Welcome to Zenitude’s blog where you can follow us while we travel slow in our Lagoon catamaran. We update this blog frequently when we are cruising to let family and friends know where we are. Check the complete story of our adventures that started in 2006 when Zenitude became our home and cruising our way of life. Graciela and Oscar

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Season 2013 is over

We decided Zenitude will stay in the dry in Gold Coast City Marina until we are ready to go sailing again, sometime in April 2014. In the meantime, there is a lot of work ahead to keep her in good shape. The biggest tasks are the upgrade of the Navigation system and new sails. But for now we are taking a break in Sydney and looking forward to the holiday season with family, just around the corner.

Here are the videos from our time in New Caledonia:

1. Sailing with Dolphins
2. Sunday at the Marina Cafe - Amateur Fanfare
3. Turtles Panic
4. How to Catch a Fish

The blog will rest for a little while as well.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Gold Coast

After a week in Brisbane, having completed official duties (no problems there, they even allowed to keep our favorite French cheese Reblochon), having rested and later received friends Tortuguita and Crisaloha, Oscar is today on the move again, solo sailor, but behind Tortuguita towards the Gold Coast. The idea is to stay in the Gold Coast marina that host the Gold Coast boat show next week. I'm planning to fly there for the weekend, and together we'll decide if Zenitude stays there for the Summer or if we sail back to Sydney. A busy 'boat show' weekend ahead.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Back in Australia

It was a good window after all and with forecast and route advice from Roger Badham all went well. Zenitude arrived in Brisbane quarantine docks at about 1:00 AM on Friday ahead of a southerly change forecast for Friday noon. Moreton Bay was the most stressful part of the trip with 30 kn winds inside the bay and many big ships to avoid along the way. It didn't help to do that part of the trip at night. George was a fantastic crew to have on board, with always working to have the best possible set for our sails and flying in light winds. A lot to learn from him. The bad news is our sails are finally too worn out and need replacing, but we already suspected that.

A lot of work lays ahead to prepare for next season, but for now it is just rest time for the tired crew.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Underway - Noumea to Sydney

After hectic preparations and wondering if this is indeed a good window, as per usual before a passage, Oscar and Georges left Noumea yesterday afternoon and are underway to Brisbane, with light winds and perfect weather yesterday and motor sailing in light winds again today. If all goes as planned ETA is Friday morning. All is well on board.

Coming back home


Monday, 7 October 2013

And the season is almost over .....

It's been a while since our last post. Things have happened fast and suddenly I found myself on a plane coming back to Sydney. Oscar in Noumea getting ready to sail back to Australia as soon as the weather clears and Georges, his crew for the trip, is free from his very busy working schedule. It all seems good for next Saturday. In the meantime, Tortuguita with our dear friends Dave and Booker have arrived to Noumea from their Pacific crossing trip and are ready for the last leg coming to Australia as well. It appears that Crisaloha has also arrived today to the marina, planning to come to Sydney this season and I'm missing all the fun.

But all is well here and there. Will send more news when Zenitude starts her trip back.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Ile des Pins

Early this morning we left Ile des Pins after spending a wonderful week there. It's no wonder this is such a popular place. We were lucky that the weather was magnificent. The island is beautiful with the green vegetation, lots of pines, very white smooth sand beaches and turquoise clear waters. We stayed in Kuto and did 2 day trips to Ilot Brosse as the weather was very settled.

Fabulous Ilot Brosse 

Looking for the track to Nga
We did the track to Nga which is easy in an interesting forest but managed to loose the track before getting to the apparently breathtaking views. Anyway, it was a good walking exercise. Also we spent some time in Kanumera beach, another amazing bay with the famous rock that is 'forbidden to climb'. The rock seems to be falling in pieces that stay at the bottom in the clear waters of the bay, the trees manage to grow on the rock while their roots corrode the rock creating a beautiful effect.

Kanumera beach

Our last day was a bit of a disappointment as the big P&O cruise ship deposited thousands of tourists in this tiny place and our plan to rent a car and go around the island was crashed. There was no possible transport if you didn't have a P&O cruiser card and no cars left for renting. Oh well, something to do next time.

There were several cruising boats in Kuto and we met again with Retour. They mentioned that
with settled weather you can go with your boat to Vao, where there is the main village and a nice market for fresh produce that opens Saturday and Wednesday. Another activity left for next time.

