Adagio’s 2016 Holiday Letter

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We wish you a Very Happy Holidays and an Excellent 2017!

Our 2016 was filled with wonderful friends and lots of Adagio guests. Many of our cruising friends, old and new, kept us company throughout the year. And we especially enjoyed long visits with our old friends who make their home at Isle of Pines.

2016 started in New Zealand, with our time occupied by yacht maintenance in Whangarei – punctuated by some excellent Bay of Islands cruising. Six weeks in a Whangarei boatyard was not on our 2016 plan, but two sequential years of bad antifoul workmanship forced us into completely stripping all of our antifouling layers back to the original 2000 epoxy primers. Followed by expensive reapplication of all the antifouling we had just scraped off. Bummers, but this time done properly and properly documented by Port Whangarei. Take note all ye yachtsmen.

Come June we were just tickled to have our friends Vanessa and Wayne join us for the New Zealand to New Caledonia passage. Besides having super-sailors aboard, we comprised a team of four photographers so we captured some splendid images, including Albatross, Green sea turtles, full moons, rainbows, crystal clear waters, sunrises, sunsets, traditional outrigger canoes, coral reefs, tropical fish, racing sailboats and more.

Our next guest treat was our London friend Susie — who dedicated three weeks of her sabbatical to fly half-way around the world from London to spend July in the South Pacific. This was Susie’s second long visit aboard – and what fun we had! With Susie aboard we circumnavigated the Isle of Pines from Kuto to Oro to Gadji. After resupply we enjoyed explorations of several special Southern Lagoon reefs. Susie gave us the motivation to get out there when the weather conditions allowed anchoring where there was zero protection from strong winds or seas. Just splendid!

Come September, our daughter Kim managed to find ten days in her intense calendar to fly from San Francisco to the South Pacific. Prior to her arrival we had pre-positioned Adagio at Ile des Pins to ensure Kim had the best possible New Caledonia adventure. Once Kim was aboard we introduced her to some of our favorite people plus heaps of tramping around, traditional pirogue sailing, and of course snorkeling. It was way too short, but Kim did get a wee peek at what her adventuring parents are up to. Every day we extracted as much fun as we could think up. It was beyond intense!

Our Hobart yachtswoman friend Dianne, joined us for some very-well-deserved R&R in New Caledonia. We started in Noumea, sailing to Ile des Pins on our way to Australia. After a day of bashing into head seas we decided we could take a pause for really “splendid” passage weather. We had to do a check-back-in to Noumea. Then a week later we did checkout from Noumea, so we could we enjoy a very pleasant and reasonably quick six-day passage to Newcastle. Dianne scored her first experience of catamaran passaging “Yes, let’s do this again!”

It’s now been four years since we left Australia in 2012 so we have heaps of Aussie friends to catch up with. To start with we are making new friends on our first visit to Newcastle just 70nm north of Sydney (we didn’t know!). Later this week we are seeing potentially pleasant weather for a two-day sail down to Eden to prepare for our sixth crossing of Bass Strait. The very best thing we know to do in the southern summer is the Hobart Summer Festival and the AWBF (Australian Wooden Boat Festival). This year is even more special as two of our South Pacific cruising buddy boats have also arrived in Australia, and are also planning the Hobart Summer Festival and AWBF (French Canadian and French New Caledonian). Our next dispatch will be from our berth at the RYCT Royal Yacht Club Tasmania – sometime in January 2017.

Love and Hugs to You All,
Dorothy and Steve

Alert: Commodore Tompkins’ FLASHGIRL nearly sunk by lightning in Hawaii

We don’t have the whole story yet but our dear friend Warwick ‘Commodore’ Tompkins got some horrible news from Hawaii on July 25th. Tropical Storm Darby moved through the Hawaiian Islands generating violent lightning storms. The night of the 24th Commodore’s Wylie 38+ Flashgirl was struck by lightning, damaging a galley sink thru hull fitting. When that happens to a lead-ballasted monohull the boat would normally sink. Fortunately their Kaneohe Bay friend David Nottage spotted the slowly flooding Flashgirl, quickly arranging to tow the yacht onto the mudflats. David organized high-capacity pumps to begin dewatering the boat when she was about 3/4 flooded. Hero Medal for David!

