Onward! Niue and Crossing to Tonga!

Broken oar syndrome.  Heavy swell in Niue did my oar wrong on the wharf.  Dig the Crack in the right hand photo. Bit of a repair and I can get both oars in the water again.  No comments….

8/15/2017

I am walking down the road with Guillaume and we encounter a crew of men remodeling a house.  Turns out Guillaume met them the day before.  We tell them we are looking for baguettes and that we’d heard the petrol station had some.  Larry is the foreman and he says yeah they do.  But it’s a bit off a walk.  Take my truck.  Very generous of Larry.  I mean everyone here is nice but this is one step beyond.  Of course I have not driven a 4 wheel vehicle since April.  And now I have to drive on the opposite side of the road.  This is hard but we get it done then these fellows treat us to coffee.  Larry is from Auckland NZ.  And he’ll be there when STW gets there in November.  Need to look him up when I get there.

I heard from Larry.  Security Almost confiscated his genuine Spill The Wine corkscrew.  But not this time.  Silver tongued devil!

8/16/2017

We arranged for a rental car.  At 830am I went to pick it up and there was nobody at the rental shop.  I gave up at 915.  And it was raining.  A lot.  Think monsoon.  This went on all day.  So really not the ideal day to tour the island after all.

Later in the day the winds came.  25 kts in the bay from the NW.  Which is to say exposed to the sea.  Big swells came with it.  Nancy and Guillaume stayed on shore.  Huub and I were on STW.  An interesting ride for sure.  But not really a problem.

The challenge was getting back out to the mooring ball after dinner.  There is that winch at the wharf.  It has a nice light for night use.  Huub and I went down to the wharf after dinner to retire to STW.  Well it was a dark and stormy night.  And the wharf lights were… Dark!  5 foot swells rolling by the dinghy landing.  So time it right and you step nicely aboard.  Wrong and you fall 5 ft into the dinghy.  As luck would have it our timing was good.

One guy lost his dinghy in the storm.  It was found on the reef but not sure if it is in any way salvageable.  I’m starting to wonder how many “stolen” dinghys are really lost to bad knots or weak bow lines.  Hmm…

8/17/2017

Nancy and I and Huub rescheduled the rental car and did a tour of the coast.  Pretty cool.  Lots of caves.  One had human bones from the old days when that is how they handled people after the died.  Spooky.  Awesome pools that were made to swim in.  So Huub and I did.

Could not help but notice that there were Graves all around the island.  Frequently in people’s yards.  And in parks.  And along the side of the road in kinda random distribution.  But at least they gave up on the bones laying around thing.  Progress!

We stopped for lunch at a place that just opened.  They had both fish and chips and sausage and chips.  We did fish.  We watched the owner as she sliced off hunks of a wahoo filet and do the batter and fry production.  Beautiful.

Today we did fooling around with customs to get checked out of Niue.  Takes about 3 hours.  Customs were very nice.  They gave us a ride back to town after the boxes were all checked and fees covered.  Then shopping to get provisions stocked up.  Mooring field is pretty rough again.  We decide to dine aboard rather than try to jump on and off the dinghy in all the swell one more time.  Good call.

Nancy made pasta which was fabulous.  We hoisted the motor off the dinghy and stowed it.  Then hoist the dingy, deflate it, and stow on the bow for passage.  After dinner it rinsed the pasta pot on the stern and set it aside.  Shortly thereafter was a bitchin swell and Mr. Pot went swimming.  Too bad.  But we are in 36 feet of water.  I can snorkel that up tomorrow am before we depart.  I set a marker on the chart plotter in case we swing in a wind shift.

