September 19, 2009
We have not been keeping up with our blog as well as we hoped. So let me get things caught up briefly.
We spend three pleasant nights in Baie Ire on Ile Ouen after our passage from Vanuatu. There was no sense in heading to Noumea quickly since it was the weekend and it seemed possible that we would be confined to the boat waiting for immigration, customs, and quarantine. Sometimes officials do not work on weekends.
On Monday morning (14 Sep) we sailed the 25 miles to Noumea in great conditions and took the last slip available at the visitors dock at Port Moselle, the public marina of Noumea. Clearing in was quick and efficient (but all our pamplemousse and other fresh products were taken, except for ginger).
Noumea is a modern, bustling French city of 100,000 with cars and buses whizzing along on wide boulevards, patisseries, chocolatiers, boulangeries, and branches of the largest French supermarkets. There is an amazing assortment of cheese, bread, and other treats which we sampled and added to the boat’s stores.
We stayed at Port Moselle for four days, provisioning the boat and doing boat maintenance, plus reading internet email and catching up with academic work. We made use of the free Wifi at McDonald’s just two blocks from the marina.
Friday morning (18 Sep) we sailed off to Ilot Kouen, about 13 miles up the west coast of Grande Terre. The “ilot” is only 100 meters long and 20 meters wide at high tide, perhaps twice that at low. The anchorage is well protected from waves by an extensive coral reef. Unfortunately, the wind has been very strong — 25 knots and more — between noon and midnight both days we have been here. We only got off the boat this morning for a swim. In the afternoons, we hide out from the wind in the cockpit and eat a leisurely lunch and read our books. It is Saturday, and six local (French-Caledonian)sailboats have anchored nearby to kite surf and spend the weekend. I imagine they will mostly be gone tomorrow — heading back to Noumea in a strong wind right on the nose.
We intend to explore others small ilots along the west coast of Grande Terre over the next few weeks. The water is crystal clear and the coral is healthy and there are lots of fish, plus dolphins and turtles. We only hope that the wind calms a bit.