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MIGRATIONS #13

Lucky Number Thirteen

13 September - 31 December 2009
Cook Islands - Beveridge Reef - Niue - Kingdom of Tonga - Minerva Reef - New Zealand

Written December 2009 -– Long Beach, CA, & January 2010 -– Whangarei, New Zealand


  

Luck affects everything. Let your hook always be cast;
in the stream where you least expect it, there will be fish.

   Ovid

 
 It's hard to detect good luck - it looks so much like something you've earned.

   Frank A. Clark

We don't subscribe to many superstitions aboard Migration. It's true we won't leave on a voyage on Friday but we never worry about having bananas aboard, whistling, or wearing hats. Unlike many French cruisers, we have no problem mentioning the name of those small, cute, furry, long-eared animals (the ones that deliver Easter eggs).

However, I do have a bit of an issue with the number 13. I'm not obsessive but I'll try to avoid it if I can. Thus, when I finished Migrations 12, I thought of skipping to 14 like they do with the floors in some buildings; especially when I noticed the dates covered by this update: the 13th to the 31st. But with so many wonderful events in the last few months — and not a single collision with a reef — why argue with destiny?

Fate, kismet, luck, chance, godsend, karma, destiny... call it what you will. We all, of course, manage our own destiny. No matter how self-made you might think you are, there is no discounting the fact that you can never be sure what this unruly, revolving world will place under the most well-planned footstep. Alene and I realize Poseidon allows us to sail his seas; that, so far, fortune has given us the nod for the this adventure; that dodging a tsunami has nothing to do with anything we did or deserve. We can only remember to say thank you and be happy that, after all the ocean our steps have splashed across, four years ago those steps happened to lead us to each other. But more of that later.

 

SUBTRACT ONE LANGUAGE


We covered the 550 miles from Bora Bora to Aitutaki in the Cook Islands in 3½ days; dodging squalls but mostly enjoying some fine sailing. The Cook Islands are a self-governing democracy in free association with New Zealand. Quite a definition, don't you agree? The fifteen islands are spread over nearly two million square kilometers of ocean but have less than 260 square kilometers of land. Cook Islanders speak Cook Island Maori but also English — and that was the biggest change for us. No more French. I was watching and listening  to some workmen on the quay one day when it suddenly dawned on me that I could speak to them without formulating the entire sentence in my head and trying to translate it into French. I was understanding everything they said. I could make jokes. I had my entire vocabulary to use!

It was a letdown.

We liked Aitutaki but it didn't seem as exotic as French Polynesia. Which was the exact opposite reaction of our friends from France who loved that they were suddenly in a country that spoke a foreign language!


Aitutaki, Cook Islands


Getting through the reef in Aitutaki is a bit challenge. Only boats that draw
less than six feet can make it. These photos were taken when we were leaving,
but they show how narrow the entrance is.


Once inside, Migration was tied to palm trees with an anchor laid out astern.
 

Aitutaki is on its way to becoming an atoll. It still has an island within the coral ring but it's quite low and small compared to the reef-ringed peaks of the islands like Tahiti.


Atop Aitutaki.


Panorama from the peak (123 meters).

Aitutaki's lagoon is its finest feature. A beautiful sprawling complex of islands, coral heads, beaches and turquoise water. Big boats aren't allowed in the lagoon so we took a tour and had a great time.


If water was a jewel it would be this color.

The snorkeling was excellent among the lagoon's giant clams and famous blue starfish.




   
    VIDEO: Snorkeling with Giant Clams (0:32 - 2.1 MB)


In an attempt to maintain the health of the lagoon, there are underwater clam and coral farms.


Alene displays her cart-wheeling prowess on several of Aitutaki's perfect white beaches.


OK, I can't cartwheel but I can jump!

We biked and hiked and had a good time (except for a couple of visits to the hospital to repair an injured foot — knew I should have worn shoes when walking on sharp reef rocks...)



The fire dancing was excellent.