Just after lunch we arrived at Kouare where we are at the moment.

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Monday, 9 September 2013

At anchor in Ilot Uere

We left Port Moselle marina at lunch time and decided to come to Ilot Uere, which is just 6 1/2 miles from Noumea. It was a short but quite uncomfortable trip, by the time we arrived we had head winds blowing over 20 kn. The lagoon is shallow and gets very choppy with winds over 15 kn. The anchorage is protected from the swell however the wind gets thru and there is little protection despite what we read in our cruising guide. Fortunately the holding seems excellent and we are expecting the wind to abate later tonight.

The weather is not really inviting for any dinghy trip to the beach ashore so we are just relaxing on board. On top of it the beach does not seem very inviting either as there are plenty of stones where you expect to find sand, in other words, we are not quite impressed with this anchorage.

When we arrived we found Retour already at anchor here, we might catch up with them later if we decide to put the dinghy down in the water.
 Zenitude and Retour at anchor
Next day we had a chat with Retour and came to shore for a walk. We changed our minds about this place, finding it quite nice. Ashore we did a long walk and found mangroves along the way, a beautiful and peaceful scenery, amazing considering this is very close to Noumea. Our friends in Retour tell us that they've been in this anchorage in several occasions in strong winds and they never had a problem, with the holding being excellent.
Pebbles on shore but quite beautiful nevertheless

A quiet moment
The second night something happened. By sunset French Marines started arriving. Quite interesting, all of the sudden hundreds of marines had invaded this peaceful place. We had to assume it was for training purposes, no threats hiding in the mangroves it seems. As we left next day at sunrise, we didn't hang out to find out.
Marines start arriving
Beautiful Mangroves


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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Thinking on Ile des Pins

The trade winds have been blowing hard for the last week and as we listen to the wind whistling and Zenitude trembling at the docks in Port Moselle we are trying to plan for next week's sailing. We'd like to go east to Ile des Pins but going east with this wind is not appealing. As the forecast says it will change by Wednesday we keep planning. At the moment we decided to leave the marina tomorrow and go where the wind takes us, which is probably west. There are several nice anchorages not far from Noumea, where we can wait for the wind to abate.  Once we can head east we'll probably stop for the night along the way depending on the weather at the time.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Back in Noumea

After a quiet time in beautiful Ilot Kouare we came back to Noumea to pick up Joan that was brave enough to visit and sail with us around the lagoon.

It was a short and very enjoyable visit. The weather was good and we sailed first to Ilot Amedee. To Oscar's disappointment we aborted the climb to the lighthouse after looking up at the top from the beach, it certainly looked high to us.
The lighthouse in Ilot Amedee

 On the way back to the dinghy a lazy sea snake gave us some excitement when it decided to go back to the water crossing just under Oscar's legs.

Sea snake

As always in Amedee, we saw many turtles swimming around. Joan enjoyed a good snorkeling before leaving the day after for our next stop, Ilot Larengere. This time the snorkel was amazing, a coral garden with plenty of fish, turtles, sharks and the highlight for Joan, her first encounter with a morea eel. From there we sailed to Baie Maa, a very quiet anchorage, perfect for the BBQ that was on the menu for dinner. Then we came back to the marina at Port Mosselle as the trip was over for Joan that took the early flight for Sydney this morning. It was great to have her company, even when it was just a very short visit.

We are now at the marina thinking on a trip to Ile des Pins before start planning our way back to Australia.
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Friday, 23 August 2013

At Ilot Kouare - A wooded island with a white sand beach

With a forecast of light winds and generally good weather we left Port Mosselle on Tuesday for a week of wondering around the lagoon.

Our first stop was Ilot Amedee, the island next to the Boulari Pass. The island is pretty and like all islands in the lagoon surrounded by reef. There is plenty of fish and lots of turtles. It doesn't look that there is any good place to anchor, at least for an overnight but there are about 15 moorings and we were able to get one. The drawback in this island is that it is very popular with local boats and it is crowded as half of the island is taken over by a local tour operator that deposits dozen of tourists for a day at the beach. Probably the abundance of fish is due to the glass bottom boat that goes around feeding the fish while lots of people marvel at the view thru the glass. Still, the place is nice and there is an operating lighthouse that you can visit and climb up for a view of all the surrounding reef. While we were there most of the people left by sunset and the place was very quiet at night.

