Rarotonga to Niue, The Soggy Passage By Sonrisa

by wdh5988@sailmail.com in

Our ghost, Richard Henry Dana, had been absent for quite some time. We had no extra problems with him after his first bout of mischief crossing from Galapagos to the Marquesas. So, I think all of us had become a little lax in keeping an eye out.

We left Rarotonga just as the anchorage was calming down again and the tire climb had become more manageable. The Godfreys finished their twelve days in Rarotonga with only three falls into the water for Leslie, and one for Andrew. The wind was up and the sea was fairly rambunctious from the side. We were planning four days to Beverage Reef, two days anchored inside the reef, then two more days of sailing from Beverage to Niue. I can't be sure, sometimes I lose track, but I don't think I have ever been to Niue before. The last time I headed this direction, we sailed North West to Samoa instead.

Around 6 p.m. Andrew hailed into the net to check in and listen to the conditions for all the other boats underway in the vicinity. Light and variable winds with confused swell for our friends on the boat "Seven" about 100 miles East. Forty knot winds and lightning for "Omweg", "Lufi" and "Tactical Directions", just twenty miles further North. For us, twenty-five knot winds and a nine foot swell. The weather seemed to be all over the place. We are no longer in the easy sailing of French Polynesia's trade winds. Between Cook Islands and Tonga, a convergence zone of two weather patterns meet. Early Spring wind and storms from the South near New Zealand move North to meet the westerly trade winds. This creates "squash zones" where the wind dies completely and/or builds up in one small area. No worries, though; I have handled more than this before.

But never with a ghost.

It was that night that Mr. Dana turned on the water faucet in the bathroom again. He dumped approximately twenty gallons of fresh water before Andrew heard the fresh water pump running and shut it off. Luckily, the sink drain was open so no major flooding occurred, yet. The next night, though, someone had closed the sink drain due to waves rushing up the pipe and into the sink. So, when Mr. Dana turned on the water faucet for a second time in two days, an additional 35 gallons filled up the shower, flooded the salon, and got the guitar all wet. Of course it was 3:00 a.m., again.

This guy is becoming a nuisance.

I kept things running on deck while Andrew sopped up the mess and Leslie blissfully slept through the whole thing. Given that she had already stood her watch from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., even Andrew's cuss-muttering was not enough to wake her.

Now, I'm a little uneasy. You see, I prefer to keep water on the outside rather than the inside. Why is Mr. Dana so insistent on causing floods? There are only a handful of things that really rattle me: fire, floods, and lighting. Andrew takes duct tape and wraps it securely around the bathroom faucet handle three times. Mr. Dana isn't going to play this trick again!

As we near Beverage Reef, all of us are feeling a little off-kilter. The weather is strong, it's raining on and off and the waves have built now to probably 12 feet tall. The Reef is nothing but a shallow spot in the ocean surrounded by 5,000 - 10,000 feet deep ocean in all directions. There is no land even visible above the ocean surface. The waves are moving from the Southwest (a little unusual), and the opening of the Reef faces Southwest. So, as much as it pained him to do it, Captain Andrew determined that it was not safe to enter the reef and try to anchor. We pass by Beverage Reef with only twelve miles distance to go, and carry on to Niue.

Not without one more flood. The rain subsided for a bit, and we were cruising along. The waves laid down, and Andrew was cooking breakfast. The heat in the galley was stifling, so he opened the hatch to let in a little air. "WHOMP" a wave hits the side of my hull, jolting me sideways. It jumps into the air, and as if in slow motion, I try to dodge it but instead line it up perfectly to dump a five gallon bucket directly on Andrew's head. I could hear Leslie scream, Andrew cuss, the sound of the stove being extinguished. Oy vey, another mess to clean up. Mop, mop, mop. Somehow, all the water landed only in the Galley and did not hit any of the electronics on the navigation station. Only one more day to go.

We round Niue in the early morning light. Niue is known for caves and its resident whale population. I can see why. The entire coast line is lined with "blow holes", places where large ocean swell builds pressure, hits a crevice and then blows water into the sky. It's like the island is communing with the whales, blowing water just like the whale blows through its blow hole. I keep my eye out for a whale as we sail along.

Soon, we have the mooring field in our sights. I am just starting to relax when I hear Andrew yelling from my bow: "Woah! Slow down!" Leslie is at the helm, she and I are both confused as to what the problem might be. In a rush she takes my motor from a steady putter to a stop. "What's wrong?"

"How deep is it here! They wouldn't put a mooring buoy on seven feet of water, would they?"

Leslie and I check the depth meter, and it reads 80 feet. "80 feet!" Leslie confirms. I breathe a sigh of relief while scratches his head. "Really? Wow."

We continue forward, loop our rope through the buoy and tie off. Once I am safe and secure, Leslie looks over the side to see what all the fuss was about. The mooring buoy is positioned over a lump of coral now 30 feet down, but off on either side, there are canyons that drop to 100 feet or more. Despite the depth, we can see the individual coral heads decorating the landscape. Niue's water is not blue, it's clear.

Andrew and Leslie are itching to take a swim, but they are in a rush. It's Saturday, yet the Niuean port control answered our radio call from a mile out and welcomed us to check in at 10:30 a.m., which is amazing, but also requires us to hustle to make our appointment. The Godfreys bustle about on my deck, unfold Grin in a rush, install Kitty, and change from passage gear to clothing more appropriate for greeting government officials. Closed toed shoes? Who wears closed toes shoes these days? For that matter, who wears shoes? Only to meet with customs and immigration officials.

I watch Kitty, Grin and the Godfreys zip to shore. The customs officer meets everyone at the wharf in a van. Next thing I know, I hear Grin whooping and hollering. From across the anchorage I watch as Kitty and Grin fly into the air at the end of a big crane. "Oh, here we go now." I think to myself. Grin is lowered onto a trolly (as the Brits) say, and wheel him to the end of a line of other dinghys. Andrew and Leslie head into town, and I settle in for my post-passage nap. I bet Grin is over there telling jokes to all the other dinghies; he is such a comedian.



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