Saturday 2nd of June was to be the day we left beautiful Bora Bora and the French Polinesian Islands to head for a small Island called Niue, an Island I had never heard of before this adventure. We packed up early and motor sailed ot at 09:45. We were sailing to Nuie with our Friends Greg and Jane on Orion but they sail and motor faster so they soon disappeared into the distance. It was during our motoring that we noticed the engine was not charging the batteries a suspect alternator problem. The good thing is that we do have solar wind and a diesel generator but energy consumption had to be considered, meaning if we motored we had to hand steer as the autopilot draws high current. Once the wind increased Vera took over the steering.
The following day we sailed all day but did have to gybe in the dark to avoid Manuae island, always happens at night! Over the next few days we sailed downwind with the genoa poled out but as is our normal practice at night we ensured we put in a reef in the main and brought the pole down. By the 6th June the wind had dropped and we were drifting along in the very hot sun trying to avoid using the engine when a really low flying jet flew directly towards us. We the received a call on the VHF, “Kind Red Spirit, Kind Red Spirit, Kind Red Spirit” this is the French Navy. They asked where we had been and where we were going and did we know a boat called Orion as they had contacted them also. The buzzed pass a couple of times, asked if all was well on board and they disappeared into the sky. That evening we noticed dense cloud ahead and the radar confirmed rain so we gybed to avoid the worst but by morning we were in rain and strong steady winds up to 24kts. When the cloud cleared the rain and wind also dropped and went back to sailing 3-6kts.
For the remainder of the trip we alternated between sailing slowly and motor-sailing in an attempt to maintain at least 100nm days. Each day we would send and receive emails to and from the family via SSB or iridium go. We also downloaded daily weather grib files to ensure no surprise weather systems were missed. As normal for our passages we stayed in contact with Orion as a safety system, they knew we were still out there and we checked up on them with position, wind, speed course etc.
The wind did finally pick up and we managed a couple of 135km days to finally arrived in Nuie, Alofi Bay on Tuesday 12th June after 1108nm sail and 10 days at sea. It was too deep to anchor so once again picked up a mooring buoy. Orion had arrived just a couple of hours ahead and had arranged for custom to meet us at the dock. The dinghy dock itself was unusual as we had to crane the dinghy out and put it on the hard stand. The gent from Customs arrived in his transit van. He stamped or passports and cleared immigration all from is ‘office’ back of the van and we were free to see the sights of Nuie. He did advise checking out a couple of days before we needed to leave as a plane was due in and customs would be busy.
Niue is a small independent island with approx. 1600 inhabitants is administered by New Zealand and the currency is NZ dollar. Niue is famous for limestone cliffs and coral reef dive sites. We walked to the tourist information that also managed the mooring buoys and arranged a guided tour the next day with Jane and Greg, we didn’t have much time on the island and we wanted to see as much as possible.
Unfortunately, the tour was unavailable so Geoff and I hired bikes half a day. When I asked about locks the gent just laughed and said there is no crime on Niue. We cycled in the midday sun for an hour along the coast road to a dive shop called buccaneer diving. We were keen to see the underwater life in Niue. We booked a trial dive that required a classroom, and pool practice but this was the only way we could scuba in Niue so had no choice. We stopped for lunch overlooking the bay it really was a beautiful island but very quiet and no obvious tourists. Everyone is friendly and as you cycle, drive or walk everyone waves at each other.
The following day we decided to see the island independently so with Greg and Jane hired a small car. Both Geoff and Greg got Niue driving licences, probably to coolest licence on the planet.
We had a fabulous day searching out beautiful caves and chasms, had lunch out and ended up in the famous yachtie meet point ‘Sails’ bar where Jane and I had an ice-cold coconut filled with Bacardi and coconut milk.
The following day we were escorted ashore by dolphins and picked up by the couple running Buccaneer diving, we spent the morning training for our dive. We were taken back to the harbour and were taken to the near by reef just of the dockside. We were sceptical about seeing anything so close to the harbour but were instantly amazed by sea snakes, turtle, stingray, sharks, moray eel, lots of coral fish and quite spectacular coral.
After 4 full days in Niue we headed out towards Tonga on Saturday 16th June just as Terry and Jan from Le Quinta arrived. We left in light winds but as forecast they increased to max 27kts and we both had broken nights sleep, which appears to be the normal for us. This was to be a 2night and 2 day sail so going to fast would mean arriving in Tonga in the dark. We reefed down and were still sailing along 6-7kts overnight and thought the following day. Sunday was UK fathers’ days and Geoff received lovely messages from Matt and Jo, Matt and Alice have sold their Oxford house and Jo and Andy are 12 weeks away from having a baby, life for family Holden and Sissens are changing. We managed 150nm day and received email from Orion saying they too had taken down sail area to slow their entry to Tonga. As we crossed the international date line we lost Monday 18th June and skipped ahead of the UK to Tuesday 19th June. We were now 11hours ahead of the UK. We arrived a little early and sailing up and down just off the island until daylight and then Orion appeared and we sailed into Tonga Island Vava’u Neiafu Bay.
Before we could clear into Tonga we had to tie up against the public dock that was very tricky and wait for customs to come to us. There was no point in calling on 16 or any channel as they do not monitor the radio they just look out for yacht with the Q (yellow ) flag up. Sure enough customs officer came over and gave us forms to complete. The bio security came over and gave us forms to complete and requested payment for removing rubbish. We finally completed immigration by 14 and we once again picked up a mooring buoy outside the Mango bar in Neiafu bay.
