COVID, and a cruise in the lagoon. Noumea 22:16.6S, 166:26.4E

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Mon 8 Aug 2022 01:35

We only spent one night in Anse Majik: we were running short on fresh food and the wind was good for a return trip to Noumea the following day, so we got up early to walk out to the lighthouse and observatory on the southern shore before returning to Serenity, dropping our mooring and setting sail.  The wind was behind us as we left Baie du Prony and sailed down the Canal Woodin so we didn’t bother raising the mainsail and just unrolled the Genoa.  Once we were heading north west up the east coast we could really have done with the main, but laziness ruled so we had a steady, gentle trip, dropping anchor behind Ile Uere, six miles south of Noumea, an hour before dark.

Anse Majik

Looking south from the Lighthouse.  There is also a whale watch observatory here as the Humpback whales visit this area during the winter

Looking along Canal Woodin (right of centre) with Ile Ouen to the left

Our restock visit to the marina extended to a week as Phil upgraded electrical cabling to improve the efficiency of our charging systems and fridge then, with the lockers and fridge full ready for a trip to the Ile des Pins, Phil tested positive for COVID.  Sarah didn’t bother to test but it was clear within a couple of days that she had it as well.  We decided to stay in the marina and isolate on board: it would have been nice to be at anchor but it seemed sensible to be close to shore in case one of us needed medical attention.  We got away with a relatively mild case and were both feeling better within a week of showing symptoms.  We were lucky to have the berth right next to the shore so we spent the week watching people promenading along the waterfront, and having distanced converstations with other yachtsmen walking past, and having just stocked up for a 2 week cruise we didn’t need to get to the shops.

By the time we were ready to leave the marina the weather was no longer right for Ile des Pins so we opted to go north within the lagoon from Noumea, stopping for one night in Baie Maa, a beautifully protected anchorage on the mainland which we had to ourselves.  In the evening we were treated to a display of lightning in the mountains, but happily it stayed there and we had a quiet night. As we left the marina Phil realised our autopilot wasn’t working: not a major problem when we are just day sailing so we decided to continue with our plans and Phil began investigating whenever we stopped.

Enjoying a beer in the cockpit to celebrate our escape from isolation!

The mountains in cloud at the head of Baie Maa

With a couple of settled days forecast we decided to explore some of the coral islets further out in the lagoon and picked the tiny speck of Ilot Mbe Kouen as a starting point.  It was fun to navigate between the coral reefs into the anchorage where we dropped anchor in water so clear we could see the chain pay out across the bottom 7-8 meters below us.  We had company here: two families that we had met in the marina the week before, not surprising as it was such a beautiful place.

Ilot Mbe Kouen from the anchorage

Ashore with the beautifully clear water on the beach

The islet was home to this pair of Ospreys

We went snorkelling, but it was low water so we couldn’t see the best coral. It was probably a bit soon after recovering from COVID for spending so long in the water!

This anchorage is very close to the barrier reef around the lagoon and as the tide rose some swell found its way across making it quite a rolly spot.  With the wind also set to pick up we didn’t think there was enough protection here so we moved to the slightly larger Ilot Signal, about 10 miles south.  This meant sailing directly into the south easterly trade winds and we had an enjoyable morning tacking between the shoals, only dropping the sails for the final approach to the mooring field.

Ilot Signal is a nature reserve and home to more Ospreys so we were surprised to realise it is also a bit of a party island with boatloads of daytrippers bought over each day.  It was also no more sheltered than the previous night’s spot so after an uncomfortable night and a walk around the island in the morning it was time to move on again.

Looking south across the lagoon from Ilot Signal

Serenity on her mooring of the end of the pier where the daytrippers land!

The signal tower for which the island is named once formed part of the navigation marks showing the way through one of the passes into the lagoon

Phil had made no progress on the causes of the autopilot failure and we had an offer of help from David, the Ocean Cruising Club Port Officer for Noumea.  David has recently replaced the instrumentation on his own boat and was willing to see if he had any ideas, so we began making our way back.  We wanted to pass the weekend in flat water to make things easier for Phil as he continued checking and the sheltered anchorage behind Ile Uere seemed a good option.  The wind was still in the south east, but stronger, so it was another beat this time with 2 reefs in both sails.  It took us 4 hours to cover 10 miles and was a great sail.  We found Rebell already in the anchorage and Bernd came on board to lend his thoughts to our problems.   We are now back in Noumea while Phil decides if he can fix things, or if it will have to wait until we get to Australia.

Our route round the lagoon.  1. Baie Maa, 2. Ilot Mbe Kouen, 3. Ilot Signal, 4. Ile Uere.