8/19/2017

I’m up at dawn chasing details and waiting for enough light to make pot retrieval practical.  Finally it is Ok light.  I snorkel about looking for that nice shiny polished aluminum pressure cooker pot.  20 minutes of that and I am not finding it.  Crap.  I asked Huub to throw the lid in the water so I can get an idea as to what my target looks like.  Dang that’s shiny!  Why am I not seeing Mr. Pot?  Wait there it is.  And I am not seeing it because it is so small.  The boat is hanging on a hump in the floor of the bay about 36 feet deep.  Adjacent is a trough.  And at the bottom of the trough, Mr. Pot.  As I look at it I compare the 42 ft boat to the depth there and it looks to be 60 ft.  Ok, never snorkeled that deep before…. Hyperventilate.  Down down down.  That pot is still too small!  Maybe I made 50 ft and then abort.  It’s hard to swim down and keep your ears clear simultaneously.  Chill on the surface for a bit and do it again.  Got it that time.  Then go get the lid in a mere 36 ft.  Yawn!

Start the motor, loose the lines to the mooring bouy and we are off.  Motoring West for Vava’u in minimal wind.  Perfect really.  We need to run the motor to charge the batteries.  And I have repairs to do.  One of the dinghy oars broke a blade on the wharf in the heavy surge.  I splinted it back together with a bamboo plywood scrap.  Not good as new but it will serve.

Later on the wind fills in and we sail West on mildly lumpy seas with great wind.  This is the definition of fair winds and following seas that all the sailors wish for each other as they depart company.  An exit salutation.

Dinner was some kind of beef on the Egg.  I should have gone for lamb.  That is what they do here more than beef.  French Polynesia had better beef.  No mainsail all day, jib enough in this wind.  After dinner we shorten the jib to avoid trouble with having too much sail up and need to reduce in the dark.  Not exactly dangerous but nice to avoid that complication at sea. We roll through our shifts.  I am enjoying a novelty.  A physical book.  I have read many on my phone.  Now I have an old school artifact.  Kinda fun for a change.

8/20/2017
Wind holds all day and we run main and jib.  In the afternoon we stow the main as the wind is picking up. Our speed drops to 5.5 kts but its for the best.  We are at risk of arriving Vava’u in the dark.  Not a good idea.

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Niue (Pronounced Ni-Way)

8/11/2017

Seas are up.  6-7 foot swells and wind waves.  Wind is up.  15-20 kts for the first 36 hrs. Which makes for great sailing but too bad about the swell.  We proceed with jib only and frequently not all of that.  The whole trip is fairly overcast but minimal actual rain.  We make good time at 5-8 kts and 26 kts wind astern for the next 36 hrs.  Then the wind dies and we start to motor.

The seas get pretty mild. So the little bit of wind is enough.  Trick is to keep the sails full.  I can do that with 3 kts of wind.  Unless there are seas.  The more waves there are the more wind it takes to keep the sails full.  So tonight with quite mild seas we are keeping the sails full with 11 kts on our port quarter.  And making just over 4 kts.  This will be our last night on this leg.  Expect to arrive Niue just after dawn.  And the Milky Way is laid out so perfectly from the north horizon down to the south.  Keeping the Southern Cross to port we make our way.

8/12/2017

The wind built across the night.  Huub and I furled the main at 4am when the wind got to 22kts and we were making 8.  Strangely enough the ride was quite smooth at that speed.  We arrive and pick up a mooring ball.  And take a nap.  Then we do breakfast and inflate the dinghy.  Customs was easy here.  The dinghy dock is odd.  Concrete pier.  Crane over the side to hoist your dinghy.  Then you park it on the land until you return to your boat.  Small facilities and no beach (boulders only) make this necessary.  Kinda interesting to land this way.

Grocery store seems well stocked.  Except…. No Baguettes!  Lame sliced white bread!  The French never touched this place.  We stock up on everything because Everything is closed on Sunday.  Stores grocery restaurants, everything.  There are 1100 residents.  One stand down day a week is probably a good idea.

We had dinner at a local restaurant with Dan from My Dream.  He sailed here from La Cruz as we did.  Finally caught up with him here.

Rumors.  Of big wind.  Our cove faces West.  Forecast is for 30 kts out of the west on Weds.  That will hammer this little cove.  We might decide to sail around the island Weds.  Seeking shelter by hanging close to the down wind side of the island.  We’ll see.