Commodore and Nancy were on a motor yacht cruise in BC/Alaska when the news arrived from Kaneohe Bay early on July 25. They had to arrange for a float plane to transfer Commodore from the motor yacht to the airport. He connected in Juneau and arrived in Honolulu at 10pm that night to begin the salvage and restoration.

From Warwick’s email situation report answering my question “How is Flashgirl?  

(…snip…) huge loss of stuff internally. Engine will survive, but not it’s control panel or wiring. Batteries are OK. All sodden gear now drying out on land. No major structural damage found so far, and there are no leaks. Lightning dissipation scheme appears to have been effective. Sinking due to broken plumbing caused by distortion of the boat at the thunder blast following bthe strike. (…snip…)

The job ahead is long and wearying. My energies are flagging, and eyesight steadily deteriorating. Finances low, all the above make the restoration exceeding difficult. (…snip…)

Restoration is our only option, which suits, because I would not survive long without the boat, and have no desire to “unburden myself”. Probably the better part of a year’s work ahead, and $50,000 US.

Warwick is 84. He for sure has earned the right to be out sailing Nancy around the Pacific aboard Flashgirl. It’s not right that he should have to undertake an even bigger job than the rebuild he had just completed after three years of really hard work in New Zealand. In this photo we are interrupting that work in the Waipapa boatyard:

Warwick working on the 3 year refit in New Zealand

We can’t do the rebuild for Warwick but we can help him get sailing sooner. Please send donations to the Paypal account that Nancy has just created. I just sent a contribution – it works.

Susie’s Visit Aboard ADAGIO

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On 7 July we had a special treat when Susie Fisher arrived from London. We were pleased and flattered that Susie had decided to allocate almost a third of her three month sabbatical to time aboard ADAGIO. To meet up with us in New Caledonia she had to fly more than half way around the planet via San Francisco and Auckland to Nouméa — while carrying 22 kg of duffle, most of which was goodies for ADAGIO.

Susie’s first experience aboard ADAGIO was 2014, when on Eva Menuhin’s recommendation she had joined us in Nouméa for our 2014 passage to New Zealand. We gave her one night of jet-lag recovery in her Nouméa hotel, then bicycled off with her passport to process ADAGIO through the New Caledonia exit formalities. In two hours we had our outbound clearance for New Zealand.

Next we made a safety stop at Ile des Pins for a much-too-brief exposure to our favorite piece of tropical paradise. Then Susie ‘enjoyed’ a mostly upwind passage to New Zealand. This was an unusual upwind passage for ADAGIO as we agree that “Ladies and Gentlemen never sail to windward”. But, to make it a memorable voyage for Susie we decided to break some things — like our biggest 130mm mainsheet block — so Susie could participate in the jury-rigging.

Susie absorbed all that passage punishment with great cheer. Oh, almost forgot, half-way to NZ we discovered that Susie’s hatch was leaking. This is the hatch right over her double berth! She had been silently and stoically coping with squirts of seawater from the seas crashing over the foredeck. Once we had ADAGIO under maintenance in NZ we deduced that we must have distorted Susie’s hatch frame by catching a sheet under the corner of the hatch lens. To ensure against similar future leaks we replaced the entire hatch frame. After making landfall in New Zealand, and as our collective reward for the upwind passage we enjoyed a splendid couple of weeks together exploring the Bay of Islands.

With that introduction perhaps you can see why we consider Susie to be such a fine shipmate. The weather remained calm throughout her visit, giving us perfect weather and sea conditions for visiting numerous islands and reefs in the New Caledonia Southern Lagoon, where the reefs are relatively untouched. Susie is a strong swimmer, a good dive buddy for Dorothy, and as this was her first introduction to coral reefs, she was really excited.

Sunset and moonrise over Kuto Bay, click for gallery.

Kuto Bay: We wanted to ensure that Susie could enjoy what we think is the very best of New Caledonia. So when the wind shifted to the north on June 29th we scampered straight to Baie de Kuto, the prime anchorage of Ile des Pins. Our plan was that Susie could avoid being stuck in Nouméa for a week or more waiting for weather. Turboprop aircraft go to weather very effectively!

