Monday, December 29, 2014

Downtown Market in Tonga -

Here are some locals dressed fairly traditionally.

This is at the market. As everyone can see they still have delicious pineapples and watermelons!  They also have a nice variety of vegetables.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Windy in Tonga -

We are pretty steadily around 20 knots!  It has been like this for almost 3 weeks now, so there has been no shortage of power. The windmills are screaming!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Boating with Kids -

We are getting much better at maneuvering with Intrepid and Integrity as the main doers, Innocence as a helper where needed, Vitality and Valiant in a naked role that they have kind of developed themselves, and me in more of a supervisory role.

The meals are even getting better with Innocence loving cooking, and enjoying making decisions as to what we are going to have. Her basic rule of thumb is that there need to be four different types of food since there are four hot pads on the table! We should only have three hot pads if we are only making three dishes!

It is supposed to be getting super hot down here, but we are still finding the water to be cool! It is 78 degrees, but with a breeze you actually feel cool. They say though that the water is going to get a lot warmer. And with the warm water the Man-of-war jellyfish will be sailing through the islands. We are starting to find the jellyfish, but not the warm water!


We finally got some rainwater, so everyone got a nice shower on the back of the boat! 

Vitality managed to give herself a not so Christmassy hair cut. Now comes the hard part. Do we just shave her head, or leave her with a lopsided Mohawk?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

December 17, 2014

Last night at almost exactly midnight we chafed through our mooring line.  Fortunately we have about 1/2 a mile of clear water downwind of us before anything sharp!  I awoke to the sound of a splash and a quick inspection confirmed my assumption, we were drifting! With the flashlight I was able to spot the mooring ball drifting away.  I retrieved it with the dingy, turned on the GPS and started making my way to a nearby anchorage that I was comfortable anchoring at in the darkness. There were no issues anchoring, and after an hour or so I drifted off to sleep again.

This morning I dove the mooring again, tied a large dock line to it, and we are now moored for the strong winds and rain predicted for the next week!


Captain Intrepid -

Adventures in Tonga - December 15, 2014

So for the next two months I will be taking care of the five little children while Shannon and Cassidy are enjoying some cooler weather in Southern California!

When we come to tie up to a mooring we need one person on the engine controls and steering, one person to grab the mooring, and one person to relay between the two.  Intrepid is the power and controls guy, while Integrity runs communications, and I direct which engine should be put in forward or reverse, and which way to turn the wheel! The results have been hilarious, especially since Integrity is easily distracted, and loves to swing around the mast while telling Intrepid his version of what he believes I said. Then of course there is little naked Vitality who swings back an forth across the foredeck, singing some song that makes no sense, and knocking over any unsuspecting soul who wants to hear which way I am trying to have Intrepid turn the boat! And then without fail there is little Valiant who appears as happy as can be (naked also) with a simple request that needs immediate attention, or like last time, wants to show me where he pooped on the deck!  Innocence is ready to help, but wants a techy job, not one where she watches the little ones!  Somehow though we have never missed the mooring, and the poopy got all cleaned up!  Shannon has offered to send one of her cousins, but we are really doing great and enjoying all the adventures!  I am really enjoying my time with just the little ones.  Of course it helps that they are all little angels!


Back in the U.S. - December 11, 2014

After 5 days of travel, Cassidy, Wolfie, and I have made it safely to Los Angeles. - Shannon

December 9, 2014

 Had a great day in a rental car touring the entire island of Tongatapu. I am not sure if we were on some unmapped side roads or if that was the main thoroughfare about half of the time, but we had a good time and enjoyed some cultural experiences! Flying out to Fiji, then CA in the morning.


December 8, 2014

Cassidy, Wolfie and I have officially left the boat. We are laid over in Tongatapu for 3 days, then we are going to the states for 2 months to tend to some things. That leaves Courage with the 5 smaller children alone on the boat! Wishing them well, missing them already, and looking forward to updates!! On our end, we found a cute little B&B with 3 twin beds, internet, hot showers, and fresh fruit for breakfast, so we are doing well!

We walked for 4-5 hours today around greater Nuku'alofa. Was very interesting and we wore ourselves out. Back to the B&B with some fresh fruit and pastries for some R&R. Rental car tomorrow to see the rest of the island.


