First Health then Customs (they wear guns) cleared us. They were all very polite and caused us no trouble. Then a grumpy Immigration Officer (doesn't wear a gun) cleared us in. When he found we didn't speak French he was quite obnoxious - I do speak un peu, un petit peu so he should have only been a little obnoxious. We then went down town. Glenn and I did the shopping. I needed some gear to fix the broken parts so I asked several passers-by for directions. One couple was extremely helpful. Marie-Louise needed to go to the hospital for an out patient appointment one month after severing a digital tendon so they took me with them. After 1/2 an hour wait, which is not bad for a hospital, they returned and we went 5 miles out of the centre of town to a boat shop. The shop didn't have the part so they took me a further 2 miles out to a shop which did. Then they delivered me back to the boat. I showed them through the boat. They wouldn't accept anything for their help. Communication was difficult but fun. They didn't speak any English and I only speak schoolboy French. I was never taught how to ask for directions to find a stainless steel bolt when I was at school. They asked when we were departing and I couldn't think of the French word for Thursday so I said Wednesday plus one. (Mercredi et un). This amused them. We exchanged addresses. Christian is an electronics officer in the French Air Force dealing mainly with helicopters. I was very grateful to them both for their kind ministrations. It certainly changed my perception of the French people in general. After they left I tried to sleep but I was continually interrupted so I never did manage to rest. John Goater called me on the sked to ensure I had docked safely but although he could hear me I couldn't hear him so needed a relay. A nice touch from him. The reception is very difficult amongst all the masts. The boats are very close together. The fingers are very thin and move up and down a lot when you walk on them. It is a beautiful marina with apartment buildings close by. From our deck we can see the cathedral. The twin spires are part of the navigational system with a beacon behind them which gives a transit for entering the harbour. Tonight Glenn shouted us tea at the local restaurant - a very nice touch too. I had kangaroo meat which was a bit tough, tougher than the meat we had cooked on the trip. The coffee Corina and Glenn had was astounding - the cups only held about 60 mls each.
I have been very impressed with that intangible vitality exuded by the local populace. I suppose it is the Gaelic influence but the ladies fashion sense is amazing. They wear their clothes well; it doesn't matter whether their clothes are tight fitting clothes or flowing, the subtlety of the cut gives a flair. It is not like New Zealand where people try to outdo one another but rather a joint awareness of personal confidence and grace. It also transcends racial barriers. Of course there are those who are scruffy - 7 bodies counted sleeping on the concrete seats at the bus depot one morning but the greatest proportion by far is in the pleasant bracket. This is the most vibrant community I have ever seen. The town is busy but not rushed. There is an air of wealth and affluence about the place but no obvious source. It is very expensive - 60 Pfr (pacific francs) to change money at the bank.(1PFR =56 cents NZ). Fortunately I have brought French Francs with me and they are free to exchange. It is $30 for a cooked chook; meat - well it's just too expensive. The people appear happy although politically speaking there is a referendum coming up as to whether they cede from France. We checked at the bus depot for the time of the bus departing for the airport and were told it was 0530 hours. The plane leaves at 0755 hours so that should be ample time to make the 40 mile trip on Sunday for Corina and Glenn. This morning Glenn and I caught a bus to the other marina (CNC - Cercle Nautique Caledonie) to pick up more mail for Susannah. Met an elderly man with a fishhook in his finger. I tried to tell him that I could extract it but he spoke no English. Finally an interpreter pointed him in the direction of a doctor - ah well... We did some more window shopping and I bought some more bolts from a chandlery. When we returned to the boat Wayne Troughton and Donn Donnelley and Jan, his wife, were there so we chatted for several hours before Donn and Jan left for their motel. EVERGREEN left this morning and this afternoon PICKETY WITCH arrived with Martin and Chris aboard. I got help from Mike and Sandra on DULCIBELLA to straighten the autohelm frame under the tiller. After tea Martin and Chris came over for supper. Martin had sailed to Mururoa in 1995 with the protest fleet so it made for an interesting evening.
