Saturday, 10 October 2015

New Caledonia: Ile Des Pins

Ile Des Pins Thursday 25 September – Thursday 8 October

We left on Thursday 25th September to set off as the winds were forecast to be from the NW and we were heading SE to the Ile Des Pins. The winds were a gentle NW winds for two hours and then the rest of the journey the winds were all over the place – south, NW and then SW. We arrived at 10am exhausted into Bay D’Oro on the Ile Des Pins, dropped the anchor in the outer bay and had some sleep.

Bay D’Oro 25 September – 1 October

Bay D'Oro
That afternoon, just before high tide, we upped anchor and motored across the sand spit with just   We anchored without problem and later in the afternoon, ourselves, Huck, On the Double and Serendipity met up in the beach resort for drinks.  We sat in a lovely outside seating area on the beach and eventually were served drinks - the service was even slow service by “island time” standards.
20cm under the keel in places to the more protected inner anchorage.

Fun and Games Anchoring

The next morning our boat had swung round with the change in wind direction so I snorkelled to check. I found that we had just 1cm under the keel now with nearly 3 hours before low tide so we were going to go aground very shortly. We quickly picked up the anchor and re-anchored further south in deeper water but the uneven bottom meant we were still at risk of going aground. Heading further north we found a spot and were quite happy until we surveyed the area in the dinghy – a big bombie just 20m from to the side of the boat which we would hit if the wind was in the SE. This was becoming tedious.

Afar VI at Anchor
Over the next 90 minutes we surveyed the area in the dinghy using a 2m canoe paddle to test the depths around the bay. The bottom was so uneven there were shallows all over the place but we eventually we found some even ground between On The Double and Serendipity. It was 2m at low tide which was the minimum we were happy with but it was tight between the boats. We re-anchored for the last time.

Exploring Bay D’Oro

That done, Catherine and I went ashore and walked around Bay D’Oro, going up to the Piscine  
Beach on Bay D'Oro
Naturale which is a small lagoon about 1km from the anchorage. It was a beautiful walk along the beach and through a dried river bed surrounded by pine trees. The Piscine was secluded with the sea only entering the lagoon at high tide. We walked back along a different path to the beach restaurant where we met Huck and Serendipity still having lunch. We joined them for a drink and decided that we would book there for lunch the next day on their recommendation.

The next morning On the Double re-anchored to give us some more space as we were a little close to them – closer than we have wanted. We did feel guilty that they had to move but they were happy to do so as they were not so constrained by their draft. We had drinks on their boat that evening along with Serendipity and Huck and it was a jolly evening, so much so that Catherine managed to fall off the back of their boat while trying to get back into our dinghy.  At least the water is warm.

Walking the dinghy
On Sunday morning we took off in the dinghy to explore round the other islands in the bay. At low
tide, it was too shallow even for the dinghy and at one stage Catherine got out and pulled the dinghy through the very shallow parts since we could not use the motor. The islands were a delight with white sandy beaches surrounded by pine trees. We changed back on the boat ready for lunch and took our snorkelling gear to go back to the Piscine Natural in the afternoon.

Lobster for lunch
Relaxing lunch
The starter of salad and snails was delicious and the lobster was as good as we had eaten. The setting on the beach was just perfect and we spent a happy couple of hours over lunch before heading to the Piscine Natural. The snorkelling was fantastic with a huge variety of fish, clams and some good corals.

That evening all of us had drinks on Chessie as we had not seen them since they arrived. Over drinks, we decided that we would have a beach BBQ the following evening on a secluded beach on one of the islands.

BBQ on the Beach
Sunset att the BBQ
The five boats met on the island at 4pm the next day to get the fire
going and we all brought a variety of food which we all shared. We cooked over an open fire with the stars overhead and the full moon providing almost daylight conditions - idyllic. The dinghy ride back through the islands was equally magical, the pine trees and the calm water illuminated by the full moon.

We were all running low on cash and Huck booked a mini bus for the next day (Wednesday) to take us to the local market and more importantly the cash machine.  We met the driver at 7am at the resort and he took us to the market and on a tour of the island including two local shops to buy much needed provisions.  The island does not sell any alcohol except in the resorts – it part of the island policy which is owned by the indigenous Kanaks to stop the locals drinking. The driver took us to a restaurant which would sell us some beer to take away as long as we were discreet – but very expensive. We decided we were not that desperate.

We had had four consecutive very sociable evenings and had all agreed that we would have a quite (and temperate) evening on board on own boats that night. After the hard day’s shopping and island tour Catherine and I decided to have a quiet lunch in the resort. It was not long before all the boats decided that was a good idea and we all met up for lunch. Three hours later we left the restaurant.  So much for temperance!