Sunday, December 7, 2014


This is the way we get the bugs off the bananas before they are let on board.  The trick is to wash off the salt water soon, or the bananas turn black.  At 
Least that is what we have found.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Flying Fun

The wind is blowing, and the anchor chain/bridle are making the perfect launch 
pad for all types of superheroes!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Blue lagoon Beach

Our beach at Blue Lagoon where we have our own cave, sandy beach, campfire that never goes out, and great hiking with light underbrush to the other side of the island.  Think we may head out there again tomorrow.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tonga Update -

Hello from Taunga (we think).  It appears to be anchorage #21 on the maps.  We have our own beach here, long and sandy with a large sand spit that stands out at low tide.  Water washes over it from a few directions at high tide, which is also fun.  At low tide we can walk a long way around the island in either direction before coming across any man made structures.  There's some nice rocks along the way that make for great tide pools.  I found a wounded and dying fish on the shore yesterday, Valiant thought it was the best thing ever.  He got to check out a real fish (his continuous topic of conversation) and hold it.  He would hold it and put it in the water, then catch it and bring it back out.  He was fascinated for hours and would not part from it.  We finally brought it back out to the boat in the dinghy and put him on the back swim-step with a bucket of water and his fish.  Intrepid found a gorgeous cowdry shell in one of the tide pools.  It was gold and browns and shimmering, probably about the size of a baseball.  But it had the snail in it; so we admired it, took pictures and let it go.

Yesterday Integrity was running down the stairs and fell and cut some skin from the bottom of his big toe.  It bled well and he got attention and bandages.  Valiant was quite impressed.  He talked all about "big toe" and "hurt."  Then shortly thereafter, he realized he too had hurt his big toe, and took it on rounds through the room looking for empathy.  I gave him a paper towel to hold on it, which he did, and then we bandaged it up.  He even hobbled like Integrity was.  Tonight we washed Integrity's foot off and put on new bandages.  Valiant too then needed his toes all bandaged up, so he has electrical tape on both of his big toes tonight as he goes to bed.  It's so funny his empathy pains for Integrity (and/or his attention seeking behavior).  He does seem to truly feel bad for Integrity though.

Last Saturday when we took 3 other teens out for the day, one of the girl's names was Joelle.  Vitality asked me when we were going to make Jell-O again (not an uncommon question for her to ask).  Integrity asked me at almost the same time what the girl's name was.  I told him, "Joelle."  Vitality says, "No, jell-o."  From that point on both Integrity and Vitality, with the rest of us following closely behind, proceeded to call Joelle, Jell-o.  And so the name stuck.  She seemed OK with it fortunately, because I don't think I could have changed what the kids had named her.

From 40 pineapples, we are down to 6.  We easily eat 6 a day, so it's getting time to consider going back to resupply.  Fortunately, it's only an hour or two away.  But on Sundays, the whole town is shut down.  I think I heard that there's an ordinance, but Courage believes that the people just adhere to the church's teachings of a day of rest.  Either way, it's a quiet day to reflect.  It is offensive to do any form of work on a Sunday.  Also it is offensive to be swimming, snorkeling, SCUBA, or other recreation.  We had a long day in town last Sunday, looking for things to do inside the boat all day.  This weekend, we'll be at a remote beach where our usual physical activities don't bother anyone else.  From what we've read, this is what most boats do.  We've heard that anything children do will be excused because they love children, which is great, but I think we're better off just doing what we do in our own space and everyone's happy.  So we'll go back in tomorrow evening, or Monday morning.  

On Sunday evenings a fair amount of little boats converge on the town of Neiafu for school from the outlying islands.  They go home for the weekend, then return Sunday night or early Monday morning.  So we'll be in synch with the migration.


Thursday, November 27, 2014


Tonga has very deep water right up to most of the shoreline. This insures clear water for diving, but makes anchoring challenging when trying to find anchorages at some of the islands. The best way to anchor would be to drop an anchor and then back to the shore and tie off to a tree. 

I don't like being that close to jagged rocks, so we are sticking more to the islands with shallows.

Well it is time to anchor again!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nuku Island -

We have another perfect island. But this one has the added advantage that there is no shallow coral near the beach. And the beach has a nice drop off. Therefore every morning we motor over to the beach, kiss the shore with our bows, drop the anchor, and have the boat right at the beach! There is a nice breeze that holds us off the beach, and cools the boat.

Underwater there are these eels that live in holes and let their bodies wave in the current. Shannon thinks they are garden eels. And there are not just a few, there are hundreds. It is like sea grass made of eels.

Of course this is our new favorite beach!  It appears that we choose the perfect place to spend cyclone season!!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Nuku Island in Tonga

Thanksgiving in Tonga

We did Thanksgiving last Thursday, it went great!  We found an expensive turkey, had stuffing, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, homemade mashed potatoes, etc.  Everything was nice.  Turns out, those in the states celebrate it next week, but we had a nice celebration, watched history channel "mayflower" movie for education, etc.

We got $230 of groceries this morning - a lot for around here!!  Included some spoils like chips and cookies, and meat, which cost more than our usual fresh fruit, eggs, etc.  Since we ate 30 pineapples last time we were out, I got closer to 40 this time.  I also bought a whole stalk of bananas, and then there was a second one for $5 Tongan, which is about $2.50 - $3 US.  So I had to get it.  A whole stock on bananas for $3?  So, when they ripen, we are set on bananas too!  At the market, I bought a single bundle of yellow ripe bananas for $5 Tongan also; the kids ate it before we even left the store.  It was about 15 bananas.  So they can do some real damage when it's available and ripe for them.

