Circumnavigating Grande Terre: Pam to Koumac

Anchor up at 0606 hrs, we departed Ile Pam, sailing in 20 kts of wind from astern, under a beautiful blue sky. The barometric pressure was steady as we followed the navigation marks, leaving red to port, green to starboard, through the reefs. Passing through Canal de l’Alcmene. To port is the top end of Grande Terre — beautiful golden mountains, like folds of silk, in long undulating ridges. To starboard, 1/3 nm, is a very long, flat reef, golden at low tide. The marks were easy to spot at 1.5 to 2 nm away.

Beautiful clear air. Excellent visibility. We had a 1/2 knot boost from a favorable current. Green mark north of W010 is not a tall pole, but a very low round ball with a triangle shape on top. Not green. With beam wind and seas we were rocking and rolling. I furled the jib and set the reacher. Our boat speed increased 2 kts. A power boat approached from astern. NC10324 was the number on the hull of the fishing boat. The captain hailed us on the radio and said he was going to Koumac and looked forward to seeing us there. (We spotted them in Koumac at the tuna fisheries dock – so now we know what they were up to when they peeled off to the west after rounding the top).

Lovely sunny sail south in almost flat water. After rounding Ile Tiya at the top Grande Terre we furled the reacher and set the jib. We were passing pretty, deserted islands with white sand and billowy shrubbery, surrounded by extremely hazardous coral reefs, heaven for a SCUBA diver. I phoned Jean-Paul Dupre’ at the Koumac marina to say that we would arrive at about 5 PM. I asked what time was low tide in Koumac, and he said no problem, that there was 3 to 4 m depth in the entrance to the marina. I said I would hail him on VHF as we approached. The barometer was falling.

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