Saturday, September 30, 2017


[Kyle]I was looking for a bit of a rest, so I was secretly hoping we would have Viamolo to ourselves. It gets only a small mention in an obscure guide and isn't one of the numbered anchorages in the packets the charter companies hand out. It's just over the hill from Neiafu and the next cove over from the only boatyard on Vava'u, so it wasn't surprising to find another boat there when we came around the corner. The weather was deteriorating, though, which seemed to help. No one wanted to leave the security of their moorings. Even the local tour boats were giving up and heading home. We set our anchor in wind that made it really hard to back down in a straight line. After our first attempt, we dragged, so we had to pull it all up and do it again before it stayed set. To make matters more interesting, we had a witness – a big, beautiful Humpback whale, which was close enough to see our props turning and the chain feeding out. We wanted to look at the WHALE!, but we needed to be concentrating on getting the anchor set. What to do? What to do?

Viamolo at sunset

The whale left just about the time I went into the water to see what the situation was with the anchor. Damn! Anyway, the bottom was pretty horrible. It was mostly dead coral with only a little bit of sand. It reminded me of our last Makemo anchorage, except that the individual coral heads were much smaller. There was no danger we wouldn't get our anchor back, but there was no way we wouldn't be hearing the chain scraping all night. I wouldn't try anchoring here again, but since we were already here, we decided to stay.

The wind continued to rise and it made it pretty easy to declare it an indoor day. By the next morning, it started to rain. It got harder and harder and then the thunder and lightning started. We've seen rain, but we haven't seen proper thunder and lightning since before we got to the Pacific. I really didn't want to get out of bed, but it was coming down in buckets. Buckets of free rain water. There were a lot of muddy footprints on the deck from our stay at the Customs dock, including some which we hope were from a cat, and this was my chance to scrub them off without using the limited drinking and bathing water from our tanks.

What a way to wake up! Free boat wash, Free shower. It was actually quite invigorating. I still made a pot of coffee when I was done.

When the rain passed, the wind died and the clouds dissipated to reveal a cerulean sky. It would turn out to be a lovely day after all. The best part, THE best part, came courtesy of the birds. They started singing. They didn't just sing like any ol' birds, they sang exactly like the birds in that recording they pipe into every botanic garden in the world to give it that relaxing tropical ambiance. I was filled with a subconscious urge to plunk down $19.99 at the gift shop for the CD so I could play it in my bedside clock radio to drown out all of the horrible traffic noise outside my apartment window. No need though. This is just what it sounds like here at nine o'clock on a Friday morning.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Neiafu, Kingdom of Tonga

[Kyle]We had heard on the radio that the customs dock at Neiafu was really crowded and we would need to raft up for the next day's clearing in. I was hoping we wouldn't have to tie up to either of the boats ahead or be squished by the big sailing yacht behind. We came around the corner and found it empty. We thought we might be looking at the wrong spot and called someone already in the harbor to make sure we had the right place. We did. Despite the rule being very clear about 'Do Not Pass Go, Proceed directly to the Customs dock', we were the only one that tied up there. Hmm...

Even though they were closed, a nice man from Customs came by as he was going home and gave us the paperwork to fill out for the morning, including some hints for filling it out. Tongan paperwork is daunting. One sheet asks for a description of all items on board. ALL items? Yeesh! Another asked for a description of goods to be temporarily imported. He told me in that one to just put 'One Sailboat”. Whew!

In the morning, we had everything all ready to go as soon as they opened. As I was taking my second sip of coffee, someone called out to me. I thought it might be the Customs man, but it turned out to be someone else. It was a local man, about whom we had been pre-warned. He introduced himself and immediately started trying to sell me things and services and asking for stuff. We had heard his MO was to get to new arrivals on the Customs dock and start selling stuff for three times the normal price before people have had a chance to shop around. I wasn't having any of it, but of course, he is skilled in the guilt-inducing hard-sell, so he wasn't about to leave until I bought something. {Maryanne: Normally we'd be really happy to be chatting with a friendly local, but we'd been specifically warned about this guy so we were trying to be polite but evasive}

I was saved temporarily by the need to help tie up a couple of other boats and to go to the Customs office. We then had a big kerfuffle when we went to the ATM to get local currency to pay the fees, but our card was blocked because we were in a weird country. Groan. We tell our bank about this every time. It seems a computer algorithm does it automatically and we have to call a person to get them to override it. That's not easy when you are not even legally in the country yet and you have no local currency to pay for internet. Luckily the guy at the place favored by cruisers understood our predicament and let a half-hour of wifi fall off of the truck.

When we came back, the old man was gone, but he soon returned carrying a loaf of bread. He tossed it over to me and when I caught it, immediately took the position that he had given me something, now I owed him something. Of course, he wouldn't take it back, so he started asking for stuff in return. I stayed firm, although the pressure was killing me, and we got away with a promise to check to see if we may need our laundry done some time in the future. Not likely.

Officially cleared into Tonga - we hoist the courtesy flag, and Kyle finds a parrot

The next day, he found where we had moored and rowed over. He wanted to take our laundry. Nope. We looked at it and were good laundry-wise. Then he started outright asking for stuff again. The whole situation seemed carefully crafted. He was a nice old man who had just rowed all of this way in a barely held-together boat powered by the flimsiest oars. Couldn't I spare something?

No, actually. We don't have a lot of spare stuff. Mostly, we have the stuff we are using, plus a spare if it breaks, but we don't have room for a big pile of extra stuff to just give away. We managed to buy him off with a bottle of water and some biscuits. At that point, he seemed to have decided we were not in fact a money tree and moved on. The next day, we heard several people on the morning radio net complain that he took their money and laundry and they never got either back.

We decided to make our first day one of admin. Maryanne headed to the shops. I was about to take a cab ride with one of our gas cylinders to get it filled. At the dinghy dock, one of the cruisers we met in Suwarrow said I could save the cab fare and just take the dinghy. It was only a five-minute ride. I gestured at his engine and then at our oars, but he insisted it was basically five minutes either way and pointed in the general vicinity of 'that way'.

“You can't miss it”, he said.

Five minutes, my ass! I rowed to each promising dock only to find that it wasn't the place. I didn't want to turn back only to have to do it all again tomorrow, so I kept going. It turned out to be the last thing in the harbor, a mile and a half from Begonia. It took me forty minutes to row there. Once there, I climbed the path up the hill to the big butane tank on the hill, which was surrounded by a tall fence. No one seemed to be in evidence. I was not about to row back empty-handed, so I called out for a while until I roused the attendant. I thought he would let me through a padlocked gate, but instead led me to a low spot in the fence where a gap was stretched in the barbed wire that was large enough to pass the tank through. The guy seemed pretty annoyed at having to walk all of the way back and forth, but he filled the tank anyway, so I was happy.

Typical Tonga - Sunny harbour, market, the cathedral, and ladies dressed for church

At the market, Maryanne found lots of great produce that we had been missing for ages. We stocked up on lots of salad stuff and I even got a watermelon. Woo, hoo! We rewarded ourselves with tapas at a Spanish restaurant where the staff , the food, the music and the view were all brilliant.

