Posted by: Carol | February 16, 2011

Winding Down

The alarm clocks went off at 4 am this morning as today’s itinerary is a 90 mile leg outside the reef in the open ocean.  Because we want to be able to see the reef and coral head hazards at our destination, we leave early in order to arrive when the sun is still high and gives good visibility into the water.

A morning like this morning offers one of the major pleasures of cruising.  Up on the flying bridge tropical breezes are soft on the skin.  A huge yellow full moon was just setting into the black predawn sea, and shortly thereafter a brilliant sunrise of pinks and golds lit up the dramatic clouds over Grande Terre’s rugged coastline and illuminated the spray of the surf breaking against the reef with an irridescent glow.

We laid over an extra day at our last anchorage near Voh, waiting out a weather system that promised 30 knot winds and an unpleasant upwind passage directly into the swells.  As it is, we’re slogging into steep short seas that break across the bow and pelt our bulletproof glass windows with spray.  Still we’re enjoying the rough ride in air conditioned comfort, coffee pot and fridge at hand.

Yesterday during our stopover Mike and I took an afternoon walk to stretch our legs but we underestimated the distance to our goal – a building with a white tower in the distance.  By the time we finally achieved it we had trudged nearly four miles including a few unintended detours.  Our reward, besides the bucolic scenery, was a decent little grocery store in town where we stocked up on a few necessities for our rapidly dwindling larder.  We also chugged down a liter of water and shared a chocolate croissant (a staple in all the markets here in New Cal) before hiking back another three miles.

Tomorrow we’re planning another scuba dive off the barrier reef.  Since La Dieppoise we have chalked up an additional six dives, mostly in the Loyalties.  The dives have been relatively unremarkable, taking into consideration that we have had so many opportunities for spectacular scuba diving over the past few years the bar has truly been raised for our expectations.  The one outstanding exception was Recif Shelter (Shelter Reef), a pinnacle rising up from the ocean floor some 2 1/2 miles offshore of Lifou.  We were fortunate to have calm seas and Rod was able to anchor AVATAR close to the pinnacle on the nearby sandy bottom and Mike and I initiated the dive from AVATAR‘s deck.  It was a beautiful spot absolutely teeming with enormous schools of fish, lush with coral, and sparkling with sunlight and clear blue water.

On my first photo dive this trip the underwater camera housing flooded but thanks to Mike quickly spotting the flashing leak alarm light I was extremely fortunate to salvage both camera and lens without damage!  After that no more untoward incidents.  Here’s the promised slideshow of my underwater photographs from the Loyalties.  They were posted accidentally a few slideshows ago, so my apologies if you’ve already seen them!

We plan to arrive back in the marina at Noumea on Sunday, giving us a day to regroup, pack, clean and organize before heading home.  Rod calculates we will have covered 1,000 nautical miles on our six-week circumnavigation of New Caledonia.  Most likely this is the last post of the cruise.  When I get home to high speed internet I’ll post a high quality slideshow of the images from this trip.

Au revoir


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