08 November 2008 | Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
30 October 2008 | Waya Island, Yasawa Group, Fiji
29 October 2008 | Drawaqa Island, Yasawa Islands, Fiji
23 October 2008 | Somo somo Bay, Yasawa Islands, Fiji
21 October 2008 | Blue Lagoon, Yasawa Islands, Fiji
16 October 2008 | Blue Lagoon, Yasawa Islands, Fiji
14 October 2008 | Sawa-i-lau, Yasawa Islands, Fiji
12 October 2008 | Musket Cove, Fiji
09 October 2008 | Vuda Point Marina
11 September 2008 | Vuda Point, Fiji
03 September 2008 | Musket Cove, Fiji
29 August 2008 | Suva
26 August 2008 | Nadi, Fiji
21 August 2008 | Lautoka, Fiji
20 August 2008 | In transit to Fiji
16 August 2008 | Uoleva, Haapai Group, Tonga
11 August 2008 | Lifuka, Haapai Group, Tonga
07 August 2008 | Haafeva, Haapai Group, Tonga
01 August 2008 | Nukualofa

....and on to Tonga!

18 June 2008 | Vava'u, Tonga
Surprise Susan
And a little more about Niue

A number of you have asked questions about Niue, and it certainly is one of the more unusual places we've been. In a few days we'll have a Niue picture gallery up, so you can have some images as well. Niue is an upraised coral atoll, which means its volcanic center sunk eons ago, and reef took over the ensuring lagoon and built up many layers of limestone. It's a green pancake in the middle of the ocean, no more than 62 meters high. The coast road is about 64 kilometers around. The land near the ocean is about 40 meters above sea level, so the shoreline is all cliffs. In many places there are "sea walks," often with steps or ladders, to get you down to the shoreline. On the lee side (west and northeast, given the prevailing winds) you can walk on the narrow fringing reef at low tide, or explore the caves formed by sea action. On the east coast the cliffs are steep and rough-there are many fewer access points. Since it is in the middle of a triangle formed by the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga it was settled by all three. The tale I heard was that Niue comes from "niu", or coconut, and "e," which means it's here-therefore "Look, there are coconuts here!" And not much else, I can tell you. The residents have traditionally been subsistence farmers, growing taro, yams and bananas. Fishing is far more challenging here, but they do have the uga, or coconut crab. They also hunt pigeons and fruit bats.

Like many south Pacific islands it relies on foreign aid, in this case mostly from New Zealand. But China built the tower from which Radio Niue broadcasts. Why, you might ask? Well, Niue is a nation, and has a voice in international bodies, so in addition to having infrastructure provided its politicians are courted and treated to junkets. Its governing body consists of 20 people, this for a population of 1200. Not too many years ago it had 6000, but as you drive around the island you see many abandoned and decrepit houses. People have left for the simplest of reasons-economic opportunity. Apparently a number of consultants have been hired, but no one has come up with the magic bullet to provide a sustainable future for the island. While we were there we agreed to participate in an on-line survey being put together by the University of Auckland as to the effect "local food, culture and traditions" had on our visitor experience in Niue.

And if things weren't bad enough to begin with the island was devastated by Cyclone Heta in 2004. The winds were fierce and stripped away vegetation and roofs, but the most terrible damage was done by an unanticipated storm surge, when waves over 40 meters high crashed over the southern part of Alofi town, taking out houses, government buildings and the hospital. New Zealand provided over $20 million in disaster aid, including a new hospital. We can tell you it is quite a nice hospital, since I paid a visit to find out whether my finger was dislocated, broken or both. A consultation with the doctor, an X-ray, and two nurses to splint me up cost $55. They asked if we had insurance we wanted to file a claim with, and we both burst out laughing. We explained that they couldn't afford the paper work. According to the local nature walk guide, about 90% of the bird population had been blown away as well, and he was upset that the government had allowed the normal hunting season to go ahead post-cyclone.

The highlight of Niue is its people, friendly and open. We had more close contact with the ex-pat community, which is surprisingly large. When you hail the Niue Yacht Club on the VHF radio, Ernie's response is: "How can I help?" Ernie came to Niue to run the power company and stayed in his retirement. He's 81, and is on the wharf to greet you and give you a lift to customs. Keith is the Commodore of the NYC. A former school teacher and principal in NZ, he is friendly, articulate and very knowledgeable about Niue. He is also the island's volunteer videographer/photographer. The NYC is the social and information center for all boats moored in Niue, and installs and maintains the moorings. Keith's wife Sue teaches math in the local high school-she came on a two year contract and they have stayed.

On Saturday we went out to the Hakupu Village festival-a once a year event (photo). At 8:00am the food stalls were doing a good business, not with coffee and pancakes, but with large plates of BBQ'd meat, chicken and sausages, taro and for the health conscious, a few leaves of lettuce. The community hall was full of woven hats, mats and baskets, as well as bedcovers and embroidered pillow covers-arranged by age groups-for judging. Baskets of taro and yams were arrayed to be judged, presumably for size, though it was hard to tell, as all announcements were in Niuean. Of course there were speeches, and Susan was introduced to the Prime Minister. Elections had been held the previous Saturday, and a "throw the bums out" mentality had prevailed. So although the PM had been re-elected, most of his cronies had not, so it's likely he is no longer the PM. Aren't you glad you asked-and now you know more about Niue than most people.

We left Niue on Sunday morning and had a fast, uneventful passage to the island of Vavau, in Tonga. Winds mostly 18 to 24 knots, seas behind us, moonlight at night and little rain. We averaged 8 knots overall and arrived in Neiafu harbor at 15:30 on Monday after only one night at sea. Our cruiser info net had made us aware that the Tongan officials would come on board to inspect and would expect juice and cookies. I decided to make banana bread once we were in the lee of the island. Well we never ran out of wind, and ended up beating into the passage, but that banana bread had to be made! Not my most successful effort, but they ate 2/3rds of it anyway. It took a full day for us to realize we had crossed the dateline and are now in a day ahead.
Vessel Name: Surprise
Vessel Make/Model: Schumacher 46
Hailing Port: Richmond, CA.
Crew: Steve and Susan Chamberlin
About: Varies by voyage.
Surprise was built in NZ by Davie Norris at Franklin Boatbuilders in Christchurch in 1997. 2 Pacific Cups, Mexico, B.C. and Alaska. Next stop South Pacific. She is a performance cruiser designed by the late Carl Schumacher and, in racing trim, carries a PHRF of 6. Fractional rig, no overlapping [...]
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