For Captain Cook, the 1770s were great years for discovering things and many yachtsmen owe the roving Tyke their eternal gratitude. Two years before he discovered gum trees and kangaroos, he came across a group of South Pacific Islands which so much reminded him of Scotland, a country only a few miles north of where he was born, that he called them New Caledonia (Latin for Scotland).
Now, just because you name something, doesn’t automatically give you ownership of it and what with possession being nine-tenths of the law, the French have been in charge since 1853, which has not only given everyone enough time to learn the language, but turned it into a pacific province of la belle France.
New Caledonia has emerged over the last few years as a major charter destination for Australian bareboat charterers seeking sun, sophistication and French cuisine as well as some of the best tropical anchorages in the world.
There is no secret why it is so popular with Australians – it is only 3 hours flying time from Sydney which means it is just far enough into the Pacific to give you the feeling that you have actually left Australia, but near enough to not give you jetlag.
Not that that is sufficient to attract – no, the cruising is, well, simply spectacular – and that’s not a paradox in terminology.
The main island of Grande Terre is the third largest in the Pacific behind New Zealand and Papua-New Guinea. Noumea, the capital, is on the island’s east side and has a population of 150,000, which is large enough for it to have most things, and small enough for anyone not to feel claustrophobic.
The population is mainly a mix of Melanesians and Europeans. New Caledonia itself is a mixture of French cooking and European boutiques enjoyed at the slow Melanesian pace of life, set against a backdrop of lazy loops of beach and provocatively blue lagoons. Who could ask for anything more?
The cruising area known as The Lagoon is best described as ‘diverse’ which contrasts the city lights of Noumea and the mountainous wooded coastline.