Ouameo 1 October – 2 October

On Friday morning, just before high tide we carefully made our way back across the sand spit and back out into the ocean to go to Ouameo on the other side of the island. It was only a couple of hours of motoring in light winds, wending our way through the reefs and bombies and we dropped anchor.   
Two hours later and after ten attempts to get the anchor to hold in the very thin sand over rock, we decided enough was enough. I was not happy with how the anchor had dug in but it held. If nothing else it gave the other boats great amusement to see us re-anchor so many times. Most of the other boats had some trouble anchoring but we made an art form of it.

We had two reasons for going to Ouameo. Firstly the weather was about to change with very strong SE winds and so we wanted to be on the west side of the island. The second reason was there was a small resort with free wifi and a bar. However when we went ashore to explore, the resort was closed temporarily as there were no guests at that time. There was nothing to commend the anchorage – poor holding, not attractive as an anchorage and miles from anywhere. Kuto was the next bay along and only 8 miles but through a very tricky and circuitous route which needed to be made in settled weather, with the tide flowing against (to give more control) and good light to see the bombies.

Kuto 2 October – 8 October

The next morning the weather had changed with 20 knots plus in the anchorage and poor light. Catherine and I decided that it was too dangerous to go through the narrow pass directly to Kuto and opted to take the long route around the reef along with Chessie – 30 miles. We knew it would be rough, going outside the reef and directly into the wind and it did not disappoint! The two catamarans (On the Double and Serendipity) went through the pass as they have two engines which provide more control in tight situations and they also have a shallower draft.  Huck decided to stay put as they did not want to risk going through the pass and definitely did not fancy the longer and more exposed route that we took.

We carefully chose our anchor spot and were relieved that we had no problem this anchoring time and were well clear of any boats and in deep water. Exhausted after our day’s sailing we stayed on board for some rest and an early night. In fact I had to wake up Catherine to eat dinner as while I was cooking, she had fallen asleep – something that I might do but Catherine never does. It had been a hard day’s sailing.

The next day we set off to explore Kuto amid the hordes from a cruise ship that had arrived. Apparently they have almost one cruise ship a day during the season – not exactly what we were expecting! Luckily there were no more ships scheduled to arrive until the following week.

Later that evening we met up with the other boats for a drink to discuss which nights and where we would all go for dinner during the week. The discussion was only interrupted by Catherine remembering that she had forgotten to turn off the gas on the boat when we left – and had left the chutney she was making still simmering on the stove. We launched the dinghy from the beach and we could smell the burning saucepan even before we got back to the boat. Could have been very nasty if she had not remembered at that point!  Chutney is off the menu.

Sunday was a lazy morning on the boat before we set off for the beach to read in the shade of the pine trees. We underestimated the swell and hence the breaking waves on the beach and just as we approached, a big wave landed in the dinghy, turning it over and tipping us in the water. It was quite a shock. Two hours later, after we dried out, we just managed to time launching the dinghy between the waves to avoid yet another soaking. It made for some amusement over dinner with the other boats in the evening.

Walking to the resort for lunch
Lunch in the resort with Chessie
Monday morning, Catherine and I decided to have a leisurely lunch
in the resort on the other side of the bay. After a 30 minute walk through the pine trees and along the beach, we arrived to find Jutta and Jocken having lunch so we joined them. After a long lunch and a few bottles of wine, Catherine and I sat on the beach to read in what was left of the afternoon. After an hour, it was getting dark and we went back to the boat.

Tuesday evening we all went to a local restaurant. It was made more complicated because we had to make a choice of food by 4pm on the day and we only had a picture of the menu on Sharon’s phone. She spent the day corralling people on their choice of food and then came over to our boat and I phoned the restaurant. When Sharon had visited the restaurant that morning to the book the table, the owner did not speak English and they had a difficult conversation. When I phoned and spoke in French, he spoke to me in English - nice to see the French traditions still operate here!

The next day we hired a car with Sharon and Chris to visit the market to buy some fruit and vegetables as there are no shops now until we reach Noumea in a week’s time. Very little in the market we wanted but we did find a shop which had a good range of fruit and vegetables, something we had struggled to find over the last week. After lunch at the resort, we went back for an early night as we were leaving at 6am the next morning to go to Bay de Prony on the mainland.

We will have a week of day sailing between anchorages on the mainland (Grand Terre) before we get to Noumea and start preparing for the trip to New Zealand.