Corina's first wedding anniversary. I went with Corina and Glenn to the bus stop and saw them off. However instead of the bus leaving at 0530 hours it arrived at the bus depot at 0600 hours. I went and asked the driver what time he left for the airport. He said 0700hours. So I asked how long it took to get to the airport and he replied '40 minutes'. By my calculations this only left them 15 minutes at the airport before departure. I thought it was cutting it a bit fine but the locals must know what they are doing. After their departure I went back to the boat and Wayne and I sailed out to Ile Maitre. We sailed under jib alone but after being a tight reach for several miles and the wind increasing we dropped the jib and motored the rest of the way. We had only just set the anchor when we heard Noumea Radio calling us. They took us to Ch 23, asked where we were then directed us to Ch 6 where we spoke to PICKETTY WITCH. Martin told us they had a very tearful girl on board - Corina. They had missed their flight home. What the bus driver had not told us was that a car going the direct path could get to the airport in 40 minutes but the bus, once it leaves Noumea goes cross-country on minor roads. At 0755 they were still 20 km from the airport. She was obviously upset and I was VERY angry - not at her but at the unfairness of life; when I finally had an opportunity to relax the opportunity was taken from me. C'est la vie (See I can speak French). We immediately returned to Noumea. I raised the storm jib for three reasons; 1. the wind had shifted around to aft of the beam, 2. the wind was still strong, and 3. the storm jib had been lying on that side of the deck. Motor sailing we made it back in 40 minutes to the marina. When I heard Corina's story she said her ticket had been cancelled before she got to the airport anyway so it was not entirely her fault. Her travel agent had not confirmed it. I tried to get Noumea Radio to put a collect call through to Joy in Tauranga but they were unable to do that. They also could not contact Tauranga Coastguard so with advice and radio messages flowing thick and fast I went to PICKETTY WITCH and contacted Taupo Maritime on 12 migs (megaherts). (I haven't got 12 migs on my set and nothing less would reach New Zealand in the middle of the day.) They relayed the message that Corina would arrive in Auckland via Brisbane at 0100 hours tomorrow. Joy had to contact Aaron who was waiting at Auckland Airport for Corina. I had to go out to the airport with Corina to purchase a ticket which a Mrs Johnstone had arranged. We caught the bus at 1600 hours, arriving an hour later. Halfway out I realised that although I had my credit card I had no ID on me. My passport was back on the boat. Fortunately they didn't ask for any ID. The staff was exceedingly helpful. However the ticket cost NZ$1600. If it hadn't been her wedding anniversary I Don’t know if I would have been so generous. I saw her leave and was overcome by homesickness. I want to be with Joy. Corina told her mother that she almost stayed in New Caledonia with me when she realised how I felt. Emotionally I feel depleted after the journey from Fiji with all it's trials. I had to wait an hour for the next bus. It was driven by a Ni Vanuatu man. I sat beside him and we conversed. With the noise of the bus I missed 90% of what he was saying. I arrived back at the boat just on dark and Wayne and Glenn had tea ready. Glenn is staying on board until Thursday. He has been passing some hints about wanting to sail back to New Zealand but I think it may produce conflict halfway home so I have ignored the hints. I do feel sorry for him but don’t think I am strong enough at present to cope with his inexperience at blue water sailing. It would require further vigilance on my behalf. After he has acquired some experience with someone else I would look at taking him.
