Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
Lifou - The Largest of the Loyalty Islands
At anchor in Baie de Santal - 6 to 13 July 2013 - (20.55.80S - 167.05.00E)
Drueulu Village in Baie de Santal
Our French friends in Prony said we should come to this bay rather than go to We, the main town in Lifou where there is a small marina. We are glad we followed the advice and after an uneventful overnight trip we arrived at a fantastic bay, beautiful and quiet with lots of room to anchor in a sandy bottom.
The people of Druelu are very formal and welcoming. When we expressed the wish to pay respects to the chief, they invited us to a communal area where several women were having breakfast and quiet conversations while sitting on rugs and the men were making some kind of ornaments with palm tree branches for an upcoming wedding. Later on we saw that every tribe has a similar building, with a roof, a big table, a communal kitchen, rugs on the floor but no walls.
The chief gave a speech, offered tea and coffee, asked lots of questions, gave us permission to stay and invited us to the wedding that was taking place the next day. All of this in French and of course was very nice to have Carol and Marcel there to translate for us.
There are a couple of stores and if you are lucky to be there when the bread arrives it is possible to buy baguettes. There is a bus that takes you to We (main town) daily at 7.00 AM which you also have to be lucky to get. This is the only bus, otherwise you need to hitchhike to get there, which we did as it seems we just missed the bus. Everybody here is very nice and helpful so this is not a problem.
There are a couple of white sand beaches and a small village that belongs to the tribe of Drueulu.
Here we met another French boat, Crisaloha, with Marcel and Carol and together we went to pay respects to the Chief of the tribe in the village.
There is a formality around the Loyalty Islands that requires for you to take a small present to the chief and ask his permission to stay at anchor, fish, take pictures and wonder around.
Zenitude, Crisaloha and a local sailboat on the background
The island is so lay back that you really need to make an effort to find the people that offer services.
We wanted to visit several caves that seem quite interesting as advertised but just managed to get to one with the only guide that was willing to take us in a tour, Mr. Albert.
In We we walked up and down from the town centre to the marina trying to rent a car with no success.
We talked to two very nice girls in the Information Centre that did not have much information to offer. In our frustration we thought they should change the name to 'no information centre'.
Finally on wheels
Finally we found a nice resort and the lady at reception was very helpful, she called a rental car company and failed to tell them we were not guests of the hotel and just like that a car materialized for us.
Happy to be on wheels and after all that walking decided to rent the car for 3 days.
Mr Albert takes you to Diable Grotto
He is a very nice guy, his family owns a big property in Tingeting and they have plans to expand their tourist business. He speaks very good English and took us to visit the Diable Grotto which is part of their property. An easy hiking to very interesting caves.
If you ever happen to come to Lifou you can contact Mr. Albert (telephone 45.17.93) for a visit to the caves or a water adventure in his boat.
Another highlight of our car tour was Baie de Jokin, a bay at the bottom of impressive 40 mtr high cliffs overlooking water so clear that is easy to see the many coral reefs below, big caves that are amazing to snorkel. Definitely a place to come with Zenitude. Another bay, just across Santal, is called Xepenehe and is where the big cruise ships coming from Australia or Vanuatu deposit thousands of people once or twice a week. The ship was there when we visited and lots of people were wondering around the Quay where there is a small snack bar and some huts with souvenirs, open only when the big cruise ship is there.
Baie de Jokin
Amazing cliff over clear turquoise waters
At the marina in We - 13 to 15 July 2013 (20.57.00S 167.16.90E)
After a week in Baie de Santal we decided to sail to We and stay at the marina for a couple of days, replenish our fresh water tanks and try power washing the last remains of red mud still attached to our anchor chain. As soon as we left the big bay and turned east towards We it became very clear to us why our French friends told us not to go there.
We is located on the east coast of Lifou and we followed the north coast on a westerly course with head winds all the way thinking we'll have a nice sail after turning the NE tip of the island. It didn't work, turning south was even worst, such a frustration, the wind following the coast in opposite direction with the addition of a vicious swell. It took us 12 hours to make the 39 miles and we just made it in daylight as the sun was setting when we arrived.
The marina is quite small and everybody there gave us a great welcome, there was more people than we needed to help with the lines, including the familiar faces of Carol and Marcel. They've gone thru a similar experience two days earlier except their engine died along the way and they had to be towed inside the marina.
It is the 14th of July weekend, Bastille Day, and we are invited to a celebration BBQ by one of the boats at the marina but we have just one thing in mind, a quiet dinner and an early night after 12 hours in the washing machine, understandable.
Next day was washing day, we got the feeling that we'll never get rid of the red mud, but after a day of power washing we are almost white again.
Carol is trying everything to be able to get clearance in We to avoid going back to Noumea before leaving for Vanuatu. As they are French nationals she is even trying with the Gendarmerie to no avail. In very special circumstances it is possible to clear in but as Carol is confirming it is not possible to clear out.
Oscar is planning to solve that problem by flying to Noumea for the day and take care of formalities. It is possible to do so, the boat does not need to be there. At the end Carol finds out that Oscar can also take their papers and passports, an authorization and do formalities for them. It works for all while we share the trip costs.
Small and cute We marina
A stopover at Baie de Jokin - 15 July 2013 (20.42.26S - 167.09.95E)
The weekend over and at sunrise we untied from the marina dock and with 20 to 25 knots ESE wind Zenitude was flying on her way back to Baie de Santal.
Around noon we were passing over Baie de Jokin (or Dokin as it's called in some charts) and decided for a pit stop to check out the coral and the caves.
It was superb snorkeling, all very pretty, unfortunately my underwater camera stopped working and I couldn't take any underwater pictures.
Back at anchor in Baie de Santal - 15 to 20 July 2013 - (20.55.47S - 167.05.05E)
Back in Baie de Santal we woke up the following morning to find Resolute at anchor next to us, she is another catamaran from Sydney with Ken and Janice we met in Port Moselle. Their kids were visiting and it was good to see familiar faces around. One of them might have climbed the mast and took this fantastic photo of Zenitude at anchor.
It was about time to think on our next move to Ouvea and from there the 200 miles to Port Vila, Vanuatu and with that in mind Oscar flew to Noumea to get all the paperwork ready for our departure.
This included Immigrations, Customs and Port Authority for us and for Crisaloha. Once you clear you have 3 days before leaving the country.
We choose this option of taking a day trip in Air Caledonia to Noumea, which is not very expensive but the logistics are quite complicated. As Immigrations closes at 11.30 AM you need to catch the very first flight that departs Lifou at 7.00 AM.
This forced us to start the day at 4.00 AM with a dinghy ride to shore at 4.45 AM. All too early for our taste. To make things more interesting the weather was awful and the dinghy ride quite wild.
The day after we woke up again at 4.00 AM for a quick sail to Ouvea to take advantage of the 3 days stay after check out and see if Ouvea is indeed "the island close to paradise".
Zenitude in Baie de Santal, courtesy of Resolute
The anchorage there is quite deep, you need to anchor between the corals in 14 to 16 meters so we decided not to stay overnight and after a couple of hours raised anchor and kept going, the wind now down to 15 knots.