Sunday, June 29, 2008

Journal Entry – June 22 – 29, 2008 Topless Cowboy Steaks!

Author: Scott

Life in Noumea is starting to settle in for us. It has been a fairly uneventful week with a few highlights. On Monday we had drinks with our new Aussie buddies on Listowel Lady and we met Dan and Caitlin, Caitlin is Rebecca’s niece and she and her boyfriend Dan were visiting for two weeks. It was a silly evening and came with an invitation to join the group the next day for a trip to Amedee Ilot aboard Listowel Lady. A boat trip on another vessel without having to worry about anything sounded like an absolute treat, as Starship would not be going anywhere in her wave beaten condition.

On Tuesday we showed up around 09:00 and were given an extensive tour of Listowel Lady from Graeme while Rebecca and Suzie were off shopping at the market for the day’s lunch. When everyone was back onboard we threw off the lines and headed to Amedee Lighthouse. We had to motor the entire way as the wind was on our nose, but the sky was blue and everyone’s spirits were high. Along the way we learned that Amedee Lighthouse is the largest lighthouse in the South Pacific and that it was moved from France and rebuilt in New Caledonia. The small island or “ilot” is a spectacular example of a beautiful South Pacific island with white sandy beaches and plenty of coral reef to make snorkeling very interesting. The water surrounding the ilot is every color of blue imaginable. We anchored in 15 feet of spectacularly clear water, and lunch was first on the agenda. We feasted on fresh bread, and a number of delicious salads that Rebecca and Suzie had found at the store. There was a shrimp salad with citrus and caper dressing, Tahitian salad which is coconut milk and raw fish marinated in citrus juices, and a fabulous mahi mahi salad. It was one of those lunches that tasted too good to be healthy and yet probably was quite healthy. We polished everything off with coffee and cookies, including a bag of Australian raspberry Tim Tam’s from Starship. Dan and Caitlin showed me an Aussie trick that I had not previously learned in Australia. If you bite the ends off of your Tim Tam, dunk it in coffee and suck quickly, you can slurp up your coffee through the center of the cookie. This gastronomic gem is known as the “Tim Tam Slam”! It is awesome!!! Just another of life’s true joys learned from the folks down under.

After lunch there was a short discussion on how long all of our mothers would have recommended we wait before swimming, so we didn’t get a cramp and die a tragic drowning death. We decided our mothers would recommend two hours before it was completely safe. The conversation took two minutes, and then we were off for a snorkel. The fish were a real treat, with Zebra fish, tiny little blue guys, schools of orange puffy fish, and a purported barracuda. Caitlin and Dan also saw a sea snake that looked a bit like a sea worm on their camera, but we all reckoned that it would get larger and fiercer as the story was told over the years to come. Pam and Rebecca stayed on board chatting and lounging, and I suspect snoozing though I have no confirmation of this behavior.

Once safely back onboard Listowel Lady, and with no one lost to a vicious stomach cramp (sorry moms), we had to start making our way back to Noumea. The wind was on our aft quarter for the return journey making for a pleasant downwind motor sail. With Noumea twelve miles away we could not completely kill the engine as we had to maintain six knots for a reasonable arrival time. As it turned out our arrival was after dark, but the Listowel Lady crew made docking look easy in the dark. Things did get a little dicey for Dan as Graeme imposed the “I showed you once” logic with Dan. “Dan tie us off with one of those knots I showed you once”. Dan, even with the “deer in the headlights” look performed like a seasoned old salt, though he may have aged a few weeks in a few mere seconds. During the entire day Pam and I were given a nautical vacation with all the benefits of sailing and despite our protests we were not given a single task, we were truly pampered passengers.

The rest of the week was not quite as exciting. The other highlights included: Pam’s first dockside bucket laundry experience since French Polynesia. Our engine part came in from the Volvo Penta dealer and it turned out that it was actually a faulty part. We were not charged a cent and our new mechanic friend Patrick had the beast humming in ten minutes. I found a set of “Boules” (bacci balls) in town so we would have another outdoor activity on the beach at anchorages. I finally succumbed to eating tofu and actually found it edible. Our cockpit dodger/bimini frame was repaired and reinforced. Graeme came by to help me visually locate and fix a shorted wire, and Graeme was treated to my attempt at equaling his stovetop espresso that I was served on his boat. I finally blew up the one of the inflatable kayaks we bought a year ago and tootled around the marina.

On Friday we did come to a momentous decision. Since the wave strike on the Coral Sea I have been preoccupied with our route and available time to reach Thailand or a cyclone safe destination by the end of the cruising season. I had investigated all sorts of scenarios but on Friday I came to the conclusion that a route over the top of Papua New Guinea would take us directly into Indonesia, avoid the Torres Straight, and probably be much safer from a sailing perspective. Aha! A revised plan had been reached, still allowing for us to visit Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. We will also see much of Papua New Guinea (PNG). I did have some murmurings from years ago floating around in my head because our Aussie friend Tim Connell was concerned about a visit to PNG, and if he reads this journal will probably be thinking “Oh no – it took them a bloody year to break away from Australia, they may be in PNG forever!” We have since learned that the criminal element in PNG that is well known to the media exists mostly in the Capital city of Port Moresby and a few other well documented areas. For the most part PNG is supposed to be a country of wonderful gentle people. It is a country of over 700 languages, with some tribes living side by side and never coming into contact with each other. Until recently PNG has had inland tribes living by stone-age customs. It should be an adventure! So, PNG here we come!

We finished out the week with a visit to Baie des Citrons or (Lemon Beach) where we actually stole a few moments to sit on a sandy beach, splash in the crystal clear water, and soak up some well deserved sun. Oh, did I mention that many women sunbath topless in New Cal, a custom I whole heartedly think the US should embrace. I did do my best not to thoroughly embarrass my low vision self with obvious low vision ogling. Well, I guess this is a good place to end out this journal installment with visions of Scott hanging out at the topless Baie des Citrons.

