Australia, Blog, New Caledonia, Ocean Passage

Completing our Pacific Crossing – Sailing to Australia

“See you in Aus” we called to our many neighbours anchored off New Caledonia’s busy capital of Noumea. The safe sailing season was drawing to a close and the fleet of international cruising yachts were gathering to check out of the country and make their way to the safer (cyclone free) waters of New Zealand and Australia.

The weather looked promising for a down wind sail all the way to Australia, just the way we like it. A big swell might make the first few days uncomfortable but that should ease as the 800nm miles tick by.

Florence had been a rush of activity ever since this weather window appeared on the forecast. As well as all the usual things we do before a big passage (go up the mast to check the rig, clean the hull, stock up with water, food and propane, cook passage meals etc.) we needed to give Florence a deep clean ready for our arrival in Australia. We were keen to escape the wrath of ‘Border Force’ and Bio-security. Australia has a reputation for a thorough and difficult check in process, often searching every corner of a boat. As they charge in 15min increments for the time it takes them to check your entire boat it can also be costly. Keeping the boat this clean whilst on passage would be another challenge but at least we would have a better base.

Finally making our way through New Caledonia’s surrounding reef and into the open ocean, the emotions we hadn’t had time to acknowledge in the rush of preparing hit us hard. It’s always exciting to be leaving for a new country, setting out to sea, never really knowing what the next few days will bring. New Caledonia was however the last of the South Pacific Islands on our route. It’s hard to summarise in words our experiences over the two seasons in these islands but Amy was unable to watch New Caledonia dip below the horizon without a few tears for the friends and places we were leaving behind.

Making our way out to the outer reef

Having left in the late afternoon, we were soon thrown into our night watches; the first for a couple of weeks. It was not an easy reintroduction with 70 degree wind shifts and waves on the beam coupled with big changes in wind speed. It wasn’t wild sailing, just the kind that requires lots of concentration, sail changes and occasional hand steering. Recovering during our off watches down below was also a challenge due to the waves hitting Florence’s side and constant changes in speed/noise. Eat, sleep, sail, repeat, isn’t always that easy.

Finally relieved from our watch, we would lay in our bunk as waves pound Florence from the side, causing her to jolt sideways. Not the ‘rock you gently to sleep’ rocking of a cradle but a harsh unpredictable jolt. Much like people holding each corner of your bed, waiting for the moment when your eyelids droop and your body relaxes into the bed. Then BAM, working together, they try to tip you out of bed, simultaneously stomping their feet to create a loud “THUD”. Despite the lee cloth acting like the sides of a cot, stopping you hitting the ground, your body is completely tense and contorted into a position that although not comfortable, maximises surface contact and moderates movement. Add to this the pressure that you only have the next 3 hours in this comparatively comfortable state before it’s your turn again on deck and you can see how you can soon become exhausted. The first few days on route to Australia were spent in a zombiefied stupor. Conversations limited to “it’s your watch”, “urgh, really, already?!”


The reality of double handed sailing is that you spend much of your time alone. They sleep, you sail, you sleep, they sail and so on. We always try to eat our meals together and have some time to sit on deck and chat, but some days even that is a struggle. You are working together towards a common goal, but that often just means working alone to let the other person recover, sleep and take time out of the wind and sun.

A couple of days into the passage, the sea state eased and our bodies fell into the routine. We woke up and smelt the the coffee. Okay, not the coffee, we had been out of that for weeks, but its a much nicer thought than the stench that had developed in the hot, airless cabin below. Thankfully the improved weather allowed us to open some hatches and throw some buckets of water at each other, from a safe distance.

Feeling human again

For us, there is always that sweet spot in a passage when you feel human again, your energy levels rise and you are able to appreciate your surroundings, company and life aboard. If the conditions are right at this moment, we feel like we could just keep on sailing forever.


In the solitude that comes with double handed ocean sailing, the company of another living thing, be that a dolphin, bird or fish, brings much joy and excitement. Entertainment comes in the form of sea birds swooping and playing in the draft from the sails, attempting to select a perch on Florence. We feel their frustration as the boat lurches through the waves, making for an increasingly difficult moving target. We celebrate with them as they finally succeed, then laugh along with them as they struggle to maintain their balance on-board. Welcome to our world mate, you will need to hold on tight! We are yet to forgive them for projectile pooping on our sails, but all friends have their quirks.


The lighter winds made for much more pleasant conditions on-board. Unfortunately when reefing during a squall at night we had put a small tear in our mainsail. Although we could have repaired it at sea, we felt we would be able to do a better job on arrival, so made do with a small reefed mainsail, not using the section that was torn. Light winds and limited sail area caused us to get creative with our sail plan. Flying the cruising chute on one side, polling the genoa out on the other, whilst sheeting the mainsail on the centre line to help reduce rolling made for some very enjoyable sailing.

