New Caledonia to Brisbane… Paradise to Home – the Final Leg

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We arrived to New Caledonia after a pretty average one and a half day trip from Vanuatu… cold, torrential rain and big wind shifts was not what we bargained for. We crossed back below 20 Degrees south on this leg – and we all noticed the drop in both air and water temperature

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Sails up straight out of the Port Resolution anchorage, heading south for New Caledonia on a bleak looking day

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The next afternoon has us anchored in the southern part of the New Caledonian lagoon for a needed rum and peaceful sleep. Over a week of cloudy, rainy weather had us wishing this little glimpse of the sunset was a sign of things to come.

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The next morning we made our way north to Noumea, the countries capital. It was straight into the Marina to do the formalities and give the boat a scrub. It happened to be the weekend, so we arranged to catch up with local Jeremy who I met back in the surf in Fiji

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With 4 of us jammed in his VW Beetle, Jeremy took us for a pub crawl as such around New Calendonia

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“Le Roof”… where we spent many a Saturday nights

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After hangovers subsided, we stocked the boat up with food and went off to explore the lagoon. First stop, nearby Ilot Maitre.

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This place is packed on weekends, with as many as 60 kites in the air. It’s not surprising with nothing but flat, shallow water as far as the eye can see.

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Jono killing it on the massive flat water lagoon

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The cooler water had us donning wetsuits most of the time

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We had nice weather so we headed 40nm south to a remote island near the edge of the lagoon

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Josh enjoying a spot of fishing. No fish stands a chance with those massive cannons…

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Point made

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At Ilot Mato, we climbed the nearby peak on a picturesque day. Giving us a good look out over the entire southern lagoon

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Cowabunga nestled in between the reefs and sandbanks

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Looking down towards Ile des Pins with the tender waiting patiently on anchor down the bottom

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1, 2, 3 JUMP…

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The snorkelling on the northern side of the Island had excellent corals

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We left Mato and headed for Prony Bay and found a perfect place for an afternoon BBQ Bonfire.

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We ran into old friends Le Mistral and new friends Mojombo in the anchorage next to us, who came in for dinner and drinks

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We took off on a hike up to the lighthouse, which marks the entrance into the lagoon that we came in a week earlier. Bucko checking out the 3 boats that had just entered.

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Not just any boats, our friends. Zissou, Sea Wolf and Peregrine travelling in convoy had just arrived from Vanuatu. We never get invited to such convoys because we’re too fast.

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Lucky we don’t understand French signs

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The self timer gets a workout

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Cayuutteee…. with Prony Bay in the background

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We ventured right up the head of the bay where the water is glassy smooth and the fresh water streams and rivers flow

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A quick dip in the fresh, falsely advertised “Hot Water Spring”. Using it as a bathtub to wash our hair and bodies

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Bucko leaving her mark while hiking on a nearby mountain

Cowabunga the furthest boat on the left, as far up the bay as we could go

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Bucko getting down on all fours in an attempt to keep her shoes dry crossing the streams

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Afternoon swim.

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Next stop Ilot Amedee. The home of the tallest steel lighthouse in the world.

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We had read that you could walk to the top of the structure, but no one wanted to open it for us on this day.

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Jeremy had told us of a wreck nearby that we wanted to dive. Bucko hovering over the bow

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After our first attempt to find it came up short. We asked a dive instructor who pointed us, sortof, in the right direction

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This ex long liner was scuttled here not that long ago, judging by the condition she was in

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The old radar tower

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Looking down over the bow

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We had been spearfishing with mixed results over the last week, with the wrecks protected, they were literally crawling with Coral Trout and Trevally

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Josh getting comfortable near the bottom at 25m

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It was back to Itot Maitre for some more kiting…

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And to check the rig one last time before we hit Australian waters

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Zissou came and joined, picking up a mooring right behind us

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Kim and I ventured around to the lee side of the island for some glassy sunset fun

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Cowabunga behind me as another perfect day draws to an end

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Kim with a big hack

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The next morning, we got up at dawn and raced back to Noumea so me and Josh could tag along with one of the dive shops daily dives outside the lagoon. Our first dive was at the appropriately named, “Surfers Spot… the swell was small, but a sign of things to come

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Josh levelling off all planes

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I spotted this guy cruising overhead, the first Hammerhead I’ve seen for quite a while

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The grouper were plentiful, resting on the bottom

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This Moray Eel out and about with a Snapper playing the role of bodyguard.

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We left Noumea and headed to Ilot Mbe Kouen. Recommended by another local for its calm anchorage and good kiting. Waiting patiently for the wind to build.

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Which it did… Jono sending the GoPro to the sky. With what is probably one of the ultimate kite spots in the Pacific

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The next day the wind had completely glassed off, leaving kiting off the menu…

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Time to dig out the surfboard and the tow rope for a morning of skurfing

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The tender with its 15HP outboard labours hard, but still provides plenty of entertainment

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The tender didn’t even notice Bucko back there on the kiteboard

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We knew there was a thumping SW swell on it’s way. So we got up at 5am, praying for no wind, and headed out to Dumbea Pass to investigate. Unbelievably, we were the only boat out there. The only problem with the surf breaks in New Caledonia, is the nearest anchorages are 5nm away. Too far to take the tender, and nowhere to anchor the boat. I was hoping to pick up one of the moorings near the break, but the 3 metre swell had the moorings under 6 feet of white water.

