Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nuie: an Island of Its Own

The next stop on this multi-stop leg is Nuie. We are sailing with crew members Michael and Priska. And on our way to Nuie, we passed the 10,000 nm mark since leaving Herrington Harbor, Maryland last October! That gives us about 18,000 nm total since we started sailing S/V Trillium five years ago!
There are limited accesses to the water from the cliffs.
Nuie is an interesting country. It's real name is Nukututaha and is known as the island that stands alone. It is a single island rather than a group of islands .Nuie is in the middle of nowhere in the South Pacific. It is 100 square miles with the highest point of only 68 meters. It is actually a limestone cap on an extinct volcano. The main town is Alofi.
This is the Mall! About 10 shops and restaurants total.

Nuie is the largest uplifted coral atoll in the world. It rises straight up out of the ocean so there are no real beaches. The cliffs are 20 meters high. It is somewhat out of the way of most cruisers and the anchorages are very deep. Our WARC group represents one quarter of the yachties they will see in a year. It is located at 19 degrees S and 169.55 degrees W. We are way out here!
The market gave me and my groceries a ride to the quay!
The Nuian people are very happy and friendly people. Always smiling, they greet you as you pass or enter their shops. Even the little children are eager to wave and say "hello." If not a native, most other people are from New Zealand. They, too, were very hospitable and helpful.
A lot of vegetation covers the
land with one road running
around the island.
It seems that in one of the many land invasions and power exchanges, Nuie ended up under the control of the English who then gave it to New Zealand to oversee. It was nice for us as English was spoken every where. We also learned that there are only about 1,500 people living there as 20,000 Nuians moved to New Zealand. Auckland is about a 3.5 hour flight away.
The WARC Reception at the High Commissioner's home

This has created a property problem. Since they live so far from Nuie, their family homes are in great disrepair. There are people living in nice homes next to numerous abandoned ones that are literally falling down around them. Similar to other decaying residential areas in cities and small towns with economic challenges. 
Touring one of the many caves.
The families who have left Nuie still claim ownership to the family land. Most of them hold the graves of their ancestors. This explained why there are large granite headstones like we have in the USA on the same property as the dilapidated houses. The family in New Zealand has obviously marked their property. Even though they don't live there or maintain it, it is still theirs.

We asked about property taxes. There are none! And there is no legal way to condemn the property and take it back or resell it. The result is the eyesores along the road!
Taking a break in the cave.

We here hosted by the Nuie Yacht Club, which we joined! It is known as "The Biggest, Little, Yacht Club in the World." They provided a barbecue one evening as well as a place to hang out and use the Internet. As usual, the Internet service on the island was challenging: dropped connections, low bandwidth and slow speed. It makes uploading photos a chore. 
The caves are open to the sea so at high tide one must be
very careful not to get caught in the flow.
Commodore Keith and his wife, Sue, are retired teachers who run a tour business. They took us to several caves that were amazing and to several places to snorkel. The geology of the island is so interesting.

Keith explained life on the island and told us about the highlights of the land and community. They came here for a teaching assignment and decided to stay. Now they are retired from teaching, but run their tour company. We found them most gracious.

There are huge caves where water washes in from the sea. All along the island road there is signage marking sea trails. These are places where you can access the sea and the caves on foot and discover secluded swimming holes. Expect to do a lot of climbing of stairs and steps to get there.
We attended a reception at the High Commissioner's home. Many of these small islands make arrangements to host the World ARC sailors to introduce them to their country. They enjoy having people visit. 
Getting the dinghy on shore was a challenge as there is no
beach or landing area. Due to the surge, it must be lifted.

Since we only had a 72 hour stop at Nuie, we needed to enjoy it as much as we could. One of the interesting experiences in Nuie was how you land a dinghy on their shores. Since the shoreline is steep with surging waves, they built a wharf with a crane.

Once you manage to get out of the dinghy and onto the steps, you hook your lifting straps to the crane and raise it up to the wharf. Then you set it down on a trolley and move it to a parking spot. The trolley is then placed for the next arrival to use. It was quite a slick system once we got it. Of course, everyone in the WARC helps each other, but it can be done by just two people.
Nuie did have a duty free store for visitors, but I still found the wine and alcohol prices very high. I guess that is why a vodka tonic can cost $15 - if they have tonic! And don't even think about ice! The duty free price for Absolut was slightly higher than at home, but I am spoiled by it being $10 a bottle in the Caribbean. In the markets along the way, I have seen the same size bottle for as high as $80! Fortunately, I am a cheap date and don't drink often.

Here are more photos from our daylong tour to the caves and snorkeling sites on Nuie. The caves were fascinating!