We are back out at the islands for another week or so.  Great island just over an hour from Neiafu- Nuku, has a big white sandy beach on one side with a steep drop off from the shore.  You can dive right off the shore into the water.  We had a nice walk, great swim, and play on the beach this afternoon.  We snorkeled and saw a small coral reef with lots of colorful fish around it, a sea anemone with clown fish around it, and little garden eels all over one little area.  Integrity drew many megalodons onshore then, with Valiant's help, they speared them.  Intrepid, Innocence, and Vitality made a sand castle intermixed with swimming.  

Tomorrow Courage is thinking of going to anchor on the beach since it's all soft sand and a nice drop off.  He snorkeled the area to make sure there were no surrounding reefs.  He hopes we can pull up onto the beach, drop the front ladder, put the anchor onshore, and let the back hang off.  Certainly pictures will follow if it works out.  Then we can clean the bottom, a much needed task as we are starting to grow some little muscles on it.

So we are still enjoying our surroundings and finding everything very convenient here.

Cassidy and Wolfie had a great weekend, Friday going on a motorboat with 2 teens, ex-Texans, and a 16-year-old girl from Idaho here on missionary work.  They hit 3 islands, lots of swimming, climbing, running and beach play.  Then on Saturday, we took our boat for a trip to a nearby island for some surfing behind the boat on the way out, volleyball at the beach, a game of "wipeout" obstacle course for those who dared, some swimming, more volleyball, then home for the evening.  Fun weekend, perfect weather, wore ourselves out, enjoyed the teen posse!

Goodnight, off to rest for another big day tomorrow.  Tomorrow looks to be busy, active, and mostly outdoors.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Perfect Beach 7 -

How many perfect beaches could there be? We call this beach #7 just because we ran out of cool names for all the great beaches here. This one even has a perfect place for playing volleyball!

We ate all 30 of the pineapples in the last 5 days so we need to head back to the city to "pineapple up!".

We are thinking of taking the main sail off for hurricane season, as we will have to take it off anyway to put the new track on. The Tongan weather forecast (along with the "important" global warming committee") calls for 3 hurricanes this season with at least one over a category 3. So based on that we are thinking that we may get one (1), which would be an increase over the last 7 years when they have had none (0). Maybe they are not just counting Vavau but the whole region. That might make a difference!


Cave Diving -

We are at a new island with our own private beach.  The other one had houses, vacation homes on islands adjacent to it, which was nice too.  This one, like many of them, looks gorgeous!  A long stretch of beach that is touted as one of the cruiser's favorites!!  Clear water surrounds us and there are lots of places with trees overhanging the beach for plenty of shade, protected anchorage, but a nice gentle breeze to keep things comfortable.  Everyone went to shore while I stayed back to make dinner, so it's peaceful quiet around here.  I could clean or email while things cook, so here I am.

On the way here, we stopped at Mariner's Cave.  Cool place.  You get GPS coordinates to a spot along a cliff like island with lots of undercuts and blowholes.  We stopped the boat and jumped into the dinghy with our masks and snorkels and a dive light.  We motored along the shore until we found a shadowy area underwater. Then we jumped in and it indeed appeared to be a hole underwater going somewhere.  Somewhat intimidating, Cassidy, Wolfie and I stared at the hole for a while.  It's hard to commit to swimming into a big black mouth of a cave not knowing how deep or how far you were committing to going.  So, Courage jumped out of the dinghy, put on his flippers and swam in.  He disappeared and was gone.  We all looked at each other and had to assume he'd made it.  A short time later, he reappeared and indicated that it was much farther than he'd initially anticipated.  But it was do-able.  This time, after catching his breath, he planned to start right at the mouth of the cave, not before the entrance.  Soon, he dove again.  This time, I went down and watched how long he swam before he went back up.  It was a distance, but certainly a possible distance.  Then Cassidy mustered up enough breath and courage to go, and off she went.  Just as I was getting my deep breaths to go, Courage popped back out.  He was going to swim a safety behind me to make sure I went far enough.  I got my air, and went.  It went well, I came up with plenty of room to spare.  My sinuses almost exploded under water, but other than that, it was great!  The cave was large and beautiful!  You could see with the light coming in through the underwater entrance, and that was enough.  There was lots of room to swim around in there.  As the waves came in, the humid air in the cave would compress causing a fog, then as it depressurized, the air would clear.  It was very weird and interesting.  You could also feel the pressure changes in your ears.  They'd plug up and clear all on their own with the waves and changes in pressure.  It really was a neat place and I'm very glad we went.  The departure wasn't nearly as intimidating as the entrance since you could clearly see the outside and how far you needed to go.  That being said, for some reason I didn't feel like I was making ground like I did when I was swimming in, so at one point I reached up and grabbed onto the rock above me and pushed myself along, then Courage dropped down and gave me a final pull out and push to the surface.  I was making it, but slower than I'd like to have been so it was nice to get the boost!!