A few days at anchor in Kuto Bay enabled Susie to recover from jet lag. We visited the village of Vao and shopped for fresh produce at the farmers’ market. A kind gentleman opened a fresh coconut for Susie by banging it on a large rock to break it open, then removing the flesh with a large knife. We spent quality time with our friends Cleo, Albert, Brigitte and Tony, who own the two very special boutiques at Kuto Bay.

Circumnavigation of Isle of Pines: 

Our circumnavigation of Isle des Pins: Kuto to Oro Bay, Oro Bay to Gadji Bay to Ouameo, Ouameo to Kuto Bay. Click to embiggen!

Baie of Oro: We are always looking for the right weather opportunity to move ADAGIO to another of our preferred options. On July 9th with the wind shifting from strong southeast to lighter southwesterlies we decided to sail counterclockwise around the islands to the beautiful Baie de Oro on the NE corner of the island.

Outrigger sailing alongside ADAGIO in Oro Bay on our first visit. Click for the Oro 2000 gallery.


One objective for our visit to Oro Bay was to indulge ourselves in a crayfish dinner at the modest but locally famous Kou-Gny Restaurant on the beach of Oro Bay not far from the five-star Le Meridien Resort. We discussed the availability of our cray dinner with the restaurant for three days – but there just weren’t any crays wanting to be eaten that week. Another objective was to checkout the snorkeling options — which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps because we weren’t keen to get too exposed to the enormous seas crashing over the reefs – the reefs that were the only thing protecting us from waves that could have originated in Chilé.

Bay of Gadji: So next we sailed over the top of IPD through the Passe de Upe into Bay of Gadji. We needed the sun to be high to eyeball navigate our way through the reefs and bommies, which meant the tide was too low for us to sneak ADAGIO into the northern anchorage near Ile Nene. So we chose a safe anchorage on the east side of Ile Menore in 3 meters. There was too much wind to anchor our tender up next to the outer reef where we understand is the best snorkeling. So we settled for a snorkel exploration amongst the Ilot Tianoa bommies.

Recif Numae. Click for gallery..


Bay of Ouameo: We continued around to the western side of IDP to the Bay of Ouameo. We anchored ADAGIO on the lee side of Reef Numae, where Susie and Dorothy found Beautiful! Coral! Dorothy’s underwater camera found many good subjects, including a beautiful, placid, Nurse Shark. Its profile is different from the Black-tipped Reef Shark and the White-tipped Reef Shark that we had seen elsewhere. Kuto Bay again: On July 17th we appraised the coming wind outlook, deciding we should complete our circle back to Kuto before it becomes really uncomfortable to make our way south down the outside of the barrier reef, the Passe de la Sarcalle side of the Ile des Pins western lagoon. We returned to Kuto Bay at IDP, where we saw many Green Sea Turtles, and even a Dugong. We found some of our best snorkeling at beautiful Kanumera Bay adjacent to Kuto Bay, where the fish are very accessible and unafraid.

Baie de Upi: Susie just enjoying leaving the driving to Momo. Click for gallery.

Outrigger Sailing on Upi Bay: One last “must-do” for Susie was a cruise aboard a traditional outrigger sailing canoe in Upi Bay, which is the exclusive preserve of the local Kunie people. Our captain, Momo, had built his craft 31 years ago out of native timber, primarily the columnaris pine tree. The cruise departed from St-Joseph Bay on the east side of the Isle of Pines. We sailed through a shallow, sandy pass, and out onto the broad, shallow bay. Several other outrigger piroques accompanied us, providing photo opportunities with the forests of columnaris pines, ancient coral mushroom islands, and the local mountain, Pic Nga, in the background.

Islands and Reefs in the Southern Lagoon: our route from IDP, click for gallery.

Ilot Mato – picking our way though the bommies to a safe anchorage

From the Isle of Pines we sailed to Ilot Mato, a horse shoe-shaped reef with a lovely uninhabited island at its apex. Four Ospreys soared noisily above the small island. We used our inflatable kayak to travel between ADAGIO and the reefs and island, and anchored it while we snorkeled. During the evenings, Steve took photographs of the full moon, with remarkable results – especially having been taken from a moving boat.

