The view from the back porch

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The view of the front porch

We dressed ship with our country flags for New Year’s. 

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The view from the back porch

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A Sydney welcome


On our first full day in Sydney we walked into the Central Business District (CBD) to meet up with Nancy and Dave at their hotel. It was a long walk and we needed a bit of a sit down before starting our tourist romp. You know us by now; we never turn down a cafe.


Once we were recaffeinated Nancy and Dave lead us to Circular Quay and we experienced from land the magnificent world-renowned waterfront that brought tears to my eyes when we entered the harbor the day before. I was still in a state of wonder that we had sailed to this distant city all by ourselves. Every once in a while the enormity of our accomplishment hits us and on this day the feeling was front and center. It was icing on the cake that my family are here with us too. 

From the Opera House and Writer’s Walk we moved on to the Botanical Garden just enjoying the beautiful weather and each other’s company. 


Nancy and Dave will stay another few days in their CBD hotel while we head back to EV in Blackwattle Bay. That evening an explosion sent us running out to the cockpit to find fireworks at Darling Harbor just over the tops of the buildings along the waterfront. It turns out there will be fireworks every night until Christmas. Could it get any better? We LOVE Sydney!

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Together again

Never sail against a deadline, they say. It’s folly to try to coordinate weather and plane timetables and vacation schedules. And so we didn’t. But that meant we were cooling our heels in Coffs Harbour when my sister and brother-in-law arrived in Sydney in early December. It’s been two years since we’ve seen any family at all, but it’s not for lack of trying. Nancy and Dave were scheduled to visit last year in New Zealand but unexpected circumstances scuttled that idea at the last minute, and while we completely understood and sympathized, we were mightily disappointed. We are very low-budget cruisers and our bank account doesn’t allow for the cost of flying back to the states every year as many people do, especially from this distance. 

This year we hoped for a full-on family reunion with not just Nancy and Dave but also their daughter and our son and daughter-in-law. But again, it was not to be. For a variety of reasons, only my sister and brother-in-law could make it. Luckily we live in the age of skype and FaceTime and Facebook so we don’t feel completely disconnected like we would back in the days of post restante and aerograms. But a live and in-person actual visit had us nearly vibrating with anticipation. 

But there we sat in Coffs Harbour, with a rig issue that kept us from hoisting the mainsail beyond about halfway, and southerly winds that made a trip south impossible. I could feel my limited time with my sister ticking away. 

Finally we got an opening, and rather than daysail our way down the coast as most people do, we headed right out to sea for a two-day passage to Broken Bay, just north of Sydney Harbour. Along the way we navigated ourselves into the East Australian current and picked up a few knots of speed. That put us ahead of schedule and our well-planned early morning arrival turned into a midnight entrance into a strange bay without our usual double redundant chart backups. We took the easy way out and dropped the hook as soon as we turned the corner into Broken Bay to wait until morning. 

A round of phone calls with Di from Toucan during our morning coffee resulted in a convenient mooring not far from them at the head of the bay and by 2pm we were tied up and paid up and happy to finally be temporary Australians. 

Meanwhile Nancy and Dave were hosted by an old friend on the far side of Sydney more than 40 miles south so our reunion was still a few days away. Back in the day — way back — Dave came to Australia soon after college to teach high school biology for a year and he always wanted to return to see the people and places he came to know. He and Nancy were enjoying reconnecting with friends and visiting old haunts, so Jack and I spent a few days catching up with Toucan, whom we hadn’t seen since we left Fiji. 

We were also finally able to address the real reason our blogging dropped off: a dead iPad. Yes, we do have a laptop, and we do have another iPad, but the one that died was completely set up for blogging and handling photos, and unencumbered by the many navigation programs we use except for chart backups. We lost no data because I’m fanatical about redundant backups to various inhouse and cloud locations, but without my primary electronic brain I felt helpless. The nearby authorized Apple repair shop duly pronounced the iPad deceased and sent it off to Sydney for replacement. A few days later and a little lighter in the purse I had a new iPad and Jack and I parked ourselves at a comfy coffee shop to restore the backup file. And again the next day. And the next. Ninety gigabytes of data take some time to download it seems.

Wendy, Nancy and Dave’s host, offered to drive them up to Pittwater for an afternoon visit on Escape Velocity and to drop off the bags of items we’d been sending to their house for a few months. Every friend or family member of a cruiser quickly learns that visiting a  boater means schlepping many pounds of marine parts, seasonal clothing, hard-to-find treats or other needs halfway around the world. Lucky for Nancy and Dave we didn’t need any boat parts so they got off lightly, although I don’t think it seemed so to them. 