Wait - wait - wait!!!!

Now not so fast partner - - - - - - there is one more little tale to tell. If you ever find yourself in New Caledonia and you are hanging for a fat juicy western steak. You can visit the Texas Grill Steak House complete with US road signs, shotguns on the wall, a spare saddle or two for your horse, and a few untraditional French sauces that would leave the dustiest old dog drooling for more. Well, we found us a right tasty supper spot with the finest vittles this side of Bora Bora. We were even treated to a drunken cow poke that tripped down the stairs on his way out the batwing doors to find his next watering hole.

Yes indeed, snorkeling, sailing (on other people’s boats), prawn salads, Tim Tam Slams, Graeme’s coffee, topless beaches, and one pound cowboy steaks! Somehow we are managing to survive our unforeseen repairs in New Caledonia - YeeeeeHaaaaa Doggies!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Journal Entry – June 16 – 22, 2008 First Week in Noumea

Author: Pam

This week was a combination of organizing the trades people we need to get Starship sorted, learning our way around our immediate neighborhood, working on our seemingly endless list of administrative tasks and immersing ourselves back into the cruising life and community. Each day seems to have had elements of all of the above, leaving us with the feeling of plugging along through a list again, which seems to be par for the course whenever we are in a marina.

First thing Monday morning we headed up to the office to check in and organize help moving to Starship’s new home in “C9”. A slip (or pen for our Aussie friends) that we said, sure we can fit in there when it was presented as the only option in this huge marina. We walked over and took another look before we moved and were immediately reminded, yes we will fit, but yikes it is going to be tight. After closer examination of how narrow the fairway is we abandoned the idea of parking stern in. We waited about an hour for one of the marina employees to come and say he was ready to catch our lines. Rebecca and Graeme had also offered to help, so Graeme was on the bow with me and Rebecca headed over to “C” dock. Well, it was a two times is a charm parking attempt. Graeme’s job was to tell Scott when to start turning into the slip, but not being familiar with Starship’s slow as a dog response his call was just a tad too late and we ended up basically wedged sideways in the mouth of our slip. The owner of the boat on one side was pushing Starship off of his freshly painted dinghy hanging off of his stern, as it also seemed people came out of the woodwork to help get her pointed back out of the fairway for take two. The second attempt was flawless and Scott stayed calm, cool and collected through the whole ordeal. Besides being jealous of his ability to do this, I am left wondering sometimes if he really knows what is going on from the cockpit. I know for sure he doesn’t have the same perspective as looking at your future neighbor’s face as you are wedged up next to the stern of his boat. But, once again he parked our beast and though we have to get on and off amidships and our stern is out past the dock, we fit, well kind of sort of.

On Monday evening Tugdual stopped by to say hello. He is an acquaintance of our friend Bruce in Newcastle and after receiving email of our arrival, he came by to offer his local knowledge. He said he knew the canvas maker we were referred to by Bruce in Newcastle and said he would bring him by the boat the next day. He recommended the electrician I had asked earlier in the day for his card and said he would be seeing him that evening and would ask him to stop by as well. He is a math teacher, owns a Kelly Peterson 44 here in the marina and is a father of two young daughters. It is amazing the difference it makes to meet people who will share the local knowledge, I’m sure he will be a wonderful connection for us.

By Tuesday we had two quotes for a new dodger. The quotes were comparable, but we decided to go with James, who is Australian and has done work for Bruce, our friend from Newcastle in the past. We decided our ten words of French would not get us the dodger we want or need, so being able to communicate was a definite plus. James has some good ideas on how to make the dodge simpler and hopefully stronger. Unfortunately, he is not able to begin the construction until July 7th and has estimated two weeks for the job. This delay increases our planned one week stay in New Caledonia to at least six, we are very hopeful his estimation is accurate and we can be back underway by July 20th.

On Tuesday evening we had our first “sundowner” on Starship of the season. Uta and George from “Miami” and Graeme and Rebecca from “Listowel Lady” came over and we chatted the evening away sharing past and planned adventures. Scott’s favorite story of the evening was the one Uta shared about the time she caught a shark while fishing from their dinghy, which dragged her, the dinghy and dinghy anchor before she could cut it free. When George came up from diving, he reported he had seen a shark in distress, to which Uta responded , “oh really, how strange.” It was a really nice evening and a nice way to feel like we are back in the cruising community.

We also found a mechanic (Patrick) who diagnosed the problem with our engine. We are still a bit awe struck that our brand new baby gave us a lick of trouble, but we are apparently not completely out of the engine doghouse, for reasons we can not even begin to fathom. It turns out the electronics box that controls all of the electronics for the engine had an internal short and needs to be replaced. This was not a result of seawater from the wave, it was just going to happen sooner or later. Patrick took the engine warranty documentation to the Volvo dealer as proof of the age of the engine and they have ordered the part from the US which is suppose to arrive next week. Box number two ticked.

On Thursday evenings in Noumea there is a festival with a theme. This Thursday was the Island of Ouvea, one of the Loyalty Islands. We walked to the Plaza de Cocotiea (the town center) with Graeme and Rebecca to experience the culture of this island. There was local fish, fruits, vegetables, carvings, clothing and flower head pieces for sale. It was very crowded which made it difficult to see, but the energy was good and Scott enjoyed his sausage and onion on a bun.

We also experienced the local culture on Saturday evening at the annual music festival that happens throughout New Caledonia. We went to the Plaza de Cocotiea again with Graeme, Rebecca, Caitlin and Dan (they had just arrived from Australia) and listened to music ranging from a local reggae band, a drumming group of children and adults, two really bad bands that we couldn’t figure out how they got to be there, to the salsa band with Latino singers from Australia. It was obviously a not to be missed event by the size of the crowd. I had been feeling like I was coming down with something all day, but I was happy I didn’t miss out on the fun.