Susie and Dorothy dived twice on the Ilot Mato reef community, a beautiful collection of corals and fish. 
Next, Recif Tote’, where at high tide, all you can see is the horizon.
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Ilot Maitre: On the way back to Noumea, we stopped at Ilot Maitre, which is a marine reserve, and teeming with a high diversity of tropical fish. The resort is welcoming to cruisers, and the walk around the island rewarded us with beautiful water views, large spiders in the trees overhead, but surprisingly few Tricot raye snakes.

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Susie caught the flight from New Caledonia to Auckland, then to London, on 28 July. She made us happy to share with her the sort of adventuring that we designed ADAGIO to do. We continue to revel in ADAGIO’s abundant water supply, comfort, ease of sailing and motoring, spacious accommodations, cooking facilities, 360 degree views, well-designed cockpit for relaxing and running the boat, spacious decks and many safety features.

NZ to New Caledonia June 2016

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Our 2016 NZ to Nouméa passage was special because we succeeded to align schedules so that Vanessa and Wayne could join us. AdagioJournal readers will remember that some of our most memorable passages have been sailed with Vanessa aboard:

At dawn Tuesday morning we received Rick Shema’s departure report which ended with “Should be a pleasant trip.” That proved to be a good forecast. Rick’s routing estimated passage time of 5 days 6 hours – our actual was 5 days 10 hours of mostly easy aft-of-beam sailing. Two high cells were merging off the Australian coast, so our departure weather looked happy:

June 14 departure weather situation: The color shading indicates GFS modeled significant wave heights as per the scale on the right, the arrows are modeled wave direction.

From Rick’s Weather Summary:

Mostly rhumbline to Noumea as comfortable course allows.
Average SOG: 5.2-9.0 kts
Depart in SSEerly winds 10 kts or less, significant waves 1.0 meters
Apparent Wind Angle: Mostly all aft of the beam. Less jibing than previously thought due to wind direction more consistently SSEward.
Maximum winds: SSE 20-25, gusts 28
Significant wave heights: to 3.5 m, mixed direction from SSW and SE trade wind wave and swell.
Highest 1/10: 4.5 m
Maximum preparation: 7.0 m (rare event)

Day 1: Departed Opua at 10:45. The local dolphins were at another party, so they sent a small pod of Orcas to farewell Vanessa as we sailed out to sea, on a 1000 nm passage from New Zealand to New Caledonia. Sunset displays the first night did not disappoint, and the cameras were active. We made 187 nm the first 24 hours.

Day 2: The true wind speed was in the teens, aft of the beam. It was beautiful off-the-wind sailing under full mainsail and reacher. Several Black-browed Albatross circled ADAGIO. Distance traveled on day two was 181 nm. At 0300 hours on day three, Dorothy wrote in the log, “A gentle ride. Clouds at the horizon; stars overhead. The wind is easing slowly, less than forecast.”

Day 3: Full moon passages are our favorite kind, making the night watches a pleasure. The reflection from the moonlight casts a bright streak from the horizon to the boat, rippling and sparkling in the night as it comes. We furled the reacher in 26-knot squalls, and started the engines for a while. Distance sailed on day three was 185 nm.

Day 4: Steve filed our afternoon position report:

It doesn’t get much better than this – sailing into the sunset under reacher steering AWA 155 following seas. SOG 7.5 TWS 16.8 TWD 150T

Several ships had passed us, and been tracked on our AIS. Steve’s log entry was, “Crew has all showered and after breakfast is sunning in the cockpit with e-books.” Distance sailed on day four was 193 nm.

Day 5: Winds are in the 20’s, and we are fighting a 1.5kn contrary current for most of the day, making for a bit of a rolly ride. At 1042 am sharp-eyed Vanessa spotted the loom of Pic Nga mountain on Isle of Pines. Wayne landed a beautiful MahiMahi, and we dined on sashimi for lunch.

After checking in at Noumea, we headed out to give Vanessa and Wayne some time snorkeling in several marine reserves in the Southern Lagoon. Ilôt Maître is a great place for abundant tropical fish, and occasionally a Dugong. Ilôt Signal brought more fish and quite a few sharks. Vanessa and Wayne certainly did soak up as many of the sun’s rays as they possibly could, before returning to wintry New Zealand. Thank you for the fine passage and the good times.

