Thursday, July 7, 2016

New Caledonia, an unspoken cruisers gem.

Hello Everyone,

I am sitting here enjoying my coffee on our first cloudy/rainy/windy day in a long while.  We are in the midst of cleaning up the boat and sorting our personal effects to get ready to start shipping our items back to the states.  Whether you are on a boat or in a house this process always seems to be a little overwhelming and one that we have been procrastinating on.  We are donating many items to the red cross here and some of our books to the local schools that teach english.  I regret not being more organized and being able to donate our goods back in Vanuatu at some of the remote villages.  Although we donated a lot it would have been nice to be able to give more.  Then again who am I to judge who needs our used goods.  It isn't like they are valuable and if there is anything that I will take a way from this trip, it is the visions of all those happy village kids running around half naked and playing with sticks and stones and each other,  carrying around a half eaten baked fish and a mango for their snack.  Besides necessities... they don't seem to want or need much else.  I hope our kids carry this message in their hearts as they grow older and we can all keep to the "Less is more" motto.

I now understand why people choose to leave their boats here in New Caledonia marinas permanently and fly back and forth in order to cruise here.  The inside lagoon for New Caledonia offers so much in terms of a wonderful vacation.  From the easy access of flying in and out, remote islands, sandy beaches, great snorkeling and scuba diving, diverse landscapes, hiking, a boaters mecca for parts and services, easy provisioning... and so on and so on.  Not to mention the consistent trade winds for Kite surfing, surfing the outer breaks of the lagoon and sailing.  Not only can you escape the big city of noumea, within 5 miles you are at a remote island often anchored by yourself.  You can also decide to go farther out 60 miles or so to Ile Des Pins and be amongst some of the most fantastic diving and snorkeling we have seen in a long time.  The sailing is some of the easiest there is because of the break from the outer lagoon so that most of what you are sailing in are wind waves with minimal swell and you can choose to go into or with the waves depending on your destination.  And don't worry about wanting to get somewhere into the wind.  It will change and give you a down wind sail within 3 or 4 days...

I am going to start with giving credit for many of the photos that are in this blog to Mike and Shannon... I had dropped the ball and they more than made up for it with their wonderful shots above and below the water....

Mike, Shannon, Una and Liam left a few days ago and we already miss them... it was an amazing visit and we all had a great time (Once we were over the colds they brought with them, Hee Hee)  It is amazing how the boat can easily handle adding 4 more and still be roomy and comfortable.  Often there were times when it was so quite that we wondered where the kids were and then we would find them all cuddled together watching a movie, reading their books, playing chess or with the little girls playing legos.



The last week of our trip we started by heading to the marine reserve at the five islands.  It is a beautiful anchorage with a white sandy beach and lots of snorkeling close by.  They are uninhabited islands so we were the only boat there.




We had a few peaceful days of sun and playing on the beach.  There were a few Sea Eagles that nest on the island so it was fun to see them up close.  The trees are only about 20 feet off the ground with these huge nests built out of sticks and coral.












Amaia definitely takes after her dad and loves the kites

Alina, my shell collecting buddy

It is dark but I think he has the pose down... Hee Hee


Shannon getting one last snorkel in before the sun goes down...


Always fun jumping off the bimini....




Refilling tanks with the last bits of gas from Vanuatu passage...

The snorkeling was great.  I have to say that the snorkeling here in New Cal is the closest we have seen to the Tuamotos.  There are a few random spots that we came across in Fiji, like Vianni Bay with Jack (rainbow reef) and Yadu.. but otherwise this is spectacular.




"Honey, where is my supersuit?"









This spot was great spot for a little scuba reentry for mike and a little introduction for Una.  It was only about 10 feet deep so she wanted to try it out.  They had a lot of fun hanging out down there with Lexi and Chris and even Liam got to play with our hooka set up (a long tube attached to a tank in the dinghy that he could use to float around under water.)

Liam with the hooka


Alexia's comfort under the water never ceases to amaze me


Una and Mike



Tristan and I were snorkeling the reef in front of the boat and we had come across a smallish white tip shark about 4-5 feet.  We didn't think much about it because he swam away.  We had called to our boat to get picked up because we had been in the water for awhile and I was freezing and didn't want to swim the distance back.  Mike brought Shannon out with him because she wanted to snorkel a bit.  The day before they had seen turtles and she was really enjoying it.  I remember thinking to myself... wow she is brave.  I get a little creeped out snorkeling by myself and I just won't do it.  For some reason the dang theme song to jaws keeps repeating in my head when I am out there.  Once back on the boat I kept looking out for her to see where she was.  After about 30 mins I notice that she has put herself up on the reef and was yelling for us to come and get her.  We jump in the dinghy and found out that the pesky white tip had decided to get a little territorial and was telling her that she needed to leave his home for awhile.  She said he kept swimming back and forth in front of her and seemed to be getting agitated.  So it was time to go.  They hadn't really swam with the sharks before and they always seem a little daunting when you are in the water, but those are definite signs in my mind to exit stage left.




We then started making the 30 mile passage up to the next island that is closer to Noumea.  Mike, Shannon, Una and Liam had to leave the morning of the 5th at 5am so we needed to be in noumea anyway.


Early morning passage, kids slumber party still happening



We had heard from some cruisers that a good spot to hang close to Noumea was Signal Island.  It is a beautiful, small, uninhabited island that was used at one time as a signal for the voyagers to enter the lagoon in through Dumbea Pass.  We grabbed a mooring ball close to the reef.








It has probably been one of my favorite snorkeling spots yet.  I believe it may be a cleaning station for all kinds of sea life.  One of the best things were the numerous turtles that just hang out.  They are not afraid of you and you can swim around them and they just hang or gently and slowly swim away.  It really is amazing to see these beautiful creatures in the water.  I have been on a turtle search since we have left San Francisco and until now have only seen them occasionally on the surface of the water as we are sailing or if we were lucky enough to spot one snorkeling, by the time you get the person next to you attention they have already disappeared.  So this was really special and we all enjoyed the uniqueness of it.  Not only were there turtles but sharks, sting rays, moray eels, and just loads of fish.  The reef fish were huge here.  I have never seen a unicorn fish the size of a grouper.  We spent a few days here and then unfortunately needed to head back into the business of Noumea for some marina showers, and packing before their trip in the morning.



Mike and Una in the background with the turtle

Turtle...... and Alina playing around


For Fourth of July we were able to have a little celebration on a remote island.  We didn't have any big firework celebration except for when some sort of firework exploded in our fire.  The kids had a simple night of some roman candles, sparklers and some of the floating lanterns.  Unfortunately only one floating lantern out of 4 was successful.  It has been more challenging to get these floating lanterns off the ground.  Usually the wind is either too strong, in the wrong direction or there are too many boats around us.  So it is always quite rewarding when we are successful.  










We are so glad that they were able to come and spend some time with us before our trip ended.  It is really hard to explain and describe what our life on the boat has become and how our life is now full of downtime, sunsets, music, sleep and a schedule that has no time requirements.  It was nice to get a new appreciation of it through someone else's eyes.







Their excitement of the snorkeling, remote islands, sandy beaches, shells, changing landscapes, colorful sunsets, brilliance of stars at night, and the sea breeze is something that we often take for granted now because it has become the norm.  It makes you reflect a bit and tell yourself that this lifestyle that we have enjoyed over the last few years is amazing and we are truly lucky to have been able to enjoy it for as long as we have.

Hugs and love to everyone at home,


Heath


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