By Friday I had eaten tuna five or six times, I lost count. The fish market next to the boat is very nice and there does not seem to be a lack of Thon in New Caledonia, well not yet anyway.

As mentioned we discovered the anchor windlass was not a happy camper during our arrival in Noumea. This was a disappointing discovery since we had it installed in New Zealand, repaired in New Zealand and then repaired again in Australia. It is another example of gear on the boat that has been non-operational more than it has actually worked. It is also the piece of gear that put the nail in the coffin for buying second hand equipment, at least if it has a motor or moving parts. We were ready to bite the bullet and buy a new one here in Noumea so we would have the piece of mind you need when anchoring. We went to the chandlery and researched our options. There was only one option that would be adequate for Starship and upon closer inspection Scott discovered it did not have a manual recovery option. Without this safety feature it was not an option for us and the staff at the Chandlery were surprised that they were selling windlasses without that feature. However, the week ended on a very high note after Scott and Dave from “Harmonica” spent the entire day on Sunday taking apart our windlass, cleaning the motor and reinstalling it with their fingers crossed. Dave’s dog with a bone persistence and previous experience with his own dodgy windlass proved to be just what ours needed. They were champs and at the moment it is purring like a kitten and Scott now knows how to take it apart if we need to again in the future, which was a great bonus. Box number three ticked. After their hard day of work we spent the evening with Dave and Jan on “Harmonica” and had the pleasure of meeting Cam and Arnie from “Jade”. It was a lovely way to end the week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Journal Entry - June 15, 2008 Noumea, New Caledonia – Arrival Day

Position: 22˚16’.66 S 166˚26’.37 E

Author: Scott

Noumea is a city that many people in America have never heard of and yet it is a full fledged city of traffic, people, food, shopping, pollution and the other various attributes we all associate with urban living. Actually, Noumea is probably the first of many destinations this cruising year that many people in America have little knowledge of.

Today we completed out voyage from Koumac under mostly blue skies. We entered the barrier reef through the Passe de Uitof under rainy conditions (just to make the entire event even more exciting). However, the entry through the pass was straightforward and much less complicated than Passe de Koumac. We sort of had an arrival plan but it was very loosely defined. Since we were arriving on Sunday, ahead of schedule, we knew that the Port Moselle Marina office would be closed. This limited our options and would mean that the marina’s invitation to provide us with a guide to our slip would not be an option on Sunday. Our plan was to either anchor in the bay with the other cruising boats, or pull up to the visitor’s dock, if there was available space. In either case we would then check in with the office first thing on Monday morning.

The sail inside the barrier reef was absolutely stunning. To our left were the blue and purple mountains that form the spine of New Caledonia. The water was deep turquoise blue and the world’s larges lagoon was studded with islands and “ilots” that would fit perfectly on the front of any South Pacific travel brochure with lovely white sandy beaches and palm trees. The three hour cruise through the lagoon was beautiful, calm and uneventful. I imaged a bustling lagoon like San Francisco bay but in actuality it was very open with little boat traffic. We still maintained a person on the bow, so lunch was spent sitting on the bow of the dinghy alternating between eating a sandwich and looking through the monocular. I can’t complain however, because Pam got bow duty through the pass in the rain and I got bow duty languishing in the sunshine.

As we reached the entrance to Port Moselle the traffic did increase with a number of vessels ranging from dinghy sailboats to giant cats. As we approached I asked Pam to turn on the windlass (anchor winch) breaker so I could prepare for a possible anchoring. I decided to check the winch out and it was a darn good thing I did, because when I stepped on the switch I was only given a click and no whir of the motor. “Bugger!” Apparently our anchor windlass was playing up again! So, my next move was to pull 30 meters of chain onto the deck by hand in anticipation of the possible anchoring, all the while wondering what happened to our newly repaired anchor windlass.

Anchoring did not turn out to be a necessity. As we approached the marina we were able to follow a few boats into the marina. Pam and I switched positions and Pam began the process of guiding me past the breakwater. We did experience a minor moment of sheer terror when Pam became uncomfortable with the distances to the breakwater and we had to quickly switch positions so that I was on the bow again. The drama ended as quickly as it started and we were inside the secure waters of Port Moselle Marina.

The next bout of drama came when it was time to pull up to the visitor’s dock. We had no problem finding the visitor’s dock, as we had scouted out the marina on our road trip, and the visitor’s dock was wide open on the end tie. However, as we slowly pulled up to the dock no one acknowledged our presence and Pam had to yell to some folks who were just looking at the boats. Within seconds these French speaking sightseers were live participants in our arrival. They grabbed our line, fumbled with the cleat but succeeded in helping us bring Starship to rest along the dock. We had successfully reached Noumea, New Caledonia.

With our feet solidly back on land we started the process of cleaning up the boat and settling ourselves down from the prior dramas. As we were getting settled we were visited by Rebecca and Graeme from “Listowel Lady”. We briefly met Listowel Lady when we were at the fuel dock in Newcastle. They were fueling up and had their two dogs Zeus and Dogga onboard. Apparently Zeus and Dogga were not making the journey to New Caledonia due to quarantine restrictions. Zeus was quite active playing with the infamous Harry, Graeme (Sailability Graeme not Listowel Lady Graeme) and Loretta’s dog. Both dogs are Jack Russells. In Newcastle it was a brief hello that so often can turn into a friendship when you meet up again on foreign territory. This was our experience with Listowel Lady as we ended up at the marina restaurant munching peanuts, drinking cocktails and comparing voyage experiences. It became quickly clear that Graeme’s laid back silly nature and Rebecca’s friendly warmth would make much welcomed cruising buddies. Listowel Lady also ran into bad weather but they ended up making a repair in Coff’s Harbour that saved them from the worst of the madness at sea, though they managed to snap a jib sheet, which is a clear indication of some pretty nasty weather.

Dinner was steaks on the barbie and gooey baked potatoes, a virtual feast! We went to bed dog tired with the satisfaction of reaching another port.