Finally, after two years and a few disappointments, my sister and I were in the same place. 

There were a lot of tears and laughter. Despite being in nearly daily contact in one form or another, nothing beats being able to hug each other and just be together. After a happy few hours we said goodbye again for a few days. They would be  moving to a hotel in downtown Sydney and we were sailing the final leg into Sydney Harbour. Finally we’ll be in the same place and then — stand back! We’re taking the city by storm! 

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Things are looking up

It’s a long walk from Coffs Harbor to the grocery store. Come to think if it, it’s a long splashy ride in Cat Nip from out in Coffs rolly anchorage into the inner harbor dinghy dock, but the saving grace is that there’s ice cream waiting at the waterfront. This marina was destroyed last year in a storm so it was a surprise to see almost everything shipshape. While trekking to the grocery store every day, we even found a nice river walk path just to break it up a little bit.


Once again we Escapees found ourselves waiting for a little decent weather. One rainy afternoon we noticed an unusual number of racy sailboats entering the harbor. Soon we were surrounded by sailboats, maneuvering all around us. Turns out we were being used as a start marker for a sailboat race. Fun but scary.


Finally, on an overcast rainy morning we left Coffs Harbor for Broken Bay, just north of Sydney a couple hundred miles away. 


Thinking back on it, what I picture about Coffs Harbor is 100 percent cloud cover with rain and no desire to even try to leave the boat. At least it wasn’t a Friday but the seas were still nasty and our mainsail woes are still with us. We made landfall in another patented Escape Velocity midnight arrival after two days mostly motor sailing. We tucked in behind something the Aussies call Barren Joey Head just around back of an old lighthouse high above on the headland, to wait for morning. 

We’re down one iPad already and our trusty old C-80 Raymarine chart plotter has a failing screen and it has decided that it would rather not have to read the Australian chart so what you get is a collection of trapezoid shaped land masses under what can only be called a blurry stained looking screen with some blank spots. This leaves us with our old iPad 2 holding up things navigational and doing double duty with Marce’s heavy domestic needs as well. 


In the morning, coffee in hand, I went out into the cockpit to see where we were. When you anchor in the dark it’s always a surprise to see where you ended up and I’m not suggesting that you ever do anything this stupid but it’s kind of the only good thing about entering a harbor and anchoring in the dark. It was right about then that I noticed a cute motorboat heading straight toward us. Turns out it was our old friend Sherm whom we first met in Opua, New Zealand. What are the odds? Turns out Sherm and his wife live here in Pittwater and they were half of our official welcoming committee. 

The other half of our welcome crew, Di and Bruce of Toucan, finagled a mooring for us about an hour up the bay. Things may be looking up. Pittwater is really beautiful and we slid past what seemed like several thousand sailboats, tied up to our mooring ball, and paid the man. 


Heron Cove has several redeeming features beside excellent protection from weather, our mooring, and a sand spit that uncovers every day where people sun bathe and play with their dogs. Now, I don’t know who invented the thong bathing suit, if you can call it a suit, but it sure is popular down here with the young women who compete for the tiniest version. Yep, things are looking up.


Bruce on Toucan found a replacement C-80 chart plotter for a song. Things are really looking up. After a round or two of nautical holiday get togethers with the Toucs, and a long-awaited family reunion on Escape Velocity even the weather seemed like it was calming down out in the ocean and it was time to make the final dash to Sydney. 

This time we left bathed in sunshine for a change, saying goodbye to Toucan who armed us with an Aussie study guide, and motor-sailed south. 


The used but nearly new chart plotter worked perfectly with bright, bold, and clear colors on the screen. What a difference! Bouncy but benign by Pacific standards the sea showed us a little mercy and we even timed the 20 mile trip to arrive in the daylight for a change. I say 20 miles from Barren Joey Headland to North Headland but anchor to anchor it was about 30 miles. The last five miles is where this story lies.

As we rounded North Head — is there a more famous headland? — the wind picked up considerably and we decided to douse the jib knowing that maneuverability would be paramount in Sydney’s crowded harbor. Right away a half dozen Hobart super maxi racing sleds and a few of Sydney’s famous ferries were apparently sent out to greet us. We instinctively went into New York Harbor mode, which has served us well in the past. Marce called out threats and I played dodge-’em with little runabouts, jet skis, carbon fiber Super Maxi racing sleds, double decker ferries, pontoon patios, super yachts, kayakers, and I’m sure I’m missing a few. 


