In the wake of McHale’s Navy

After days of deliberation and navel gazing we gave up, eased and then slipped our lines, losing the last of our grip on Port Vila, Vanuatu. Next stop Noumea, New Caledonia. Or maybe Lifou, with its sheltering Baie Du Santal. Yes that might be nice if we need to divert. See how this works? This shouldn’t be a particularly tough passage. Short frequency choppy waves are always expected but the GRIB files show a small but significant backing of the prevailing SSE trade winds to the East. These are the winds that bedevil sailing back down under. If we get pushed too far west the backing trades will help us make New Caledonia. I guess one could call this a predicted developing window. The only other problem might be squeezing past Tiga, Ile Dudune, Vauvillier, Oua, and Leliogat Islands all strewn about in our path between Mare and Lifou, but the catch is we’ll probably have to do it in the dark.

Gulf Harbour Radio promised a very sporty day and it delivered a particularly nasty sea state, but with good wind pressure, which was critical because we had to pinch up into the wind, something gentlemen are not supposed to do. Marce was not pleased with this state of affairs. The following day the breeze failed us and we began to motor-sail. From that point on the wind would come and go according to the rhyme and reason of the sea, with no heed given to computer files, little animated arrows, or seemingly anything else. We dodged around the Islets between Mare and Lifou in the middle of a dark and moonless night but the arrival math told us that we were so late that we would be way too early to transit the famous Havannah Pass into New Caledonia’s lagoon. The only thing for it was to drastically slow Escape Velocity down. Something tells me that I should have payed more attention to word problems in grade school. And here I thought we were already in slow motion. With the Volvo ticking over a patient beat, and the jib up for appearance sake, ships came and went in the night keeping a respectful distance, as we shuffled toward New Caledonia.

Havannah Pass was beautiful, but a non event. At least it was accomplished in the daylight. With forty miles left to go we cast about for a rest stop and found one in a southern bay called Baie de Prony hanging off a beautiful small island called Ile Casy which was just big enough to fend off the nasty chop that followed us into the bay. We still had a 30 mile slog up the coast to Noumea where we could check in to New Caledonia, so it was early to bed and early to rise for Yours Truly and crew.
It was the kind of morning that can make you stay another day. Birds chirping, sun just waking after a brief shower, calm transparent water with large colorful fish swimming around the boat looking up at you while we looked down into their world. Life is good. 

Lines slipped, we motored out of Baie de Prony into that nasty chop again which was soon forgotten where the flood at Pointe Noukouma squirts through the narrows at three plus knots. This left us with just two. It took a while to get past. This place has the rowdiest lagoon in a 25 knot blow that I’ve ever experienced. You never saw two more relieved sailors than when we squeezed through Petite Passe into Port Moselle, only to find out over the VHF radio that the marina had no room at the visitor docks for us. That’s when long time Escapee, Wayne on Journey called and gave us the skinny on anchoring in the bay, sending us over to a mooring field that I wouldn’t have even stuck my nose into without encouragement. Still it was windy and boats were packed in nuts-to-butts. As the stress level rose aboard EV I noticed a guy in a dinghy motioning for us to follow him…so I did. Turns out after following a tortuous, circuitous route through the mooring field he found an unused mooring ball and he helped us tie up. I’m sure that his French was excellent but his English was nonexistent. His gestures seemed to indicate that we should ask permission to stay on the mooring from the young woman in the pretty little green boat a couple of balls over. We turned and he was gone in a cloud of spray. 

So…greetings from the land of McHales Navy. Be sure and hide the silver, Ensign Parker.


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