Our light wind sail plan
Quickly approaching the coast of Australia

Time passed quickly and we were soon closing in on the coast of Australia. We were welcomed by 30 knots and a screaming reach, who needs a full mainsail anyway?! Dodging fishing boats and crab pots, we dropped the anchor in the quarantine area of the Bunderburg river just as the sun was setting over the great brown land.

We had arrived in Australia with no major breakages, no threats of giving up sailing forever AND we still like each other; a successful trip! Despite having already reached half way around the world when we arrived in New Zealand, Australia somehow feels even more of an achievement. We have finally reached that far away land ‘down under’. The place mentioned when English people talk about somewhere a very long way away.

Racing the setting sun to get into Bundaberg with daylight to anchor by
Approaching the anchorage to await instructions from Australian officials the next morning.
Blog, New Caledonia

Our Favourite Anchorages in New Caledonia

The capital of Noumea came as a bit of a culture shock to us; high rise buildings and busy highways replaced the dug out canoes and thatch houses of Vanuatu. New Caledonia is a French administered country. Of course this means an abundance of baguettes, cheese and other European mouth watering delicacies are available; just at equally eye watering prices. The French influence is also seen in the number of yachts and other boats concentrated near the city. It’s no surprise why any local would want a boat; outside of the city New Caledonia is a great cruising ground. Most of the local boats are only able to venture out at the weekend so we were able to enjoy some anchorages to ourselves during the week.

A view of the main island from Ilot Bailey, a short sail away from the city.

The difficulty with New Caledonia is that you can only check in/out of the country in the capital of Noumea, so unless you have months to spend there, this really limits the amount of the country you can see. Luckily, there are still lots of beautiful anchorages within a day or so sail from the city.

Sailing in New Caledonia’s Southern Lagoon

Here are some of highlights from our relatively short time in New Caledonia. At most we had two nights in any of these places. It would have been great to stay in each of them longer but it was late in the season and we needed to be making tracks towards Australia and away from the Cyclone area.


Ouvea is a beautiful crescent-shaped atoll, fringed with a stunning 25km white sand beach. As you can anchor pretty much anywhere along the beach, you are guaranteed to have a large section of it to yourself.

A small Leopard Shark hiding on the bottom. These spotty sharks are harmless to humans and about as cuddly as sharks get.
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The sand on Ouvea’s beach is possibly the best sand we have ever had between our toes; pure white, fine and soft but still firm to walk on. It was just perfect.


The other side of the island hosts a stunning, postcard perfect lagoon. Peering over the road bridge we spotted 20 eagle rays hanging out below us.

The main inhabitants on this section of the atoll are Kanaks; the original inhabitants of New Caledonia. Many live in the traditional round houses but use modern boats and cars to get around the island.

A Kanak home on Ouvea

Bay de Prony

Famed for it’s hiking Bay de Prony has several anchorages. Our favourites were in Bonne Anse, where we took a walk up to the lighthouse, overlooking the Southern Lagoon and Ilot Casy, a small, pretty island you can easily walk around. Both of these places had free mooring buoys available to avoid anchoring near the coral.

The view of the Southern Lagoon from the short hike to the light house, starting from Bonne Anse
A view of the main island from one of Ilot Casy’s small beaches
A view from the top of Ilot Casy

The red rock of the main island is really prominent in these areas. New Caledonian soil contains about 25% of the worlds nickel resources. Nickel is the backbone of the New Caledonian economy and has been extensively mined in this area. The visual result is stark, scarred red hills covered sparsely by scrubby vegetation.

Ilot Mato

Florence at anchor by Ilot Mato

Situated in the Southern Lagoon, Ilot Mato was our absolute favourite spot in New Caledonia. There was room for several boats and plenty of sand to anchor on, whilst still being swimming distance from the reef. A family of dolphins visited the bay whilst we were at anchor and the snorkelling was some of the best we have had in the South Pacific. Bright coral, sharks (always a sign of a healthy reef) and a great variety of fish.

This cuttlefish gave us an amazing camouflage display as he disguised himself before our eyes.
A short scramble to the top of Ilot Mato gave us a stunning view over the Southern lagoon.

Il de Pines

The main anchorage on Il de Pines

It was a all day upwind slog to reach the Ile de Pines. Florence took continual waves over the bow as we beat to windward in the short chop. Although it took us a while to admit it, it was worth the discomfort of getting there, even though we only had two days to enjoy the island. Despite torrential rain halting our activities for half a day, we managed to fit in a whistle-stop tour of the island via scooter and hike the islands highest peak.

