New Caledonia to Bundaberg, Australia

Monday (21 October) we busied ourselves preparing for our passage. Whilst out and about we met some fellow cruisers who were giving directions to some tourists to Baie de Citron and warning them about not swimming there in the murky water. “Why not?” was our question (bearing in mind we had been swimming in this bay cleaning our hull recently) only to be told of a fatal bull shark attack in the marina next door off one of the docks. OMG! We realised at that point how naive we had been to naturally assume that it was safe to swim. Lesson definitely learnt and thankfully we still have all our limbs LOL.

In the evening we went on board SV Tamanu for dinner with Steve and Jo. Was a lovely evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Tuesday morning at 8am we met Audrey from Noumea Yacht Services who was assisting us with our outward clearance procedures. The process is relatively simple, however, you have to visit three offices (Customs, Immigration and the Harbour Master). They are quite a distance from each other (particularly on foot) and also the Immigration office closes at 11.30 am each day. By paying a small fee, Audrey drove us around and facilitated the paperwork. When we arrived at the first building we realised that paying for this service was definitely the right decision. A nondescript building, no Doune (customs) signs, coupled with a buzzer entry system for each floor. Think we would probably have struggled at this first hurdle to be honest.

Back to the marina with exit papers in hand we carried on getting ready. We met Steve and Jo for sundowners in the bar and enjoyed our last evening together.

Wednesday morning and we were ready. We said farewells to Steve and Jo and then slipped away to the fuel dock. Having fuelled up we headed out to sea. The passage was a mixture of everything from strong winds to light airs; bumpy, lumpy seas with uncomfortable conditions; flat calm and perfect sailing conditions; and motoring along under bare poles. And of course I mustn’t forget the beautiful sunsets and sunrises. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves although Richard was disappointed not to catch any fish.

By early Tuesday morning (29 October) we knew that we would definitely arrive into Bundaberg that afternoon so emailed (using our satellite connection) both the marina and the authorities to confirm revised ETA. As we got closer to Australia we wondered whether we were in the right place as we couldn’t actually see land until we were only 15 miles away!

We made contact via VHF and they gave us our slip assignment and said that they would clear us on our allocated slip. It was a tricky one being pushed off by the stiff wind and into a skinny spot next to a large catamaran. Richard made it in beautifully despite the challenging conditions. Before we were even tied up, the officials were waiting on the dock for us. We were told to get off the boat (under supervision with barely enough time just to kill the engine) and Sally the sniffer dog was put on board and promptly jumped straight off LOL. So she was put back on and did her job before we were allowed to climb back on board. Customs and immigration were first – all questions and forms completed and answered to their satisfaction and we were then welcomed to Australia. Next were the three bio-security guys who searched cupboards and lockers for evidence of insect infestation, particularly in the wood. I had one passage meal left in the freezer so that was confiscated (as we had made better time than anticipated) but otherwise we had no fresh food or meat left. The guys laughed when I told Richard he had to take me out to dinner now as the cupboards were bare. All the officials were friendly, very thorough, professional and courteous. The only thing that concerned me was that they were all wearing guns.

Woo hoo, we were legal so down came our yellow quarantine flag and up went the Australian courtesy flag. Can’t believe it, we have finally crossed the South Pacific and sailed to Australia! Woo hoo….

Tuesday evening we went ashore to the marina restaurant and had dinner and a few restorative cold beers admiring the view.

Wednesday morning we were up early and booked ourselves onto the marina’s courtesy shopping bus to Bundaberg. This is quite a large town but we were focussed on our jobs rather than really exploring – that can wait for another day.

We found the large Hinkler Mall and purchased our TelStar SIM card; got some cash out of the ATM; I got my hair cut; we re-provisioned in Woolworths; and picked up some real bargains in the Liquor Store with bottles of NZ Marlborough Savignon Blanc costing only AUS $7 a bottle.

We returned to the boat fully laden, restocked all our cupboards and freezer, and then caught up online with emails etc. This started an increasingly frustrating sequence of events with our current yacht insurers informing us they will offer us a renewal but it is certainly a lesser product (ie more risk/cost to us) and they will definitely NOT include coverage for cyclone / named storm / numbered wind events (which we currently have). So now we are searching around to find another insurer who will supply us with a policy that actually meets our needs, particularly as we had based all our (already booked and paid for) plans around the restrictions contained in this year’s policy. Talking to other cruisers and we are not the only ones facing this difficulty. Not impressed!

In the evening we got another courtesy bus to the Lighthouse Pub and Hotel in nearby Burnett Heads.

We had a few drinks there – catching up with Stella and John from SV Exocet Strike again – before returning to Morphie for some pontoonies and bed. This hotel (which is a grand word for a place that is stark and feels more like a cafe than a bar) has a big screen TV and will be screening the World Cup Rugby Final on Saturday night. Come on England!!!!

Today, Thursday, we are doing boat jobs yet again. Richard has washed the boat while I’ve done the laundry. He has also made up some new shore-power cables and got them PAT tested so we are compliant here in Australia and he has just topped off the diesel tank.