   
    VIDEO: Aitutaki Fire Dance (0:33 - 3.1 MB)

 

Says ADR: Aitutaki Adventures

 

 

REEF 1, LAND 0

A week after arriving we threaded our way out the pass and continued our journey westward.
Another 530 miles found us staring at...

waves. Waves in the middle of the ocean.
This is Beveridge Reef. A completely submerged atoll. Nothing above the surface of the water except the remains of a wrecked fishing boat.

Beveridge Reef has an easily-navigated pass so we anchored inside. At high tide the reef provides very little protection and the the swell rolling over the coral creates a lot of chop. Others have stopped here in better conditions, but we had three pretty bouncy and uncomfortable nights. The snorkeling was a bit disappointing though the water is exceptionally beautiful.


This is why you stop at Beveridge Reef.


Lots of boats heading West, thus lots of boats stopping
at Beveridge. It was getting crowded.


We made new friends with the French boys on Qovop
who came in with a big yellow fin tuna (ahi); they
were happy to share.
(Picture by Simon of s/v Sedna 1)


We were eating fresh ahi for days.
We even made tuna jerky.


No, Plover is not floating in mid-air...

   
    VIDEO: Beveridge Reef — Inside and Out (1:04 - 4.9 MB)

On the morning of 29 September, as we were leaving Beveridge Reef, a boat arriving called on the VHF to say that he had just received a text message on his satellite phone; there had been a large earthquake in the Pacific and a tsunami had hit Samoa. We wouldn't know the extent of the devastation for a few days, but we did know that many friends and cruisers were in the area. We were worried about them.

We later learned that we were only 400 miles from the earthquake and the tsunami had actually passed by Beveridge Reef that morning while we were still at anchor.  We felt nothing — the shape of the reef didn't allow a huge wave to build. We were very lucky; since Beveridge is completely isolated, it would have been a terrible place to be wrecked. Many boats we know were not so lucky — several were lost or damaged in Pago Pago (American Samoa) and a cruiser we'd recently met was swept off the dock and drowned.

So many factors at play: our schedule, the shape of the reef, the speed of the wave. You never know what is around the next island. It does no good to worry. One would have to be crazy to not feel grateful... and lucky.

 

1300 PEOPLE ON A ROCK

We'd been dreaming of visiting Niue since we first heard about it a few years ago. Friends who continued west last year (while we stayed in French Polynesia) raved about this remote island.

Niue is the world's smallest island nation: only thirteen hundred people (there's that number again) on a raised atoll 14 miles across. Take a big coral reef, thrust it up above the surface 68 meters, and you have Niue.


Niue on the horizon. We arrive with our Q flag up. Yachts fly this
yellow flag when first entering a country. It informs immigration
and customs that we need to check in.


The afternoon and evening brought a fantastic cloud display.


Niue has no harbors. Protection is offered off the town on the
west side of the island — away from the southeast trades.
But if the wind changes, you have to be ready to leave.


A small man-made break in the reef leads to a concrete pier.


Once you zoom in, you maneuver under the crane
and lift your dinghy onto the pier.


You do this every time you want to go ashore. Crazy!

   
    VIDEO: Niue Dinghy Crane (1:02 - 4.0 MB)


The first thing yachties do when
ashore is download their email.

 

FIVE-OH
(Photos by s/v Anima III, s/v Avel Mad, s/v Canela, s/v Qovop, s/v Sedna 1)

On October 2nd, a few days after we arrived, I celebrated my 50th birthday. In what has become a tradition aboard Migration whenever we have party, we invited everyone in the anchorage — all 11 boats. Of the 34 people on those boats, 32 showed up. A new record! It's great having a trimaran.


The party's just getting started.

Once everyone had arrived, Alene and I were asked to sit in chairs in the middle of the deck. Five boats, including friends from months before as well as friends we had just made at Beveridge Reef, had prepared a surprise for me.

Backstory: When we were at Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, we had a small gathering aboard Migration with friends from three boats: Avel Mad, Anima III, and Pura Vida. Martin on Anima plays a great guitar and we had fun singing everything from Peter, Paul & Mary to REM. Alene knows all the words to American Pie by Don McLean so we sang the whole song — to the chagrin of some and the delight of others.

