Sunday, 8 November 2015

New Caledonia - Grand Terre

Grand Terre: 9 October – 21 October 2015

We left Ile Des Pins for Bay de Prony on Grand Terre after two weeks of effectively a holiday – two weeks of reading, walking and eating and drinking.  After all the Ile Des Pins is the holiday island!

Bay de Prony: Thursday 9 – Monday 12 October

The 40 mile trip north to Grand Terre was fast in 25 knots winds and I had decided that we would go to Ile Casy (a small island in Bay de Prony), mainly because it had mooring buoys on the deserted island which was an easier option than anchoring – a good a reason as any.

One of the legends of the island is the dog that lives there. When the owners of the resort (now in ruins) finally left, they had a puppy which they took with them.  The puppy kept jumping off the boat to go back to the island and so they left it there.  It now takes people on a tour of the island and in return, you provide him with some water and food.

Taking us along the beach
Walking through the forest
When we took our dinghy to the dock, the dog was duly waiting for us with its tail wagging. He walked in front of us, taking us for an hour and half walk around the island, stopping and waiting to ensure we were following. He took us around the island and then over the top. A lot of money had been spent making the walks good footpaths, fences in places and
sign posts at strategic points. As we came back towards the dinghy dock, the dog heard another dinghy engine and went bounding off to wait for the next group of sailors.

Showing us the view
The view the dog wanted us to see
The resort itself is still intact but is looking rather sorry for itself – boarded up and overgrown. This is a real shame because the island is very attractive. The soil is a deep red colour due to the high mineral content in the area and indeed on the mainland there is extensive nickel mining – one of the highest concentrates of nickel anywhere on the planet.

The red is the high nickel content
Crossing the waterfalls
The next day we went further up into the Bay de Prony and
anchored in an inlet so we could do some trekking on the mainland. We spent the next couple of days walking up hills and along the coast, some of which were old mining roads, carving huge flat pieces of rock out of the hills to make the roads and other were very attractive walks through the forest. The waterfalls at this time of year are tame since it is the dry season, but from the drainage ditches that were dug when these were heavily mined, they must get a huge rainfall here – the pictures of the waterfalls in the guide book were obviously taken in the wet season!

Noumea: Monday 12 October – Wednesday 21 October

We had allowed ourselves 7 days at Noumea so that we could spend 2 days preparing the boat for the trip to New Zealand and 5 days touring the island by car. Noumea is the port of departure for New Caledonia and so all boats have to leave from there, it is the only place you can clear customs and immigration. The harbour therefore gets very crowded with all the boats waiting for a weather window to depart to New Zealand or Australia ahead of the start of the cyclone season. Typically you get a weather window every two weeks or so.

We arrived at 4pm to a very crowded harbour. The first marina did not even answer our VHF request for a berth and I telephoned the other marina with little hope of finding a berth with so many boats at anchor. The Port Captain only spoke French but I was able to negotiate a berth for two nights, on the jetty assigned to Super Yachts. It was the last berth available and we only secured it because we could speak French which gave us an advantage in securing a berth.

The next morning I set about servicing the engine. After two hours, my foot was really hurting where I had cut it on some coral a couple of weeks earlier – it had become infected and very sore. An hour later I started feeling unwell and had to lie down with the engine still not finished. An afternoon of shivering and sweating alternately convinced me that I needed to see a doctor, not least because it was likely that we would have a weather window to leave in about a week’s time and I needed to be fit. Also, two people on other boats both had infected wounds, one of which became very seriously infected and he was still not well after two months.

The next morning Catherine went to see the Port Captain to arrange a doctor and he phoned around. He organised a taxi to take me to the hospital and could see that I was in a very poor state, as much worried as not well. The doctor checked the coral cut and took an Xray my foot to check there was no coral still inside and gave me a thorough check up. The wound was infected but no coral inside, it just needed careful cleaning twice a day and kept dry. He gave me some antibiotics for the fever and re-assured me that it was not a blood infection that caused the fever. It was a huge relief.

The marina allowed us to stay on the berth for a couple more days, moving off other boats to make way for the super yacht that was arriving. This meant that at least Catherine could get off the boat while I laid and watched DVDs when not sleeping. We then did have to move the boat to another berth that they found for us and with the help of the marina we managed to move the boat to a new berth where we could stay until we left.

On the fifth day (Saturday) we went for a walk in the afternoon and I felt a lot better for the walk. On the Sunday we took a bus to the Cultural Museum which was about 5 miles out of town. When we arrived they had a special children’s event weekend that meant that the tickets were three times the normal price with lots of shows and activities for children. It was also pouring with rain that meant most of them had to be cancelled!

We spent four hours there among an eclectic mix of exhibits and if there was a story behind the random selection and arrangement of the exhibits it was well hidden. For a cultural museum it lacked much to say on culture or history. Nonetheless we did give it our best shot.

Monday and Tuesday we spent preparing for the departure. Final rig checks, provisioning for just the number of days at sea (since we would have to jettison all fruit, vegetables and meat before arriving in New Zealand) and buying some more Jeri cans of fuel just in case we had to motor extensively.
We had a final meal with our friends from Chessie, Serendipity and On The Double in town before we all went our own way. Chessie were berthing their boat in Noumea and heading back to Germany for Christmas, Serendipity were off to Australia and ourselves and On The Double were going to New Zealand.  No doubt we will all meet up again next year on route and it reminded us of what a good time we all had together over the last couple of months.

The weather was keenly watched by everyone and a departure on the Wednesday was looking good. We listened to Gulf Harbour Radio on the SSB each morning at 6:30am which provides weather routing information for yachties travelling to New Zealand, downloaded the weather grib files each day to look at the 10 day weather patterns and joined in the 8am VHF net to share weather information with the other boats. All looked good for the first three days of the passage with a weather front then coming up from Australia. We knew that we would have to take at least one weather front on route but the plan was to anchor at Norfolk Island to let this one go through and then dash to New Zealand before the next one.
On Tuesday night we felt we were ready for an early start on the Wednesday morning with all preparations completed for our most difficult journey to date.

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