Since I wrote last we made it to Beveridge Reef and spent two days there. It was a unique experience as we really were anchored in the middle of the ocean. The reef there is literally out in the middle of the Pacific and there is NO land in sight. Made us laugh as the most common question we get asked is what do we do at night???Do we just put down an anchor....not quite as most passages have us in 1000 + ft of water but in this case we really did anchor in the middle of nowhere. We had hoped for some really good diving there but either the wicked Crown of Thorns ( a growth that feeds on and destroys the coral) or the cyclones had pretty much wiped out the coral and there was not significant fish life either. So being disappointed and having to contend with a rolly anchorage we cut our stay there short and headed to Nuie on Mon July 26 along with 6 other boats. It was fun sailing in such a caravan/very different from the passages when you see noone for days on end but had to pay alot of attention at night especially. We were the first to make Nuie and pick up one of the moorings there. There is an entity that calls itself the Nuie Yacht Club and they offer alot to the cruisers including moorings in Alofi Bay. Nuie is independent but pretty well linked to New Zealand...much money and infrastructure comes from NZ and many of the officials here take posts for a year or two and are kiwis. When we got here there were about 15 other boats in the harbor and within a few days all the moorings were filled and a few boats even had to anchor (not a good bottom for holding hence the 20 moorings that have been provided). I think on Sun or Mon there were 26 boats here which apparently is a record. One of the main attractions here are the whales which migrate past here in Aug and Sept. Nuie is pretty different topographically. It was a volcano which sunk like the others but has now risen above the sea again so is made up of limestone and coral.There are lots of caves and caverns to explore both in and out of the water.
We have gone on a few dives here and they are pretty different since one of the options is cave diving. I didn't think I would like it all but it has been quite interesting and not scary. The coolest one was a tunnel we went thru and came up in the interior of the island in a cave that had breathable air (regulators were held out of the water while we looked at all the stalagmites and stalagtites that had formed in this moist interior). Felt like Indiana Jones revisited. The rays of light coming thru the crevases and into the pools of turquoise water have been gorgeous and there are some different fish and animal life to be viewed. Snakes...lots of them and electric blue eels and lobsters in the caves have been some of the new finds. We have been able to swim with dolphins twice and yesterday saw whales pretty close by. Tried to be in the water with them but they kept alluding us. Got some great visuals on flukes and tail slapping tho and while under the water on our dive could clearly hear them singing...very magical!
Much of the weekend was devoted to birthday celebrations...our friend Trish on Curious had an Aug 1st bday so Bill and Steve and Gram organized a big pot luck party at the yacht club on Sat. Our two boats provided a bbque feast of fish, pork and turkey kabobs that were grilled to perfection and all attendees brought a dish to share...lots of chatting, drinking and feasting. Ended up with 5 or 6 other early Aug birthdays being added into the celebration so we had a great time. That night just as we got back to the boats we saw lightning and a pretty significant squall blew in. Pretty uncomfortable anchorage that night with swells wrappping around the island and into the harbor. A 57 ft catamaran between here and Tonga actually capsized that night but was rescued the next morning by the freighter that was headed here. The two fellows on board were bruised up an bit but were so lucky that that was all. Unfortunately the boat is still afloat and will have to be watched out for by all the people in these waters for the next few weeks at least. We will be going in a different direction when we do leave so will not have much to think about. Kind of a wake up scary experience tho'. Glad to be on a monohull with a much more stable tipping point and alot more lead and weight under our keel. Think that this was the largest cat to ever go over tho' so ....
On Sunday we went on an around island tour in the hopital administrator's( Anne) car. She took us to a number of caves which we climbed in and around and to a few gorgeous pools. It was kind of a rainy day so we did not snorkle but will hope to go back there this week and check out the snorkelable spots. It is a gorgeous island and very different with these cliffs and caves...no beaches per say but still quite lovely. Had lunch at a local place called the Washaway run by a real character named Willy. Huge delicious burgers which have an egg and beets as accoutrements...a tasty treat and a fun place to hang out. Will hope for another Sunday(only day he is open there) when we can go back and snorkel at his cove as well. That night we had another bday celebration on Curious with the 5 of us and another boat(Bubas) a great couple from Australia who have been hanging with us as well. We have become so close to Curious these past 6-7 weeks of cruising together...hope they will remain lifelong friends as they are such wonderful people and we all got on so finely.
Last night we had a farewell dinner for Steve and Trish (and included Anne and another local...Shelley the police chief's wife). Curious left for Tonga very early this morning and we will not see them again til New Zealand as they are on a different route from us at this point. Today I am feeling quite sad at my loss of a wonderful woman friend. She was probably the most compatible with me of anyone we have met on this trip and such a great lady. They will head for Tonga and then Figi where they will leave the boat for a month to fly home to So. Wales to be there for their first grandchild to be born in Sept. We will stay here till mid week next week probably, will watch the weather and pick a window to head up to American Samoa so that I can fly home on the 15th. Bill and Gram will most likely head to Western Samoa to hang out the 2 weeks I am away as Pago Pago (the main anchorage in Amer. Samoa) is good only for provisioning and flying in and out of...not particularly pretty or cultural from what we have heard. So that brings us up to date on the goings on in our little boat world.