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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

New Caledonia: Cold Feet

Our arsenal of cold-fighting drugs.  Still taking us longer
than we expected to feel passage-ready.
New Caledonia to Australia -- our last long passage.  Late October, early November was our plan.   There was even a great sailing weather window to go. 

We didn't.

Probably due to lousy sleep on flat air mattresses while camping, I came down with a cold on the tail end of our Grande Terre road trip.  More's the pity, my long promised and awaited hotel room for the last two years came about not as a celebratory treat, but because I desperately needed a good night's sleep.  Plus, with no butane for our camp stove, a hotel with a kitchenette gave me the ability to inoculate myself with the first classic cure-all infusion -- home made chicken soup.

Nonetheless, now well-armed with drugs, optimism and good intentions, we checked out of New Caledonia on the eve of a 4-day French holiday weekend (all Saints Days), fully intending to make our jump by November 1st.

The timing was far from arbitrary.  
Bundaberg, our initial check-in destination is considered Australia's Northern Coast, which is still within the cyclone belt.  Technically, their cyclone season begins November 1st.  In practical terms, cyclones have not in recent years hit there this early.

There was also a sizable group of Australia-bound New Caledonia cruisers, many of whom were part of the "Down Under Rally," designed to get new arrivals off to a great start.  Many are friends.
Noumea's popular beach area, near Baie Citron.

We've participated in similar events -- the Pacific Puddle Jump for French Polynesia, and the Blue Water Festival with events in Tonga and New Zealand.  They were great fun, offered cultural insights, terrific information as well as bling, bargains and excellent social events.  

On the flip side, we rushed our way through the Tuamotus in French Polynesia to make the events in Tahiti and Moorea.  Great as the events were, really regretted cutting our time short in the Tuamotus for the events.  If we had it to do over, we'd have skipped the events and spent more time in the Tuamotus.
We missed the resort's performance, but one of the dancers
was happy to pose for us.

The Down Under Rally starts November 6th in Bundaberg, and its activities run through the 13th.  We wanted to make it, but only if everything else aligned.  It was close, but just a little off for us.

We also wanted to slip in at least one last new stop in New Caledonia on our way out, Amedee.  The small island is the site of a historic light house.  It offers great snorkeling and is just a stone's throw from one of the few exits on New Caledonia's massive reef lagoon.

However, Amedee is best in settled weather, which is not what we got when we pushed off from Noumea Harbor.  Instead, we found ourselves with over 20 knots of wind in our face, and short but closely spaced waves spattering our boat.  

Like our aborted trip to Fiji's Taveunis in similar conditions, we simply chose a new destination where the winds were more an asset than a liability.  Then it was Fiji's Yasawas, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  

This time, we headed into nearby Baie Citron.  We'd been intending to enjoy its lovely seaside promenade.  This last minute alternative plan suited us well.  When you know soon the greatest length you can walk for over a week is only about 25 feet, a stroll is that much more appreciated.

The next day, winds were still not right for Amedee.  Instead we headed to nearby Ilot Maitre, which offered good shelter, excellent snorkeling, kite boarding (we watched - it's kind of on my bucket list to learn as I used to windsurf), a beach and an upscale resort with a pleasant poolside/waterfront cafe/bar.   The free mooring balls, like Ilot Casy, felt like access to our very own free-form aquarium.

Watch for a future post on Ilot Maitre.  It's worth more than an aside.

The weather was perfect for lounging.  The weather was not so perfect for sailing though.

From New Caledonia to Bundaburg is roughly 760 miles.  Our boat's fuel is relatively amply -- enough to motor about 450 miles.  Really light winds for too many days weren't a great option.
Very common sight for us.  We're hoping Australia offers better wifi connectivity.
We'd eaten through a bit more of our passage food than expected, wanted good enough wifi for a decent weather report.  We returned to Noumea, just for the afternoon and eve,  While we're not that keen on New Caledonia's #1 beer, we find "Zest," their citrus seasonal is quite refreshing.  However, it seems about half the time New Caledonia alcohol sales are restricted.  We came for wifi and beer (and some passage perishables); accessing both the beer and the wifi took more effort than expected.

Tomorrow our plan is to enjoy the light winds to go to Amedee.  The following day. we'll head out before the winds get too strong, and take advantage of their push to give us a good head start on our last long passage.

Location Location

We're currently back in Noumea (S22.16.830 E166.25.888).  We were in Baie Citron (S22.17.996 E166.26.079) October 30, 2016 , and Ilot Maitre (S22.20.002 E166.24.385) October 31 - November 2, 2016.
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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.
  • December 2013 - May 2014 we sailed 1792  miles from Jacksonville Florida to the Bahamas. and back.
  • March 2012 we bought Journey in St. Lucia.  September 2012 we moved aboard, did some boat work, then sailed her to Jacksonville Florida by June 2013, 3762 miles.

Up Next
We plan to catch a safe sailing weather window - likely Friday, November 4th to Australia, about a 1 1/2- 2-week ~760 mile passage.    There will be some pre-posted catch up posts on New Cal while we're underway.  Once in Oz, we'll check in at Bundaberg, then travel South down the East Coast to Pittwater, near Sydney where we'll park Journey.  We'll travel over land there for a bit and figure out where to go back to work somewhere in the world.  Job tips are appreciated!