From Amedee we came directly to Ilot Kouare in the southern lagoon. As we were approaching we could see a magnificent scenery. A green island with a white sand beach all around surrounded by corals and incredible clear turquoise waters. This is an isolated place, at least during the week and we found just 2 other boats at anchor. If the weather holds and doesn't turn bad we are planning to stay until Sunday when we start heading back to Noumea. A long walk in the beach and lots of snorkeling is waiting for us while we wait for the sun to come back as it has decided to hide under lots of clouds at the moment.

It doesn't get much better than that ....


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Saturday, 17 August 2013

A big ocean out there, but still, it’s a small world

When we are cruising we often encounter other cruisers that we’ve met before, usually in the same season when we are all doing more or less the same routes. There are however, some completely unexpected encounters that make you reckon ‘wow, it’s a small world’. This season so far we have had 3 of these encounters. It is always very special to find people you’ve met in another time in another world. 

Our first surprise came one day when we were walking the docks at Port Mosselle marina back from the regular visit to the doctor treating Oscar’s spider bite. Docked a couple of berths away from Zenitude was Akka, with our German friends Andrea and Andreas. What a wonderful surprise! We initially met them in San Blass, Panama in 2010 when we were all sailing around these wonderful islands of the Kuna Yala Indians. We were together again in Shelter Bay Marina while getting ready for the crossing of the Pacific Ocean, sharing all the hectic times to get ready for transiting the canal.  We crossed the Pacific that same year, but we were always a bit ahead of Akka and even when we kept in touch for a while by email we never met again until now. 

Akka at Port Mosselle (behind little Emma)
The second encounter was even more surprising as it happened in a more secluded place. We were arriving to the Aore Resort in Luganville to pick up one of their moorings. The Aore Resort has 4 moorings for visiting yachts, only 2 were taken and as we approached to grab a free one we couldn’t believe Sea Fury was just there. The special thing about Sea Fury with Roger on board is that we met for the first time somewhere in the big Pacific Ocean in 2010, 1500 miles away from any land on our second week sailing from Galapagos to Marquesas. It was then so unreal to see a white sail in the horizon as it was unreal to find her again 3 years later in a Luganville mooring. Check our website Home page to see the picture that Roger took of Zenitude back then and the page “Galapagos to Marquesas” for more pictures and the complete story.  Here is a picture of Sea Fury now:  

Sea Fury at the Aore Resort moorings

What can we say of the third encounter? We are moored at Port Vila and behind us there is a Swiss flagged boat, Miami. The day before leaving we go ashore, introduce ourselves to George and Ute from Miami and join them for happy hour drinks. George is unbelievable with languages, he speaks German and English as well as perfect Spanish, perfect Portuguese, Italian and we don’t know what else. Ute somehow follows the conversation in any of these languages.  He has lived in Rio during same years we lived there. They crossed the Pacific 2 years ahead of us. The amazing part of the story comes next day when we dinghy our way to Miami to say good bye to George and Ute. George has recalled back from his memory that we actually met in Bundaberg 3 years ago at a Melbourne Cup lunch in Bundaberg, recalling that Oscar had picked up the winning horse becoming very popular among the cruisers that followed his lead.

It is indeed a big ocean, but still, it’s a small world!    

Zenitude sailing somewhere in the big ocean


Friday, 16 August 2013

Back in French territory, arriving at Noumea

When a weather window opens for a passage the advise is 'go' and that is what we did when the forecast showed a week of settled weather and light trade winds. We are now arriving at Noumea on a gorgeous day after a good passage from Port Vila. It seems that we have got ridden of all spiders on board so this time we are planning a good 'going around' the many reefs and beaches nearby Noumea once we have rested and completed clearance procedures at Port Mosselle marina.

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Friday, 9 August 2013

Luganville and back to Port Vila

The week in Luganville went flying while enjoying life moored at the lively Aore resort. Staying at one of their moorings you get a bit of resort life, it is good value for money, prices are not too bad. They have a nice swimming pool, a beautiful beach, an excellent restaurant and are very accommodating with any needs you may have. This resort is in the Aore Island just across town of Luganville and has a ferry several times a day to town.
At a mooring in beautiful Aore Resort

