2000 Sept 27-Nov 06: Cruising New Caledonia, Noumea to Isle of Pines

Thursday, 27 September 2000

The Noumea Aquarium was high on our list of sightseeing, so we piled into a public bus which followed the shoreline to the east of Noumea. Borne by the tradewinds, windsurfers and para-surfers zip back and forth in the protected waters near the beaches. The SE tradewinds bring a constant source of wind power to these shores. The aquarium fills its tanks with water pumped directly from the nearby sea, so the fishes, sea turtles and corals were in very healthy condition. Each tank was artistically arranged, balancing colors, shapes and variety of marine life. We took hours of videos in the good lighting conditions. Even the chambered nautili in their dimly lit display show up well in the film. The bioluminescent corals glowed eerily and photographed well.

Friday, 28 September 2000

We had hoped to make our departure on Thursday morning, but because of the 15 to 25 knots of wind and associated rough seas predicted by the Meteo (meteorological) Service, we spent the day in the Tjibaou Arts & Cultureal Centre and the Maritime Historical Museum in Noumea. At a French cafe’, we lunched on the plat du jour (Blue plate special), followed by a cappuccino and tarte aux bananes. Steve had spent the morning at the Yamaha repair shop, but did not succeed in getting the 10 hour service on our four-stroke outboard engine. Not a problem, as we have fewer than 3 hours on it. We will have it serviced when we arrive in Australia in November.

The Cousteau Society research vessel Deep Ocean Odyssey (deepoceanodyssey.com) was tied up to the wharf at the Maritime Museum. The workers generously allowed us to tie up our dinghy Allegro alongside their dinghy for an hour. Accounts of the early Melanesian and Polynesian discoverers, followed by Captain Cook’s landing in 1774 and the French explorers, dozens of shipwrecks and underwater archaeology, the US Navy bases during World War II, the nickel mining industry and native piroques used to catch turtles for food are all beautifully illustrated and explained at the Maritime Historical Museum. When we returned to the Cousteau boat, Allegro had been moved to the other side of the ship along with the ship’s dinghy. In order to safely board Allegro, the crew graciously allowed us to walk through the huge research vessel to the ladder down to the water and our dinghy on their seaward side. A crew member described the mission of the vessel as “making underwater videos for the American television audience.” The main sponsors are from the US and Canada. The interior of the steel ship was rough and rugged, and definitely a work boat. We were told that the two submersibles were ashore for servicing, and the huge crane on the stern of Deep Ocean Odyssey appeared adequate to handle them.

We enjoyed exploring the city of Noumea, “Paris of the Pacific”, population 69,000 (of a total of 150,000 for the entire country), but tired of the traffic, noise and dust. We looked forward to traveling inland in October to see the forest and indigenous villages. An Internet Cafe enabled Steve to update our satellite receiving software and communicate with vendors and our boatbuilder. We bought a few supplies at the chandlery and some natural history books. Steve has become our pastry “chef” as he has located the best Boulangeries in town, and brings to the boat strawberry tarts, cookies dipped in chocolate and filled with honeyed hazelnuts, baguettes and creme brule’. We consider these delicacies to be an essential part of our Mediterranean diet. Susan and I restocked our fresh supplies at the morning vegetable and fish markets near the marina . Yellowfin tuna, Mahi-Mahi and many other fish delicacies are available at reasonable prices, but Steve really wants to catch our own seafood. I am enjoying conversing with the locals. The people are more relaxed here than in Paris, and as a result my French flows more easily. Professionals and tourist staff speak English, so one way or another we are able to make ourselves understood.

Steve is very pleased with Adagio, in spite of several problems with systems installations and several failures, but nothing to spoil our enjoyment of cruising. Our anchoring system has been getting a good workout, keeping the crew from working too hard when we decide to raise anchor and try a different bay when the holding is not good enough. We usually let out 50 meters of chain and then attach a three-strand nylon bridle to the chain. The ends of the bridle are attached to the two bows, and are adjustable. We have several bridles of various lengths. The storm bridles attach to large shackles on the bows by large metal thimbles spliced into the ends of the bridle lines. Our “S.P.A.D.E” anchor from Tunisia digs in readily, holds firmly, and resets reliably after a change in the wind direction. We feel very safe with it. The generator enables us to wash and dry clothes, towels and sheets, and to use our cooking range and microwave and air conditioning. The watermaker provides an almost endless supply of fresh water. We have been receiving weather faxes and satellite images, and have succeeded in sending and receiving email over our SSB radio.

The motion of Adagio at sea is more comfortable than what we have experienced on monohull yachts. We have comfortable sit down meals during the strongest winds and roughest seas. The galley easily accommodates two friendly cooks. It has been wonderful sharing the cheffing duties with Susan, halving the work and doubling the culinary inspiration. Needless to say, we are eating well. Last night it was stir-fried venison, and tonight is Mexican night with home made tortillas, fresh salsa cruda, refried beans, yoghurt sour cream and sausages in Mexican tomatoes. Tomorrow will be seafood night if Neptune smiles upon us.

Friday, 29 September 2000

Anchored in Bonne Anse in East Baie of Baie de Prony 25 nautical miles east of Noumea, an unexpected shower conveniently rinsed the salt crystals from Adagio’s windows and decks. Susan and I put on our bathing suits and scrubbed the dirt from the dinghy. The large awning over the cockpit protects our ‘backdoor’ from rain and sun. The door, hatches and windows are closed now and the showers have returned briefly. Steve turned on the air conditioning an hour ago to dry out the boat and her occupants and get rid of the muggyness.

Steve and I and our crew David and Susan arrived four hours after our 6:00 AM departure from Noumea having motored through calms into a gently choppy sea. The early departure allowed us to avoid the increasing afternoon reinforced tradewinds and associated rougher seas from the east. Today’s trip has taken us two-fifths of the way to L’Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines).

The sun is setting now, behind layers of silhouetted hills off of our stern. I took a few photos for the memories, and now will begin rolling out the tortillas for dinner. Early to bed, early to rise to continue our journey to the Isle of Pines.

Saturday 30 September 2000

Today after a 6 AM departure from Bonne Anse on the southern tip of the large island (La Grande Terre) of New Caledonia, we followed the recommended route on our charts towards the Isle of Pines. A moderate chop turned into real waves as we exited the reef at Havannah Passand then moderated. Hoisting sail when the wind direction was favorable enabled us to turn off the engines and enjoy sailing again. At an average speed of 7 knots, we picked our way through the passes between islands and reefs and completed our thirty-seven mile journey into the most beautiful bay we have ever seen.

Rimmed by coconut palms and white sand and backed by stands of araucaria trees and a couple of mountain peaks, the large, brilliantly sparkling anchorage held only four other boats. We dropped our anchor into white sand covered by crystaline water several metres deep. Five other boats arrived over the next several hours. Even so, there are very few people here, earning this anchorage David’s appellation of “pristine”. We will come to enjoy increasing levels of “pristine” anchorages over the next two months.

The orange ball of a sun slipped quickly behind the edge of the sea as we sat securely at anchor in Baie de Kuto on the southwest corner of the Isle of Pines. We quickly took a handbearing compass sight on the sun and looked up the bearing of the setting sun on this date in the nautical almanac to determine the accuracy of the compass — right on. It’s a good thing, too, as it is the compass we use to take bearings on little islets and reefs as we navigate among coral hazards.

