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!