Rarotonga in our wake

8/7/2017

Our intended departure was Sunday August 6th.  But the immigration office was closed on Friday thru Monday.  More Constitution Day Holiday maybe.  Better luck on the 7th.  Immigration office cleared.  Off to customs office.  Things are going so well. they even take credit cards!  Then they want to see my “bill paid” document from the port where we anchored.  But I have not checked out of the port.  I’m wanting to be sure I succeed with customs/immigration before I check out.  A logical approach but that’s not how it works.  I am sent back to the port to check out.  I get there and it goes well until… cash only Big Nose!  I’m off to the Atm.  But that wraps up the port chores.  And I’m back to the customs office to pay the exit tax.  That’s done.  5 hours later and we are good to go!  I have to say this kind of hoohaa is my least favorite part.  The procedures checking in and out of a country are arcane and a bit random and certainly different every place we’ve been so far.  But so it goes.

While I’m fooling around with exit procedures Nancy is reprovisioning.  Guillaume and Huub are schlepping water and fuel to top off the tanks.  This is a process.  There is no option to fuel your boat at a dock.  You have to carry water and fuel in Jerry cans from gas station and water tap.  Loaded into the dingy.  Row it out 150 feet to STW.  Do it again.

Nancy has decided that the pain and itch of flying to meet us in Tonga is less appealing than just staying on the boat.  That does not go too well and she is cabin bound for 90% of the passage.  I predict more flying for  future passages.  Nancy did the provisioning so had a plan for all the supplies. She did enjoy directing the kitchen processes while prone in the aft cabin.

The last chore is to bring up the anchors.  There be two, bow and stern.  You do this is small anchorages so your boat does not swing much as the wind changes across a day.  For example if you have one anchor and put out 100 feet of chain/anchor, you will swing in a 200 ft circle as the wind shifts.  Not going to work in a small anchorage.  With two anchors you swing almost not at all.  I’ve never laid two anchors before.  So what did I learn.  Anchors you are going to retrieve by hand are a lot of work.  But I eventually got the stern anchor into the dingy.  The bow anchor was too easy.  A windlass is an electric winch that hauls the chain and anchor back aboard.  And it made short work of the bow anchor thank you very much. Maybe I should mount another one on those on the stern…

And we sail off into the sunset bound for Niue.  Nancy makes breaded chicken thighs with pasta.  The seas are calm protected by the island.  Makes for good cooking/dining weather.  But this will change….

All about Raro

8/3/2017

Raritonga is still our new favorite island, but we have places to go.  We enjoyed their “Constitution Day” celebration.   Kinda like 4th of July without the Chinese fireworks.  This day they celebrate by dancing and singing or attending performances of same.  The women dancers wear the traditional grass skirt and gyrate at an improbably rapid pace.  The men also have grass skirts and perform an unusual move consisting primarily of having mildly bent knees and moving their knees close together then wide apart once again at an improbably rapid pace.  All this in formation of perhaps 30 dancers. Ukeleles guitars and Drums!  Oh My!  Very impressive.  Each dance is intended to describe some significant historical myth.  The audience clearly knew them all and knew what was next.  Lots of crowd participation.

We tanked up on water and fuel and food.  We ready.  But the weather is not.  After studying forecasts we decide to delay our departure by 4 days.  Just for fun some whales decided to cavort right outside the harbor.  Breaching and blowing.  I think it’s humpback season.

Rarotonga is a lovely place but not blessed with a lagoon of consequence.  In this context a lagoon is the space between the island and the reef. Bora Bora for example has a lagoon about a half mile wide in places. And deep too.  Rarotonga has a narrow lagoon that is never deep.  So navigable by canoe only.  This means less boats like Spill the Wine visit and no fuel dock.  This island did not come with a harbor.  Their harbor was carved out of the island at some point in the past.  Not too big. 200 foot freighters visited while we were there.  We had to move our boat aside to make room for the tug to spin the big ship in the basin.  Pretty exciting and damn close to us.