Posted by: Carol | February 9, 2011


We have been spending the last couple of weeks exploring New Caledonia’s satellite islands. First we departed Noumea and sailed down New Cal’s west coast to Ile des Pins (Island of the Pines) just off the southernmost tip of the main island, and now we are cruising through the Loyalties, a string of islands some 80 miles offshore of New Cal’s east coast.  Tomorrow we will cross back to the mainland and sail around the top of the big island, ultimately circumnavigating all of New Caledonia.  A stretch of good weather has cut us a break, allowing us to venture farther afield.  Bob McDavitt, the marine weather guru from New Zealand, claims that the huge hurricane Vasi that hit Australia has sucked so much energy out of the southwest Pacific that no more cyclones will be able to form until March!

Besides the distinctively tall narrow pine trees for which Ile des Pins is named, the most dominant visual impact is the vast expanses of intensely turquoise water, intermingled with deeper aquamarines and the mossy greens that betray shallow submerged coral reefs.  On a sunny day the result is a blindingly beautiful expanse of intermingled colors.  Even the small low flying tradewind clouds overhead reflect the sea and take on its color, winging overhead like fat fluffy parakeets.

We spent several days in the main anchorage, Baie de Kuto, adjacent to a curving beach of fine packed sand that fronted a resort, a very small community, and the century old ruins of a prison complex.  Each morning a large ferry arrived from Noumea and departed again that same afternoon, and one day an Australian cruise ship and its multitudes of disembarking passengers spent the day.  For ourselves, we got on a brief fitness kick and burned quite a few miles hiking.  One afternoon Mike and I walked the coast highway from Kuto to the town of Port de Vao and back again, a total of 7 miles. Another morning all three of us hiked to the top of Pic N’ga, the highest point on the island, for the spectacular view.  The humidity here is about 85% and the temperatures in the high 80s, low 90s – we definitely suffer from the heat on these climbs as a result, but it’s preferable to the hard freeze in Tucson!

Here’s a photo of Mike celebrating his arrival at the summit.

The inviting sandy beach also offered a good opportunity to attempt water skiing again.  I have been making sporadic efforts to water ski for the past six years since we started cruising, never with any success. We put in a good effort here and I managed to get part way out of the water several times interspersed with three-point touchdowns before cartwheeling back into the shallow water.  Florida boy Mike was rusty but soon able to get up on the skis and serpentine back and forth across the wake of the dinghy.  Rod as always showed us up on his turn, using only one ski and carving back and forth across the wake generating rooster tails of spray!

It took a week for my arms and shoulders to recover from the effort – the happy ending is that a couple of islands later (Lifou) we found another inviting sandy shore and this time I actually made it to my feet and stayed up!  My first time water skiing since I was nine years old on vacation in the Florida Keys!  We are of the unanimous opinion that not too many old ladies in their sixties take up water skiing as a sport.

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  1. Hi Carol,

    I hope you are in good shape with all the weather turbulences along the past weeks.
    I like the images very much. It seems to be quite warm 🙂
    Beautiful colors above and under water!

    Take care,

  2. So great to hear from you!!

  3. Hi Holger,
    Thanks for your comment re the photos – actually it drew my attention to the fact that the underwater photos had posted to this slideshow in error. They were intended for a future blog; I have pulled them back out of the slideshow and will post them again in a future post! Hard to manage the blog with such slow internet connections!

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