The main attraction in Luganville is scuba diving the wrecks from the Second World War that are scattered very close to shore just out of town and the main diving site is the US President Coolidge, a huge cruise ship that was converted into a military carrier for American troops and sunk next to shore after taking the wrong entrance into port and hitting a couple of mines intended for Japanese war ships. Oscar enjoyed 7 dives to several parts of the ship. They are quite difficult dives as you traverse different compartments on the ship and some of them with depths up to 65 meters, therefore, it is advisable to use a good and responsible dive operator. He did all the dives with Allan Power, absolutely fantastic and no doubt we do recommend him to anybody looking to dive in Luganville. Allan has an excellent organization to dive the Coolidge, with very good and experienced guides. They evaluate your diving skills with easier dives before taking you to the difficult ones. Diving the Coolidge was a long time dream for Oscar and he was thrilled he could finally do it. A fantastic experience that if you ask him about it, get ready for hours of story telling.

Diving the US President Coolidge, accessible from the beach

Luganville is the turning point of our trip and from there we started our way back on Wednesday when it seemed that the weather was right for the trip. We decided to take the route on the east side of Malakula Island and sailed a first leg to a very nice and quiet anchorage, Uri Island in Port Stanley, to rest for the night. As Oscar was looking at the mangroves on shore and thinking on a dinghy ride to see if we could get a mud crab for dinner, a local lady on a canoe showed up trying to exchange a grapefruit for a tee-shirt. She said one of her 4 sons could get a 'big' mud crab for us. All enthusiastic she goes back and soon we see a guy going into the mangroves with a bag. Not long after that a live big crab materialized for us and not having the heart to bargain with this poor people we paid market price for it and had a nice crab dinner.

At 6:00 AM next day we left for the second part of the trip. We must have chosen the right window by luck as the weather had little to do with the forecast and we did a very slow and painful first half and a very fast and quite ok second half entering Port Vila at 6:00 AM this morning. Now moored at Port Vila we are having horrible squally weather thinking it is good to be in port. It will be pizza night tonight.

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Friday, 2 August 2013

Malakula Island to Luganville

It was a very quiet and uneventful trip, motoring all the way in very calm seas. Very relaxing, good for a change. We arrived at the Aore Resort in Luganville, grabbed one of their moorings and sat to wait for the westerlies.

The resort has a nice restaurant and our first dinner there was excellent and reasonable priced. Oscar claimed he had the best dish at the restaurant since departing from Australia.

We are planning to stay here for a while to dive the US Coolidge and the One Million Dollar Point, the main objective for coming here.

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Vanuatu - Port Vila to Malakula Island

We were in Port Vila in 2010 when we crossed the Pacific. At that time we joined the Port to Port Rally (Port Vila - Port Bundaberg) and the rally organizers took care of most of our needs in Port Vila. We didn't realize then how yachty friendly Port Vila is. Quarantine came to our boat in the morning after our arrival and let us keep all our fresh produce as long as we don't remove it from the boat and use the quarantine bins for garbage disposal. After that, Moses, from World Yacht Services took us to one of their moorings. The people at World Yacht Services is really nice, the moorings are excellent, they provide water, fuel, laundry services, quarantine garbage disposal, internet (not so good, better the Cyber Internet across the street from the open market), an excellent dinghy dock (a good break after all our beach landings with the dinghy), etc. The cost is very reasonable. Immigration is just walking distance and Customs at a dinghy ride. We were also able to fill up our propane tanks, which is not possible in New Caledonia, so we have again a good supply of cooking gas.

After 3 days resting and looking at the weather forecasts we decided we could leave towards Luganville in Santo with several stops along the way in Malakula Island. This island has many nice anchorages in both the west and the east coast and we decided we would take the west coast route. But the forecasts were playing games with us, changing every day with the risk of blowing from the west. The 30 of July, Vanuatu's independence day, we arrived to South West Bay, at the south west tip of Malakula as its name indicates. The bay is magnificent, the coral formations amazing, very big fish were chasing their breakfast when we were coming in, the Tisri lagoon (a natural ocean fed, crystal clear lagoon) is beautiful and as a bonus the bay is protected from all winds but west/south west. The sounds from Independence Day celebrations in the little village of Wintua could be heard from the boat, lots of music and political speaches. We guess that it doesn't matter where you go, politicians are all the same. A wonderful day indeed. However, weather reports were confirming the arrival of westerlies and even when forecasted as light winds we decided it would be safer to be in Luganville before the winds arrival. So, we departed from South West Bay at sunset. A dugong came to say goodbye to us as we were lifting the anchor.

