On the weekend of November 12-13, 2016, Fleur de Passion made its entry into Moreton Bay and is about to enter the Brisbane River to go up to the capital of the State of Queensland. On Monday, 14 November, after a final anchorage away from the commercial routes of many merchant ships, the yacht will be moored at the customs pontoons at the entrance of the river, almost under the immense Gateway Bridge. There, in its brownish waters, it will fulfil the formalities of entry into Australia. During the week, it will sail up to the city centre where festivities will take place not only to mark the arrival in Australia and the end of the Pacific crossing, begun seven months earlier in Chile, but also the demi tour of the world since the departure of the expedition from Seville in April 2015.
Between the end of October and the beginning of November 2016, the expedition, according to custom, had the opportunity to change its courtesy flag again due to its journey to Suva, the capital of Fiji, as far as Noumea, in New Caledonia . From there Fleur de Passion left again, at the beginning of November, for the last stage of its crossing of the Pacific towards Brisbane. The last courtesy flag for 2016 is expected soon. This year will have counted a good number.
Friday, 21 October 2016
Latitude 17°58.2'S / Longitude 177°04'E
On October 21, 2016, we leave Viti Levu, Fiji, one of the main islands whose capital Suva sits in the middle of an archipelago of more than 300 islands and islets scattered over more than 500km2! For this week of sailing towards New Caledonia, we have changed the rhythm of the quarters, which breaks the routine established until then. Fabien, Ali, Thomas, with the help of Marc-André, take care of sailing during the day and of a meal a day.
Monday, 24 October 2016, 5 pm
Mooring at port of Goro. Latitude 22°18.7'S / Longitude 167°00.8'E
Having changed four times of courtesy flags since leaving Tahiti in early September, we reach the Loyalty Islands (South Hebrides Trench), an archipelago from New Caledonia, after 6 days at sea only sailing. Fleur de Passion slips to 6-7 knots (11-13 km / h) on a calm Pacific, cross wind, all sails out. Amélie’s quarter taunts us with 9.6 knots (almost 18 km / h). Absolute happiness. Then we have to motor the last 24 hours. The wind suddenly failing us, Fleur stows its sails.
Landing on a reef is always impressive as a white foam bar breaks along the coast. We will have to find the pass of the Havannah Canal, not always well marked, to find a peaceful anchorage on bottoms that go from 200 to 15m very quickly. The anchor is moored in the Bay of Goro at the extreme southern tip of New Caledonia.
The next day at dawn, a quiet departure to join Noumea, 70 nautical miles away. We will reach it in the early afternoon following a winding route between islands and submerged reefs.
This last stop in Noumea is an emotional one. A new crew is expected with the arrival of Seb and Camille and the departure of a large part of the team with whom we shared our daily life for several weeks: Pietro, Candy, Amélie, "Pioup", Carlos and Therese. It is therefore 7 of us that will carry out this last navigation between Nouméa and Brisbane, 780 miles (2'200 km).
Wednesday, 2 November 2016
Kuto Bay, Isle of Pines. Latitude 22°39.5'S / Longitude 167°26.7'E
Monday, 31 October 2016, preparations for departure accelerate for this last hop in the Pacific. After our unavoidable restocking of supplies at the local market, the usual administrative formalities follow.
Before the real departure, we decide to go through the Isles of Pines, undisputed jewel of the Caledonian archipelago. Turquoise and limpid water crowned by the typical silhouettes of the great araucarias. The famous Caledonian pines the lower part of the trunks are used to craft the monoxyles canoes (carved and dugout from a single trunk). The island also shelters the vestiges of the penal colony home to 3,000 political deportees from the Paris Commune in 1870, French prisoners exiled until 1912.
On Tuesday, November 1st, the new skipper Seb and Marc-André accompany our three youngsters for a long bike ride across the island: 50km are felt on the legs at the end of the day, enough to tire our seasoned sailors but not the young ones, who give themselves an evening and a night of freedom on land. We will find them on the pontoon the next morning, after a rather cool night.
A quick visit to the bay of St. Joseph will make us discover the famous outrigger canoes whose hull is dug with an adze and also from the araucarias’ trunks. We engage in a discussion with the locals (called Kunié) on the method of construction and the wood used for the outrig, ligated and pegged with the Gaïac (non-rotting wood). Unfortunately, we will not have time to sail in the bay of St Joseph with our new friends: go sailors!
Without delay, we leave Apia bay the morning of Saturday 8 October 2016 for Pacific Harbour on the south coast of Fiji. Along the way we enjoy this beautiful day tacking towards the island of Beqa renowned for diving with "sharks". Beautiful navigation, entering the east pass. We try a first anchorage but it turns windy with a heavy current. We change place and enjoy a quiet anchorage to allow three divers on board (Laure, Candy and Amélie) to plunge into the water. Back on board, Laure, visibly shaken, mentions the "worst" dive she has done ... We only understand later that she saw a large shark in rather murky waters ...
The Pacific Harbour is not far away and we reach it by nightfall. It is impossible to enter the pass as the tide is too low and the wind strong. It will only happen the next day after a night anchored in the shelter of a reef in the sea! On the morning of Sunday 9 October, the tide is high and we enter the port where Fleur de Passion is obliged to make a U-turn in a narrow channel of 60 meters. This isn’t the easiest manoeuvre, but finally the boat is moored at the dock of a hotel complex. A welcome stop after days at sea. Three of the passengers on board, Laura, Philippe and the designer Ambrose leaves us, filled with an collection of memories. We all benefit: sailors, young and the remaining passengers, of a few days to visit the island. We can see that the last cyclone Winston in February 2016, has left important traces on land and at sea!
Before leaving, we welcome aboard two new passengers, David and Carlos, who settle into the rhythm on board as old hands. We leave the evening of 14 October for the islands to the west of Viti Levu (the main island). The first night is magic under an almost full moon. The next day, the wind picks up and we take advantage to reach Vanua Levu, two uninhabited and gorgeous islands. The seabed is wonderful, even if the rain comes at night, everyone will hold an unforgettable memory. The young ones have again spent the night ashore as budding Robinsons.
Soon after we must leave. Lautoka, the departure port of Fiji, is waiting for the usual administrative duties that we will perform on 18 October. The departure from Fiji will take time for another reason: because of a technical problem at the dock we have to, again, "make water" - fill the tank of 1,700 liters - with 5 liter cans! But finally we depart with all sails set, headed for New Caledonia.