I couldn't resist shooting this bumper sticker!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

One Man's Island: Suwarrow

If you want a beautiful and desolate island in the South Pacific, become to Suwarrow, Cooks Island located in the middle of nowhere! It is so peaceful here. For many years, Suwarrow was the home of Tom Neale, a New Zealand hermit. He is the author of the book "An Island to Oneself," which tells the story of his life.
I wonder what stories these anchors could tell
Neale lived here for over 35 years - alone. However, it is now a national park under the control of New Zealand so you cannot stay here unless you are on a boat. The rules say no food or beverages can be brought ashore. There is a caretaker in the six months when the most yachts call at the island. And like most national parks, you need a permit to visit. Upon request and with a small payment, you can have your passport stamped!
Our contribution to the Clean
Wake movement.
A lovely uninhabited island.
Currently they are trying to kill off a rat population and remove all pests from this little island. Some boat at some time must have brought them ashore when delivering mail or cargo here. We were there out of season with special permission granted to the World Cruising Club. Some of the boats chose to skip this stop, but I am glad we made it part of our experience.
This place looked like a Pacific island paradise.

Being supporters of the Clean Wake movement and the World Cruising Club, we spent time picking up trash. We collected a huge garbage bag of mostly plastic - primarily plastic bottles. Most were on the windward side of the island so they had washed ashore. We never put plastics overboard and make a point to reduce the amount of disposable plastic we use. Whenever possible we do as our granddaughter says: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!

The Captain being a kid again!
I can't imagine being the caretaker here. There was no water or electricity on the island. I suppose they may bring solar energy sources with them. There are a couple of structures, one of which was his house. The other one is an open gathering place with what appears to be a small apartment on the second level. Black hammocks hung from palm trees are spaced around the island so you can hang out and soak it in! And the swing on the beach is popular with all ages of kids!
There is the Totem Family flag hanging in Suwarrow!
This shelter provides a gathering for visiting yachties who hang their flags. I am sorry I didn't print some S/V Trillium flags before we left shore last fall. It was fun to see the flag of our friends on S/V Totem who have been out here on the seas with their three children for six years now!

Black Tipped Sharks circled the boat regularly.
The snorkeling was great as there were many reefs in the anchorage area. You could just jump off the boat and swim over to a reef. The Black Tipped Sharks like to swim around the boat. I really did not like getting Into the water with them, but everyone says they are not harmful - only curious and want to play. Right!

Frustrated crew paddling to shore again!
One evening we all gathered on the beach to watch the sunset. It was fun to see others as many times the faster boats move on before the rest of us catch up. We had not seen the crews of several boats for weeks. We were only allowed a 72 hour stop here as part of a multi-part leg, so we have to weigh anchor and head off to Nuie. This will be close to 600 miles and we should log 10,000 nm since leaving the dock at Herrington Harbor last October!
Michael was very introspective and spent a lot of
time sitting on the bow of the boat.

We are sailing with a couple of new crew members on this leg: Priska, a nurse from Switzerland, and Michael, a journalist from Denmark. It makes for interesting dynamics between the different personalities, languages and experiences. There is much room for confusion and misunderstanding! However, it if fun to learn more about their lives and countries.
Priska had her own ideas about skippering!
Unfortunately for Michael, when he started the outboard motor here in Suwarrow, it quit on him after a few yards. So we were back to rowing or paddling the dinghy. The distances were not too far and the sea was relatively calm here, so it wasn't too much of a problem. It was just frustrating as we had just had it repair in Bora Bora!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Trouble in Paradise

Bloody Mary's on Bora Bora
As it turns out, BoraBora was not the most wonderful place in the world. We actually found it rather disappointing. It is really the reefs with the turquoise water that make BoraBora look so wonderful. The Tuamotu islands are the ones that look like the photographs you see of the French Polynesian islands. That is where the sandy beaches are located.

Names of celebraties who have been at Bloody Mary's.
It must be THE place to be seen!
The island of BoraBora is pretty from the sea, especially when the clouds hover near the top. But the drive around the island was nothing special. The sights shown on the maps are not marked so it is difficult to find many of them. The public beaches are not great either. Many of the large hotel chains own the best property on the reefs so the area is private.

I think we both agree that we would never fly this far for this. We would consider chartering a boat and spending several months in the Tuamotus group. In fact, many of us in the fleet have the same thoughts.
Unfortunately, BoraBora has crime and a number of World ARC boats experienced it. A dingy, a fuel hose, several fishing rods and some other items left on decks at night were stolen. One Skipper was relaxing in the cockpit at 3 am enjoying the starry night when he heard someone board his boat. Fortunately, the intruder jumped off and sped away with out doing any harm. It is obvious that the thieves are rather brazen. We make a habit of putting equipment below when away from the boat and at night.

Then I had an interesting experience with my iPhone. I accidentally left it behind at the Yacht Club of BoraBora. When I realized it was missing, I tracked it with the Find My Phone app. It showed it was at the YC of BB, so I walked several miles to get it. The management claimed they had not seen it, so I showed them the location on my iPad. Much to my surprise, the phone had moved since I started searching for it! The phone's position was across the road from the restaurant.

