Our first anchorage in New Caledonia
After the drama of getting our daughter Emily back to Australia we set off early in the morning for our last overseas destination of New Caledonia. We were on a tight timeline as we needed to be back in Australia by November to arrive before the onset of the cyclone season, which meant only a couple of weeks in New Caledonia. Our first anchorage was gorgeous and we felt quite nostalgic for some of the previous anchorages we had discovered – this one was particularly beautiful and we still, after all these years, feel very privileged to have had these opportunities.
We were checking into Noumea so headed round the next morning. We were allowed off the boat to stretch our legs and do the immigration and customs onshore which meant a visit to a supermarket. As New Caledonia is French we were thrilled to find such a fabulous well stocked deli dept – all the French cheeses and meats…. We were in heaven as we hadn’t seen such delicacies since Europe. We stocked up and had a drink at the marina bar before quarantine came to visit our boat.
Just a few of the cheeses in display in Noumea.
We had planned to spend a couple of weeks in New Caledonia and about a weeks sailing back to Australia so we had at least 3 weeks worth of food on board – including some fruit and vegetables we had just purchased. Quarantine arrived by dinghy later that day and to our horror confiscated all of it with the exception of the local produce. We knew Australia did not allow foodstuffs in but had not read anywhere about New Caledonia- we learned later most of us didn’t know and ended up with empty pantries. Back to the amazing supermarket to replenish our cupboards…
Noumea is quite a pretty town once you get off the waterfront so we spent a few days exploring. We needed the internet to complete all the paperwork for entering Australia- and let the Down Under rally know our movements as the Australian officials need 4 days notice of arrival. You risk huge fines if you arrive earlier than your due date and so we needed to wait for confirmation from Australia that they were expecting us.
The beautiful Ilot Signal.
We wanted to spend our last few days on the islands rather than Noumea so we checked out and set off for the island of Ilot Signal. This island was uninhabited and so we thought a few days here would be idyllic. We were the first boat to arrive and watched a couple of charter vessels drop off their guests so we just swam around the boat and waited for them to leave. By 4pm we had the island to ourselves so we took a bottle of wine and some chips and went over to enjoy our last overseas sunset.
Ian enjoying a beer on the beach
We had our drinks on the beach and then found a boardwalk that ran across the island which we thought was a nice touch but when we got to the other side of the island we discovered why….. SNAKES….. not one or two but literally hundreds… These were beautiful stripy snakes but they were so slow – they weren’t frightened of us at all and they were just lying around on the beach, in the grass, and in the bush. We googled them and found out they were sea snakes and they come ashore to mate and have their babies – they are extremely poisonous but luckily their mouths are too small to bite a human!
Our companions on the last night…
We set off early the next morning for Bundaberg – our port of call in Australia. We were travelling with another English boat called Domini and had arranged to leave together- so after speaking to them on the radio we joined up and headed west.
The 800nm journey was fine with the exception of one heartstopping moment. I was in the cockpit and Ian was up at the mast. I heard a really loud yell – a frightened yell and so I ran up to the foredeck and Ian was sitting against the mast pointing to the trampoline. He had gone through – one of the biggest fears while underway. Luckily he had only gone through with one leg and was able to fall backwards onto the deck but it could have been a tragedy. He was pretty shaken up but ok.
The hole in the trampoline
We had no other breakages or bad weather and it felt quite sad sitting out at night watching the stars – we’ve done hundreds of night sails and the feeling of being totally alone in that vast ocean in a small sailing boat watching the wash off the sugar scoops is very special. It seems surreal that this was to be our last ocean crossing but we had so many emotions as we entered the heads – but I think excitement was at the forefront. We were home – of course it was the middle of the night so we had to find a spot to anchor but by 1am we were anchored and celebrated with a glass of red. Domini had arrived a couple hours before us and were anchored about 70m away. It was really cold – we had to dig out our jumpers and jeans – unusual for Queensland in November. We woke to the sound of a kookaburra laughing – yep we were back in Oz.
