In late October, I headed to France… in the South Pacific. I was actually heading to a small island territory in the Southern Hemisphere called New Caledonia which, per Wikipedia, is a “special collectivity” of France. It helps mark the border of the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean. The plan was to sail SV Avalon from New Caledonia to New Zealand.
Arriving in the capital, Noumea, after nearly 24 hours of travel, I was happy that the “Skipper and Admiral” (otherwise known as Tom and Di, owners of the sailing vessel Avalon) were waiting at the airport for me. The airport is quite far out of town, so it would have been a long, slow bus ride or a very expensive taxi fare to the center. Tom and Di spared me that pain, and even treated me to a welcome lunch at Le Bout du Monde once we reached the marina in Port Moselle.
For the first two nights, I stayed at the Hotel Le Paris in downtown Noumea, which was only a 5-minute walk from Port Moselle. Getting to/from the boat was very convenient. There is also a great multi-tent market with fresh produce, breads, meats, and craft goods open 6 days a week right next to Port Moselle. I enjoyed a few croissants and crepes during my stay.
Soon, however, convenience took a backseat to fun and after the second night I changed hotels to the beachfront Beaurivage Hotel, located along the Baie Des Citrons. Port Moselle was a 30-minute walk from here, but it was a pleasant walk along the waterline. The Beaurivage Hotel also happened to be a block away from beachfront bar MV Lounge, which became my “Cheers” of New Caledonia for the next week.
In the mornings, I’d walk into Port Moselle for breakfast, coffee, and boat jobs. In the afternoon, I’d walk back to Baie Des Citrons. If fact, most days I’d even walk around to the next bay, Anse Vata, to watch the windsurfers for an hour or two. I wondered, should I give it a try? Not this time, I decided.
By late afternoon, I’d walk back to my hotel for a shower and then wander down to the MV Lounge for cocktail hour and sunset. Usually after sunset, I’d meet back up with Tom, Di, and our other crew member Nicky for dinner at one of the local restaurants.
That was it. That was the routine for about a week, as we prepared and provisioned the boat, and watched the weather forecasts waiting for a safe window for the 1,000 mile sail to New Zealand.
It’s hard to explain, but I’m really not in “sightseeing mode” before these passages. I’m focused on helping Tom and Di with whatever they need help with, and keeping myself healthy and fit for the passage.