26/10//2014 – Chilling in the islands!

What is there not to like about white sand beaches, sparkling blue water and sunshine? The wind seems to blow fairly steadily, 15 to 20 knots, and the water is cooler than we have been used to but it still beats northern Europe without a doubt! After escaping the bright lights of Noumea (metaphorically speaking) and the comfort and facilities of Port Moselle Marina we anchored in the next bay, about half a mile away. This enabled John to dinghy back to the marina to help Dennis on Trillium, a Hallberg Rassy 46, replace a pane of toughened glass in their windscreen. Bending a 1 metre long pane of glass several inches to fit the curve of the windshield while holding the top rail aloft took three men and a lot of nerve but they were successful. If we ever need to replace ours John knows how to do it. Friday 17th we finally escaped to the islands. We headed to Ile Maitre, about 3 miles away. This is a nature reserve where there are free buoys to pick up, thus protecting the coral. It is also a no fishing zone as evidenced by the number of large fish which gathered beneath the boat. As we edged up to a buoy a large turtle swam by and checked us out. We were delighted to meet Spruce in the mooring field, we first met Sue and Andy at Trafalgar Wharf, Portchester, in January 2011 when they were the new owners of Spruce, a HR 42E, and we had owned Starblazer for all of a month! We invited them aboard for drinks and they gave us a lot of information about New Zealand. Ile Maitre is surrounded by a very shallow lagoon which makes it an ideal location for a kite surfing school, at low tide they zip along in a foot of water, at high tide it’s not much more than a metre. There is a resort with 24 ‘cottages’ on an elevated walkway above the reef plus a number of other rooms etc in the main complex on the island. At the weekend Ile Maitre is a positive magnet, day trippers come by ferry from Port Moselle and many small motor boats, RIBs, dinghies and yachts of all shapes and sizes converge on the narrow sandy strip of beach surrounding the island. By 5.30 Sunday evening the mooring field is almost empty and all the motor boats and day trippers have gone home! We returned to Noumea first thing Monday morning because we needed to go to the ANZ bank’s office again. One of the tasks before we left the marina was to open a NZ bank account. We managed to jump through all the hoops and John transferred some money from the UK then we received an email to say that the office had photocopied our US visas not the official passport photo pages! At least that was easily remedied. We also managed to buy a shortie wetsuit for John because his had flown overboard. After lunch in the restaurant at the marina we returned to Starblazer, pulled up the anchor and had a wonderful sail to Ile Larengere, another nature reserve. Unlike Ile Maitre, this island is very quiet. There are roped off areas to protect the plants, picnic tables, shelters and BBQ pits. We walked all around the island and spotted a banded sea snake in the shallows, the first one we have seen. There were also a large number of brightly coloured parrotfish having a feeding frenzy in about 6 inches of water. One day it got busy, 2 RIBs, a small motor boat and a couple of yachts! We tried to find somewhere to snorkel but the reef area was very shallow so donned masks and snorkels and leaned over the side of the dinghy as it drifted across the reef. On Thursday we returned to Ile Maitre as it offers more protection from the wind and the sea is a lot less choppy. We have snorkelled around the boat a few times as there is a coral outcrop just ahead of us, home to several large red fish. We have also walked around the whole island on the beach. Tomorrow we head back to Noumea. Joyce

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