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