Friday, October 17, 2014

Trekking in the Trees in Tortue

Latitude 22 degrees 27.4 minutes S
Longitude 166 degrees 46.7 minutes E

The wind was forecast to pick up and turn more northerly – and so we needed to scoot out of the tiny Ilot Ua before we could do some snorkeling. We had a nice sail most of the way towards Ile Ouen. It wasn't a straight line trip as we had to do lots of jogs to avoid reefs and shallows. The sun was out so it was easy to see the color changes in the water - and this area is well charted. We arrived at Baie de la Tortue in mid-afternoon and enjoyed the new scenery. It was a hilly landscape on three sides and behind us to the west, more hills in layers in the distance. This was certainly a pretty spot and we anchored in about 9 meters of water on a sandy/muddy bottom.

The wind seemed to roll off the surrounding hills and pick up speed a bit as it entered the bay – but we had plenty of anchor chain out and it was not at all rolly in the anchorage. Sandy and Rankin, our pals from Gypsea Heart were supposed to head in this direction as well – but the wind for them would have been right on the nose and quite strong, so they passed on the voyage for a day. They joined us the following day.

On Thursday morning, Rankin joined us on the hike to locate the abandoned jade mine that was on the island. A pretty little piece of jade sounded lovely! Of course, we didn't have a clue where it was on this island – our small chart wasn't exactly descriptive – nor very accurate. So we took off to follow what paths we could find. Most ran into dead-ends. We did make it across the island on what was the old runway (now very overgrown) and then were directed up a hill to a viewpoint by a friendly man in a village. We then headed uphill and were rewarded with great views of the surrounding waters – you could really see the reefs and the deeper water channels. Then Michael thought he spotted where the old mine was located so we headed in that direction. After exploring the mine area and not finding any gems, we headed back a different way. Michael led us down a path which was thick with brush and trees. Rankin and Barbara were sure it was simply a pig path...and indeed it came to an end. At one point we all lost each other in the trees and had to locate one another by voice. We finally broke our way through some thick brush and small trees and made our way back to the dinghy. Several scratches would require first aid!

On Friday, Astarte took off for Ilot Casy in the Bay of Prony – a 15 mile trip. This is a small island surrounded by reefs but well protected from winds from the east. There are ten moorings here and we luckily grabbed the last deep one (we tried one closer to shore but it was quite shallow and we were afraid if tide went out too much, we'd be touching the bottom). Luckily after tying up to the first one, a boat departed from another mooring which we then grabbed. These moorings are quite close together and we bumped a nearby boat when the winds, currents and tides had boats going in weird directions. Two more boats departed in the later afternoon, and so we all spread out a bit more.

We have been trying to go through old stores on the boat and seeing how long we can stay out of Noumea and the markets. We did a little fresh vegetable shopping and baguette buying in the Ile des Pins – otherwise, we are trying to clear out the cupboards. This Sunday, we'll have been out of Noumea for a month – and we think we can still have good meals for another week or so. Today, that got extended by a gift of some wonderful fresh fish from the boat "Katie M II"who caught a giant waloo on their passage from Vanuatu to New Caledonia. We actually gave them some brownies for the fish! It was delicious and enough for a few meals! The challenge now is doing "sundowner snacks." Those supplies are pretty thin aboard.

This is probably going to be a good spot to do the bottom cleaning – it's very calm and hopefully if the sun stays out it may warm up enough to give it a try. So we'll be here a few days before we continue our exploring.

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