Saturday, June 30, 2012

Last days in New Caledonia

We are now into our last days in New Caledonia and will look at leaving for NZ early next week weather permitting. We have really enjoyed our time here; it was a good choice for a (and much needed) stop over to recharge our batteries before the trip south. The last few days we have been introducing our crew to the boat and doing some island hopping in the vicinity of Noumea. We have had some good sailing and managed initially without using the engine at all, including picking up a mooring (although it did take me 3 attempts). Unfortunately, a period of flat calm has put paid to that now. The calm is very welcome as most of the time we have been here has been quite windy. After the Ile des Pins we made use of a brief gap in the weather to sail to Baie de Prony where we sheltered from a good westerly blow (I think the top edge of the system that brought all the snow to NZ). We had heard of some thermal pools there that we were looking forward to soaking in during the bad weather. However, the pool we visited was only luke warm and we had more fun swimming in a nearby waterfall where the water was only slightly colder. We had a great time here, getting off the yacht; lots of walking and exploring remnants from the mining days. The hills are very scarred with a dark red, iron-rich soil which stains everything, including our feet. At night there was an intense orange loom from the huge nickel mine nearby. We dived on the Aigulle de Prony, an interesting geological formation consisting of a pinnacle rising from the sea floor formed (I think) from geothermal activity. The position is marked by an isolated danger beacon; in NZ the Harbourmaster would come and tell you off if you tied up to such a navigation marker but here there was a length of line provided to tie up with and a notice informing what boats and conditions etc were allowed- all very civilized! From Prony we went out to Amadee Island, famous for an imposing white lighthouse designed by Eiffel. Here, we were surprized to see some friends that we had last seen in Pohnpei, since we had been heading north to Guam and Alaska at the time, they were even more surprized to see us! Walking around the island we saw several sea snakes, including one Jim nearly trod on. The beach was covered with sinuous tracks made by the snakes coming ashore. We also dived in the nearby pass where Jim saw a formation of 10 eagle rays and I saw a very large manta ray. Just underneath the yacht we saw small rays, sharks, a sea snake and of course the ubiquitous remora. Jim is going to miss the remora that we have seen in most anchorages, swimming underneath the boat and coming up to eat our toast crumbs and vege scraps. I wonder if we will sit on the cockpit of the boat in Lyttleton of an evening, admiring the sunset and watching the turtles surface around us?!


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