Saturday, October 8, 2016

Quick Update: Mopelia to Niue

Hi everyone!
Sorry it’s been so long since we last had an update on the blog, but internet access has not been on our side! We are currently in Niue, also known as “The Rock of Polynesia”, but more on that later. 

Unfortunately I won’t be able to post many pictures, as we don’t have the bandwidth to upload them. I can insert a few to this update that I am doing via email, I wish I could upload more!

We left Maupiti in French Polynesia for Mopelia (also known as Maupihaa), a 100 miles, or a night’s sail away. We left at about 3:00pm, and arrived in Mopelia the next day around noon. Mopelia has a pass that is described in the Cruising Guides as “terrifying” and the “most difficult in French Polynesia”. It was definitely a little scary, a narrow little slot through the coral, but we didn’t have too much current, and our strong engines allowed us to get in without a problem. Once inside the lagoon, we found ourselves to be the only boat there! It was beautiful and unspoiled. We met a local guy, Hio, who welcomed us to his home and told us that 20 people now live there, which was quite an increase from recent years. Mopelia was hit by a cyclone (hurricane) in 1989, which destroyed the village and most of the houses. Most of the population left, and never came back. About 6 years ago there were only 3 people living there, so the population is slowly coming back. The people on the island farm copra (coconuts) and trade with the supply ship that comes twice a year. Other than that, they are pretty much subsistence farmers, living on the land in isolation. Hio gave us all beautiful cowrie shell necklaces that his mother had made using the shells found on the beach – what a special gift from people who have so little.

With Hio in Mopelia

After Mopelia we moved on to Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. It took us 3 days and 2 nights, and we had squally conditions on the way over. Some light winds, some strong winds, lots of squalls with heavy rain and on the last night we motored to outrun a huge lighting storm behind us. We later found out that our friends on “Vida” who were behind us, got stuck in the storm and had a terrifying experience. We were glad to pull into the shelter of the little harbor in Aitutaki. The Cook Islands are administered by New Zealand, so we now were paying for goods in NZ dollars, and English was spoken everywhere. It was a nice to be in an English speaking place again, but we must say, hats off to the French for allowing cruisers access to their beautiful islands at absolutely no cost at all. Check in and out of French Polynesia, all the way from the Marquesas to Mopelia, was absolutely free. Clearance fees in the Cooks came to over $350, and we were there for 5 days! However, we still enjoyed our stay and found everyone to be friendly and welcoming. We filled up with diesel, and for the first time since we left, we had to fill up with water using jerry cans! As the harbor area is the only place to anchor, we couldn’t use our water maker (we tried, but the water was too dirty, and clogged the filters up right away!). There is fresh water (filtered rain water) available near the dock, so we took our water cans in the dinghy, walked them over to the tap, filled them up, took them back to the boat and emptied them into our tanks. We had to do about 4 trips to fill our water tanks up again, but it was good exercise, and made us appreciate our water maker so much more!! We also had the opportunity to spend a day at the local sailing school, and Dave got to coach the kids in Optimists! Ben and Gaby got to sail as well, and it was a lovely day and a privilege for us to be able to spend a day with the local kids and get to know them and how they live their lives here on the island. We also rented scooters one day and drove around the island to explore. 

Sunset in Aitutaki
Aitutaki's Lagoon

Our next stop was Palmerston Atoll, also part of the Cook Islands, 150 miles away. This place deserves a blog entry all on its own, and once I get better access, I will definitely post some pictures and describe it in more detail. We are glad we stopped to experience it, but 2 days here was enough, for various reasons. There are 56 people living on the island, all descendants of one William Marsters and his 3 wives. There is no place to anchor, but there are mooring buoys that are placed outside the reef. The buoys are owned and maintained by the family members, and whoever gets a boat on their mooring, had the right to trade with that boat. That family then “adopts” that boat, and you are looked after by that family for your stay. However, “shore leave” is somewhat regulated, as the host family has to pick you up and bring you to shore (you cannot take your dinghy). We were provided lunch both days we were there, and were given a tour of the island. They have a pretty impressive infrastructure for such an isolated, small community, and they even have their own school, “Palmerston Lucky School”, that the 20 or so kids attend. We met the principal, and Josh and Mel, a couple (he is American, she is South African!) who are there for 2 years teaching. We also saw 2 other teachers, so for 20 kids, there are 5 teachers…a pretty good ratio for a good education! The kids enjoyed feeding and naming the 10 or so pigs “our” family had on their homestead. After 2 days the wind switched to an unfavorable direction to be on the mooring buoys (had they come loose, we would have been on the reef in seconds, and we had seen the wrecked hull of a boat that ended up on the reef in 2012), so we decided to move on.

