Thursday, August 22, 2013

Catch Up

Sorry for the radio silence, folks.

I'm back in Reno and am slaving away at writing the last couple of posts about my summer adventures. Ok not really, I'm trying to adjust to non-sailing life. It's bittersweet, but at least I can shower in freshwater whenever I want.

Ben is still in Tonga, we'll see how this transition goes for the blog.

Stay tuned, posts are percolating.

Monday, August 19, 2013


The best thing about Tonga is the people (are the people? It's too early in the morning for correct grammar.) They're so friendly and are always willing to talk to you. The opening line is "Where are you from?"

The worst thing about Tonga? Mosquitos. Holy skeeters, I'm being eaten alive wherever we go.

We've just been hanging around the boat, fixing and cleaning things and packing up whatever Ben wants me to take back to the States. It's been really great to just chill and not have to run around and see EVERYTHING before I leave.

After 3 months of sailing I realized (once we were in Tonga) that the passage from Niue was my last sail! So I made Ben take me out for a couple of day sails to see the whales (not too close, please) and make sure I had learned how to helm Kyanos. Check and check.

It's really difficult leaving Ben and sailing and Kyanos, but luckily I'm excited about finishing up school in Reno and seeing all the folks back there.

A particularly cool sunset while on passage to Tonga. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sail to Tonga

The sail to Tonga was somewhat. We left Niue reasonably on time. Even while we put up sail and dropped the mooring we were debating the going to the northern group of island (Va'Vau) or the southern group (where I fly out of). Since I have a track record of missing my flight while visiting Ben and Kyanos (ok it only happened twice in San Diego) we tentatively decided to go to Nuku'alofa, the main city in Tonga.

We started out with the spinnaker when we dropped the mooring ball--to give the folks on Spruce a show Ben sailed off the mooring ball with the spinnaker in 3 knots of wind. It wasn't a very fast paced show, but it looked pretty cool.

Adventure #1 on passage: sometime during the first night the spinnaker got wrapped around the forestay. Ben can usually fix this with some creative steering but that thing was STUCK. It took hours of steering around crazily to get it to a point where Ben could climb the forestay to unwrap it. That's right, he climbed the forestay. At night. With a wrapped spinnaker.

I didn't start a timer when he went up the forestay but after what seemed like forever of him working on it while gripping the forestay with his legs and one hand, I looked at a clock. Over 30 minutes later, he finally came back to the cockpit completely wiped, but at least the spinnaker was down!

Adventure #2 on passage: at 4:10 p.m. on the second day we were still 160 nm from Tonga, so Ben put up the little working jib to slow us down with the plan of arriving not tomorrow but the next day. When I offhandedly made the comment "you know once you change sail, the wind is going to pick up and we'll make over 7 knots" which really kind of ticked him off...

But sure enough, what happened as soon as the sun went down? Squall city, and with that high wind we were doing 7 knots.

A night of fast sailing meant a day of hard sailing to make it to Tonga before sundown. We might have even turned on the engine just a teensy bit once we were in the bay so we didn't have to anchor after sundown.

Adventure #3 on passage: a whale hit us. We did NOT hit the whale--it hit Kyanos!! We were sailing into Tonga while the sun was almost setting watching humpback whales breach and spout in the distance--absolutely breathtakingly beautiful animals. I was just heading up to the bow to be on whale/reef watch when we felt a WHUMP! that felt like a rogue wave hit the starboard beam. When we turned to look a HUGE tail came up out of the water, slapped the lifelines and topsides, then slammed back down into the water, soaking us. We watched in disbelief as the whale floundered a little at the surface then slid back into the water and was gone.

For a full 5 minutes all we could do was stammer "A whale just hit us. That was a whale." Kyanos didn't seem to be damaged--the bilges weren't running and we couldn't see anything wrong with the hull...

Once we anchored we though about jumping in to check on stuff, but the water wasn't as clear as in Niue and I think I spotted a shark...or some little grey torpedo shaped fish. So we opened a bottle of wine to celebrate another mostly successful passage.

After talking to some folks, we've come up with a few theories about that whale (which we named Frank). We might have gotten too close to a calf and the mom was peeved or it could have been sleeping. I think it was sleeping since it didn't hit us all that hard.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Niue, Day 2

Even though we checked into the country yesterday, we're checking out today since the customs guys don't work on the weekend. We want to get a good weather window to Tonga, and I can't afford to miss my we can't spend as much time here as we want.

Customs check out took so long since so many boats were getting ready to leave this weekend, I'm so glad we rented the motorcycle for two days instead of just today! Even with two days to see the island it feels rushed.

After customs we hopped on the bike and started to go around the island. There's so many little "Beach Treks" down to different caves and beaches and snorkeling spots that we barely got halfway around the island.

Enough words though: enjoy some pictures!

Love all the different colors of water. And the water clarity!

How can a huge hunk of coral be so green?

Spelunking. Not really a fan of it without ropes.

Break time to snorkel and enjoy the view.

Awesome arch.

Such cool formations in the coral.

Ben climbing while I say "If you fall I'm not picking the coral bits out of your leg hair."

Our transportation for the two days: wonderful little motorcycle!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Niue, Day 1

Takin' care of business today.