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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Underway - From New Caledonia to Vanuatu

Sailing from the north tip of Ouvea to Port Vila, a 200 miles trip, should take us between 34 to 40 hours. Timing is tricky because we need to leave Ouvea with daylight to go thru the pass out to open waters. This means arriving to Port Vila at night.

After buying the last 2 baguettes before leaving French territory we left Fayaoue on Tuesday morning heading towards Ilot Deguala. While crossing the lagoon in a great sunny day we had dozen of dolphins swimming alongside and playing with Zenitude.

Watch the video:    Sailing with dolphins 

We decided not to stop at Ilot Deguala but checked the anchorage, definitely a 'must visit' when back.
Ouvea map and charts show 2 passes for getting out of the lagoon, Passe de la Baleine and Passe du Taureau. Before leaving Fayaoue we asked the local people about conditions in the passes and they said Taureau is better as the other pass has 2 dangerous rocks sometimes hard to see. Our cruising guide does not mention any of these passes but shows that is possible to pass between Ile Jumeaux and Ilots Deguala. The worry is the chart shows this area as 'unsurveyed'. What to do? Neither of the 2 passes looked very inviting and we decided to trust our cruising guide as the area between the islands is wide and the reef was very visible at 1:00 PM when we crossed. Crossing really slowly and checking the depth sounder all the time the pass was calm, clear waters showed no danger and we never saw less than 14 meters depth. Anyway, we only relaxed when we were out in chart surveyed waters.

Leaving New Caledonia behind we had good sailing most of the time, fast and bumpy during the day averaging almost 7 kn but slower at night with the wind calming down. The full moon made the night much more enjoyable. Approaching Port Vila the second night at around midnight we could see the lights showing the entrance to the port. We usually don't enter port at night but this port is easy, well marked, we've been here before, our C-Map chart is spot on, there was a full moon, clear and calm night and our cruising guide gave us all the waypoints up to the Quarantine anchor point. With all of this we decided to get in. Somehow the leading lights to the entrance are not exactly as described in the guide but are clear to understand.

Very slowly we made it to the quarantine anchorage, several boats were already there waiting for next day quarantine clearance. We dropped anchor and relaxed, the night was calm, we were quite tired but happy after a good trip.

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Friday, 26 July 2013

Ouvea - A very special place

Like Fakarava and Toau in the Tuamotus or sweet Suvarov in the Cook Islands, Ouvea is indeed a special place in New Caledonia. Unlike Tuamotus or Cook Islands, coming to Ouvea is quite easy if you are sailing around New Caledonia, but even if you are not sailing, there are daily short flights from Noumea. Cost of accommodation might be an issue if you are not on your yacht but there are options with tribal 'gites' or tribal camping grounds or the very beautiful and luxurious Paradise resort, worthwhile checking.

We arrived at the pass of Coetlogon in Ouvea's south-west coast at noon having left Baie de Santal in Lifou at 4:00 AM. The pass is narrow but it's well marked. At noon visibility was perfect and we could make out the reef on both sides of the pass. There was a small boat with divers in the reef next to Moule island and we thought for a moment to stop at the anchorage in the lagoon entrance (Ile Moule) to snorkel in the reef but at the end decided to keep going to Fayaoue as per original plan. Sailing inside the lagoon is easy with no dangers if you keep at least 1.5 miles from the beach at about 10 meters depth.

I was enjoying the scenery, the 25 km of a long beach with white sand surrounded by coconut trees and amazing turquoise waters while Oscar was busy cleaning the 2 big fishes he got underway from Lifou. The first fish was a 8.5 kg mahi-mahi enough for several dinners but then he decided to try another one 'to get a gift for the chief in Fayaoue' and this time he got a 7 kg tuna. At this point, while he is busy cleaning the fish and the mess I'm sure he is wondering why he got so enthusiastic, for sure one fish was more than enough! On top of this he realizes now that there is no chief to see where we are going. Oh well, we got fish for the next 2 weeks' dinners (and probably lunches as well).

A tuna AND a mahi-mahi!
 We finally arrived to our destination and marveled at this superb place. Next day we rented a car. We didn't know where the rental car office was and went to the 'magazine' (the grocery store) to find out, using our best broken French. The lady at the store was very nice and she called the car rental for us using her excellent French. Five minutes later the rental car was at the shop's door for us.

