Unlike the passage to Beveridge Reef, we had more than enough wind en route to Niue. Fortunately, both the wind and the large (up to 10′) waves were from astern, so the motion was not bad at all, and we averaged about 5 knots using the spinnaker or jib depending on the intensity of the wind.

DSC_0833Grey skies but plenty of wind

At approximately 1,500 current inhabitants, Niue is the smallest country that I can think of except for the Vatican. I read that the population was over 5,000 in its heyday, but the majority of the population has chosen to take advantage of their New Zealand citizenship. Those who remain mostly work for the government, and there is also a small tourism industry created by cruisers and New Zealanders on holiday for whom the selling feature is probably the humpback whales who migrate through here, primarily in August and September. Although we are at the tail end (no pun intended) of the season, we were hoping there would be some stragglers.

Niue is a coral island of very low elevation. From a distance, it’s not very photogenic, but as we approached, we could see limestone caves spotting the coastline, giving it a more rugged look. Then as the water became more shallow, we were really impressed by the clarity of the water. Would you believe that in 100′ of water we could still see the sandy bottom?

DSC_0864 Niue from a distance

We arrived in Niue on Sunday afternoon and were welcomed via VHF radio by our friends aboard S/V Migration and S/V Anima. Apparently the yachties aboard all but one of the 10 boats moored in the bay joined Bruce aboard Migration to celebrate his 50th birthday the night before, so this must be a fun group. As it was Sunday, we were not able to check in with customs/immigration and go ashore (they are particularly strict about it here), but that was fine with me. I couldn’t wait to jump in the crystal clear water.

First things first, though. We put up the wi-fi antenna and were able to get online and check email. Wow! In case we had any doubt that we were loved… We are just sorry that we didn’t find out about the tsumani soon enough to prevent you guys from worrying for an entire day.

Dallas and I pulled ourselves away from the computer and donned our wetsuits and weights so we could practice the free-diving techniques learned in Beveridge. We were pretty pleased with ourselves after touching the bottom in 20-25′ of water. We then snorkeled around the reef and had another close encounter with a full-grown (probably 4′ this time) white-tipped shark. Dallas’ encounter was a little closer than mine, since I was using him as a human shield! Mr. Shark had no interest in us, though, and was gone as quickly as he came. We swam around a bit more and saw a sea snake that I’ve never seen before. It was a few feet long but only about an inch thick and had black and white stripes. We also saw some grouper at the bottom that could be turned into dinner, but we need to find out which fish do/do not have ciguatera first.

DSC_0911 The clear water is ideal for snorkeling

Martin and Wolfgang from S/V Anima stopped by in the afternoon and dropped off a loaf of fresh bread, knowing that we couldn’t go ashore. They told us all about their caving expedition the day before, which sounds like a must-do-while-in-Niue kind of thing.

We had two spectacular sights before the day was through. One was the moon rising over the bay, magnificently full and bright. The other was the unbelievable sight of two humpback whales right next to our boat!! We were just sitting in the salon having dinner when all of the sudden, we heard the unmistakable sound of air being expended through a blowhole. Tiff and I simultaneously gasped, and we all ran out into the cockpit where we saw the mother and her calf. In the bright moonlight and clear water, we could see the calf lying upside-down, showing off his white belly. I was really pumped up and shouting to the other boats, "Whale, whale!" I guess Dallas was excited, too, as he tried calling S/V Anima to let them know the whales were headed their way but pressed the wrong button on the VHF. We are hoping that we will get to see them again in daylight and get some pictures or even go for a swim with them, as some cruisers were able to do a week ago.

This morning we were boarded by the customs, quarantine, and health officers. They were very nice and asked the usual questions. It is surprising to me, though, that the only places that we have been boarded are here and tiny Swan Island, not exactly prime spots for unloading smuggled goods. Anyway, once that was said and done, Dallas and I took the dinghy ashore using the crane hoist set up for dinghies by the Niue Yacht Club, who also take care of the moorings, provide a meeting place for cruisers, have internet, and serve several varieties of ice cream (2 of which we’ve already had!).

DSC_0910 Operating the dinghy hoist

DSC_0897View of the mooring field from town

Before we head back to the boat, we will make a much-needed stop at the local grocery store. I’ve been buying mostly staples and fresh produce so far here in the Pacific, but the provisions are dwindling to the point that we might need to shell out a bit more and replenish the pantry. Fortunately the prices seem to be gradually decreasing as we near New Zealand (e.g., only $5 for a box of cereal here instead of $7 in French Polynesia).