Wednesday, October 30, 2013

First Cruise in New Caledonia

We sailed to Ile Bailly a few days ago to escape the busy urban existence of Noumea. This small island lies only about 8 miles as the fruit bat flies from Noumea or 12 miles' sail around reefs and across the busy local shipping channels. Ile Bailly is a popular destination for local picnickers and day trippers on the weekend. Barefoot with David and Roselyn on board is also here and we have been enjoying their company, holding pot lucks on our respective boats.

We took advantage of the quiet anchorage and relatively clean water to wipe the collected growth from Ladybug's bottom. The paint we applied in New Zealand has held up well except in a few places where I did not prepare the surface properly and it has flaked off. There was only a small amount of fouling and it was easily removed with a cloth. Our neighbors on Barefoot use a hookah - an underwater breathing device that uses a 12 volt compressor to push air down through special hoses to a regulator. This allows the bottom cleaner to stay underwater continuously, whereas I have to take repeated deep breaths and try to conserve air for as long as possible as I hold on to some part of the boat and scrub with the other hand.

We discovered that our island has a good supply of pumice stone - volcanic rock from nearby underwater eruptions, probably in the Kermadec islands. These light rocks are great for playing toss with and if you throw one in the ocean by accident it usually washes up on the beach in a few minutes. Rani and I got our exercise here with a couple of short hikes to the small hills on the island and a few sessions of catch the pumice rock.

Yesterday we sailed with Barefoot out to Ilot Amedee. This island lies about 12 miles from here and boasts the tallest lighthouse in New Caledonia. The huge iron tower was built in Paris in 1862 and assembled on the island a few years later. It is made of iron plates over an iron truss framework and one can climb the 247 stairs to the viewing platform for a nominal cost. The tower is beautifully shaped, with a curved portion at its base that must have housed the keepers prior to automation. There are also touches that you never see on modern construction - star shaped bolt heads and bronze lion head gargoyles to direct rain run-off away from the viewing platform. The view out over the island an surrounding reefs is spectacular and we spent almost an hour up there chatting with our friends and recovering from the climb up.

Unfortunately the island is near a major pass and receives a large swell that rolls around the small fringing reefs and creates a most uncomfortable anchorage. There are about a dozen mooring balls placed here, but these should not be trusted to hold larger boats as we learned when an Australian sailboat broke free and nearly drifted onto our friends' boat. The mooring line was made of rope and it had chafed through. The guide says that these moorings are for boats less than 10 meters but every boat we saw tied to them was longer than this. One of them was over 15 meters, far larger than what they were designed for, so perhaps the chafe was due to being repeatedly overloaded. We left the anchorage around 3:30p.m. and had a wet and blustery ride in 20 knots winds back to Ile Bailly, arriving just before sunset.

We plan to sail back to Noumea tomorrow to meet up with friends on Chapter 2 who will be leaving soon for New Zealand.

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