Going forward we’ll be staying here in the marina for a couple of weeks to enjoy the events of the Down Under Rally Welcome Week before heading further south. Should be fun and very social.

Bye for now


Passage to Australia – part 3

By noon Sunday (27 October) we had covered another 125.9 miles towards our destination.   The wind had completely died (less than 2 knots recorded) and we were motoring along on a flat calm sea on a hot and sunny day.   The temperature had definitely increased as we get closer to Australia so we are both happy sailing along in shorts and t-shorts once again.   We had officially crossed into Australian waters during the day but still no other boats around that we can see either by sight or on radar although we know, from the SSB net, there are at least five yachts en route to the same port as us, Bundaberg. Richard fished all day again but nothing came close other than a couple of curious sea birds who hovered over the lures bobbing along the surface behind us.

During the day we continued reading the Rally documents aimed at facilitating our arrival into Australia.   One thing that we hadn’t noticed was the need to clean all shoes to ensure that there was no foreign soil on them.   So I got the shoe box into the cockpit and gave them all a clean and polish….kept me out of trouble for a while.

Later on, after the net, we had dinner and for the first time ever on passage we actually sat at the cockpit table to eat from plates with knives and forks rather than from a bowl in the lap.   Was very nice….

During another dark starry night the wind picked up a little so we pulled out the genoa again to try to increase our speed as we were now experiencing adverse currents.   By 6am on Monday (28 October) the wind has gone forward of the beam so we got all three sails out to try to maintain our speed.   We continued motor sailing though as the airs remained light at only 7 knots.    That worked for a short period but then the wind switched to the west and died again.

By 10 am we were motoring with just the main up and the fishing rod was deployed.  By noon we had picked up a positive current and were speeding along at 6.5 knots with very low RPMs.   Our next 24 hour period saw us covering 133.8 miles.   The main eventually started flapping in the light airs so that came down again.

By the time the sun was going down we were officially in Australian waters, approaching the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Reserve.   So no fishing from here….so sadly Richard had to retire his fishing lures for this trip.   No fish landed just one little fishy nibble and that was it.    We were now in a shipping lane and saw three large ships going north all in very close proximity.   MV Romi crossed our bows around three miles ahead whilst the other two went behind our stern.

At 9pm we were motor sailing with the genoa up in very light airs.   All SSB net boats reported the same conditions, including those on their way to New Zealand, so there doesn’t look like there will be much wind any time soon.  Despite the 10 knot forecast…..   

We motored all night across a glassy sea and it felt more like being on a lake than being in the ocean out of sight of land!   All very strange.   By 6am on Tuesday (29 October) we were approaching Fraser Island (not that we could see anything) and the wind finally picked up.   By 9 am the engine was off – having been on for 48 hours – and we were sailing again.   Woo hoo!   The seas were lumpy and we were bouncing around but we didn’t care.

By 10am we were sailing towards the port of Bundaberg, our destination.   We hope to arrive there later this afternoon so this will be the last passage blog.   We are excited to be arriving into Australia and look forward to getting cleared and being made legal.   We are ready for the officials to come onboard and do their thing and we have certainly prepared like we have never prepared before.   So fingers crossed it will all go smoothly.   Will be in touch when we get back on line.

Bye for now

Passage to Australia – part 2

By noon on Friday (25 October) it was a beautiful bright and sunny day.   The seas had settled down to a gentle 1.5m swell and the wind had eased to between 10-14 knots.   It was just a stunning (albeit chilly) day in the most perfect conditions with blue skies and deep navy blue seas.  In the second 24 hour period of this passage we had covered another 129.4 miles.   

At 6pm the sun went down and the conditions remained the same.   It was another black night with no moon but, instead, we were mesmerised by the fantastic show that are the planets and the stars.   The Milky Way was very apparent and we are always in awe of the beauty of nature on a night like this.  It is interesting to the constellations as they are different to what we can see at home in the Northern Hemisphere.

During the night the conditions were fickle with higher gusts again and strong currents requiring us to change course to stay moving in a straight line.   By 3am on Saturday (26 October) the wind had swung north easterly, so we gybed.   Then within an hour it had gone south easterly again so we gybed back.   That will teach me to say earlier that we wouldn’t  have to do much to the sails once set LOL.

The sun came up in an amazing colour show and the day was another beautiful sunny one.   Richard threw out the lures and was hopeful for a fish.  By noon we had covered another 129.5 miles so, again, making steady progress.   At this point the wind dropped back to around 6 knots which is really light for us as we are such a heavy boat.   So we poled out the Genoa and then the main and were sailing along slowly wing-on-wing.   We kept our speed up around the 4.5 knots region so actually pretty happy.   By 5pm, however, the wind eased even more and we struggled to keep both sails full.   So we left the poled-out Genoa but put the mainsail away.   At 5pm we motor sailed to top up our batteries for a couple of hours then turned the engine off at 7pm.   We continued to slowly sail towards our destination.   As we went into our night shifts, having eaten dinner and witnessed another lovely sunset, we were maintaining speed despite the light airs.   We also pulled our lure back onboard – no fish again today. 

