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Sunday, September 7, 2008

September 4th - Niue

Saturday we arrived in Niue at around 7 PM in the dark.  The island doesn't have a barrier reef which is a blessing; however it also did not have channel or navigation lights into the anchorage.  Steve from Orca III and Jay from Malachi got into a dinghy, located a mooring ball for us and then sat on it with a red laser light to guide us into the anchorage.  Earlier they had also assisted Syren and Ahu; we were the last boat to arrive that day.  The drill here is that you contact Radio Niue and the Niue Yacht Club to announce your arrival and get check-in instructions for immigration and customs, etc.; however we had been told that the weekends here are relatively quiet with most businesses closed until Monday hence we raised the quarantine flag and sat prepared to stay onboard until Monday when government offices opened and we were granted clearance by Customs.  Sunday morning though, we got a call from the yacht club welcoming us to "The Rock" and asking us to contact Niue Radio, get our dinghy into the water and come ashore.  Apparently they were willing to go ahead and begin the process on Sunday.  Frank got the papers together and off he went with Joe from Syren to take care of business.  They were gone for half the day!  He returned and showed me some papers to read about Niue which revealed to us that this island is the most conservative of any place we have visited thus far.  In the visitor's arrival packet we are asked to dress more modestly than one would in a typical resort destination.  Short shorts, tank tops, swimsuits and scant apparel are frowned upon in public places.  Frank and I have no problem with this since we are well past the prime of our lives when skimpy clothing was considered attractive on our once nubile bodies.


The wharf here is yet another experience to add to the adventure list.  As in Rarotonga there is no dinghy landing, but there is a great crane lift system here.  We took pictures because it is not easily describable.  We pull up in the dinghy, grab the large hook at the end of the crane line, attach it to a hoisting bridle in the dinghy and then start the crane which raises it up out of the water and then we swing it around to the dock, load it onto a wheeled launch and roll it into a parking spot.   There isn't much here with regard to amenities.  In January 2004, Heta, a 300 kilometer per hour cyclone hit this little island slamming 60 foot waves up and over the natural 40 ft. seawall that characterizes the island.  Sadly it took out many homes, the hospital and hotel.  The inhabitants had all gone inland to the rainforest for shelter as they heard their world being smashed and tossed about.  They are still rebuilding and recovering and yet the one thing that Heta did not destroy is the incredibly strong Faith and determined spirits which these amazing Niueans possess.  They have welcomed us with open arms and hearts and only want to share their history and culture with us.  The Niue Yacht Club is actually a room, a porch and a yard full of picnic tables attached to the home of Mamata who runs a café and ice cream shop.  It is "The biggest little Yacht Club in the World" with over 1300 members worldwide.  We joined of course!  Keith is the vice-commodore and is usually on hand to collect our mooring ball fees, sell beer, soft drinks, courtesy flags, memberships, t-shirts, club burgees, hats and the like.  He also provides free internet, a book exchange and transportation to those in need.  On Monday we were sitting around when I noticed that he was wearing a Niue Hash House Harriers shirt!  This is the running club to which I belong and is an international group.  Although I no longer run I am a member for life, so I asked him when the next run was scheduled, to which he responded, "Tonight at 5:00, and you should come".  We were in!  Frank and I along with several other yachties joined the Niue HHH for the weekly "run".  It turns out that because there were so many visitors this time the trail led us to a memorial park erected in memory of and on the site of the home of Niue's only two cyclone fatalities, a mother and her son. 


Tuesday we spent time at the yacht club with our fellow cruisers, walked around discovering the local sites & shops and then went to dinner with Bill and Amy (Estrellita) & Andy and Melissa (Spectacle) at a local restaurant called Jenna's, which for $20.00 gave us a Niuean buffet feast!  It was better than the local food in French Polynesia – at least by our tastes and so much more reasonably priced.  In fact prices here are finally something we can stand for a change.


The whales are here and we have seen several in the anchorage.  We wanted to scuba dive but the dive shop is booked solid for the next 2 weeks.  The dives are mostly cave and chimney dives and then there are whale-snorkeling trips which are also booked up.  We have NOT been encouraged to go on our own.  This island is also home to one of the deadliest species of sea snake.  They are all about in the water and unless you are very careless or unlucky they will not harm you, however if bitten you will not live long enough to get medical treatment.  We see them in the water around the boat but we don't go into the water, which by the way is the clearest we have yet seen.  We are moored in approximately 140 feet and yet we can see clear to the bottom.  It really is magical here.  We plan to see the entire island before leaving.
while at sea: (note:the sender must include the character sequence "//WL2K" in the subject line of the message.)
Skype ID: frank.barb.gladney

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