Palmerston Main Street
Palmerston Lagoon

Niue was our next stop after Palmerston, and we arrived here on Tuesday, October 4th, after another squally passage. This time we were not so lucky as to avoid the lighting storm and night # 3 found us in the biggest lightning storm we’ve ever been in. It was all around us, and there was simply no escape. We tried to slow down, we tried to speed up, we tried to change course, but couldn’t avoid it. For about 3 hours we had wind, rain and lightning strikes that lit up the sky like it was daylight! It was very scary, but we survived unscathed and can at least put it down to experience!!

Getting ready for arrival in Niue.  We fly the yellow "Q" (quarantine) flag whenever we enter a new country, along with the country's flag (courtesy flag).  The Q flag is taken down once we are cleared in by customs and immigration.

So now we are here in Niue, an island that rises out of the sea with cliffs all around it, and no natural anchorages or shelter.  Boats pick up a mooring buoy in the slight indentation of Alofi Bay, on the west side of the island, which provides some protection from the predominantly easterly winds.  However, if a westerly blows, as with Palmerston, you run the risk of being swept onto the reef.  The mooring buoys here though, are very strong, and we’ve felt very safe on them our entire stay.  We’ve enjoyed exploring Niue – it is really a unique island, unlike any of the islands we’ve been to before.  Where we’ve been used to seeing beaches and palm trees, here, there are caves, grottos and cliffs!  We’ve been to fresh water chasms, where underground water seeps into pool and mixes with the sea water in narrow canyons.  We’ve explored caves that provide excellent visual aids to lessons on the formation of stalactites and stalagmites, and we’ve snorkeled in pools on the inside of the reef flat that are filled with beautiful coral and fish.  The water here is crystal clear, and swimming off the back of the boat in itself is a treat!

Palaha Caves - Niue

Limu pools - Niue

We’ve been monitoring a low pressure system that has formed in Fiji and will be crossing Tonga in the next few days. There was some concern that it would bring high westerly winds to Niue, and this actually caused a bunch of boats to leave and head to Tonga to find shelter ahead of any bad weather. However, we’ve been watching it closely, and it looks like Niue will be spared of anything really bad, and if anything, it should provide an opportunity of some good wind over to Tonga, if we leave on the tail end of it. We will keep watching it, and will likely leave on Monday for Tonga.

We know that pictures are preferable to text, and I wish I could post some more of the amazing shots we have of these places!  I hope to be able to do a “picture update” one internet becomes better, but for now, farewell from Cool Runnings in Niue!


  1. What a privilage to share time with the island folks. People that have such a little are always so kind and generous. A lesson for us all. Amazing how different Niue is and what fun you had exploring all the caves. Guds we love the blog and look forward to the next one. Fair winds and be safe.
    Love Mom

  2. Lovely blog. And on your last point, the pictures without text are not interesting. You write so well and descriptions of your daily lives and experiences are really fascinating, so please don't reduce the writing. We can get pictures on the internet - it's your descriptions that make them interesting. Lots of love to you all

  3. Hi this is Trent! I hope you guys are having an amazing experience out there. Everyone misses you Ben �� Mya wrote this for Gaby: Hi Gaby. I miss you so much☹️️!But I hope your having an amazing adventure out there!!��Everyone at school misses you,Mostly me ��.Cant wait to see you in 3Years!I will be there when you come back :D.Its been hard without you,But I think I'm doing better.Also my ears �� are doing great I finally can go swimming with no ear plugs!!:D Thank you for always be my BFF I still even have the picture you drew me that said "I will always be your friend❤️".I MISS YOU SO MUCH ������������-Mya