Each afternoon Richard is participating in the SSB Offshore Pacific Cruisers net to find out how other yachts are faring.    There is currently an exodus from the Pacific Islands heading to both Australia and New Zealand to seek shelter before the cyclone season starts officially on 1 November (although many stay much later as there is little danger very early in the season).   Most of us, however, are driven by the restrictions in our respective insurance policies.  Those behind us are experiencing strong winds and those ahead of us are motoring with no wind at all.    The forecast, again, is pretty accurate.

During the evening we continued sailing in light airs.   At 11.30 pm we motor sailed for an hour to top up our batteries again and were also assisted by a positive current.   At 12.30 am, when it was time to switch off the engine the wind had died back to 4 knots so we admitted defeat and continued motor sailing with the poled-out Genoa.  Again another dark night as Mr Moon is not putting in an appearance until around 3am.    There was some cloud cover so not such a great starry night but I was kept entranced by the glittering show of the phosphorescence in the water behind our stern.

This morning, Sunday (27 October) and the wind has died completely so we are now motoring  under bare poles.   Looks like that will be it for the day.   So far no large sea creatures have been spotted but, now that we are within Australian waters (with just over 300 miles to go) we are ever hopeful of seeing dolphins or even whales (although a big late in the season for them).   So far all we have seen are flying fish who skim across the top of the water trying to escape from us as we plow on through.

Bye for now

Passage to Australia – part 1

At 10am on Wednesday 23 October we left our slip in Port Moselle marina, Noumea, New Caledonia, and headed to the fuel dock.  There was already a yacht on it so we went around in circles for a while but the remaining gap was constantly being filled by speedy motor boats sneaking in.   Eventually we made our move to get in behind SV Blithe Spirit.   When we got closer we were pushed on by the increasing wind and became pinned.    And, of course, that end of the dock only had petrol.   So we waited for SV Blithe Spirit to depart and then ‘walked’ Morphie along to the diesel station from above.   And I mean from above as we had to climb a ladder in the dock’s wall to get up there LOL

Finally we were tied in the right place and quickly filled up our diesel tank and a few spare jugs with 170L of duty-free fuel.  Then it was our turn to get off the dock.   Thankfully, unlike the yacht before who had smacked their transom in the manoeuvre, we successfully pivoted off the dock using our bow thrusters and were free (unharmed) and on our way to Australia.

By noon we were heading towards the Passe de Dumbae, the main shipping channel.   We were overtaken by a pilot boat who met a bulk carrier who had already crossed our bow.   We weren’t quite sure what was going on and assumed the ship would turn towards us to enter the port so we stayed close to the edge of the channel to pass port to port.   But he kept on going out to sea so clearly the pilot was being picked up rather being dropped off.   Was all a bit confusing for a while…..

The seas were quite large even inside the lagoon’s fringing reef so we knew we were in for a bumpy ride.    As we came through the reef, we left the channel behind and turned towards our next waypoint (over 700 miles away), the seas were boisterous at 2.5m and the wind was between 18-25 knots with higher gusts.   It was cloudy and grey and we settled into our passage routines.    It was pretty sporty to say the least LOL as we sailed along downwind under the Genoa alone.   It was definitely like being in a washing machine down below!

By 6pm we had eaten and it was time for my first solo watch so I watched the sun go down.   It was a very dark, chilly, cloudy, bumpy night with few stars peeking through and the moon only made an appearance briefly in Richard’s early morning shift.    For a few hours during the night we got some respite when the winds moderated and the seas smoothed but it all picked up again as the sun rose and we were back bouncing around being picked up and surfing down waves or being slammed on our port quarter.   But, despite the conditions, we were enjoying ourselves although sleep was a little elusive.

Thursday 24 October the conditions remained the same for most of the day with brief periods of lighter winds.   By noon we had completed our first 24 hours at sea and had covered 133 miles.   By 4pm the winds had settled back into the 15 knot region and the seas were at 1.5m and less confused so conditions were much more comfortable.   The sun went down with a beautiful display of colours and then, again, it turned into a pitch black night.  By midnight some stars were trying to show themselves through as the cloud cover started to lessen.  We had light airs for a while during the night so we both slept well between shifts and, at this early stage of the passage, we were not concerned by our hull speed.

By 6am on Friday 25 October the winds had picked up, they had switched to ESE (which was a better angle for our course) and we flew along at 7 knots for a while.   But, of course, this was short lived and, come 7am, the winds had settled back to the 15-18 range so our boat speed fell back again.

Normally, on passage, we focus on speed and this one is no different.   However, there is so far to go at this stage we will just sail the best course until we get closer when we can recalculate our required speed to facilitate a daylight arrival.  It does feel strange though that, apart from reefing if the weather deteriorates and easing/hardening according to the wind direction, we will probably not touch the sails for hundreds of miles…..    Now I’ve said that, of course, it will probably blow from a different direction and cause us to gybe.   But, right now, surprise, surprise, the conditions actually match the forecast!!!   