The Isle of Pines was named by Captain James Cook in 1774 who did not go ashore. After annexation to France in 1853, the island was used a few years later as a penitentiary for political prisoners from the Paris communal uprising. Situated at 167 deg longitude East, 22 deg latitude South, the island sits almost astride the Tropic of Capricorn. Formed by a volcanic upheaval in the tertiary period, and later separated from “la Grande Terre”, the 18km long by 14km wide island is surrounded by a belt of coral ground mostly covered by dense sub-tropical forest. The 60km coastline varies between beautiful, long, white sand beaches and rocky, coral ledges. Fringing reefs, patch reefs and barrier reefs provide a habitat for abundant tropical fishes and invertebrates, as well as challenging navigation conditions for boats.

Tomorrow morning we will go ashore to explore the little villages. The indigenous Austro-Melanesian people called the Kunies make up 92% of the population and still follow their traditional customs. We napped, swam laps around the boat, showered, dined, read, wrote email and diaries then fell into bed at an early hour. We are looking forward to a long walk and lots of snorkelling tomorrow.

Sunday 1 October 2000

The dinghy dock in Kuto Bay is conveniently located near the road. A fresh water tap is at the head of the wooden wharf. A nearby concrete wharf is designated for the weekly supply boat from Noumea. Setting foot on a new island is a great pleasure, finding the local bakery, a small hotel, and enjoying a walk along the long shoreline. Today is our crew member David’s birthday, and coincidentally we had declared it “cooks’ night out”. We dined on lobster and steamed fish at a local hotel called “Cou-Bugny”, which translates to “under the Bugny trees”. These remarkable trees, pronounced “boo-nee”, are similar in size and shape to huge oak trees, with massive, gnarled branches and a huge canopy of thick, shiny leaves. The hotel is a group of tree-shaded bungalows surrounding a dining room and small swimming pool. The architecture is local Kunie indigenous Melanesian architecture of beams and thatch. I have searched all of the literature, but cannot find any information about the botanical name of the Bugny tree. From Kuto Bay we walked through a wonderful Bugny forest canopy to Kanumera Bay for snorkeling.

The Isle of Pines is named after the towering Araucaria columnaris trees which rise up to 30 meters high growing in the coral rocks on the shores of the island. One of five species of Araucaria trees in New Caledonia, and closely related to the Norfolk Island pine, at maturity all branches are about the same length (two or three metres). Growing straight towards the sky, they resemble large, green bottle brushes, or gigantic forms of asparagus stems, oddly dignified.

Monday 2 October 2000

We had heard that the snorkeling is really good at Kanumera Bay, so we hopped into Allegro for a quick trip to the next bay to the south. This is actually two small bays separated by a white sandspit which leads to a small elevated rocky island promontory. The shorelines in the Isle of Pines group are either white powder sandy beaches or coral rock which has been undercut by the waves . Small islets have become mushroom shapes. Shorelines are riddled with caves. A shallow fringing reef surrounds the small island, making for easy snorkeling. We were surrounded by tropical fish of all shapes and colors who would either casually swim nearby or come in for a close look at us. Piper fish swam just under the water’s surface, and wrasses, butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fishes and many others were near the bottom. Our friends Keith and Maria from the boat Jamala said a lion fish lurked in the cave on the seaward side of the small island.

Tuesday 3 October 2000

In need of exercise and curious about the local community, Susan, David and Dorothy walked the 7 km to the small town of Vao this morning. The first km of our walk took us through a beautiful forest of towering Bugny trees. There is really no “town”, but numerous small cottages surrounding a 19th century church and school, small medical center, post office, traditional island town hall and two small general stores where we purchased New Zealand gala apples and Australian oranges, as well as freshly baked French baguettes, some French canned goods, and the local beer called “Number 1”.

As we waited for Steve to come to get us at the dinghy dock, a small, solitary dolphin was feeding in the shallow waters nearby. We had watched as a green sea turtle surfaced near the stern of Adagio at least once a day.

David and Susan and I followed the instructions for assembling and inflating our WindGlider, then I hopped on and took it for a spin in light winds. This is a very stable wind surfer, and in the light airs I could only sail across the wind, managing to take it to the beach rather than the rocky shore to leeward. Passing local fishermen and splashing children, I walked the full length of the beautiful beach to position myself upwind of Adagio so I could sail downwind and home. As the wind died, Steve rescued me in the dinghy and we towed the WindGlider back to the mother ship for another trial on a windier day.

Wednesday 4 October 2000

Susan and I returned to Vao today to inspect the produce market. The full size market is held on Saturday, but I was really interested to see what was available and to restock our fresh supplies. The friendly local Kunie women, were socializing amidst their neatly displayed wares. Their “mother hubbard” dresses in bright batik or hibiscus prints were decorated with lace and looked comfortable in the heat of the day. We bought tomatoes, Chinese green beans, lettuce, green onions and a squash that we thought was a cucumber. Susan expertly selected a beautiful ripe papaya.

Susan and I were snorkeling buddies today at the Baie de Kanumera where we found the bottom of the bay near the shore carpeted by large anemones, long tresses streaming in the currents in about 3 metres of water. The prettiest anemones were purple. Several pugnacious dusky anemonefishes looked us straight in the dive mask as they questioned the reason for our presence when we free dived down to have a closer look. The rainbow colored wrasses (yellow tail and pectoral fins with pink and blue stripes) swam along beside us. We could not find them in our fish identification book, but did identify small yellow box fishes, moorish idols, black and white blennies, white goat fish, brown and white parrot fish, opal colored parrot fish and dozens of other damselfish, wrasses, and best of all schools of butterfly fishes of all sizes. How pretty it was! Close to the rocky shore we spotted three black and white banded sea snakes. These are very poisonous but not agressive. We kept our distance. They were swimming and climbing on the rocks in the splash zone. Cone shells, stone fishes and lion fish (in a cave) are also here, so we were careful. Our friend Hillary Root says that the Kunies believe that killing a banded sea snake brings bad weather.

Steve stayed aboard Adagio to work on his email messages and David visited Marie and Keith on the sailing vessel Jamala, a Bristol Channel Cutter design. David and Susan also own a boat of this design, and David was interested to see the improvements that Keith had made to his vessel.

Last night we had the owners of the yacht Endurance aboard for dinner. Chieko (pronounced Chico in Japanese) and Marve Miller from Los Angeles sailed throughout the Pacific islands eighteen years ago, and are now resuming their cruising. They have given us information about marinas in Australia. We enjoyed the dinner conversation of our various cruising experiences, diesel engine repair tips and more. Other cruising friends we have made are Doug and Mike on Endless Summer, Ed and Lynne Kirwin on Constance, Tom and Joan on Toucan from Seattle, and Joe and Kathy Siudzinski on KatieKat (another catamaran). There are several cruisers’ radio nets on the single sideband radio: the KavaNet which “meets” on frequency 8119Mhz at 8:00 AM and the Coconut Milk Run net on 12365Mhz at 6:00 AM. These nets allow each cruiser to share with others important information such as their location, weather conditions, local knowledge, navigation alerts and information about the whereabouts of other cruisers. It is a very friendly and resourceful community we have joined and we are looking forward to getting to know these interesting people and hearing their stories.

