LETTER from Eivind & Heidi _NEW CALEDONIA - Pacific Ocean July - Sept 2008
Photo^: Whale inspector
Bjørnar Bakken Mann
Irene and the Captain, Ouvea
Irene and the 1.st Mate, Iles de Pins
Baie Maa, Grande Terre
Happy to be back onboard

New Caledonia is situated just north of the southern Capricorn, 750nm east of Australia and 900nm north of New Zealand. New Caledonia consists of the main island Grande Terre and the smaller islands Ile des Pins, Loyalty Islands and Iles Belep. Grande Terre is surrounded by a 1600km long barrier reef, which makes one of the bigger lagoons in the world, 23.500km².
A few days before Heidi jumped on the plane, to work in some money to the travel budget and to get a good friend in Norway married to her beloved, the test told that Heidi was pregnant. Our plans for the nearest future started to change into new plans…

With Heidi “sent away” towards sun and summer in Norway, Eivind and Empire headed for the lagoon south of Grande Terre. For two months he sailed alone in New Caledonian waters. But he was not all alone. Mid July to mid September is concodered as whale season around New Caledonia. The experiences with Humpaback whale became many and close. Some of the experiences even got a bit close…

Eivind was out on several expeditions in kayak and in the Zodiac, armed with both camera and video-camera. Several times he got the Humpbacks in very close range. Previous experiences with Humpbacks among others east of Brazil, made Eivind feel pretty safe even surrounded by these huge animals. Once one of the Humpbacks caught Eivind with a surprise and showed up only five meters behind the Zodiac, aiming strait for it. Then the Captain got some speed on himself, twisting the throttle-arm to full speed manoeuvring the rubber-duck away from the whales. Most probably the Humpback would have dived under the dinghy, but there was no reason to find out…
The Captain wasn’t too frightened of the too close Humpback encounter. He was soon back in expedition mode. One day a whale inspector came by when in Prony Bay, in need to charge his camera. Onboard Empire they both got very close a feeding whale, to get picture of the whale’s tail. The whale inspector was a good teacher, and Eivind learned much about the Humpback whales life in New Caledonian waters.

If the Captain was not on excursions, he was doing maintenance-work onboard Empire. On a long voyage the maintenance is an important and continuously process. With a lot of time alone on the different beautiful anchorages around the southern tip og Grande Terre, Eivind shortened as well the “should do”- and the “would like to do” lists. We have tried to keep the “must be done”- list as short as possible, so that list was, believe it or not, empty.

Our friend Bjørnar signed on again, for his ninth visit since Empire departed Norway (3 years ago), a week before Heidi came back onboard. One weeks with “boys tour” along the western side of Grande Terre was on the schedule.
When Heidi finally returned from Norway, with a little bigger belly than when she left, she came together with one more crew. Irene, Eivind’s mother, was signing on for a month, hoping to find out what our daily live onboard was like. She was going to sail with us in New Caledonia waters and also back to Vanuatu.
It would be nice with a short trip before we set of for a longer passage, so we warmed up with a short sail to Ile des Pins, 40nm south of Grande Terre. We got heavy winds and lots of rain on that trip, so we had to dress in our heavy weather gear. We haven’t been using the heavy weather gear in the Pacific Ocean very often, more common is shorts and nothing else…
It was still windy when we came close to Ile des Pins. Gale is not the best starting point when navigating in the little opening in a surrounding reef, and after two attempts we had to abort the mission. Instead we headed for the wider Baye de Kuto, where depth or coral heads where making no troubles.
Later we visited the new aquarium in Noumea, with its colourful underwater scenarios and lots of different underwater life. We also visited the Argentinean tall ship, “Fragata A. R. Libertad” in Noumea. Last time we met that big sail ship, was in Buenos Aires 2 years ago. “Libertad” had sailed the other way (eastwards) from Argentina to arrive in New Caledonia.

When Bjørnar signed of, we made Empire ready for more sailing. With good weather predictions for the nearest days we set of for Vanuatu, only a few days sail away. On the way to Port Vila, we had a few days stop at Ouvea, one of the Loyalty Islands, east of Grande Terre. Ouvea’s beautiful beaches and crystal clear water tempted. When Empire was anchored in the beautiful lagoon, even Irene got into the lovely 24°C warm water. After the bath, we drove the Zodiac to the beach. Turquoise sea, white beaches with lots of beautiful shells, palm trees and beautiful flowers met us ashore.
It was a shame that it was a bit difficult to get in contact with the locals. In our opinion the local people in New Caledonia is more difficult to get in contact with, than the local people on other Pacific islands we have visited. That our French speaking abilities did not excist, probably didn’t make it easier…
We wanted to let Irene experience the “real Pacific culture” – and to us Vanuatu is a great example. Vanuatu has kept much of its original culture. From our first visit we experienced the “Ni-Vanuatus”, the people coming from Vanuatu, as interesting, open-minded and proud people.
The voyage from Ouvea to Port Vila was a bit more windy than wanted. Irene found her sea-legs, and got a good view into our lives the last years. Too bad we only had time for a few days in Vanuatu this time, but wind coming from the right direction and Irene’s leaving plane, told us it was time to head back to Noumea. Vanuatu is definitely on the list over places we would like to visit again!
Irene’s comments from the voyage you will find here >>>
The voyage back to New Caledonia was less windy, the sky was clear and fish bit frequently on the hook. Back in Noumea the Mate and the Captain had to continue the process of getting the visas to Australia granted. To get Heidi’s visa granted was a bit difficult because of her pregnancy. Luckily, after several emails, telephone calls and visits to the Australian consulate in Noumea, also Heidi’s visa was granted.
When the visas finally were granted, we quickly got Empire ready to leave New Caledonia. Even the wind was in “the right direction”, so same day as visas were granted Eivind jogged around to the different offices in Noumea to clear out. The last thing we did before throwing off was to send an email to Australian Customs to tell them our estimated time of arrival. If you don’t do this at least 3 days before arrival, you can get in big trouble.
We had nice winds from ESE most of the voyage to Bundaberg. During the nights the moon was shining and during daytime we caught several big fish. Even though we had favourable and beautiful conditions all the way, Heidi for first time experienced seasickness. The first days from Noumea not one watch passed without Heidi hanging over the side. Hopefully the little one inside Heidi is the reason to the sudden seasickness… The little one is expected mid March.

Nice winds towards Port Vila
Ouvea, New Caledonia - a lovely paradise island
More pictures from New Caledonia >>> PICTURES 2008 - NEW CALEDONIA
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