Bye for now

New Caledonia: Final days in Grand Terre

Tuesday (15 October) it was Richard’s birthday. Sadly the weather refused to co-operate in terms of us moving on somewhere to celebrate so we just went across to Ile Casey (only five miles away) for a different outlook. This island is another nature reserve so there were moorings available here also.

Richard enjoyed reading all his birthday wishes from friends and family but we treated it as a normal day and decided to celebrate the day after (which was still his birthday in the UK anyway). So we got busy. We emptied 18 lockers, all drawers and cupboards onboard, cleaned them out, sprayed for bugs (we didn’t see any so relieved about that as passengers are unwelcome in Australia), and then loaded them all up again. This was back-breaking work and the boat was a mess most of the day. Later on we sat in the cockpit, enjoyed the peace and quiet, before having a movie night on board.

Wednesday morning we dropped the mooring ball at 5.40am as we wanted to get through the Woodin Canal on the rising tide. We motored through the Canal and then sailed under genoa as we checked out the lovely scenery along the way.

We arrived at Ilot Maitre at 10.55 am, having covered just over 28 miles. What a beautiful resort. We dropped dink, went ashore, and finally raised a glass to officially celebrate Richard’s birthday.

We enjoyed the surroundings but, as the resort was full, they weren’t offering day passes to use the rest of their facilities so we made the most of the beautiful public beach (on a lovely sunny and hot day). We quickly returned to Morphie, got into our swimmers, and took supplies to the beach and went bobbing. Finally Richard got to enjoy his ‘official’ birthday LOL.

On Thursday the wind started howling through the anchorage and we were nodding into the swell. We moved to a more sheltered spot within the anchorage but that soon became uncomfortable too. So at 14.05 we dropped the mooring ball and motored through big swells and 30 knots of breeze the three miles to Baie des Citrons. This was much more sheltered and we enjoyed a peaceful night at anchor (despite the noise from the nightclub on the shore) and the light pollution. It was very strange to be back in a densely populated area again.

Friday morning we headed under the little bridge in dink to Port Moselle.

We planned to go shopping (having completely run out of food now), speak to Noumea Yacht Services about checking out procedures, and then return to Morphie and clean her hull (the final job we needed to do prior to arriving in Australia). I went into the marina office to get a tag for the dinghy (required to gain access to the dinghy dock and other services) and was told that we could actually have a marina berth if we wanted it. Yes please! So we rushed back to Morphie, got in the water and cleaned her hull, and then picked up anchor and worked our way round to the marina. By 14.20 we were in our slip and very happy to have access to unlimited water and electricity again LOL.

Later on that afternoon we headed out shopping – needing to re-provision for passage meals – and found the large Johnston supermarket. We got everything we needed apart from beer supplies as, for some reason, the alcohol aisles were closed that Friday afternoon. Not quite sure why.

Back on board we unpacked and then headed to the marina bar and restaurant and enjoyed some cold ones listening to the live band. They were pretty good although the music was all French and not recognisable. But still we had a good time and enjoyed having walking access to facilities once again.

Saturday morning and we got up at a reasonable time and cleaned Morphie’s exterior – she is looking real pretty once again.

During the day Steve and Jo on Tamanu (fellow Island Packeteers) came into the marina and we hadn’t seen them since New Zealand so we quickly arranged to meet up later. Once we had done all our jobs, in the afternoon, we went wandering Noumea (which is the capital city) to find most of it shut up and were surprised by the number of homeless and down and outs around.

Heading back to the marina we met up with Steve and Jo and we settled in to watch the World Cup Rugby. Steve and Jo (although based in Australia) are British so we were the only four English supporters in the audience. And we beat Australia – OMG what an exciting time – although the commentary was difficult to follow in the excitable French. We had a great evening. After our enthusiastic celebrations we noticed the huge security guard was standing behind our table for a while – whether he thought we were at risk from the wider audience after the win or not we weren’t sure LOL – but the Australian supporters tended to just wander off in misery. We did stay to watch the start of the New Zealand -v- Ireland match (particularly the Haka) but soon gave up and retired to bed.

This morning, Sunday, and we checked the weather again. We originally planned to leave on Tuesday but it may be that Monday is now better. But we are watching the weather carefully as it has been very changeable – the main concern is over thunderstorms expected near the coast of Australia. Potentially, today could be our last day here so we need to finish our jobs. I’ve been up since the crack of drawn and have cooked and frozen all the passage meals whilst Richard has done the laundry, his engine checks and cleaned the floors down below and the cockpit. We’ve completed all the documentation for departure and have an appointment at 8.30 am Monday morning to go to Customs / Immigration. The French officials are pretty relaxed allowing us 72 hours to depart after the official clearance has been done so we can delay without impacting on our current arrangements. It is definitely a ‘watch this space’ moment.

After our jobs were done we headed into the local fish, meat, fruit and vegetable market (and this was still only 9am in the morning!). There were also stalls selling local handicrafts.