On my first sip of coffee the following day, a different man than the guy at the Customs dock spotted me in the cockpit and rowed up in a different rickety boat. Aw, c'mon!

He introduced himself and asked for a cup of coffee. Since I was holding one myself, I could hardly say we had no coffee, so I went inside to pour him one. I was not happy about this. I had been in bed just five minutes earlier and hadn't yet actually swallowed any of my own coffee. As I poured, he climbed aboard and sat at the cockpit table. I knew where this was going. Now we wouldn't be able to get rid of him until he finished his coffee, which I'm sure he was going to take his time doing. I made a point of making small talk generously sprinkled with uncomfortable silences until he finally took it upon himself to open his backpack.

Most of his offerings were jewelry. He had a few string necklaces with carved pendants of bone or stone. He also had a few strings of pearls. Most were pretty nice and in a different setting, I might have even bought one, but I was in no mood for his tactics, so I didn't. To his credit, he showed up with small things instead of a boat full of paintings and big tiki carvings that we would have been able to reject on the grounds that we had no space.

He had plenty of coffee left so he kept suggesting others we may want to buy for. Perhaps our friends would like them, or our family. How about our friends' families? Work acquaintances? Other friendly old Tongan men?

I stonewalled him, but I was worried he wouldn't leave until we bought him off. At one of the silences following yet another 'Nope', he admired the shell we had sitting on our table. He asked me how much I wanted for it and I gifted it to him. In exchange, he insisted on giving me a necklace in return. Okay, now we're even. Off you go. He still didn't budge. He started asking for other stuff. Maryanne saved the day by also gifting him a travel mug 'so that he could bring coffee from home and keep it warm'. She then poured the rest of his coffee into it and practically shooed him back into his boat in a manner that had him thanking her for it.

My coffee was cold.

It's a difficult situation. In Polynesian culture, it's considered rude to not engage with someone who introduces themselves or to reciprocate when given something, even if it's something you don't need or want. In my culture, it's rude to let yourself into a stranger's home first thing in the morning, start asking for stuff and then to not leave until you get something.

He passed by several other boats. Some people talked to him, but I never saw him leave his rowboat. The trick seemed to be to stand at the edge of the transom where he was physically blocked from boarding. (“That's right, this is 'Merica back here. You stay over there in Tonga.”) I'm sure the coffee bit was meant to circumvent that. When I went inside, he climbed aboard. He didn't ask. I'm still not sure how to deal with that delicately, but I don't want to have to hide out in the cabin every morning on my own boat. I really want to have respect for the culture and not be impolite, but these guys seem practiced in the art of making people feel uncomfortable enough to spend. That makes me feel like I'm being played for a sucker and I really don't like that.

Anyway, after the day of chores, we planned a day of fun. Fun is relative, of course. What we actually did was take a too-long walk in the blazing sun to a nearby cave we had seen a sign for. Once we were there, we found it covered in graffiti and litter. How disheartening.

Exploring out of town, and then back for a drink at the harbour

On the walk back, a cab driver stopped and gave us a free ride into town to save us walking in the heat. As we went along, she picked up more and more of us until the van was full. She was warm and friendly and explained that she was on her way back from the airport anyway, so why not pick us up? Whether she intended it or not, her act of kindness was good business sense. We were leaving the next day, but the others all asked for her card and I have no doubt she will be the first call they make if any of them want a cab.

Just about everybody here, even the annoying old rowboat guys, are really, really nice. (That's why it was so hard to shoo them off.) I also really liked Neiafu. While technically it's not a one-street town, the one's that aren't the main road are all just houses, so it's easy to find everything we need. After our somewhat disappointing start, we managed to salvage our 'fun' day with a stop at the Tropicana Cafe, the local cruisers' hangout. We bought a couple of Otai, which is a marvelous local treat made from coconut cream and watermelon, and lingered over them while conversing with both boat and non-boat tourists. We had drinks at happy hour at the restaurant by the dinghy dock with the million-dollar view, and then topped it off with a really good pizza (Finally!) at a different place. We were worried when we arrived that we hadn't budgeted enough time for Neiafu, but we seemed to have hit the highlights pretty well in only two days.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sail to Tonga

[Kyle]Since we were on a mooring ball in Niue, we got to do something we rarely get to do any more: leave under sail. Without breaking the morning quiet, we released the lines and drifted back a bit until we were sideways to the wind. Maryanne pulled the sock off of our spinnaker. It slowly filled, billowing in the light breeze. It expanded into a nice balloon shape, the lines pulled tight and we accelerated out of the mooring field. We even got some waves and shouts of appreciation as we did.

For days, much of the talk at the wifi picnic tables in town had been in the form of fretting about the upcoming weather. The swell was too big from the southwest, someone got a forecast that predicted thirty knot winds. Most others were worried about a period of light winds.

To me, the forecast looked fine. We would have light tailwinds for the first day and a half, which would strengthen a bit, but would still be tailwinds. The thirty knot thing was a mention way in a far corner of the forecast area of occasional thunderstorms with gusts 20-30. They always say gusts 20-30, just in case. I explained to several people that asked that we would be nowhere near the area, but if a thunderstorm does approach, the big wind would likely only last an hour or so. Mostly, it should be a nice sail in cross swell that should decrease as we go.

Well, I'm happy to say that it was just about the best sailing we could hope for. The wind was light enough and of the right direction for the spinnaker, which is a joy to fly because it makes us go faster than the other sails and it's pretty and colourful. It never blew hard enough to make us have to worry about needing to switch to a smaller sail. The swell was not as large as it was at the moorings in Niue. What little motion we had was even further damped by the sail, so it hardly felt like we were moving. We weren't going quite as fast as we'd hoped, but it was nice to not have to stress about the strain on anything. A lot of sailors like the exhilaration of a rough passage. I think we've done enough of that. I wouldn't mind going everywhere at four knots if it were this smooth.

Sunrise at sea

We sailed the whole way with the spinnaker pulling us along behind it. We only doused it when we needed to turn upwind to enter the harbor at Neiafu, Tonga fifty-four hours later. It was glorious!

Despite having our lovely spinnaker leading the way, over the course of the day another vessel that left Niue a couple of hour's after us could be seen slowly gaining on us. I was trying to be nonchalant about it, but I couldn't figure out how they were doing it. Most vessels down here are larger than us, so they have an inherent advantage, but these guys were in a catamaran of the same length which was built by a different manufacturer to be more spacious. That meant it was heavier, had wider hulls and carried less sail, since their mast was the same height, but their boom started above their capacious cabin. In a brief conversation with the couple that owned it back in Niue when we were clearing out together, we learned that the woman had come from a racing background.

Perhaps she was working some kind of sail trimming sorcery that kept them going 25% faster than us no matter what the wind was doing. In lulls, we'd slow down, they'd slow down less. In gusts, we'd speed up, but they'd speed up more. It was maddening. I'm reasonably good at this stuff myself. Our spinnaker was set perfectly, both props were feathered. It seemed there was NO way they should be gaining on us. I figured they could be motoring, but their speed varied in about the same proportion as the wind changes, so I had to concede that they probably were not. What were we doing wrong?

