We ghosted out of Palmerston Island with light wind and the spinnaker up. Weather reports predicted the wind to pick up the next day and remain in the 15-20 knot range…yeah right! This passage was only to be 280 nm so we were looking at about 2.5 days. The winds remained light through the evening until about 0100 when out of nowhere it suddenly picked up to 15 knots. We did one of our famous oh shit get the spinnaker down douses and went with the jib. It kept increasing until it hit 25 knots. No big deal, the seas were fine and the wind was aft of the beam. We continued like this until we were about 60 nm from Niue when we ran into hell on the water. A band of squalls packing winds gusting to 40 knots welcomed us to the triangle of death as it is know. The waters between Niue, Tonga, Fiji and north to American Samoa are notorious for unpredicted shitty weather. Well, we hit it big time. The squalls had been in the area for a few days and the worst part was the seas. Palarran was surfing down waves at 11 knots! At this point we probably should have run off….but we didn’t. We were so close and just wanted to soldier on. We ended up taking turns hand steering…2 hours on, 2 hours off. The weather did not get better, but we must have gotten used to it, because we went from “ohhhhhhh noooooooo shitttt”, to silent grimacing and butt puckering as we tumbled from wave to janky wave. We thought about heaving too, but the short troughs and waves coming from every direction made that seem untenable. Regardless, 16 hours later we sailed into the lee of Niue just as the sun set. We hove to and collapsed in exhaustion (still keeping watch…don’t worry).

The next day we were still exhausted, but had to check in…Niueans are very strict about the check in process. The trouble to get here was worth it as it turned out. The weather improved and the anchorage was amazing. Over the next week we would explore every nook and cranny of this amazing island. It is actually one of the largest raised coral islands in the world. And because the island is largely limestone with no rivers or runoff, the water is some of the world’s clearest diving and snorkeling. You really should read about this unusual natural wonder here.

Niue is an amazing tourist destination. They have somehow found the unknown middle ground between gross overdone commercialism and the absolute lack of any idea where you are going (if given a choice I far prefer lost over gross). This place was designed to explore by rental car on your own. Well done maps and signs with small parking areas mark every sight seeing location. The trails are maintained…sort of. Ropes are in place in the worst spots and sketchy wood ladders descend into lost paradise grottos. But you feel like you are in a somewhat maintained environment without all the bubble wrapped safety features of the US….in fact…this whole island would be surrounded by a safety fence in  the US and only viewed from a helicopter😆

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Limestone is fairly soft, and the hard coral encrusted island is slowly eroding away. Storm surge from summer cyclones have left craters, caves and pass throughs like this one all over the island.

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On our 2nd day the German cruisers (Katerina and Andre) we had been travelling with rented a car and invited us along. We checked out the many caves and natural swim holes Niue was famous for. Inside the caves stalactites and stalagmites ooze from every corner. The colors are amazing from the highly mineralized water that seeps from above and mixes with saltwater.

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Of course CB had to ham it up in his little sleeping hole. One of the first hikes we did was down through some caves and out to the ocean where arches provided amazing views. Holes in the ground opened up into huge caverns with freshwater in the bottom…I wished I had a rope to descend into them….if only Jason Andersen were here!

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These grand views were around every corner. No…these photos are not photoshopped, the water is just that blue!

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This is the protected side of the island where shallow reefs border crazy limestone cliffs. When the tide is out you can hike to these huge tidal pools that become a placid swimming pool. If you can find me, you’ll notice the cave I’m standing in goes aways back. I actually climbed up through there to the cave above me and the water was deep enough to jump into…no photo unfortunately.

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Better shot of the tidal swimming pool. Vistas from the cliffs on the islands on the more exposed southeastern shore.

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The rock formations here are off the hook. The first one looks like a guy looking out to sea with his hand shading his eyes. The next photo is of drippy mineral stalagmites oozing over a cave opening. Or a guy puking😊.

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The eastern side of the island is exposed and rough. This once was the coral ocean floor. These coral formations are ridiculously sharp and made for some dicey hiking.