Journal Entry - June 15, 2008 Underway to Noumea, New Caledonia

Author: Pam

It is 0300 and I am on my second watch for tonight. We are back on the high seas again (but thankfully they are flat calm) making our way from Koumac on the north end of New Caledonia to Noumea on the sound end. It is not a passage we were planning to make, actually we were "planning" to be off to Vanuatu about now. But, there is the reminder that sailors don't have plans, they have intentions. The passage is 158 miles, we are hoping to be able to anchor tonight somewhere inside the reef and then make our way into Port Moselle early Monday morning.

Speaking of the reef, we are traveling to Noumea on the outside of the barrier reef that surrounds the entire island, it is 1600 km long. We learned from Nathaniel that New Caledonia's reef is about to be added to the same list of heritage natural wonders as the likes of the Great Wall of China. They are also in the process of exploring setting up an Observatory to monitor the effects of global warming on the reef as well as other important information for keeping this incredible reef alive. As we were leaving Koumac we were both once again in awe of the size of the Northern Lagoon, it is huge. The final scene as you approach the exit to the pass is a tiny island with white sand and two palm trees. It looks like the perfect deserted island right out of a movie.

We spent the past three days continuing to dry out Starship and her contents. It is one heck of a reminder of how much stuff you have on board when you have to empty all of the contents of every locker to get to the wet stuff on the bottom. Thankfully we didn't have too many casualties due to water damage and honestly in the end it could have been a lot worse. Probably easier to say that today, then it was a few days ago.

The weather in Koumac has been beautiful, especially Saturday morning before we left. We walked to town to buy some fresh bread and to get the ice cream (Coconut and Dark Chocolate Magnum) Scott had been hanging for since Thursday. The road to town winds along the lagoon for a ways and we were in awe of how the sky and the water were exactly the same color blue giving the illusion there was no separation. It has been sunny with blue skies in the 70's since we arrived, actually perfect weather for drying out a very soggy boat, her contents and crew.

The highlight on Friday was a visit to the small Poisson Marche (fish market) located next to the Koumac Marina. We are back in the land of tuna and "Fish Girl" couldn't be more excited. We tried to get fish on Monday, but we were told they didn't have any and to try on Friday. So, right after breakfast we headed over only to find the gate closed. Hmmm, we weren't sure what to make of that. So, we went around to the restaurant where they speak some English to find out what they might know. Well, they did know the fishing boats had just returned, but they didn't know when the market would be open, but they thought perhaps in the afternoon.

Our fish mission was interrupted by the other task for the day, which was to fill the jerry cans with fuel. There is a fuel dock, but it would have been essentially the same experience as docking on a stone wall and that would be on the top of the list of things we don't like to do. In the end, it was much easier to make two trips with our six jerry cans, putting six into the fuel tank and then storing them full. It is especially easy, since we have discovered "The Rattler" our nifty new siphon for transferring diesel from the jerry cans into the fuel tanks without (almost) spilling a drop. That piece of hose has become my new best friend.

Once we were finished with getting fuel, which incidentally and surprisingly is cheaper in New Caledonia than in Australia, we headed back over to the fish market. The gate was still closed, but the threat of tofu for dinner had Scott in a very motivated and I must say brave mood. We passed through the opening to the left of the gate and approached the closed blue door where supposedly there might be some tuna. Scott turned the door handle and voila the door opened expelling a draft of cold air, but exposing white cases that could very well house fresh fish. Once inside we were greeted by a person dressed in what looked like a surgical outfit over a warm jacket and rubber boots. I say a person, because we never figured out if it was a man or a woman. Our little experience at the fish market is an example of what we love about this adventure. We know the word for Tuna in French (Thon) which was a good start. After we communicated that we wanted to buy some Thon, we were lead to a poster of the tuna family and shown our options, we only had to get to yellow fin and we were good. We were then shown our choices from the freezer, we made our selection and paid our 745 pacific francs (about $8.25 US). We were asked if we from New Zealand or Australia and when we said American, we were rewarded with a huge smile. As (he or she) put our tuna in a bag, he/she went to the freezer and took out another package and added it to our purchase. It was a simple, heartfelt gesture that was hugely appreciated. We went back to the boat feeling like we had just won the lottery, especially Scott since tofu was off the menu and sushi was on.

I made sushi rice for the first time and we cut up one of the steaks for Niguiri (raw tuna pieces on rice). We then threw the other two steaks on the BBQ for three minutes and ate that with baked potatoes. It was a feast for sure. Look out, there is a fish market next to the marina in Noumea. There is definitely more Thon in my future, but tofu will be slipped in soon much to Scott's dismay.

There was a beautiful three quarter moon tonight shining down on Starship making it a very friendly night at sea. The moon has gone down while I have been writing this journal entry, the sun will be on its way up before I can go to bed for my last three hours of sleep. The wind was on our nose and has clocked around in the middle of the night to directly behind us. It is light and variable and no good for sailing, so Starship's iron kitten is purring away as we are making 7 knots of VMG towards Noumea. The sea is almost like glass, a very welcome and different scene from a week and half ago. It would be perfect if we could be sailing, but getting there dry wins this time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Journal Entry - June 10 & 11, 2008 - Road Trip to Noumea

Author: Scott

As I type this Log-Blog entry we are barreling down Rt. 1, the main central highway that snakes along the spine of New Caledonia. The radio is murmuring on in French, while our new friend Nathaniel expertly navigates the challenging road on a very dark night. We are returning from our day trip to Noumea on our way to Kone where Nathaniel and his girlfriend Malia live.

We met Nathaniel and Malia through Bruce and Tony in Newcastle. Bruce came to know Nathaniel and Malia while in Koumac on a boat delivery trip. Apparently, Nathaniel and Malia were struggling with a failed engine as they entered the Koumac Marina and Bruce gave them a hand. This is a fine example of how randomly new friendships can be made in the boating community. Bruce quite unexpectedly met Nathaniel and Malia, Tony then introduced us via email and now we have come to make friends with these lovely people in New Caledonia, with Bruce's brief encounter being the only common denominator.

