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Anthem Adrift
Spelunk This
08/27/2010, Alofi, Niue

The Chimney

August 26

Have stumbled upon a few comments placed onto blog site up to a month and a half ago. Please feel free to add them, but replies may take awhile as they are seldom checked even when internet available. This foolish flood of folderol is foisted upon you via radio waves.

Just barely able to rerun halyard over only remaining, usable, free sheave pushing from top and pulling from bottom. Masthead is on exponentially growing list of projects for New Zealand. Anyway, checked the 'boat work' box and went diving.

Six of us easily found 'The Chimney' for additional exploration. All went in at top (5 meters) and out at bottom (30 meters) except Stuart whose head explodes at 50 feet. Pretty cool, but there was better. Dave and I found a narrow spooky entrance to 'Bubble Cave', which is completely dark (he had a flashlight, um, torch - he's British, you know). Great schools of fish hang out there hiding, one presumes, from higher food chain creatures. Upper part of cave is above water, but accessible only from below. Exited by easier route and took others back, then into pretty extensive lighted caves and grottos. Topography in open includes deep, narrow, sometimes overhung, chasms. Snakes. Way cool. As today's group is sailing in the morning, may try to gin up interest for reprise with new fun-seekers before departure NLT Monday for Pago Pago.

Tomorrow is a seven man van of caves by car. An uplifted coral atoll, Niue is lousy with them.


Tried to Work, But Caved
08/26/2010, Alofi, Niue

Auto at Chimney

August 25

Following full English breakfast (with baked beans - Brits are weird) at Yacht Club, returned to boat, climbed mast, with some difficulty ran light, weighted line down over proper masthead sheave, tied it off to halyard and promptly broke it while attempting to pull said halyard through said sheave. Blew off all attempted productive activity at that point (have yet to put away Monday's laundry) to go diving with Jacksters.

After searching for 35 of the 40 minutes available on decompression dive, finally found lower cave entry to The Chimney (not far from an automobile?), just in time to go up and hope to get out at top. Cool. Tomorrow following second try at reaving halyard (this time with help), plan return there for pictures, then Bubble Cave, which is reported harder to find. Because of distance, may have to pay dive operator or not go to Snake Cave where there are reputedly snarls of snakes. Despite some archeologically significant crap, have no expectation of seeing Indy. Besides, even if Callista is working some serious magic, he's like 90, right?


This Space Intentionally Left Blank
08/25/2010, Alofi, Niue


August 24

No habla blog today.

Finally got wifi aboard and, after spending morning touring north end of Niue (great caves down to the ocean), have been catching up with finances and researching boat part shipments into American Samoa, next destination. USPS is responsible there, to the degree that's the case anywhere, and is inexpensive.

Plan for tomorrow after breakfast at Yacht Club is fixing stuff, previously mentioned and from discouragingly long list, and cleaning. All ashiver in anticipation.


Scuba and Skepticism
08/24/2010, Alofi, Niue

Cotton Mouth Moray

August 23

This morning, after a quick scan, was pleased to discover that last night's entry was vaguely comprehensible. Suspect that John & Chris put gin in their gin and tonics, which would thus explain the fuzzy recollection. Forewarned of their insidious proclivity, will show more restraint in future.

Cleared into Niue (NYOO ay - with 1300 residents perhaps the smallest self- governing country on earth) this morning for free, but leaving requires a fair bit of New Zealand cash. There are no ATMs on the island so it's the Hotel California if you're strapped. Actually have Kiwi bucks, but bank will exchange US $ at reasonable rates.

Interesting dive with Jacksters (caught up with them again after a few weeks) in the mooring field from 10 down to 40 meters around ridges and through deep, narrow canyons. Saw a cotton mouth moray, 18th century bowers (anchors) and numerous sea snakes with cobra-lethal venom. Have been assured with great sincerity that they don't bite. Ah! They are sufficiently friendly as to wrap around body parts and climb into wet suits where there's an opening. Ah! So I grabbed a couple. One swam leisurely through my hand, then away and the other turned around to check out the imposition. At this point I discovered alternate amusement.

A few dozen cruisers gathered this evening at the Niue Yacht Club (everyone who comes in is made a member) for sausage or barracuda sandwiches and presentation by a private whale research group - very interesting with great pictures and recordings of 'music'. Whales are way cool. Factoid - leviathan is most closely related to hippopotami. Who knew? No doubt well-meaning, they claim to know little about numbers of humpbacks (their primary focus in this area) or habits, but become very specific when decrying the devastation by human interaction including a 98% reduction in population. Nobody loves a skeptic.