We are down to our final 4 pineapples.  Probably heading back to Neiafu Sunday night or Monday.  The market is closed tomorrow anyway, so no rush and we're only an hour away.  We could probably dinghy there and back if we wanted to leave the big boat here.  But it's so easy with our own mooring, a motorcycle onshore, and a restaurant with $3 for rice and chicken curry that I think we'll take the big boat.  Not to mention, we need to return the library books before the library closes for the season.  We've read them all and have enjoyed having a new set of books to look at.  We will certainly donate some old school books when we are done with them.

OK, someone has to make dinner. . .

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blue Lagoon

We are at the blue lagoon, and the weather is perfect. We have our very own deserted island, with a soft white beach, caves, and a bon-fire that just never goes out.  The children don't even come home for lunch.  And even when we send them to shore dressed, within an hour they have found the simplicity of nudity. The water is clear and warm, and the sunrises and sunsets are beautiful.

All of Tonga has turned out to be very nice. The people are wonderful; the food is super fresh and tastes so good. (It has been a while since we have had this much fresh food).  And to top it all off there is virtually no crime.  I think we found a great place to spend our cyclone season. There is a different plan for next year every time I think about it.  Shannon is always surprised how fluid my plans are. (Drawn in sand at low tide - below the tide line!)

Intrepid and Integrity are reading every day now, Innocence is getting it figured out, Vitality is still trying to figure out how she sun-burned her bum, and Valiant is always looking for a buddy to go swimming with him.  And that is pretty much a detailed report on the young ones.  Cassidy and Wolf are doing great and falling in love with the freedom of the cruising lifestyle.

All is super here!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Tonga Stop Over -

We have a great cyclone hole here, and have arranged for a mooring with 10 tons of concrete on the bottom. Now we are exploring the beautiful islands of the Vavau group. Once again the people are super friendly, and most of them speak some/perfect English. The water is warm and clear, and the coral is beautiful. 

We have a wonderful island all to ourselves with no flies, and plenty of firewood. We had our fist bonfire with marshmallows yesterday. Vitality is now swimming some these days, so at least she can swim back to shore when the wave tries to pull her off the beach. Valiant is still a sinker, and is careful to always stay close to someone who can pull him out of the water if the need arises.

Since we are planning on staying here until April timeframe I went ahead and registered the motorcycle here in Tonga. Fairly simple to do and only $70 for a year! We are slowly getting a collection of license plates and driver’s licenses. Cassidy got her first license in Aitutaki and her official (good in New Zealand) license in Niue!!

Exploring the island by motorcycle is wonderful and very pleasant. We even used it to get the boxes for Intrepid's Halloween outfit. Shannon on the back of the motorcycle with a roll of linoleum under her bottom, and sticking out a couple of feet on each side, and both her arms filled with empty cardboard boxes sticking out in every direction. But it was all worth it as Intrepid won the prize for the best costume!


Tonga -

We arrived in Tonga on the 28th. Having crossed the date line and never really knowing the days of the week anyway really confused us for days. We got the dates pretty quick, but it wasn't until the 31st that we learned that it was Friday, not Saturday as we thought. So, we'd heard to hit the fresh fruit market Saturday at 10 am to get the deals as they liquidate the ripe stuff rather than take it home for the weekend. We hit it Friday morning and didn't notice any deals going on?? Friday night we learned that it was still Friday (not Saturday as we thought), so the next morning we hit the market again, and sure enough, the ladies were both making deals and gifting the children the very ripe fruits. We really loaded up since we were going to head out that afternoon to the islands.

We are very happy to have chosen Tonga for cyclone season. The bay is very protected from winds (there were none! Sometimes a breeze through the hatches helps on a warm, humid day). The moorings are serious with thick polypropylene rope and concrete foundations. They are down on tourism this year and willing to make deals on the moorings for long-term rates. The town is nice. 
Definitely poor, run down houses, sadly garbage on the side of the roads (which we have not seen in quite a long time, the last significant time was in Panama). But the people are typically nicely dressed in long traditional skirts and men wear long straight "skirts" type things. They are very friendly and helpful, although sometimes seem a bit shy. The women love the children, so the kids are blending in everywhere and making friends.

