Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
The South Province of New Caledonia - On the move again
At anchor in Ilot Bailly - 28 to 29 June 2013 - (22.18.29S - 166.34.41E)
Leaving Noumea on a beautiful day it is a short sail to our first stop, Ilot Bailly. We’ll spend the night here to relax after the hectic last minute activities before leaving the marina. It feels wonderful to be at anchor on a quiet night in a very quiet place. There is nobody else here and it is very peaceful. The island is uninhabited and part of the South Lagoon Reserve.
Our cruising guide says do not to anchor too close to the beach and points to this part of the island as the only night anchorage sheltered from east winds. Even with settle weather, we follow the advice
After a quiet night in Ilot Bailly we knew we had 2 more days of settled weather before the next front which would be arriving on Monday afternoon with lots of rain and wind. We decided to go directly to Baie de Prony that has many protected anchorages including Baie du Carenage considered a 'hurricane hole'.
Baie du Prony - 29 June to 4 July 2013
At a mooring in Bonne Anse (22.22.93S 166.54.89E)
Our first stop was Bonne Anse, just at the entrance of Prony. It is a beautiful spot quite popular with the locals on the weekends (we suspect that everybody in NC has a boat). One of the anchoring spots has 4 moorings and we were able to grab one after a couple of the local boats left later afternoon on Saturday.
There is plenty of fish in this bay, the Recif of Prony starts nearby just a short dinghy ride and we could see a couple from the other boat catching their dinner there.
This is not a protected area and it is allowed to spear fish in the coral.
Oscar is upset with his spider bite that is not 100% healed, so he can't risk going into the salty water. Salty water is alive with all kind of organisms that love an open wound.
By sunset there were lots of fish jumping around our boat, surely bigger fish below trying to have dinner as well.
The scenery is very nice with a little beach, lots of very green trees on the hill and a reddish type of clay or mud that looks pretty but is not so good for the walking trail that leads to a lighthouse on the top.
The beaches in Baie du Prony are a red mix of mud and sand, a result of the red soils that surrounds the whole area and form the basis of the local mining industry.
With just two passes of the net they got a full bucket of them. As they couldn't possible eat so many, the few boats around, including us, got a share of their catch.
It turned into a delicious lunch of fried sardines with a very cold beer we indulged for the occasion.
In a mix of their poor English and our even poorer French we understood they were planning to leave for the same place we were going, the hurricane hole Baie du Carenage. He said it was an excellent place to sleep soundly in bad weather.
As we were getting ready to leave on Monday morning, a French couple from a neighbour sailboat, 'Absolutely Gorgeous' came on their dinghy to offer us a bunch of very fresh sardines they just caught in the shallow waters off the beach with their net.
We actually saw them fishing and were wondering what type of fish they might be getting, never imagining there were so many sardines around.
Fresh sardines in Bonne Anse
A quiet sunset in Bonne Anse
Baie du Carenage - The rain starts
With strong winds forecasted for tonight, it was time to move to a more sheltered anchorage and the three boats in Bonne Anse, including us, left towards Baie du Carenage, which is located at the landward end of Baie du Prony.
There was a prison colony here in the 1800's and the prisoners logged the forests to provide wood for building Noumea - then the area's amazing mineral riches were discovered - the red earth that yields nickel, iron, cobalt and other heavy metals.
It was an easy sail of about 8 miles in a kind of meandering way. At the end of a narrow channel the bay opens in an area surrounded by hills.
The wind had started to pick up on our way up reaching over 20 knots at times until we got in the bay, which was as expected very, very calm.
We were a total of 4 boats at anchor and even though there seems to be a lot of space, you can't anchor close to anybody as boats swing in different directions in this bay, so you need plenty of room to anchor.
We might have timed our arrival well because as soon as we finished with anchoring the rain started and here we are a day later wondering if it will ever stop. It has rained non stop so far but not a whisper of wind. We did indeed sleep soundly in this quiet place.