Thursday 5 October 2000

Rain today kept us on the boat, visiting and reading, until the afternoon when we went ashore for fresh baguettes from the bakery. David has been training me to use the single sideband radio. I have written down a schedule of the times of day and radio frequencies on which I can listen to the weather (in English), reports from cruisers at sea, useful information and talk to other cruisers on the various cruisers’ nets. We also listen to news on the Voice of America and Australia radio. We hope to maintain radio contact with Susan and David after they return to New Zealand.

Two young Canadians Maria and Keith from the small sailboat named Jamala came for dinner tonight. Keith built his 28 foot William Atkins designed sloop. They are interested in building a catamaran in the future and enjoyed the grand tour of Adagio. We dined on New Zealand cervena (venison). Our freezer is still pretty full of New Zealand meats, and whatever fresh meats we don’t eat will be confiscated by Australian agricultural agents when we arrive there in November.

Friday 6 October 2000

Today is Susan and David’s last day with us. We will put them on a plane for Noumea tomorrow morning. The rain has eased to occasional showers, and ESE trade winds are still blowing 12 to 20 knots, so we took a walk ashore before lunch to confirm their flights at the Air Caledonie office. On the way we visited a boutique and found a Swiss man named Albert who has lived on the Isle of Pines for 30 years — beginning as a dive master, and now printing fabrics in beautiful island patterns and colors. Next door we found (hidden away, with no sign) a Yamaha outboard motor repair shop. Tony, the owner, speaks excellent English and says he is familiar with 4-stroke outboard engines. It looks as though we will be able to have our outboard serviced here after all.

As we walked along the beach, we noticed stair steps formed of coral leading up onto the small island which divides the two lobes of Baie de Kanumera. We climbed over several large bamboo poles which formed what we later learned was a barricade, and found wooden stairs leading up to a thatch-roofed small building decorated with a human skull. There was a painted sign in French mentioning artists, and a thatch-roofed work area nearby. We followed a rocky trail through the beautiful forest, stopping to look out over the bays and to examine land snails under foot, unusual trees, vines and ferns. As we were descending the stairs back down to the beach, a poisonous banded snake was waiting on the bottom coral step. With a little encouragement he dropped into the water and swam away.

Saturday 7 October 2000

We said our tearful goodbyes, and with big hugs and “a bientot”, we delivered Susan and David to the wharf to catch the bus to the airport for a morning flight to Noumea and then an early Sunday morning flight to New Zealand. They have been the best crew and friends we could ever wish for, and we hope they will come sailing with us again soon.

I caught a ride into the little village of Vao to buy fresh vegies and fruits at the open air market before they closed at 9 AM. The women of the village reminded me a lot of the ladies of the Russell Gardening Club — with their different personalities, interactions and joviality. Luscious mounds of lettuces, ripe golden papayas, ripe tomatoes, taro root, radishes, green beans, potatoes — I loaded up (execpt for the taro root). The bakery had sold out all of its baguettes and will not open until Monday morning.

After lunch I visited Albert and Cleo Thoma at their cottage next to the boutique where Albert sells his hand printed island clothing. He also sells several small books written and illustrated by his wife Cleo. Her nom de plume is Hillary Root. They told me about their new web site: http://www.ile-des-pins.com. We cannot view it from our boat, but I recommend it to all our friends and rellies for some good photos and information about the island and its people.

I asked Albert if he could receive mail for us from Noumea. The port captain has offered to forward mail and packages to us, and needs a forwarding address. Albert kindly offered to allow us to have our mail forwarded to his post office address. In answer to my question about forwarding DHL packages to us, he recommended that we have DHL send packages to us by plane to the airport on Isle of Pines. I used his telephone book to look for the phone number for Norbert and Marie Christine Improta of the yacht Norma in Noumea.

We completed a general boat cleanup today, then rested. On the radio we heard that the yacht named Derivative had hit a reef 50 miles from Suva in Fiji. The owner and crew were rescued by the Fijian navy, but the boat was lost because the grounding occured on a weekend, and the Fijian salvage companies refused to render assistance before receiving assurance of payment from Lloyds of London insurance company which was closed until Monday. If the boat had been pulled off the reef immediately, the boat could have been saved. Unfortunately, by Monday the seas had battered the boat to bits. It is our understanding that we have 24 hour 7 days a week access to our insurance company, but we will verify this.

We spoke by radio to Ed and Lyn on the yacht Constance, who were anchored in the Baie de Gadji on the northwest corner of the island. They reported that they were not protected from the ESE winds, and that it was not calm. The waves were wrapping around the island and during high tides there were one foot high waves in the anchorage. They planned to return to Kuto in the next few days.

Sunday 8 October 2000

Another sunny day with reinforced tradewinds of 15 to 25 knots blowing through the anchorage. Meanwhile the cruisers in Fiji and Vanuatu are have rain, wind and rough seas. We’ve come to the right place for our Paradise!

We rose early and followed the rocky trail to the top of Pic N’ga (N’ga Peak, pronounced peek nyah), 262 metres high. The trail through a forest past interesting trees became a rocky uphill climb past dry scrub bushes. About 2 hours round trip, the climb took us above the surrounding fields and forests and gave us views out over the reefs, anchorages, bays and islands surrounded by brilliant blue waters. Throughout the hike we were accompanied by one of the local dogs who joined us at the beginning of the hike, led the way to the top of the mountain and then back down to the road, where he left us and went on his way. From the top of the mountain we spotted the yacht Constance sailing towards Kuto from the anchorages they had visited on the northwest side of the island.

Our watermaker began putting out brackish water, but Steve fixed it by replacing two filters which had become gunked up with biological activity.

Linda and David joined us from the yacht Nimbus for dinner. New Zealand lamb tenderloins cooked according to a recipe from a Napa Valley restaurants cookbook is always a hit. Linda and David are from Vancouver where they owned a business which trained airplane pilots, and repaired, serviced and supplied airplanes. After selling their business they began cruising with their two daughters, who are now grown and at university. David gives the daily weather briefing on the KavaNet on the SSB radio. We shared cruising stories and weather information. They arrived in Fiji just after the coup in July of this year, and told us stories of their visits with the island chiefs and their views of the political situation. The chiefs considered the coup to be the problem of the central government of Fiji in Suva, and believed that all would be settled in good time. Meanwhile the Fijians on the outer islands were largely unaffected by the coup, with the exception of a few Fijians who had grievances to air. The Fijian way of resolving differences is for the village chief to bring the disputing parties together for a bowl of Kava, to give good advice and to facilitate a peaceful outcome. This succeeded for a couple of New Zealand airline pilots who were held hostage by some Fijians, but released after discussions with the chief who asked the captors to apologise to the pilots.

I gleaned a tidbit of information from Linda about the small island which divides the two lobes of Baie de Kanumera, that we visited on Friday. Cleo Thoma told Linda that the island is under the care of two deranged men who have been in and out of prison for years. They are reputed to alternate between being very friendly for a while, then turning nasty and occasionally threatening people with machetes. Cleo said that they seem to be away for a while, but she advised that we not visit the island again. Local knowledge! She seems to think they put the human skull near the entrance to frighten away visitors.