That brings us to my party. The crews of Anima III, Avel Mad, Canela, Qovop, and Sedna 1 wrote me a song for my birthday. It had five verses — one from each boat — and used the melody of American Pie (well, sort of). It was called American Tri and is one of the coolest birthday gifts I've ever received.


A photo given to me after the fact. It shows that
creating lyrics for a birthday song in a foreign language
(none of the lyricists spoke English as their mother tongue)
takes great concentration... and lots of beer.

 


Martin & Wolfgang – s/v Anima III (Austria)
 

Ben & Carine – s/v Avel Mad (France)

Augusto of Canela (Brazil) &
Simon of Sedna 1 (French Canada)
 

Baptiste, Manu, & William of Qovop (France),
Claudio of Canela (Gustavio of Canela is to the
right of Wolfgang in the photo below)


The band gets ready.

    And off they go...

   
    VIDEO: The one and only exclusive performance of American Tri (with subtitles - 8:38)

What an awesome gift. Thanks, everyone!

    Lyrics to American Tri
 


Enjoying the song...
and the attention.
 

Mario & Paula of Pajι -  Brazilians having fun.

The party starts swinging.
 

And keeps going...

Party hats were in demand.
 

The traditional reading of Dr. Seuss's
Happy Birthday to You.


And the party continues!


Until it doesn't.

 

13 FOR AN ISLAND TOUR
(Photos by s/v Anima III, s/v Avel Mad, s/v Canela, s/v Qovop, s/v Sedna 1)

Staggering a little the next morning, Alene and I joined the five singing crews (thirteen of us!), rented a van, and toured the island.


Ready to go!


Niue has an amazing landscape: coral thrust up
from the sea creates pinnacles, caverns, and caves.
Walk through a rugged and pointy field of coral...


... then climb down a ladder into a chasm to find an oasis.


Crawl through a cave for an amazing view of wave-driven waterfalls. Simon got a little too close...
He survived, but his camera didn't.


A 30-minute hike through jungly forest...


...leads to a dangerous cave. It's a long way down but if you make it across...


...you find a hidden pool. And if you dive under the end, you discover a
complex of partially submerged caves. Remember your waterproof flashlight!


We survived!


The day ends with arches and a rainbow. Wow.

We loved Niue and had no desire to leave. I arranged to speak at the elementary school. It had been years since I could give a presentation in English. It was nice to have that freedom. The kids were great.

 


One day there was a fishing tournament.
This 16-year old brought in his first billfish
which he caught from his outrigger. It looks
small in the water...


...but it was a big fish.

 

EIGHT DIVES IN CAVES WITH SNAKES

There is hardly any standing water on Niue as it all soaks right through the very porous coral that the island is made of. That means there is little silty runoff when it rains. And that means very very clear water. 100-200 foot visibility is the norm. For those of you who aren't divers, 40 foot vis is considered very good in the Channel Islands off the coast California. Seeing 200 feet underwater is extraordinary.

Most of the coral around Niue was wiped out by Cyclone Heta in 2004. A few areas were spared but the real reasons to dive Niue are caves and snakes.


You don't need to scuba dive to see sea snakes;
they swim right next to the boat while at anchor.


But underwater, they're beautiful. They are also very curious and it took
a while to get used to them following us.
(Photos by Amena Rahman)

   
    VIDEO: Totally Cool Sea Snake Footage (0:53 - 13.7 MB)
   
(Video by Amena Rahman)


Our little underwater camera doesn't have a flash
so we don't have many cave shots.
(Left photo by Martin of s/v Anima III, right photo by Amena Rahman)

   
    VIDEO: Niue Cave Dive (0:18 - 2.8 MB)
   
(Video by Amena Rahman)


We dove through a short tunnel and surfaced inside the island.
The "Bubble Cave" is awesome. Mist floated on the surface. Our lights
illuminated stalactites and stalagmites — some of which had snakes
coiled around them (as above).

