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