Frenched again, in New Caledonia

Rich Carey
Thu 27 Sep 2018 04:03
22:16.624S 166:26.403E

I would at the outset say (as said before, when I moan on the subject!), that I like the French - just not much. In my experience, their whole 'language thing issue', has broken their international reputation. Whenever we meet French sailors, they're totally normal, EXCEPT, in French speaking countries, where they instantly become pathetically petty. They land at places like here in French New Caledonia (NC), and immediately can't speak the international language. They stand on the dock, visitors like you, treating you as if you are a chest bashing baboon for not speaking French.
I oft chastise my folk, for launching off in English automatically, in foreign countries, while I always lead with a demure "may we speak English, please" - it usually illicits a better response from locals, but alas seldom the French dead-pan, and especially so the French sailors, when in their perceived home waters. In France we've come to expect that our language ignorance will give us problems, but internationally, in international marinas, sorry folks, it's just plain sour grapes.

Even out here in New Caledonia, they have ways of making us pay. I haven't been to the cinema for 2 years, and I love the cinema. The local mega one, has 11 of 12 screens with blockbuster English language films, including the highly reviewed Mission Impossible 6. All dubbed - tits - roll on Australia to break my Cinefast.

I will warmly concead that the paperwork (and authoritarian attitude), for yachties arriving in French New Caledonia, was like French Polynesia - welcoming. That said, it's likely not about 'detente', it's likely more about the dosh we thousands of boats bring.

Back to my arrival:

Faced with a big day stood at the wheel (going through the reefs for 6-8 hours up to Noumea), I'd hoped for a restful preeceding night - no flippin chance. The lack of traffic for the 5 day passage, was offset by a night peppered with two huge passenger liners, a couple of sailboats on the same trajectory, and a couple of fishing trawlers bimbling randomly. Between them, these inconsiderate barstewards, continuously set off my proximity alarms, all night long, ensuring zero sleep.

I made the NC entrance pass at a tired 06:30 on Tues morning, put my clock back an hour, and seemed to go through on slackish high tide. Chance had sent me some good tide data, but my crappy airmail program mashed it, and I couldn't really understand the data. I also couldn't understand the flow direction. Karen sent me some noonsite data which gave some info, but nothing really added up much. Logically high tide is followed by outflowing tides (against me as I progressed inside the reef), but my PCP chart plotter indicated contra flows. So I embraced either possibility, as a matter of zero choice - slugging it out, or free impetus - it was going to be, what it was going to be - that's the adventure (scary), side of sailing the world.

For a while it seemed favourable, but by the 'Woodin channel' I was full steam on both engines, doing barely 3 knots (walking pace) - not good. My guess is that I was slightly ahead of the tide turning in my favor, as three yachts popped out 30 mins behind me - likely they'd been waiting in side bays, for the window to open and assumed that I had done the same! Anyway - things eventually improved and I went back to six knots when through the woodin, and then made pretty good time to Noumea. As an aside, I also left the following yachts in my spray, a fact I put down to my boat slimming work in Vuda, as opposed to my superior skipper skills.

No issues on entrance to Noumea port. In fact a huge cruise ship entered just ahead of me and the VHF was totally quiet. In many ports, the Port Authority guys go nuts on the radio when the big guys are around. I think they operate on the self governance rule - give way to anything bigger than you - makes perfect sense to me.

Marina Moselle put me on the end of the visitors dock for the night (one night only), and as I'd made it by 15:00 the 'bio' authority agent was stood on the dock, and cleared me immediately (awesome, as I could then go ashore to the pub!).  I only managed 3 pints in the pub, and then went into 'solo sailors collapso mode' - bed time for 12 hours.

Next day I was at the marina office as they opened, and after suitably ingratiating myself (which is frickin hard when you don't speak French!), was given a 'potential berth' inside the visitors pontoon. I then went to 'Immigration' in town for a thankfully simple check -in, and back to the Marina. Two hours later I moved to the potential berth, and could finally relax ;-)

I'd been intent on missing NC, and going straight to Coffs (I mentioned this before). Now I'm here and the approach issues, the red tape check-in issues, and the berth issues are all behind me - I'm happy to be here ('Mission Impossible' aside), it's quite 'civilized', and the local beer works for me - plus my 'Wirie' has a grip on the local bars free WiFi :-).

I've already been to the local Chandler - I've come to think of Chandler visits as defining the 'shopping' component of any port of call on a round the world. It would now take some time to count how many ports of call there have been for x86, but for sure, every one of them that sports a Chandler, will have had that Chandler visited.

I don't have a lot of work to now do on x86, but the pressure  of work is a bit relentless. As you approach the tip of  the spear, so everything becomes more acute and hard to reach. I'm not giving up on the efforts just yet, as I really want to arrive in Australia with the job as jobbed as possible. Then I can finally have a holiday - and if that's not an irony, then like most people, I don't get the meaning of the word!

All's well on x86, but 'Mission Impossible' is still a passage or two away.

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