 
 
It's not only about the snakes.
(Except dolphins, all photos by Amena Rahman)

 

Says ADR: Diving in Niue with Sea Snakes

 

We did most of our dives with Aussies Ian and Annie who run Niue Dive. After they showed us where some of the coolest caves were, we visited them on our own.

 

DIVES WITH WHALES: ZERO

Though the exploring above and below sea level was exceptional, the real reason we came to Niue was to see the whales. Humpback whales come here in the Southern Hemisphere winter to calve. They hang around for months before heading south to the Antarctic. This year, the day they left was two days before we arrived. Though friends who visited in August and September had told us that whales abounded in the anchorage, we had none. We knew we were arriving late in the season... it had been so hard to pull ourselves out of French Polynesia! C'est la vie. We'll have to return next year!

 

MORE CAVES

We rented a car with our friends Ben and Carine of s/v Avel Mad to visit the caves we had missed the first time around. Every cavern is different. Every swimming hole, unique. Amazing. The place is simply amazing.


Beautiful stalactites abound. As do little sherbet scoops
where stalagmites are just forming.


Beautiful swimming indoors and out.


Look at the size of this column. It joins the floor at one small point
just to Alene's right.


Many caves open right onto the sea. As
we explored, the sounds of the surf
reverberated around us.

 
Overcome by the intense beauty of our
surroundings, Ben and I strike dramatic poses.

 

At my birthday party, we learned that many of our non-American friends had not seen the film Casablanca. We had to make that right so we pulled out the screen and projector and had a showing of it at a local cafe which serves as the Niue Yacht Club. It was fun to be able to share one of our favorite films with so many for the first time. Everyone enjoyed it... especially our French friends.


The morning before we left, I found a turtle eating sea grass from the side
of Migration's hull.

   
    VIDEO: Sea Turtle Cleans Migration (0:22 - 2.2 MB)

 

We decided we needed to weave. So our last day on Niue found us at one of the island's weaving clubs,
sharing lunch and, at least for me, attempting to weave pandunus leaves.
(Photos by Chad & Amena, who are in the upper right picture)

 

HUNDREDS OF ISLANDS: THE KINGDOM OF TONGA


The Vava'u Group

Tonga lies 250 nautical miles west of Niue. We arrived in the middle of this long chain of four island groups.  The Vava'u group is a true crossroads for cruising boats; some heading west to Fiji or New Caledonia, others south to New Zealand. We met up with many friends we hadn't seen for months - some we hadn't seen for years.


Vava'u has scores of beautiful green islands
surrounded by reefs and turquoise waters.


Scores of boats moor off the main town of Neiafu.


Tonga is very fertile. What a pleasure to finally
find lots of fresh — and inexpensive — produce.


At the market: hearts of palm anyone?


In the old days, sailors would rush
ashore to seek women and rum.
Times have changed...


Tongans wear woven mats (ta'ovala) around their
waists. It's an odd fashion — but no stranger
than Western neckties and high heels.


Even school kids wear mats.


A school bake sale with attitude.


We got in a little diving and snorkeling
while in Tongan waters.
(Photo by Martin of s/v Anima III)


Pigs get to run around in Tonga...
until they are eaten, of course.


Alene ends up in the police station. She was
asked to trade shoulder patches by the police
chief in her home town. This is Detective Tamiela
who was happy to get a patch from Glendale, Ohio.

 

TWO PARTIES AND ONE DAY IN CHURCH


Tongatapu

We stayed only a short time in Vava'u as we had an appointment to keep in Nuku'alofa, the capitol of Tonga, on the island of Tongatapu 160 miles to the southwest. Our good friend Betsy's (s/v Qayaq) birthday was the same day as the Big Mama Birthday Bash. Big Mama is a Tongan woman who runs a day-tripper resort on Pangaimotu, a small island a few miles from Nuku'alofa. She also provides lots of services for cruisers — including a party each year with a traditional Tongan feast.


The party was pirate-themed.
Big Mama is the one who's not
dressed as a pirate.


