Monday, 26 June 2017
Niue had been a lovely few days, where we picked up a mooring off the wharf along with about ten others. Going ashore was an adventure as one had to hoist the dinghy out with a crane to store it on the wharf. A short walk up the hill brought us to the Main Street which seemed crisp and clean, with low buildings widely spaced along its length offering a variety of services. The most impressive service was from Niue whose little office was open 24/7 as it was also the switchboard for the island's 1600 inhabitants. Here one could buy wifi time, and we were impressed with the ease with which it all worked, unlike French Polynesia.
We walked along to the Niue Yacht Club to pay our mooring fees, finding a friendly welcome from Alexi and a charming room full of people reading, doing internet stuff, and enjoying cold beer or wine from the cooler.
Nearby the Niue Visitor Centre was most helpful, ringing car hire companies and offering to drive us there. Eventually we hired a couple of cars for a day and explored the island. I found the roads very charming, although badly potholed, they we overhung with flowering red hibiscus, palm trees and other lush vegetation, and seemed to sway round the coast line without ever trying to be in a particularly straight line. Tracks led down to the oceans edge periodically, descending the coral cliffs to little inlets. In one we found twenty one outrigger pirogues on a slipway, all covered with palm fronds. Some were made of glass fibre, but most were hewn from a tree trunk p, and were dry, thin and light, with the adze marks still evident inside. The outriggers were mostly thin logs, cross braced with thin aluminium tubes to aluminium cross members, and all lashed tightly with thick fishing line. Al had broad bladed paddles, shaped to a sharp point, and one had a Y shaped fishing
We met a boy of about 12 years coming out to practice rugby kicks in front of the blue and white church. Mark chatted to him about the game, and it turned out that he is a Lions fan, and could discuss every game they had played and hold forth on the merits of each player, and critique the strategy. His name is Pele Bourne. Wonderful!
Monday, 19 June 2017
To my surprise I found that the reef was like a short spiral and we curved round into the lagoon through a wide reasonably sheltered channel. Then we motored into the teeth of the gale to an indicated anchorage position just inside the reef, where the water changed from Bombay Sapphire in 12metres to pale aquamarine in 3metres over white sand.
Our anchorage was secure, if a little choppy and buffeted by the endless roar of surf and wind, and we stayed for the night.
Despite the gale we took the dinghy right up to the reef edge to snorkel, and were very glad we did. The water was so clear that s the vital watermaker has slowed from 90litres an hour to 30litres. So today Mark is running a full cleaning programme with alkali and acid solutions and I hope to see it restored.
Next we set sail for Niue, 120 miles directly downwind in this game, before heading to Tonga. It looks as though this wind will remain unabated for the next week, so it will be a rough ride.
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Sunday, 18 June 2017
We had refilled the boats tanks from our diesel cans and were lucky to get help from Aquila who took me to his gas station to refill 260 litres and then delivered me back to the dock. People are so kind!
Now after three windy says of sailing in big 4metre waves we are approaching Beveridge reef which has been recommended for a stopover en route to Niue. However it's not an atoll but a semi submerged ring of coral, reputed to have an entrance to a lagoon with great snorkelling. However with the cold wind from the South and vigorous weather and big seas I am reserving judgement till we get there. The challenge has been to time arrival to be in good daylight. Above 7 knots we would arrive on Day3 or we'd need to go slower at 5 knots and arrive on Day4. So far it's been a mix of 5 to 10 knots and I think we should be there mid afternoon on Day 3 in 10 hours time.
We are back into our watch regime with Emily and Julien taking one together. The quality of cooking has been amazing. Last night it was too wet to eat in the cockpit so we had the rare pleasure of sitting round the saloon table. It felt véry civilised even though the boat was surging along at maximum speed in big waves and it was hard to keep the food on the plate!