I managed to cross the traffic stream to hug Bradley’s Head and that’s when the Icons of Icons hove into view. The Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House. We finally made it. We still had to wind our way through a very narrow railroad swing bridge and then under the lyre-like ANZAC Bridge into a backwater anchorage called Blackwattle Bay with the skyline of Sydney laid out before us. Magnificent. 


Anchor down, drinks all around. Things are definitely looking up.

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Q daze

We dropped the hook just before sundown on Saturday night but we wanted to wait until Monday to clear customs, immigration and quarantine because there are hefty overtime fees for weekend or off-hour check-in. No matter, we and the boat needed a hosedown, a tidy-up and a rest before we let innocent people approach. Plus, the quarantine officers will take all our fresh produce, dairy and who knows what-all-else and we were keen to eat it. And so we did. The vegetables and Roquefort went onto two pizzas, most of the eggs became an omelet, the yams became crisps, the limes went into margaritas. By the time we worked our way through the fridge there was precious little left for the taking.

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Monday morning found us again riding a bucking bronco, even though we were at anchor, as a big swell and high winds stirred up the harbor. Customs called us on the VHF around 10am and asked us to bring the boat into the marina for clearance. It wasn’t easy in the 25 knot wind but Skipper skillfully got us alongside the Q-dock without mishap and we were boarded by two officers who together would take care of Customs, Immigration and Quarantine.

As always, there was a lot of paperwork to fill out. We had our visas ready, and Jack had done a lot of the preliminary form filling, so most of the time was spent going through our stores and inspecting the timber parts of the boat for evidence of termite infestation. We passed, and we had very little of the prohibited foods left onboard so it all went very quickly. They even let us keep our hardcooked eggs and our cheese.

Getting the men off the boat turned out to be harder than getting them on, as the wind had picked up and it was blowing us away from the pier, straining the docklines. As the burlier of the two put his full force on the stern line to pull close enough to jump off he leaned hard against the port railing and *snap* broke it clean off the lower fitting. Oops. We got no apology but they did say we could file a claim against the Australian Border Force for the repair.

There are two courtesy moorings in a more protected part of the bay but they were occupied so it was back out to the bouncy anchorage for Escape Velocity, where we stayed for the rest of the day. It was just too rough to dinghy ashore. So one more day without setting foot on Aussie land, no internet access and only the hardboiled eggs and some cheese left to eat. We dug some hummus out of the freezer, made deviled eggs and opened a jar of French cornichons et voila! a Huffman Platter lunch, named for George Huffman who brought the artfully arranged combo to Escape Velocity for sundowners one night in Ponce, Puerto Rico, back in 2014. Dinner was lasagna unearthed from the freezer so no one starved. No one ever starves on EV. It might get weird, but there’s always something to eat.

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Tuesday we finally got off the boat. The first stop ashore is always the rubbish bins then the chandlery for a courtesy flag. That done, we walked the mile and a half into town where we quickly found ice cream, SIM cards and groceries and just generally appreciated using our legs again and speaking English. Well, a kind of English, anyway. It’s clear we have much to learn and need to get closer to our Aussie friends for interpreter services.

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The weather has us pinned here in Coffs for a few more days. My sister and brother-in-law will beat us to Sydney but we want a drama-free last 250 miles south so we’re going to sit tight and wait. Our moment will come.

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An inauspicious beginning

It will probably come as no surprise, Dear Escapees, that sailors have a lot of superstitions. Now I know a lot of them but I also know that I don’t even know half of them. When you deal everyday with the capricious nature of Neptune I guess you could think of it as harmlessly buying a little insurance rider for a specific passage. Recently we anxious few leftovers waiting for weather had a serious discussion during happy hour while holed up at the waterfront Brasserie Bar, Noumea, New Caledonia, concerning how generous Neptune’s passage offering should be. Jann, skipper aboard Bumpy Dog, said just a tot would do but crew shook their heads in disbelief insisting only the whole fifth of rum would work as insurance for what would be a dicey passage. Yours Truly felt that the quantity and quality should be commensurate with the degree of your nervousness, but my point is that it really didn’t matter because starting a passage on a Friday trumps (sorry about that) the Neptune Rum Quandary.

