Sunday, August 29, 2010

More about Niue

Posted by Bill:
As with anyplace, Niue has its strengths and weaknesses. Niue is independent, but protected by New Zealand and the Niueans enjoy dual citizenship. There is one flight a week to New Zealand and many of the Niueans took it and never came back.

Currently most Niueans live in New Zealand and the islands population is 1/3 what it was in 2004, so there are a lot of empty houses and things are almost too quiet here.

The island is a coral atoll that has been uplifted to a maximum height of about 60 meters. Most of the island has a very steep rugged coastline, then flat all the way across the top. It's really strange to see a coral head sticking up in the middle of a forest! Access to the water is very limited, and there are almost no beaches on the island.

It has a roadstead anchorage at the main town on the west side that it fine as long as we have easterly trade winds, but low pressure systems passing to the South can cause the wind to reverse and the anchorage becomes untenable. It is looking like that will happen to us on Monday or Tuesday, so we will soon be on our way. The island was pounded by a hurricane from the west in 2005 which caused a lot of wind and wave damage to the town (which is at the top of the bluff) and probably contributed to some of the population loss.
I had hoped to do some diving here, but there is only one dive company with a tiny boat and they are booked up, so we're having to take a pass. It's too bad. The water is very clear here, though cooler than our prior stops.

When we were in Mexico, we ran into a number of cruisers who had set off to go around the Pacific or all the way around the world, but never got out of Mexico. From what I've seen on this trip, I think that was a huge mistake for them. Every island seems to offer something new and different.
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Saturday, August 28, 2010


Thurs, Aug 26th Niue
Niue is a lovely, small, island nation between Cook Islands and Tonga. We had pleasant passage here from Suwarrow. It was a downwind run with very moderate seas, much easier than the 24 hour a day roller coaster of the last few passages.
We arrived in Niue Tuesday morning. Completing the formalities here is easy and the Immigration Officer, Judith, gave us the warmest and most gracious welcome. What a nice way to start our visit.

Niue has the same relationship with New Zealand as does Cook Islands, so everybody speaks English. People are very friendly and helpful. The island is neat and tidy, with no starving, mangy, pathetic dogs that we have seen previously (Thank God). There is a strong environmental ethic here, and they are attempting to become the first completely organic, pesticide free country.

Niue Yacht Club provides stout moorings in deep water near the town wharf. It's the clearest water we have seen in some time. There is no lagoon enclosed by a reef, like in the Society Islands, so the mooring field is in a shallow bight on the west side of the island. The water is also a cool but refreshing, as we are very near the very deep water of the Tonga trench, which wells up under us.

There many caves around the shore.  The wind comes from off the shore, perpendicular to the swells. Although the swells are very small here, the boat still rocks. Bill rigged a flopper-stopper: a big bucket with the dinghy anchor for weight hanging from the end of the boom as far out as possible over the side of the boat and several feet down in the water. It doesn't completely stop the boat from rocking, but it sure helps. If the weather gets rough, we'll have to leave, though, because there is no protection from swells. We're really mooring right in the ocean.

The tiny yacht club has a hospitable clubhouse and garden with ICE CREAM, ESPRESSO AND NEW ZEALAND BEER! All these make us very happy. The yacht club members provide all kinds of information and assistance and make us feel very welcome. A number of people we've met before are also moored here, so we have lots of company. There are several modest, but good local restaurants, which gives a welcome break from the ship's mess.

Getting ashore is interesting as conditions are similar to the Marquesas, ie, ocean swells at the dinghy landing. Here, however, there is a landing with good footing (not slippery) and a ladder for getting ourselves up on the pier. There is a hoist to lift the tender up onto the dock and a dolly to move it to a parking place.

Niue is known for its visiting whales. We haven't seen them yet, but we can hear them both when swimming, and - get this - in the boat! Last night, after the wind died, the only other sound was the gentle swish of the waves on the coral shelf that serves as a beach. We could clearly hear the whales! It was just magic.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Passage to Niue

Tuesday, August 24th.
We left Suwarrow on Friday and are en route to Niue. This passage is more pleasant than the last, because the seas are calmer and it's not 5 day roller coaster ride. Also, we are getting a little further south, and temperatures are slightly cooler. It's nearly a full moon, which is beautiful, but it blots out the stars.