After enjoying dinner together on Starship this past Sunday, we were invited to ride with Nathaniel to Noumea so we could get a better understanding of the port, find a marina berth, seek out trades people for repairs, and in general learn more about New Caledonia's largest city. On a voyage where we are almost always arriving in completely foreign environments it is a real treat to actually visit a destination in advance, gather local knowledge, and mark waypoints on a portable GPS. So, when Nathaniel mentioned that he needed to travel to Noumea for work, we jumped at the invitation to join him.

This small adventure started yesterday evening after a day of continued boat work and drying the contents of Starship out after the wave incident. Malia showed up at 17:00 and announced that she would be driving us to Kone as Nathaniel would be doing all the driving to Noumea the following day and this would help share the driving responsibility. Malia also told us that we would return the morning after our trip to Noumea as Nathaniel had work to do in Koumac. Pam and I threw a few more clothes in our bags and set off with Mailia to experience some New Caledonia culture.

The drive to Kone takes approximately an hour and passes through some beautiful countryside with the west coast of New Caledonia to starboard and the central mountain chain to port. Malia told us about the various villages and tribes in New Cal. We also learned about the great wealth the country enjoys from nickel mining and extracting and of a new project to bring a large mine and production factory to the Northern Province. New Caledonia has three provinces; the Northern Province, the Southern Province, and the Outer Island Province. Apparently, the Southern Province already has a large mining operation and the new project in the Northern Province will help build a more stable economy for New Caledonia's potential future independence from France. Twenty years ago a separatist civil war was ended through an accord to plan a ten year and later thirty year separation plan. In 2014 a special election will be held and the inhabitants of New Caledonia will be given the democratic opportunity to become an independent nation. For now the new mine operation in the north will further the financial stability of this island country.

Dinner at Nathaniel and Malia's home was a result of communication challenged by the couples busy work schedule. We had a shrimp curry but the coconut milk was forgotten and therefore replaced with cream. The rice was also forgotten and replaced with a pasta that had never been attempted. The end result was a wonderful meal starting with foie gras, fresh bread, the fore mentioned curry and pasta, four cheeses, chocolate, and ICE CREAM and SORBET! We were treated to Muscat wine with the appetizer, red wine with dinner, and delicious fresh coffee with desert. We dined al fresco on their front porch which serves as their main dining area, and we were visited by their very interested cat. The cat did not get to join in the dining experience until the completion of the meal but was treated to the shrimp tails when the meal was finished. We also learned that she is quite a hunter specializing in mice, birds, lizards and cockroaches. Any cat who eliminates the roach population is a friend of mine, but I will reframe from any kitty kisses.

Over dinner we learned of the interesting way that many people in New Caledonia eat lunch while working or at home. There are services throughout New Caledonia called Gamelle Service. This service delivers hot meals either to your home or work place in special containers provided by the client. The meal is a balance of a salad, hot vegetable, protein, and desert. Each day the service brings lunch and takes away a second set of containers for the following day's meal. What a great idea! And I thought Netflix was a unique and convenient idea. Forget the DVD's I will take hot lunch any day. Maybe there is a future business opportunity in a no hassles US based Gamelle Service.

Before we went to bed, we were given access to their internet, which has been challenging thus far.

We were up at 05:00 with a three hour drive lying before us. We gulped a glass of orange juice and hit the road. Nathaniel was a sport as we drove through the countryside pelting him with questions about New Caledonia. Not only was he constantly translating our questions but simultaneously having to make split second estimates, calculations, and doing his best to quench our endless stream of what, when, whys ad hows.

We stopped midway to Noumea for my favorite meal of the day "coffee". We actually had a light breakfast at a delightful roadside café where we munched on fresh croissants, bread, butter, jams and drank wonderful café a lait and hot chocolate. The claim to fame of the little café was the plethora of baseball hats that the owners had cultivated from the clientele and hung in the main dinning area from the ceiling. There was probably a baseball hat for every person living on New Caledonia.

Our breakfast break did put us behind schedule making Nathaniel late for his morning meeting in Noumea. Despite being late for work Nathaniel insisted on coming into the marina with us to act as negotiator and translator. As it turns out it was fantastic to have Nathaniel's intervention because the marina is very busy and did not have available space for a possible month's stay. Not to worry, after some quick discussion in French a berth was somehow arranged and Starship would have a home when she arrived in Noumea.

After Nathaniel departed for work, Pam and I took a look at our future marina berth and marked various spots on the GPS. We then returned to the marina office to meet the marina Manager, a nice man named Bruno. It tickled us a little when Bruno finally put it together that not only were we visually impaired, but that we had sailed from San Francisco. Bruno thought that we were Australian, and upon learning that we were Americans he had many questions about how we managed at sea. What struck us as funny was that the trip from Australia was actually one of the most challenging aspects of the voyage, and that all of our challenges sailing from the states were nearly encapsulated in a single voyage from Australia.

The remainder of the day was spent sorting out Internet access which will be available on the boat and exploring downtown Noumea. It turns out that we only managed to see some of the older parts of downtown and completely missed the bustling city center. Nathaniel filled in the gaps on our way out of town that we missed on our exploration and we now have a much clearer understanding of downtown Noumea.

Our drive home through the night was settled into a much quieter journey as we are all comfortable to dwell on our individual thoughts, listen to music and write this Blog. We did make a quick detour to admire a beautiful pink and red sunset. Tomorrow we will return to Koumac and prepare for our 158 mile ocean voyage to Noumea.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Journal Entry - June 8, 2008 - Koumac, New Caledonia

Author: Pam

Toto, we are not in
Kansas. We have been in Koumac for three days so far and I think it probably feels equivalent to jumping into a time machine and ending up somewhere completely different from where you started. We have said to one another several times over the past few days, well there is nothing like jumping back into the cruising life ten fold, we certainly didn't ease back into this amazing and unique lifestyle.

