“I spotted a lighthouse that looked as if it reached all the way to the floor of heaven.” That’s just one of many great lines in Jimmy Buffett’s romp of a sailing yarn, A Salty Piece of Land.
And it’s absolutely true, as we discovered upon sailing to Amédée lighthouse in New Caledonia’s magnificent lagoon. Maybe it’s the contrast of the sheer white tower against the turquoise waters of the lagoon. Maybe it’s the mesmerizing spiral pattern of the two-hundred-plus stairs we climbed to reach eagle-eye views. Or maybe it’s the fact that we got there by sailing our sturdy thirty-five footer from halfway around the world. Whatever makes it so special, Amédée lighthouse is one of the iconic landmarks of the South Pacific.
Built in 1862 and shipped in pieces from France, it’s still one of the tallest lighthouse in the world. Once the daytripping crowds depart, Île Amédée can be a magical place to anchor off for the night. I’ll never forget the light beam illuminating our cabin in regular four-second sweeps throughout a moonlit night – or the seven-foot reef shark I came face-to-snout with while snorkeling the next day. (I’m still not sure which one of us was in more of a hurry to get away.) And I’ll never forget the view back to the lighthouse when we sailed out Boulari Pass on the last major passage of a Pacific crossing that will live in our memories forever.
(This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Cruising World Magazine)