Vanuatu to New Caledonia

Wed 29 Oct 2014 02:57
22:23.9240S  166:01.5908E
Syd was laid low with a nasty virus a couple of days into our stay in Vanuatu, his first thought was it was Ciguatera poisoning from the fish we had caught but as I was okay that seemed unlikely so we assumed it was a flu like chill which he had either caught before we left Fiji or was as a result of the cold wet sail we had had.  He took to his bed (first time I have seen him as bad) and slept and slept.  The weather turned really nasty, heavy rain and cold winds and even the cruise ships stopped coming in.  We were confined to the boat and though Syd felt a bit better he quite obviously was not well still.  The other yachties in the bay had organised a walk into the jungle to visit a spectacular waterfall, Syd was not feeling up to it so I went alone.  Our guide was late so we did not set off until about 2.00pm, we had been told it was a 3 hour round trip but discovered the man who had said this had never actually been there!  It was a tough jungle hike which our guide told us he usually ran!  Luckily the path was relatively dry and the worst nasty we saw was a huge spider that had spun its web blocking our path, but we were told no snakes.  3 hours later and we arrived at the waterfall, which was pretty stunning, the guide leapt in and we all looked worryingly at our watches, 3 hours back and we would be still in the jungle in the dark, not good.  So it was about turn and a slightly quicker scramble back as it got darker and darker.  Between us we had 1 head torch and a light on a mobile phone (obviously had'nt taken on board the Ray Mears tips!), but we made it out of the jungle. 
Syd was still not well and the weather continued to worsen so as soon as he felt strong enough to attempt the sail to New Caledonia we left.  We checked out on the Friday before the Customs guys headed back to the other islands but did not leave until Monday, 6th October giving Syd a couple more days recovery time.
The winds were forecasted 20-25 knots but direction was good, we headed out into bumpy seas late afternoon, but were soon flying along on a good broad reach.  It was a cold, wet, bumpy first night at sea and Syd remained below for most of his watch.  We made good time and by late afternoon the next day we could see Ile Mare off our starboard side, as we got closer the seas became confused and steep and pretty uncomfortable.  Just before dawn of the next morning we entered the outer reef of New Caledonia, the wind dropped and so did the sea and as the sky lightened we enjoyed the last 45 nautical miles into the wonderfully tucked away harbour of Noumea, capital of New Caledonia.
We anchored in the harbour and went straight ashore to do the formalities.  Immigration first (they close at 11.30am), a cheery little French officer greeted us and within 10 minutes we were officially in.  Next a hike to Customs, bonjour, ici a couple of forms to fill in and that completed (all free!!!!!) then Bio-Security and Health, too late they were at lunch (oh well it is France) so 2 hours later, had we bought anything we should'nt in to contaminate la belle France, mais non, except a few offending potatoes and onions.  They asked for these to be put in a bag and delivered back to them before they closed and that was that, all done.  Back to the boat, just in time for a pilot boat to approach and tell us we had to move, we were anchored in the way of the cruise ship that was due in at 4.00am the next morning.  So up anchor and re-anchor further away.  Poor Syd by this time he was ready for a stiff drink and bed.
The next morning the Port Moselle Marina radioed us to say they had a space in there for us, so we went in and there we stayed for the next 2 weeks and 2 days, during which time Syd got his new mainsail delivered and a new sail bag made.  He also saw a Dr and was put on a course of anti biotics, the Dr's visit was impressive, no waiting straight in to see a Specialist, ultrasound done there, results and prescription all within an hour and it was remarkably cheap.
We have both loved New Caledonia, though it would be fairer to say Noumea as we did not get to see much else.  It is surrounded by beautiful bays and islands and would have been a wonderful place to spend a lot more time.  The combination of fresh morning baguettes, plenty of excellent patisserie and lashings of vin rouge have helped Syd on the road to recovery.  We did do a few walks and visited the impressive Cultural Centre designed by architect Renzo Piano, an amazing structure in a beautiful setting with a good collection of contemporary art. 
But exploring more of New Caledonia will have to wait as Brisbane calls and we have a weather window.