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One of the hikes on the exposed side lead to this. The ladder went down about 50 feet to a deserted island grotto. Andre is a bit of a soft egg (German translation for wuss) and didn’t like heights…it took him a bit to get down.

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This grotto once was exposed to the ocean, thus the sand and palm trees. However, a long time ago either a storm or an earthquake closed off the water way and now a beach with Lagoon resides where the ocean used to flow. There are passages out to the ocean still and it was thundering into the echo chamber of the grotto. Of course we hiked out there…CB stood in the “pool” that is apparently a relaxing tub at low tide…but of course we were there at high and the relaxing pool was now a death trap…that didn’t stop the intrepid CB from getting some video though…and almost getting swept out to sea in the process!

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More sea treks led to amazing views and flat reef that you can hike at low tide.

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The seemingly little pools at the bottom of this cliff are actually swimming holes at low tide. The next photos is of an inland snorkeling area…probably one of my favorite places so far. The ocean seeps in past the reef to fill up this inland waterway full of swim through caves and amazing sea creatures. I saw my first sea snake and octopus here. We have video that will show up some day when we are not slurping our internet through a clogged straw.

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Crawling through caves was awesome…albeit a bit spidery. But the other side led to to deserted beaches like this one. I kinda felt like Indiana Jones on Niue.

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Another interesting bit of history is that Niueans bury their dead on what they deem their families land, although we heard the claims to the land were a bit foggy. But on an island this size with so few people, I doubt it mattered….no one lived out in the bush…just buried the dead there…right out front along the road for everyone to see. This guy was apparently a fan of rum, TV and music…because if you can tell…there is a half drunk bottle of rum, some mixer, a sweet 90’s TV with VCR and same era stereo…A whole ‘nother take on pouring a little out for your dead homies.

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At the end of the long day filled with amazing hikes and swimming opportunities…we of course found the ‘Sail Away’ bar. The views couldn’t be beat, and neither could the local colorful conversations we had. We left with a bunch of friends that said hi everyday as they passed us or offered a ride. This bar claims to have the world’s toughest golf course. You can actually crack one off into the ocean from that sign…what is a hole in one? Stuffing a ball into a whale’s blowhole😯 Just jokes about the blow hole…but there were whales right out front while we sipped cold brews from  the deck.

If you ever get the chance to go to Niue…do it. We also did a dive there where you swim up an underwater channel through stalactites and up 80 feet to surface in an underwater cave. There is air to breath, although the wave surges pop your ears something fierce. We have video of this too…but ya know….

From here we had probably our best sail yet, all the way to Tonga where Palarran is enjoying a bit of a dry out period on the hard. We will be going back in the water around the 1st of April and can’t wait to start our adventures again. This living on land thing kinda sucks!

Here’s one that got lost in the ether….

Hello from Bora Bora! We have been here a little over a week and are really enjoying thearea. The colors of blue are so intense that they reflect off the bottoms of the clouds when the squalls roll through making the clouds look aquamarine. There are mooring areas here, but we have found a lot more to do exploring the outer areas of the island. The main island is not all that big….only 32km (about 19 miles) around. We rented crappy bikes and peddled all the way around in a little over 2 hours. There are a few towns and lots of fancy smancy resorts…

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you know the ones…beautiful thatch huts hanging over the water on stilts. We anchored just outside of some of them. We actually attempted to make it through this pass…

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but wind and current caught us and, well…u know the story…there are 2 types of sailors, those that went aground and those who lie and said the haven’t😉

We have hiked, scuba’d, kite surfed and visited our fair share of happy hours. Here are a few photos to document the events.

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View from the radio antenna hike. The areas of light blue are about 10 feet deep…we anchored right in the middle for a few days until the weather turned stinky.

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A picture postcard French Polynesian scene…

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Even the views from the roads here are amazing. This is the highest point in Bora Bora….you can hike up there, and we thought about it…until a fairly young agile cruiser came back from his summit 8 hours after he left. He was huffing and puffing and kinda bloody and swore that noone should ever attempt that “trail”…so we sorta bailed on that idea…we hiked up several other peaks though.

