New Caledonians love getting out into the world's largest coral reef lagoon and having fun aboard their boats. Every Saturday morning it looks like the 7th fleet heading out into the lagoon and late Sunday afternoon they all come flocking back in droves.
But as everyone knows, boats of any description - from jet skies up to superyachts - require shore leave every year or so to get their pretty bottoms water blasted and repainted. So it's no surprise that Noumea boasts a large, modern, first class boat yard to handle those messy chores.
Hundreds of foreign cruising yachts pass through the South Pacific each cruising season and many of them also use the Nouville Plaisance slipway to fix problems they might have discovered on their voyage.
The men and women who operate the shipyard and it's facilities know what they are doing and make it all look easy. But it isn't actually easy to lift, move and cradle very expensive yachts weighing up to 50 tonnes. Our yacht, the Moira, is hiding in the thicket of masts behind the travel lift. Every time we have her lifted out of the sea and set on land the lifting and moving and cradeling is a frightening prospect - so the professionalism of the crew at Nouville Plaisance is very very welcome.
In this scene the slipway's travel lift is headed to to the lift-out area to pick up a sailboat and at the same time a crew is busy extracting a gigantic mast from a visiting catamaran. A big mast like that, with the radar dome and communication antennas is heavy, terribly unwieldy, and very delicate. The team accomplished it without even a scary thrill, much to the relief of the captain. For details on the sizes of yachts and services available at the slipway visit the Nautical Guide to New Caledonia.
Noumea is the capital and vacation centre of the Islands of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Noumea is a "French" city, but the 91,000 inhabitants are a very mixed cultural group with French, Melanesian, Polynesian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and lots of mixtures of these. Over 60% of the population of New Caledonia lives in Noumea.Noumea is a peninsula on the southwestern end of Grande Terre and the central business district (Centre Ville) is next to one of the best natural harbours in the South Pacific. The lagoon side of the peninsula has two picturesque bays with white sand beaches and is called Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons. These twin bays are the international tourism capital of New Caledonia with hotels, restaurants and bars on the landward side of "La Promenade".First settled by the French in 1854, Noumea retains close political ties with France. It has excellent schools and public facilities - parks, recreation areas, exercise paths, schools and medical facilities. Today it is the fastest growing city in the South Pacific. There are 23 hotels in Noumea ranging from one to five stars and over 100 Restaurants.