The Floor of Heaven

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 accurate, as we discovered upon sailing to the 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 200-plus stairs we climbed to reach eagle-eye views. Or maybe it’s the fact that we got there by sailing our study Dufour 35 from halfway around the world. Whatever makes it so special, the 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 lighthouses in the world. Once the day-tripping crowds depart, Île Amédée can be a magical place to anchor the the night.

I’ll never forget the light beam illuminating our cabin in regular four-second sweeps throughout a moonlit evening - or the 7-foot reef shark I met face to snout while snorkeling the next day. (I’m still not sure which 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 of Boulari Pass on the last major passage of a Pacific crossing that will live in our memories forever.

“The Floor of Heaven” originally appeared as an article in Cruising World Magazine, December 2016.