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More beautiful reef…I love this shot of the two Lazers crossing each other…you can almost anchor right up on the reef until it suddenly shoals to two feet. Here, the crew of Kia Ora and us were doing some dinghy exploring. You can float the dink pretty far until you just have to get out and walk it over the craggy reef…I think we were trying to get to shore to a huge mango tree.

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The water is so clear here it looks like CB is climbing out of a swimming pool.

Next up…catching up on Niue….caves, tidal pools and crystal clear snorkeling!

We are currently in Tonga, but I thought I’d back up and bit and see if I could get the blog caught up alittle since I last posted from Bora Bora.

Sorry about this, but this post comes with some extra credit reading.

Before you continue, follow a couple of the links below or do a little googling of your own on Palmerston Atoll and/or William Marsters.

Downtown Palmerston Atoll

Downtown Palmerston Atoll

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmerston_Island
http://www.cookislands.org.uk/palmerston.html#.Vntd4hV97Dc
http://www.palmerstonisland.net/

The history of this little Atoll is pretty interesting.

As you read…or actually most likely did not read…lazy bastards, the history of this little Atoll in the absolute middle of no where is pretty unique.

We arrived at the island in the middle of the night and waited till day break to approach the mooring field. There is no anchorage and the family on the island would rather you take a mooring ball instead of anchoring on the coral.

The island is part of the cook islands, but they sorta run them selves. We were told to remain on the boat until customs and immigration came out to clear us in.

All went fairly well. We felt pretty bad for the health and welfare lady, she got violently sea sick when she came aboard to “inspect” the boat. The inspection lasted about 3 minutes until she went back outside to vomit.

The moorings are owned and ran by Edward Marsters, who also may or may not be the sheriff of the island. He also was our “host” while we were there. They do not like you to come ashore on your own. So your host will come out in the morning and pick everyone up and take you ashore. Their custom is to host you and feed you while you are there on the island. And that is exactly what they did. Every day around 10am, Edward would come out and pick us and the other 3 boats that were there up and take us to shore to his house and feed us a big lunch.

LUNCH!!

LUNCH!!

Ed Marsters and one of his sons John. Entertaining us after lunch

Ed Marsters and one of his sons John. Entertaining us after lunch

The rest of the day we would wander around the little island and visit with other families or check out the school. There are about 60 people living on the island. 30+ of that number are school aged kids.

The little school house

The little school house

We had been hauling around some school supplies with us since we left Panama. So Tawn gathered them all up and donated them to the School. The principle was very appreciative and gave Tawn a Tshirt from the island and a card that all the kids made for her and signed. She also asked Tawn to give a little presentation/talk about her old job to the kids. They were all amazed since they were familiar with the american TV show CSI.

We ended up spending about a week there. Everyone on the island was very nice. They don’t get very many visitors, only about 60 or 70 visiting boats stop there each year, and only 3 or 4 supply ships make a stop. So it’s a bit of a deal when people do make it there.

Checking out the town.

Checking out the town.

It's like perfect

You can just barely see our boat anchored just outside the reef

The little village in town is just picture perfect. Someone is out raking the “streets” every day. Every were we went on this island, the roads and paths were soft sandy walk ways. There are no cars, just a couple of ATVs and scooters.

John, our tour guide.

John, our tour guide.

Picture perfect little town

Picture perfect little town

As we were checking out the town and talking to everyone, I ask how they got internet access. They pointed me over to the “phone company”.

Internet!!

Internet!!

Just step up to the window and pay the guy a few bucks and he’ll hook you up with some island wide internet access! Seriously, the future is NOW!! It’s slow…but it is now.

Server room at the Telecom

Server room at the Telecom

One last picture before I end it.

Yup, seems just about right.

Yup, seems just about right.

Palmerston island is one of those places in the world that is almost impossible to get to. So to be able to have gone there on our boat is very cool experience and one we will remember for a long time.