We have spent the last two days plodding along and getting the boat back to a livable and dry condition. We are systematically going through all of the lockers, cleaning and drying the contents that are soggy thanks to the amount of water the wave deposited in Starship. We have more places to go, but you can only handle so much fun in one day. Today we will dry out the V-berth and give the engine room a fresh water bath. The weather has been in the 70's to 80's, sunny and perfect for our task at hand

We woke up this morning to loud festive music to discover today is Environmental Ocean Day, a festival being held here at the marina. We will go up and have a sticky (look) in a little while. Our friends Bruce and Tony in
Newcastle connected us with a local here, Nathaniel. Nathaniel is a marine biologist and works for the Fishery. He actually came to the marina on the Saturday before we arrived to meet us, because he was told by the marina manager when he called we were arriving at that moment. He drove an hour to find out it was not us, but another boat from Australia that had made their way to Koumac, because the weather was not in their favor to go to Noumea. He welcomed them and gave them the bottle of wine he had brought for us, which was very sweet. He is working here today at the festival and came by the boat this morning to say hello and to offer to help us connect with the trades people we will need to make repairs on Starship. He is very nice and speaks English, it became clear he will be a Godsend and will help make our experience here even richer and more manageable. We invited him and his wife for dinner this evening, Garfield will have to share some of his lasagna. It will be very nice to get to know them both.

The marina is very small, but has everything you could want, especially all of the means of fresh water. We used the hose to clean off the first layer of salt within two hours of arriving. We started the first of five loads of laundry in the front loading washing machine that you have to use a screwdriver to open the door. We took an exquisite hot shower and that has to be the ultimate luxury after being at sea for twelve days.

We can not communicate at all with the marina manager, she speaks to us in French and we respond in English and somehow we manage to accomplish the task or question at hand. We don't have any idea how much we are paying to stay here, I guess we will find out when we pay our bill.

We have been into town twice. Yesterday we walked, it is about 1.5 miles. It is very reminiscent of our experience in
French Polynesia. Besides our lack of ability to speak French, a lot of the businesses do not seem to have signs, which keeps us guessing. We have learned there are four or five stores that sell groceries, but they all also sell other items whether it is liquor, clothing, hardware supplies… So, far the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables has appeared to be very limited. The section for these items is smaller than the average family's veggie drawer in their refrigerator. We are back in the land of fresh bread everywhere. We had a communication breakdown yesterday when we were buying a fresh baguette. First of all you do not put the loaf of bread in any kind of paper bag, you just put it naked in your basket and then lay it on the counter. So, now it has been all of these places unprotected, but the proper etiquette is for you to pick your bread up once it has been seen by the cashier, they don't touch your bread. Also, as it was in French Polynesia you have to bring your own bags to the grocery store.

There is a Post Office with rental mailboxes outside and an ATM. There is a pub, butcher, pharmacy, hospital, hairdresser, internet café, bank, news agency and a total of four restaurants. We had dinner last night at the restaurant here at the marina, it was their second night of being in business. The food was good, but we were more excited to be part of something new and wanted to contribute our small part in helping them to get off to a successful start. One of the owners has two young daughters who followed him around all evening "helping". They were very eager and sweet to watch. I had Thon (tuna) with lime sauce, all so very reminiscent of
French Polynesia where Scott was convinced I was going to turn into a tuna and adopted the pet name "Fish Girl". Scott had brochettes (skewers with chicken, duck and pork). I was surprised he ordered a dish with duck, but given there were only three choices duck won over mussels. It was a lovely evening that we ended sitting in the cockpit looking at a sky full of stars. We could not make out the detail, but we could sit in awe of their beauty and the fact that we are in a country where everyone assumes we are from Australia or NZ, because Americans just don't come to Koumac by boat.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Journal Entry - June 5, 2008 - Koumac Arrival

Author: Scott

The morning of our arrival day at
New Caledonia started on a calm sea. A ribbon of yellow cracked the black sky revealing a complete absence of clouds. It was definitely going to be a beautiful day at sea. As I sat at the wheel, the pink, orange, and golden light of dawn washed across Starship, almost in a forgiving tribute to her success through the mayhem of the past five days of foul weather. Our poor battered boat felt like she was leaping through the small swells towards the safety and serenity of the New Caledonia's reef protected lagoons.

The final day of one of our most challenging passages turned out to be perfect beam reach ocean sailing, with 12 knot winds and gentle seas. We were able to motor sail at a brisk 6 knots in order to arrive exactly on time for our possible rendezvous outside the Koumac passage. All of our communication with the Koumac Marina and
New Caledonia authorities had taken place through Nathaniel, an acquaintance of Bruce and who works as a marine biologist in New Caledonia. We had requested a pilot boat to bring us through the reef passage at 09:00 but had no confirmation.

Upon our arrival to the pass there was no one to meet us. We tried to raise the marina on the radio with no success. We did receive a radio response from Radio Noumea but they were unaware of any plans to provide a pilot through the reef. However, they did contact the marina for us. Here we sat after twelve days at sea (four unplanned) and there was no one at the front door to welcome us. Prior to leaving I had gone over the charts with Bruce and had learned that the chart data was very accurate. Pam and I have transited many passes in the South Pacific and the
Koumac Pass appeared to be reasonably accessible, especially with the calm sea state. So, with Pam on the bow and headsets on for communication, I piloted the boat straight through the center of the pass and into one of the largest and bluest lagoons we have seen on the voyage. One minute we were in pulsating gray ocean water and the next we were in flat calm turquoise lagoon water. New Caledonia we have arrived!

