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Raiatea - Niue 17.-26.8.2002
updates: 17.8. 26.8.
18º 05' S 160º 22' W Pacific Ocean
In our last update we listed the Scandinavian boats we have met, and to that have to be added two boats, the Swedish Nerfhus (big, red steelyacht) and the Norwegian Avanti (Bavaria 42), which we met in the Raiatea harbour. A real Nordic meeting, only the Danes were missing.
Getting ready for the sea took more time than expected, and we left Raiatea on Tuesday (13.8.) morning after spending our last Pacific francs to diesel. That, as everything else in French Polynesia, is expensive, one euro per litre. Luckily we had filled our tanks with taxfree diesel in Tahiti, it was half the price. You are allowed to do that only once, and it demands the out-clearing papers from the customs.
The weather was sunny and rather calm when we sailed out, but soon dark clouds gathered to the horizon. An hour later the sky was grey and it started to rain and blow. After a long time ashore it takes time before you get used to sea again, get your "sea legs", so this weather was a nasty starting weather. Both of us were seasick. Usually Auli gets seasick every time, and it goes over in a half day, but now also Hannu didn't feel so good. And it was cold! We were digging out fleeces, raincoats and long trousers. Rain boots were stoved somewhere under the cockpit locker, impossible to get hold on. We didn't feel like eating. Kristiina was nodding forwards with bottom reefed main and genoa. We had two hours watches. Sailing is like this sometimes!
During the night rain stopped and we felt also better. We had our first warm meal that day, a pesto pasta at 12 o'clock in the night. About 2 am we heard a call on VHF. We had seen a white light behind us for sometime, and it turned out to be a 21 feet (6 m) Swedish plywood boat Peter Pan. Solosailor Nils was on his way to Tonga, 1350 miles away, and both of his two autopilots were broken. He asked if we had a spare one to him. We adviced him to turn back to Raiatea, which was only 100 miles away, and get his gear fixed there. The light behind us faded, Peter Pan turned back.
The next days were normal tradewind sailing with 10-20 knot southeasterleys. Kristiina was making 125-140 miles per day. We got two 6-7 kilo, white meat wahoos, our favorite fish. We read and slept a lot.
Today, Saturday, we passed Aitutaki, one of the Cook Island atolls, on 50 miles distance. The passage to the lagoon is only 1,8 meters deep, and that's on high water, so not a place for Kristiina. We have 150 miles to Palmerston atoll, but there is no passage for big boats.
We have taken a weather fax from Auckland radiostation every day, and the situation east of New Zealand looks wild: two lows, one with a 961 millibar centre, and a narrow high between them. At the moment we have north-west winds, and we are between the low pressures, far away in north, however. But we are prepared to meet a front in a few days. Cassandra, that sailed from Bora Bora to Rangiroa in Cook Islands, had met 60 knot winds. The more west we go, the more unsteady the winds seem to turn. If we have westerly winds on Niue, it is impossible to stop, because there is only one open anchorage in front of the capital on the west side of the island.
There was an internet in Raiatea, so we were able to read the last updates of Merivuokko. She is back to Finland, the trip to Amazon is behind. Congratulations!
Tommi, the host of Cafe Meri, the restaurant of our yacht club, has arranged a conversation between Kristiina and Merivuokko: we will speak on the phone with Pertti to the Helsinki floating boat show on Saturday 24.8. at 3 pm.
The tiny island of Niue, located between Tonga and Cook Islands, was joined to New Zealand in 1901, and in 1974 Niue got self-government. Niueans have dual citizenship and New Zealand is responsible for foreign affairs and defence, as well as supports the island economically. Currency is New Zealand dollar. Niue is about 25 km long and 15 km wide, bean-shaped island. However, it is also the biggest up-raised corall island in the world. There are no rivers and the limestone filters all the sediment of rainfall, so water around the island is especially clear. Niue has 1800 inhabitants. The only anchorage is in front of the capital, Alofi, but it is not shelterd from the westerlies, so boats have to be ready to take off if the wind turns. The nearest neighbourgh, Tonga, lies 250 miles away.