Sour and Sweet
08/23/2010, Alofi, Niue

August 22

Carrying forth with last evening's demolition of hubris, spinnaker halyard parted allowing drifter to stream aft alongside port hull as dawn broke (et tu universe?). After heaving to (hoving to) to retrieve soppy mess, unfurled yankee, returned to course, rolled out staysail and proceeded onward, less directly, with reduced speed. After tidying deck, went below for wash-up to discover pressure water pump had decided to join the parade leaving galley hand pump as only source for fresh water. Adding to the list: head sink is clogged (not that this is of great import given no water), fan CB has tripped and will not reset, air is getting into fuel line causing engine to stop or surge, although rod and reel were saved lure is likely hanging from a big tuna lip and holder is now unreliable. Have decided that the only rational course is to double tie mooring, assume fetal position with large glass of scotch and go to my happy place until it's all better. A slightly more activist approach may, however, ultimately be necessary.

- Later

Although far too mellow for any cogent entry, should add that water pump was fixed with relative ease (this phrase is somewhat removed from 'easy'), requiring shifting of only a quarter of boat contents to discover a faulty terminal connector. Insufferable body odor held at bay for yet another day.

Just as boat is secured on its mooring off Alofi around 1700L (with uncanny precision it should be noted), a total stranger, speaking a very Scotish version of English, approaches offering dinner and libation on his boat, not necessarily in that order. John & Chris, feeling sorry, presumably, for a poor single- hander, ply me with gin and tonics, in unfortunately large quantities, then a South African cabernet sauvignon while feeding dinner and offering delightful discourse. This solo thing, like carrying a cute puppy, is a great scam, allows meeting interesting people and prevents starvation and the evil of sobriety.

Monograph on adversity enhancing subsequent pleasure to follow... or not.


Sweet and Sour
08/22/2010, En Route Niue

August 21

Fatty Goodlander wrote a piece about his mother who had raised him on a boat traveling around the world. She was 90 and hospitalized for a broken hip. His love for her is palpable. Timmy, as she called him, paralleled her life with a trip he had recently made from Galapagos to the Tuamotus. It was a great crossing and he didn't want to stop when his boat "Wild Card" arrived at Makemo, but he did because it was time. Every journey ends, but as he says, "it's the sweetness in between that makes the birds sing and the flowers bloom". As I sit here beneath a brilliant blue sky and watch the Pacific stream by en route to Niue, my appreciation for this life and what it has brought, never very far away, is re-energized. Particularly, the last 19 months of personal passage has been incredibly sweet.

Later, as dinner of red beans and rice, pork loin and salad is half finished, wind shifts so much that main has to be swapped to starboard for wing and wing to maintain course within 30 degrees of destination. During this process wind nearly dies, rain begins and a fish starts reeling out line like he wants to make Beveridge Reef by dark. Tighten drag to slow his progress and, to give the boat some way, crank engine which promptly stops. Recrank, restops. Notice cushions, AKA bedding for the evening, are getting soaked, so move them and begin closing side curtains when fish makes another run pulling rod holder horizontal. Run to grab pole as it begins to slip out, then with free hand hammer holder back into position just as line goes slack. Meanwhile, wind has veered so much that track is 90 degrees to intended course demanding that drifter be snuffed and redeployed to starboard side... or could just wait to see if wind returns to its previous direction sometime soon. Opt for that second thing, but wind keeps moving right, taking boat toward California, and so, not wanting to work foredeck in rapidly falling darkness, perform maneuver in cloud darkened twilight. As heavy rain falls, wind indeed works its way back around toward original direction and I wonder how the glow of first paragraph could go so wrong.


PS Fatty's article was in the November '09 Cruising World, page 36. Beautiful.

Twilight Glow
08/21/2010, Beveridge Reef

August 20

- Morning
Shipmates restless as promised wind has proven perversely illusive. At least foul current has wandered elsewhere, possibly permitting Beveridge Reef arrival at sunset in flat light. Otherwise will have a look at dodging calcified critters on entry with 3/4 moon, GPS waypoints and supreme navigational virtuosity. What could possibly go wrong? Crew admiration muted.

- Noon
SSE three knot zephyr has boomed up to ESE howler at seven and a half. Meticulous calculation shows speed over ground has leaped by .013 knots knocking 90 seconds off ETTD (estimated time to disas... destination). Crew unimpressed.

- Early Afternoon
Consummate leadership skill has thus far forestalled acrimonious confrontation with mutinous crew as arrival at shark infested reef nears. Opining that a quick, gory end is preferable to succumbing to dehydration after days of bobbing around in a life jacket has, however, been poorly received and largely unhelpful.

- Late Afternoon
South wind filled in to 11 knots reaffirming original decision to purchase sails. Increased boat speed is partially negated by return of adverse current. Unmollified hands remain in surly mood and bear watching.