Just before midnight, they finally got close enough for Maryanne to give them a call on the radio just to be sure they could see us ahead.

A groggy voice answered, “Thanks for calling. We sleep at night. We'll turn the radio up and if we get too close, just give us a call.”

Are you f#*king kidding me!? “We sleep at night?”

Now we understand that singlehanders need to sleep sometime. Most of them set some kind of alarm every twenty minutes or so, which would allow them to see a ship that was just over the horizon the last time they looked. That's pushing the 'Must keep a proper watch at all times' rule, but at least it's an attempt to comply with the spirit. With the overtaking boat behind us, there were two of them aboard just like there are two of us aboard and it's appalling to think they both just go to bed at night with the hope they won't hit anything and willfully creating a moving hazard that becomes everybody else's problem. As the overtaking vessel, they were the give way vessel under the rules, but they didn't even know we were there until Maryanne called them. Then they just blithely made it our problem to wake them if they needed to turn.

A lot of boats seem to rely too heavily on AIS alarms to tell them about traffic conflicts. It reminds me too much of the pilots who will happily cover every window in the cockpit because they don't like having the sun shining on them, expecting Air Traffic Control to keep a lookout for them. We have an AIS receiver, which is how we knew exactly how fast they were going and to whom the lights astern belonged, but we are not equipped with a transmitter. Most boats do not have transmitters. Big ships do and they are gradually filtering down into the pleasure boat fleet from the no-expense-spared end. Nevertheless, we know of two AIS transmitter equipped boats currently cruising in our general vicinity, who were traveling together which still managed to hit each other. Lucky for them, both were built of metal.

Our current traffic had apparently managed to sail in this manner from at least as far away as the Caribbean. This only seems to have reinforced their belief that there is nothing wrong with the practice. That's what we used to call outcome-based thinking in recurrent training. Just because you have never crashed doesn't mean you are an excellent pilot. I guess that explains why they were all fresh and ready to go the morning they arrived in Niue and we needed a day to reset our circadian rhythms back to a diurnal schedule.

Anyway, on the first night of the sail to Tonga, they passed us slightly to starboard without having to be disturbed and then slowly headed over the horizon, leaving us in an ocean where Begonia was the only boat in sight.

At midnight the next night at watch change, Maryanne handed over the boat and pointed out the lights of a boat ahead that we seemed to be catching up with. Perhaps one of the monohulls that left before us wasn't doing so well in the light winds. We slowly gained on them through the night, but they remained ahead. As the first light of day came, I was able to see through the binoculars that it was the same catamaran that had passed us the night before. Perhaps their sails were out of trim. They should be getting up soon, so I expected them to yo-yo away shortly.

The monohull I thought we were chasing called them on the radio. They were the boat we could just make out on the horizon.

“Are you the ones behind us, with another boat behind you?”

Aw, c'mon! This again? Another boat? You all saw our dramatic departure under spinnaker. It's very distinctive. It's Begonia. Be-go-nia!

“Yeah,” they answered, “Were going really slow because we don't have much fuel left and we're trying to sail as far as we can before starting the engines. We burned a lot in that first day and a half.”

“Yeah. Us, too.”

Ah, HA!!!!!

Okay, here's the thing. Most of the modern spacious catamarans have much bigger fuel tanks than we do. They also have bigger engines that burn more, but the tankage is proportionally larger even considering this. Granted, we motor less than most others, but we have only burned five gallons since leaving Bora Bora, most of it to enter and leave the lagoons at Maupiti, Suwarrow and Beveridge. There has been plenty of good wind for sailing up until now. They must motor everywhere.

And another thing... If you motor that much, how does it surprise you that you're almost out of fuel? Don't you check your fuel levels, or monitor your usage? Again, I concede that I have spent a lot of time in airplanes. You NEVER want to run out of fuel in an airplane. Still, if you've come halfway around the world, you should have a pretty good handle on exactly how much fuel your engines use and therefore exactly how much you have left in your tanks at any given time. Unless, of course, you're the type that just isn't paying attention. Ah, there it is.

We made the turn upwind and had to pull down the spinnaker just before we would have had the pleasure of zooming past them. I was really wanting to do that.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Maryanne's Birthdays in Niue

[Kyle]For Maryanne's Birthday, we decided to splash out and rent a car to fully explore the island for a couple of days; since the island has no Tiffany's and all that.

This, of course, meant that no photon of daylight would be wasted. We picked up the car the moment the place opened and headed for the north side of the island. Our first stop was Matapa Chasm. There, a deep swimming hole is bounded on both sides by high cliffs and protected from the ocean surge by a series of boulders at the entrance. As it was early and a little drizzly, we decided to pass up the swim and do the adjacent hike to the Talava Arches.

The hike to Talava was much longer and was over difficult sharp coral that demanded we always be looking at our feet instead of up at the jungle. After a long while, it descended steeply into an enormous cave, where ropes tied to columns of calcium carbonate led us through to the exit at the sea. There, the view opened up onto a large sea arch fronted by coral beds divided by shimmering pools of blue. It was too much for Maryanne to resist, so she jumped in while I explored the rocks and tide pools. Once we'd had our fill, we were back on the road for a circuit of the island.

Our next stop was at Uluvehi, where we found a series of caves high up in the cliffs. In the first one we found an outrigger canoe and then a long steep ramp all of the way down to the sea. At that end was what appeared to be the most treacherous place we have ever seen to attempt to launch or land a canoe.

Further down the coast at Liku, we missed the turnoff for some caves we wanted to see. No problem, we'll just do a u-turn in the middle of the main road and drive ten miles an hour until we find it, since we seemed to be the only car on this side of the island.

It turned out the bush road we wanted was on the other side of the town square. To get to it, just leave the road at any convenient spot, drive across the grass and look for the continuation of the track there.

We drove until I got too nervous about getting stuck, then I edged the car into the bushes to get it mostly out of the way and we switched to walking. It was good we did. The road got worse as it dove steeply down toward the water. There, we found a set of stairs leading through a cave and down to coral flats below. We could walk out on them and see the inhospitable coast for miles each way.

Next was Togo Chasm, billed as a must see and also the most difficult hike on the island. The hike started okay. It was flat jungle with lots of tree roots and rocks to trip over, so we had to keep our gaze firmly planted on the patch of trail immediately ahead. It then descended into a little gap between boulders, which then opened up into a wide view of the coast in both directions. Between us and the sea was a wide band of just about the most impenetrable terrain we have ever seen. It was a field of razor-sharp coral pinnacles jutting from their unseen bases towards the sky. It looked a little like the chaotic ice fields created by a glacier as it tumbles over a ledge. I could only think of that and perhaps actual molten lava that would pose a more effective barrier to further progress.