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So with nowhere to put the boat, Jono had to represent Cowabunga while I did circles trying to not get cleaned up by the bigger sets. Jono dropping in on a monster.

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Cowabunga getting a little too close to the action…

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Jono buried deep

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With all these screamers going by unridden, I was quietly crying to myself, unable to leave the boat and get amongst it. The mooring where we would of liked to park about to get monstered

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Le Mistral swung by, on their way out the pass and heading home for Brisbane.

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Probably Jonos most photographed surf session, with two dedicated photographers.

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Finally a few local boats arrived, all having troubles anchoring as the moorings were out of action.

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Perfection.. we left the break and headed back to Noumea as Josh’s time on board was drawing to a close.

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Being a Friday night, and being Halloween, we donned the shit shirts and hit the local clubs again to the wee hours of the morning. Leaving Josh to catch his flight home the next day no doubt in a world of hurt. Josh was onboard for nearly 5 weeks, getting a good look at what world cruising is all about. Thanks for coming.

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With Josh on his way home, the now 3 person crew of Cowabunga had some time to kill before we get ready to leave for Australia. It was back out to the outer islands to waste the days away kiting, spearing, kayaking, snorkelling and hiking, keeping an eye on the weather for a suitable day to leave.

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Over an hour it took us to walk around Ilot To Ndu at low tide. Finding a shiny new fender on the beach to add to Cowabunga’s collection.

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The final supper onboard Cowabunga, the night before we set off for Australia. Armed with boat props… Adam and Hannah from “Leaf”, Kim and Lorna from “Zissou” and Trev and Gwyn from “Peregrine”. Who says young people aren’t out cruising the world…

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With sunsets like this, it was really hard to leave New Caledonia. After over a month cruising the lagoon, I can honestly say this is one of my favourite spots of all. As you can see from the photos we were blessed with perfect weather and wind basically every day.

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We left New Caledonia early one morning with plenty of wind to keep us moving. The last Tuna to be caught on board. We caught and lost 2 big marlin as well.

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The wind only lasted about 36 hours and we were faced with the dilemma of firing up the engines or just drift around for the next 2 days. We opted for the drift, so we threw Trev in for a mid Pacific Ocean paddle

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Cowabunga in drift mode with main reefed right down to stop the flogging.

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Jono decided drifting time meant naked time.

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This front appeared on the horizon, so we motored for an hour to punch through it and found perfect conditions on the other side

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Kite up, hammock out as we knock the miles off 1 by 1 to Australia. The kite spent the next 24 hours up. Not touched until it was time to drop it.

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The last 24 hours we had a screaming 30 knot NW which made the last night one of our worst. As we arrived at the tail end of the G20 summit, a Border Protection Vessel was soon to hail us on the radio and come in for a closer look, escorting us through the Russian Naval missile fleet… Probably

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Bucko appeared on deck ready for her watch proudly displaying a medical certificate she had been given by a Dr Bucko rendering her useless for the day.

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Very tired bodies on the morning of our arrival into Moreton Bay. Celebrated with Moreton Bay porridge, a rich mix of rum and milk to liven the soul

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Brisbane’s river crosser, the Gateway bridge

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Up the river the welcoming parties started making themselves known along the river banks. First it was Jonos parents, then Caitlins, followed by Jonos brothers family.

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The Customs dock… we purposely arrived as late as reasonable on Sunday to avoid clearing in that day, avoiding hundreds of dollars in overtime fees.

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After washing the 3 tonnes of salt off the boat and bodies, we enjoy a well earned rum or 3 and a very, very sound sleep.

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Customs rudely awoke us at 7am the next morning and came onboard to do the paperwork and stamp us into the country. Biosecurity wasn’t far behind, taking what was left of our fresh food before giving us the all clear to head further up the river.

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Jono, the last man standing, enjoying his last 5 miles on board

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With Cowabunga passing safely under the Story Bridge, we anchored him just off the Botanical Gardens in the heart of the city while we attempt to get our lives back in order. Phones, health insurance, bank accounts, cars, jobs…. all the stuff we’ve had no need for over the last year or so have jumped up the importance list a little. We are now anchored off New Farm Park where welcome home drinks will take place tomorrow, Saturday at 2pm. Be there.

3 comments

  1. Nigel Bailey says:

    Well done Andy and crew.
    I have followed your blog with great interest for the whole of the Cowabunga trip. It has been a fantastic effort on your part with some great laughs and pics.
    What happens now? Where are you going next? What are we all going to do without the regular Cowabunga blogs???
    One question that I imagine I won’t be the only one to think about is how did you fund a venture like that? Did you take paying guests? It’s the question that no one wants to ask but everyone wants to know!
    BTW…Jono’s vid is fantastic!
    Please tell us that it’s not all over and there’s more to come!!

  2. Ian Ussing says:

    Thanks Andy and crew.
    I have really loved reading your blog and wishing I was there.
    What a trip. Hope you blog the next one as well, whatever that may be.

  3. Beau Lockhard says:

    Andy and crew,
    I have followed every blog and enjoyed every one of them, its been a great read. An awesome trip and adventure thats left me feeling envious after every read. Good luck with trying to settle back into the every day grime!

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