Cave. Man. Cooking.

We don’t eat out at restaurants very often, but we do love eating ashore.

We’ve cooked breakfast in a volcanic steam vent, found secret grottos for picnic lunches and dragged our BBQ up a river to cook sausages beside a fresh water swimming hole. If there is a beach around we’re planning dinner over an open fire or cooking bread on hot coals. We’ve even popped popcorn over a bonfire just so we had snacks to enjoy with our sunset drinks.

Palau is short on beaches due to the typography; steep limestone islands. The few that are around are in National Park areas so open fires are not permitted. This, of course, put a serious cramp in our beach bbq plans. Which was rather disappointing because it had been a really long time since we’d felt comfortable cooking ashore. Continue reading

Top Ten Ways You Know You’ve Been Sailing in the South Pacific for a Long Time 

  1. You can communicate a whole range of greetings and emotions with your eyebrows alone.
  2. The smell of rancid coconuts rotting in the midday sun doesn’t bother you anymore.
  3. When you ask a local a question and they answer “YES” you know that A. that does not mean the answer is actually yes, or B. that they understood the question at all.
  4. You usually ask a local if a fish you caught is safe to eat – free of ciguatera, a highly toxic and very localized fish poisoning. And when they say “Yes” you know to see above.
  5. When provisioning or looking for hardware store items you expect to visit at least half a dozen stores and only find half of the items on your shopping list.
  6. You no longer trust the accuracy of your charts and consider sticks and rebar acceptable navigation beacons.
  7. Limes and coconuts are considered staple foods onboard.
  8. You can self-diagnose and treat fungal infections, staph infections and cellulitis and know the difference between the symptoms of dengue fever and malaria.
  9. You’ve eaten over 25 varieties of bananas, probably in 25 different ways.
  10. You consider cyclone season the perfect time to sail around the islands; better winds and a heck of a lot less boats! 

Discover New Caledonia with Cruising Helmsman Magazine

I don’t get to see myself in print very often but Steve found a copy of the August issue of Cruising Helmsman at the Brisbane airport. Any Kiwi or Aussie sailors interested in hearing about our time in New Caledonia last season pick up a copy today!!!

To make a Brummel Splice in Dyneema

This time last year we were bashing to windward with our newly installed dyneema inner forestay and staysail flying. It made the three day trip from New Caledonia to Vanuatu a whole lot easier. Read about how to splice dyneema in the June issue of Cruising World Magazine!

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Markets: Food for the Soul

Amidst the unfamiliar countries and uneasiness of travel the markets are where I find a connection to the people, to the landscape. Although I have a deep and passionate relationship with food this is not why I seek out these places. It is the everyday-ness of the market that I crave.

Disconnected from family, country, home and all that is familiar the markets are a constant in our travels. The world over people grow food and make goods and sell them in a common space. The produce sold, the faces smiling back at me and the colour of the money changes but the routine is always the same. People coming together to sell food, buy supplies and socialize. Unlike the tourist I am not looking for the exotic, I am searching for the familiar.

On the remote island of Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia I would wake at 5am, before the dawn, and dinghy across the harbour to go to the Wednesday morning market. You had to get up that early, at 9 degrees south business is done before the wilting heat of the sun brings island life to a halt. After weeks of long passages and limited fresh vegetables I was excited by what might be there to buy.

Continue reading

2-4-1 in thw BWS Feburary Issue

There is still a few days to pick up the February issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine where you’ll find information about building an onboard medical kit in my regular column, Heather Francis Onboard, as well as a story about our time in New Caledonia earlier this year! You can also subscribe to the digital addition at zinio.com so you never miss an issue!

BWS Feb ColumnBWS New Caledonia

And you can find these articles and more of my publishing writing on www.yachtkate.com

Bottle Shock and Amnesia

Before we departed Noumea I hit the grocery store and stocked up on a few things; not exactly essentials but items that make the occasional afternoon a little less ordinary. I found excellent prices on olives, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked mussels and pate- yes, I know pate, but at $1.00 a tin even we can afford such luxury.