We've had to start baking our own bread. We need practice I guess. It comes out pretty heavy. The oven temperature is very hard to regulate so that doesn't help.

We started dragging a fishing line again, but no luck so far. The wind has just died and the autopilot was playing dead too for a while. So we were dreading a night of having to actually steer the boat by hand. Heaven forfend! However, Auto revived, so that's a relief. I hope it lasts.

We should arrive tomorrow. I hope we can find a parking place (a mooring). Anchoring is apparently not great there. Niue is an uplifted coral island, with practically no encircling reef, like the leeward Society Islands (Bora Bora, et al).

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Su-WOW-row and Uh Oh

Submitted by Kathy
Wednesday, August 11th,

Suwarrow has been wonderful. It's beautiful, calm, unspoiled, with only a few boats, 2 rangers and a cat. It's a Cook Islands National Park. The rangers, James and Apii process customs and immigration, and take the visitors exploring and fishing. They host potlucks in the rustic shelter, so everyone gets acquainted.

We slept most of the first day. In late afternoon Bill inflated and launched the dinghy (a big job) and we went ashore for potluck and had a wonderful evening. Mojumbo, a boat cruised by 3 young commercial fishermen from Comox, British Columbia. It was really fun to reminisce about BC. They had speared some grouper and other fish for the potluck, and it was divine!

Yesterday, Thursday, was calm and sunny, and warmer than we had become used to in the Societies. Bill and I walked Anchorage Island and snorkeled the nearby coral heads in shallow water near the anchorage. The variety of coral is lovely.

Friday, August 13th, Uh Oh
Last night, we had a light snack for dinner, which turned out to be a mistake as we ended up on anchor watch all night. The wind and waves built. And no more nice, light, short misty showers. No, now we had the real deal, driving rain and wind. (But, now we're drinking cool rainwater.) Although the wind rarely got above 30kts, things got gnarly. We were anchored in 70 ft and the anchor chain was wrapped under a coral head and was grinding and yanking hard on the boat with each passing wave. It was very loud and we risked the chain breaking or chafing through. Yikes! In pitch darkness and driving rain, we tried to unwrap the chain for over an hour. Finally, it came free. Hmmm, Jaime Gifford had told us to buoy the anchor chain with fenders to keep it off the coral heads. Doh! We wished we followed his advice when we anchored.

So, between 12am and 3am, we managed to get some chain in and attach a couple big fenders to hold it up in the water. The wave motion is also very hard on the snubber, the short rope used to take up the load from the chain and protect the windlass from the shocks. Bill rigged a second, bigger primary snubber. The dinghy was hanging and swinging off the side of the boat, low enough that waves were washing in over its bow. We had to bail it, raise it and secure it. We went below to dry out about 3:30. Bill stayed up the rest of the night monitoring our position on the plotter to make sure we didn't drag. Some of the other boats broke their snubbers and were up late too.

This morning, the squally weather continues. One couple woke to find its dinghy had blown away in the night. Apii, one of the rangers, took the cruisers out in his boat and retrieved it, unharmed from the reef on the far side of the lagoon. What a relief for them.
We spent the day reading and napping. I picked up a copy of _Hotel Pastis_, by Peter Mayle, in the Suwarrow book exchange. It is set in Provence and every few pages the characters open a bottle of wine. So I thought, hmm. Sounds good. So around 11am, I was opening a bottle of wine when Bill got up. I said, "this doesn't look good, does it". He said no. (He still hadn't had breakfast.) But the wine tasted very good with some bread and brie. Yum.
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Passage to Suwarrow

Submitted by Kathy

Friday, August 6th
We left Maupiti on a beautiful, calm, sunny day. We glided on a zephyr under sail to the pass then motored out. The big breakers were gone, the tide was slack and our exit was placid, the opposite of our arrival. Thus began the 650 mile passage to Suwarrow in the Northern Cook Islands.

The first day was quite calm so we motored. We usually are reluctant to motor early in a passage, because we only carry 70 gallons of fuel. But the engine and hull are really efficient, so 70 gallons go a long way, almost 500 miles at 5 knots! Not bad when you think about it.