We motored through the gentle lagoon water following the dots of our GPS route to the Koumac (Pandop)
Marina. We were a little surprised to still see no hint of a welcoming vessel. We tried again to raise someone on the radio with no success. We also realized that there was no way we could navigate into this small marina without assistance. We couldn't even find the entrance to the marina. We could see a rock wall, but from our vantage point and with our poor vision, the entrance was lost to mysterious depth perception. So we continued to hover in the lagoon while we started to formulate a plan.

Our plan would be to anchor the boat in the lagoon, launch the dinghy and venture into the marina and announce our arrival and request a guide boat. However, after about five laps in front of the marina we received a call over the radio. "Australian vessel this is Cracked. The marina has asked us to call you to let you know that they will send out a boat in ten minutes to guide you in" We thanked the yacht Cracked and after learning that we would have a starboard tie, prepared our fenders and dock lines. Cracked had also mentioned it was a small marina and something about turning around, and this left me a little unsettled.

About a half hour later a grey launch came zooming out to meet us. There was no verbal communication, perhaps because the driver did not speak English. He just drove in front of Starship in a gesture indicating that we should follow. Just as I was wondering if this guy knew we were visually impaired, my question was answered as he started giving Pam hand signals for directions. All I could do was keep his boat in front of us, figuring I would squish the bugger on the rock wall rapidly approaching if there was not a passage to turn into. It turns out that there was a cleverly disguised entrance to the marina. Just as we approached the rock wall our friend veered to starboard making the first of two hairpin turns that were required to enter the marina. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as following a little motorboat through a rock strewn maze after five days of bad weather at sea. We almost made one wrong turn, but compensated by backing up and then continuing on. When we finally emerged inside the protected marina, we realized our parking spot was on the port side of the boat where a couple of people were frantically waving to us. "Wait just a doggone second, we prepared for a starboard tie up", then I remembered that we were expected to turn Starship around in this micro marina. Flashbacks of sailing class darted into my mind as the next rock wall challenge approached. I jammed the boat into reverse, threw the wheel to Starboard, punched the transmission back into forward for a burst, and spun the bow around 180 degrees. I felt like Godzilla disco dancing in a china shop. I eased Starship forward and the manic people on the dock took our lines, ending our first and absolutely unforgettable passage of the cruising season Starship bobbed in her berth looking like Rocky after fifteen rounds, but damn it she was still standing proud.

On the dock was the wife of the couple who run the marina and Karen and Robert from the Australian yacht "Cracked" who thankfully contacted us on the radio. We learned that the owners of the marina speak about as much English as we speak French, but Karen and Robert gave us the skinny. We learned that the marina handled the immigration formalities through
Noumea, and that Customs and Quarantine would come visit us at some unspecified time.

As Karen and Robert continued to fill us in, I was keenly aware of my first step off of Starship onto the dock. I was relieved, dazed, and thankful to still be stepping off the boat after the wave strike and my precarious proximity to the open sea. This was such a difficult passage and yet I could already feel the drama ebbing with the wonder of arriving in a strange new land. A land where they speak FRENCH - yikes!

Now you would think that the rest of the day would be spent sleeping, but not on this boat pal! We set to work rinsing our baby, frantically reclaiming our home from the deluge of salt water. While cleaning we were visited by Customs and later Quarantine. The Quarantine lady definitely did not have her heart in the process. She asked us questions like "Do you have meat/", we replied yes and that it was vacuum sealed and then she just moved on… She asked about eggs and Pam showed her one of three dozen we had on board. She said we could crack them into a dish, but she would have to take the shells, so Pam did. She also asked about honey and fresh fruits and veggies. In the end she took the trash and the suspicious egg shells. We were very relieved to not have to relinquish our meat, because a steak dinner was on our horizon. All in all, the process was effortless and then we were free to lower our Quarantine flag. It was very unclear how immigration would deal with us, but for now we were officially visitors to
New Caledonia.

When exhaustion demanded that we stop cleaning, we feasted on a huge steak and baked potato meal before plunging into the abyss of uninterrupted, stress free, land sleep. Tomorrow will bring whatever fate deals, but for today we were at the end of one of many challenges that we have overcome throughout the voyage.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Journal Entry - June 4, 2008 - Koumac Here We Come

Author: Pam

It is 0700 on Wednesday, June 4th and I just had the thrill of seeing 99 miles to Koumac on the GPS. Under a hundred is the home stretch and BOY are we ready for this one to come to an end. This passage has been the most difficult and challenging so far on this journey and I find it hard to believe I am saying that after the passage across the
Tasman Sea from NZ to Oz. We left Australia in a good weather window for a downwind sail straight to Koumac, but we have Mother Nature to thank for throwing an anti-cyclone in our path.

I have had moments this week of questioning what the hell I am doing out here. Today as the wind is calming, the sea is lying down, Starship is finally off the bucking bronco that she has been riding for the past week and the sun is out for the first time in days, some of the trials and tribulations of the past week are beginning to fade as they always do. And I can return my focus to why I am so committed to this amazing, sometimes terrifying, and incredibly challenging journey. I have had an innate need to test my edges my entire life and many of the opportunities to do so I created for myself. This adventure definitely tips the scale and even feels like the ultimate test some days. So far it has tested every edge I know I have and many new ones that surface all of the time. I think no matter who you are or what adversity you may or may not face there are no better life lessons and journeys than going outside your comfort zone or encouraging someone to do so if you are a parent, teacher or even an employer. I wasn't pushed as a child and in my younger years I sometimes took the easier, safer, more comfortable path. I wanted to be pushed and challenged, but that was outside of the comfort zone of my family and expertise of my teachers. As a teenager I could see that complacency was not going to be my ticket and I started sticking my big toe in and with baby steps I can honestly say that is how I got here on this boat, attempting to sail around the world testing my edges every day.

It is now 0100 on Thursday morning and I am on watch again as Koumac looms in the distance a mere 50 miles away. Scott is having a little extra sleep while we are still in open water, the navigation will soon be trickier as we approach land and at this time that is his department. We have sailed from 0830 to
midnight and it has been our nicest day on this passage. It was the kind of sailing that reminds you why you love sailing. The boat glided along on relatively flat seas and there was no persistent noises, just the quiet rustle of the sails every once in awhile. It was a lovely last day and a nice way to end this particular leg of the adventure. We are now motor sailing and hope to make landfall between 0900 and 1000.