We called the marina in the morning were tucked up in our pen by 11am. Our Perth friends Jan and Glen from Jenny D were there to greet us – we were all jumping up and down with excitement but couldn’t get off so the hugs had to wait. We last saw them when we all had a drink together on our last night in Thailand the night before we set sail for The Andamans back in 2018 – we had a lot to catch up on. Craig and Karen from Ora came by and so did Clare and Andy from Tintamare but until we had been cleared by customs and quarantine we were not allowed to get off.
Australia has a reputation of being extremely fussy about boat entries. You cannot bring in any food or plant material. They check all your wood – doors, floors, panels, beds etc for borer. They check all your cupboards for any bugs, the bilges, the engines, the fridges – they can spend the whole day going through everything with large fines if they find anything. We had fumigated the boat, checked for any borers, eaten all the food and thrown away anything we thought would not be allowed but we were still worried something may have slipped by. Luckily we passed all inspections and eventually we could celebrate our arrival. It was a very special evening.
Karen, Ian, me, Michelle, Glen & Craig Ora & Rosie Skye.
The Down Under rally had been wonderful. They organised all the clear-ins, they had meals and parties arranged. They gave talks on the regulations and laws in Queensland and arranged for reps from lots of marinas to come and meet us. We managed to get a berth in Manly marina later on and spent the next few days just enjoying being with our Pacific sailing mates and Jan and Glen.
Ian and Glen looking like twins!
After all the stress of being without an engine for the last 6,000 nm, we were at last heading down to Boatworks to have our new one fitted. We sailed straight down to the Gold Coast and organised for the dead engine to be replaced with a brand new one. We had ordered it back in July and it was sitting there waiting for us all shiny and new. We had other jobs to do along with new antifoul so we set to work. I organised a new trampoline and sorted out some business things. It was amazing to be able to go into a bank and get new cards delivered etc…
Our friends Claire and Errol from Restless M had moved to the Gold Coast so they came and picked us up and we went back to their new house for dinner. It was so fantastic to see Claire again – we had spent months together in Indonesia and now here we were both back in Australia.
Our new engine going in – so shiny!
Claire and I in her garden with the kangaroos in the background.
A few days later my great friend Margie came over from Perth en route to a cruise to New Caledonia. It was so lovely to be catching up with all our old friends – we had not seen her for over 3 years.
Margie Ian and me
We also caught up with Karel and Phil from SV Tehani Li who we last saw in Madagascar. Our friends Kim and Geoff from SV Magic Bullet were also there and we had a lovely dinner in Karels city apartment overlooking Brisbane city. A very different view from the water views we are used to!
Karel, Kim & me
Queensland was proving to be a lot of fun with lots of friends to see and places to visit but we were both so excited that we were going home to Perth for Christmas – seeing Johnny after more than 3 years and catching up with our Perth buddies. Eventually the work was finished on the boat, we sailed up to Moreton Bay and put Indian Summer in Manly marina, packed our bags and headed off to the airport to fly home for Christmas.
Welcome home, Ian and Melian. I remain in awe of your achievement.
Dry land is going to feel very dull by comparison!
Next time you do this, don’t forget the Baltic, Iceland and Newfoundland … 🙂
What an achievement. What an adventure. What a wonderful recording of it all.
Thanks for following us so closely Kaye – we just cant yet quite believe we did it! It’s great to be home xx
Thank you Jerry – being home has mixed feelings but no, we are not going round again!🤣 Iceland is definitely on the list for a visit though.
Never say never, Melian 🙂
Meantime don’t you dare come anywhere England without letting us know xx
Would never do that! A visit is on the cards so will definitely let you know x
Congratulations on such a fantastic achievement and thank you so much for your posts and photos which have been fascinating, enjoyed reading them so much.
Thank you Roy- Its been fun recording it and now onwards to new adventures.
Hope this isn’t the last of your blog, so happy to have you back in Australia! A lot less stress for me!
Can’t wait to see you guys again xx
No – we will continue as we are exploring Queensland atm. Can’t wait to be home full time now though. Xx miss you ❤❤