Monday, October 02, 2006

Getting to Noumea, New Caledonia

Current Location: Noumea, New Caledonia
Current Position: 22°16.65' S 166°26.42' E
Next Destination: Undecided, New Caledonia

Billabong's crew is getting just a wee-bit tired of weather work. It seems this season has been full of it, and honestly it is wearing me down! Not only that but the winds have been higher this year too ... 15-20 if we're lucky, and even then always closer to the 20 knots (which when beating into it is closer to 25 apparent). I long for some aft of the beam, 15 knots apparent, sailing. I know what you are thinking -- stop your bitching, look at where you are! And thankfully that is my saving grace, so far every destination has been worth the effort and sea-sickness to get there.

We spent five, mostly rainy, days in Revolieu Bay trying to get a somewhat decent weather window for the beat back to Port Vila. Finally on the 22nd we were off .... a 12 hour sail against the winds, but luckily in not-to-bad of seas.

We spent a week wrapping up errands around town and on the internet, while waiting for another weather window to get us to New Cal. Early morning on the 28th, we released the mooring and headed towards New Caledonia.

Port Vila to Noumea is another 'beat', we waited for the winds to clock as much as we thought they would and then left in time to hopefully arrive before they clocked South. Our first day out was hell ... and I don't feel as though that is an exaggeration. We had 25+ knots at 55 degrees, with big confused seas. We were tossed and thrown all over the place and continuously punched our bow. Waves threw themselves into our cockpit, and green water ran down the rails, spilling over to the cockpit floor. For the first time we actually took a few waves directly into the cockpit, leaving standing water (even if only a few inches)! I was the sickest I think I've ever been, both nausea and a splitting headache that I'm sure went beyond migraine status. Chris was a trooper and let me lay like a dead fish, barely moving but to let him know I was okay.

Renaissance 2000 had departed the day before us, and on the SSB reported that the first 24 hours was bad, but everything had smoothed out by the second morning .... so there was hope that all would be better "soon". The first night Chris took all the watches, as for only the second time in our three years, I was, as Chris put it, "driving the porcelain bus"!

True to prediction, the following morning was ten-times better, with flatter seas from a single direction. By night fall things were nearly peaceful and the sailing was terrific. We were sailing with 15 knots, at about 65 degrees. I was able to take watch and give Chris a near solid 6 hours of sleep (as solid as one can get aboard a moving sailboat anyway). At 5am, during Chris' watch, we caught a big-eyed tuna (about 30-35 lbs). Surprisingly I didn't mind getting up to help bring the guy aboard -- happy knowing that not only would we be docked or anchored that afternoon but we'd also be having a terrific Sushi dinner!

We couldn't believe the beautiful mountains and landscape as we sailed to Noumea. And as we rounded the last 'corner' the gigantic city emerged before us -- boy was it big. We had known Noumea was great for kite boarding, but we hadn't expected 30+ kite boarders along with numerous wind surfers to be zooming about. By 3pm we were relieved to finally be safely docked and ready to relax. Both of us were feeling a bit under the weather, but we still had to get through the check-in procedures. We lucked out with one of the easiest quarantine searches we've been through, perhaps because it was after 5 on a Saturday night. We'd heard rumors that the quarantine lady was quite strict and would search out our frig in detail ... however she barely glanced into our fridge & cupboards.

That evening was calm and relaxing, we enjoyed the stillness of the marina along with the continuous flowing hot water showers! Unfortunately we were both a bit sick, especially Chris with a low-grade fever and shivers.

Sunday was a combination of relaxation and chores. Chris was still sick, so spent a huge portion of the day in bed, while I took advantage of endless fresh water, to wash down the boat and do laundry.
I still can't believe how big of a city Noumea is ... no doubt a culture shock. And with that
big city comes big city French prices. On one hand you can buy just about any meat, cheese or vegetable, but on the other hand most of it is beyond our budget! It's especially shocking after the low market prices in Port Vila. It's weird to be somewhere with so many white faces -- even if they are still speaking a different language. And, as with the other French countries we've visited, Noumea is ALL French and nothing but French!!! So far French Polynesia and Noumea are the only tourist areas we've been where signs, pamphlets, etc are not in more than one language .... it makes it a bit tough to get around, but we're making due and dusting off the French dictionary!

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