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.
In year 2000 we first visited the Noumea Aquarium, and were delighted by the natural lighting, the selection of native marine species, and that the water in the aquarium is provided by a flow through of clean seawater from the nearby Baie des Citrons. In year 2005 the aquarium was closed for two years for the construction of a completely new facility. All of the wonders of the original aquarium have been retained, and all areas have been expanded and modernized. The original founders, Dr Rene’ Catala and his wife Ida were prominent marine biologists for their discoveries in coral reef ecology, especially the fluorescence of certain corals. More recently, the aquarium has developed techniques for captive breeding of the Chambered nautilus. Two juvenile Chambered nautilus were on display for us to see. Educational displays accompany many of the exhibits, providing scientific information and education.
Following up on an ad we had seen at a bicycle fair in Noumea, we reserved a tour by electric-assisted mountain bikes in the Parc Provincial de Dumbea and Reserve Naturelle de la Haute-Dumbea, located north of Noumea. In Dumbea Gorge, dominated by imposing mountains, the earliest road in New Caledonia was built to serve the timber and mining industries. The road follows the Dumbea River, over hill and dale, crossing the river numerous times. The scenery was spectacular, but could only be viewed while our bicycles were stopped, as our eyes were on the rough road at all times. Joe and Kathy tried out a pair of orbital bicycles as well. We are glad to have had this expedition in the back country of New Caledonia, but would recommend it only to experienced cross country bicyclists.
During each of the many visits we have made to New Caledonia, we have visited the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. You can see more photos of this wonderful place in posts we have made on this web site over the years. This year we came to see a special exhibit of traditional Kanak sculpture in wood. Photography was not allowed, so you will have to believe us when we say that the sculptures were extraordinary. We took a couple of photos of the splendid architecture with our iPhones, including a panorama. The French cafe in the centre is a special place to lunch with friends.
Noumea’s Maritime Museum has been recently rebuilt. A special exhibit has been added, displaying items from the story and archaeology surrounding the French explorer, La Perouse. His two ships were lost at the Solomon Islands in 1788, and it was not until 1981 that the remains of his ships were discovered. Kathy had already been reading about the disappearance of La Perouse, and the discovery of the evidence of the few survivors in the Solomon Islands.
During WWII in the Pacific, New Caledonia became the center for operations by the Allies. The WWII Museum in Noumea displays many items from this era.
Dorothy and friend, Wahoo Bar and Restaurant
Steve did a great job of finding the Waves of Bukura bed and breakfast, outside of the town of Port Vila, where we stayed for two nights. Beautiful accommodations built by our hosts. Gorgeous ocean views. Our host is a fine chef who prepared a gourmet dinner for us each evening. His wife prepared beautiful desserts.
Over the years we have heard many stories about Vanuatu from our cruising friends. We have always been puzzled by the contrasts. This third world country is the home to some of the kindest, sweetest, friendliest people in the world. They are quite poor by western standards, but seem healthy and clean, but have to pay for their children’s schooling after primary school, which unfortunately is difficult for some.
We drove around the island of Efate on a ring road that was originally built by the US during WWII, and was recently re-surfaced by the US. Off of this ring road you are struggling to drive on unsealed roads, with pot holes everywhere.
The people are good farmers, and we passed many produce stands, mostly selling tomatoes, and the large farmers market in town was packed full of locally grown food. The women use strands cut from pandanus leaves to artfully tie together several ears of corn or lots of sprouted coconuts Strong, freshly-woven, multiple-use carry baskets are used for displaying their produce and for carrying it home after purchase.
Category 5 Cyclone PAM severely damaged several islands in Vanuatua about 8 months before our visit, and the banana trees have yet to bear fruit since the storm. Much aid was delivered from overseas, and people are rebuilding their houses with cinder blocks instead of corrugated sheet metal. It is impressive to see how much progress has been made. We saw huge trees that had been uprooted by the storm being buried in a deep pit.
We lunched at Chill restaurant overlooking the yachts anchored in the harbor in Port Vila. We did not see the yachts of any of our cruising friends, but enjoyed watching the activities of the port. Most of the cruising boats that did not flee the country as the cyclone approached were destroyed.
The local Ni-Vanuatu people, over the past century or so, evolved a common language called Bislama, pronounced Bish-lama, so that the various tribes and expats could communicate. It is humorous to hear and read. At a grocery store, I photographed some signs which display the message in Bislama, English and French. If you read the Bislama out loud, it is quite understandable for English speakers. Here are some more examples:
Piano: “black fala box we igat black teeth, hemi gat white teeth you faetem hard I singout”
Guitar goes something like: “You tickle its ribs and it sings.”
After a very busy three months, it was relaxing to lounge for an hour or so on the porch, watching waves breaking on the reef, forming beautiful curls of white foam.
