Friday, May 02, 2008

Vive la différence

We have inside information from some French friends who gave us an annotated chart before we left Whangarei and so far are sticking religiously to the anchorages highlighted by their chart: "Hi Nuance, we'd be lost without you - literally." So last night we anchored between some coral banks (Les Quatre Bancs De L'Ouest - 'x' marks the position on the Nuance chart), unfortunately we started later than intended from Nouméa and made slowish progress sailing against a pleasant 15 knot SE trade wind, which meant we arrived at the anchorage just before sunset, making it tricky to pick our way through the coral. We ended up anchoring further out than ideal, resulting in a roly first night at anchor. At least we'd finally escaped the marina and the engine appeared to be humming happily away again.

This morning we had the first swim since we arrived in New Caledonia, followed by a leisurely sail to Ile Amedee the island with the Lighthouse transit marking the entrance to the outer-reef. It turns out we arrived after the tourist boat from Nouméa had disgorged it's day-trippers. After a walk around the island, I was keen to head off and search for a less populated island, but first decided it would be rude to depart without a snorkel around the coral. The fish here are unlike any I've encountered so far; they seem curious - they follow you. What's that about? Don't they realise I'm a potentially fearsome predator? After an hour of feeling like an aquatic pied-piper with my following of curious fishy friends, I heard my name being called by an excited Charlotta. What could be wrong? Dinghy drifted off? Anchor dragged? Could she have been attacked by a snake or stung by a jelly fish? No, she'd managed to wangle her way into a buffet provided for the boat passengers. I apprehensively followed and filled my plate with tuna steaks and shrimps and tried to shrink into the background. It seems Charlotta's criminal mind has no such qualms and she happily helped herself to extra bread, dessert and ice-cream, washing it all down with coffee and biscuits. Still I'm happy to enjoy the spoils of her criminal activities. Enjoyable as a free-lunch is, I thought her suggestion of staying for a week's worth of free lunches, coconut tree climbing competitions and sarong tying demonstrations, would become somewhat tedious from tomorrow onwards... With lunch came free wine, I'm reasonably sure that if this was a trip in the UK, the wine would rapidly disappear; not so here. Bottles were left half empty, perhaps the quality wasn't up to the required standard for the discerning French palate or could this be the fabled continental drinking habit in action? I've heard talk that the relaxation of the English licensing laws will usher in a new age of more temperate drinking. Have things changed that much? Will I recognise my home nation on return? Worrying thoughts.

I'm enjoying the contrast with NZ, there's a different range of food in the supermarket, especially the spectacular meats and cheeses and a definite elegance in the way people dress. Could it be the warmer climate or simply French chic? The lagoon weather forecast starts on a philosophical/scientific note: "Quel rôle le sel de l'océan joue-t-il dans le climat de la Terre?" (What role does the salt of the ocean play in the climate of the Earth?). Answers on a postcard. I'm afraid my somewhat literal translation program helped me with that and provides some entertaining results for the rest of the forecast:

"After dissipation of the early clouds, the sun imposes itself again. Wind is rather weak this morning and submitted to the regime of the inshore breezes."

Or how about:

"On the lagoons, the trade wind of southeast to south south-easterly breath around 10 knots."

Is 10 knots of "breath" stronger than 10 knots of wind? We need to know.

4 comments:

Ellen said...

Excellent spelling Nickster and it sounds like you're having fun. Can't believe you passed up the opportunity of a week of sarong-tying demos. Sounds right up your alley :-) Keep up the posts; I'm enjoying them. TTFN, Elster

eric bloodaxe said...

Nick - your log is sensational. I've been checking it out over the past few weeks and kept meaning to write, and now I am. It's a real ripping yarn of an account... particularly like the regular cooking updates. And you've certainly matured as a sailor since we lost the anchor in Coniston.

Safe sailing,

Rod

Matt said...

Hi Nick and everyone

Finally found the time to look at the blog, not a good idea, as the green eyed monster raises its head. It looks and sounds wonderful and sailing into Southwold will seem a bit tame after this. We think of you often, Nick Nibbles is about to become an ultra triathlete. I am about to lapse into middle age senility. Love to you all Matt

Matt said...

Hi Nick

Finally found the time to look at the blog, not a good idea, as the green eyed monster raises its head. It looks and sounds wonderfull and sailing into Southwold will seem a bit tame after this. We think of you often, Nick nibbles is abnout to become an ultra triathlete. I am about to lap[se into midlle age senility. Love to you all Matt