After 24 hours of heavy rain the wind started to pick up in the bay, we expect tonight will be the worst of the storm and hope it will be over sometime during the day tomorrow, but as there is no radio or telephone coverage in this hurricane hole, we can't get weather updates.
We'd like to visit ashore. Nearby there is a waterfall and a hot spring small pool but no need to go there at the moment, we have plenty of water here as it is.
Heavy rain in Baie du Carenage
After a day of non stop heavy rain pouring on top of us we started loosing our good mood.
The first day was kind of fun, filling up buckets of water, topping up our water tanks, showering on deck, all the dust collected in the marina gone, our deck never looked so clean with so little effort, fun.
When the night came and the rain continued we started to get moody, and then it seemed to me there was a flash light on Absolute Gorgeous' deck, it looked pretty close and there was a moment of confusion as we wondered who is dragging, then I can see their bow pretty close to our transom, they are checking their anchor, definitely WE are dragging. There was this hectic re-anchoring workout under the heavy rain, in absolute pitch dark, trying to find a good spot while our French neighbours keep shouting and pointing with their flashlights. Are they showing where to go or are they showing where not to go, no way to guess.
Finally the anchor sets and a festival of lightening starts, by now our 'sleep soundly' night is gone, while we listen to the thunder getting closer, then passing over us to finally drift away while we pray we don’t drag in the dark again.
A Red Nightmare in Baie de Carenage
Early morning, as we were pondering what to do, we heard the noise of the anchor chain rattling and next thing we know we are riding down the current dragging chain and anchor at about 2 knots. Not need to say what a nightmare it was, trying to control Zenitude, stop the ride, raise the anchor, and try to figure out what the hell had just happened. At that moment the sky decided to throw also thunders to add a bit more drama to our situation. At least it was daylight.
We thought hard about leaving the place but instead came back to try to re-anchor, not knowing which other place would be better. And then we saw it and understood, we've been anchored exactly in the spot where the main part of the rain water was trying to leave the place while the tide was changing.
But this was just the beginning. When daylight came and we saw the transformation of that place from a quiet green calm waters anchorage into a red muddy disturbed waters full of debris passing by we started to get really worried.
Eventually the rain started to diminish and by sunset it was over.
We left the next day, covered in a red mud that will be another nightmare to clean up.
Baie du Carenage, at the heart of the nickel mining area, has a deep red mud bottom. By bringing up and down our anchor 3 times we collected probably about 3 or 4 tons of this red mud that was evenly distributed all over the boat by the wind.
A lovely place indeed but we doubt that we'll ever return.
Our new friends, the 2 French boats that came together with us from Bonne Anse were absolutely fantastic helping us to choose the right place as they'd been there many times.
Later they said they'd been here more than 40 times and never saw anything like it. Once we found the spot where the current was little and the depth good enough we finally re-anchor.
'Absolutelly Georgeous', our new friends in the reddish waters
Port du Boise - 4 to 5 July 2013 - (22.21.20S - 166.57.16E)
We left Baie du Prony when the storm cleared and decided to go to Lifou, part of the Loyalty Islands, skipping Isle de Pines which we may visit if we have time when back from Vanuatu.
On the south tip of the Grand Terre in New Caledonia you get out to sea thru the Havannah Passage that needs to be negotiated at slack time due to strong currents. There is a very nice anchorage, Port du Boise, at the entrance of the passage, very convenient to wait for the right time in the pass.
We came a day ahead and spent the night there. It is tricky to find the right spot to anchor but the cruising guide has excellent explanations and we found 3 meters of water to anchor at: 22.21.20S, 166.57.16E. This turned out to be a great place to rest after our ordeal at Baie du Carenage. We left the next day at about noon, crossed a rolly Havannah Pass pass at slack time and a after an uneventful overnight trip, arrived at beautiful Baie de Santal in Lifou.