Fortunately for us, some kind, wonderful, hard-working, thoughtful soul had laid a thin concrete path by filling in the gaps between spires, so that it was actually possible to walk without wearing out our shoes in the first twenty feet. The path slowly descended along the winding line of least resistance for concrete pouring until it terminated at the top of a really tall ladder. The ladder descended into a deep chasm filled with sand and palm trees that almost, but not quite made it to the top. All four sides were bounded by high cliffs so although it otherwise looked like a tropical beach, the surf was conspicuously missing.

As we poked around looking at the accumulated debris of the coconut palms, we kept wondering aloud to each other how anyone had found this place in the first place. Since leaving the jungle, Togo Chasm seemed to be the first place big enough and flat enough to spend a night. It seemed unbelievable that, without the path, anyone could have traversed the distance in one day. Niue's rock is so porous and sharp and it's jungle is so thick with undergrowth that there must still be dozens or even hundreds of undiscovered caves and chasms on the island.

By the time we were finished at Togo, the tropical sun had turned the whole island into a steam room. I was so ready to be done, but it wasn't dark yet, and there were still beautiful sights to see, so we kept going.

Our next stop was Anapala Chasm. Like Liku, it was accessed by taking an unmarked turnoff, driving across the lawn at the Hakupu town square, and finding the least-improved looking bush road on the other side. The road we selected had been recently mashed flat by the tires of a big tractor. That was good. The tractor had also dug a deep trench right down the middle. That was bad. We had to drive very carefully to keep the trench under the middle of the car as getting a wheel in it would surely strand us.

They had filled the trench near the little parking area where we left the car. We took the short trail through the jungle to a set of concrete steps that led between two closely spaced cliff walls into the darkness below. About halfway down, we actually had to pause for a while to let our eyes adjust so we could see where we were stepping. At the bottom, the stairs ended at a long, thin pool of a size that would have made it perfect for swimming laps. The shade had kept the water just a tad on the cold side and the best thing was that the water was fresh and clean. I took about three steps, each accompanied by a gasp as the cold reached new heights, and then the bottom fell away and I was treading water. The day's heat vanished and the water instantly went from shocking to refreshing. It was marvelous to cool off and get a good fresh water rinse.

Despite my assurances that the water is wonderful once you're in, Maryanne's memory of my previous gasping were too fresh for her to want to try it.

The walls on either side rose in curtains and columns of calcium carbonate cave formations until bending away to some unseen opening. Even with only the small amount of light that had survived the winding journey to the water, I could clearly see the bottom sixty feet below. By holding onto the various crevices and with the aid of buoyancy, I could scale the wall along the pool as if I were a much more excellent free climber than I am. When I would get somewhere I couldn't traverse, I'd 'fall' and swim for a bit until I made it to the other end. There, a field of boulders rose to a thin patch of sky far overhead and crisscrossed by leafy branches. The story is that Anapala was once used as the source of water for a nearby village. Again, we had to wonder how anyone ever found it in the first place.

Feeling completely rejuvenated, we bounded back up the long staircase and were both surprised by how much shorter it seemed than when going down. Usually, it's the other way around.

We hit the road again. At the first switchback, which was kind of a steep, blind one, our right front tire fell into the trench in the middle. We were lucky we were on a steep slope. With some gentle help from reverse gear, gravity did most of the work of pulling us out. Whew! Next thing...

We continued on the coast road, stopping at a few of the beaches on the way. We ended at Scenic Matavai Resort, where we were going to be watching a talk about Uga, which is what Niueans call coconut crabs. It wasn't for a little while, so we walked the grounds and enjoyed the views from their expansive balcony. A passing staff member mentioned it was Happy Hour. It did seem like having a couple of umbrella drinks would be appropriate, especially considering that it was Maryanne's Birthday, after all. Happy Hour at the Matavai turned out to not be such a great deal. All drinks were double price instead of triple price. To be fair, that seemed to be their pricing structure for everything. With meals and all of the little extras, a couple like us could easily blow through $4,000 in a week-long stay. That's before doing anything off-site like diving trips. We are so glad to be sleeping in our own home and buying most of our food from the same grocery store the locals use.

The presentation turned out not to be about coconut crab, but instead to be a coconut husking demonstration. We knew how to husk a coconut, but we were there anyway, so we stayed. The presentation had a strong feel of being manufactured for this week's set of tourists. There was no practice involved or intent to impart any technique, just a quick,”Here's how we islanders open a coconut”. We did get to see some more advanced coconutry, though, which terminated in using the husk fibers to squeeze the yummy yummy cream out of the meat. I'd say we'll use the technique in the future, but we won't. It's way too time consuming.

Since it was Maryanne's Birthday, she got to choose from the island's selection of restaurants. She passed on all of the fancier options and decided to go for a place that had fish and chips. You can take the woman out of England...

Birthday Redux

Did I mention we had a car for two days?

That means we rose before the other 1,200 people in the country in order to get a good jump on the day.

We zipped back up to Matapa to have a morning snorkel. The heat of the day hadn't started yet, so the cool water was a bit less welcome than we had hoped. We then hopped back down the coast trying to stop at all of the places we had missed the previous day. Everywhere we stopped was different and all were beautiful. We had a midday pause in the fun when we got back to Alofi so we could use the car to get a load of heavy groceries to the dinghy. Then it was another trip to Anapala for a swim. This time, Maryanne partook and agreed it was indeed refreshing after the initial shock.

From there, it was back to Scenic Matavai for the buffet and fire dancing show, which we had pre-booked a week earlier. Again, the Matavai is beautiful, but we got the sense they have been doing this once a week for so long that they seemed like they weren't even trying anymore. The food was mostly okay and the fire dancing was over in ten minutes, which made releasing my grip on the credit card a little harder than usual.

Nevermind. At least I had good company. It was time to return the car (by leaving it parked in town with the key under the mat) and Maryanne promised we could sleep in the next day.

We rested and did boat chores for a day and a half after all of that. On one of our water runs, we bumped into Dona Catherina. They said they were leaving soon and only had one more tour. Would we like to come? This time, I was feeling reasonably better, so I wouldn't have to miss out on all of the fun.

Accompanying us was a group of local school kids all around late single-digit age. Again, we found no whales, but we did have a lovely afternoon sail along the coast. The kids were all well-behaved (they were under the supervision of an army of moms and aunties). I'm not sure any of them seemed to notice that there were no whales. They were so amazed at every single little thing about being on a boat – the flapping sails, the size of the wheel, every little deck fitting. It was nice to be reminded that it's not all maintenance and chores and that even a daysail is a big adventure.

Adults aboard - Group Shot By Lynsey Talagi
Photo Credit Lynsey Talagi and Oma Tafua

Later that night, when we got home, and after we'd uploaded all the pictures, Maryanne's computer decided to pack it in. One minute it was working and the next it was not. After going ashore and spending hours on the internet looking for solutions, she determined the most recommended fix was to download and reinstall the operating system. There was no way that was going to happen. At island speeds, the only way to do that would be to take the computers ashore, plug them in somewhere out of the weather, pay $600 and wait a month for it to upload. Perhaps when we get to NZ. {Maryanne: 'Fixing' our computer took hours of on and off effort over several days. I was terribly frustrated, not least at the fact that I'd been saying I should do a backup for days and simply hadn't found the time.. I was paying now. Ugh!}

We decided to to settle for changing out our hard drive and restoring it from a three-week old backup. That got us back up and running for the time being, but it meant we lost all of the pictures we had taken since Beveridge, including all of our best Niue photos. Auugh! Hopefully, we can get them back when we get the OS reinstalled.