There was a table of gendarme (police) having lunch and they looked at the iPad. I explained that the phone had moved within the last hour!

They directed me to go to the gendarme station and report it. So I walked two miles back to get Dennis, then we walked over a mile to town to report it. One of the men I saw having lunch came out to assist me. He asked me to show him the location again. This time it showed the phone on the boat - or in the water next to the boat! It had moved again!

I looked at him and said, "I have a very special iPhone. It has legs!" Then I confirmed with him that he had seen it in a different place earlier in the day. He agreed that he had and agreed that I wasn't crazy!

After we walked back to the boat, I found the phone under the table in the saloon! I had looked there before so I know it wasn't there earlier. It is my belief that the word was put out to get that phone back to the owner and while Dennis and I were reporting it, someone tossed it into the cabin through a porthole. I have my thoughts on who it might have been, but I will keep them to myself! Needless to say, it was an interesting experience and an exhausting day!

That being said, the people are wonderful everywhere we go. They are friendly and happy to help. They even offer rides and help you find the services you need - even when we don't speak the same language! The locations where the World ARC holds events have been lovely and provided different cultural experiences.

Most of the islands have a single road around them and we have rented cars to tour. We have seen villages, schools and churches and the neighborhoods where people live. We have stopped to buy fruit and vegetables and baked goods from the stands in front of their homes and even eaten on their front porches. There is a great similarity from island to island.

There are usually no sidewalks along the roads, most of which are in need of repair. We walk to buy goods and reach the services we need. I sometimes smile when I think of how I jumped in the car to go ten blocks to the store! And I didn't think twice about grabbing a grocery cart and pushing it around the supermarket and out to the car. Supermarkets are rare, as are carts. We gather the items in our bags and pay at the counter, the carry a number of heavy canvas bags back to the boat on foot!  This is true in many places, not just Bora Bora.

We might consider the standard of living too low, but the people seem to enjoy life so who are we to judge? There is something to be said for a slower pace and simple life where extended families live in the same villages and share activities regularly. Maybe we in our fast-paced material world are missing out! It is good to see how the rest of the world lives.

If you dream of coming to Bora Bora, have your travel agent book you into one of the major resorts on the reefs and enjoy an escape from your real world. Just don't expect the whole island to look like the brochures!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bora Bora: a Chance to Pause

We have seen beautiful sunrises and sunsets for months now. I have to say that the sunset over Baie of Faanui here in Bora Bora was the most breath-taking to date. I kept taking photos as it was like a motion picture in the western sky. Each shift of the clouds brought another frame of beauty. Enjoy these photos that hardly capture the real color scheme.

Barb and Joe left for the airport a few hours earlier so I hope they were able to see the sunset from Motu Mute where the airport is located before their flight took off. We had a great time with them. It is always nice to spend some time with family - especially when we are so far away from them. Now several family members understand our current lifestyle.

Our next visitors from the USA will be Sondra and Stuart White from Annapolis. They arrive in July when we reach Fiji. Stuart has sailed with us a couple of times. It will be the four of us for about three weeks. I will be sending my "please bring" list to them soon. Barb and Joe brought Crest Regular toothpaste and AA batteries. I can't find Crest anywhere out here. Almost every crew joining has brought boat gifts like, Dewars and maraschino cherries, more batteries, various treats and items requested, boat accessories they thought we could use. It is like Christmas each time someone arrives!

Yacht Club of Bora Bora (It is really a restaurant
 and not a club!)
We spent several hours at the Yacht Club of Bora Bora on the Internet. It was actually a fast connection so we could accomplish what we needed to do online. We always need to check on financial things. Rebecca at Chase has been great at resolving banking concerns. Unfortunately, AAA has been not so easy and I have been a member and had insurance there since I got my first car! Handling business from afar with poor Internet and no phone is challenging.

Typical means of transportation in Bora Bora
We had quite a storm one night and were up adjusting the anchor and keeping watch for a while. We seem to have caught up to or gotten between some unstable weather systems. The clouds hang over the islands so short showers are common. But we have had some heavy rains with high winds. That makes living on the hook more challenging!

After we picked up the laundry from the Yacht Club, we headed toward the Mai Kai Marina to find a mooring ball. Since it is the weekend (we always seem to arrive on Friday), we can't get anyone to look at the outboard motor until Monday. Hopefully it just needs an adjustment and we will have our "chariot" back. We (Dennis mostly) have been rowing or paddling to shore.

A view of the harbor from the infinity pool!
The WARC events will be held at the Mai Kai, which is a wonderful place with great service. They are most helpful in every way. Once again it will be nice to be together as a group since we have had a free cruising period since we left Tahiti. It is fun to hear where everyone else has been and what they have experienced.

We have also enjoyed the Mai Kai Marina's  wonderful infinity swimming pool. It is so nice to be in a fresh water pool!