And so it goes. We have good friends that won’t start a passage with bananas on board, a common superstition. We like to observe the seafaring traditions when we can but not starting a passage on a Friday is one superstition we observe. You could say we earned that one the hard way. The only time we turned around and limped back into port was on our 2014 ill-fated Galapagos to French Polynesia passage which only lasted for 450 miles, 2500 miles short of landfall at Fatu Hiva. It started on a Friday.

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After three weeks of stressful weatherwatching, a small window opened up with an acceptable level of promised discomfort. We waited for Saturday to roll around to depart. Motoring out of sunny Port Moselle, New Caledonia, our thoughts were on a tropical depression forming just north west of New Caledonia that was predicted to either bear down on New Caledonia, or dissipate completely, or rejuvenate and hunt us down somewhere out in the Coral Sea. It all depended on which weather model you believed and none of them agreed. The man with two watches never knows what time it is.

Let’s see, where were we? Oh yes, motoring out of sunny Port Moselle when Skpr. noticed more smoke belching out of the evil twin starboard diesel engine than is necessary. Engine temperature was hottish but that bastard always runs hot. No one knows why. I shut it down and started the port engine, told Marce that after all we have two engines and I’ll think about that after the sails go up. Of course we should keep calm and carry on. Whenever I do something like this, invariably a newspaper headline pops up in my mind that reads something like, “The crew knew about the cyclone but sailed right into it anyway.”

The sail hoist went smoothly until we noticed the main sail had come out of the sail track about two thirds of the way up the mast. After trying two more tries with the same results we turned around and limped back into port. There’s some shit up with which you must not put!

Before we could grab a mooring back in Port Moselle Marce already had a rigger on the way out to Escape Velocity. While we waited I found and fixed the starboard engine problem. OK, I admit it, I hadn’t kept calm.

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The rigger, Georges from Vietnam, did a lot of head scratching but up and down the mast he went and eventually found the problem to be the boom angle even though the sail rolled up in the boom beautifully. We had to dinghy Georges back to his car and then dinghy back into town for some ATM francs. We had skillfully spent all of ours before we left.

Six hours after our initial departure and still sunny, we motored EV back out of Port Moselle, no smoke this time and the mainsail stayed in the sail track as it should. Soon we were just hanging onto the bucking bronco called Escape Velocity. We had plenty of wind from a good direction but the Pacific was up to its usual washing machine mashup of white caps and breaking waves. Think of a rubber ducky in a tub with an overactive toddler. Good progress was being made but this is the kind of passage that reminds me of the dowager explaining one’s marriage night duties by saying, “Just close your eyes and think of England.” Or Australia.

It didn’t take long before 100 percent cloud cover became our default condition. All clouds, all day, all night, everyday. By Tuesday we were nearly half way there and the sun began to poke through the thick cloud cover. The heavy rains that were predicted for the passage never materialized but the huge seas were still pasting us along with 20+ knots of wind. This is not our first rodeo so while the wind was blowing we took full advantage of the power which meant that the compromise between comfort or speed was definitely pointing towards the later. Still, prudently reefed we bounced from wave to wave all in the effort to put distance between us and that circulating evil. The wind dropped down into the mid teens but the seas stayed large and wild. The course we’d decided on described an arc from New Caledonia to northeast Australia where we would decide how far south we could safely make it.

Escape Velocity sails well with 9-10 knots of breeze which is good because on the fourth day out that’s all we had, but the sun was back and the seas had moderated to the point that I fried eggs and toast for crew and Yours Truly. So far the GRIB file didn’t show any fronts, ridges, troughs, depressions, or any of the usual miseries the Aussies like to throw at you.

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Have I mentioned that it’s considered bad form for the prudent sailor to comment about what a lovely sail they’re having? No? Well, after a lovely day of sailing, tall thunderheads, the kind with the curly-cues on top, appeared on the horizon. This is the kind that go all the way down to the sea, getting darker and uglier the lower they come. I have to say, Dear Escapees, that Yours Truly had a weakening of his resolve as we relentlessly sailed toward what looked like the end of the world, Mate! (Obviously I’ve been practicing my Strine.) Left to right from horizon to horizon there was nothing for it but to plunge right in. It was a “Hey, who turned out the lights?” moment then the wind went from flat calm to 20kts in the blink of an eye but right on the nose (OTN) with the patter of rain on the acrylic wind screen. You’ll want to write that one down.

