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We stayed two nights at Port Moselle Marina which gave us a good opportunity to explore Noumea. As New Caledonia is a French territory, it has many of the advantages of French cuisine. The bread – notably the croissants and the fresh baguettes- are wonderful. Every morning the streets are filled with people carrying their fresh baguettes home for breakfast. Noumea also boasts a fine market – an outdoor complex where every morning farmers, fisherman, and local crafts people come to sell their wares.
From Port Moselle, an hour’s walk took us past the Baie de l’Orphelinat and the Baie de Citrons to the nicest beach in the area, Anse Vita. Along the way we passed many shops and restaurants worth a quick stop. Dinner at the nearby Le Chamiere was outstanding.
Next it was off for some exploration by boat. Dave and Chip were only with us for four more days and we wanted to make the most of it. So we set off for the short 12-mile trip to Amadee Island, home of the famous Amadee lighthouse built in 1852. Amadee is a small, uninhabited island, a popular destination for day tourists who come by boat from Noumea. It has a beautiful beach and some reportedly good diving sites. After anchoring off the island we went ashore to explore. It took about 20 minutes to walk around the perimeter of the island where we saw a couple sea snakes that had come ashore for their siesta. The lighthouse is also quite interesting. It was built in Paris in 1862, then disassembled and shipped to New Caledonia where it was erected on Amedee Island in 1865.
Next it was off for a dive. Chip is a former dive instructor but has not done much diving the past several years. Dave also had not done a dive in the past two years. There is a good wreck dive in the area but we decided to forego it as we did not know the exact location and it is in 30 meters of water. We decided to do a shallower dive along the reef as a warm up. After determining that the current was not too strong, we descended to a depth of 20 meters. There were plenty of fish and a beautiful ray. But the coral has been devastated by several recent cyclones, so it was not the prettiest we’ve seen. But it was a good warm up and it gave me a chance to try out my new underwater Nikon digital camera.
We returned to the boat to rest and fill our tanks for the next dive. As the second tank was refilling, we heard an ominous noise and the compressor shut off. It had blown a capacitor. Darn. Looks like no more diving for awhile. Fortunately, there is a Bauer representative in Noumea so we should be able to get a new part. After a lovely dinner onboard and a good nights sleep, Ron set off in the dinghy to return to the city to see if a replacement part could be found. It looks like we will be able to get it, but not for several more days. Apparently the problem was caused because the compressor was getting too much power from the generator – we had increased the generator output to 235 amps at the suggestion of another Bauer rep due to another problem we were having with the compressor shutting off intermittently. Ultimately that turned out to be a bad switch, but in the meantime it seems we fried the capacitor. The good news is that we now apparently know what to do – at least we will see!
Next we set off for Il Ouen, about 15 miles away. It was a beautiful day with a steady breeze making for a pleasant sail. Dave was anxious to catch a fish but despite our best efforts, we didn’t even get a nibble. But we were treated to a fantastic dolphin show. Three large dolphins joined us to play in our bow wake for almost 15 minutes. They seemed to be having as much fun as we were! We arrived at our anchorage at Il Ouen with plenty of daylight left. It was beautiful! A peaceful inlet nestled among spectacular red hills. After a celebratory drink, Dave, Bradley, and I set off to explore in the dinghy. We found a place to go ashore for a short walk. We soon found why the guidebook said to beware of the red mud! Despite our efforts to clean it off our bare feet before reboarding the dinghy, it was everywhere. We had to scrub with soap and water to get it off. Dave also somehow managed to kick a tree (we aren’t quite sure what the tree did to provoke him). When we returned to the boat he noticed he had quite a bit of tree bark embedded under his big toenail. Dr. Bradley was summoned to help clean the wound. Fortunately all that was needed was a little hydrogen peroxide and some patience and Dave’s toe was clean but just a little sore. No more shore expeditions here! The water though was clean and beautiful and we enjoyed a spectacular sunset and a quiet, star-filled night.
Next, it was back to Noumea. It was a calm day – unfortunately a little too calm to sail as the wind was only 3 knots. The fishing line was out but despite Dave’s longing looks, we again could not generate any interest. We anchored at the Baie de Citrons, a calm anchorage with great access to the beach area with plenty of good restaurants. Ron, Dave, and Chip visited the Tjibaou Cultural Center while I stayed aboard fighting a 24-hour stomach virus. They reported that it is well worth a visit. The building is an architectural masterpiece, built to commemorate the culture of the native Kanaks and named after a popular Kanak leader who was assassinated in 1989. We said goodbye to Dave, who was headed back to Perth then enjoyed another quiet night onboard.
On Chip’s final day in Noumea, he and I set off for a hike to the top of Ouen Toro, the highest spot in the Noumea region at 132 meters. It was well worth the trip as it affords a great view of the city as well as the nearby islands. Amedee Island and its lighthouse are also visible in the distance.
Unfortunately, the time had come to say goodbye to Chip who was heading back to the States. Ron, Bradley, and I will continue on to other parts of New Caledonia and then on to nearby Vanuatu