We passed the day by doing the usual chores before making landfall, charging our headsets that we wear to communicate while navigating a port entry or exit, putting up the courtesy flags (we are flying the "Q" quarantine flag and the French flag), washing our hair and generally tidying up the boat (well this time only sort of). We made guacamole for lunch, and only had crackers, cheese and dip for dinner. Dinner prep and washing up the dishes was more than we seem to have the energy for. We are both tired and looking forward to a full night's sleep tonight.

New Caledonia marks the eighth country we will have visited so far. We are looking forward to making landfall, making new friends and getting Starship sea worthy again so we can carry on with our cruising plan for this season. They say cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places, we seem to be living proof of that statement.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Journal Entry June2 - June 3, 2008 - Freak Wave on the Coral Sea Part 2 - And Then…

Author: Scott

Yesterday morning we decided to heave to for breakfast allowing us a calmer period to take a look around Starship. Smaller issues and repair jobs have kept presenting themselves since our "Freak Wave" encounter the day before. Pam and I were still very tired and a calm morning free of the pounding waves, with time to enjoy a cup of coffee and cocoa seemed like a great idea.

After breakfast we completed our chores and prepared to get moving. Pam asked what I had in mind for a sail plan, and I said "At this point let's just point the boat at Koumac with a main to stabilize us, fire up the new engine and get there." So I turned to the instrument panel and hit the ignition, only to be rewarded with a Click with no purring diesel kitten around. Surely I forgot some minor step in the engine startup routine.

I tried again - Click!

How could this be, our new baby, our new reliable engine!

So I tried again - Click!

Pam asked "Is there a problem?" - Click!

I said calmly, "Um, yes there is a problem, you won't believe this but the engine won't start." But I'm thinking to myself ---K S--- G-D--- piece of ----!!! - Click!

Click! - Click! - Click! - Click! BUGGER!!!!!!!

Here we were floating in the middle of the Coral Sea, overcame a major wave strike, and now the ------- engine wouldn't start. At that second I felt like a weary dog that got kicked just for lying down to rest. Pam dug out the engine manual and I grabbed the sat phone.

You know I think that the Iridium satellite phone company advertises that you can talk on your satellite phone from atop Mt. Everest at 29,000 feet. Well that's just dandy because you sure as ---- can't have a decent conversation at sea level with nothing to block the signal for 500 miles. During the five attempted phone calls that probably cost fifty squillion dollars, I could piece together about one in every three or four words spoken by the mechanic in Newcastle: "Scott …… where? …..need to ………….screwdriver ………………bridge posts ………but remember…………….. be careful not to ………………….good luck mate." Good thing we have the satellite phone for emergencies.

After all the attempted phone calls and a few confusing emails, I came to understand that apparently the engine electronics probably didn't appreciate the wave strike, but I could jump start the engine and that I needed to use a screwdriver to bridge two terminals on the starter motor solenoid. The only problem was that there were three terminals on the starter motor and I could not visually see any of them. I felt like the bomb squad guy on television "What wire do I cut - red - green?" Except I couldn't even see the colors. Had I been the bomb guy, I wouldn't have saved the day with a final second left on the clock; I would have blown the boat to ----! My first attempt to "bridge the terminals" ended up creating a BIG spark and pop, big oops!

Time for some air and a chance to think, we ended up deciding to send a more detailed email to the mechanics and just try to tick off some of the miles by sailing. This immediately reminded Pam and I of our Pacific crossing with no auxiliary engine and very little power, with no engine alternator to make power. The not so funny thing is, Pam and I are real good at operating under these conditions. The battery lantern was dug out, we went into energy conservation mode, and even made spaghetti by lantern light. And so the long night of worrying began for us. What if we have to get through the reef pass without an engine? Why is our new engine broken? What about our thawing freezer and our provisions? What if? What? What? To say the least it was a somber night on old Starship.

I think I do my best thinking when I am asleep. This doesn't say much for my thinking when I am awake, but at least thinking while unconscious is better than not thinking at all. I had two epiphanies during my fitful sleep:
1. There is a magnetic car antenna for the sat phone that may work better than the phone's internal antenna.
2. What if I use a wire with alligator clips to clip on to the terminals, and then I could bridge with posts by feel rather than sight.

When the sun came out, so did my confidence. We did use the sat phone to get a better connection with the car antenna. I learned which posts were to be bridged on the starter motor, and by golly my alligator clip idea worked like a charm. I connected one terminal by feel with the alligator clip and just touched the other with the tip of the clip and "RRRRRRRR-Roar" the beast came to life, without even the tiniest deadly spark or pop. Look out
MacGyver - alligator clip man is on the loose!

I think I actually screamed with joy!

Then Pam screamed with joy.

And just like that, all the worry from the night before of navigating passes by sail and so on disappeared! Our new baby was alive and kicking, and I had acquired a new skill - I could jump start a diesel engine at sea.

The rest of the day was spent in the way I pictured the prior day to be. We continued to reorganize after the wave strike. We rested. We made arrival plans. We calmed down and chilled out. And yes, we motor sailed straight into the wind towards Koumac.

Today I remembered meeting John from the yacht "Western Grace". At the start of our voyage, we were in Turtle Bay, Mexico with different engine and steering problems. John is a very experienced seafarer and he told me then "Scott don't ever despair, you will find a way. On this trip you will face many challenges, but just don't despair". We did find a way out of our struggle in Turtle Bay and we did find our way out of our struggle on the Coral Sea. In my last log-blog I wrote about overcoming adversity to achieve your goals. Today I will amend those thoughts to include John's words "when you are at your lowest don't despair, you will find a way." (Even if you do it in your sleep)