Wheeeew….we are typically pretty bad at posting regularly….but this has gotten out hand! Problem is, the internet sucks out here on the fringes of society. I can’t even upload photos to the blog. So now we are back in town, I downloaded some picture resizing software and a collage program to make my huge camera photos small for the internets. Hopefully we will get caught up soon.

We have been in Tonga about a month and a half. Most of that time we have spent traveling around the anchorages in the Vava’u group. We figured we are going to be in town for the next 3-4 months, so might as well see what we can now.

Basically, Tonga is amazing. Some of the clearest blue water I have seen. The fish are extraordinary and colorful. The beaches are white crushed coral and the blue skies go on forever….except right now…the years first cyclone is passing north of us and bringing with it some seriously shitty weather.

The locals here are shy, but very friendly. In town there are numerous expats from NZed, America, Canada and Australia. They own and operate a variety of really cool restaurants and bars. Life here is slow and easy, and we find it very appealing.

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The Vava’u group is made up of tons of little islands, bordered to the north by what locals call the mainland, to the east by fringe islands and open to the south and west (where the tiniest and most exposed islands are). The shape of the group, and the fact that the main north island has high mountains makes this a very protected area for hiding from cyclones. Above you can see the differences in the coastlines. From reef protected flat water to a craggy mountainous exposed shoreline beaten with surf…Vava’u has it all.

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The sunsets here are amazing and often lead to impromptu bonfires.

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Pigs are abundant here, infact they are pests. They tear up the land and eat everything in site. It is not odd to see a whole family of pigs trekking through town. Nobody owns them, so when the need arises, ya just go outside and wrangle you up a pig to roast (I think this is a lot harder than it sounds). This piggie roast was on Hunga Island. The traditional oven is called an umu and starts with a fire in a pit that is left to smolder. Then it is covered with palms and the piggie is placed on top, covered with more palms, covered in dirt and left to cook all day. The meat is as tender as u can imagine….and goooood! Whew…I love a pig roast.

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This is the beach at our favorite anchorage, Kenutu. Nobody lives here, the area is usually not visited by other cruisers, so its just u, the wildlife….oh, and the bats.

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Kenutu is on the rugged eastern side. Just a short walk over the headland and the peaceful flat water gives way to the raucous swells of the Pacific. You can hear the waves thumping up into the caves on the windward shore.

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The reason it is our favorite is because there is a pure sand cay just outside the anchorage. At low tide, the cay is exposed and waist deep water surrounds it for half a mile. It is the perfect place to learn to kiteboard.

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CB getting his ride on. We both finally stood up and rode here. The place is pefect because u are anchored in the lee of the island and just past is the open ocean with the trades blowing in.

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Sometimes, when the weather is calm, you can anchor in the middle of the blue. This is Fahua One One (pronounced onay onay), one of the tiny outlying islands. To anchor here you have to drive right up to the hard bits, drop your anchor in 7-10 feet and let out a bunch of rode until you are over the shelf. 30 feet off the beach it is over 100 feet deep. When anchored like this you relly hope the wind doesn’t shift.

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The top photo is in the Tapana anchorage. This is the Ark gallery…the lady and her husband who live there are ex-cruisers and they sell art and run a mooring field. Due to the extreme protection this bay gives, cyclone moorings are set up so people can leave their boat for the season.
The red supply boat visits the group 2x per week bringing food, fuel and pretty much anything you could think of from Nuka Alofa (the government seat 170 miles south).
The other two photos are resorts in the area.

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On Tapana island there is a spanish couple who own a restaurant called LaPaella. We heard it was amazing and we had to go there for the experience. The family are reportedly Basque and built the restaurant to resemble a rustic cabin high up in the mountains. They cooked everything over a wood burning hearth. You start out with 7-8 tapas…one of them were goat cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon😰…followed by a huge dish of seafood paella and dessert. It was probably the best food I have had in I don’t even know how long. The goat walked in and sat down right about the time everyone arrived…he continued his centerpiece presence until the band got started, when he huffed and promptly left….I think he was on the clock.

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For now I’ll leave you with this…with the promise of more posts to come soon!