The colour of the water is beautiful on Il de Pines, even in the rain.
The pic Nga is the island’s highest point. At only 262 metres (860 ft) it’s not a huge mountain to climb but it still gave us great views.
The stunning natural swimming pool of the ‘Bay de Oro’ is an enclosed lagoon surrounded by tall pines.
Bay de Oro, Il de Pines
Oumagne Grotto, better known as the Cave of Queen Hortense. Il de pines.
The legend is that the cave was a refuge during tribal conflict, for the daughter of a Chief, who later became a great Queen.

Partly due to our tighter time frame and partly due to our sensitivity to the political situation in New Caledonia, we had little opportunities for in depth interactions with the local people of New Caledonia.

There is a long and complex history of violence between the French settlers and native Kanaks. Our visit coincided with the first vote on independence since the violent protests in the 1980’s. Much progress has been made towards bringing peace but the country is far from united.

Although we were never threatened, we occasionally felt a sense of unease and couldn’t help but feel our presence was unwelcome in parts of New Caledonia. The initial vote has rejected Independence for now. We can only hope that the future of this beautiful country is one of peace, understanding, respect and unity.


Blog, New Caledonia, Ocean Passage, Vanuatu

Sailing Vanuatu to New Caledonia

A sudden jerk on the lines, caused Florence to heel over as rain hammered into her side. Peering out from the companion way hatch, we were able to see that it was just another rain squall blotting out our view of Port Villa from where we were moored in the harbour. Shutting out the howling wind and rain, and pouring another cup of tea, we were thankful to have the luxury of time and no pressing need to put to sea. An out of season tropical storm had formed to the North of us and was pushing torrential rain and strong winds our way. Waiting to leave on the back of that weather system would mean a slow, light wind 300nm passage to New Caledonia, but also we hoped, a safe, comfortable one too.


The sight of Port Villa, Vanuatu’s capital, dipping below the horizon bought an intense mix of emotions. Excitement, freedom and a great sadness hung in the air as we tried to settle into our offshore routines. Our time in Vanuatu’s more remote islands had been like travelling back in time, fulfilling our romantic notions of the south pacific. It was very hard to say goodbye to it’s friendly, smiling people who seem content to live off the land and maintain their traditional ways.

It is however hard to feel sad for very long when you are doing the thing that you love with the person you love. Setting off into the open ocean, destined for a new country, fully stocked with everything needed to keep our little world moving and independent of the surrounding world is the biggest sense of freedom we have ever experienced. One that still brings tingles to our spines, every time.



Having accepted that we were in for a light wind passage prior to setting off, we were able to resign ourselves to the fact that we were going nowhere fast for the next few days. It is when we slow down that we find we are really able to appreciate our surroundings and easily fall into the rhythm of offshore sailing. Cooking, sleeping and general living is all easier in the flatter seas that normally accompany light winds. Instead of counting down the miles, we found we were happy to drift along, content, aboard our own little floating world.


Without the usual cooling trade winds, the heat of the day was stifling. The indigo depths below us were beginning to look very inviting. Just as we were about to throw a line over the side and take turns for a cooling dip, a loud “whoosh” stopped us in our tracks. A huge male Orca surfaced alongside Florence, blowing air as he made his presence known. Slamming his tail on the water, as an assumed warning, he swam away before we were able to react or get a decent photo of him. Even as we watched him disappear into the distance, it was impossible to regain our appetite for a mid ocean swim.

Killer whale
The Orca’s tall fin disappearing into the distance. The tall dorsal fin indicates it was a male.

The light breeze was threatening to die on us completely as we were approaching an uninhabited section of the Ouvea atoll of New Caledonia. Hoping for a swim and a full nights sleep, we dropped anchor in the stunningly turquoise channel between two islets.


Three healthy looking reef sharks took a keen interest in us as we slipped into the water beside Florence. Although we new they were only curious, it’s still a challenge to slow our heart rate and allow them to loose interest. A longer swim revealed our first leopard shark, a giant clam plus lots of healthy coral and fish. It unfortunately also revealed that the light patch we had dropped the anchor, was not the sand it appeared to be from the surface but hard bedrock, impossible for the anchor to penetrate. Although we had satisfied our need for a swim, we would need to move again before we got that full nights sleep.


It was a long drift across the atoll under spinnaker. Amy entertained herself as we crossed the sheltered lagoon by paddling alongside Florence in the kayak and heading up the mast to take some photos.



A brief stop at Ouvea’s beautiful 25km long beach gave us the sleep we were craving and allowed the wind to return.


It was another overnight sail for us to complete the passage to the main island of New Caledonia to check in at the capital of Noumea.

This relatively short passage, reinvigorated our love of ocean sailing. Yes, it took us 2 days to travel this distance that we would previously travelled in 2 hours by car. But the extra time at sea, just allowed us to fully appreciate the beauty of where we were, who we were with and what we were doing. This sail broke what had started to become a habit of counting down the miles and focusing on our arrival. More than anything we have ever done before, this adventure is all about the journey. The journey is the joy.