Anyhoo, that night the wind started coming up and we had a run under fair winds and following seas. The next night we reefed as we often do if there's a chance of much excitement overnight. Winds and seas built. We occasionally saw 30kts and 4m swells, with some wind waves slightly offset. But mostly it was low to mid-20kts. We just had a tiny scrap of jib out to dampen the rolling. There were light, misty, intermittent, rain showers. The breeze only picked up a few knots during the showers, so they weren't even really squalls, certainly nothing to complain about.

In order to avoid seasickness, we both took Meclazine to start, instead of the usual Scopolomine patches. I felt fine and only took the one. Bill need them most of the rest of the trip. They make you feel drowsy and lethargic, so Bill never really felt up to par. But neither of us really enjoyed the trip. We alternate 3 hour watches around the clock, so we get tired from interrupted sleep. After a few days, we usually get somewhat accustomed and can sleep fairly well during the day. Bill gets the least sleep. If things get gnarly while I'm on watch, I have to wake him to help me. He comes on watch at 3am. Normally I would start the next watch at 6am, but Bill usually just stays up to do radio nets and weather from 7:15 to 8:30. So there goes the morning, and Bill doesn't get back to bed until 9-ish.

We get very lethargic in general. The motion of the boat demands extra physical effort for every little thing and we become very lazy. It shows particularly in my cooking. Poor Bill. We don't fish much. If we catch something, it just seems like too much effort to deal with.

For entertainment, we listen to audio books. I listened to _Kabul Beauty School_, by Deborah Rodriquez on my mp3 player. Audio books are great on on night watch, You don't need any light and your eyes can stay adjusted to the darkness. I even cover or turn off the plotters because they are too bright, even on their night settings. We both could listen _Getting Stoned With Savages_ by Maarten Troost by plugging the mp3 player into the stereo to play it out loud. It's an hilarious and ironic recount of the author's time in Vanuatu and Fiji. I'm running out of audiobooks as the last internet connections were never fast enough to download a whole audio book. E-books download quickly, but they have to be read on the computer. Audiobooks are much more convenient.

Our trip was slower than Bill planned, setting a nighttime ETA at Suwarrow, which was completely out of the question. So we slowed the boat down, leaving the 2nd reef in even in 12kts of breeze. The motion was more gentle as a result. Five days after departing Maupiti we arrived at Suwarrow at 9am, Wednesday, August 11th.

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Goodbye Maupiti

Friday, Aug 6th

Today, we say goodbye to Maupiti and begin our passage to Suwarrow.
The snorkeling here has been so so. We're really spoiled.

However, I am pleased to award the best sound ratings so far:

Barking Dogs: ***** (practically nil)
Roosters Crowing: **** (1 or 2, who cares)
Automobile Traffic Sounds: **** (nil)
Loud Music: **** (heard only church choir practice. hoping for more)
Jetskis: ***** (None!, That said, they were really quiet in Bora Bora, must be 4 stroke, not bad)
Outboards: *** (a fair amount, as that's the main form of transportation here. It's good to hear them coming, to warn us of the wake)
Radio Chatter: *** (still can hear the fleet Bora Bora, but not constantly)
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marvelous Maupiti

Tue, Aug 3rd,
We can still see the mountain of Bora Bora across the sea and hear the BBYC VHF conversations, so we don't feel too far away. I wish we could post some pictures.

We'd never heard of this island before coming to the Societies. It's the place we've been looking for: beautiful island and lagoon, few boats, tidy village, drinkable water, beautiful beach, no hotels, but a few pensions spread around. What a joy. It's our Polynesian Mayberry. And - the boulangerie sells bread and doughnuts ALL DAY! (most other islands run out by 10:30 am)

Wed, Aug 4th
I biked around the island with the other sailors, and Bill walked. He didn't take much longer
than we did, it's only 11km around. There are a number of cars and small trucks. There are
more bikes than cars. Many bikes are available for rent.

Thurs, Aug 5th,
Anthem and Inspiration Lady are leaving for Rarotonga. The Spirit of Nyumi Nyumi (yes, it's a
boat) is still here with us. We spent a marvelous afternoon roaming the kilometers of warm,
shallow sand bars, that seem to stretch on forever. Paradise. sigh... we hate to leave.