The shopping has been a relief! Finally! There's a big market where farmers sell their fruits and veggies every day (except Saturday afternoon and Sundays). Bananas, papayas ($.60 US), small watermelon ($2.50), 3 pineapples ($2.50), cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, bell peppers . . . We haven't had this variety and this low of prices in such a long time!! And finally, fresh eggs!! Not imported from New Zealand, so weeks old at best. There's a family with stacks and stacks of eggs, I asked if they were local, they said yes, all from their family! I said you must have a LOT of chickens, and she laughed and said yes they do. I can only imagine! Every day they have huge stacks of eggs, every day I see lots of people buying those eggs. And they are $8. US for 30, finally down from $.50 to $1 per egg from French Polynesia through the Cooks and Niue. Besides this exciting market, another cruiser showed us a farm up the hill where they say you can get anything fresh picked that you want and they claimed that it was a quarter the prices of the fresh market. We went by, but it was closed. Beautifully laid out greenhouses and it benefits a "Youth Congress". Definitely going to hit it up next week!!!! The grocery stores have more than I expected, a few canned veggies, spaghetti sauce, flour, sugar, butter, rice, a few noodles, some random meat cuts, chips, cookies, etc. Not everything I could hope for, but definitely workable!! Not going to find oats, brown rice, quinoa, corn flour, and other specialty items. 
I heard from another boat that they ran out of butter in town and were out for weeks, so you have to plan ahead a little bit or do without. Also prices go up as the town runs out of things, so don't count on steady pricing. Also heard that some prices change as you hit the register if you aren't local. I've been watching at the stores I go to and it seems to be holding with advertised prices.

We got the motorcycle registered, so it's legal and everything. We've been out exploring. Found a hardware store where we can get some lumber for the cockpit and got some cheap linoleum for the torn up stuff in the cockpit, which I've wanted since well before French Polynesia and couldn't find. So we're finding little things we haven't in months, prices are much better, we are official with our transportation, people are friendly, anchorage is very flat and protected, and we are eating fresh. It's all looking good.

We went to a Halloween party at a Cafe that overlooks the anchorage and met some local kids, most of whom are expatriates and great contacts! The kids had a great time; Intrepid won best kid's costume and a free pizza for the family. We found a locals restaurant where I had chicken curry and rice for $2.50 US!! How can you beat that??? Then Courage ordered a jug of juice. When they brought it out it was bright orange, he asked what juice it was, and she answered, "Juice of Tang." Ohhhh. But it was great as we were quite thirsty.

We are now out at the islands, currently Ovalau, where I imagine we'll spend a lot of time. Lovely soft white sand beach, no one here, protected from the normal trade winds, and covered in shells and coconuts. We had a nice campfire last night with marshmallows. We haven't been able to do that for months! 
Finally getting a little isolated again! We stopped at Swallow's Cave on the way here, which you can take your dinghy in it's so big! Gorgeous deep waters below it and just amazing walls (other than the unfortunate graffiti) with lots of birds (not bats) flying around in it. There's another cave, Mariner's Cave, that you have to dive down and swim through a tunnel to get into it. Sounds a little concerning, but we've met other boats that have done it and indicate while intimidating, it's not terrible. Sounds also like a really cool experience!!! So we have to find it also!

There are many little islands, and lots of snorkeling and white sandy beaches within eyesight and within 2 hours of our "hurricane hole" making it possible to explore and live life and enjoy, while retreating and hunkering down quickly with any indication of incoming weather. So, with affordable pricing, gorgeous outlying islands, fresh foods, caves to explore and things to do, we are settling in here for the next 4-5 months, making friends, and getting oriented.

There's our little update. We do have some Internet options, but mostly using our SailMail and ham radio to send messages with occasional "real internet" check-in when possible.


Halloween in Tonga

Great Halloween party in Tonga at the Aquarium Cafe. Started with kids games, egg toss, bobbing for apples, costume contest, and snacks. Intrepid won best costume!!! He was a robot made from a cardboard box body, pringle can arms, milk jug helmet, and reflective car window visors for legs all spray painted silver, then an electrical panel installed and some LED lights from cousin Wolfie!! He won a large pizza for the family!! Yeah Intrepid! We all had a great time and are enjoying the atmosphere here in Tonga!

Bobbing for apples

The family in town

Intrepid in Costume

Kids in the dinghy

Ready for Halloween

Life on the Ocean

Cassidy Feeding a Shark

Assembly Time

The one that got away - Eaton by a shark

Shannon with Catch of the Day, Snapper

Wolf Reeling in the fish

Wolf Cannonballing off the bow

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Avaiki Cave with Cassidy

Getting ready to jump

Cassidy on perch in cave

Cave Exploring - October 23, 2014

Yesterday morning we took the rental car and explored lots of new sea tracks, a cave where they buried people and had a pile of human bone remains, had a picnic overlooking the lee side of the island with waves crashing against a sheer rock wall, then back down the Anapala Chasm where ancient people use to hike down to get fresh water. We went for a great swim down the chasm and back, it was cold water!! There was a beautiful small spot in the middle of the chasm with sunlight shining in and you could see down the sides and to the bottom. It was awesome!! By the time I swam back across it, the sun had already fallen behind one of the sheer cliff walls and it was dark again. 

