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Anthem Adrift
What About Bob?
08/29/2010, Alofi, Niue

Sea Snake

August 28

Spent all day on boat projects... yes, work. OK, except for diving on the caves, but that was it. Fingers are mere smoking nubbins. This operation is approaching ready to float away in the O dark hundreds tomorrow if a smidgen of wind can be coaxed from Aeolus.

Went back to Chimney and Caves for pictures with, unfortunately, cloudy sky. Began playing with sea snakes, then realized this might be a sportier activity without gloves, which had been left on boat, but discovered that higher surge in cave and grottos was sufficient diversion.

Weather weasels forecast an adequacy of breeze on the beam through Tuesday morning before going light and on the nose. He, she and it are wrong, of course. Just hoping that direction of wrongness is toward more wind on beam and for longer. How do you spell phat chanse? Trip would take until Tuesday morning with good wind or well into next month if current conditions persist. May burn some diesel or just bob around in northeast swell for awhile.

Will get ride to whale benefit at Matavai Resort at 1700 which promises to go late as ridee is with research group and suspected party animal.

Jack

Terminal Tenacity
08/28/2010, Alofi, Niue

Talava Arches

August 27

After various activities such as clearing out with customs and breakfast, finally got seven-man (def: a human being of either sex) self-guided tour on the road. Visited Togo Chasm, Talava Arches, Matapa Chasm, Palaha Cave and some other stuff - arches, caves, chasms and pools plus arches, caves and chasms with pools. All very cool, but one of the men (who could conceivably take umbrage at that designation) was over-caved and waited in van at last stop.

There are many helpful signs along roads exhorting population to save resources and not litter. This all seemed harmless enough until a sign was sighted enjoining the elimination of "persistent organic pollutants". Wonder if they realize that cruisers are seldom excessively persistent? Given large numbers of graves around the island and not wanting to test the limits, have resolved to remain pallidly diffident for remainder of stay. And they seemed so friendly.

If interest remains high, however, will tempt fate as described above by diving The Chimney and Bubble Cave tomorrow with new arrivals. Dive company reportedly gets a little peeved by divers using their buoys, but not them at $120 a shot, so we'll wait until they leave site around noon and use our own dinghy anchors. Departure toward Pago Pago the following day before sunup while wearing Richard Nixon Halloween mask will be entirely unrelated.

"On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time." - George Orwell

Jack

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.

Jack

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?

Jack

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

Cave

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.

Jack

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.

Jack

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.

Jack

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.

Jack

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.

Jack

Snarkless
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.

Jack

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