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S/V Trim
Who: Captain Prozac
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Caves, Chasms and Whales
09/08/2010, Alofi, Niue

What a cool place! Niue is one of the most unique islands you can visit on the planet. It is a elevated atoll shaped like a two-tiered wedding cake with two terraces. Niue is one of the largest coral islands in the world. The lower terrace rises sharply from the seas surface creating 20 meter cliffs which virtually surround the island like a fortress. Inland, the second terrace rises abruptly from the coastal belt to a central plateau some 60 meters above the ocean. A fringing reef borders much of the coast, but many places the ocean breakers smash directly into the precipitous cliffs making it difficult to impossible to anchor anywhere near the island other than the mooring field at Alofi. Faulting during the islands up-lifting has created the coral chasms and crevices which make the surface appear other-worldly and ominous. Water dripping from the ceilings of these caverns and crevices has produced stalactites and stalagmites producing a sense of the surreal.

Niue is also unique in that it wasn't converted to Christianity until 1850 because the islanders who were made-up of Samoans and Tongans and who feared European diseases, fought fiercely to repel anyone from landing on Niue. Captain Cook made 3 landings in 1774 but got a hostile reception from warriors with red painted teeth. Cook called the island the Savage Island.

We rented a 4x4 Land Cruiser with our friends Freezing Rain and have been exploring the many caves and chasms around the island as well as the many bars which there seems to be equally as many. It seems that the New Zealand influence warrants a beer stop at the end of any hike. My kinda place!

Today we are going diving with the humpback whales. Tomorrow will be two cave dives and Friday will be two dives with sea snakes and coral chasms. Lori will not be doing the cave dive. Hopefully we will be able get some good pictures. Also, our good Nikon camera is not working due to the Li-Ion rechargeable battery reaching the end of it's life. So, you will likely notice a decrease in the quality of our pictures for a short time until we find a replacement battery.

Oh yeah, Lori has now broken 3 of her toes while hiking yesterday. So now, she has a broken middle finger which points left, and toes that point in the opposite direction. She has also fallen off two boats and I'm concerned that our friends are going to stop inviting us over to dinner in fear that she will seriously injure herself. I'm looking for some bubble wrapped and duct tape ;-)

Niue is the best!
Ken Newell

Niue is the best!

We have only been here a day and already we love this place more than any other island that we have visited. The New Zealanders really know how to welcome yachties and treat them as though they are welcome. The most important thing thus far has been the open bar at Wash Away beach bar. Wash Away is our new favorite bar in the world. They are only open on Sundays and the bar is a full honor bar. Meaning you go behind the bar, mix your drinks to your liking and write down on a tab what you had. They have every mixer and every alcohol you could desire. They even have ice! Best of all, they make the best burgers we have had since the 49er in Long Beach. The burgers are made with cabbage, shredded carrots, beef burger, fried egg, home made buns and the topper is the use of pickled beets. That's right, fried egg and beets on a burger and it is the best flavor combination ever! The bar also has an incredible view and it gets crowded at sunset.

Today we are going caving in some coral chasms and reserving some whale dives with Niue Dive in which you actual dive with humpback whales up close and personal. I'm still trying to get Lori signed-up for this one.

Hopefully we will have internet later today.

Cheers from wonderful Niue...home of the Beet Burger. Posted from Ham Radio

Spreaders touching the swell
Ken Newell

Spreaders touching the swell

Photo is from South end of island the 2 days after our crossing and the wind is still blowing mad stink.

Without doubt, this year has been weather challenged. The best days of sailing were during our crossing from Puerto Vallarta to Hiva Oa. Since we arrived in the South Pacific, sailing has been dicey. In general, conditions range from dead calm to 40+ knots and rain with nothing in between. Crossings have all been less than enjoyable. Our short crossing from Beveridge Reef to Niue was ridiculous!

Most of the crossing was calm with confused seas from the stern. These conditions cause lots of damage to the sails because the seas cause the boat to twist and roll without enough wind to keep the mainsail from slatting and thrashing the cars and goose neck. We have become accustom to these conditions. What we experienced during the last 3 hours of our 26 hour crossing was nothing short of a "Storm Stories" situation.

As we approached Niue in the morning, the seas were relatively calm with 8 foot rollers. We watched the sun rise in the East, and noted dark clouds to the South. The radar indicated that there was rain coming from the clouds to the South, but we really didn't give much thought to the growing situation since we were only 15 miles from Niue. We figured we would cut the Southern corner pretty close and then make the turn North up to the anchorage at Alofi on the leeside of te island. The Southern end of Niue is approximately 8 miles wide with 100 ft cliffs that meet the ocean with shear drops to 2000 foot abyss. There isn't any chance of anchoring along the Southern end of the island unless you have a mile of chain.

When we were within 2 miles of our Southern waypoint, the clouds had turned to dark torrential downpours. We were reefed down in minutes and had the genoa 50% furled. Over the period of 20 minutes, the seas rose to 15 feet and the winds were blowing steady at 40 knots. The real problem that we were facing was our path that we had chosen to round the southern point. The storm system was coming up fast from the South and we were getting pinched between the cliffs of the island and the building seas. We were abeam to the seas and the period was less than a boat length with steep faces building faster than we could react to. The seas looked like those that you would see during an episode of Storm Stories or The Deadliest Catch. The 15 foot sets were steep and the wind was cutting the tops off producing an blizzard like appearance.

Since we were getting pinched, we didn't have the choice to turn down from the approaching wave faces. As each wave passed under the keel it would role Trim over past the toe rail on the startboard side and then trim would rapidly roll back off the wave and face downward into the next approaching wave. Once things got really bad, we were being slammed by the second wave on the decks and 1000's of gallons of green water would flow across the decks and up towards the cockpit. The situation was rapidly deteriorating into one where we were almost touching our spreaders to the surface of the second wave and the interior of the boat was getting trashed as everything that was once stowed was now on the floors getting tossed from side to side. This situation went on for an hour and the cockpit was filled with water as the interior of the boat was completely thrashed.

When we finally rounded the corner for Alofi we could see the leeside was dead calm and our friends of Freezing Rain were sitting relaxed on their mooring. Nobody even knew that we were having the snot kicked out of us just a few miles away. A few minutes later, we were safe on a mooring and we couldn't believe the situation we had just survived. Lori and I both believe things came real close to being terminal for the boat. If it had gotten any worse, I wouldn't be writing this.

We would really like to have a nice crossing someday! Posted from Ham Radio

Heading for Niue
Ken Newell

Leaving Beveridge Reef and Heading for Niue

Photo is of the wreck of the fishing vessel Liberty on Beveridge Reef.

We had a wonderful dinner last night aboard S/V Dignity (Steve & Helen) together with S/V Ile de Grace (Jennifer & Jon). Our two newest friends of the sea both sail catamarans. Dignity is a Lagoon 420 Hybrid and Ile De Grace is a 440 Fountaine Pajot. Lori is starting to like catamarans a bit too much. One must admit they are nice cruising vessels. The space available for day to day living is 3 or 4 times what we have on Trim.

The wind is blowing 20 knots out of the East today and should make for a fast down hill run to Niue just 125 miles away. Niue will like the be the most interesting island of the years passage. I will provide details later.

We should have internet tomorrow and plan to post pictures once we are settled.

Lori says hello to everyone! Posted from Ham Radio

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