We made two trips to Isle of Pines this year, and had fun taking panorama pictures of the beautiful scenery with our iPhones. The Bugny forest along the shore of Kanumera Bay is unique in the world, and rare in New Caledonia. It is a challenge to photograph, but Steve tackled it in the early mornings during several of his bicycle rides. The views from ADAGIO’s anchorage were also due for some pano shots, as well as the view of ADAGIO from the shore of Kuto Bay.
Our friendship with Cleo and Albert and Brigitte and Tony, long-time residents of Isle of Pines, continues to prosper. They are a special source of information for us about the island and surrounding area. Their cordiality and hospitality make IDP one of our favorite cruising locations in all the Pacific Ocean. Albert continues to design and hand paint beautiful tropical clothing, with local scenes and iconography, for sale at the Boutique. Cleo shares with us her writing activities. Tony and Brigitte have begun making silver jewelery, to add to the items that they sell from their boutique.
In Noumea, our friend, Chloe’ Morin of Noumea Ocean (www.noumeaocean.com), recommended an excellent rigger who came aboard and went up the mast in the bosun’s chair about eight times in all. The bottom line is that he discovered what had cut the reacher halyard. During the re-rigging in New Zealand, inside the top of the mast, the reacher halyard had been led incorrectly, and it took only one day for it to chafe through. It is no mean feat to cut through the extra strong line used for a halyard. The 20 meters of halyard then dropped down inside the mast. The next job was to fish this line out of the mast. The old halyard was end-for-ended, and a new eye splice made in the top end which was re-connected at the top of the mast. Each of the reacher sheets also received a new eye splice where a shackle attaches it to the clew of the sail. We were very pleased with the work accomplished by our rigger, George, and his partner, Charley.
ADAGIO was berthed for about two weeks in Marina Port Moselle, Noumea. The agriculture inspector allowed us to keep our New Zealand meat. I bought 500 grams of yellowfin tuna at the fish market, and resupplied our produce provisions at the wonderful Farmers Market next to the marina. The farmers market is overflowing with locally grown limes, bell peppers, pineapples, tomatoes, lettuces, bananas, mandarins, green beans, yams and much more. Imported apples, grapes and pears. It is a wonderful bounty, although the prices are high.
To sort out our huge reacher sail, when the wind was light in the morning, Steve hoisted while I spun the sail to untwist it. It had about ten twists in it from dragging under the boat. Meanwhile I sprayed with a hose as much of the sail as I could reach. The sail opened up and we were able to examine it, finding only one small tear in the fabric along the foot of the sail. We can fix that. She furled beautifully and we gave eachother another High Five!
We considered the passage from New Zealand to New Caledonia to be a sea trial or shakedown cruise after ADAGIO’s refit. If the reacher halyard proves to be the only weakness that was introduced by her refit, we will be pleased. Fingers crossed that there are no more hidden faults.
Noumea is a busy, happening place, currently with dozens of large mining trucks, on strike, parked below the windows of government offices next to the marina. Also a beautiful collection of paddling canoes lined up on the beach at Anse Vata for a festival. From our anchorage in Baie de l’Orphelinat, we have front row seats to the sunset sail boat races and the sailing school scrimmages.
It is beautiful and relaxing here. Just what we want. I am writing this from a waterfront cafe over a mochaccino, having walked here from the marina while Steve biked along the waterfront. On the way I bought chocolate croissants for lunch and a loaf of brioche for French toast.
All is well.
By June, numerous friends had departed for Fiji, Tonga or Vanuatu. We were following their progress on the cruisers’ web site: http://www.yit.co.nz. (Yachts in Transit). Yachts sailing to Vanuatu were laden with supplies, tools and medicines for the people whose villages had been leveled by cyclone PAM. Over the years, these cruisers had made friends with the locals who lived on many of the islands, and organized among themselves just which boats would take supplies to which remote islands. They even helped to distribute supplies that had arrived in Vanuatu by ships from other countries.
On 22 June we departed Town Basin Marina and berthed in Marsden Cove Marina, where we checked out of New Zealand, bought duty-free fuel and prepared ADAGIO for sea. On 23 June we departed New Zealand for New Caledonia. It was not long before we were joined by the first Albatross of our passage. As we sailed before the wind under jib and reacher sails during the first day, the true wind speed increased from the teens then up to 30 knots after dinner. We furled the headsails and sailed under third reefed mainsail. The wind continued to blow in the mid-twenties throughout the night with gusts in small squalls. The sea state was from astern at 3 to 3.5 meters height. We sailed 185 nautical miles during the first 24 hours.
Soon after lunch, on our second day out, we heard a loud Bang! the sound of the halyard for our enormous reaching sail parting, dropping the sail overboard, still attached to the boat by its two sheets, and to the furling drum at the bow. “All hands on deck!”
We suited up in wet weather gear and went forward to examine the situation. The sail was streaming out, between the hulls, in the water under the boat. Our first concern was that no lines become entangled in our two engine propellers.
Using our super sharp serrated boating knives, we sawed through each of the two sheets, allowing the sail to be held only by the tack of the sail attached to the furling drum just forward of the main beam where our two anchors are stowed.