We arrived to Niue on Thursday (22.8.) morning, after 9 days' passage. During the last day sun came out, the weather had been cloudy and rainy all the way. A long and wide front gave us winds from all directions. First the tradewinds turn east, then to north east and west. Luckily the westerlies were so weak that we were able to motor. Partly it was so calm that we didn't move at all, if not backwards because of a half knot current. So we had to motor, but better that than hard head winds, which Caminante and Canadian Hallelujah got on their passage some days earlier.
A new experience is the chillyness, which is a relative matter, because thermometer says it's 20-24 C. That is not cold! Anyhow, I need two fleece jackets under the raincoat and a hat during the night watch. This is just what I have been afaird of! I am used to the tropical climate and don't tolerate cold! Well, I guess I get used to other way round again. Getting souther means colder on this side of the globe.
There were five boats on the Niue anchorage when we came. Getting closer we saw that everyone had a buoy, which is best solution in a very deep bay. Friendly VHF negotiations with Niue Radio and Niue Yacht Club sorted out the formalities. A buoy costs 5 NZ dollars per night (2.5 euros). Because of the tide and swell all the local small boats and visitors' dinghies are lifted up to a wharf. Our light dinghy comes up easily, but there is a crane on the wharf.
Niue lacks the dramatic tops of the volcanic islands, it is flat as a pancake, 60 meters as highest. However, the island is very attractive and beautiful. The shoreline is full of caves and holes, as well as the whole island. The island is green and luxuriant, here grows mahogny, sandelwood and rosewood.
People are friendly. Less boats visit the islands as they hope, maybe because of the open harbour, so yachties are treated well. The small country has a few income sources, and every tourist and sailor brings in some money. Alofi has all the services including laundry and internet, which is free, but updating was not possible, only surfing in the web.
We rented a motor bike for two days, although that was not enough time to see everything. Nature is very special and beautiful, best that we have seen on the Pacific. The island is full of caves, chasms and deep cuts. The water is unbelievably clear and full of life. On low tide you can study the corall without going into the water, just walking on the reef. Small ponds are full of colourfull fishes and shells. We also took a small path into the woods, and came out helmets covered by spider web. There is very little traffic, so we enjoyed driving along the narrow roads in the fresh air. The most important sights are a small sandy beach with palm trees in the middle of the rocks, a swimming "pool" inside a cave, another swimming pond surrounded by high and narrow walls with just a small opening to the ocean, and an arch. These ponds are full of pink coral and various colorful fishes, the finest natural swimming pools we have seen. We admired the stalacites in the caves. There are also guided cave tours, but we were content with the ones we saw. At sea you can see humback whales, which come to these warm waters to give birth.
One of the speciality of Niue is the soil, the coral stone, which can be seen here and there among the vegetation. It was funny feeling to walk in the forest among the high coral heads. It was easy to imagine time when all was under water, alive. It would be interesting to know how this island has formed. Our sources just say that Niue is an "up-raised coral island", but what is the reason for up-raising, the movement of the continental platforms or what? If someone knows, send us an e-mail.
During our stay five more boats came
to the Alofi bay and on Saturday evening we found ourselves with 13 other
sailors at the buffé dinner (18 NZ dollars) in the best hotel in Niue. The
small amount of yachts gets people more easily involved with each other and we
were all sitting in one long table. Others were from Canada and USA. It was a
nice, social evening, although the food disappeared from the buffet at once,
before we really got started. Besides the hungry sailors, there were locals, but
only a few hotel guests. The island is suffering of the lack of tourists. The
situation might get better in October, when a direct flight from Auckland
starts. We heard that the economy of the country is in very poor shape, and
there are not many income sources. People have moved to New Zealand, there seems
to be more empty than lived houses along the roads. The lack of tourists made
our stay excellent, we enjoyed every place alone, which we prefer, but for the
future of the island we hope that tourism will increase or there is some other
way to get the economy balanced.
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