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!!!

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 so you never miss an issue!

BWS Feb ColumnBWS New Caledonia

And you can find these articles and more of my publishing writing on

Returning to my roots

I started traveling in the pre-digital era. There was no Facebook or Instagram, almost no one carried a phone and internet cafes, when you could find them, worked on dial-up. It was also pre-digital photography, so documenting the places I had journeyed far and wide to see meant lugging some heavy equipment, insisting rolls of film hand inspected at airports and searching for places to develop negatives and print photos.

Everywhere I have traveled I have had one, or two, film cameras with me. By bus, train, plane, boat and motorbike my cameras were with me. Throughout Asia, across Australia, around the Caribbean, into the sands of the Middle East my cameras were with me. And now, on this grand adventure on board Kate, despite owning a pocket digital, a digital SLR and having a smartphone to take happy snaps with, I still carry around a couple old school manual film cameras.

I admit they don’t come out as often as they should. 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.



Cardamom Scented Applesauce and the Good Life

We had a heck of a sail back to Noumea the other day, stronger than expected winds, low cloud, and constant rain cut visibility down to half a mile and made for a pretty bumpy ride. When we hit the grocery store late that afternoon there was a cart full of must-go’s in the produce section. I found a bag of apples on super sale, about $1.50, which is a forth of their regular price. They were a little dinged up but not full of bruises, it was too good to pass up.

Apples are fruit I grew up with. A 50lb clear plastic bag, bought right from the grower on a crisp fall weekend, would stand in the corner of the cool pantry for months. During the first weeks of winter we’d still get crunchy apples in our lunch bags. As the season wore on, and the fruit started to perish, my Mother would turn them into apple pies for Sunday dinners.

But there aren’t that many apple trees in the tropics, and usually what I find at the market is either expensive and small, or expensive and old, or just plain ridiculously expensive. And with all the cool weather and pines trees in New Caledonia I was craving a good apple. It was obvious that these apples were not in good enough shape to just eat but a kilo of apples would make a nice batch of apple sauce. Continue reading

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.


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.



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


Happy little surprises

Every once in a while you find something unusual when exploring the anchorage du jour, as the French would say. An old boat run aground, a tree strung with washed up left flip flops, a colony of wild pigs snuffling in the sand, an abandon prison. Seldom do you find a well-built and maintained jetty, complete with a stainless steel boarding ladder, that disappears into the adjacent forest.


Unless you’re in New Caledonia, apparently.

We followed the jetty and found a man made pool and a natural hot spring.

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We are really starting to like this place.



Show me the way

I grew up not far away from a very iconic lighthouse, it’s located in Peggy’s Cove. In fact if you’ve ever seen a photo of Nova Scotia it probably featured in it. It has stood guard for over a hundred years and continues not only to be a source of pride for the people in the area but a functioning navigation beacon. So I have a bit of soft spot for such things, that and when we are navigating at night our lives depend on them.

I am very happy to report that in New Caledonia they take their navigational aides seriously. Not only is EVERYTHING marked (cardinal marks on reef edges, special marks denoting marine parks) but the buoys and lights are well maintained. After spending the last few years in Tonga and Fiji, two countries notorious for both their unmarked reefs and frequently using the “stick a piece of rebar on it and paint it black they’ll figure it out” system of navigational aides, this makes sailing around not only easy but pleasurable. There is no panicked worry on semi overcast day when the light suddenly changes and the water turns a muted, impenetrable shade of green making it impossible to see shoal patches and reef edges. There is no feeling like you need a good swig of rum to steady your hands when coming into a harbour four hours later than planned because the wind died.

So when we read about a trail up to the Cape Ndoua light house that guided us through the Havannah Pass on our way from Fiji we thought it would be fun to take a look. Continue reading

Secluded Perfection

We left Noumea last week and sailed south back toward the reef pass we sailed through on our way from Fiji. Along the coast there are several deep bays and protected anchorages so we took a couple days to make the passage. The prevailing winds are E-SE this time of year so it was windward all the way, but Kate goes to weather well so it was comfortable sailing.

We’ve been exploring Baie de Prony, a large inlet on the south west corner of the mainland with 20 0r more anchorages to choose from. And although we’ve seen several boats sailing along the horizon we have yet to share our little corner of paradise with any of them.

Continue reading