Betsy wore traditional dress for
her birthday party.

The party was a blast and we danced for hours. That night, Betsy met Melaia, a friend of Big Mama. Melaia invited Betsy and Richard to go to church to hear the singing the next day. Betsy and Richard invited us. We pick good friends.


Outside church; Melaia is on the right.

We attended church and were invited to sit in the section for ministers and dignitaries, across from the mother of the King. They obviously didn't know us very well. The music was excellent but since this was the special communion service, it was very long. At times like this, when listening to a long sermon in a language you don't understand, it's nice to have a boat; one can spend hours thinking of all the projects that need to be done.


The students from the nearby girls' school
were as happy as we were that the service
was over.

After church Melaia took us to her boyfriend's house. Sio has a big family and they make a traditional Tongan umu (earth oven) every Sunday. Sio invited us to stay.


Sio uncovers the meal. He has nine kids, and several grandkids, so we
set up long tables outside. Even with four unexpected guests, there was
plenty of delicious food.


Because we were there, the grandkids
were forced to eat in the back of the truck.

Malaia and Sio were incredible hosts. The next day they gave us a tour of Tongatapu.


The famous flying foxes are actually
the largest species of bat.


Wingspans of 3 to 4 feet, but cute
little faces.

 
The southwest coast of Tongatapu is lined with hundreds of blow holes.
They make for good pictures.


Tongans are known for their tapa. Sio
explains the process to me.


Melaia and Alene hold up a big stone.


The ancient ceremonial cartwheel plinth.

 

ONE AMAZING REEF

It was November which means the South Pacific cyclone season was approaching. We needed to start our 1,000 mile passage to New Zealand. We left Tongatapu on 3 November and had an excellent 250 nautical mile two-day sail to North Minerva Reef.


Minerva Reefs between Tonga and New Zealand.


Good luck fishing on the way...
A 4½ foot mahi-mahi!

Like Beveridge Reef, the Minerva Reefs (North and South) are submerged atolls with no land visible at high tide. North Minerva Reef is a fairly popular stop for cruisers on the way to New Zealand. It's about one quarter of the way there and it breaks up the thousand mile passage and gives you the opportunity to wait for a good weather window in what can often be a rough area because of the storms passing through from the Tasman Sea to the west.


North Minerva: a nearly perfect
circle with a single pass.


Migration in North Minerva. You can
clearly see the shallows inside, the
reef, and the deep blue ocean
beyond the breakers.

 

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE #10

When I think about meeting Alene, I know how lucky I am. Of the six and a half billion people on the planet, we actually found each other. I won't get all mushy, but I do think that's pretty incredible. And, after nearly four years, I was sure we'd be staying together.

We've been tossing messages in bottles into the sea for about a year now. The message has a picture of Migration, our email address, and the location where it was thrown overboard. We haven't heard from anyone yet, but we will someday.

On our way to Minerva Reef we tossed our 9th message overboard, but while Alene was asleep off-watch, I secretly created #10.

We went scuba diving the day after we arrived at Minerva, and then on the 7th, I secretly tossed bottle #10 out in front of the boat so the current would bring it back. It didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped, but I did finally get Alene to notice it. Here's what she found inside:


She said "yes".


That afternoon we explored the reef
with Betsy and Richard.

   
    VIDEO: Minerva Reef Waterfall (0:15 - 1.1 MB)
    The waves breaking over the outer reef create a constant
    waterfall on the inside of the reef.


Celebrating our engagement on the reef...


...and onboard Migration. We invited
everyone from the seven other boats.


Enjoying the zuppa anglais brought
to the party by Rosie on
s/v Green Coral.


A beautiful sunset to cap it all off.

 

Says ADR: Getting Engaged

 

 

NINE BOATS AND A WEDDING

Betsy and Richard were ecstatic about our engagement. Not only did they write us an engagement poem, and give us several gifts, but they suggested we get married right there at Minerva Reef. Guy and Karen on s/v Szel are both licensed captains and they had just married a couple at Suwarrow Atoll a few months before. Why not? we thought. So...



