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New Caledonia is a great place to visit and cruise.  Make sure you have good charts and that the datum is correct for your GPS/Chartplotter (French charts are sometimes in IGN datum instead of the more usual WGS datum).

Take care entering and exiting the outer reef.  Once inside, the reef is exceptionally well marked for dangers though some beacons are not lit at night.  Many anchorages provide clearly identifiable and free public buoys for tourists (so no one anchors on coral ... which is definitely a no-no!)

The only Port of Entry (in 2008) was Noomea.  This is a bit of a problem because you must enter and leave from this port but there are two strings of islands about 3 to 4 cruising days apart and you are only allowed a maximum of 24 hours before being granted access on arrival and then given 24 hours grace after departure.  So planning your cruising is imperative.

The two parallel strings are the Loyalties (to the north-east, including We) and Grande Terre, the main island and reef, which also includes the Isle of Pines (Vao on the Google map).

Arrival in Noumea is easy and you can go straight to Port Moselle and tie up at the quarantine berth.  Best to radio VHF #16 to the Marina and/or Noumea Radio first.

July 14th is Bastille Day and the celebrations in Noumea are worth joining in.

Cruising the southern lagoon is fabulous.  Dozens of anchorages.  Visit http://www.cruising-newcaledonia.com/ and I recommend getting the excellent DVD which you can load onto your laptop and use online whilst cruising or download the data and burn your own DVD.

Inside the reef the sea conditions are excellent (a bit like sailing on a big lake) and there are plenty of 'holes' to flee to in the event of bad weather.  Beaches are a mixed bunch, some very crunchy (near mining areas) and stain your decks, but some are superb, particularly on the smaller coral islands.

Isle of Pines is a must-see.  The whitest sand I have ever seen.  The local history is interesting too.

Please make some attempt, however feeble, to speak a few words of French.  The locals will warm to you as soon as you show willing, and they will then happily speak English.  The marine weather forecasts every evening are in rapid-fire French (too fast for me) but if you call them up on VHF after the bulletin they will happily read you an English version (which all your neighbouring cruising buddies will listen in to).
David [ Capricorn II ] 20-Jul-2008