Friday, November 27, 2015

Exploring the Baie du Prony

The incoming tide and currents took the boat off course.
So it is onward we go! After visiting the waterfall, we quickly stowed the dinghy and the galley and headed south again. This time we were going against the tide on our way out of the anchorage. There are a number of shallow areas to avoid on the way out so I needed to stay on my track. But you can see in the photo that it looks like a drunken sailor at the helm!

This was a picture-perfect anchorage!
The tide would grab the bow of the boat and move it 450s to port or starboard depending on where I was in the passage. I would struggle to get it back on the track only to have it happen again. We could feel the boat being moved each time it happened. And our speed was reduced by the incoming tidal flow of one knot. That is a lot when you are  going at a slow speed while steering through reefs!
I was relieved to finally get past the lighthouse and out into Havannah Passage. Then the tidal flow was to our advantage. One does not ever want to go through Havannah Passage against the tide as it is very strong and fast in some areas. It can be 4-5 knots for or against you. One should plan to go on a flow and not an ebb.
It looked like this every morning.
The weather forecast was predicting a big change with high winds clocking from northeast to southwest. With this information, our little flotilla headed into the Baie de Prony to seek shelter on the western side.
Since it is a huge bay, we first went as far as Baie de La Maine aux Anglais, but decided there was not good holding for the three of us with the other boats already at anchor. So we went as far up north into the river as we could to the anchorage in Baie du Carenage.  

The red mud bottom in the bay.
There were five boats tucked in there, a couple from the ICA Pacific Cruising Rally. A couple more boats joined us before sunset so it was getting tight there. Everyone was seeking protection from the wind and this seemed to be the place. By morning, there were 14 yachts here. We planned to stay here for a day or two and even explore the rivers, falls and hot baths that are located up the river.
The predicted high winds never came and we really did not have a weather issue up in the top of the bay. Every morning the water was like a mirror until the midday winds caused ripples followed by small waves. Nothing serious!

We took the dinghies over to the other upper branch to see a waterfall. It turned out to be a minor cascade and not worth landing the dinghies. Then we went to see the hot baths that were touted in one of the cruising guides. What a joke! Old, not maintained and cold.
Donna was so ready for a nice natural hot spring bath! Not to be! Dennis found a place in the lagoon where warm water was bubbling up, but not enough to make it worth getting wet! The sun is warm, but the air is still cool. When I checked one of our cruising guides printed in 2002, it stated that the baths were in disrepair. That is an understatement. We told other cruisers not to bother going there. What a disappointment - especially after the hot spring baths in New Zealand!

Brian spotted a place to unload trash in one of the nearby smaller bays. He and Dennis took all of the trash there. At first they didn't see where to leave it. Dennis thought about putting it in one of the pickup trucks! Of course, the guy who owned it would have been furious when he came in from the long New Caledonia Day extended weekend and found everyone's trash in his truck. It provided a good laugh for all of us. Of course, they found the bins and took care of it properly.
At least, we are all hunkered down waiting for the forecasted trough to pass, the winds to shift and the sky to clear. Then we will move to an anchorage within the bay where one can hike up the mountain to an observation area to see the whales in the bay.
From there, the plan is to go to Ile des Pins for a few days. Bread, anyone? The French boulangeries and patisseries in Noumea are sounding wonderful right about now!

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