Neiafu bay is a lovely calm anchorage and the mooring buoy cost appox £5 a night. The town of Neifu is the second largest town in Tonga with a population of approx. 6000 the town was spread over main road where there was at least 6 good restaurants and bars. It had an open fruit and veg market and 4/5 small Chinese shops that sold everything from bread to shirts to frying pans. The pig is a symbol of Tonga and they just roam freely around the town just like cats in the UK.
Every morning there was a cruiser net on the VHF radio 72 . It was run by local business for the yachties. It gave information about local services and events that may be of interest as well as a plug for each business We felt very at home in Tonga and soon settled into a routine of meeting Greg and jane for happy hour sun downers at either the Refusge bar or more often in Mango bar.
Mango had good Wifi and with the help of our booster aerial we could get basic 3G internet on the boat. We ate a few time in the Mango bar with Jane and Greg and Terry and Jan when after 5 days Le Quinta arrived. Although the weather was hot we were unable to swim as the water around the moorings was surrounded by jelly fish. We also encountered the infamous Alofi, he is a local man who helps himself to boat bits if they are left on deck. La Quinta had rope taken and the police actually said it was Alofi! When he next tried to come alongside the following day, Geoff told him in no uncertain terms to stay away, using his best Portsea accent. Alofi was the only bad apple we have encountered on our Pacific journey.
Once again we arranged a dive in Tonga with a gent called Rikki. After some basic instruction he was happy to take us out we hopped into his metal boat we went to an island and reef about 30mins away. Each time we have been diving so far we have been amazed by the different corals fish and seascape that we have encountered and once again we were not disappointed. We have had completed 4 introductory dives and on each dive it has always been just the two of us and an instructor much better than the qualified Padi divers who go in groups of 4-6.
We did little gift and memorabilia shopping and bought famous Mabe Pearls, pearls that are intricated into the shell, and matching T shirts, dirt shirt, for our new grandchild and us to wear. Tonga is quite a religious country and it is frowned upon to work or exercise on Sunday and as respect we covered up and went for a gentle walk around the outskirts of the village. The houses are spread out and appear unkempt, but everyone is happy.
The town quay gets really busy when either a supply ship or a cruise ship comes in and both arrived during our stay. We did arrange an open buggy island tour but it was raining so we cancelled and instead took a taxi trip with driver Matthew around the island where he showed us some island highlights. On Sunday 1st July the radio net mentioned feeling and seeing the effect of an earthquake, it was 4.9 on the ricotta (just for Matt) scale, and occurred 61k away and was 53k deep.
The time was running out for us to leave Tonga, we had flights booked to UK on 12th July but strong winds where forecast and sure enough on Monday 1st July saw gale force winds with the promise of another front coming over by Saturday 7th. We had small window of opportunity and on Tuesday 3nd July we cleared customs and set sail for Fiji. Greg and Jane were staying a little longer so they helped us on and off of the public dock again. Unfortunately, just as we left they jumped in their tender and the skies opened and they were last seen dripping wet motoring back to Orion.
We expected windy weather so had ensured KS was set up with 2 reefs in the main and genoa the night was rolly with max wind speed noted of 29kts and seas 3m waves. The wind was aft of the beam and KS was well balanced with Vera on the helm. The 2nd day was slightly less windy but the seas confused but not as big and we made good speed and distance. By Thursday the wind was building again and as we had to pass though the outer Fiji island and through Oneata passage with 27kts of wind. Once through we expected the wind to decrease but by midnight we had wind 25-30kys with gusts of max 36kts we rolled away the jib and sailed under reefed main until morning. Unfortunately, the auto helm linear drive attachment pin M12 sheered off the quadrant. Geoff was able to apply a temporary fix with M10 bolt. By midday the winds were steady and <25kts and we sailed reefed all day overnight we had to take avoiding action from a cargo ship Pacific Islander II. We did try to call but received no answer. In the dark on Saturday 7th July we eventually passed through the outer reef surrounding the Island of Viti Levu which is the main Island of the 283 islands that make up Fiji.
We finally made it to Denarau marina at 10:50 but were told to anchor outside until customs etc where ready for us. We just about put the anchor down when we had the call to go alongside the marina. At 11:30 our agent Sofi had assembled Customs, Bio security, Health and immigration. We sailed through clearance and were tied up to a buoy for our first night by 12:15. Fantastic service by Sofi and her team at YachtHelp. After our tricky sail we were just glad to have made it to Fiji in time for our flight to UK for Matt and Alice’s wedding.
The next day at 11: 30 we moved to our berth for 5 weeks in Denarau marina. It is a large safe marina with security access and 24-hour security guards. We spent the next 4 days making sure KS was secure and safe to be left. We also enjoyed the surrounding as Denarau is a man-made island complex that has numerous bars and restaurants all within 5 min walk. We enjoyed eating at many restaurants’ from Sushi to steak. We also met up with a friend and wife of Geoff’s from Bae, Ian and Claire, who happened to be at a wedding in Denarau and they were due to fly home on the same flight as ourselves, It really is a small world.
We booked a taxi for Thursday 12th July and began our journey back to UK, It had taken us 13 months to get to Fiji and would be back in Portsmouth within 35hours. We are so looking forward to seeing family and friends and celebrating Matt and Alice’s wedding.