Monday 9 October 2000

This morning the cruise ship Fair Princess anchored in Baie de Kuto. She flies an American flag, and put about 1,000 people ashore. We watched from our boat as the tourists enjoyed the beaches and the water. Albert and Cleo put up a large banner reading “Welcome to Isle of Pines”, and sold their booklets and hand printed clothing at the head of the wharf. We went ashore at 11:30 to see the native dancing. The dancing was brief, but the crowds milled around for hours, and we visited with our cruising friends, including Ed and Lyn. Lyn is an American who has lived and worked in New Zealand for many years. Ed is a New Yorker who lived in Tiburon during the twelve years that we were there. He is a member of the Corinthian Yacht Club and the Richardson Bay Yacht Club. Nice folks. We invited them to have dinner with us tonight. Lyn sailed around the South Pacific for sixteen years with her first husband. She is an occupational therapist who lived and worked in Tauranga, New Zealand. Ed and Lyn have been sailing in the Pacific for six years. Over dinner we shared many stories with Ed of living in Tiburon. They gave us much good advice about marinas for leaving our boat in Australia. They will be leaving Constance at Manly, and recommended the marinas there. Steve has sent emails inquiring about making a reservation for Adagio. At sunset we watched for the “green flash” and saw a narrow crescent of green just above the top rim of the sun as it disappeared below the horizon.

Tuesday 10 October 2000

We rented a car and toured the island today. Marve and Chieko from Endurance toured by moped and told us they got sore bums but enjoyed the wind in their hair. There is a circular road that rings the island with side roads going off towards the coast here and there. The eight Kunie tribes live in different regions of the small island, in rural conditions, farming the rich volcanic soil. The little habitations were few and far between, with a population of only 1,500, most living in the Vao area. This month the people are planting taro plants, and we saw at least one ceremony where the newly planted fields were being blessed.

One of the objectives of our tour was to have a look at some of the anchorages around the island. Traveling in a clockwise direction from Kuto, we first visited Basket Bay (Baie de la Corbeille) where there are several large, mushroom-like coral rocks that stand out in the bay, and then Ouameo Bay where a dive resort is located. These are both beautiful white beaches. We missed the turnoff to Gadji, but were told by Marve and Chieko that the beach there is like quicksand, and they were not happy when they sank in up to their knees. Gadji has always been the seat of customary power and the High Chief’s tribe still occupies this region.

Three limestone caves are dotted around the island, and we chose to visit the Oumagne Cave (Grotte de la Reine Hortense, Queen Hortense’s cave). A small stream and splendid tree ferns and New Caledonian kauri trees line the path into a huge dome of stalactites. Using a torch, we walked on the slippery ground to view a ledge where Queen Hortense was said to have hidden during the tribal wars of succession during the last century. Tiny bats were flying overhead, and Steve spotted a very small multi-colored bird. The cave reminded us of the cave near Austin, Texas that Dorothy’s nephew James took us to visit.

Our next stop was Baie d’Oro (also called Baie de Ugo), location of the stunning natural pool (la piscine naturelle) which is found at the end of a winding tidal channel of white powder sand lined with coconut and pine trees. We did not visit the pool, but instead treated ourselves to a luxurious lunch at Le Meridien hotel on the beach at Oro. Very pretty and very expensive, I would recommend this as a honeymoon hideaway. On another day we plan to return to take the walk to the natural pool and to enjoy the surroundings.

Continuing on around the island, we arrived at Vao and visited first Saint-Joseph (Baie des Piroques) where traditional fishermen still build the traditional outrigger sailing canoes. There were a number of these triangular-sailed vessels on the beach, and several more under construction. Two large logs are shaped and then connected by lashings, with a platform in the center. Every day we see two of these piroques sailing back and forth, parallel to the beach in Kuto Bay, especially when a cruise ship is in port.

Saint-Maurice Bay was where the first French Catholic missionaries came ashore in 1848. The event has been commemorated by a shrine composed of a circle of tall wooden posts, each carved by members of the eight Kunie tribes. The shrine is also a war memorial. The carvings depict mostly human faces, but also a snake, an octopus, a turtle caught in a net and fish. The Kunies traditionally catch turtles for food. The shrine overlooks a stunning white sand beach and bright blue water in a protected lagoon.

Before dinner we were invited for drinks aboard Endurance with Marve and Chieko, where we shared stories of our island tours. Also aboard from the yacht Inti were Martina and Dennis who had also rented a car for the day. Chieko gave us a tour of Endurance, a large, traditional monohull that they have sailed for many years. They will leave Kuto tomorrow morning for Noumea where they have reserved a marina berth. Chieko remarked that after touring the Isle of Pines she thinks the Baie de Kuto is the best anchorage.

A welcome rain during the night washed salt crystals from Adagio.

Wednesday 11 October 2000

At 7:00 AM, Ed and Lyn from Constance collected Dorothy with their dinghy for a trip by water and by foot into Vao for the produce market. About half way there we got a lift in a red pickup truck. Ed and Lyn suggested that Dorothy sit up front with the driver, to converse with him in French, while they climbed into the back. It was lucky that we caught the ride because the market was just about to close as we arrived. There were still lovely tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, papayas and cabbages, potatoes and onions, and we stocked up.

Cleo stopped and gave us a lift back to the dinghy dock in her little French auto. At 11:00 AM we raised anchor and followed Constance to the anchorage on the northwest side of Moro Islet, just a few kilometres from Kuto. The sun was high, but we had to wait for a clump of clouds to pass over so that we could see the reefs. We stayed well clear as we rounded the reef, then came through a pass and picked our way to a shallow sandy-bottom anchorage. After setting it, we snorkeled to check the anchor which had dug in nicely, and noticed that at low tide we had just 2 feet of water under our keels. After a swim, we fixed the dinghy bridle, showered, and were invited aboard Constance for drinks and dinner. What a lovely evening we had. Constance is a beautiful forty-two foot sloop with canoe stern that Ed has owned for eleven years. Once again at sunset we saw a small rim of green above the setting sun. A “real” green flash has been described to us as rays of green light flashing up into the sky above the just-set sun. We can look forward to seeing that phenomenon when the conditions are right for it — perhaps at sea with a clear sky.

Thursday 12 October 2000

The morning weather report called for reinforced tradewinds and more clouds, so at 9:00 AM we raised anchor and carefully made our way through the reefy patches, out the pass and then back to Kuto. It was a good experience for us. Steve steered Adagio under power from the starboard bow pulpit, using the remote control box that he had built for the engines and the autopilot. Dorothy stood on the coachroof next to the mast to have a good view of the reefs.

The genset belt broke today, and Steve replaced it. We need to get more spare belts soon.

We spent the day sending and receiving e-mails, paying bills and bringing our accounting up to date. In the afternoon we were invited aboard the catamaran KatieKat by Joe and Kathy for drinks and a tour. Ed and Lyn were also invited, and we had lively discussions and a pleasant visit. Joe and Kathy have for their dinghy a pedal-powered plastic catamaran. It is bright yellow, with molded seats mounted between two pontoons, and powered by pedals and rudders. Joe used it aboard his trimaran on his visit to Alaska. He showed us a photo of the yellow pedal boat next to an iceberg (!!!).