We checked in with customs--loads of paperwork to fill out--and in Niue the customs agents actually meet you at the dinghy dock.

Note about the dinghy dock: since the island is just a hunk of coral there aren't any great places to tie the dinghy. So there's a crane that you use to pick up the dinghy, deposit it onto a cart, cart it to a parking spot and drag it off the cart to the parking spot. Nifty way of keeping the dinghy safe when you're on land.

The customs agents were easy going and pleasant. And they speak English! After French Poly and the gendarmes this is a definite plus. They were really thorough in making sure we didn't bring any fruit or vegetable waste ashore or deposit it into the ocean. Since we don't have any fresh fruits or veggies after 7 days at sea, those questions were easy to answer.

After customs we headed over to the yacht club to talk to the folks about the mooring fees and all that. They were super nice, easy going, and pleasant. We actually spent a good chunk of time there chatting with Ira and Brian about what to see on the island and how to see it.     

We made some new friends heading out of Bora Bora--folks on S/V Spruce. Sue, Andy, and Spruce are from the U.K. and offered to send updates to Osprey and Dragonsbane via SSB for us. We had a couple chats with them and discussed renting motorbikes for a little bit to see more of the island.

When we stopped by the tourist information center to reserve a bike we also inquired about a dental appointment for Ben. On the passage he suffered from an abscessed tooth--which can be really dangerous if the infection spreads to the bloodstream. They had an opening that afternoon for a consultation (which, by the way, are only $18 NZ!)

On the way to the appointment the Chief of Niue Police, Tony, picked us up to give us a ride and showed us a shortcut "through the bush" for the way back. He was really chatty about being chief in such a small community (pop of Niue: 1500) and was genuinely interested in our adventures, too.

The dental appointment went really smooth: it's just a cracked tooth that will need to be fixed sometime down the road. Another plus--the consultation only took 5 minutes and was no charge.

After all this I was exhausted and ready for a nap so we went back to the boat before cocktails and appetizers on Spruce. I don't know about Ben, but I had an absolute blast getting to know Sue and Andy. We chattered non stop from 5 til past 10 when I started to fall asleep.

Tomorrow: the motorcycle!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Niue Check in

Where to start?

Niue is awesomely wonderfully enchanting.

Let's begin at the beginning. My introduction to Niue. We came in after dark--well we could see the island  before the sun set but we had to go around to the west side to Alofa to anchor. I didn't realize how big Niue actually was but it took us quite awhile to get over there.

At first glance Niue isn't inviting. It's the world's largest piece of coral. So the entire island is just a hunk of grey rock. Flat, corally rock. But once we explored a little we discovered it wasn't all that flat and it had some serious jungly greenness.

Besides seeing the island, the best thing about landfall after 7 days at sea was the smell. Bora Bora didn't smell all that great, to be honest, but Niue. Oh man. Imagine the most wondeful flower fragrance you can then multiply it by 10. Then maybe by another factor of 10. I cannot get over how GOOD this island smells! (Side note: the flower smell even permeates when you're on land in the middle of the "city".)

When we pulled in after dark the bioluminescent stuff in the water was bright and gorgeous, the stars were spectacular with the new moon, AND there were dolphins playing in our bow wake as we approached the anchorage.

The new moon, while helpful for stargazing, did present the problem of darkness while trying to pick up a mooring ball. I stood on the bow with the spotlight trying to catch sight of the reflective tape on the buoys around the other boats. The other cruisers had been thoughtful enough to turn on the mast light (anchor light) so we could see where they were--and that gave us a vague direction to head towards instead of completely relying on the chart plotter.

Once we spotted a mooring buoy the rest was nice and easy--Ben's so good at steering that I'm pretty sure I could have snagged the buoy by hand if I could have reached it.

By the time we cleaned up all the lines and covered the sails it was past ten. On passage I had the early watch so it was waaaay past my bedtime but I still stayed up to share a celebratory beer with Ben.

1100 miles in the can! (Maybe more with the detour to Palmerston).

The plan to see Niue in just a few days is to rent a motorbike and zip around the island on that. (Note I'm writing this after the fact so my mother doesn't worry TOO much about us. Which is more worrisome--an 1100 mile sail or a motorcyle?)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Welcome to Niue

We left Bora Bora on July 30th and had a really wonderful passage to Niue. I somehow managed to add the days wrong and it was only a 7 day, 6 hour passage...not 9 days. The math person can add, really. I had an earpatch to prevent seasickness and didn't really feel all that sick but did end up feeding the fishes a couple times.

The winds were mostly cooperative with only one day/night of high winds and only a couple hours of light winds. I got to change some headsails (no rollerfurling on Kyanos!) and didn't have any fiascos in the kitchen!

Ben cooked some pretty kickin' meals--the most memorable for me being bacon sandwiches. Bacon, bbq sauce and baguette: YUM! We had stocked up on a lot of canned ready-to-go meals in Bora Bora. They're not the healthiest but they taste good and they're easy :)

Other than some whales circling the boat near Palmerston and some dolphins Ben saw, I didn't see all that much wildlife. That's ok since it's "whale season" here in Niue. Meaning we should see a lot here. Hopefully humpbacks!