It was all very busy and, with our purchases made, we had a leisurely croque monsieur / toasted baguette breakfast over the largest cup of coffee we have ever had (it was really a bowl as it didn’t have handles LOL). This evening we are entertaining Steve and Jo onboard Morphie before we head off to watch the Wales rugby match.

So this will definitely be the last blog from New Caledonia as we head off on another long ocean passage (800 miles) to Bundaberg, Australia. I will be blogging from the passage (obviously only if the weather permits) but don’t forget you can always follow our tracker in real time on our “Where are we now?” page.

Bye for now


New Caledonia: Exploring Grande Terre

On Sunday (6 October), we picked up our anchor at 16.00 and made our way through the Ouvea lagoon towards the outer channel markers. We had all three sails hoisted as the wind was forward of the beam and we cleared the island before dark. We enjoyed a lovely sunset at sea and managed to sail directly towards our destination, although we had to make a couple of corrections to keep high of the rhumb line when we got swept down by the sea.

Around 5 am on Monday we enjoyed a moody sunrise. By 8 am we had made our way through the Pass de Thio to come inside the fringing reef admiring the mountains of Grande Terre en route. At 10.44 we had our anchor down off the beach at Ile Nemoli having completed another 78 mile passage.

Once we were settled we cleaned up and had a nap. Suitably refreshed, Richard did the laundry (he is quite good at pink jobs LOL) and I blogged (knowing that publication would have to wait until we had better internet coverage). During the afternoon we were joined by a few other rally boats but there was plenty of room. We were hoping to move quickly down the coast of Grande Terre, inside the fringing reef, making the most of the forecast of low wind days (as the predominant trades here are from the South East).

Early evening, we sat in the cockpit and raised a glass to Mum, as it was her birthday. Love you Mum and miss you so very much. Here’s another lovely photo bringing back lots of great memories of happy times together.

Tuesday morning the alarm went off at 5 am and we ran the weather models again (using our satellite connection) to check that our plans were still viable. Damn! The wind had strengthened and was now going to be from the east, so our next anchorage was not going to be tenable as it was exposed from that direction. We decided on an alternative so at 6.30 am we picked up anchor and headed south. We were motoring along with the main up to keep us balanced and of course the wind clocked, was stronger than forecast, and was right on the nose. We also had to contend with large lumpy seas and adverse currents. Not wanting to run the engine too hard we just made very slow (and uncomfortable) progress. By 14.30 we had the anchor down in Kouakoue Bay having completed a very tiring 29 mile passage. We were alone in this lovely serene (uninhabited) bay and settled down for a quiet night on board and didn’t even mind that there was no internet coverage.

Wednesday morning and we awoke to rain and clouds…….. And it rained…..and it poured. And it continued most of the day. And, of course, this wasn’t forecast either. So we decided to stay put and had a day just catching up with some boat jobs. We did a mini spring clean down below and Richard also did engine checks. Another quiet evening was had on board.

Thursday morning and we headed out again at 5.30 am. It was lovely, the sun came out and it was flat calm. There wasn’t much wind so we motor sailed towards our destination of Yate. This was only 27 miles away and we made good time getting the anchor down by 10.45 am.

Later on we were joined by SV Exocet Strike and SV Jonas. We got dink down and headed up the river on a mission to find a small store near the hydroelectric power station. We looked and looked but couldn’t see anywhere it was obvious to land the dinghy and also gain access to the road….by this time we were joined by Stella and John in their dinghy. They spotted a more obvious spot under a couple of trees and so we pulled in there and waded through the shallow water and foliage to come out on the road. Result!

We walked up the hill and were met by ferocious barking from some angry looking dogs who clearly wanted to take chunks out of us. Luckily they were securely fenced into their yard. We found the store (and petrol station) and managed to restock on some much needed provisions (our beer and wine stocks were dangerously low LOL). So we returned down the river happily laden down with enough to keep us going for a while longer. Later on we went to have showers only to find our water tank was empty!!! Damn. For contingency we always carry a full 10L water jug so it wasn’t really a problem. We did a bit of checking and found nothing wrong but quickly realised that the main water pump had failed (and this was relatively new as we had only installed it whilst in Fiji). We watched the sun go down over Exocet Strike and decided the repair could wait until the following day.

On Friday morning we weighed anchor and left Yate at 9.25 am to time our passage through the Havannah Canal on a rising tide. This is because the currents can be strong, up to 4.4 knots, and we obviously wanted to go with the current not against it. We headed out through the scary-looking reefs but were not anxious as the charts are pretty accurate. We motor sailed in light airs enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery along the way. We also made water to refill our fresh water tank.

We managed to time it just right and got through the Canal into Bonne Anse – passing huge channel markers/lights along the way. The only vessel we saw, apart from our fellow sailors, was when we were overtaken at high speed by a ferry.