Getting Ready to Go

The rest of our days in Niue, we spent preparing for our upcoming departure. We finished filling the water tanks and bought some last-minute perishables. We took one day to ride our bicycles a few kilometres to Limu Pools for a swim. On the ride back, we stopped at every single sea track and swam as necessary to stay cool in the afternoon heat.

Limu Pools

Hio Beach

Photo fun in the cave off Vaila Sea Track

Every sea tracks provides a stunning view
This one is by Mafeku village

We also made a point of making one last stop at each of our favorite eating establishments. We had dinner at Gill's. As the only Indian restaurant on Niue, they have no competition whatsoever, yet they still bother to make their food good enough to make themselves the most popular restaurant in any of the world's big city Indian districts. We also stopped by the mini-golf place, not for the golf, or even the food, but the amazing views of the harbor. At the next table were four guys finishing up a lot of beers. They had the used cans all neatly lined up in a 5x6 block. Close inspection revealed it to be 29 beers and a Sprite. They explained that one of the guys didn't drink.

“Do you mean to say that three of you drank all of that? How are any of you still standing?”

In fact, they seemed a little tipsy, but still in that friendly but not yet scary stage of drinking.

One amusing episode was when they went to pay. Both the customer and the proprietor were of that certain age when reading glasses are needed for the close work. As the credit card reader was handed over and the receipt produced, the two men kept handing the same pair of glasses back and forth to each other to use. They were doing it in such an unconscious way that I think Maryanne and I were the only ones who even noticed.

When the four friends left, we had a chat with the cafe's owner, Mark Blumsky, and learned that he was the former Mayor of Wellington, NZ! He had moved to Niue for the beauty and the slow quality of life, exchanging hectic policy meetings for selling beers in the tropical sunshine. He seemed pretty content. We felt like rock stars being served by the mayor turned barman... LOL.

Moving On

We took one last trip ashore in Niue to clear out, have lunch and use our last 500 bytes of internet, which is about what three computers combining forces for two hours can achieve. I am so sick of spending such a huge chunk of our time staring at useless computers that hardly ever allow us to get one meaningful thing accomplished.

After Customs collected us and the crews from three other boats to clear out, they drove us out to their offices. When Maryanne was getting out of the van, the driver shut the door on her hand. It was an accident, of course, so Maryanne was trying her hardest to act like no harm was done, but with her eyes squinted shut and her teeth involuntarily clenched, I could tell that it hurt a lot and that she must be holding back a particularly colourful string of proper English swearing. The woman told Maryanne to follow. We thought we were heading for the first aid kit in the employee break room, but instead were just shown to a roll of paper towels. We completed the paperwork while Maryanne kept trying to smile and not bleed all over anything.

When we were done, we had them drop us off at a restaurant that sells pizza. After the van pulled off in a cloud of dust, we found it to be closed. It was 11:47. We poked around for a while looking for any opening times posted, until the owner surfaced, saying they opened at 11:30.

We looked confused since by now it's already 11:50?

He then looked a little embarrassed and hastily opened up for us. When we told him we had come for the pizza, he said they only did that for dinner. For lunch, we could have sushi. We had really been working up a good pizza craving, so we sheepishly thanked him for opening for us and then left for the other place in town we heard had pizza. Oops.

The other pizza place in town were open but empty. When we tracked down the proprietress and told her what we wanted, she told us that pizza had to be made to order.

“That's fine”, we said. We weren't in a hurry. She then snipped that pizza had to be ordered a day in advance and shot us a look that made it clear she thought we were both idiots for not knowing that as it "had always been the policy"!

For some reason, even though I'm sure she needs it, we decided not to wait a day to give our business to the island's token Curmudgeon and moved on to plan C, an Indian lunch at Gill's. This had the added advantage of giving us something to do other than stare helplessly while our computers connected to the town center's grudging wifi signal. I'm starting to think sometimes it's better to be places where there isn't even the hope of internet. It's the hope that hurts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A slow start to enjoying Niue (Kyle forced to rest)

[Kyle]With Begonia safely on a mooring ball, off the capital Alofi in Niue, we were soon given an appointment to perform all the officialdom of arrival. When we did go ashore, we had our first fumbling go at the novel dinghy landing procedure. Since there's so much swell here they have no dinghy dock. They also have no sandy beach on which to land.

What is done here is to pull the dinghy up to the wall. Everybody but one then scrambles up a ladder. The person remaining then attaches the dinghy to the hook on a big crane and then climbs out as best they can. This is the most difficult part because the crane is pulling the dinghy away from the wall, which is slippery and just a little too far away to easily reach. Once that's done, the dinghy is lifted onto a cart, where it can be rolled into a parking space and dropped off.

I instantly came to like the system. While getting on and off could be a bit nerve-wracking, the dinghies all sit peacefully high and dry in their spaces. This was way better than tying to a dock in these conditions, where they would all be bashing into each other all day and getting caught in each others lines

We had come ashore to clear customs. By the time we had dropped off the Pudgy in it's space, we had seen the procedure twice and as such were promoted to instructors for the newest arrival. Local dive operators and fishermen also use the crane to launch their big boats so there's always plenty of help around.

Customs came to the dock and picked us up in their van to give us a ride to their office. The guy driving was so cheerful he was practically giggling the whole way. The rest of the people in the office were also really friendly and helpful.

When we were done, they dropped us off at the yacht club (at our request). There was a guy there watching it for the real guy. He told us we needed to go to the Tourist Information Office to pay our mooring fees and to get shower keys, etc. The woman at the Visitor Centre was just great and couldn't have been more helpful. She gave us loads of brochures and advice on things to do on the island. When we said we weren't sure how long we were staying, she said, “No worries! Pay any time.”

That brings up another cool thing: We have now sailed so far that the people here all have Kiwi accents.

We thought we might want to rent a car while we're here and take a lap around the country. In order to do this, we had to go to the police station and procure myself a local driver's license. The police were great, of course, and in short order, I was issued an official government picture ID listing my address as “Begonia”. I like it way better than my Arizona license. I almost wish I was still at work so I could whip it out when TSA demands government issued identification and let them scratch their heads over it. Okay, no I don't, but it would still be fun.

Since I had been up since the start of my midnight watch, I was fading fast. We headed back to the wharf, where lots of nice people were there helping us launch. It got me thinking about the name of the country. Perhaps the 'u' was meant to be sideways; turned 90 degrees to the right?.


A little flashback:

A couple of days earlier, on our last full day at Beveridge reef, I decided I was felling a bit peckish and went outside to open one of our Suwarrow coconuts for a snack. As I was coming back in with the two halves, I slipped on the wet deck. My feet came out from under me and I hit the corner of the cockpit seat right in the middle of my back with all of my weight. The pain was pretty bad and I even thought there was a chance I had broken a rib. Since I didn't seem to have any symptoms of a pneumothorax and I knew there was basically no treatment for a simple rib fracture, I decided to just rest all day, which was easy because everything hurt.

