Coral patches in the bay at Doking, Lifou

 Superted V

Blog & Photos - October 2013

1 - 9 October - continued our cruise of the east coast - keeping an eye on the weather to get across to the Loyalties. The southern part of the east coast has been subjected to much mining (mainly nickel) and has many scars to show for it. Although we went through what was meant to be 'active' mining areas, we saw very little action and only one ship onto which the ore was loaded. Lovely coastline all the way along with some great protected anchorages and reasonable reef snorkeling. Again we saw no other sailing boats!

10 October - finally got the right wind to get across to Lifou (the middle island of the Loyalties) but what a horrible trip! It was 80 miles with 20 - 25 knot winds but the problem was that the sea was coming from all directions. We were so glad to drop anchor in the lovely sheltered bay of Gaitcha. Gin clear water and a lovely white sandy beach. This was also the first time we had to do 'coutume' which is to visit the chief of the village and take a small gift wrapped in a piece of cloth and ask permission to visit the area and swim etc. The village of Gaitcha is spread out but very neat and tidy - most of the plots had both a traditional dwelling as well as a modern house. The chief was no exception - we found him working in the garden - in fact we thought he was the gardener! Anyway we presented our gift and got permission to be there. We spent some time snorkeling around in the clear water of the various anchorages in the bay and went for a couple of dives with the only dive operation on the island. Not many big fish but very interesting topography with caves and tunnels with great visibility.

14 October - Strong south-easterly winds were forecast so we headed round to the bay of Doking - no sandy beaches but just cliffs and a set of concrete steps up to the village at the top. Again we went in search of the Chief and were invited in by his wife - she was gutting a fish and surrounded by screaming snotty nose kids - the chief came out pulling on a t-shirt to greet us. Anyway we sat down and gave him our gift - he got the kids to bring us coffee which was a flask of hot water and 2 large tubs - one of sugar and one of dried milk - no coffee. They poured us some water out into glass bowls and Matt added the milk powder. I just drank the hot water. Then they brought out ice cream which was melted as the power was off that day and one of the sprogs started screaming until she got some. We declined the offer. She then came round and started drinking Matt's drink - snotty nose dripping into the glass! Despite all that they were actually a very nice family and we were invited to stay for lunch (poisson cru) which was really good. Fortunately we had just bought a loaf of bread which we were able to share with them and when we were leaving they gave us some local clothes - mine is a traditional Kanak dress but on me it looks exactly like a long old ladies nightie! Matt's is a vest type thing which he has worn a couple of times. Special experience again. We reciprocated the next day by taking in a couple of Jean's skirts and tops and a few provisions.

20 October - We decided that we didn't want to go any further north because the further we went the more difficult it would be to get back! Had a good fast sail back to Grande Terre and anchored at Koakue again (the previous time we had been there we had 2 lovely snappers living under the boat and believe it or not they were there again as soon as we threw food scraps overboard!) The good weather we had been having had come to an abrupt end bringing rain and more wind.

21 October - We were going to head back to another very protected anchorage further down the east coast but the waves were so big it looked dangerous to enter through the reefs so we just kept going and reached the Havannah pass at slack tide then sailed round into the Baie de Prony where we saw our first boats for weeks! Dropped anchor just as the sun went down. As we walked along the shore searching (as we had been doing for the last several weeks) for nautilus shells, we found 6 of them but as usual they were all broken but as we walked back we picked up a very algae-ridden shell in the shallow water - our search was over - we had found a complete nautilus shell!

22 Oct - Met up with friends Karen and Mike from Chapter 2 - great to be socialising again! Went for a walk up to the leading light at Bonne Anse for a fantastic view over the Woodin passage and Baie de Prony. More socialising as friends Sue and Stef from Charlotte arrived followed by another Mike and Karen from Beau Soleil!

26- 29 October - Ilot Casey in baie de Prony. When we went ashore for a walk we were met by the resident dog who then proceeded to take us around the island! The island is now uninhabited but the dog seems to survive OK - it did seem sad to have to leave him there all alone. He 'showed' us where he lives - there is a disused hotel and he has a room there with plastic tubs outside for water and food to be left by visitors!

30 - 31 October - Back in Noumea to wait for weather for our passage to New Zealand. Met up with Mark and Ann on Blue Rodeo and Heather and Jon on Evergreen as well as several other cruisers who we have spoken to on the SSB radio but never met. It's like the gathering of the clans as we all study the weather forecasts and grib files!

Position as at 31 October S22.16.605 E166.26.388