Posted by: Carol | January 12, 2011

Waiting for Vania

Our watched tropical disturbance has blossomed into an official cyclone named Vania. We snagged the above photo from the US Naval Observatory’s website on the internet this morning – it was taken about six hours ago. The scattered string of green-outlined islands directly under the storm is Vanuatu. It looks like the eye is passing right over Tanna where we climbed up the volcano last trip.  The long green island directly in Vania’s path is New Caledonia. Noumea is on the southwest tip of the island.

Here’s a link to a hurricane watch website with some good info

In the marina the harbor captain is posting updated weather reports and dispensing instructions regarding securing the boats. Those in berths are tying on extra lines from boat to dock and bringing in vulnerable items. Those at anchor are jockeying about for a better position. A 125′ luxury motor yacht came in to drop off the owner and guests to check into a hotel. His boat is too large for this marina so he is headed some 40 miles south to a small protected bay ringed by mountains to ride it out. A TV news camera was videotaping the scene yesterday – I’m thinking the cameraman is planning on some before/after footage!

Projections indicate the full force of the storm will hit us in the middle of the night Friday.

So we are just waiting for now. The weather is gray and blustery with fits and starts of showers. Mike and I are on a diet/fitness kick this voyage so we took 2 walks yesterday for a grand total of 5.5 miles. One walk ascends a steep hill nearby for a grand view of the harbor. The other is a very pleasant brick paved walkway along the water’s edge – passing by parks and gardens and maritime WWII monuments. Bougainvillea, Norfolk Pines, palm and flame trees predominate with lots of other colorful flowering shrubs and vines. I took this photo of the yellow flower cluster with my iPhone – a whole tree festooned with these enormous blooms.

2011 01 12 1211799102

Noumea is a vibrant busy city with a population of some 100,000 (population of the entire country is about 250,000). It is very unlike the third world countries we have been frequenting! The city streets are busy with cars, the yacht harbor is jam-packed full with vessels. Most of the wealth of the country comes from mining exports – New Cal produces 25% of the world’s nickel supply.

More later as events unfold (if the Internet stays up!). At least AVATAR is built like a tank with a hull of 12mm thick aluminum plate. No worries about smashing the fiberglass against the dock and neighboring catamaran.


Wind picking up, heavy blowing rain showers.  Increased activity in the marina as everyone gets serious about battening down the hatches.  Still looks like a direct hit from Vania, and she is growing in strength as she approaches.  Mike and I hiked into town (we came back drenched!) and booked a hotel room at the local Best Western for tonight and tomorrow – Rod is invited along but so far he plans to play captain and go down with the ship.

More later – Cheers!

Sent from my iPad



  1. Great description of whats happening in Noumea. I have friend on the P & O cruise ship Pacific Jewel. Maybe you could let me know if the ship is still in port or has headed off. It was due to go to Lifou and Vanuatu but obviously won’t be doing that as that mirrors the cyclones path. The web cam photo shows it is in Noumea but the date on the photo is the 12th. Thanks for any info.

  2. Hi Jenny,
    Yesterday morning when we hiked up the hill and had a view of the harbor, there was a cruise ship in port – probably your Pacific Jewel but we didn’t see her name. Yesterday was the 12th so that’s not much more info than you already had – but I can’t imagine they headed out to sea with the forecast! If we spot her again today will post another comment.

  3. Hi –
    Yikes! You sound relatively calm. Sure hope the storm doesn’t create too much damage. And I hope it’s a sturdy hotel built on high ground. Keep us posted as often as possible. Hope all goes well . . .

  4. Please post updates often!

  5. Hola — I have been tracking Vania on WeatherUnderground — looks like you will get a fairly direct hit — not fun, but the projected winds aren’t horrible — hope they are right!!

    You said Friday — that’s your Friday right?

  6. Hi
    I too am in Noumea awaiting Vania. We look out over Baie de l’Orphelinat & have been watching all the preparations on the boats. One small sailboat is already on it’s side from the strong winds. Been keeping up with the progress on the web & came across your site. Keep writing.
    The Pacific Jewel left Noumea mid afternoon yesterday.

  7. Hello, I am desparate to talk to anyone who had a yacht or a boat damaged during the cyclone in Noumea at this time. I want to know what the normal procedure was for care of a yacht…were any left out in the open ocean…or sen leftout ?were they all taken to a safe area?Was anyone watching the yacht services and witnessed a standard process applied? many thanks in advance.

  8. Hi Maria
    I can only speak from our own experience. We were berthed in Port du Sud, a modern marina with strong docks and a good breakwater. The management regularly posted the pending weather forecasts and at some point in time closed the port to all incoming and outgoing traffic. It was required of all boat owners to secure their yachts with extra lines and tie down or remove stray appendages. Management was alert and on call to assist if any yacht started to have trouble. Yachts with permanent berths had concrete blocks sunk to the bottom of the harbor and were able to stern tie to these blocks. Transients like ourselves did not have this extra security but were protected by the breakwater.

    Yachts in Orphelinat Bay were predominately on moorings and fared well; the boat on its side with the red bottom shown in my photo did not have a keel or centerboard and was therefore unstable in any kind of wind. The only other yacht we saw damaged was a large catamaran washed onto the rocks – our yacht agent told us it was a derelict and neglected boat prior to the event of the hurricane.

    Boats in the Port Moselle Marina had no difficulties as well. As for boats caught out in the open news reports indicated a few cruise ships were somewhat battered by 30 foot swells at sea.

    Keep in mind this was a fairly mild storm. We have been told that earlier in this decade a hurricane hit Noumea with wind gusts peaking at four times the strength of Vania.

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