Anse Majic bay is a nature reserve so there were free well-maintained mooring balls for us to use. By 15.35 we were secured for the night in another beautiful bay. We quickly swapped out the water pump and really enjoyed the hot showers. New Caledonia has surprised us with its beautiful scenery and we haven’t really scratched the surface of what there is to offer. Oh yes and the internet in this bay was good enough for me to publish a blog. Woo hoo!

At 8.50 am on Saturday morning we left our mooring ball and headed out passing a nickel mining operation nearby.

The trip to the Carenage (Baie de Prony) meant meandering up the river almost to the end and we found a few other boats there ahead of us.

By 10.45 having travelled only 8 miles we had our anchor down and a good set. We sat for a while making sure we were good to go and, when we were comfortable, we headed out in dink. We spotted the mares tails clouds in the sky which usually means high winds to come so we’ll be keeping an eye on that over the next day or so.

The destination for our dinghy expedition was the hot springs and the cascade falls. We went up the river feeling like real explorers and had to navigate some pretty large boulders and rocks as it was low tide. At one point we had to wade through the shallows pulling the dinghy along rather than ride inside LOL.

We eventually found the small wharf, followed the path up, and came across the area where the hot springs had been diverted into a man-made bath. We had a lovely time relaxing in the warm (not hot) water.

Afterwards, now that the water was a little bit deeper as the tide was coming in, we headed further up the river to see the cascades. The water flowing was actually warmer in this area and it was very pretty. Richard took off like a mountain goat across the rocks but I was sensible and looked after dink LOL.

Heading back down the river doing more exploring we spotted an osprey in flight and then it settled on a branch to eat its fishy catch. We couldn’t get too close but at least we managed to get a photo. And of course there has to be a picture of Morphie up the river. Back on board we had an early night having enjoyed our little adventure.

Sunday morning (13 October) we weighed anchor and headed back down the river towards Anse Majic again. The plan was to overnight there and then head off to Iles de Pins very early the following morning. However, the wind had other ideas. It was now going to swing to the north / north west overnight and was forecast to be above 20+ knots with a south west / south flow the following day. Any southern element made the main anchorage in Iles de Pins untenable. So, just for the night while we decided on what to do next, we pulled into Caroline Bay in the Baie des Manguiers for overnight protection. We were the only ones in the bay and it was quite tranquil. We had a lovely evening and enjoyed watching the moon come up over the surrounding hills.

During the night the winds picked up and blew hard, must be the first time the forecast had been accurate LOL.

This morning, Monday, we awoke very early to find that the strong winds were backing and it was clear that we would have to move again pretty quickly as south winds (as forecast again!) would leave us exposed on a lee shore in this anchorage. Debating where to go we spotted some boats had moved out of Anse Majic on our AIS which meant that there were free mooring balls. So we quickly weighed anchor and headed on over. By 7am we were securely tethered and returned to bed for a while.

This was a good call as the wind continued to swing through the morning and we are now in a more protected position although we are nodding a bit in the fetch right now. I’m blogging while Richard enjoyed his internet fix first and is now working on his fishing lures. Apparently we are going to have a freezer full on the next passage…..

Our plans to go further south have been thwarted by the wind and so we are considering where else to go in our limited time left here in New Caledonia. We are also starting to look for a weather window to reach Bundaberg in Australia which is about an 800 mile passage. Before that we need to pull into Noumea for customs / immigration purposes plus we need to provision up for the journey as our stores of food and diesel are quite low. And, of course, there is the Australian paperwork to complete in preparation for our arrival.

So the final image to finish today’s blog is of us both relaxing up the river in the hot springs.

Bye for now


New Caledonia: Lifou and Ouvea, Loyalty Islands

Thursday (3 October) and the winds had eased so we headed ashore to walk through the village. It is beautifully kept with manicured gardens, palm trees, and traditional housing with gorgeous views out to sea. Sadly no villagers appeared to be home, although we did meet their pigs and chickens.

Continuing to wander the village we came across the the wood-fired bakery and treated ourselves to some of the tastiest crustiest bread we had ever eaten. Yum.

We also found the church school which was incredibly quiet with all the curtains drawn so we think we must have hit upon siesta time. Heading back to Morphie we had a quiet afternoon and evening getting ourselves ready to go to sea again.

At 5.40 am on Friday morning we picked up anchor and sailed out of the bay. The sail to Ouvea was downwind and we ran under a full genoa only. The seas were lumpy and it was a bit of a sporty ride with gusts up to 27 knots. We reached the anchorage outside the Paradis d’Ouvea hotel by 14.10. Another 50 mile passage successfully completed.

The pure white sand of the anchorage was amazing – it grabbed our anchor so hard – I thought I was going to be ejected over the bow when we came to a sudden stop. So no worries on the anchor not being set LOL. We got dink down and headed ashore and left him on the absolutely stunning beach.

We asked permission at the hotel to leave dink on their beach and they were very friendly and welcoming. So we sat on the hotel verandah and had a couple of (blisteringly) expensive local beers watching the antics of a huge spider that had strung his web across between two trees. We then returned to Morphie before dark.

