Wed/Thurs 30th/31st May: Last part of passage from Bora Bora was no better than previous two days - big, rough seas crashing into us making life difficult - not pleasant! The wind stayed up (E/ESE 6-7) but the problem there was that I needed NOT to go too fast because I didn't want to arrive at Alofi anchorage before daylight - so furled genoa to just a scrap and effectively scandalized the reefed-down main to creep along at about 2 knots as I came around the N end of Nuie. I could see lights from
houses on shore - excellent news, since there were no navigation lights anywhere - so that enabled me to confirm what the radar indicated - that I was keeping a safe distance off. The wind was still strong and dead ahead as I nosed towards shore ...no leading lights, contrary to the chart, but some bright lights on the wharf & on a fishing boat nearby were helpful. I found my new Raymarine C70 chart-plotter a real boon in this situation - clearly the GPS position on the Navionics charts it uses
was spot-on and the depths & details shown seemed pretty accurate also - gave me confidence in the complete system! (In fact, a noticeable feature of my passagemaking since San Diego/Mexico has been the lack of any problem with my electronics/instrumentation - it has all been working really well (12V circuit apart!), including the autopilot, whether motoring or sailing, in light winds & big following seas ... )
I ended up anchoring just before daylight, having located where a couple of (unlit) yachts were moored to buoys, but had a problem with the steep-to seabed: started at 15m, but as I let out chain, found myself at 20m, so let out more chain - I was now at 30m...! Fortunately, the wind was less strong close inshore and the big seas had disappeared completely as I had come round into the lee of the island, so I let out a bit more chain & set it, put my Nobeltec into tracking mode zoomed right in as
an anchor watch - so I could see immediately if I dragged - & decided, after waiting a bit, that I seemed safe enough to sleep, intending to take a buoy in daylight.
I was awakened around midday by a call from a dinghy with divers in - a dozen more buoys had just been laid - & I was advised to pick one up. I thought I'd better do that immediately, in case I needed to call on 'Nuie Dive' to help retrieve my anchor if it were stuck in the old coral of the seabed! But all went fine, including my unaided picking up of the buoy despite the gusty wind, which I felt pleased about...!
I called 'Nuie Radio' to let them know I'd arrived & needed to clear in - they organized a friendly guy from Customs to meet up with me on the nearby wharf - only problem being that my dinghy was stowed deflated & would take a time to organize.. but he had no problem waiting for me... The couple from a nearby yacht came over to offer to help me get the inflated dinghy off the foredeck in the gusty wind and also attach my outboard - typical helpful boaters...! They were also able to show me how to
get my dinghy up from the water onto the 8-ft high concrete wharf - no nice dinghy dock to tie to here! The dinghy had to be raised, using an old hoist, moved out of the way using a 'dolly' & the hook lowered back down over the water again so it was ready for the next dinghy to use... not a simple procedure! I wasn't looking forward to reversing the procedure by myself to get back out to 'Nereida'! With a bit of practice, it worked out OK, but was always a slight worry, especially in the dark,
manoeuvring it all by myself...
Customs clearance went fine - I found all the Nuians to be very friendly people - & I then went over to the 'Nuie Yacht Club' to meet Mamata - a very helpful, nice lady who seemed to know everyone on the island & was able to answer any questions. Her husband Jim runs the Y.C. and mooring buoys.
Niue is definitely not an 'up-scale' tourist place - the exact opposite! A 'fish & chips' evening was organized at Jemma's restaurant nearby (wahoo was the fish served up - delicious!) & a dozen of us turned up for that. There are few places to eat or drink at - and everything closes down entirely over Saturday (except the evening) as well as Sunday. I organized touring the island by car on Saturday, sharing the car-hire with some other (Danish) boaters - we enjoyed our tour, were lucky to get a
day without rain, but couldn't find a single place to get even a soft drink or coffee!! There are few hotels but some houses/apartments for rent.
The island is very low, being basically one big block of coral limestone, raised up from the seabed over millenia. Niue is called 'The Rock' here - not to be confused with Gibraltar!! So, unlike the volcanic islands elsewhere, its soil is not very fertile and the surface is covered with rough rocks & stones. They had a tremendous cyclone in '03 which caused awful, widespread damage - as much from the raised seas as from the extremely high winds - & that, together with the many abandoned houses
of absent Nuians gone elsewhere for work, gives many of the villages a derelict appearance.
However, they do get quite a good rainfall & there are plenty of flowering plants, bushes, even a forest in the south, which 'greens up' the island. I saw very few birds, except for the hens & roosters everywhere, & was told this was another effect of the recent cyclone, but fishing is good. The main attractions are by the shore - diving & snorkelling in crystal clear water, enormous linked caves with fantastic limestone formations, arches, chasms, the surf crashing onto the south coast... the entire
island is surrounded by a step - a 'ledge' of foreshore reef which drops away almost immediately to great depths. It's definitely a place to 'get away from it all' among friendly locals - refreshing! But don't look for any gourmet cooking...! By the way, I heard, & then saw, a whale just off Nereida's stern overnight on Saturday.
Sun/Mon 3rd/4th June: Left for Tonga - heavy rain overnight & during morning, so I didn't leave until mid-afternoon, after dealing with dinghy & outboard & partly refuelling with diesel from jerry cans. The wind was following, around 16 knots, so I soon shook out all reefs, poled out the genoa to go goosewinged & was soon rolling around in the usual 1-2m ESE, quartering seas - but making good speed (6-6.5 knots) in sunshine, which was a nice change from the overcast I've seen so much of lately.
Overnight & Monday, the wind swung around a bit, so I had to gybe onto starboard tack & later gybed back again, to keep the mains'l from backing - we're pretty well on a dead run which is always a difficult point of sail... but at least we're sailing & not motoring! The wind has died a bit over the day to around 10 knots (ESE3-4) but I expect to reach Neiafu by mid-afternoon tomorrow (Tues 5th) which means I should have the sun nicely behind me when I head east through the reef area to the anchorage.
Time now to enjoy sitting in the cockpit with a mug of tea and my novel, I think...