- Dusk
Entry through pass and advancement across lagoon to opposite reef as accomplished in ever deepening nightfall just in advance of a squall was uneventful. Crew, awed by masterful helmsmanship, have become embarrassingly obsequious.

- Evening
Ships complement buoyant in rum infused afterglow of successful anchor set inside what would have been an atoll had there been any land nearby. Excitement runs high in anticipation of next leg, tomorrow, not early, maybe the day after, whatever, to Niue.


08/20/2010, En Route to Beveridge Reef, Day 2

August 19

Hate to wax rhapsodic (pretty sure that means something), but last night was the most beautiful sailing in a year, just enough sea to make the boat rock gently, little heel with double reefed main and drifter off the wind making 5.5 to 6.5 knots in 10 to 13 apparent. Plus the boat was almost going in the right direction.

Alas, that circumstance is, as of mid-afternoon and after actually going in the right direction for most of the day, at an end. Wind backed to the northwest, not a bad thing, then kept going until it was right on the bow. Sea remains at an easy meter. Dreaded sounds of a diesel powered mechanism permeate the universe. Have convinced gullible crew that anti-clockwise movement of strengthening breeze will soon allow peace and tranquility to again reign.

Enervating gentle motion of sailboat through calm sea created a vegetative state today that preempted any thoughts toward writing this mouse doodle. Would have stared at navel, but too debilitated to remove T-shirt. Snarkiness, earnestly promised yesterday, will await another day.


Adrip in Mellow
08/19/2010, En Route to Beveridge Reef, Day 1

Filleting Fish

August 18

Left V-berth hatch open yesterday morning when disembarking to slay fish. It did not rain all day, but (and this is my favorite part) at bedtime, discovered that wet bedding could have been avoided by closing the hole after return to boat for the evening when a shower came through. Usually one can count on crew to catch these little snafus, but mine is typically lazy and inattentive. Slept on settee while fan blew overnight on damp mattress.

Edward came late with chain, rope and floats to reset his mooring, so finally got working around 0930. Wound chain under three big chunks of coral assuring that a fair bit of bottom would lift up this time before a boat could run for freedom. All these things are set within meters of a sharp ledge that drops straight off to forever. Almost spooky, but this depth has allowed humpback whales to come very close. Way cool. Finished checking seven others sucking fumes allowing borrowed tank to go unused. Finally cast off at 1300 after two of the family leaders came by returning borrowed DVDs to say goodbye. Unique and interesting place.

With delay, it will be iffy to arrive Beveridge Reef with sun. Won't try entering in darkness and reluctant to heave to overnight, so may continue on to Niue. Meanwhile sailing is ideal with gentle sea, balmy breeze and good angle on a north wind that is unlikely to last. Hard to complain.


PS If this leaves your, as it does my, snarkiness expectations unmet, will endeavor to atone tomorrow.

Slayer of Ferocious Sea Kittens
08/17/2010, Palmerston Island

Parrot Fish

August 17

Contrary to expectations fishing took all day, two hours to catch and most of the afternoon to filet and wrap, so re-mooring ops will occur bright and early tomorrow before departure, tentatively, toward Beveridge Reef.

Although the behavior has never been observed in deeper water, parrot fish school on the reef flats as tide begins to ebb or flow. After a sighting, net streams from small boat as it is pulled in a semi-circle, then two or three people (Bert and I) run like deer (old, lame deer) and flail about pulverizing the water with sticks to chase quick, but dimwitted fish into it. Hapless captees (incorrect, but more evocative than 'captives') are strung on lines dragged through the water until next roundup. As exsanguination is prominent, aforementioned activity may be referred to as chumming for sharks. This is a useful occupation for children and why so many are necessary. Not for want of trying by amateur participants, there were no bites, broken ankles or infelicitous encounters with jagged coral or spiky sea creatures.

After slow, ham-fisted and wasteful attempts at filleting were cringingly tolerated for a short time, the erstwhile herders of fish were ignominiously relegated to observation. We rinsed our salt drenched exteriors and went walkabout until time for belated lunch.

A supply ship, first in six months, is scheduled (that word is rather nebulously interpreted) for next week, so pursuit is in full swing to top off over 8000 kilos of freezer space. This volume, sold at around $15 NZ per kilo every three months (usually), probably explains all the boats, motors, satellite dishes, DVDs, ATVs, etc. that abound. Plus they live in paradise.


Errata: "Boree" inhabitants are Bert and Ingi. Palmerston population is currently 67 including 27 moppets. As Ingi recently observed, the condition of being male and a fisherman, makes me a cheat and a liar, but as I love each and every one of you like a brother or a sister, you may trust everything here written as gospel.

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