Saturday morning we were up early and headed ashore to meet other Rally participants as we had arranged a tour. We picked up John and Stella (SV Exocet Strike) on the way as we wanted to minimise our dinghy footprint on the resort’s beach – we pulled them all out of the way and chained them together for security.

We met Pierre and Michel, our tour guide and drivers. They had two vehicles so John, Stella, Richard and I headed off with Michel in his little car….which was filthy dirty and held together by rust LOL. The others headed off with Pierre. At first we didn’t think that Michel spoke much English but he soon warmed up and had a wicked sense of humour so we had a great time talking to him.

The island of Ouvea has a tragic history. It is one of the Loyalty Islands (like Lifou) which is largely populated by Kanak tribespeople. They live traditional simple lives and wish for independence from France. However, they are in the minority, with very few islands they can call their own. But they welcomed us to find out more about them and, as both Pierre and Michel were Kanak, we were allowed to visit certain significant tribal and spiritual areas that would otherwise not be allowed.

First stop was the beach at Mouli (in the south of the island) and gave us sight of the channel markers into the lagoon that we had come through the previous day.

Moving on we then stopped at the Mouli bridge which has special significance with the inner lagoon being sacred ground. We walked across the bridge admiring the beautiful scenery and even spotting some turtles and rays in the fast-moving waters below. We had bought snorkelling gear with us (and this was supposed to be an exceptional area) but we all decided not to go in as the current was ripping through and the winds were particularly cold. (And yes if I look a bit windswept that is because I was LOL!)

Moving on we headed past the razor-wire fenced gendarmerie towards another village, Fayaoue. The south and the north of the island are largely Catholic with the middle section being Protestant but they all get along as they share a common culture. Each village has its own chief so there is at least one traditional house surrounded by a wooden stockade to symbolise his status. On this island alone there are numerous languages with the villages in the South using a dialect which is similar to that used by islanders from Wallis and Fortuna.

Moving on we came across the memorial to those who had perished in both world wars plus other conflicts and tragedies (eg a ferry sinking with huge loss of life and a soldier that perished recently in Afghanistan). It was beautifully maintained and guarded by two large statues. This was clearly an important place for locals, evidenced by fresh flowers having been recently laid.

Next stop was The Blue Hole of Hanawa which is so deep that even a Cousteau technical diving expedition was unable to find its true depth. It is definitely linked to the sea as the limestone walls showed signs of the changing tide and housed lots of tropical fish who thoroughly enjoyed the bread we gave them.

Taking a brief break from the tour we headed to the ATM for more drinking vouchers plus a small supermarket where we treated ourselves to ice cream. Moving on we checked out the huge desalination plants that service the island and also a coconut oil distillery and soap factory, although none of them were operational as it was Le Weekend.

The next place was another memorial. This one is particularly significant for the islanders. In 1988 the locals wanted to fly their traditional flag above the gendarmerie. There was a fracas and four policemen were killed. The Kanak activists then took (French) people hostage and split them into two groups – the group that were held in the village were later released unharmed – and the others were taken to the limestone caves. The hostage-taking was allegedly designed to kick start a dialogue with the French government about the perceived poor treatment of the indigenous population. However, France never negotiate with “terrorists” and sent in special forces to free the hostages. All activists were killed in the process. And to add fuel to the fire many were found to have been executed (or refused medical care) according to an independent medical examiner. So this memorial to these young men is a place for the Kanak people to celebrate the lives and ideals of these martyrs. To show solidarity with other indigenous populations in the region the wooden carvings that commemorate each of them were carved elsewhere representing the Melanesians, the Aborigines, the Maoris and the Polynesians who are all determined to maintain their own culture and regain ownership of their lands. Never truer the saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Moving on we headed further north and wandered down to the foreshore to be met by this stunning limestone gorge which was absolutely beautiful.

Next stop was the Turtle Blue Hole where we saw some turtles swimming freely. Another sacred place although we did bump into an interesting character who wanted to charge us for taking photographs but was quickly undermined by Pierre who stated that it was not necessary.

Having seen many beaches, villages and other sites it was now time to go for lunch. Beautiful place but also a potentially tough life particularly on the windward side of the island. Check out these fisherman in the surf.

We went to Michel’s compound and met his mum and other family members who had cooked a huge buffet for us and some other (medical volunteer) tourists.

The spread was huge and included land crab, coconut crab (which is an endangered species in Vanuatu) and some large fish. Richard thoroughly enjoyed most things although I was a bit more challenged by the menu. I really didn’t care for the cremated puffer fish as they are one of my favourite swimming friends LOL.

A fun time was had by all and we headed back in our vehicles towards the hotel. We stopped on the way to pick up some provisions at another small grocery store and then back to the dinghies and returned pretty tired back to Morphie for the evening.

Sunday morning we checked the weather and the wind and seas were continuing to flatten so we had a good chance of reaching the main island of Grand Terre if we did an overnight sail. So after a day relaxing and chilling out we picked up our anchor and said a fond farewell to Ouvea.

