.  IMG_5196 Looking East IMG_5206 Looking west IMG_5203 Looking South   IMG_5212 IMG_5215 And as the day drew to a close, it was time to hang up the bikinis, and enjoy a sunset drink. IMG_5220 IMG_5272 the wind kicked in early the next day, so we headed ashore to check out the wildlife, explore the island and do some kiting. IMG_5262 Andy was straight in the water making the most of the 20+ knots of wind, the girls caught up on some tanning, whereas i decided to try and have an up close look at the local residents. IMG_5233 Inspiration for a fighter plane??! IMG_5249 Ahhh... Pierre, zer is some human coming to ze nest??!! IMG_5256 I've never been much of a bird watcher, but these guys are cool! IMG_5226 preparing for landing. IMG_5244 They fly out to sea and back all day collecting seaweed to make nests out of.      IMG_5242 and the fighter planes share the island with these weapon birds...   IMG_5253 ....nice fuselage, and well designed landing gear stows away seamlessly.      IMG_5269 With the bird watching out of the way, it was time to get a quick kite in before the storm rolled in.  IMG_5274 Andy heads back to shore as the clouds roll in... IMG_5277 I followed soon after...   IMG_5282 We are going to miss this life - #1 The next few days are a blur as I lay in bed with some serious stomach bug, pretty weird as no one else got it - maybe it was the birds??! after 3-4 days, we sailed 10 miles north to Illot Mato for some more kiting and in my case some more recovery time , eating plain pasta and catching up on some movies. IMG_5317 Anchored in illot Mato - Squander on the right and "El Regalo" from the USA on the left IMG_5285 Andy and Jose attacked the bay throwing double back loops, grabs, back loop transitions and all sorts of funky shit - nice work guys! IMG_5305 Jose spots a back loop landing as Andy charges in the distance IMG_5299 that afternoon Andy and Sofi decided to hike to the top of the island and managed to get some incredible shots. IMG_5323 the Dinghy anchored down below.   IMG_5322 El Regalo and Squander dance at anchor. IMG_5327 Sofi trying to pick up Squander IMG_5327-1 IMG_5330 Need good light to get into these anchorages - would hate to do it on a cloudy day...  IMG_5337 The next day we decided to head back to Noumea to pick up some supplies, catch up on emails and decide what to do next. IMG_5342 The dinghy spinning out of control as we sail in 30 knots - probably should have pulled it out of the water for the trip. IMG_5353 I went to Uni with a guy that used to eat MARS bars with a knife and fork, and now another phenomenon right before our eyes - Sofi eats Oranges with a knife and fork!  IMG_5360 Fish heads for $6 a piece... we were a bit late at the local fish markets! IMG_5359 mmmm.... yummy!   IMG_5364 Traffic, street signs, paved roads - all seems quite hectic! IMG_5367 What happens when you leave Jose and Sofi for 15 minutes in a shop.... IMG_5368 First officer Jose IMG_5370 Surfer Jose.... IMG_5371 Baby Sofi... what the?? IMG_5373 having dragged the girls away form the shop and the shop keepers who were loving the entertainment, we decided to try and do something unusual - some urban sight seeing! IMG_5374 IMG_5376 IMG_5377 IMG_5382 a meeeewwZeeeeeUm.... we almost went inside!   IMG_5391 With the weather forecast being spot on for kiting, we moved back to Illot Maitre. IMG_5392 The stainless steel balustrade reflecting the sunset.... We kited all of the next day and didn't take a single photo!  IMG_5395 As the day drew to a close, Scott. Nancy and their young son Seb pulled up in Traveler and invited us over for dinner. We gladly accepted and had a great night - thanks guys!! IMG_5396 The mornings are often glassy - Jose getting ready for a morning swim! IMG_5399 back flip off the bow to start the day! We enjoyed another great day of kiting, before the wind finally backed off and allowed us to head south again towards baie du Prony and onto ille de Pins (Isle of Pines)  IMG_5409 Ille Montravel, at the entrance of baye du Prony. IMG_5416 It.s about 5 miles ‘in land' to get to the anchorage we were heading for.  