Anna & Gary of s.v Zefr & Nigel & Sue of s.v Serenity 44 "went east" for the first time last year and have shared these highlights of their adventures with us.
Highlights of New Caledonia - s.v Zefr
We made it: we circumnavigated la grande terre, the big island! We left Noumea in mid-August, spending a few blissful days around Isle Ouean, climbing peaks and diving the drop offs with other cruisers before departing for the Loyalties.
For the next month, until we sailed into Le Foa four fifths of the way around the island, we saw only two other boats! We had Navionics on the Ipad for navigation, and for information about anchorages we relied on an out-of-date guidebook.
Next time we would definitely get the Pilot Guide, have a Sat Phone for weather reports and see if others want to sail in company with us, it would just be more fun!
Your first decision is whether to include the Loyalty Islands in your tour. We couldn’t resist the enticing photos seen in several brochures, so we sailed out of Lagoon Sud via Havanna Passage for an overnight trip to Isle Lifou. The Loyalties are extremely beautiful islands, formed by ancient reefs that have been pushed up out of the sea. We chose to stop at Lifou and Ouvéa Islands, which provide good protection form the prevailing South East Trade winds and long white sandy beaches. We skipped Mare Island because it looked a bit more challenging for anchoring, but friends went there and really enjoyed it.
Once back on the mainland, sailing north was easy, and we scooted along with the blustery southeast trade winds. We sailed past a spectacular coastline, with massive mountains coming down to the water, a thin strip of road etched into them on the coast. We had a lunchtime stop at a small Island and spend a couple of hours weaving through a labyrinth of coral bombies. After a walk on the island we were heading back to the boat, when Gary spotted a large trout and followed it for a while until it disappeared under a bombie. He dived down, looked under a ledge and there it was sitting there looking at him. He fired and got him. The next thing I saw was Gary exploding from the surface with one hand on each end of the spear and a big beautiful flapping trout over his head. He quickly got it in the dinghy and called it a day. This was enough fish for several meals.
We sailed on to Hienghène (pronounced Yen-gen), a spectacular and other worldly anchorage, offering great shelter from the trade winds.
We were the only yacht here. We went to lively little market, lots of taro and bananas, vegetables and Mary dresses, we bought some banana cake, and stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables. We spent several days here, following several marked walks along the river and into the hills to a fantastic lookout.
The isolation and beauty of the Loyalties, and the east, north and west coasts makes a circumnavigation definitely worth the trip, but you have to be very self-sufficient. It also makes you appreciate the protection of the Southern Lagoon and the camaraderie of the cruisers there. One of our favourite spots was Isle Mato, with its amazing reef systems, also Isle Casie in Bay Prony is a beautiful place to spend a few days. Anna and Gary on SV Zefr
"Thanks to Anna & Gary for sharing their highlight with us" - John Hembrow
Tips for visiting New Caledonia & Vanuatu
by Sue Shaw of s.v Serenity 44.
Sue and her husband Nigel joined the 2016 Go East Rally. For almost 7 months they cruised extensively in New Caledonia before heading off to Vanuatu and immersing themselves in the islands and culture of this mystical land before departing from the island of Santo & returning to Bundaberg Australia via the Chesterfield Reef.
Hi John , thought we would share some tips for those headed East this year ;
- Take as much tins/packets/essentials as you can. New cal is not cheap BUT Good red wine is!!
- Some people call Herve of Noumea Yacht service Mr. 15%. BUT he is your best friend. He can organize everything , and why should he be expected to do it for nothing ! We bought our wine from his wholesaler and it was delivered to the boat the next day. His selection was always amazing. Most under $10 bottle. Bordeaux and burgundies we loved the most. we did buy 60 or 80 bottles each order though. We ordered beer at the same time. Better than backpacks from the supermarket.
- Pack your freezer with vacuum sealed meats before you leave Australia.
- Take fold up push bikes if you have space. It's great to get around Noumea and some of the places.
- The loyalty islands definitely our fav place. Especially if the weather is right to do the other reefs.
- Flying the Kanak flag once leaving port Moselle is the way to go as the French and the Kanak have a love hate relationship in many places.
Gift Suggestions; TIP ; Don't give too much. It's a token of friendship and respect. It's all in the gesture.
- Stock up on chocolate from Aldi before you go. It's expensive there and they do love it. I would have taken 50 blocks.
- Tobacco is cheap in Noumea and it is a good gift for chiefs and for favors and trades ..
- Fabric. They love to use it for tables and doorways etc as well. Visit Spotlight before you go or when you arrive in Noumea you will find shops that sell it just near the marina behind the markets that sell it by the yard. Four meter lengths work well.
- Don't gift alcohol but you will be asked for it.
- T shirts for the kids and soccer balls. Decent quality ones. With a pump.
- Bags of jellies, even though we shouldn't, are always a favorite.
- Kites. Good fun.
- Good heavy fishing line, and lures are appreciated by some as well
- Don't expect to meet to many chiefs. Seems they are always In noumea on business. But you will met lots of people who say they are standing in for the chief. Haha. Got sucked in there a few times
- We found the Wifi great all around New Caledonia and even out in the loyalty isles. We rented a dongle from Herve for next to nothing and were never without internet.
- Australians receive a 3 month visa on arrival. To renew can be tricky. Best not to approach immigration and ask as the answer will be no. If you are not planning on sailing to Vanuatu best to jump on a plane & do a visa run to the Vanuatu Island of Tanna for a few days and visit Mt Yasur volcano. We stayed at friendly beach resort near the base of the volcano. It was amazing. A must do. Once in a lifetime experience.
It was an easy sail across from New Caledonia. We made a stop over at Maree in the Loyalties then sailed onwards to Port Vila on the island of Efate . Vanuatu was the highlight of our trip specially Santo.
- Summing up
New Caledonia & Vanuatu are two totally different places but they are so close together. Both are totally amazing. Don't expect to even scratch the surface of either in just one season, you could spend several seasons in these two countries and still have not experienced all they have to offer.
Oh and by the way ; JUNE is wedding month. So, no chiefs around. No tourist activity caves etc will be open in a lot of remote places including the loyalties. Their all at the wedding which pretty well lasts all month.
We will be back, thats for sure, but sadly not this year.
Have fun & Safe sailing everyone
Oh, by the way, our favorite restaurant in New Caledonia is in Baie des Citrons. You can check it out on trip advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g294130-d1504325-Reviews-CaCao_Sampaka-Noumea_Grand_Terre.html . It is called Cacao Sampaka.
Thanks Sue for being part of the 2016 Go East Rally and for taking the time to share these tips
The 2017 Down Under "Go East" Rally departs the Boat Works, Coomera, Gold Coast on May 11th
To find out more about the rally go to www.downunderrally.com/about-go-east/