At first we thought that the best thing to do was to cut the whole thing loose. Then we saw how relatively peacefully the sail was streaming out along the inside of the port bow. By alternating between the two anchor windlasses, and each with a long line, we were able to bring the sail aboard, bit by bit, over the main beam. With much cleverness and skilled problem-solving, not to mention a lot of hard work, we were able to save our expensive sail and still retain all of our fingers and toes.
For something like this to happen is of course a real Bummer. However, we are grateful that the episode occurred in broad daylight rather than at “0-dark-thirty, and with a few showers rather than thundering rain, to rinse off the salt spray from the bounding seas surrounding us. We lashed the sail securely onto the foredeck, waiting for morning daylight when we could sort it out and stow it into the starboard bow locker. It closely resembled a large zebra pelt, the new white sail fabric striped with black lines from ADAGIO’s new black anti-foul paint. We motor-sailed under reefed mainsail and starboard engine, until morning when we hoped the winds and seas would settle down a bit.
On 25 June, at 0600 hrs, beginning my 6 hour watch, I wrote in the log, “Wind still up in the mid to high twenties. Seas over 2 metres. Sky is beginning to glow in the east. Our position is just to the SSW of the Tui Seamount, the Kiwi Seamount and the Three Kings Ridge. We are motor sailing directly towards New Caledonia. Seas are still a bit rough. Sailing under 4th reefed mainsail, which we will hoist to first reef when the sun is shining.”
Forecast was for increasing seas and decreasing wind over the next 24 hours.
We covered 169 nautical miles during our second 24 hours out. Albatross continued to visit, including a sizeable Wandering Albatross. Flying fish landed on deck and occasionally smashed against a window, leaving behind a telltail splotch of slime and scales. We hoisted the mainsail and unfurled the jib, making for a more comfortable ride, occasionally surfing on a wave at 10 to 14 knots boat speed.
With many changes in true wind speed and true wind direction, we were kept busy adjusting our course. During our third day, we covered 189 nautical miles. By day 4, we were sailing under a bright blue sky, before 2.5 m seas, with true windspeed in the teens.
When we were ready to reef the mainsail, we discovered that the halyard would not feed up the mast to lower the sail. Perhaps the main halyard was fouled inside the mast, tangled up with the broken reacher halyard. It did not take us long to pull some of the reacher halyard out through the hole where it fed into the mast, thus freeing the main halyard. Whew!
After each passage we have made to New Caledonia, rains have washed off the heavy layer of salt crystals that covered ADAGIO, and this was no exception. Albatrosses had visited us at sea, always appearing when the wind is strongest and seas highest, making photography a bit difficult, but a pleasure to see. A pod of welcoming dolphins joined us as we entered the Southern Lagoon. From our bow pulpits we tried to work out their social status. There were four “guys” who competed heavily for prime positions on the port bow wave, knocking each other about at times. A Matriarch and a young dolphin stayed together near the starboard bow, and out of the fray. A seventh dolphin of medium size flitted back and forth between the two groups. I imagine she was a young female. Who knows? They were certainly having fun. I whistled and sang to them. From time to time a dolphin would turn on its side and look up at me. Wooo Hoooo!
We continued to visit with our cruising friends whose boats were in Whangarei, and we enjoyed the Ocean Cruising Club BBQ get together, during which an OCC award was presented to six-time circumnavigator Web Chiles.
Our long-time friend, Eva Brown, now living in Nelson, NZ, visited the town of Russell in the Bay of Islands, where we were neighbors for six years. Eva looks wonderful. Her face is bright and she is energetic and cheerful. Dorothy joined her for a day and, just like old times, walked with Eva through Russell, and up some lanes she had never seen. It was a very enjoyable reunion. We visited our mutual friend, Heather Lindauer, then Clifford Whiting, New Zealand’s most famous Maori wood carver and teacher, and Murphy Shortland, who did the historical research for place names on the IPIPIRI map that Denis Brown drew and painted.
Heather Lindauer looks bright and healthy. She brought me up to date on the St Johns Ambulance group. Heather told us about the current exhibition of 40 portraits of Maori chiefs and their wives being displayed in Berlin. The portraits were painted by an ancestor of Heather’s late husband, Linty. The portraits had been cleaned and restored by an expert, and it is the first time the 40 portraits have been out of New Zealand. Eva and I browsed through the catalog from the exhibit, with Heather telling us about each chief. Some were peacemakers; some were great warriors. The portraits are a New Zealand treasure that, when not traveling, are on display at the Auckland Memorial Museum.
Our friend Anne from the catamaran THREE SIXTY BLUE and her nephew, Ian, arranged a private visit to the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre. Robert, the founder of the centre, took us on an extensive tour and introduced us to two Kiwi birds, one that he takes to schools to introduce to children, and a younger Kiwi that had been rescued. Normally nocturnal, these Kiwi birds were habituated to daylight, allowed us to pet them, and to photograph them poking their long beaks into the grass to catch worms that they located beneath the soil with their hearing.