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Bye Bye Bora Bora, Really this time

Mon, 2 Aug.
We're finally leaving Bora Bora. Really. We really mean it this time!
We finally departed beautiful Bora Bora for Maupiti. Three other boats were also en route for the 25mi passage. We had a lovely run, arriving at the turbulent and spectacular pass about the same time as our traveling companions. There were huge turquoise breakers and 3-4kt outflow. We kept the main up and motorsailed, hammer down into the lagoon. It was quite exciting.

The pass was shallow, crooked and turbulent, but well marked, as is the channel to the village. There were lots of snorkel boats along the pass, a reminder that perhaps it wasn't really the jaws of death. There were just 2 cruising boats anchored inside the pass. We pressed on the 1 mile to the village anchorage where we were the only boats. We got acquainted with our fellow travelers: Inspriration Lady (Ontario, Can) and Anthem (FL).

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Bora Bora, not done yet

Fri, July 30th.
We checked out of the country with the gendarmes, got fuel and groceries. Ready to go. hmmm wind too light or too strong, I forget. Bill finished lubing all our winches - Yay! They were making scary noises, so it's a relief.

Sat, July 31st. Still at BBYC.
We became acquainted with Caspar & Maud (Dutch) on Sueno Azul (Gibralter flag). They had hilarious stories about the Texas expats in Rio Dulce, Guatamala. We went back to the village for roulotte pizza and the Heiva.

It was another huge group, est 80, including chorus, musicians, drummers and dancers. Almost all ages participate: the elders in the chorus, mixed ages musicians, and the teenage dancers. One toddler kept wandering on to the field, and was retrieved by the security guard several times. I had wondered why then needed uniformed security.

The dancers were quite tired from performing, so things went a little south. One chunky guy lost his pareu and then his headdress. The girls were wearing these spectacular red grass skirts with white "baggy-wrinkle" bustles. Some of the skirts turned themselves around to the front despite the girls' struggles to keep them straight. And another headdress was on the ground. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful performance and a nice farewell for us.

Sun, Aug 1st, still BBYC
I discovered 12 bottles of wine and a bottle of gin stowed in the bow. Holy Smokes! Unfortunately, we've gotten used to French wine (tho admittedly not at it's best), so the Argentine wine purchased in Mexico took some getting used to again. But we apply ourselves diligently to the task.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

How to Enjoy a Beer

How to Enjoy a Beer

Submitted by Bill

While we were in Bora Bora, we spent an evening with the Irish couple Furgus and Kay aboard their yacht Pylades. One of the many topics of the evening's conversations dealt with drinking in Irish Pubs. This led to Furgus' explanation of how to properly enjoy a Guiness, which I will try to summarize here.

First, the beer must be properly poured. This means clean taps, proper temperature, etc, etc.

The beer cannot be consumed immediately, but must be contemplated for some time.

The weather outside must be cold and miserable with the sound of driven rain on the windows.

It should be warm and comfortable inside with a fire burning in the fireplace and a faint smell of wood smoke in the air.

A television in the room will cause the beer to go flat immediately. Not allowed!

Music is a touchy subject and can easily ruin the experience. Ideally, you would hear the sound of a fiddle tuning up in the corner.

I can only hope that someday I may be able to enjoy a Guiness in this manner. In the meantime, I have to settle for Hinano, which is the local Tahitian beer and bears no resemblance to a Guiness. But it seems appropriate that there be a set of rules for drinking such a beer, so my rules follow.

First, the beer must be very cold. Ideally, there should be a few ice crystals in the can.

The beer needs to be consumed soon after it comes out of the cooler before it gets too warm.

The weather outside should be warm and sunny with a steady trade wind blowing. The boat should be gently rocking on the anchor in the deeper blue water inside the lagoon, with shallower sandy patches around the boat.

You should be comfortably resting under a sun shade or a palm tree on the beach.

A television anywhere around will cause the beer to go flat immediately. Not allowed.

Music is again a touchy subject and can easily ruin the experience. Ideally there should be the sound of ukuleles, guitars and drums nearby, but Jimmy Buffet will do in a pinch.

Fortunately, I am able to enjoy the Hinano experience fairly often. Enough for now. It's time to go do my daily boat project so I can have a beer . . . . . .

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