September 28th, 2015   | Ilot Mato, New Caledonia   Birdseye view.


September 17th, 2015   | Gadji, New Caledonia   Tiny limestone mushroom islands dot the shallows along Gadjis' reef.


Quick Fix: 22° 32.0 S / 167° 24.7 E
September 17th, 2015 (day 3,031)
Conditions:  Wind: 12/NE  Sky: Clear.

In Too Deep?
Today's cave dive took me to the edge of my comfort zone.
With intrepid Welsh scuba cruisers, Steve and Suzie on Hiraeth, we anchored our dinghies on the edge of a drop-off and at 30 feet under the surface entered a dark foreboding fracture, large enough, barely, for just one diver at a time. With flash lights we squeezed, bounced and pulled ourselves deeper under the reef which opened, gratefully, into an expansive underwater cavern. The relief was short-lived as we continued burrowing further into smaller, darker chambers in search for our prize. Buried 40 feet under a reef with no direct or immediate exit made it the longest 36 minute dive of my life. Surfacing to blue skies has never felt so sweet, and with hand-picked lobsters for lunch, we may just have to go back for seconds.

Day 3,026 - New Caledonia (22° 39S 167° 26E)
12:47hrs - September 12th 2015
Doing Time in Île Des Pins

Île des Pins was first sighted by Captain Cook in 1774 who named the island, rather obviously, after the towering native pine trees that line the shore. The French, who took possession in 1853, romantically nicknamed the island l'île la plus proche du paradis, or 'the closest island to paradise' but ironically, quickly turned it into a grim penal colony for three thousand of their most unsavory political deportees.

Today the pines still stand tall against the tradewinds with a few luxury resorts resting in their shade, but the penal colony has not fared so well, and while the crumbling remains can still be explored, the jungle and climate are slowly reclaiming the land. The proud local Melanesian Kanaks, Kunies, a community of around two thousand, also seem to be reclaiming much of their island back, too - many of the bays and anchorages around the Isle of Pines are marked taboo for yachts to explore (especially French yachts). So while we've been here almost two weeks, we've chosen our anchorages carefully. (We recommend to our cruising friends to do the same. Although when in doubt ask the locals for permission. It's a small courtesy that's usually greeted with a smile and consent).

The Isle of Pines lay about sixty miles southeast of New Caledonia's Grande Terre. Its main island measures an accessible eight miles by nine miles, its tallest peak, Pic N'ga, is a modest 262 meters high, and the surrounded ilots and reef home to more turtles than you can count, and sea snakes (which have the highest concentration of venom in existence, but thankfully seem wholly indifferent to human presence) sun bathing on every beach.

With friends from Estrellita we've explored it all - hiking to Pic N'ga to soak up a Google Earth view of the entire island and the iridescent patchwork of turquoise beyond. We rented mopeds (the island's entire rental fleet, apparently) and in formation, buzzed along every road at full throttle (barely 20 mph) stopping to explore the old convict prison, ancient caves, Kunie totems and traditional pirogues, sailing outrigger canoes, that are still carved, constructed and sailed by ancestors of a people that first arrived in these islands 50,000 years ago.

We arrived less than two weeks ago, but with more anchorages and reef drop-offs to explore along the western coastline, we're happy to be detained here for a little while longer.






September 10th, 2015   | île des Pins, New Caledonia   l'île la plus proche du paradis - standing atop the 'closest island to paradise'.


September 1st, 2015   Ilot Mato, New Caledonia   'Summit' - Forty meters above the lagoon,  looking east from the top of Mato (Dream Time far right).