Tall Ships Race 2016

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The Tall Ships Race in Russell, NZ is an annual event, sponsored by the Russell Boating Club, attracting yachts of all types and sizes. This year we were charmed by the collection of Junk Rig yachts that joined the fleet. From our anchorage in Matauwhi Bay, we photographed Junks of several styles, as they set their sails in preparation for the race. Our friend from the Ocean Cruising Club, David Tyler, was quite disappointed that his Junk TYSTIE would not be entering the race this year due to a broken mast. When I asked David if I could include the name of his Junk association, he wrote back:

“By all means, you might get some of your readers to see the light and follow the One True Path! We’re members of the Junk Rig Association – – and we hold “junkets” whenever we feel like getting together, but the Russell event seems to have become an annual fixture.”

We included a photo of TYSTIE that we took in Canada, to thank David for his help.

The race was plagued with light winds, so a short course was sailed. We had good views, enjoying lunch and a waterside table at The Gables, a favorite Russell restaurant. In the evening the Russell Boating Club put on a Hangi, a pit-cooked feast in the Polynesian tradition. It was a grand day out.


ADAGIO’s 2015 Year-end Newsletter

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We hope your year has been as full of friends, family, good food, adventures, good fun, sunsets and lovely scenery as ours has. Our earlier dispatches describe and illustrate our 2015, including ADAGIO’s 15 year refit, visits from friends and family, and our passages between New Zealand to New Caledonia.

During all of our adventures, our family in California were having their own. Our grandson David graduated from high school and entered Bard College in New York. He took along his cello to continue playing beautiful music. Granddaughter Sarah, who is now a freshman in high school, continued to excel in horse jumping and dressage. She earned money to buy a Monofin and has aroused the interest of swimming coaches to help her develop her technique. Her new business of animal minding is going gangbusters in her neighborhood.

How fortunate we are to have such a fine life, wonderful family and friends, good health and our lovely ADAGIO. May the New Year bring you your favorite things, places, friends, family and experiences.

Dorothy and Steve

Family Members Come Aboard for Passage to New Zealand

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On the 16th of November, Dorothy’s sister, Margaret, and her husband, Fred, flew from Colorado to join us in the Isle of Pines, New Caledonia. Making an ocean passage had long been on Fred’s Bucket List. As soon as they arrived, we began looking for a weather window for sailing to New Zealand. We wanted a “Goldilocks” window, not too early in the season, and not too late to risk playing tag with tropical cyclones. We were keen to “show them the ropes”, in preparation for the blue water passage.

Planning this passage back in September with our router Rick Shema, Rick’s recommendation for this year was a passage towards the end of December. However, with two passengers aboard who had tickets to fly out of New Zealand on Christmas eve, we had to be sure we didn’t find ourselves facing only bad weather options and wishing we had taken an earlier “so so” weather situation. So when Rick reported that we would have a decent weather situation on the 23rd we decided to sail to Noumea for departure formalities.

After a week of making the most of being in Isle of Pines, we enjoyed a lovely off-the-wind sail through the southern reefs. We anchored near Noumea just nine hours after departing Ile des Pins at 0555.

Tuesday morning Steve cycled from one government office to another to complete our outbound clearance. Provisions and fuel were taken aboard, life jackets were tested, ADAGIO was fitted out for sea, systems tested, and we sailed for New Zealand on midday Monday the 23rd.

ADAGIO’s guest cabin is portside-forward over the wing. Very comfy on our normal off-the-wind passages. In typical Kiwi understatement, it’s a “bit bumpy” when we have to sail mostly upwind. While that’s what we had most of the way to NZ, there were no complaints from our hardy crew – though there was a bit of off-watch sleeping in ADAGIO’s saloon.

With four aboard we could run a relaxing 2-on, 6-off watch schedule to NZ. Two hours on watch at the helm/navigation station, followed by six hours off watch, gave each of us plenty of time to rest, to read, watch Albatrosses, Shearwaters and Petrels circling the boat, starry nights, sunrises and sunsets, and to enjoy each other’s company.

