Nouvelle Caledonie: First Impressions

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G0131685Arriving in New Caledonia was like coming home. Not because it is French (although, man, the French know how to pick them), but because it has everything we love about the South Pacific: insanely clear water, jaw dropping lagoon colors, shallow sandy anchorages floating in those colors, uninhabited islands, and great sailing conditions inside a lagoon with easily predictable wind and land effects. 

 

In addition, because it is French there is a large community of water sports participants which include a strong contingent of women, people sailing their boats in every wind direction, very little restrictions on what you can do as a boater, and not a lot of fuss over what bits of your body are covered. Try telling a French woman (or man) that women have to cover up to be respectful of the locals and you will quickly learn why French colonies don’t play that way. We are not Francophiles by any means and we have been surrounded by French boaters for long enough to know the downsides to these upsides, but still, we love these upsides.

 

Too bad they only give us North Americans three months… Still, we are going to enjoy the crap out of what time we have here.

 

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Passage: Fiji to Nouvelle Caledonie

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Fiji doesn’t like us. As we departed, she gave us one last kick in the ass to send us on our way. After 5 months of crap sailing in Fiji, we started our passage to Noumea with a forecast of SE 15 – 20 knots and 2.5m seas both diminishing in strength. Not too bad to lay a course WSW for us. Instead, we had 35 knots of South wind and more than 4m seas also from the S. Those conditions are not good ones for letting the seas sit at your beam *or* for close hauling and so we put the wind on our stern quarter and started sailing NW, 90 degrees off our intended course. In case you are wondering about land effects, we were leaving Fiji West of Mana Island and we had this wind for the first 12 hours of our passage so…not land.

 

The seas were so steep, so short period, so uncomfortable that after a few more hours of lurching about NW, in a fit of frustration, we hove to (well, we forereached, but whatever) for 6 hours. Funny enough, this allowed us to make our course (very slowly) and so we decided that until the seas abated we would stay that way.

 

Eventually the seas came down just enough that we turned W and sailed again, and then eventually were able to lay our course. The weather forecasts continued to show SE wind and we continued to have S or sometimes SSW wind which meant we close hauled most of the way to Fiji in stronger conditions that we would have chosen for an upwind passage. Ahhh, the Coconut Milk Run.

 

With all of that said, once we set aside our frustration, and once the wind became more reasonable, we had some gorgeous weather during the second half of the passage, a minimum of showers and nothing too squally. The last 24 hours were a glorious sail, closehauled, in lighter winds and so we entered Nouvelle Caledonie with perfect passage conditions and in good spirits. And because of the sporty wind, we had a fast passage, making the 660 miles in under 5 days despite spending 1/4 of a day forereaching.

 

One more passage and we’ve crossed the Pacific…

 

Below: A wall of cloud approaching on passage

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Big City Living in Fiji

photo 31 (2)Perhaps big city living is a bit of an exaggeration but if you spent as much time in French Polynesia as we have, and most of the rest of our time in places like Tonga, then Fiji feels extremely developed.

We found better marine supplies in Tahiti but then again, the French do love their sailing. Other than that, Fiji is more stocked than anywhere we’ve been by boat since Mexico.

We even have cellular internet in a large portion of the anchorages – cellular internet fast enough for video calls and uploading videos, and it’s cheaper than NZ!

photo 21 (2)As cruisers we spend half of our time trying to get away from civilization and then when we are away from civilization we drool about things we would like to have from the civilization we escaped – mostly of the food and drink variety, and occasionally things like movies and internet.

Comforts of big city living we’ve been enjoying in Fiji: cheap eating out including tasty Indian food, coffee shops and pastries, big fully stocked produce markets filled with local goods, butcheries full of tasty locally raised meats, and inexpensive medical and dental visits.

Of course, nowhere we’ve visited thus far has a supermarket as impressive as the ones in Tahiti. We are quite excited to see a Carrefour again when we get to New Caledonia! Oh, did I mention that we are headed there soon?

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Best Gear Award: Oil Change Pump

P1070021Carol and I were talking recently about some of the best little things we’ve done to the boat that have had big quality of life impacts. One thing that we put on before we left the dock was a permanently plumbed oil change pump – similar to this but ours is all brass.

The pump is connected to the oil pipe near the dipstick which pulls oil from the bottom of the sump. It probably doesn’t drain every last drop that the drain would get to, but based on our oil capacity in theory and what we can pump out in reality, it is very close.

The hose at the other end can then be placed in any oil container we choose to use (like a bottle or a jar) and the oil pumped directly into that container. Way easier than an oil pan for us, especially when the boat is moving about at anchor.

P1070018On our engine, all of this can be done from the front of the engine although we have to go to the side for the filter change.

After having the loose hose leak drips of oil all over stuff, I whittled down a wine cork to the correct size of the ID of the hose and put a thread through it for easy cork removal.

VIDEO: A Taste of the Gambiers

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The newest addition, and IMHO the best yet, in our “A Taste of..” cruising video series.

Click on the picture above to be taken to the video “A Taste of the Gambiers” on our youtube channel. Hope you enjoy!

Fulaga Photo Madness

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