Friday 13 October 2000

We are not superstitious, but today we decided to stay aboard Adagio and catch up on some tasks. The cruise ship Seaborn Sun arrived early in the morning and tourists disembarked to visit the island. We think there will be native dancing on the beach, but we will see it another time. This morning’s news on the radio from New Zealand reported that seven boats had been sunk in Littleton Harbor near Christchurch, by a deep low pressure system. We feel very fortunate to be in New Caledonia where the weather is mild and stable, at least during the few weeks we have been here.

We invited Joe and Kathy from KatieKat to come aboard this afternoon for drinks and a tour of Adagio. These two Californians took delivery of their catamaran in April, sailed up the coast of Australia and arrived in New Caledonia the same day as Adagio. We enjoyed sharing our catamaran ideas with them.

Saturday 14 October 2000

Dorothy walked to the bakery this morning with Lyn and Ed. I met Jean and three year old daughter Allison from the yacht Noason. It’s an interesting story of how the boat got her name. Not knowing the gender of their expected child the parents Jean and Robbie chose Noah for a boy’s name and Allison for the girl’s name. Allison arrived, and the parents bought a much larger boat to accommodate the larger family, and named the boat Noason, combining the two names.

We spent the remainder of the day cleaning Adagio from top to bottom, Steve manning the waterblaster, and Dorothy the soapy scrub brush. Our dinghy Allegro was especially dirty, after several encounters with the dinghy dock.

This evening we received an e-mail from Alan announcing the arrival of baby girl Weindorf, delivered Friday the 13th at about 5PM. We are thrilled. Unfortunately, after a prolonged labor, a C-section was required. But mom and daughter are doing GREAT!, to quote Alan. We were unable to send an e-mail reply, due to difficulties connecting, and will try again tomorrow.

Sunday 15 October 2000

After listening to Voice of America at 6:00 AM, Russell Radio at 6:30 AM and then the KavaNet at 8:00 AM, we studied our weather faxes, satellite images, and reviewed the morning weather report from David on Nimbus.

At 10:00 AM we joined our friends Lyn and Ed to follow the footpath around the peninsula between Kuto Bay and Kanumera Bay. This is a very scenic walk, through dry, vine-draped forests and along the rocky shoreline. Three foot high waves crash underfoot as they have for centuries, carving caves into the rocky, coral ledges just beneath the footpath. Araucaria columnaris trees tower overhead, and a nursery of seedlings of these curious trees forms a green carpet at the seaward point of the peninsula. This is where Lyn and Ed have brought their combs and hairclippers annually for the past six years, with Ed sitting on the same fallen tree trunk, which is now so riddled with signs of decomposition that it is no longer a solid barber’s seat. Hundreds of empty land snail shells, the indigenous “Bulime”, indicate where the local Kunie people have feasted on these delicacies, which we can order in the local restaurants and buy in the grocery stores in Noumea. These snails must be highly reproductive because there is no sign of depletion. An orange and black banded sea snake serpentined slowly away into the forest as we approached. Dark green islands less than half a kilometre away, set in brilliantly sparkling azure crystal, made for some wonderful photo opportunities. We saw one of the large “Montrouzieri” butterflies, with its electric-blue wings edged in black. When we enter Australia in November the representative from the Bureau of Agriculture will ask me if I had brought any land snails with me from New Caledonia, because it would devastate the Australian forests if it got loose there. The abundant snails are most likely the Giant African snail “Achatina fulica” which has become a widespread pest on the island.

Kuto Bay is filling up with cruising sailboats, and I have been keeping a record of their names in our log: Nera and Chatry, charterboats from Noumea; Seawolf, Oriental, NC, USA; Warrior, USA; Swaray,Whangarei,NZ; L’Oasis, Quebec, Canada; Northern Summit, USA; Saida; Wala; Skimmer,USA; Aragon; Salt Air; Hijacker, USA (formerly owned by the Lodge family in Kerikeri who built the Carl Schumacher 50 like Heart of Gold); Jolly Jumper, catamaran; Touaou, catamaran, New Caledonia; Patoma; Peregrine,trimaran; Holding Pattern; Adrena-line, Portsmouth; Strega, Australia; Regina; Irene, Opua, NZ.

Monday 16 October 2000

Rain, heavy at times, washes the boat clean. We telephoned Kim and learned that the baby’s name is Sarah. I smile when I say “Sarah”. We love it.

Tuesday 17 October 2000

Dorothy caught the early plane to Noumea to collect some packages, download some files at the internet cafe’ and buy some spare parts and supplies. The clouds obscured much of the view of the islands and reefs between Isle of Pines and the big island, Grand Terre, but I was able to take videos both going to Noumea and returning to Isle of Pines. About half way to Noumea, the pilot dipped the wings on the starboard side of the plane so that we could see a whale, surfacing and blowing.

Many boats are congregating in Noumea in preparation for the Pacific Festival which begins next week. In the Baie de l’Orphelinat I counted 100 boats at anchor. This is not a scene we want to join. The marinas are full, and boats are anchored close together. Watermakers cannot be operated in these anchorages, and the dinghy docks are chock-a-block.

I spent three days walking back and forth across town, to the chandlery, grocery store, travel agent, sail maker for stitching webbing, hours downloading files and reading email at the internet cafe, collecting a Fedex package at the port captain’s office, renewing a prescription at the pharmacy, video store for a cable and new watch for myself, two bottles of wine, a litre of expensive and very special oil for our refrigeration system, and most important of all I rented a cellphone.

Posted at the restaurant in the Port Moselle marina were notices of an art exhibit by Bill Sellers, one of our favorite Russell artists. Bill and his wife Claudie live aboard their sailboat Nimbus for six months of each year in Noumea, where Bill has many patrons. We had met Bill in Russell, and learned all about his adventures and unusual Nordic architecture house from our mutual friends Jane and Shelly DeRidder. Bill’s exhibit included schrimshaw on whale teeth, sepia paintings, watercolors and etchings, all pictures of sailboats, traditional squareriggers, lighthouses and seascapes. I ordered a custom “fantasy island” sepia for a Christmas gift for David and Sarah. I can’t wait to see it. Bill was nominated for “Sailor of the Year” in New Zealand for his contribution to defeating the Section 21 regulation that subjected overseas yachts to safety requirements, which was ruled to violate the international laws of the sea. He is quite a character, tall, with long white beard, and a twinkle in his eyes as he regales us with sea stories.

Before leaving Noumea I visited the Forest Park to see the national bird, the Kagou, an endangered, graceful, powder blue ground bird with lovely plumage. Several Kagous were displayed in medium sized enclosures, but the best display of all was a Kagou family in a small forest enclosed in tall fencing. I watched the mother and father Kagou teaching their fluffy baby to find food by probing the forest floor with their beaks. The feeding habits of this bird are similar to the New Zealand Kiwi bird. The botanical gardens were well sign-posted with names of trees, the most interesting of which is the Naiouli “Melaleuca quinquenervia”, a relative of the Australian eucalyptus, is said to have antiseptic qualities, and there is no malaria where the naiouli grows.