I also filled the “wine cellar” as good French wine was affordable. For the past few years in Fiji I have mostly avoided wine, a mediocre Aussie bottle would set me back $15 a screw top and there was no guarantee how it had been stored. When we go to New Caledonia I practically danced down the weekly wine special isle, how could I pass up a 2012 Cote de Rhone for 8 bucks? I didn’t go overboard, just 12 bottles; a few Rose, a couple Gamay, a Bordeaux or three. I stowed them safely in hard to reach secure cupboards, wrapped in foam or snugged inside a wool sock. All except the last bottle I grabbed as we were trying to spend the last of our French Polynesian Francs; a 2010 Bordeaux. That I tucked into the bottom of the laundry hamper, easy to reach for a celebration on the other side.

The morning we pulled up anchor in Port Boise and pointed our nose towards the channel was like the beginning of every trip. There was a palpable excitement in the air, we were enthusiastic about heading to a new country, about starting a new adventure, about spending a couple days living by the rhythm of the sea. Continue reading

Au revoir

After two days of beating against 20-25 kt winds we are finally tucked into Port Boise just inside the Havannah Pass, almost exactly where we started from a month ago. Tomorrow morning on the out going tide we are planning to slip through the pass and point NE to Vanuatu. Winds look like they will be easing and, fingers crossed, we should have a nice beam reach all the way there. Port Vila is only about 400NM so we expect a 3 day sail.

During the passage we will be checking in with the SPOT daily, check out our progress HERE.

New Caledonia has been fantastic, in fact we don’t really want to leave and our VISA would allow us two more months here, but time marches on, commitments beckon and new adventures await.

So until we return New Caledonia, like it says on your beer cans, you’re Number 1 with us.

We had to get rid of our last few French Polynesian Francs.

We HAD to get rid of our last few French Polynesian Francs.

Love,

H&S

Lost in Translation

We’ve been sitting out a little bit of weather for the past four days. A big high down south and one heck of a low around Tasmania have given us re-enforced trade winds, a steady 20-25kts with local gusts upwards of 35kts, so says Meteo Nouvelle Caledonie.  They’ve brought with them low clouds and lots of passing rain squalls, 3 or 4 an hour it seems. The anchorages around here are well protected with tall hills to hide behind and sticky mud, so it’s been all batten down the hatches and keep yourself amused around here lately.

There’s been lots of turning the oven on for hot midday meals. The residual heat warms up the cabin and while we eat Steve thought to put a metal bowl filled with water in the still warm oven so we can have a hot shower! With no hot water on board (the engine driven hot water heater rusted out back in Panama 6 years ago and we thought the storage space was more valuable) we usually use a solar shower bag, but since arriving in New Caledonia a month ago we’ve hardly had enough afternoon sun to heat it up. What a treat.

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Ye olde bowl and a ladle shower. At least it’s warm!

Continue reading

Row, Row, Row Your Boat…

We’ve been doing a fair bit of rowing over the past few days. Not because we’ve been trying to be super quiet so not to disturb the animals as we meander down that gentle stream. Or because we’ve been so close to shore it only takes three strokes to get there. It is not because we have one of those hard pram dinghies that row so well… although now I wish we did.

No, we’ve been rowing because our trusty 6hp Mercury outboard, the one we’ve brag about starting on the second pull after 18 months of neglect under the cockpit when we had an old 15hp Johnson on the back of tender, suddenly just stopped working.

And no amount of pulling the start cord, or changing the spark plug or checking the oil or metering the electrical connections is going to make it start. Steve has deduced, much too technical for me to explain how, that the CDI unit has failed.

For those not in the know about outboards (that would include me up until recently) the CDI is the perfectly sealed little black box that is the brains of such a machine. And once it fails the only magic way to get the engine to start again is to replace it. Which in a boom town like Noumea with both a Mercury and a Tohatsu dealer (interchangeable parts) wouldn’t seem to be a problem. But so far Steve has struck out with numerous phone calls and broken English/French conversations. Nearest we can figure we could order one in and it will take 6 days to 6 weeks to arrive and cost three times what is should.

We are not however letting this recently turn of events stop us from our usual daily dinghy trips. And as it turns out our Takacat dinghy is a pretty good rower, which is good because it sounds like we’ll be doing a lot of it in the coming month or so.

In fact the other day Steve, the perpetual fisherman, merrily went for an afternoon row around the bay dragging a lure. He must have had a pretty good trolling speed up, he even caught a couple.

But I can hardly complain…This life is but a dream.

Love,

H&S

* Steve would like me to note the use of the royal “WE”, since he has been the one holding the oars.

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