We drove the one and only road, north to south. The island is a narrow strip along the lagoon on one side and the open seas on the other side. Some places you can see both sides at the same time. At the north tip, in Saint Joseph, we took the Nimek tour with Mr Antoine. This was a wonderful tour, walking along the beach where few people visit. You see turtles, sharks, crabs, sea snails, a plant that releases a sun protection gel when you embed with sea water and much more. You walk crossing a pass when the tide is low and end up in a dream place where we stopped for a picnic. Antoine tells all kind of stories about Ouvea, its customs and believes from their ancestors and he even gave us a lesson on how to fish with their typical net. All registered in film, which we'll post soon. We had a fantastic day and highly recommend the tour if you come to Ouvea (Mr. Antoine 98 72 05). I should mention that Antoine's English is not so good but between our little French, his little English and the lovely couple from Tunisia that speaks both languages we actually had no linguistic issues.

We could have stayed in Ouvea for ages, but we need to keep moving and there is a good weather window coming up to make the 200 miles trip to Port Vila, so we get ready to leave Fayaoue with the idea of crossing the lagoon all the way to the North and either stop for a night at Ilots Deguala or just get out the pass between Deguala and Jumeaux and get underway to Vanuatu.

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Exploring Lifou - Part 2

Sailing to We was painful as we faced strong head winds for most part of the trip but we couldn't find another way to refill our fresh water tanks. It took us 12 hours to make the 39 miles to get there. It was the 14 of July weekend and we got a good reception from the crowd in the marina that invited us to a BBQ.

The marina at We
Two days later we were back in Baie de Santal after a very quick run with the wind in the perfect direction. Midway we decided to stop in Baie de Doking for a couple of hours for a snorkel among the coral and caves. It was superb snorkeling, all very pretty. Unfortunately my underwater camera stopped working, no more underwater pictures for now. The anchorage there is quite deep, you anchor between the corals in 14 meters so we decided not to stay overnight.
Back in Baie de Santal we woke up the following morning to find Resolute at anchor next to us, she is another catamaran from Sydney with Ken and Janice and their three kids we met in Port Moselle.
It was about time to think on our next move to Ouvea and from there the 200 miles to Port Vila, Vanuatu. It seems the weather will be settled next week and with that in mind Oscar flew to Noumea to get all the paperwork ready for our departure. Immigrations, customs and port authority check out can only be done in Noumea. This might be one of the reasons why there is so few boats visiting these fantastic Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. They give you 3 days after check out before leaving the country but this is hardly enough time to visit the many beautiful places along the way. If you don't want to sail all the way back to Noumea before departing to Vanuatu, one option is to take a day trip in local Air Caledonia. Having done that we can say it is possible and not very expensive but the logistics are quite complicated. As Immigrations closes at 11.30 AM you need to catch the very first flight that departs Lifou at 7.00 AM. This forced us to start the day at 4.00 AM with a dinghy ride to shore at 4.45 AM. All too early for our taste. The day after we woke up again at 4.00 AM for a quick sail to Ouvea to take advantage of the 3 days stay after check out and see if Ouvea is indeed "the island close to paradise".

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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Exploring Lifou - Les Iles Loyaute

We left Baie du Prony when the storm cleared and decided to go Lifou, part of the Loyalty Islands, skipping Isle de Pines which we may visit if we have time when back from Vanuatu. On the south of New Caledonia you get out to sea thru the Havannah Passage that needs to be negotiated at slack time due to strong currents. There is a very nice anchorage, Port du Boise, at the entrance of the passage, very convenient to wait for the right time in the pass. We came a day ahead and spent the night there. It is tricky to find the right spot to anchor but the cruising guide has excellent explanations and we found 3 meters of water to anchor at: 22.21.20S, 166.57.16E. Turned out to be a great place to rest after our ordeal at Baie de Carenage. We left the next day at about noon, crossed a rolly passage at slack time and a after an uneventful overnight trip, arrived at beautiful Baie de Santal in Lifou.