We went home and returned the rental car and got the kids and Courage loaded into the dinghy for quiet time, then Cassidy and I headed out on the motorcycle!! We've never tried just the two of us on it. We went to the Talava Arch, a gorgeous arch at the end of the island over a large reef that you can walk on at low tide. You come through a cave to get to it. There are also a couple other smaller caves that you can explore along side the reef. I enjoyed seeing the live cowdries on the reef as well as watching the waves crashing around the arches. 

Then we headed back to town, had an ice cream, then headed out to a cave (?Vaihaca) which is recommended as guided-only. We met a German tourist who told of the horrors of this cave, narrow entrance, steep walls, etc. We had to see it. I thought we could just walk to it, look inside, see if we wanted to enter, then go. Little did I realize that the trail to the cave was as much or more treacherous than the cave itself!!! We hiked literally for almost an hour over rocks, through forests and jungles, etc. They have little orange triangles pointing the way, if not for those, we would surely have been lost. At one point we were walking over rocks covered in long leaves, but periodically you could see large blackness between the rocks. You have to wonder, how far down those spots go. I made clear to Cassidy that she can't fall, if she gets hurt, any rescue would take a long time. There's no way I can carry anyone out of this place. So, finally we find the cave. Cassidy dropped in first, there were ropes to hold onto. It was narrow, but not claustrophobic. As we slid down the opening into the cave, it opened up into this gorgeous oasis with water, mossy rocks with ferns on it, etc. Some light came in from above. At this point, on the guided tour, you jump into the water (looks like a long drop unless we were missing something), then swim to someplace, dive down and pop up into another dark cave. Then dive again, popping up in a final cave. That would be AWESOME, but I'm not doing that without a local guide. We were happy just to have been there and seen it. At this point, returning down the trail to the motorcycle before dark was going to be adventure enough for us. 

It was a great mother-daughter date!! I was totally worn out, but we had a great time!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Niue Waltz Contest

I can't believe that I forgot about this. So shortly after we arrived I noticed that there was going to be a dance!  So off I went to get tickets. It was at the golf and country club (don't get any fancy ideas, it was just an older low slung building).
Well anyway there was a contest (with prizes) for the best Waltz. During the evening Shannon and I practiced our moves (at least the ones I could remember).  Then came the moment. The dance floor was loaded, and I typically like a little room to move, but anyway it turned out great, and we came in second out of the group.

Now Niue is a pretty small island, and for a couple of days after the dance people who I did not know would comment on our dancing skills. Then of course there is the follow-up, "so you are the ones on the catamaran with all the children!"

This is the first place that I am ready to stay for a while at.  It is so nice!!!   If we could haul the boat here for hurricane season, we would.

Until next time,


Exploring more Niue

We spent this morning catching up on school stuff then taking warm showers on shore. Rain is coming in a day or two, so we decided to do our second rental car day again today. So this afternoon we headed out. First to Avaiki Cave, our favorite! Where at low tide you can swim in a pool under the cave, and jump from the sides into the pool. To top it off, we picked up ice cream for snack to eat when we got there. It was great!!

Then we headed to Limu Pools. A beautiful, giant tide pool that you can swim in. There are areas with cold fresh water mixing in with warmer sea water causing temperature inversions that you can see in the water as you are snorkeling. Lots of reefs and fish and even a gorgeous blue star fish! Then we went to the second pool where Cassidy and Wolfie were jumping from cliffs. I swam through an arch and on my return trip a sea snake was coming almost right up at me. We've heard they are venomous, but rarely or never bite. I reached out and pet him. I felt a bit bad, they have to come up about every 2 hours for air. When I pet him, he went diving straight down again. Guess air wasn't that critical to him. 

Then we headed to Palaha Cave, which was excellent. We hit it as the sun was going down. It's a great cave facing out at the ocean. We were facing west and the sunset and nice light was coming in through the cave. We did some great exploring and took lots of pictures. This cave has tons of staligmites and stalactites in it which we could see huge ones and little new ones forming. The boys of course loved climbing everything also. 

We came home for a quick dinner since we were an hour and a half after our normal dinner time. Then bananas with hershey syrup for dessert since we have a huge stalk of bananas that have all ripened at the same time (and are perfect right now!) The end of a great day, but have to get some rest because tomorrow's another day and we have the car until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon, so have to do all we can in the morning for exploring. 

This has been one of our more favorite islands for exploring and we're loving getting out and doing it!! 

Probably heading to Tonga sometime this weekend, depending on weather.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hiking beautiful Moupiti, Society Islands

Niue Independence Celebration

This evening, we were lucky enough to get to attend a multicultural presentation at the high school. This again was part of the 40 years of independence celebration. There was music and dances performed by many, many groups. It was amazing!! First the Niueans performed, then groups from the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, the Phillipenes, ex-Niueans who now live in New Zealand, and Tulukava. Fiji didn’t make it for some reason, so they were skipped. The introductions were in Niuean, so I missed most of the “background” information. There was such diversity of traditional costumes, dance styles, and music. Most of these groups live here in Niue, but continue to practice their traditional dances and music in groups, which was nice to see.

