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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Happy New Caledonia – Part 1


Colorful New Caledonia postcard mural in downtown Noumea.

Beautiful entry into New Caledonia at dawn. 
While Vanuatu citizens claim they are “The happiest people*” coming to New Caledonia after Vanuatu made us much happier. 

*based on the "happy planet index" published by the New Economics Foundation (NEF). 









Fiery orange sunrise, entering New Caledonia.  Fortunately we find the “red sky at morning, sailor take warning” adage untrue.

 Our navigation chart shows a tricolor light-house beam to
provide more specific directional info.  How cool!  New Caledonia    
Admittedly, some of our delight with New Caledonia is simply luck of the draw and good timing. On our passage from Vanuatu to New Caledonia, the weather gods decided to take pity upon us; it was one of our mellowest long passages.   New Caledonia weather continues to grace us with sunshine and sailable weather, most days are in the 70s.  It also helps that New Caledonia is chock-a-block full of well-marked, viable anchorages, making day sailing between anchorages a cinch. 




Noumea Bay is a popular starting point for all sorts of sailboat races.  New Caledonia.
Vanuatu is indeed an incredible place, brimming over with awesome active volcanoes you can visit, friendly locals who genuinely want to get to know you, a rich culture and pristine waters.  But in Vanuatu it seemed like everything we did, cost .. Checking in, anyplace we stopped – a beach, a lookout point, a waterfall, hikes which by design required paid guides…. It grated. 
  

The fellow in the live-aboard boat anchored next to us in Noumea took his dog out with him for paddleboard rides.  New Caledonia.
Here’s just a starting “baker’s dozen” list of why we’re tickled to be cruising New Caledonia.
  1. Check-in is easy, and free.  No advance paperwork required.  We’ve heard it’s common and perfectly acceptable (if not entirely officially legal) to stop and rest overnight before checking in.  While there are foods not allowed by bio-security, it’s fairly easy to know in advance what they are and plan accordingly.  We finished all our check-in within a day of arrival; Port Moselle Marina even took care of our customs check-in for us (thanks, Carole!).
  2. WiFi works.  The primary wifi for transients like US is to use a mobile phone as a hotspot.  It’s managed by the some folks who run the post office.  While it’s debatable whether you consider it cheap (for 20 MB, $1/hour or $2.10 for 24 hours, or $4.20 for 24 hours unlimited [but slow after 20 MB]), in Noumea, for $5/day Port Moselle Marina offers wifi (+trash deposit, use of their ample dinghy dock and hot showers).  And there’s free wifi hotspots scattered around Noumea.  Note:  Recommended - figure there's a high likelihood you'll need the unlimited wifi so bring lots of $5 phone recharge cards with you - we will our next trip before leaving Noumea!
  3. Squeaky-clean.  The sidewalks are swept (we nearly hugged the professional sidewalk sweeper we saw shortly after our arrival).  Places to dispose of trash plentiful.  There’s even recycling!
  4. Accessible outdoor activities.  Promenades, parks and trails, are easy to find, attractive and well signed and maintained, and generally free. 
  5. Food, wonderful food (Oliver Twist if you're feeling melodic).  Fabulous salami, fish and cheese.  Yeah, we know folks rave about the bread, too, but it’s not on our gluten-free diet.  We haven’t had good salami for a long, long time.  Fresh white tuna from the fish market costs about the same as chicken, about $7.50/lb.  We’re eating lots of tuna!
  6. 1st world urban transportation. There’s an ample and affordable bus system. Walking is a pleasure, thanks to sidewalks and crosswalks. Roads are well maintained.  We believe there’s a rental-car road trip calling our name… and if we choose not to sail to Iles Des Pins, we might consider taking a fast ferry there.
  7. Museums and gardens.  There’s lots to choose from, decent quality (so we hear, we’ll do them on a rainy day) and they’re quite affordable, anywhere from free to $15/person, but usually less.
  8. Industrial. Incongruously, as much as I love pristine natural surroundings, seeing a thriving industrial port is strangely satisfying.
  9. American-friendly.  New Cal dedicates a number of sites to thank US service members for their WWII efforts on behalf on New Caledonia.
  10. Bustling bay.  Sailboat races, outrigger canoes, paddle boarders with dogs in tow.  A flash ferry zips past, offering a potential option for getting places we’d prefer not to sail. 
  11. Nautically-oriented.  We’ve never seen more boats than in Noumea – likely 1,000 or more, mostly sailboats.  There’s 3 huge marinas in Noumea, plus tons of places to grab mooring balls or drop an anchor.
  12. Navigational aids are superb.  Accurate charts.  Monster-sized, couldn’t-possibly-miss-them lighthouses.  Larger-than-life, clearly visible lead-lines….
  13. Oodles of anchorages.  With so many anchorages, it’s easy to sail with a minimum of fuss from one to another as a day-sail, and there’s enough variety to offer shelter in just about any kind of wind.  Prony Bay alone could keep a cruiser busy visiting a slew of spots each less than 3 miles from one to the next.


    Yay!  Finally, in the land of decent salami, again (notwithstanding the great choriso from Long Flat Bacon in Whangarei New Zealand’s Grower’s Market).  Noumea, New Caledonia.


More soon about our New Caledonia cruising. We've now made 8 stops since arriving in New Caledonia just 2 weeks ago!

If you can’t wait to learn more about cruising New Caledonia, check out Viki Moore of Astrolable’s excellent Cruising New Caledonia Tips.
Noumea, New Caledonia.  One of many dedications thanking the US military for protecting New Caledonia in World War II.

Location Location
We arrived in New Caledonia September 20, 2016.  We’re currently cruising the Prony Bay area, less than 30 miles South of Noumea.  Our current anchorage is in Baie Du Carenage, A (S22.18.149 E166.51.365).


Even the smokestacks seemed clean and shiny in Noumea, New Caledonia.
Cruising by the Numbers
  • Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
  • Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  • We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  • Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  • December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  • From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  • Prior to that we sailed from St. Lucia to Florida and also spent a season cruising the Bahamas.

We've spent most of this last week cruising in Prony Bay, about 30 miles from Noumea, New Caledonia.

Up Next
We're planning on cruising in New Caledonia until November.  After New Caledonia, we head to Australia, by December 2016 (but probably earlier).  There, we plan to sell our boat, and go back to work, somewhere.