Our French friends told us not to go to We, the main town where there is a small marina but come to this bay instead. It was great advice, this place is fantastic, beautiful and quiet with lots of room to anchor in a sandy bottom. There are a couple of white sand beaches and a small village that belongs to the tribe of Drueulu. Here we met another French boat, Crisaloha, with Marcel and Carol and together we went to pay respects to the Chief of the tribe in the village, a formality that requires you to take a small present to the chief and ask his permission to stay, fish and wonder around. They are all very formal and welcoming. They took us to a kind of communal area where the people was having breakfast and quiet conversations. The chief gave a welcoming speech, offered tea and coffee, asked lots of questions, gave us permission to stay and invited us to a wedding that was taking place the next day. All of this in French and of course was very nice to have Carol and Marcel there to translate for us.
Drueulu Village

Oscar with Carol and Marcel - Crisaloha and Zenitude on the background
There are a couple of stores and if you are lucky to be there when the bread arrives it is possible to buy baguettes. There is a bus that takes you to We (main town) daily at 7.00 AM which you also have to be lucky to get. This is the only bus, otherwise you need to hijack to get there, which we did as it seems we just missed the bus. Everybody here is very nice and helpful so this is not a problem.

In We we rented a car for 3 days and went around the island. The island is so lay back that you really need to make an effort to find the people that offer services. We wanted to visit several caves but we just managed to get to one with the only guide that was willing to take us in a tour, Mr. Albert. He is a very nice guy, his family owns a big property in Tingeting and they have plans to expand their tourist business. He speaks very good English and took us to visit the Diable Grotto which is part of their property. An easy hiking to very interesting caves. We'll post the pictures when we have internet again. If you ever happen to come to Lifou you can contact Mr. Albert (telephone 45.17.93) for a visit to the caves or a water adventure in his boat.

Another highlight of our car tour was Baie de Dockin, a bay at the bottom of impressive 40 mtr high cliffs overlooking water so clear that is easy to see the many coral reefs below, big caves that are amazing to snorkel. Definitely a place to come with Zenitude. Another bay, just across Santal, is called Xepenehe and is where the big cruise ships coming from Australia or Vanuatu deposit thousands of people once or twice a week. The ship was there when we visited and lots of people were wondering around the Quay where there is a small snack bar and some huts with souvenirs, open only when the big cruise ship is there. I wonder what is it that these tourists get to see in Lifou.

Baie de Dockin

After a week in Baie de Santal we decided to sail to We to stay at the marina for a couple of days, replenish our fresh water tanks and try power washing the last remains of red mud still attached to part of our chain. Another story to be published soon.

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Saturday, 6 July 2013

A Red Nightmare in Baie de Carenage - July 03

Rain starts and it seems it will never end
 After 24 hours of non stop heavy rain pouring on top of us we started loosing our good mood. Another 24 hours of the same and the nightmare started. The first day we had kind of fun, filling up buckets of water, topping up our water tanks, showering on deck, all the dust collected in the marina gone, our deck never looked so clean with so little effort, fun. When the night came and the rain continued we started to get moody, then a festival of lightning started and we knew our 'sleep soundly' night was gone, as we started to get concerned. We've never been in so much rain for so long. When daylight came on the second day and we saw the transformation of that place from a quiet green calm waters anchorage into a red muddy disturbed waters full of debris passing by we started to get really worried. As we were pondering what to do, we heard the noise of our chain moving and next thing we know we are riding down the current dragging chain and anchor at about 2 knots. Not need to say what a nightmare it was, try to control Zenitude, stop the ride, raise the anchor, and try to figure out what the hell had just happened. At that moment the sky decided to throw also thunders to add a bit more drama to our situation. At least it was daylight. We really thought about leaving the place but instead came back to try to re-anchor, not knowing which other place would be better. And then we saw it and understood, we've been anchored exactly in the spot where the main part of the rain water was trying to leave the place while the tide was changing.

Our new friends, the 2 French boats that came together with us from Bonne Anse were absolutely fantastic helping us to choose the right place as they'd been there many times. Later they said they'd been there more than 40 times and never saw anything like it. Once we found the spot where the current was little and the depth good enough we finally re-anchor. Eventually the rain started to diminish and by sunset was over. We left the place the next day, covered in red mud that will be another nightmare to clean up. Baie de Carenage is at the heart of the nickel mining area and the bottom is a deep red mud. By bringing up and down our anchor 3 times we collected probably about 3 or 4 tons of this red mud that was evenly distributed all over the boat by the wind. A lovely place indeed but we doubt that we'll ever return.