The hall was packed with people! It was very interesting to be at the performance. While the dancers were dancing, it appears to be a cultural norm here for people to show their appreciation by putting money either pinned to their hair or tucking it into their clothing. I’ve seen it twice before at dance presentations here on Niue. I’m sure it’s in support and appreciation of their beautiful dancing and hard work, etc. I think it’s a cultural bias, another American cruiser and I were talking about it. We were both put off by it, but in our minds, this is how you treat strippers. I think also, to a larger extent, I found it very disruptive of the dancing. Many people went up there, walked on stage between the dancers, in front of them, etc. Then people, not teens, but older, more conservative looking generation type folks, would go up on stage and start dancing doing their own thing. The crowd laughed and applauded and they were all having a great time, so it’s great, it’s normal, and I need to adjust. I found it distracting from the pre-practiced dances.

This community does not have crime, graffiti, theft or other issues. There is tremendous respect and love for other people that we’ve experienced. You can leave your car open with things in it, the keys in your motorcycle, etc. This behavior at the dance is certainly not out of any form of lack of respect. It was very interesting to see and we have to put our social norms to the side and appreciate that they were all having a great time, a bonding experience, while sharing and appreciating the cultures of those that have migrated here from surrounding island communities.

These are the subtleties that you miss when you don't get to spend enough time in any given place. I love watching the social dynamics and the more background information you get, the better you can read it. Got to hit the sack, been a long day with the navy ship and the dancing show!!!

It's down to a frigid 73 degrees here, we're all bundled up in blankets since we're just not used to it being this cool!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

All About Niue

Niue is maybe one of the nicest places we have been to. 'Course every place seems to be the best!

Crime has been outlawed here, so people don't have locks on their front doors, and keys are just left in the cars and on the motorcycles. Quite a difference from French Polynesia, where two of our friends boats were robbed, nothing violent, just took electronics and money when the people were not looking! Masks and tubes left on the pier are waiting for the owners in the morning. There are no bars on windows or doors, and the bank just has plate glass windows. 

Now to say that you don't get robbed here may be slightly misleading, as gas is $10/gallon, apples are $8/Kilo, carrots are $7.50/kilo, but great ice cream is only $10 for 2 liters!!

We have had many wonderful motorcycle rides around the island; the cops finally caught us, and asked what the other islands required for us to use our motorcycle. They just have never had someone bring a motorcycle to the island before.

We just finished a nice dive with the local sea snakes. They are quite poisonous, but the rumor is that their mouths are so small that they can't bite you. Integrity actually grabbed one out of the water yesterday and all the children had a great time playing with it on the swim steps.

Life is really great!!


Naval Ship Tour

So apparently the 30 year old guy in the white naval uniform with 3 stripes that I sauntered up to and asked for a tour of the boat was the captain! I know how to pick them, eh?? 

We had a GREAT tour of the naval boat, very interesting for the kids (heck, it was very interesting for me!!). Three families from cruising boats went. We took pictures and asked tons of questions. They were so friendly and hospitable and open with us, it was nice. They didn't seem put out by us spending hours of their morning the day of their departure. The captain gave us most of the tour himself. 

After the tour, I went home and made cookies for them. They leave at 13:00 hours and it was 11:00 when we got home. I started as fast as I could, they had 66 people onboard (and we have 9 hungry bodies here), so I made a triple batch. I just finally had 75 cookies ready to go at 12:45. We wrapped them in plates and plastic and loaded into the dinghy. They ship had their ramps up, dinghy's loaded, and were pulling up the chain. A man in the pilot house pointed to the back of the boat, so we went back where some officers met us. It was still too high for me to hand up. They tried to reach down with no success. Finally deciding to lower a bucket. They were NOT about to leave without the cookies. They sent down the bucket and we loaded them up. Hopefully they each get one and have a nice trip. After 10 weeks out, they are heading home to Aukland. They will be at sea for another week or so doing tasks en route. 

Now I need to get to shore, for some reason I'm out of eggs, butter and sugar.


Auto Touring the Island of Niue

Awesome day in a rental car wearing ourselves out, first snorkeling and climbing around in a cave, then down to a small white sand beach cove, then to a chasm for a swim, then to another chasm for a longer hike through a native forest, watched crashing waves on a cliff shore, then down into a cave for a front row view of the crashing waves, saw a coconut crab climbing a sheer rock wall, then to another chasm with fresh water where old natives used to go to get fresh water down in a cave, then ended back in town just in time for the "community meal" to celebrate their 40 year of independence where we had free drinks, free dinner, and local entertainment with kids doing a dance show in native attire, New Zealand Navy doing a chant of some kind, then local adults singing, dancing, and playing guitar like instruments. The lift for the dinghy's broke, so we shuttled all the cruisers home after the party since their dinghy's are up on the hard. 

