Ua – New Caledonia

What a gem!

Ua is a small uninhabited island less than a km long and maybe 400m wide at its widest. At 22 42.30S 166 48.39E, it is about 30Nm W of Kuna in amongst the many reefs that fall S some 40Nm from the end of the main island to the drop off. Not an anchorage recommended to visitors using the small charter fleet, it leaves it free for liveaboard visitors, the occasional local family on a fishing boat and other infrequent visitors.

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We anchored in 35’ of water on sand in the crescent bay at the NW corner of the island. It is sheltered but here is a wraparound N swell that finds its way into the bay. Not too bad for us catamarans but if you weren’t close in to the island, it can be a bit rolly for the monos.

There is only one small gap in the reef to get on to the island at the N end of the beach. Take care to find the right cut in through the beach and make sure you have the engine up to half mast as it gets v shallow at low tide.

We explored the island and saw two Osprey nests, one in a tree, the other no more than four feet off the ground 100m through the scrub forest from the dinghy landing point.

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We didn’t see the birds until we explored the island. After we had turned to walk N on the E shore, we startled four juvenile Ospreys who had yet to find the courage to leave the island. They flew above us, keening and obviously not happy that we were there so we turned round and left them to settle down. We listened to them crying away throughout our stay.

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We had been communicating with Tika by Messenger for quite a while, wondering if we would get the chance to see them again. They decided that one last rendezvous was in order. We had a moment when Russell and I realised that there were islands with all too similar names and there was still 15+ miles between us! They pushed hard to get down to us, arriving just around last light to anchor behind us. It was great seeing them again. It wasn’t long before Tika Taka, their rather splendid dinghy, was down in the water and it was great watching the kids pushing her hard around the bay. Hannah was effective ballast and thoroughly enjoyed hiking out! Although the Mirror dinghy that I learnt my sailing on is on offer to the girls when we get home, I rather think it is unlikely that they will experience this kind of weather for a while!

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Tika weren’t able to stick around for long. I have to admit, yet again, at feeling jealous watching Tika depart as she accelerated from 0 to 10+kts in a few boat lengths as her main filled. She left us in 20+kts with a full main up, the wind on her beam, tearing away towards Noumea.

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We had several days of simple pleasures, snorkelling on the reefs around the island, exploring the island, having a bonfire on the beach and doing a little bit of socialising. Wet suits were definitely needed but drying out in the sun on a walk was an enjoyable après snorkel activity.

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Ua provided us with some of the best snorkelling in the Pacific. That’s a big statement but the life on the reef running N from the island was magnificent. There was more colour in the coral than I’d seen anywhere else, the mix of coral was fantastic and the fish life was superb. At 21C the water temperature felt cold but this presumably has helped protect the reef from the heavy bleaching so evident E in the mid Pacific island groups. 

Russell asked if I was able to take the Tika kids down for a dive and that I did. Jaiya (her first ever), Hannah and Kai each got a short dive along the best bit of the reef wall about 100m N from the end of the island. It was a shallow dive and we didn’t have to go any deeper than 8m. I went back and had another couple of dives. I spent the time trying not to smile at the gloriousness of life I saw. Magnificent!

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With just a few days left before we needed to be in Noumea for Skylark’s survey and the imminent arrival of Kostya, the new owner, we needed to move. We left Ua and moved the 30 odd miles to a bay just shy of Noumea for our very last night on the hook. Skylark didn’t disappoint on our last real sail as a family on board and we swept NW at 8kts on a beam reach.

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