At dawn on our sixth day out, we spotted the “Long White Cloud” floating above New Zealand. Sailing south along the coast of the North Island is a beautiful experience. Australasian gannets and Terns dived around ADAGIO as we entered the Bay of Islands. NZ officials set a very high standard for yacht formalities. As always they politely and efficiently checked us in to New Zealand at OPUA port of entry.

In September we had celebrated our fifteenth year of cruising, and now we had returned to where ADAGIO had been built and launched in year 2000. We soon encountered cruising friends we had made years ago, and were eager to hear stories about their recent years of cruising. New friends we had made in New Caledonia continued to arrive, as well as cruisers from Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga.

Margaret and Fred joined us exploring around the Bay of islands: for hikes, beach walks, climbs to lookouts and native forest walks. Being recently retired, they were loving the life that we live, waking each morning, not really knowing the adventures and beauty that we would enjoy during the day, and meeting the interesting people who somehow always turned up. We were surrounded by such beautiful scenery that Margaret and Dorothy turned ADAGIO’s cockpit into a watercolor studio.

Activities at Kuto Bay

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The Isle of Pines. After many years of visiting this special place, we have come to realize that there are many “worlds” on this little island. The local Kunie people for the most part run their own affairs, and are supported by health, education and other services from the French government. Cruise ships come and go, and help support a small tourism industry, along with numerous fine accommodations. Members of the yachting and cruising community begin arriving in small numbers at the beginning of the winter months, and increase their numbers as summer approaches, before departing again before the start of the cyclone season. We have been privileged to spend enough time here to make friends, to get to know our way around the island and to notice the few changes that occur over the years, and actually how little does change.

The twice a week farmers market brings us in close contact with the talented “green thumbs” of the island, including access to edible native plants, snails and locally caught fish. Displays, traditional dancing and food stalls set up for the passengers of a cruise ship, provide entertainment and more food experiences for us as well. The eight different local tribes take turns hosting each cruise ship. I enjoy watching the locals interact at the market and elsewhere, and the children are particularly charming.

Several times a year the local people organize festivals and special ceremonies. The use of pandanus leaves for weaving panels, hats, baskets, birds, turtles, and much more, and decorating them with hibiscus flowers and many others is quite beautiful. The women wear colorful dresses and decorate their hair with flowers. Children swim at the nearby beach, while their families picnic under the coconut palms. There is a lot of laughter on this island, and we are happy to be as much a part of it as we are. Many thanks to our friends Cleo and Albert, Brigitte and Tony for introducing us around, inviting us to take part in the island’s activities, and sharing with us a cup of tea in their garden.

Sunrises and Sunsets

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Cloud junkies is what we are, especially colorful clouds. ADAGIO’s cockpit provides us with front row seats for sundowners at sunset. Our 360 degree wrap-around windows let in the beauties of the sunrises and the “dawn chorus” of birdsong. This year we have had fun playing with the panorama setting on our iPhone cameras. We don’t have a spectacular sunset every evening, but we are beginning to diagnose the clouds and are learning to predict which ones will provide the most beautiful displays. We hope you enjoy these, and wish you were here to enjoy them with us.

Parc Zoologique et Forestier

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Not far from the center of Noumea is a lovely park and zoo in a forest setting.  Proudly displaying many of their endemic species, the locals have designed a park for rambling and exploring.  Encountering beautiful birds in aviaries along the trails, shaded by native trees, and in one large aviary which you enter through protective gates.  The best designed setting was built for the national symbol, the endemic Kagu bird.  Protected only since 1977, there are thought to be only about 1000 of these birds in the wild.  This zoo successfully breeds Kagus, and releases them into the wild, about 100 birds released to date.  Kathy and I were careful to be present for feeding time, and were able to watch up close the Kagus’ beautiful territorial displays towards each other, by spreading their wings and lifting their crest feathers.  The attendant pointed out the location of a single Kagu sitting on the single egg in a nest next to a tree trunk.  The male and female share incubation duties, in 24 hour periods, and the offspring stay with their parents for six years or so.  I was pleased to see an endemic Notou, the largest arboreal pigeon in the world. Steve and I had heard it’s unusual call while we were visiting Queen Hortense’s cave on the Isle of Pines.  Another national symbol is Leach’s giant gecko, which was on display in the vivarium section of the park.