Moce Fiji, bonjour Noumea!

It’s supposed to be better the second time, isn’t it? Well, that certainly isn’t the case with our second ocean passage from Fiji to New Caledonia. With 685 nautical miles to sail from Vuda Marina to Noumea, we’ve taken the preparations more lightly than last time. No passage meals other than our dry risotto jars, some oven roasted veggies, and a very dense “far aux pruneaux” (prunes clafouti). We’ve overprovisioned in fresh tropical produce that no one feels like cooking and are doubting our weather window which we chose hastily after a couple of boats had left. Maybe we just wanted badly to get sang our farewell song by the lovely Vuda marina staff…

The first afternoon to get out of the reef is spent mostly motoring with zero wind and an oily sea. Azur is seduced by the still water and convinces the rest of the crew to have one last after-lunch dip in Fiji waters. When we make it out of the pass, the swell is established, and the wind picks up, rising from 3 to 20 knots in a matter of minutes. For the first thirty-six hours out in the open, everyone is sick one after the other, and the diet consists mainly in roasted veggies and puree mousseline that some of us don’t touch. Even the apple sauce, usually an excellent re-hydrating food with smooth texture and same taste in and out, is disgustingly too sweet. And the next few days, although our bodies have gotten used to the oceanic swell and its big walls of water making Obelix bob up and down, everyone is still lethargic, if not queasy, especially Thomas, to my utter dismay, who refuses to cook dinner one night arguing that he’s not hungry and no one else is. (I end up cooking plain pasta that the kids and I devour). Watches are spent lying down in the cockpit, casually looking at the chart plotter to check the windvane’s settings and adjust it when needed. Time feels like it’s dragging on and on. We practice fractions and averages, eyes fixed on the speedometer and the distance-to-destination painfully slow descent, calculating how long we’ve been under way, what proportion of the entire trip it represents, how much is left and how long it will take us with the speed we’re currently doing. The only activity our brain agrees to perform, all other distractions vaguely considered then dismissed as vain, representing too much effort, or both. Like putting some music on, reading, playing cards, or even talking! I miss the chatter of the first crossing and the silly games played by the kids who were at times irritating but at least representing some distraction in the monotony of lookalike days. Finally, we recover and the menus are a bit more sophisticated and the meals more lively, despite the leaning and the swell threatening to spill our pumpkin soup. We haven’t lost our sense of humour, and every time a wave trips us up making us roll back and forth for a few seconds, we can hear a chorus of “Ole!” exclaimed to imitate our little friend Unai, who does the same when he farts.

As the forecast confirms, a trough is coming with strong South Westerlies about to hinder our progress in the last stretch, we decide to gybe and point to Mare, the most southern Loyalty Island, to wait there before resuming our course to Noumea. Thomas stretches his watch to get there and stop the boat, letting it drift far enough from the shore for the rest of the night. I take my turn sleeping in the cockpit for the last few hours before daybreak. How comforting the sight of land which grants us flat seas and shelter from the wind, making us fully operational again, with a brain that can think, and will power not reduced to nothing. And how sweet to be greeted once again by a pod of dolphins dancing around the boat! Initially in Baie de l’Allier, there is still some swell disturbing the peace on board, so we decide to relocate in Waeko Bay in the morning. The bay is perfectly sheltered from swell and wind and has a welcoming committee of dolphins too. We had emailed New Caledonia’s Customs to ask about stopping there to repair our windvane but haven’t received any reply after a day. Silence is consent we agree, and anchor in this seemingly desert bay with tall cliffs that remind me Etretat in Normandie, and tall pine trees sparingly distributed along, which almost look like isolated skyscrapers from a distance. With binoculars we can spot what seems to be a kayak and a track that goes from the top of the cliff down to the sea but no one in sight. Visibility is incredible. We open our eyes in the water to watch someone else jump in and the bubbles created in their wake. Azur is so happy to practice his diving once more. And soon the boys go off snorkelling while I take a rest, finishing my third book read during this crossing, En attendant Bojangles, after two Amelie Nothomb short novels. We take a shower, feel refreshed and ready to tackle the last leg, a mere 115 nautical miles separating us from Noumea. We leave mid-afternoon the next day, to get most of the crossing done by night and arrive at Canal de la Havannah with the incoming tide and rising sun. With 20 knots winds oscillating between 80 and 100 angle it is not the most restorative night, but we make it on time and by dawn the wind has died, forcing us to switch on the engine, too eager to get to the city by midday and get all the paperwork done before French Administration takes a break for the week-end.

Obelix at Port Moselle Marina

We get to Port Moselle at lunch time and take some time to refuel our body before presenting ourselves to the Capitainerie (Sodemo). The lady in charge is very helpful and assists us to get through the various forms we need to complete and gives us a drinks voucher from the adjacent restaurant, Le Bout du Monde, who wishes to welcome faraway sailors. Too bad, immigration services are not open in the afternoon and we need to wait until Monday to get our passports stamped. Luckily, we’re able to disembark after the biosecurity agent has paid us a visit and asked us to throw away any remaining fresh produce. Needless to say that as soon as we’re given the green light, we go in town to stretch our legs, check out the Place des Cocotiers, and pay a visit to the public library (where a librarian gives us the run down of local customs), before a celebratory dinner at Le Bout Du Monde. People look familiar, they speak French and dress smart, which almost makes me forgive them for smoking so much. Kids order a pizza, Thomas some magrets de canard and me a bavette a l’echalotte with fries and veggies. It tastes so good! It feels so good to be here! However, Azur wants more and requests a movie. He pleads, he begs until we strike a deal: They can watch a movie but the next time they want one, they will need to have spoken at least 80% French for three days solid. After some deliberation with his brother, Azur stretches his hand towards me with a grin, “On accepte!” Back at the boat, Thomas reads aloud a message from our friends Laurent, Sandrine and their 11-year-old son Thomas, who are here to say hi. We’re immediately out to meet them and invite them onboard, so excited for the boys to have a friend to play with, and, for us, other grown-ups to talk to. We can’t help showing the kids pictures of Zephyr and Thomas (Junior) taking a bath together, ten years ago, when we last visited, and Azur was just a little seed waiting to be fertilised on the last day of our trip. The success of our first day in Noumea is complete, and yet, it’s Friday night and I know of a latino party happening nearby… So, as soon as our friend depart, Thomas helps me get the foldable electric bike out of the rumpus cabin, and I ride it to Code Bar in Anse Vata to go dancing salsa, bachata and kizomba until just before midnight. When I ride back to Obelix, I feel the air caressing my face, it is winter here and definitely cooler than in Fiji, I’m wearing jeans and my “dream” jacket with a embroideries at the back, soaking the intense feelings of pride, exhaustion and aliveness. In the morning, Thomas treats us to breakfast in bed with fresh baguettes, croissants, and pastries.

Welcome to Noumea!

2 thoughts on “Moce Fiji, bonjour Noumea!

  1. Merci pour ce nouvel article qui nous permet d être un peu avec vous. Salomé tu m’as fait rigoler à la table du petit déjeuner. On vous embrasse tous bien fort.

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  2. Salu Gaspar! C’est la référence aux Olé d’Unai qui t’a fait rire? En tout cas on pense bien à vous qui profitez de vos familles et du vieux continent, veinards. Bises à tous les 4.

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