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Monday, 12 June 2017
I have been reading the Journal of Captain Cook as he made his way to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the sun in 1769. Mostly he notes weather, and navigational issues such as position fixed by the sun and moon and stars. Occasionally a sailor falls overboard and is drowned, but no one gets scurvy due to his insistence that everyone eats the antiscorbutic diet of sauerkraut and where possible fresh vegetables. To get the sailors to eat it he first serves it only to the captains table and then of course everyone wants it. Once in Tahiti his journal becomes much more interesting in his careful description of the people he meets and their customs.
Having read so much about Cook's astronomical observations I got out our two sextants today and Julien and I practiced taking sun sights. However the process of calculating the sight reductions to get our position still requires considerable study and practice.
After three days sailing the wind has come dead ahead, and then died so, much to our frustration, I resorted to the engine in order to keep to arrive at Aitutaki in daylight. After seeing no one for days we were called on the radio by yacht Salty, and spoke to Nic and Donna, who had supped with us a few nights ago. They are not visiting the Cook Islands because the cost of administration is significant, and hence are sailing on awaiting better weather to head west. I have budgeted NZ$500 just for the formalities of clearing in and clearing out of port authorities.
As I write the wind has backed to the south and the engine is at last silent as the boat heels to a freshening breeze, or maybe as Cook put it - a Genteel breeze.
Talking about Cooks, Julien demonstrated an iron constitution by cooking a delicious lasagne in rough conditions, heeled hard over in a horribly lumpy wave pattern. I still find that I get a bit hot and queasy when cooking.
Thursday, 8 June 2017
Wednesday, 7 June 2017
As Emily and Julian were going to be off scuba diving we pumped up a second dinghy so that they could be independent. Mark and I had various things to deal with in the yacht club, while it poured with rain, and then after a bite to eat we sped round to the town to find the gendarmerie, where I spent a long time filling in forms to leave the country. With luck they will al be approved tomorrow so. That we can leave on Thursday morning for The Cook Islands. However it necessitated scooting back to the yacht club to photograph and email the documents back to Papeete, to a generally unresponsive harbour master. By the time that was over it was nearly 5 pm.
Meanwhile Emily and Justin met Nic and Donna - all thirty somethings- and we ended up having supper together on board TinTin, which was great. They are absolutely inspirational adventurers, and for the last seven years have cycled from California through South America, crossed Mongolia alone on horseback for six months, and motorbiked from Malaysia to the UK. Now they are sailing from South America to Australia and are keen on getting their on boat to explore further and even raise a family on board. Extraordinary!
On our left the thin strip of inhabited land slid by, with the coast road linking communities. Behind it rose the mountains up to 550 meters, cloaked in various textures of green. The acacia trees give a wonderful layered mantle to the slopes, with elegant white trunks showing bright and dividing into an fan of pale branches under each canopy. Then there are feathery trees that climb the hills giving patches of grey green vertical texture. Amongst these there are patches of vivid green from a broad leaf tree, that make a vibrant scalloped surface. Along the coast, and occasionally in clusters that venture up the scalloped valleys, rise the palm trees, shiny In the bright sunlight, with yellowish green leaves and highlights of orange at the focus of the fronds where the nuts cluster.
Our course was well marked by red and green beacons warning of dangerous coral heads, but for much of the to ewe we in inky blue water 100 feet deep. Looking out to the reef where the swell rears up and then curls over in a long tube of collapsing surf, it amazed me that all that energy is dissipated by the coral fringe, and no hint of swell disturbs the lagoon, despite the furious deep roar of the ocean hurling itself into foam. While we sailed Mark zoomed around in the dinghy taking photos.
Having navigated safely round to the next pass we dropped anchor for lunch in 10 feet of pale blue water over white coral sand. Across the reef beyond some Palm clad motus, or reef islands, the astonishing shape of Bora Bora rose in a jagged peak to 750 meters, seeming close and huge despite being over twenty miles away.
Knowing that we need to be in harbour whilst still light, we hurried out to sea, and with a fair wind of 16 knots raised the spinnaker and were soon making 6.5 knots in the right direction, rapidly overhauling a large catamaran ahead. We hadn't put the spinnaker up for ages, so Mark took to the dinghy again to get some rare shots of us with the ParaSailor up as we approached Bora Bora.