Right on time, according to the weather model we placed our bets on, the wind dropped dead. We’d been eking out 3-4kts with a 6-7kt breeze but this was profoundly dead. With the engine running it was decision time. This was a built-in go/no go undefined failsafe waypoint we’ll-know-it-when-we-get-there kind of thing. Think T. Boone Pickins bronco riding that bomb all the way down after passing the failsafe. Do we divert to Brisbane or press on regardless (POR) to Coffs Harbor? Coffs it is.

The regardless part of the equation got very real in the form of numerous nasty looking black cells on the horizon complete with a lot of cloud-to-cloud lightning, but we heard no thunder.

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We fired up our radar to check out what we were dealing with and there on the screen were a dozen or so storm cells dancing about, combining or separating, each heading in different directions like a defending army in a video game. We can acquire several targets at once and tag these cells following them on our chart plotter. We watched as their location, direction, and speed changed repeatedly. Our operating theory assumed that the system as a whole would be moving north up the Australian coast. It was about 20 miles ahead of us as we headed west southwest so we altered course 20 degrees to the south thinking we can do an end-around. That’s when great balls of Aussie hellfire arced down striking the ocean and the sky lit up in a spiderweb of jagged electrical fingers with ocean strikes all around us. We turned hard to starboard — north — in a seemingly futile effort to avoid the worst of the lightning. Rain was hammering down as we actually seemed to be making progress around this huge Tesla coil.

We watched the radar screen as great chunks of the cell would break off like the amorphous blobs in a lava lamp and zigzag around helter skelter. And we thought Costa Rica was bad! One cell nailed us, going right over the top of EV giving us a bird’s-eye view up through our roof window, but good karma and clean living on the straight and narrow held Thor’s hand so we just marveled at a magnificent close up display of cloud-to-cloud electricals. It took about three and a half hours for the system to pass, leaving us with confused seas and about 12 kts of wind. I’d been up for most of Marce’s watch and we were both spent but I knew I couldn’t sleep and we were already into my watch so M. went off to la la land. The storm cells dissipated so slowly that I didn’t notice until there were very few ocean strikes. That’s how it works sometimes.

Morning found Yours Truly, a tired and humbled adventure-seeker, hanging on to the steering wheel staring out at a placid ocean. We had to get a move on so we began a pattern of motor-on, motor-off sailing depending on the wind velocity. You don’t loiter in the Coral Sea.

First came the flies. How do they do that this far out? Then the first ships began to appear as little purple AIS triangles marching across the chart plotter screen. We even saw a large majestic sloop with Kevlar sails making 12 kts down the coast. Chatter on the VHF radio began to pick up. A few more birds were wheeling about, but still no cloud build up over land like you see in the islands. Then, the now familiar crack of thunder made us look up from the breakfast table. Oh, not that again. Yes, that again. The good news was that it was daylight. The wind went up to 28 kts but it was right OTN, it began to pour and we could see a complementary train of large wind-driven breakers that we would need to bash through between us and Coffs Harbor. Now EV loves to hobby horse, lively romping into a head sea. We don’t. With the speed over ground down to less than two knots we tacked over towards the light house on South Solitary Island, not that we could actually see it. Five knots in kinda the wrong direction beats taking big greenies over the bows while doing 1.5 kts on the rhumbline into Coffs Harbor. Finally on another tack I saw our goal through the wind, rain, and fog. I bellowed “Land Ho!” winning the coveted “chrome toaster award.”

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What a strange scene unveiled as we entered the harbor. Huge stone block sea walls, twenty feet or more high with concrete antiwave blocks on top giving the protective seawalls a crenelated look. They don’t build anything this massive unless it’s needed. Obviously Coffs Marina has been fully restored after last year’s destructive storm. A half dozen yachts bobbed at anchor as we dropped our hook while enjoying a beautiful sunset. I think of it as a kind of peace offering. Seven days, six hours after leaving New Caledonia we have contact with the land called OZ. We’ve come to the land Down Under. Hide the silver!

Nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos.

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You can lead a cruiser to culture but you can’t make them cogitate

I absentmindedly let Catnip putt along all the way from the anchorage into Port Moselle Marina. It was early on a warm sunny morning so it was no hardship for us. The leg work had all been done on several forays into city center of Nouméa. We were a little fuzzy about the exact location of the bus ticket office, but hey it’s early, and we’re not late for work. After encountering the parlez-cousin Francais sticklers when calling the reservation desk at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, short of learning French this afternoon, I found the only way to book a reservation for the 2:30 tomorrow afternoon traditional dance show was to get in the dink and run into the marina office, have them call the reservation desk at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, and parlez-vous in French. I fear something might have been lost in translation, but more about that later. Our friendly marina manager hung up and smiled,”It’s all set.” Done and dusted.