Broke the rear port support for the sunroof this morning so took it to get it welded. Spoke to another man studying the weather map. He pointed out various features which were likely to turn bad if not immediately, then as soon as we left for New Zealand. The longer I listened to him the more depressed I became. We were sure to be hit by something VERY big weather-wise. After I left him I realised that I was depressed by him so decided to ignore everything he said and to trust my own judgement. I immediately felt better. Hadn't I been trusting my own judgement for the last 6 months? Then in almost a repeat of yesterday's sail Wayne and I went out to Ile Maitre where we spent a relaxing few hours. Went snorkelling. The underwater visibility was the worst of the trip at only 15 feet but the fish were bigger and more profuse than most other places. It was a long walk out over shallow coral to where we could swim. Walked over the island but got lots of sharp prickly things in bare feet. They don’t show those in the glossy brochures. Also played with a sea snake. Saw a line of tourists lying on the beach, scatter with screams when a sea snake slithered amongst them. Returned to Noumea to pick up the welded bracket (PFr 2000-about NZ$35 !!) They didn't teach me in school to find out the cost of stainless steel welding. We anchored in the Baie de Pecheurs (fishermen) or the Baie de Orphinalat (Orphans) and went to the CNC marina to pick up a fax for SUNSET QUEST. Picked up Glenn there too. The fax to SUNSET QUEST had some sensitive information in it so had some fun getting the message across cryptically so nobody else could understand it over the radio. Had an enjoyable evening engaged in healthy discourse.
Rowed over to PACIFIC PROPHESY and introduced myself to Marilyn and her husband. They told me that there is two days free mooring at CNC for visiting boats so motored in and moored stern to. Did some grocery shopping then Wayne and I walked over the hill to Anse Vata (THE beach of Noumea). That and the bay before, Baie de Citroens, are very pleasant and clean. Lots of topless girls sunbathing and swimming with no embarrassment. Had a good look through the aquarium where there is also a good display of luminous corals. We had a swim at Anse Vata but Wayne got some fine coral spines in his foot. They broke off when he was trying to pull them out. I learnt later that the best way to remove them is to apply sticky tape and pull that off with the spines attached. One thing that has amused me in New Caledonia is that at each beach there are a few males who lie along the beach. This contrasts with anything I have seen regularly in New Zealand. They are always by themselves so perhaps that says something. The majority though, still lie up and down the beach. On the beach at the Baie de Citroens (lemons) there is a public shower for rinsing off after swimming. We returned to the boat then I went to Donn Donnelley’s hotel where I left a message for him to meet us at Port Moselle on Thursday morning. Bought some radiator hose; 1 metre Pfr 2350 - about NZ$40-45. Motored back out into the Bay of Orphans. Glenn, who had spent the day organising his air ticket, had been invited to a rugby game but when he arrived at the rendezvous (another French word) found that he had been stood up. Despite this we spent another pleasant evening. After lights out Glenn and I talked until after midnight.
We motored around to Port Moselle and refuelled before docking in the marina. Wayne and I then went into town looking for lip screen. It was interesting to note that they were all about Pfr800 but we finally found some for Pfr295 so felt we had achieved something. Did some reprovisioning before returning to the boat for a late lunch. In the afternoon we all visited the Kanak Cultural Centre. The architecture is amazing - no expense spared. All the descriptions are only in French except the walk around the site. Apart from the buildings it all seemed a bit provincial and parochial. Maybe I've seen too many Stone Age baskets at space age prices. We arrived back just before dark and soon afterwards were visited by Mark and Ruth off MENISCUS OF GWEEK. We had pancakes for tea. I contacted John Goater and we're on the sked for tomorrow night. YIPPEE! I'm heading home. I miss Joy. It's been enjoyable here but not a patch on sharing it with her. I programmed the GPS and there is only 1147 nautical miles to 'A' Buoy, Tauranga Martin, PICKETTY WITCH has lent me his charts of North Cape to Cape Brett for the night so I can study them and miss the Cavallis on the way home. I have a large scale chart but his has the finer points. We are parked between an American yacht WHISPERS and ENERGETIC with Joyce on board. The man on ENERGETIC was not very thrilled with me when I started the motor to chill the freezer just as he was about to start his evening drinkies. Joyce and he had been living de facto and she apparently didn't want a greater commitment so he flew back to the States and brought back a bride. They have all been living on the boat since Tonga but apparently the women don’t talk to each other. Must be very tempting to push the other one overboard during the night watch. Joyce left the boat in Noumea and ENERGETIC was subsequently dismasted just N of New Zealand and ended up at Lord Howe Island. The write up in one of New Zealand's biggest boating magazines made the skipper out to be a bit of a hero but a letter to the editor from Joyce several months later scotched this as she derided his lack of preparation as being the principle cause. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.