Leaving town at 5 a.m. isn't easy, but we had the added bonus of the Sydney marathon running that day. Urging us on was the prospect of seeing Laurent and the construction of Utopia, a 53 foot trimiran in New Caledonia. Seven years ago Craig went cruising out of Hawaii with Laurent for about 4 months. Laurent spent about 3 years sailing from France, until he stopped in New Caledonia, where he taught for 4 years. Now he has stopped working, and is spending full time building his new boat, a trimaran completely of his own design. For the boaties, get this - he made it from a unique polystyrene & plywood sandwich, which he vacuum bagged in each panel! This will make the whole thing weigh just 6 tons, a light and strong design.
It was amazing for Craig to see Laurent, and the boat Steve that he sailed with 7 years ago. Laurent and his partner Sandrine welcomed us warmly to New Caledonia with a wonderful fish salad and french baguettes. We had definitely left Australia, the food was getting crazy good! We had lunch in the salon of the trimaran, and got to start looking at our tour of the boat. At 53' long and 40' wide, it is really big, and big job to build!
The hulls are complete and were assembled just feet away from the water at the beginning of this year. In fact, most everything is there: hulls, engine, mast, rudder, center boards, electrical system, and even a main sail. However, most of this has been there for about 6 months, as Laurent, Sandrine and many many friends work on 1,000 crucial details that make the boat work. Of course there is much more to the story, much of which is told at the web site for Utopia.
Anchored just off shore from Utopia is le Steve, where we spent the next week while Laurent and Sandrine lived aboard their new boat for the first time. Craig was happy to reunite with this boat where he spent so much time. It was amazing to see it with new eyes, because then he had not yet owned such a substantial boat, but now it seems quite reasonable to handle. More on this former story is in a friends' web site that also followed the Steve way back in 2000. Here is the link.
For the next week we got to know Utopia as well as help tick a few things off the job list including prep to paint the boat for the first time! Craig also drilled holes in strips that were attached by epoxy to the hull to be used to hang the nets between the hulls. The nets are a real substantial part of the boat needed to move around, they cover a big area as the floats are FAR away from the main hull. Evvy prepared the top of the floats for a layer of epoxy with synthetic sand designed to make a non-skid surface. The work was interesting, a good way to get to know such a craft.
It wasn't all work though. We took a tour of the town of Noumea, went out to dinner, too le Steve for a couple sails, and even went to a community meeting to work against asbestos contamination for which Laurent and Sandrine volunteer. Craig enjoyed re-awaking his French and Evvy got some French lessons. Sandrine is still working to teach French in the schools on a part-time basis as they prepare to leave.
The week in New Caledonia flew by quickly. Before we knew it, we were off to Hawaii, ending our 6 month tour outside of the country, on our way back to jobs waiting for us.