So where were we? Oh yes, walking through downtown Nouméa on a beautiful sunny morning looking for the little bus ticket office. After a few circuits around the park we found it, bought two tickets and were informed that we could catch our #40 bus back near where we started. No worries, it’s sunny, getting warmer and it’s still early. Our bus came and soon we were enjoying a breakneck race through Nouméa, but we know this always feels like a dice with death after months at five knots on the boat. At the end of the line we discovered the Tjibaou Cultural Centre.


We’d been enthralled with glossy brochure photos of dramatic ribbed beehive sculpted structures thrusting high above the treetops that apparently were part of the center. On the lengthy walk from the bus stop to the center the architects toyed with the visitor using peek-a-boo views of the structures. At the reception desk we were told to speak to the head cheese, Mai. It fell to her to deliver the bad news. It turns out that there may have been a communication breakdown somewhere between us, the Marina office, whoever booked the show at the centre, and the person who makes sure that the brochure copy is up to date. “Oh there hasn’t been a show on Thursdays for ages, just Tuesdays.” By this point I just wanted to find out what drugs this architect was taking. What did these modern ribbed football shaped structures have to do with ancient Melanesia Culture. Mai had suggested that we start outside in the gardens because “it gets hot later in the day.” It already was hot but we knew how closely intertwined the Kanak people and culture were with nature so we strolled the grounds in and around these crazy but magnificent structures.
We came upon a gent wandering down the same path who said his name was Roger, and when we asked where he was from he answered after a significant pause for emphasis…wait for it…”London.” Then he snickered, adding,”The French have such a whimsical way of displaying someone else’s culture.” Point well taken Roger, but what is it with the French and the English? 

Nearing the lowest point of the walk adjacent to the bay we came upon three large pointed huts, examples of the traditional architecture of the three regions of New Caledonia. They are all kind of football shaped with carved finials at the top.

Yes dear Escapees, if you haven’t switched back to Facebook already we have discovered the key to the architect’s inspiration.

 

Turns out the architect is Renzo Piano who also designed the Pompidou centre in Paris and the Shard in London. He’s Italian and he was chosen by New Caledonians as the winner of the design competition. It’s really a magnificent design, inside and out. Along with artifacts they have an extensive collection of early photographs taken when these amazing cultures were first discovered by western man. 

Inside the “footballs” we found multimedia displays, exhibit spaces, and contemporary studio spaces along with admin. offices and a tasty snack bar. Early sketches and work drawings by Monsieur Piano were used as clever decorations in one space showing the evolution of the wonderful Tjibaou Cultural Centre.

Disappointed about the dancing but well worth the 200fp bus fare.
 

  

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Another country heard from

It took a few hours and a long hot walk to complete the clearing-in process in Noumea with visits to Immigration, Customs and Bio-Security. We were in company with Doug from Gambol who was also checking in, and the crews from three boats who were checking out. 


After we finished we had just enough time to hit up an ATM for Pacific francs and visit the market before it closed at 11am. Baguettes and French pastries were what we were after, but the abundant fruit and vegetables caught our attention too. After the beautiful and crazy-inexpensive produce in Vanuatu we suffered a bit of sticker shock at the first world prices but we indulged anyway, especially since we had only provisioned exactly enough for the passage knowing Bio-Security would confiscate any remaining “organics” when we arrived.

 
There’s a cafe in the market too, and craft and souvenir vendors, so we know this will be a favorite stop while we’re here in Noumea. 


Back at the ranch we learned just how closely packed the moorings are. As the wind shifted and eased and the tide turned and swirled we found Escape Velocity snuggling up to this boat or that, never quite close enough to make contact but enough to keep us boat bound for the next day until we were certain no one would suffer a bump or worse. 


We eventually pulled the mooring loop all the way aboard to the windlass to move us as far from the boats behind us as possible. Even so, at a certain point one of our dinghy falls wrapped itself around the forestay of a little blue sloop that usually lay a healthy distance away. 

We have no plans for New Caledonia. There are plenty of islands and bays to explore but with a challenging passage to Australia ahead and the prospect of a busy family visit in Sydney we’re content to just wander the city and knock a few boat chores off the list while we watch the weather for a safe opening for the next thousand sea miles. 



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