The next day, I felt noticeably better so we decided to go ahead with our plan to head for Niue. By the time we landed and went ashore there, I was feeling basically fine, provided I was careful about what I did. Only certain specific movements hurt, like lifting the dinghy onto the cart at the wharf. Maryanne asked for a hand and immediately got more strong volunteers than needed.

Sometime in the middle of the night, we heard whale voices coming through the hull. It sounded like it was pretty close. It was a deep one and a high one. We imagined it was the mother and calf, apparently only the males actually sing, but these noises were very cute.

Later, I went to turn over in bed and felt a pop, followed by excruciating, stabbing pain. My screaming woke Maryanne up in a fright. While I gasped for breath, she helped maneuver me into a position I could tolerate. I spent the rest of the night frozen, trying not to cause any more pain.

Our plan for the next day had completely changed. Now the only thing we would be doing is getting me to a doctor.

Getting into the dinghy and especially out of the dinghy at the wharf, was a slow, trying, painful process. Maryanne got the dinghy out and stowed with the assistance of helpful bystanders while I tried not to appear to be trying to be useless.

The hospital was a few miles up the road. My legs were fine and I could walk without too much pain as long as I kept a good posture and didn't go twisting around to look at anything. We didn't get far before someone pulled over in response to Maryanne's thumb, which isn't a thumb here but a hand. The woman was actually only going two doors down, but when Maryanne explained the situation, she told us to wait a minute and she would drive us to the hospital, even though she wasn't even going that way.

At the hospital, I was seen by a doctor who reassured me that if I could move my arms at all, I hadn't broken a rib. Sprains can make painful pops and he didn't think an x-ray was necessary. He gave me a prescription and told me to rest for five days “as if you were here in the hospital, only home on your boat”

Okay, rest. Got it. We'll leave thinking about being tourists until then.

We went to pay the bill and were told it was $35NZD (about $27US). There seemed to be some misunderstanding. I thought it had been obvious, but I explained we were foreigners and had to pay the whole bill, not just the co-pay.

“What's a co-pay? It's $35”.

“We also filled a prescription.”

”Yes, $20 for the visit, $15 for the prescription”.

“Listen, here! I don't know what your game is, but I've been to lots of hospitals, albeit it America, and I know for a fact the bill should be at least $400, plus the one you send me two months from now for another mysterious $600, so let's just dispense with all of this bureaucracy and let me pay the whole bill now!”

“There is no bureaucracy. Your bill is $35”.

Well, I'll be... Perhaps I should have got a couple of MRIs

So back to rest then, but first, we'll do the nice walk into town.

Nope. We got a ride from the first car leaving the hospital.

We got dropped first at the yacht club, where I spent an hour unsuccessfully trying to connect to their wifi while Maryanne went down the street to work out internet plans b and c. We found one conveniently located near a nice-smelling Indian restaurant and popped in for lunch while we watched the Wheel of Death spin away on our useless browsers. I had a delicious veggie roti and a local (NZ) beer.

After an hour, I had spent a whole hour just getting one account balance from one bank. The 'good' internet was too slow to be usable. As a last thing, I decided to look up the medication I was given. I figured it was some kind of strong NSAID, which seems to be par for the course for orthopedic injuries. There was no literature with the prescription, just the pills.

Nope. It's an opioid. I didn't think doctors did that any more unless you're in end-stage cancer or you were a celebrity. Then in big block letters, it said “DO NOT TAKE WITH ALCOHOL”. I looked at my empty beer can: 4%. That's not much. It then went on to explain that both the medicine and alcohol slow breathing and there's a possibility that if you combine the two, you will just forget. Okay, no more beer today and remember to breathe in instances where you can't decide if you should or not. Well, luckily I didn't have a lot of either.

Then, almost as if on cue, I started to feel not very well at all. I was starting to sweat profusely and felt like I was going to faint and fall out of my chair. I made a conscious check and I was definitely still breathing; in and out. I decided to go outside and get some fresh air, where I could sit on the ground with my back against the building. I made it as far as the door, at which point I decided it would be better to just lie down flat on the ground. I happily noted that doing so didn't hurt my rib too much.

When I got there, I was surprised to find the proprietor and Maryanne looking down at me with expressions of concern. I suddenly realized having a patron sprawled out on the floor in the doorway of a restaurant would be bad for their business and felt terribly apologetic and embarrassed. I managed to get up and assume a normal position at one of their outdoor tables. Lucky for them, it was between lunch and dinner and we were their only customers.

A glass of cold water was brought to me and by the time I was done drinking it, I was just fine – like it never happened. That was weird. I had light-headedness when standing up too fast before, but never a full faint from an already sitting position. I don't know if it was really the beer, but I resolved never to combine even a smidgen of the two, just in case.

The weather the next morning was gorgeous, come-run-all-around-the-island-and-swim-in-our-many-bays weather. Doesn't that just figure?


I really needed the enforced rest ordered by the doctor for my injured rib. By the second day, it stopped hurting so much when I was just sitting there resting. I would get restless and try something other than sitting in a neutral position and I would immediately feel a sharp stab, reminding me that I wasn't supposed to be doing that. Being stuck on the boat was not a problem, but I couldn't even get anything productive done, so it really started to feel like I was wasting time while everybody around was having fun.

Late on day three, I had my first sneeze. Holy crap! Back to day one where all I could do was sit very still and say, “Ow, ow, ow!”

Maryanne got spared from having to listen to me all day when Martin stopped by. He’s the owner and Captain of Dona Catherina. They were the boat we first encountered as we arrived in Beveridge reef. They were now in Niue helping Oma Tofua, the local whale research organization. Martin said they were about to go out for the day and asked if Maryanne would like to come along. She said no, of course, because I needed help with everything and because she's already seen whales. Wait, nope...she's gone.

Unfortunately, they found no whales to study, so all she got to do all day was go for a sail and meet some nice people. The monthly supply ship was in the harbor for three days and they said the whales tend to leave while it's around. There has also been a remnant of a tsunami (1ft) that went through and they thought that might have spooked the whales as well. Still, they are doing research and no whales can be an important data point, just not as exciting.

Here is one of the great encounters Oma Tafu collected when Maryanne wasn't with them
Photo Credit: Oma Tafua

I entertained myself by parking myself in the cockpit and watching the ship's unloading process. It can't come up to the wharf because it's too shallow and has too much swell. It can't anchor because the anchor would smash the coral. What they do in Niue is use a big crane (THE crane. They only have the one) to lower a shallow draft aluminum tug and a shallow draft aluminum barge into the water. Both are ringed with lots of tire fenders. The tug collects two lines, each a quarter of a mile long, and runs them to the pier. The ship holds position by keeping the engines in gear against the pull of the lines, while the tug and barge go back and forth all day with container after container. At night, they undo the whole process and the ship goes out into deep water to drift until the next morning. They did this for three days.