IMG_5426 We eventually dropped anchor and transferred to the dinghy to go in search of the hot springs for a sunset nature bath! IMG_5429 Such a contrast to the reefs and blue water that lies only 5 miles away. IMG_5431 IMG_5435 We eventually found the hot springs IMG_5444 and quickly jumped in for a self timer photo, before.... IMG_5446 ...the girls commandeered the hot tub for some important business! IMG_5450 French hot springs have never smelt so fresh! IMG_5454 Another sunset announces the beginning of night. IMG_5466 Heading back to Squander - you have to look out for crocodiles after sunset and hit them in the head with an oar so that they don't bite your dinghy! IMG_5463 oooops.... sometimes you miss and they swallow your oar!  IMG_5470 with so many attractions, we weren't sure what to do - eventually we opted for a hike... IMG_5497 We navigated as far as we could with our dinghy IMG_5498 Tied her to a tree and went exploring  IMG_5479 A rare sight - everyone wearing shoes! IMG_5482 IMG_5493 IMG_5485 Sofi decided she need a quick swim before continuing.  IMG_5495   IMG_5499 IMG_5502 IMG_5507  IMG_5509 Bonjour messieur, can I borrow you rally car for an hour or so?? IMG_5511 No shit sherlock.... IMG_5514 IMG_5517 yeah follow me, the path is this way! IMG_5530 ok... maybe it's not... anyone got any ideas?! IMG_5533 Follow the light... back on track! IMG_5539 reminds me of some new logo - like a BHP re branding??! IMG_5540    IMG_5550 Andy ready to roll - an early departure for Ile de Pins. IMG_5556 the anchorage sleeps.... IMG_5558 as Squander glides towards the open sea again. IMG_5563 We were only a few miles offshore when all three lines went off at once!!! IMG_5569 we lost one, but managed to reel in 2 decent Big Eye tuna IMG_5573 Model number 1, likes Sushi and teriyaki seared tuna steaks.  IMG_5577 Model number 2 prefers sashimi and curried Soy fillets. IMG_5579 Arriving in Kueto Bay, on the Isle of pines.  IMG_5585 Anchored in Paradise  IMG_5590 The peak is calling, Andy and Sofi make the early morning departure...  DSC02471 Vamonos! DSC02485 The view from half way up.  DSC02505 Andy checking out the sights. DSC02508 Squander anchored in the distance. DSC02511 Sofi hoping a BIG plane will land and save her a walk back....    IMG_5602 We will miss this life shot #34578 IMG_5603 Morning walk. IMG_5604 Lunchtime swim IMG_5606 Afternoon sight seeing IMG_5616 Sunset drinks IMG_5622 we will miss this life shot #45234 IMG_5623 should we have another beer... hmmm... nah the tide is rising and the dinghy is about to float away, may as well head back! That evening I checked the weather and the window we'd been looking for was coming. It was Wednesday evening and it looked like Saturday would be the perfect day to leave.... it was time to head back to Noumea and checkout... but not before we checked out one more island. IMG_5628 Sofi has developed into a keen fisherwoman! DSC02578 We had a relaxing day, catching up on blog writing, reading, and making a wish list of all the fish we wanted to catch on the 60 mile journey the next day! IMG_5645 And what a day it was... 2Tuna, 1 Mahi mahi, 1 Golden Jack and two Spanish Mackerel! IMG_5647 Andy bagging the Mahi Mahi! IMG_5657 the first Spanish mackerel was huge and we decided to throw it back. Spanish Mackerel - caught in new Caledonia - looks like a wahoo The second one was a more manageable size - they look very similar to Wahoo!  IMG_5663 Sofi continuing her fishing education! We got back to Noumea on Thursday night and early on Friday morning went into the marina for a night, provisioned and checked out... we're expecting to set sail on Saturday and should be in Lord Howe Island on Thursday - our first landfall in Australia and only 400 odd nautical Miles from Sydney!! See you soon Australia!! x