Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
Luganville to Noumea - The Hard Way Back
Down the East Coast of Malakula Island - 7 to 9 August 2013
The weather seemed right to start the trip and we left early following a course down the east coast of Malakule Island.
There are many places to stop along this coast and we sailed a first leg, just 43 miles, to a very nice and quiet anchorage, Uri Island in Port Stanley, to rest for the night before continuing down the coast.
It is a wide bay with sand and coral bottom. We arrived with good light and dropped the anchor in a big sandy patch. Oscar snorkelled to check the anchor and chain and thought we were ok with a good holding. The bay is really wide and we were nowhere near any danger.
There are mangroves on shore and an abundance of mud crabs and Oscar is thinking on a dinghy ride to shore to go on a hunt for one. No other boats are on sight but as we are admiring the surroundings in this quiet place we see a canoe setting out from the beach and unquestionably coming our way.
At anchor in Uri Island - (16.05.84S 167.27.65E)
It took a little while but she made it, she is a local woman and wants to exchange a grapefruit for a t-shirt.
All enthusiastic she goes back and soon we see a guy going into the mangroves with a bag. Not long after that the canoe comes back with presumably one of the woman's son bringing a live 'big(?)' crab in a bag and not having the heart to bargain with this poor people we paid market price for it and enjoy a nice crab dinner.
Oscar, still with a mud crab dinner in mind, says we'll buy a live mud crab if she can get us one. No problem at all, she says, then she asks if I have a son, so I reply yes I have a son, she proudly retorts she has 4 sons and one of them will bring a live 'big' mud crab for us.
Down the East Coast of Malakula Island towards Port Vila- 8 to 9 August 2013
At 6:00 AM next day we left for the second part of the trip. It was a slow and painful day. We lost count of how many times we changed sails, the wind shifting and turning all the time. It was exhausting and we wondered what was wrong with the forecast that had nothing to do with reality.
Looking at the geography and position of Malakula Island you can expect a hard trip going in a south-easterly direction and we wondered if we shouldn't have chosen the west coast instead. We considered making another stop before nightfall but at the end decided against it and kept going.
Arriving at Port Vila ahead of squally weather
At a mooring in Yachting World, Port Vila - 9 August 2013 - (17.44.304S - 168.18.616E)
With the approaching low arriving we obviously stayed in Pot Vila long enough to let it pass. It gave us time to buy all the fuel we can carry, replenish water tanks and do all other errands while moored at World Yachting again. When the weather looked right, meaning no lows coming our way we were ready to leave.
We've heard bad stories of beating against 30 knots winds trying to go this way to Noumea and we tried to choose the window carefully even if it meant lots of motoring. Our intention is to break the trip with a stop at Baie de Santal in Lifou to wait for the right time and weather in the Havannah Pass.
Leaving Port Vila early afternoon and heading towards Lifou, we motor sailed close to the wind, which works better on the second reef, with the engine helping to keep course as wind was quite variable, seas were low but uncomfortable on the nose. Uneventfully on the second day we entered Baie de Santal, heading the long way towards the anchorage area.
At Sea towards Lifou - 12 to 14 August 2013
At anchor in Baie de Santal, Lifou - 14 August 2013 - (20.55.47S - 167.05.05E)
It was completely calm when we arrived at 05.00 AM and we had no trouble anchoring in the dark. This is a perfect place to enter or leave any time, even if dark, the only concern an occasional boat that may be there without the mooring lights on. The lights on shore, specially the ones illuminating the boat ramp are perfect to lead your way to the best place where to drop the anchor. Of course it is all much easier if you've been there before.
We decided we had about 6 hours sleep before starting it all over again. Early afternoon we raised anchor after having refueled Zenitude from our jugs and headed towards the 'Grand Terre' on New Caledonia with the intention to reach the Havannah pass early the next day with the slack tide.
At Sea towards Le Grand Terre - 12 to 14 August 2013
To confirm our suspicions, having sailed the area a couple of times before, the wind around the coastline had nothing to do with the forecast and we encountered strong SE winds close to the tip of the island. We set an easier westerly course to get away from the coast faster. Once we were several miles away the wind became as forecasted and allowed us to set a course closer to the rum line.
We arrived in the Havannah Pass early morning at the beginning of the rising tide and did the passage in very calm conditions. After giving way, obviously, to a cargo ship that was entering the pass and needed to board the pilot officer, we noticed problems with our AIS system. The cargo ship officer confirmed he was receiving our position but our problem was we were only receiving ship signals inside one mile range. This is not enough for collision avoidance, we have a problem there to address once in Noumea.
At a mooring in Baie de Prony - 15 August 2013 - (22.22.93S - 166.54.89E)
We then decided to stop at Baie de Prony rather than continue sailing the remaining 30 miles to Noumea as we were feeling in need of a good rest. It was a big holiday in New Caledonia and it was pure luck to get there early and find a free mooring in Bom Anse. Later on, the place was full with local boats. We didnít left Zenitude as you are not supposed to wonder around before checking in Noumea coming from overseas.
At Port Moselle - 16 to 21 August 2013 - (22.16.80S - 166.26.30E)
Next day, at sunrise we left towards Noumea.
What a beautiful day, very calm and peaceful in the lagoon, which meant motoring all the way but no complaints from us. It took us almost 7 hours to make the 30 miles to Port Moselle.
Arriving at the marina we found the familiar face of Linda at the docks ready to help us with the lines.
Linda works at the marina expertly handling lines for boats arriving at Port Moselle, always with a big welcoming smile.
Port Moselle's great crew with Linda in the blue shirt and her customary big smile
We must have made the right decision as after reaching the south tip of the island the ENE winds came and we had a very fast and quite good sail entering Port Vila after a 24 hours trip, at 6:00 AM just ahead of a large squall.
Now moored at Port Vila we are having horrible squally weather thinking it is good to be in port. It will be pizza night tonight.