In order to make room for the ship, some of the yacht moorings have to be removed and a few others vacated. We were asked to move the first day. The second day, the ship's Captain decided he needed the nearest three yachts to move even further back and we had to move again even though none of us even seemed to be in the same county.

By the time my five days was up, there had been two more sneezes. I decided I was done being useless and that I was just going so suck it up and deal with any pain. Maryanne wasn't really on board with my plan, but at the rate I was healing, it could be weeks, so I've decided that's just how my life is now.

We went ashore and I tried my best not to wince all of the time as we went about our day. It was supposed to be a physically easy day of being desperately annoyed at the almost non-existent internet, but we kept thinking up one thing after another that we wanted to do until we had turned it into a pretty tiring day. One of the last cool things we did before giving up was pop into a cafe at the end of the town for something cold to deal with the heat and dehydration.

Popping into the cafe was not the cool part. That's just normal. The cool thing was that they had a miniature golf course. We didn't check this, but just off of the top of our heads, we figured the next nearest crazy golf course has to be at least 1000 miles away. It might possibly be the most isolated one on the planet.

It was pretty cool, too. The course was carved out of Niue's jagged coral and had lots of precipitous views of the crashing waves below. My favorite thing was their roving hazard, a friendly cat whose name we never got, but I decided it should be Sandtrap. She followed us through the whole course, begging for a scratch. In the way of all cats, she always wanted to plop down for a rest right in front of the ball, or ON the ball, or over the hole. If I happened to lose to Maryanne by a mile, I blame Sandtrap.

{Maryanne: Later in Niue we had a major computer hard disc failure and lost all our photos - you'll just have to believe us that it is an amazingly beautiful place. We went to a backup, but lost 3 weeks of photos.. If I ever manage to fix the disc, we'll come back and post some pictures here}

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Fantastic Sail to Niue

[Kyle]It was pretty drizzly, damp, and miserable when we pulled up anchor to leave Beveridge. The temperature had also dropped to below freezing so we had to figure out where we put our sweatshirts. Below freezing in the tropics is when our bottle of coconut oil solidifies. It seems to happen at about 23C (73F). After being in a hot climate for at least six months, it really does feel uncomfortable at that temperature if there's no sun to take the edge off.

It was pretty drizzly and miserable when we pulled up anchor to leave Beveridge. The temperature had also dropped to below freezing so we had to figure out where we put our sweatshirts. Below freezing in the tropics is when our bottle of coconut oil solidifies. It seems to happen at about 23C (73F). After being in a hot climate for at least six months, it really does feel uncomfortable at that temperature if there's no sun to take the edge off.

Our source in Niue, the boat that had evacuated the wreck victims, sent us a message telling us there were four moorings available in the harbor. The “anchorage” at Alofi has LOTS of coral and is 35m deep, which makes it terrible for actually anchoring. Because of this, the Niue Yacht Club has installed 20 sturdy moorings for use by visiting yachts and maintained by scuba divers. What this means is that if there are no balls available, you're not going to get to visit Niue.

As we were getting ready to go, one of the other anchored boats called to say goodbye to some of their friends. They had just pulled up their anchor and said they were going to Niue.

Uh, oh...

We had a blustery, wet sail across the lagoon, which fortunately has few obstructions, all of which are visible in poor light. Once we got through the pass into the deep ocean, we heard the mother ship call one of the flotilla and say they were thinking about leaving for Niue right away instead of a couple of days later, since the weather would be no good for diving. They had a little back and forth about it and eventually decided they were going to leave for either Niue or Tonga. Niue is very slightly off the direct line from Beveridge to Tonga, so they decided to head for Niue and make the decision later.

Oh, great! The mother ship is a pretty fast boat when it's going downwind. There was a pretty good chance they would pass us.

Within an hour and a half, the rest of their fleet plus another two all upped anchor and left with the same plan – a total of seven boats including us.

Oh, crap!

We had planned to arrive the next day at midday, which would allow us to ease of the throttle, so to speak, and have a stress-free semi-slow passage.

At this point, the first boat was about eight miles ahead of us. We were the second. The third was a particularly fast monohull about three miles behind. We had been watching their big purple spinnaker getting bigger and bigger for the last couple of hours. The three of us all had definite plans for Niue. The others were still planning to decide when they got there. All of their targets could already be seen zooming across the lagoon on our AIS receiver. We knew Purple Spinnaker Boat didn't like to fly their big sail at night, so we knew they would slow down at dusk, probably just after passing us. The others, we weren't sure about, but they were all bigger than us, which means they are generally faster.

Now we had to change our plan. Maryanne and I have been planning to go to Niue for a long time and we weren't about to lose one of the limited mooring balls to a bunch of boats who were just popping in for a look on a whim. We were now going to have to be there at first light, hopefully far enough in front of the pack to get a ball.

Our only secret weapon is that Begonia was designed in an era when most of the performance/comfort compromises were still settled on the performance side. We set everything up and then rolled up our jib and deployed our spinnaker. Our speed doubled! After a short while, it became clear that the big purple spinnaker was getting smaller again. By dinner, they had disappeared over the horizon and we were handily passing the boat ahead. By sunset, they were also about to disappear over the horizon behind us.

We were pushing Begonia pretty hard. We had eaten up enough miles to be able to go back to our original speed and still arrive just after dawn. We stowed the spinnaker and slowed to a speed that didn't require constant vigilance to maintain.

During the night, the mother ship called the boat we had just passed and asked if they knew where we were, since we didn't transmit on AIS (we have a receiver only, but no transmitter as most of them do). With no AIS transmitter, we are only detectable at night by either our lights or by radar. This means instead of sitting watch inside in front of the AIS screen, someone would have to periodically go outside in the rain and look around for us, which I got the feeling they were trying to avoid.

Their response was that we had gone bombing by them earlier going really fast and we were so far ahead that we were no longer in the area.

We were chuffed by this. It was nice to hear them acknowledge that, at least for a time, we were the fastest boat in the bunch. Yay, us! We're awesome! We were especially pleased that they remembered our name.

We have anchored more than a dozen times with this tight-knit group of boats. We have met them all ashore while clearing in or out or while walking around in various places. We all made the overnight passage between Rarioa and Makemo within sight of one another and we even spent several hours sharing beers and swapping stories with them in Fakarava.

Still, since we're not in their group, they never seem to acknowledge our presence unless we initiate the interaction or do something like get stuck in the same gendarmerie at the same time. They're all really nice people individually and we all get along well together, but it seems that as soon as we are out of sight, we are out of mind.

“Hey some catamaran just passed us. And, as a completely unrelated aside because it has absolutely nothing to do with it, has anyone seen Begonia?”


There was then a bunch of back and forth about the expense of a stop at Niue and the hassle of clearing in and out for a stay of only a few days. The wind was also forecast to start dying out in a couple of days. They all eventually decided to skip Niue and head straight for Tonga while they still had wind.

But then they kept making a beeline for Niue. I had a feeling their minds weren't really made up yet.

When Maryanne woke me for my watch, she pointed out the lights of the mother ship. They had passed us and were receding so fast that all we would have been able to do is match their speed with the spinnaker. Another catamaran was also overtaking from behind and looked like they would pass us soon.

