May 23rd, 2016   |   Doking  Perfection: Crystal waters, flawless reef, absolute peace, and sunset views. Only west winds will force us to leave this paradise.


 
Day 3,279 - Lifou (20° 55S 167° 16E)
19:27hrs - May 22th 2016
A Gift

It's an island bigger than Tahiti, which has a population of over 178,000 people, yet Lifou, the largest of the Loyalty chain, is a quiet home to just 8,000 Melanesians and French residents. The few roads that circle and cross the island are free of traffic lights, road signs and outside of Wé (pronounced Way) the administrative center, so few cars that it doesn't really seem to matter what side of the road you drive on.

Unlike Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia which has a chic French island vibe, the Loyalty Islands remain distinctly Melanesian. Traditional grass sleeping huts are visible on most properties, each village or region is under the control of a Kanak chief, and visitors, especially those visiting by yacht, are expected to give la coutume - a token gift at each anchorage - to the local chief in order to pay your respects and ask permission to visit.

The Melanesian Kanak culture is a proud one and remains strong here, in fact as recently as 1988 local separatists held 27 hostages in the Loyalties, demanding independence. It did not end well. Even today the New Caledonian flag in our marina, we've noticed, flies subtly and perhaps rebelliously higher than the French.

Weather has tied us up in the municipal marina, the only one in the Loyalty Islands. It's really more of a boat basin which is so small it feels like a holding pen for yachts, Catherine calls it the 'waiting room'. We're the only international boat here and a few of the local yachts that call this marina home are not seaworthy vessels, but rather cheap accommodation with water views, which, by-the-way is so clear it feels like you're in an aquarium, complete with coral, reef fish and a turtle that seems quite happy floating between the pontoons.

For the most part Lifou, which is shaped like a jumping camel with stubby legs, has no outer reefs, so anchorages are limited and the four areas around the coastline indicated on charts as harbors are either deemed 'extremely dangerous' to enter or completely exposed to weather and seas from at least two points across the compass. Overnight stays need to be selected with care and weather forecasts closely monitored.

We've been in Wé for a week and are excited to explore the coastline. We've already toured the island by car and during a reconnaissance on the western coast in Baie du Santal, we 'discovered' at the end of a dirt track that cut through the jungle, a perfectly secluded and uninhabited sandy beach. It's not indicated on the charts as an anchorage, which only makes it more intriguing. So tomorrow we'll be leaving the 'waiting room' and with gifts of cloth, crisp 1,000 CFP notes, t-shirts and perhaps some freshly baked muffins, we'll head off to meet the chief.

 

 

 

 

May 18th, 2016   |   Lifou   Scoping out new anchorages on the north coast where water visibility reaches 150 feet.

 

 


Six-knot surfing off Dream Time's bow wave.


Quick Fix: 20° 55.1 S / 167° 16.7 E
May 15th, 2016 (day 3,272)
Conditions:  Wind: 14/E  Sky: Clear

A Perfect Passage
Warm trade winds carried us from the lagoon yesterday, gently through Havannah Pass, and quietly out to sea. For over 100 mellow miles we sailed through the night, alone to the horizon, heading north to the Loyalty Islands under a half moon and a Milky Way that filled the clear sky. Dolphins surfed under our bow, jumping, weaving and swimming upside down and sideways to look at us looking at them. We almost caught a tuna and Catherine was almost torpedoed in the head by a flying fish that missed her nose by mere inches and landing with a slimy 'thwack' on the cockpit cushion - we gave it back to the sea. We raised Lifou at 0600, too soon, as rarely do sailing conditions align so perfectly - wind, seas and weather in balance and complete harmony. Last night we had it all, we could have kept sailing forever. It was a perfect passage.

 


A bargain.


Quick Fix: 22° 16.6 S / 166° 26.4 E
May 3rd, 2016 (day 3,260)
Conditions:  Wind: 12/ESE  Sky: Clear

End of Cyclone Season Sale - Must Go!
Remember what our brand new cyclone lines looked like just five months ago (No? Click here) - they were
squeaky clean, dazzlingly white, soft and supple, almost too good to get wet. But after laying in the unappealing dregs of Port Moselle's harbour, they now resemble alien tentacles and are covered in a variety of jibbly appendages and crusty formations. We have no idea exactly how we (me, Catherine will go nowhere near them) are going to clean them, but we don't want to leave $500 worth of rope laying at the bottom of the harbour, and if we're going to stand any chance of selling them, then we (me) have to do a little scrubbing. So if you know anyone who wants some 'like new 18mm triple braided rope - only five months old', please direct them to: NauticalBargains@zeroXTE.com.