On the morning of our wedding, the 9th, all the boats were 'dressed'.


Mike & Devala of s/v Sea Rover
arrived with a huge bouquet of ballons.


Just before noon, everyone began arriving.


When Betsy asked Alene what she wanted
for her wedding, Alene replied, "A wedding cake."
Betsy got to work and baked a beautiful creation.

|
We had no rings so used a couple of
brand new O-rings we had aboard.


Guy and Karen officiated with all
the dignity a barefoot wedding on
a boat requires.


As part of the ceremony I recounted
how Alene and I met.


After the ceremony we got underway
(with a flock of dinghies towed astern)
and re-anchored on the other side of
the lagoon, just inside the pass.


There we all had cake. The delicious wedding cake
from Betsy and a decadent chocolate cake from
Sue on
s/v Crazy Diamond.


After cake — without waiting a half-hour —
we all donned our wetsuits for the reception
outside the pass.

After snorkeling, we motored back to the east side of the lagoon in blustery weather. The party continued on into the night.


Some of our gifts.

What incredible people we meet cruising. We were surrounded by friends, new and old — all genuinely excited about the event. They were generous and thoughtful and, most important, fun.

Thank you to the cruisers who made our wedding so wonderful:

Apogee - John & Martin (UK)
Brick House - Patrick & Rebecca (USA)
Crazy Diamond - Barry & Sue (UK)
Green Coral - Peter & Rosmarie (Switzerland)
Kestrel - Isolde & Gabor (Germany)
Qayaq - Richard & Betsy (USA)
Sea Rover - Mike & Devala (UK)
Sputnik - Eric & Barbara (France)
Szιl - Guy & Karen (USA)
Yanti Parazi - Sam (USA/Israel)

   Here's a copy of the wedding announcement we sent to our family.

 

ONE WEEK HONEYMOON

Two days later we set off on our honeymoon. A week at sea and, since one of us is always on or off watch, we didn't actually sleep together. But, as my mom said, "You've been on a honeymoon for 4 years!"


The day we left, a NZ Air Force Orion flew over to make sure everyone
had notified New Zealand of their arrival plans.

Our passage was not speedy and required a good bit of motoring but that was better than encountering a gale. It felt great to tie the docklines to the Q dock at Marsden Cove, New Zealand — and just 3 hours before a pretty good storm blew through. That was lucky!


Our balloons had a fine trip in the v-berth.


Landfall at Bream Head on the North Island.


New Zealand. Hurray!


A day after our arrival, we motored up the River to the town of Whangarei.
Migration was moored between pilings where she would wait for us until January.


Where we are in New Zealand.

Alene flew to Ohio for her parents 50th wedding anniversary (Happy Anniversary, Alene & Ed!). I stayed aboard and did projects until I flew to California in early December.


Waiting for us to leave Migration?

 

FIVE WEEKS IN THE USA

New Year's Eve found us both in California celebrating with my Mom, brothers, and sisters-in-law. Nice to be with family. We fly back to Migration in mid-January and immediately put her on the hard. Then the work begins. It's been three years since she's been out of the water and she deserves some attention. I still have to repair the result of my encounter with the reef in Migrations #12. New Zealand is a great place to do boat work — good facilities, nice people, skilled craftsmen. There's a lot to be done and we'll be at it for 9 or 10 weeks. Or maybe 13.
Ain't we lucky?

Yep, we are.

Be good.

BB


Lucky Us

  Where we've been since September 2009
 
  2,798 nautical miles traveled this period.
  23,249 nautical miles since leaving Long Beach in June 2005.


  
         Fairy Terns at Minerva
Luck enters into every contingency. You are a fool if you forget it—and a greater fool if you count upon it. ~Phyllis Bottome

The only sure thing about luck is that it will change. ~Wilson Mizner

As long as we are lucky we attribute it to our smartness; our bad luck we give the gods credit for. ~Josh Billings

I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike? ~Jean Cocteau

Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men. ~E.B. White

    

 

This site was last updated 03/26/16