It was good to be back at the boat in peaceful Kuto Bay, away from “the big city” of Noumea. Steve had a “Christmas in October” opening up all of the packages of supplies that I brought. A large swell from a low pressure system to the south of us was wrapping around the island and bringing uncomfortable rolly conditions, so we raised anchor and moved closer to shore where there is more protection from the sea. As we look ashore from the bows of Adagio, we are nestled in the arms of a 180 degree crescent of white sand beach, whose tips are forested rocky promontories. Off our stern is the open water horizon where the sun sets each evening in a new pattern of splendor. Ashore children play on the beach and swim during the day, a few kayaks paddle off in the distance, and a traditional Kunie sailing piroque sails back and forth parallel to shore, introducing tourists to the old sailing ways of the indigenous people of the Isle of Pines.

Sunday 22 October 2000

We invited Albert and Cleo Thoma for dinner tonight. They have been very kind to us, allowing us to have mail delivered to their post office box here in Isle of Pines. They own the boutique here in Kuto, selling Albert’s hand printed clothing and Cleo’s guide books. Albert arrived in Isle of Pines from Switzerland thirty years ago and ran the SCUBA dive operation here for many hears. Cleo, originally from New Zealand, visited Isle of Pines twenty-five years ago on holiday, fell in love with Albert, and stayed. She worked as a journalist in Australia, and now writes all the guide books for Isle of Pines, and recently traveled to Paris, Rome and elsewhere in Europe doing research for a new book on the subject of the twelve women among the three thousand prisoners who were brought here from France in 1872. Cleo reminds me a lot of our friend Eva Brown in Russell, a lively, intelligent journalist who is active in Amnesty International. Albert and Cleo are single-handedly encouraging tourism in Isle of Pines. She is self-appointed liason between the tribal chief and the cruise ships, arranging the program of traditional dancing and food on the beach. Cleo brought us a recent copy of the Guardian Weekly newspaper, which was quite welcome. During the evening we learned more about each other and shared travel stories. They gave us advice about how to visit the doctor in Vao for a diagnosis of a sore on Steve’s hand, and told us that a package was waiting at the post office for us.

Monday 23 October 2000

Cleo gave us a ride into town this morning in her quirky little Renault auto with the gearshift lever on the dashboard, and rainwater leaking into both sides of the car near the front doors. The doctor diagnosed the sore as a wart (not skin cancer) and made an appointment for Steve at a dermatologist in Noumea in November. Much relieved, we bought some Number One beer and fresh eggs, collected our packet of mail from the US, and returned to Adagio. Steve enjoyed sharing stories with the doctor about Macintosh computers, having noticed the Apple Macintosh powerbook on the doctor’s desk. The young doctor smiled and said that at home he has a new Mac “Cube” and flat panel display like Steve’s. We can tell a good doctor by the computers he chooses to use.

Tuesday 24 October 2000

Steve has succeeded in reserving a marina berth for us in Manly harbor near Brisbane for the month of December. He has been very busy with boat maintenance, replacing the genset raw water impeller, several watermaker filters, one genset belt, adjusting genset valves, retorquing the head bolts, replacing one of the watermaker pumps, and servicing the engines. I have reinforced the director’s chair seats with heavy sunbrella, and will start today on finishing the dorade hatch covers, so we don’t have to run quickly to close hatches when a rainshower begins. The weather continues to be breezy with scattered showers, rainbows and pretty sunsets. The temperature is mild. No complaints.

Today we received an e-mail reply from Bill and MaryAnne Twidale in Hawaii, saying that they are still interested in joining us in New Caledonia and sailing with us to Australia. They are preparing the house site on their property in Hilo, and will be happy to be here during Hilo’s rainy season.

Wednesday 25 October 2000

Our new friend Tony Klotz helped Steve service the Yamaha outboard today. Tony ran the SCUBA dive business with Albert, but now services outboard motors and other machinery. He and his lovely wife from Spain share the gardens and buildings where Albert and Cleo have their home.

Thursday 26 October 2000

I took our charts to visit Tony and Albert to ask about the best route from Kuto Bay to Oro Bay on the NE corner of Isle of Pines. Tony said we could easily go throught the Passe Ndju between the southeast corner of Isle of Pines and a circle of reefs around a lagoon and two islands south of the pass. At full flood tide, the current can be 3.5 knots contrary to the direction we wished to go, but we planned to go through the pass at ebb tide, which on the chart is not very strong.

Thursday 26 October 2000

This short passage illustrates the numerous parameters which affect our safety. The barometer measured 1016, a nice high pressure for this region, and the weather report called for fair weather and light to medium winds out of the SE (tradewinds). We wished to arrive at Baie de Oro when the lighting conditions would be favorable for seeing the reef patches (between 10 AM and 2 PM). It would also be good to arrive at high tide, which unfortunately is at 6 AM and 6 PM today.

We raised anchor in Kuto Bay at 9:45 AM and motored out past Ilot Bayonnaise and Ilot Infernal, then turned east with Ilot Brosse to port and headed into Passe Ndju. The wind out of the SE was creating a swell and wind waves that piled up in the pass against the outgoing tide, creating a bit of a “sea” against which we were able to power like a hobbyhorse. These rough conditions lasted for less than an hour, then we were more comfortable as we headed north, leaving the reefs well to port. The east coast of the island is wooded and green — very pretty. We entered Baie de Ugo (Oro) from the north, leaving the east coasts of Ilot Uatomo and Ilot Uage close to starboard, according to the instructions in our two cruising guides. Having arrived one hour before low tide, we should have anchored just east of Ilot Uage, but pressed on towards the anchorage off the beach at Ilot Kunguati. Steve drove from the navigation station where he can read the depth guage, and I stood lookout from the top of the coachroof with polaroid glasses. We communicate via walki-talkie. We picked our way in through the coral heads, touching bottom a couple of times, and lowered our anchor in 4 meters of water at 1:30 PM.

Gasp. This is the prettiest bay we have ever seen. A long crescent of white sandy beach curves gracefully in the south and southeast, lined with billows of coconut palms, behind which the Auracaria columnaris pines reach towards the sky. The shoreline to the west is carved into overhanging ledges and caves, upon which perch more Auracaria columnaris pines. To the north and northeast the seas break over the reef which protects this bay, forming an ever changing line of white foam on the horizon. The water beneath Adagio is a powder blue-green/pale aqua (how can I describe it?)

We launched our dinghy Allegro and with a hand held VHF radio, Dorothy explored the surrounding waters, using a lead line to plumb the depths, and report back to Steve who tracked Dorothy on the radar, and plotted on our electronic chart the locations of the reported depths. The inlet between Ilot Uage and the mainland, to the northwest of us appears to have a sandbar on the eastern side, a bit of a channel on the western side, with lots of coral patches. Another catamaran sailed into the bay and motored up this channel at high tide. Interesting.

Dorothy snorkeled to check the set of the anchor which was good.

By this time we were exhausted and took long afternoon naps, happy to have achieved our destination safely, our first independent coral reef navigation.

