New Caledonia bound

New Caledonia bound

We did not have a real chance to get to know Vanuatu, weather was not good and time running out. It seems that mother nature has put time limits on our stays in paradise and with the cyclone season approaching thoughts go from the next sandy beach to the next safe haven. In my case the insurance gods have supreme rule and I must be south of twenty degrees south by November first—that means Brisbane, Australia.

When the weather broke it provided a golden window for power boating, five days of less than 10 knots of wind and following seas so off we went on Saturday, Oct, 16. Clearing customs at the main wharf required a long dinghy ride. At the wharf was a large Holand America cruise ship. The clearance was easy—too easy—the novice agent forgot to collect the Port Captain fees. I debated just leaving but thoughts of problems down the road outweighed my greed and I kinda reminded him and he sent me to pay the fee—he seemed glad I saved his butt.

Rising at dawn, 0500, we weaved our way out of the anchorage and into the Coral Sea. This was a much more placid sea than we experienced upon our arrival. Two other boats were making the same exit. Course set for Lifou a small island in the Loyalty Group and the first landfall in New Calidonia. Mild swells and ten knots of wind followed us the next 28 hours until we dropped anchor for a rest in the well protected bay of Lifou. As we had not cleared customs in NC we could not go ashore although the village looked enticing. A huge cathedral sat on the highest point of the island. Lifou is the largest attol in the south seas and the highest altitude. It looks like a tall Nuie and has the same abundance of caves. This is a place to return to on another voyage. The last leg of the journey winds between the barrier reef and the main island of Grande Terre for about 35 miles and is not a place to play in the dark so we time our departure to make a dawn entrance. Calm seas and cloudy skies made for a comfortable crossing and the winds picked up out of the south just as we entered the reef. The wind picked up fast for the remainder of the well protected route—we had lucked out again!

The inside passage is well travelled and with the low visibility– yikes first fog I had seen in a year—the radar and AIS came in handy. We passed a 500 foot freighter in a tight pass with no worries.

When we approached Noumea we hailed the port on the VHF and were told they had a waiting list so we dropped anchor and- well -waited. Not too long and we were called to come into the port. This is the first real slip I had been into since Mexico and it was too short and tight but we managed easily. Chalk up another first for Jess.

Clearance here is unusual, first a trip to the port office, then wait for the “three ghosts of Christmas” to arrive; quarantine, immigrations and customs. Quarantine was the toughest, she went through the refer and freezer and confiscated a few things. Now I am an honest man but not a fool so when she pointed to the freezer on top of the refer and asked if she could look at the freezer I simply said yes.

The weather was cold by any South Seas standard and sweatshirts and even some in long pants—not me—were drug out of long forgotten lockers. It seems we are in a standard low pressure southerly system for a few days.

We are awaiting the newest crew member, Christina, who will join us for the crossing to Oz and stay with me for some time. She had flown form Brisbane to join Furthur. She is the first crew I have found on which seems to be a great resource for crew. I look forward to meeting her today.

New Caledonia is the last vestige of European imperialism. It has bounced from British to French rule for centuries and has been in French control for some time. The economy is based on huge nickel mines owned by a few French land barrens. The locals, Kanaks, have revolted often since the early 80’s and there has been some violence. Compromises have been reached and the French have taken a more modern approach to subduing freedom loving Kanaks, they throw tons of money at them. Funny how a few schools, sports arenas and new cars can disarm a revolutionary faster than an AK47.

We venture out for dinner and are sharply reminded we are in French rule—expensive! A take out meal for 3 at a mobile vender—la truck—is $46. They use the same frank as French Polynesia and it is about 100 to one to our dollar. We look forward to exploring Noumea, called the Paris of the South Pacific.