I felt relaxed enough to enjoy sketching the approaching island, which was a dramatic study in greys and indigo shadows under orange-grey clouds and curtains of rain, with intense evening sunshine breaking through the gloom to light a path on the water.
Just before sunset we motored through the wIde pass into the lagoon and picks up q mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht Club. It was my turn to cook, and as rooted through cupboards and lockers seeking inspiration until I ended up making a lightly spiced couscous topped with butter roasted asparagus and followed by a lemon sponge cake served with Fromage blanc and apple purée. The unused tins of spinach, sweet corn and a fig compote remained on the side to puzzl the rest of the crew.
Tuesday, 6 June 2017
Sunday, 4 June 2017
The Tohotaea pass was easily entered between two small wooded islands, and we quickly came to anchor in the lee of one in pale blue water, rippling with electric green in the sunlight. Emily and Julian prepared a lovely lunch during which we became aware of a riotous and hilarious party going on near the island. A floating thatched hut on a traditional looking Polynesian barge was the centre of fun, and through binoculars we could see that it was surrounded by groups of people up to their waists in the clear water, the women wearing floral crowns and the men hats woven from green palm leaves. The party went on till sunset, and we were astonished at the constant infectious laughter emanating in great roars and shrieks from the party goers who were all happily drinking away. Later I rowed over and chatted to a man with a water taxi, who told me that renting a floating hut for a party was very reasonable, and that you could get one all day for just $750, asserting that his son often hired one to entertain friends! I don't know of that included food and drink though.
We spent a lazy afternoon snorkelling in the clear cold water coming through the pass, where the coral looked very healthy and vast numbers of fish filled the sea like flocks of birds in a blue sky. Then the sun set and peace returned as the moon rose.
On our last night we were joined by Fabien, skipper of an enormous yacht, Annatta, and it's engineer, Toma, together with Etienne, local agent. Toma enquirer after "the Hairy Gonad" which puzzled us a little, but Etienne disappeared to his office and came back with a refrigerated coconut and five espresso cups. A couple of wooden plugs protruded like horns from the hairy coconut and when removed , out poured a delectable liquor with the strength of rum and the aroma of coconut. The rum had been stored in their for two months and was delicious...thanks to Etienne for sharing that delight with us!
During the week Emily and Julian had hired a scooter, and explored Tahiti thoroughly as well as running errands to find essentials in shops all over town. In addition they had a number of scuba divers, and Julien started o the process of getting his PADI diving qualification. I rather wanted to do the same, but there was too much to do on the boat.
Before we left the security guard had serious words with us, once he discovered that we were sailing to his native island of Huahine. Apparently there is a sacred site at the southern tip of the island, where underwater tikis exert a powerful mana and we would be in danger if we trespassed. Many boats had disappeared there.
The following morning after a windless night motoring, we gave the sacred site a wide berth, and entered a pass further up. It's a beautiful island and as we anchored in crystal clear light blue water above white sand, the hills impressed us with the richly varied forest cover, made up of so many different textures and shapes of canopy.
Ashore we tied to a dock at the Huahine Yacht Club, and wandered along the seafront. The music that had been coming across the water emanated from a lustily singing lady, microphone in hand, under an awning, whilst a group of muscle men were pumping iron, and other workout routines in time to the beat. Every so often she would count them down to change position, and the small crowd on plastic chairs and in pickup trucks would applaud.
Huahiné surprised us with its Super U shop, which opened out, Tardis-like, into a vast store stocked with an astonishing array of goods from fishing rods, yoga mats, cat food, frozen foods, and clothes. I found some Tahiti Moorea mugs and a bright floral shirt which, with Emily's approval, I am now wearing. It was election Saturday, so all alcohol sales were banned, which is interesting
Eventually I perched on a dockside bollard to sketch the view of the bay and was soon surrounded by small boys on bicycles, who I organised to select and hand me the right colour pencil as I needed it. One lad begged the use of my pen and worked up some nice tattoo patterns on his arm, but has to wait till he is 19 to have it done properly.