'Absolutelly Georgeous', our new friends in the reddish waters
G & O

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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Baie de Prony - Going South

After a quiet night in Ilot Baily we knew we had 2 more days of settled weather before of the next front which would be arriving on Monday afternoon with lots of rain and wind. We decided to go directly to Baie de Prony that has many protected anchorages including Baie du Carenage considered a 'hurricane hole'.
Our first stop was then Bonne Anse, just at the entrance of Prony. It is a beautiful spot quite popular with the locals on the weekends (we suspect that everybody in NC has a boat). One of the anchoring spots has 4 moorings and we were able to grab one after a couple of the local boats left later afternoon on Saturday.

There is plenty of fish in this bay, the Recif of Prony starts nearby just a short dinghy ride and we could see a couple of divers catching their dinner there. This is not a protected area and it is quite ok to spear fish in the coral. All of these making Oscar upset with his spider bite that it is not still 100% healed. He can't risk to go into the salty water because this water is alive with all kind of organisms that love an open wound. By sunset there were lots of fish jumping around our boat, surely bigger fish below trying to have dinner as well.
There is a little beach, the scenery is very nice with lots of very green trees on the hill and a reddish type of clay or mud that looks pretty but is not so good for the walking trail that leads to a lighthouse on the top.

As we were getting ready to leave on Monday morning, a French couple from a neighbor sailboat, 'Absolutely Gorgeous' came on their dinghy to offer us a bunch of very fresh sardines they just caught in the shallow waters off the beach with their net. We actually saw them fishing and were wondering what type of fish they might be getting, never imagining there were so many sardines around. With just two passes of the net they got a full bucket of them. As they couldn't possible eat so many, the few boats around, including us, got a share of their catch. It made a delicious lunch of fried sardines with a very cold beer we indulged for the occasion. In a mix of their poor English and our even poorer French we understood they were planning to leave for the same place we were going, the hurricane hole Baie du Carenage. He said it was an excellent place to sleep soundly in bad weather.

Actually the three boats in Bonne Anse, including us left towards the same place. It was an easy sail of about 8 miles in a kind of meandering way. At the end of a narrow channel Baie du Carenage opens in an area surrounded by hills. The wind had started to pick up on our way up reaching over 20 knots at times until we got in the bay, which was as expected very, very calm.
We found 3 other boats already here, there seems to be a lot of space but you can't anchor close to anybody as boats swing in different directions in this bay, so you need plenty of room to anchor. We might have timed our arrival well because as soon as we finished with anchoring the rain started and here we are a day later wondering if it will ever stop. It has rained non stop so far. But we did indeed slept soundly in this quiet place.
As I write this I can hear the wind starting to pick up, we expect tonight will be the worst of the storm and expect it to be over sometime during the day tomorrow. We would like to visit ashore. Nearby there are a waterfall and a hot spring small pool but no need to go there at the moment, we have plenty of water here as it is.

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Friday, 28 June 2013

On the move again

Finally Oscar's lesion (from the spider bite)is almost healed and we decided to start moving even though it might be another week before he can go diving. We are slowly going south to Ile des Pins. Today we stopped at Ilot Bailly to spend the night and relax after the hectic activities before leaving Noumea. Right now we are at anchor in a quiet night in a very quiet place. There is nobody else here and it is very peaceful. Our next stop is probably Baie de Prony about 5 hours sail from here.

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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Aussie Spiders on board keeping us in Noumea

When we removed our main sail for repairs it appears that we disturbed a white back spider that had set residence in Zenitude. We are not sure but the fact is that the following day a nasty insect bite appeared in Oscar’s leg and since then I have found 2 nasty looking black spiders on board, one appeared when we removed a piece of the gennaker rigging that we haven’t used for this trip and the other one jumped in front of me when I moved a piece of fabric that was on deck. Not nice. 

They don’t have this type of spiders in New Caledonia so these came traveling with us from Australia. We are actually sure they took up residence in Zenitude when we left her on the dry in Oyster Cove yard. When Zenitude went back to the water we thought we got rid of all spiders and ants which were really annoying. But apparently, there is no way to get rid of spiders unless you find them.  

With doctor’s advice Oscar is treating the lesion but healing is slow. In the meantime he can’t swim and we decided to stay around civilization in case more medical care is needed. So we are still in Noumea, doing land sightseeing and still enjoying French cuisine. The issue is lots of food and too little exercise. But not all time is lost, we keep fixing and improving Zenitude. This is starting to look like a working holiday, but not without fun.  I’ll update the post when we are ready to move again.
Anse Vata on a cloudy Sunday

One of the many restaurants in Anse Vata, Noumea

Up in Anse du Fort