Friday 27 October 2000

This morning we suspected a problem with the refrigeration system. There appears to be not enough gas in the system, and Steve remembers releasing a bit when he topped up the refrigeration oil. So today he went ashore to Le Meridien hotel to use their telephone and talk to their technician. Rainshowers today washed Adagio clean of the salt spray from our passage. She sparkles now.

Dorothy snorkeled over the reef patches today, finding moorish idols and butterfly fish, clouds of damselfish over each coral head, some of which were quite small and scattered here and there over the sandy bottom. Wanting to explore the area around Adagio and looking for a channel out of the bay, I explored the sandy region between the reef patches and discovered some of the most beautiful fish were living in holes in the sand and coral rubble. My favorite is the triggerfish called a Picassofish.

Dinner was canned stew so we would not have to open the fridge or freezer.

Saturday 28 October 2000

We have made the decision to return to Noumea to seek assistance with our refrigeration system which is now turned off. Our freezer full of New Zealand meats (lamb tenderloins, cervena, beef tenderloins, pork tenderloins) is in peril of death by thawing. Can we save it?

The barometer reads 1011 and the winds are 5 knots out of the east. High tide is at 7:35 AM. We raised anchor at 9:00 AM and motored in a reciprocal course from our entry into the bay, safely clearing all coral heads. As we passed the protecting reef we watched a dozen small black dolphins jumping and swimming in towards the bay.

The winds stayed light all day, so we motored towards the northwest, leaving the barrier reef to port for 30 km of travel. At 1:35 PM we entered Canal de la Havannah on the southeast corner of Grand Terre, New Caledonia, and followed the shoreline towards Prony Bay. We continued past Prony Bay, through Woodin Canal, passing along the northern and western shores of Ile Ouen, to an anchorage in Baie de la Tortue on the southwest corner of the island. The seas were very calm and the sunset spectacular. A very small single engine sea plane came and went from the beach — no doors, two passengers, essentially a flying toy. There is a small resort ashore, and a heliopad behind the trees.

We rigged the special anchoring system for our dinghy, and telephoned to the restaurant ashore for a dinner reservation. Allegro is too heavy for us to roll up and down a beach when the tide has fallen, so we anchor her to a loop of line which allows us to pull her towards the beach for disembarking, and away from the beach while we are ashore so she won’t go aground. Dinner ashore was a wonderful treat, under the palm trees, especially because we don’t dare open the freezer. The restaurant is the old Turtle Club, now under new management, telephone 241800. Reservations required.

Sunday 29 October 2000

At 7:30 AM I spoke to Bea and Walter on the yacht Galatea in Brisbane on radio frequency 12423. Bea says that HJ on the yacht Cables Length wants to see Adagio. He is thinking about a catamaran for himself. Bea and Walter were able to give us more information about the (lack of) amenities at the pile moorings in the Brisbane River, where there is a million dollar view, easy access to the botanic gardens and the city, water by jerry jug from the shore, and a very decrepit dinghy dock. We might give it a miss and stay at the marina in Manly harbor.

At 8:00 AM I participated in the KavaNet, listening to boats checking in from their various locations at sea, then during the call for “services offered and requested”, I reported that we needed 134a refrigeration gas and a set of gauges. Windrunner offered his gauges and assistance, and Aragon says that he has gas. Ed and Lyn on Constance spoke to us on a different frequency, and advised that there are plenty of spaces to anchor in the Baie de l’Orphelinat, as it is a school holiday and many of the local boats are out cruising. He suggested that we go as far in towards shore as possible, as that is where they are anchored, and out of the swell.

At 9:30 AM we raised anchor and headed towards Noumea, and arrived at the fuel dock at Port Moselle just after it had closed for lunch. We tied up for a 2 hour wait, better there than anywhere else, and visited with our friends Joe and Kathy on the catamaran KatieKat. They were filling their water tanks in preparation for their departure for Australia this afternoon. We wished them well and a safe voyage. The weather looks fine for their passage.

When the fuel dock opened, we filled our two starboard fuel tanks, taking on a total of 626.7 litres of diesel, 18 litres of petrol for the outboard, and a case of beer. Total cost was about $US480.00.

Monday 30 October 2000

We contacted the engineers at Pacific Refrigeration and arranged for a technician to come to the boat at 8:00 AM Tuesday morning. Ed and Lyn invited Dorothy to go into town with them to see some of the Pacific Festival dancing. We saw dancers from the Marianas Islands, two groups from New Guinea and the national dance troup from Western Samoa. The dance styles and the costumes were quite varied, the dancing exciting and beautiful. It was just a taste of the festival, and I am grateful to have seen it.

I bought a new phonecard and had a lovely long chat with Kim. I am always reassured and comforted after speaking with her, wishing I could be there to help her out, but realizing that the safety of Steve and the boat would be compromised if I were to leave and travel to San Francisco.

Steve spent the day downloading the refrigeration system manual from the Internet cafe, and determined that the refrigeration system did not need repairs after all. One of the components had been installed incorrectly, and Steve was able to troubleshoot and fix the problem. Dorothy cancelled the appointment with the refrigeration technician.

Bob McDavitt of the weather bureau in New Zealand predicts that a low on the Australian coast will deepen between Brisbane and New Caledonia, bringing strong westerly winds to Noumea. The anchorages in Noumea are not sheltered from westerlies, and some of the cruisers are alarmed and concerned.

Tuesday 31 October 2000

Shopping ashore at the small, modern shopping center at Port de Plaisance near the yacht club, we restocked our fresh produce, wine supply, and had Steve’s eyeglasses adjusted.

We have decided to not mix it up with 100 anchored cruising boats in an unprotected anchorage, and departed at 10:30 AM, destination Port du Carenage in Baie de Prony, which is considered to be a “hurricane hole”. We wanted to be there first in case of a stampede of alarmed cruising yachts, and we were ready to leave the hustle and bustle of the “big city”. When the weather improves, we will be nearly half way back to Isle of Pines, which we had left so reluctantly a few days ago. In heavy rain we retraced our route through Canal Woodin, practicing with our radar, tracking other boats, the shoreline, wavelets and squalls. Visibility varied from 5 miles in light rain to 1/2 mile in the squalls.

At 3:00 PM we set our anchor into the red mud in the western arm of Port du Carenage, surrounded by a very pretty forest filled with singing birds. Several other yachts were anchored nearby. The trip up through Prony Bay is quite scenic, with numerous islands, looking a bit like Whangaroa in New Zealand, but without the high fjord-like peaks.

The Meteo France weather forecast predicted strong westerly winds for tomorrow and Thursday. Clouds were thickening overhead, and light rainshowers began.

By 7:30 PM the sky had mostly cleared and we enjoyed the starry sky without the sky glow from Noumea. After dark we heard voices at the stern of our boat — Trick Or Treaters had arrived from two of the other yachts in the anchorage. Four ghosts and goblins (and their mothers) were happy to receive some “lollies” that I had brought from New Zealand for just such an occasion. The mothers, Sopie and Isabelle said that they are from Noumea, and that the children learn English at school beginning at age 10. We chatted about the fact that Halloween is very popular in New Caledonia and I complemented the children on their scary costumes.