I was tempted to take the bait, but our speed was perfect for arriving at first light, so I just left them to it.

At 3am, the mother ship was about eight miles ahead of us when they finally made a noticeable course change for Tonga and the other cat was just passing abeam. That would make is the second boat in, provided no one was approaching the island from a different direction.

When daylight came and the first boat arrived, our mooring source called to tell us there were plenty of open moorings. It seems a few boats had left. That was a huge relief. There was room for the two of us plus the two in the flotilla that broke off and didn't go to Tonga, plus a couple more.

Arriving in Niue for first light - and greeted by Mom & Baby Humpback Whales

As soon as we arrived at the mooring field, we had to slow way down to allow room for a Humpback Whale and her calf that were hanging out near the jetty. We turned north and picked up a mooring as they loitered around. As we were tidying up, a small pod of Spinner Dolphins came by to see us. When they left, we went inside and heard a spout. We rushed back outside to find the mother whale and her calf passing between us and the next boat. How cool is that? We haven't even been ashore yet and already this place is amazing!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Beveridge Reef (Niue)

{Maryanne:Beveridge Reef is just a shallow submerged atoll in the middle of nowhere - with a small sand-spit peaking above water to the west at very low water - but normally there is just the breaking surf to let you know it is there. The surf may just show as a thin white line on the horizon as you approach - but as you can see from the photo of the dinghy exploring from inside of the atoll, that surf is big and very powerful even on a relatively normal day. Add to this that some electronic charts don't clearly show the reef except at certain zoom levels, and that the reef is marked 3 nautical miles SW of its actual position - it is not surprising that boats sometimes hit it.}

[Kyle]There are actually two obvious wrecks on Beveridge at the moment: the very recent. The catamaran Avanti was one (Wrecked in the early hours of August 27th 2017, but still floating), the other is a steel fishing boat just a little way from where we were anchored (wrecked several years ago, and sitting on the bottom in shallow water, and with some of the structure clear of the water). We swam across the sand shelf to the fishing boat. It was a real struggle against the wind and current. Small pieces of the hull were strewn in a path to the main wreck. The prop and keel were badly damaged. Rust and growth were already taking over and several fish had moved in, the boat has been stripped of anything useful long ago.

Exploring a wrecked Steel Fishing Boat on Beveridge Reef
The wreck is of the MV Liberty - apparently Niuean trawler

Next, we let the current take us to the new wreck, a 15 meter catamaran. From our conversation on the radio the day before, we knew they had hit the reef from the outside. Their keels, drive legs and rudders were sheared off, as they crashed into the reef where they sat (most likely bounced) until high tide eventually nudged them into the lagoon and they dropped anchor. The weather had been horrible here that night, so it must have been terribly violent and very frightening. The family seemed surprisingly good-humoured about it, describing their path as “a shortcut”, humour that is only possible after the fact.

The catamaran Avanti still floating after some severe damage to her undersides

From the look of their debris path, it looked like they very nearly also hit the fishing boat along the way. We found their anchor at the end of the trough it had plowed. We followed the chain to the boat and were surprised to find it not resting on the bottom, but afloat, with the stern submerged to the cockpit. Most catamarans (including Begonia) have foam-filled buoyancy compartments that are designed to prevent even a breached boat from sinking (and here they were clearly functioning well). I swam under the hulls and found a giant hole in one and the bottom basically gone from the other. We took lots of pictures as a record for the owners to have of the progress of the state of the wreck in their absence .

We climbed aboard and found lots of heartbreaking damage. Stanchions had been bent. Hatches had been torn off. Everything in the cockpit was underwater and a life jacket that had auto-inflated was waving uselessly in the current.

We didn't go into the cabin, but we opened the door just enough to get a record of the water level inside. Whew! It had the smell of rotting food and wet everything. Some items were piled out of the water on top of the salon table, but condensation had the walls and ceiling dripping onto everything. The scene brought back memories of the slurry we had to wade through to recover what we could from Footprint's cabin. Those poor people.

We slid back into the water and swam back to Begonia, pleased that she was floating on her lines.

Along the way, we were in the almost constant company of a handful of Almaco Jacks (fish) who were very curious and swam so close they practically seemed like they were trying to cuddle. A little further off were a series of gray reef sharks who would come charging up ominously from behind until they were five or six feet away, at which point they would wander off. All of their prey is less than two feet long. Maryanne thinks they race up to see what we are and then stop their pursuit once they realize we're not two-foot fish.

Some of the underwater company on Beveridge Reef:
Amber Jacks, Peacock Flounder, Reef Sharks, Sting Rays, Black Jacks (there were many others), and Kyle checking on the anchor

We had a couple of really windy days after that. Beveridge has no land. At high tide, more of the outside swell makes it over the reef and it gets a little boisterous. At low tide, it calms down considerably. This makes it easy to feel the state of the tide by how tranquil or rough it is. Still, we were glad to be given a break from having to be in the big seas outside.

The Catamaran Jadean, a familiar boat to us during this year's Pacific travels, arrived followed shortly by the rest of this season’s flotilla. They promptly arranged a BBQ amongst themselves and left us to ponder the end of the peace from radio chatter. A couple more boats came in that were not attached and soon the anchorage swelled to the wreck plus eight more. We met a couple from the boat Matilda personally, and spoke on the radio to others to explain the deal with the wrecked catamaran.

They all knew about it. Apparently, it has been front-page news on all of the islands in the region and has been all over the television.

Maryanne especially has taken her role as protector and recorder of the wreck very seriously. She makes sure we swim over at least every other day to take more photos of the waterline and anything succumbing to wave action. She then compiles a summary and emails it to the owners every time we upload our weather files. She understands well how knowing the state of the boat, even if the news isn't good, is better than not knowing and letting your worries get the best of you.

This area of the Pacific has a lot of areas like Beveridge, where the charts, which are based on old surveys, are wildly inaccurate or just plain wrong. Not only that, but volcanic activity around Tonga is making new islands that weren't even there before. There are extensive lists of all of these anomalies, which almost everyone we have met keeps in their onboard library. Maryanne took it one step further and spent a whole day actually transferring them to one of the electronic chart programs we all seem to have. This converted a list of numbers into a series of big, red circles on the actual charts, each the size of the object, if known, plus a good margin. Now it will be much easier when plotting a route to see if there are areas of concern or to be avoided entirely. She put it on a chip to share so hopefully more and more boats coming into the area will have access to the information as people trade around the files.

Our last day at Beveridge was supposed to be spent snorkelling in the clear, flat water after the winds finally died off. They did, but then it was cloudy and drizzly all day. After Maryanne did her regular swim to the wreck, we spent the day doing this and preparing for the overnight trip to Niue. It looks like it will be tailwinds and following seas this time. That will be a welcome change.

{Maryanne}National Geographic have recently completed filming for a documentary about Beveridge Reef and Niue and we'll certainly be keeping an eye out for it once published (and recommend you do too) - these are special and beautiful places on planet earth.