Bye for now


Vanuatu to Drueulu, Lifou, New Caledonia

Friday afternoon (27 September) at 4pm we headed out of Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu for the last time. As we came out into the open ocean we were met by lumpy seas and stronger winds than forecast (oh what a surprise) and, of course, they were forward of the beam. So a pretty feisty start to the trip. The sun went down and it was pitch black with no stars, no boats, just nothing. All very eerie. The wind continued to blow and we were getting thrown around a bit by breaking waves. Then rain squalls come through with 28 knot gusts. It was also a bit unpleasant as the movement of the boat was making us both feel a bit queasy. Oh well, never mind.

By noon on Saturday the winds had started to stabilise, the seas had flattened considerably, and it was pretty sunny. What a difference a day makes! The wind had gone more easterly so we were sailing nicely along on a beam reach under a reefed main and genoa.

We got ourselves settled into the routine of being at sea and, by the time the sun went down and we went into our night shifts again, we were enjoying the passage.

By 9pm we needed to boost our batteries so motor sailed for a short while. The wind then moved further forward again and by midnight was fickle and feisty again. At 3am on Sunday the wind just died so we continued under engine towards Lifou which is one of the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. We also took the opportunity to make water at the same time. By 6am it was land ahoy and at 9.30 am we had the anchor down amongst the other Go West rally participants, having completed another 222 mile passage.

The anchorage is really pretty and the sun was out – just lovely! The water is so clear we could even watch the cuttle fish who seemed very curious in our anchor chain and snubber LOL.

Having caught up on some sleep, we were sitting in the cockpit enjoying our new surroundings when were visited by two humpback whales – a mother and a calf. OMG what a treat! The locals rushed out in their boats to take a closer look and it was almost as if they knew each other with the whales surfacing near their boat while they all admired each other. Although quarantined and forced to stay on board with treats like this who cares?!?

Monday morning and the officials had flown in from Noumea to process the fleet. First, though, was the biosecurity guy Jeanne (who lives in the bay’s village of Drueulu) to come on board. We had nothing to hand over as we had an empty freezer and our fresh fruit and vegetables were consumed en route. So we were dealt with very quickly. Then I was taken by the rally organiser, John, to his catamaran Songlines where the customs and immigration officials were waiting. I had already completed all the documents so another painless exercise. Sadly we didn’t get any stamps in our passports as we are European (currently!) and we were told we could stay as long as we liked. Lovely welcome.

In the afternoon we headed ashore to meet other rally participants. Boats had converged here from both Fiji and Vanuatu. There were people we had met before and some new faces so it was good to get together. John told us the plans for Tuesday and we then just enjoyed a social time on the beach. Back on board Morphie for dinner and, when the sun went down, it was pretty cold.

Tuesday morning we were on the second minibus taking us into We, the main town. First stop was the ATM to get local currency, followed by the OTP for SIM cards so that we could all get back online. Back in the bus to the large supermarket and we stocked up on meat and fresh produce, plus some rather nice French wine. We were particularly excited by the crusty baguettes and the cold meat and cheese cabinet, but managed to reign in our enthusiasm and didn’t over purchase LOL.

Back to the boat and we enjoyed a lovely crusty ham and tomato baguette. Absolutely fantastic – it’s funny what you crave when you can’t get it! At 2.30 pm we headed back ashore to get rid of our rubbish as the local villagers had arranged a truck to take it all from us (for a small fee of course). Then we walked to Jeanne’s house in the village and took over a large meeting area where John gave us a run through of places to go / see in New Caledonia.

John also explained about the on-going friction between the indigenous Kanak population and the French, which means that in some traditional and sacred areas we are either not allowed to visit or be welcomed. Really useful information as we would not want to face any hostility by inadvertently straying into the wrong place. After the talk we moved to the eating area – having first inspected the fish and chicken being cooked over the open fire – and sat around and socialised.

We were supposed to be meeting the chief but, for one reason or another (we think he was a bit shy about addressing such a large group) this didn’t happen. So Jeanne took us into the traditionally-built chief’s house and gave us a really interesting insight into their culture.

Afterwards it was time for the feast and the food (three courses) was really nice. It was an enjoyable evening and we were delighted that the local lads (who were security for our dinghies on the beach) were happy to wade in and help us depart. Such friendly people.

Wednesday and the wind was howling with gusts of up to 30 knots. There was an island tour available to us but we didn’t want to leave Morphie unattended on a high wind day so we stayed onboard, did some boat jobs, relaxed and had a movie night.

This morning Thursday and the wind has reduced a bit so some of the rally participants have departed and we plan to head out very early tomorrow morning. This is a ‘destination’ rally so the formal arrangements are over and we’ll all move to our own schedules going forward. If the conditions continue to ease today we plan to go and visit the local village this afternoon.

Our next destination is another Loyalty Island, Ouvea, about 50 miles from here. This island is the only true atoll in New Caledonia and the local people there are a mixture of Polynesians and Melanesians living their traditional lives. The reef, lagoon and beach look absolutely beautiful so we are very excited to be able to visit and, fingers crossed, may even be able to go diving.

Bye for now