Wednesday 1 November 2000

From our anchorage we could see the mobile telephone tower for the region, and this morning we received a phone call on our mobile phone from my sister Mary Jane. She succeeded in arranging her schedule to go to Tiburon to be with Kim and family for a week. I am very relieved to hear this good news. My sister Helen helped Kim for the first two weeks after the birth of Sarah.

We also made radio contact with David Radtke in Russell today. He will send us another packet of mail.

Today we closed ourselves in the master bathroom with the vacuum cleaner and gave Steve his first homemade haircut. It turned out quite well for a first try, and Dorothy is planning a few improvements for the next time.

Scattered squalls throughout the day give us the right conditions for staying aboard and completing some important boat tasks. The barometer has fallen to 1004 millibars. Meteo France is predicting winds of 25 to 30 knots today, becoming less windy tomorrow. It will be rough going for the boats who have recently departed New Caledonia for Australia, including our friends Joe and Kathy on KatieKat, and we are glad to hear from them over the radio schedule of the KavaNet.

Thursday 2 November 2000

The sky is beginning to clear and the barometer has risen slightly. More boat projects today. Boats between here and Australia are reporting into the KavaNet that they are experiencing winds west to southwest between 25 and 30 knots. We feel very snug in our anchorage.

Friday 3 November 2000

The barometer is up to 1010. At 6:30 AM we raised anchor and motored out of our hurricane hole, destination Isle of Pines. To stay out of the current in the Canal de la Havannah, we favored the southern shore of La Grande Terre. Once out through the pass, we followed our reciprocal course to leave the reefs safely to the southwest of us. Winds were 7 to 15 knots out of the west.

We were better synchronized with the tides today, and arrived at Baie de Oro at 1:00 PM, one hour before high tide, under clear skies. We made our way carefully to our favorite anchorage off the beach by Le Meridien, and set our anchor in 4 metres over a sandy bottom.

Saturday 4 November 2000

Dorothy enjoyed another lengthy snorkeling adventure to her favorite coral heads, and discovered a small one covered with anemone and clownfish, not far from the boat. In addition to the fish identification books we are also delving into the books about Coral Reef animals and tropical Pacific Invertebrates.

An aluminum sloop named Maeva has anchored nearby, and her French skipper named Joel came over for a chat. He and his wife Christiane are good friends of Jane and Shelly DeRider on Magic Dragonin New Zealand. Via e-mail we have been following the Dragons’ travels across the USA in a 20 year old Chevy named The Big Zah, and were happy to report their activities to Joel and Christiane. They invited us to come this evening to their boat for aperitifs.

What an enjoyable family. Joel and Christiane, have been sailing for many years, and are enjoying their new boat (which is 20 years old and has circumnavigated with the previous owner). Their strapping son Cedric, born in New Caledonia, has been home-schooled, and recently passed his French baccalaureat with high marks. The family has submitted his dossier to the Australian goverment, under a special educational exchange program between Australia and New Caledonia. They are now waiting to hear if he has been accepted to an exclusive university program in Townsville to pursue studies in mariculture. The family hopes to start a mariculture enterprise in the French islands one day. We wish them all the best in achieving their dreams.

Sunday 5 November 2000

Another sunny day in Paradise, and we are preparing for the arrival of our friends Bill and Maryann Twidale on Tuesday.

Steve has downloaded our 10 hours of video digital tape onto the computer and has begun to assemble the best clips into small performances. Lots of work and lots of fun. He is very happy with the video editing software.

While cleaning the boat I discovered mildew beneath the mattress in the forward guest cabin, so we have decided that while we are in Australia we will install slats under that bed, as we have done under the others, even though the mattresses rest upon a flat surface. The slats will hold the mattress off of the surface and allow for air circulation. The “Dry Bunk” sheets of absorbent paper don’t seem to work at all.

This afternoon we entertained Joel, Christiane and Cedric aboard Adagio, inviting them for 3:00 PM so we would have plenty of time to tour the boat and have a long visit. Joel and Christiane recommended the route to take for a circumnavigation of New Caledonia, including La Grande Terre and the Loyalty Islands. They recommended a clockwise route, departing Noumea, traveling up the southwest coast, over the top, halfway down the northeast coast, then out to the east to visit the Loyalty Islands before returning to the southeast coast of La Grande Terre. There are many beautiful anchorages, friendly people and good diving along the way. We are thinking of returning to NewCal next year to do just that.

Joel told us the history of the mining operations in New Caledonia, and the involvement of the Montagna family. Jane and Shelly DeRidder recommended that we contact Yvon Montagna while in NewCal, but we have been unsuccessful in doing so because he is visiting New Zealand. Yvon is interested in seeing Adagio, and can also give us good advice about touring NewCal. Yvon’s father and mother were descendants of some of the original prisoners brought to NewCal by the French. They became prospectors and founded the first mining operation on the southeast coast of the big island, building a very special village to house the workers. Yvon is one of two sons who carried on the business, moving to Koumac when the original mine was shut down. The father, known as “The Boss”, is quite famous on the island. Many years ago our friend Shelly DeRidder, then a young Belgian cruiser, stopped in New Caledonia to replenish his cruising kitty by building many of the houses in the village. And there is the connection. We still look forward to meeting Yvon one day.

Monday 6 November 2000

This morning we bid “au revoir” to our friends on Maeva, as they departed for Noumea to pursue the special education visa to Australia for Cedric. We wish them well and hope to see them in Australia.

Steve discovered an oil leak under the genset, and has spent all morning changing the oil and repairing the leak. The heat in the machinery room is very uncomfortable, as he participates in a common cruising pasttime, “repairing your boat in exotic places.”

The sky is blue, the wind is light, and a perfect day for exploring, but we are repairing, writing up the diary, and Dorothy is writing the “Adagio User Guide” in preparation for Bill and Maryann’s visit.

Each time that I snorkel, I check the set of the anchor, and today it was good that I did so because the anchor chain was wrapped around a coral head. The isolated lump of coral was about 20” in diameter and very heavy. The wind has clocked around since we first arrived. Every several hours we write down the wind speed and direction, percent of cloud cover, barometric pressure and any other data of interest. Looking back at our log for the past three days I see that the wind direction has come first from 253 degrees, then 350, then 263, then 170, then 90, then 148, then 80, and at present from 128 degrees. As the boat faced the wind at each shift in the wind direction, the chain drew a large figure eight in the sand, with the heavy coral head sitting on the top of the cross in the center of the eight. I dived down to have a look, and I studied the lay of the chain to try to figure out how best to extricate it. I tried to push the coral off the chain but it was too heavy. I tried to lift the chain to bring it up over the top of the coral but it was caught too firmly. I studied it well so that I could discuss a remedy with Steve.

It was 5 PM, and the weather man predicted light winds for the night. Seasoned sailors recommend that when you think you need to take action, that is the time to do so, and not delay until the next day. So we raised the dinghy out of the water, and following a drawing that I had sketched for Steve, he motored the boat forward and to starboard while I raised the chain with the windlass to try to pull the chain out from under the coral opposite to the way it had gone under. Voila! It worked, and the chain came free. We raised the anchor completely and re-set it a little farther from the coral head. It is small incidents like this that make us very proud of ourselves, that we are managing our situations with good seamanship and good sense. Having corrected this problem before sunset will allow us to sleep more soundly tonight, knowing that we are safely anchored again.

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