I met a commander on the Naval ship and talked ourselves into a tour of the NZ navy ship tomorrow morning at 8 am!!! YEAH!! So many great things going on in Niue this week!! Perfect timing!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pacific Ocean Volleyball -

Picking Mangos in Aitutaki

Balancing on the motorcycle to pick mangos in Aitutaki

Economy of Niue

"The agricultural sector consists mainly of subsistence gardening, although some cash crops are grown for export. Industry consists primarily of small factories to process passion fruit, lime oil, honey, and coconut cream. The sale of postage stamps to foreign collectors is an important source of revenue."

Again, very interesting article as I am here trying to figure out how the numbers work. How they can pay the food prices here, gasoline at $10/gallon, I've heard there's as many as 2 cars per person on this island, and I don't see much here in terms of economy. A little tourism, no substantial exports, no ATM and the bank can't even exchange money, etc. But then I read the above . . . "Selling postage stamps to foreign collectors." Ahhh, now it all makes sense!!!!!

Not to mention that of their $10 million budget each year, they receive $8.3 million in foreign aid. . . That and postage stamps just may do it . . .

Reading about Palmerston Island

What a fun read after visiting Palmerston!! Very accurate information from what I learned from the locals there. 

"The Island's Council consists of six members, the three heads of each family and three other members appointed by each family.[5] The Mayor is Bob Marsters.[5]" 

We had ice cream with Bob Marsters - what a fun loving and generous man! He was looking to replace a remote from a 10 year old TV. Too bad our universal remotes don't cover brands that old or we'd have given him ours and picked up another one.

Island Exploring - Niue

After "The Show" this afternoon we sent the kids back to the boat for "quiet time" naps and school and things and Courage and I headed out on the motorcycle. This is a gorgeous and awesome cliff/rock island!! We hiked to two caves, the first one you walk through coming out on the ocean where you can walk on the rock (not coral) reef and tide pools then drop into a large pool where you can snorkel into part of the cave. Then we went to a second cave that has massive stalactites and stalagmites, beautiful colorful mineral deposits, fossils of coral in the rocks and is open to the ocean on the far side (but not a swimming pool). Then we went to the Limu Pools where it's semi-shallow and calm, crystal clear water from all the limestone around. This is what they make resort pools to mimic with rocks all around, clear blue water, gentle waves, beach entry, etc. Then we went to the chasm, a large crack between two rocks that's filled with water. It's like a pool with huge rock walls on either side. From shore, you couldn't see to the ocean, but I think if you swim to the end of the pool, eventually you see it. We skipped walking to the arches, feeling like we ought to be getting home. We stopped at a gas station mini-mart type thing and she was selling watermelons from her home garden, small to medium size, but only $3 - $5!!! So we got a few and headed home!! What a wonderful tour!

The teens brought the kids to shore to play when they picked us up at the wharf, the teens went out exploring, the kids swam by the wharf for about an hour and played bubbles when on land, and Courage went home to "put on dinner" (aka quiet time). 

We had a quick preview, definitely going back. They were out of rental cars on the island, probably due to NZ Army and Navy being here for the 40 years of Independence celebration. We think they are all leaving Monday, so hope to rent a car for a day or two and take the whole family spelunking and snorkeling early next week. They will LOVE it! Looks like geology will be on the homeschool agenda this week.

Independence Day Show

This morning we went to "The Show" at the high school. It's very easy to hitch a ride with a local around here, which was great for moving the whole family across town. 

The Show is put on monthly, but was special today in celebration of their 40 years of independence. There is New Zealand Army and Navy here in support of their "freedom" also. They had speeches and presentations, etc. There were booths with local foods, local arts and crafts, and a huge display of fresh fruit!!! I was able to get a whole stalk of bananas for $25. I have paid $3. for these in the past, but for the prices here, I was tickled!! But they were being judged, so you couldn't remove it from the stand until after the judges had passed through. They also had coconut crabs and pigs for sale. Everything was nicely displayed in woven palm leaf baskets, very nicely done! Then there was a presentation by the local children doing traditional dances in native attire which was very cute. One dancer was the boys' friend from the wharf raft race the day before, so they enjoyed that. We had to leave, but apparently we missed a javeline throw and a climbing event. They had 2 wooden poles greased up, one for girls and one for boys. Each one had an envelope with $100 in it on top for the first one to make it to the top. That would have been fun to see too. 

We easily caught a ride back home. Courage took the stalk of bananas home on the motorcycle, I hitched a ride with the kids. As we carried the bananas out to the parking lot, a gecko climbed out of it. There were ants and earwigs on it too (which we DO NOT want on the boat). So we decided to keep the gecko too. He climbed onto my shoulder and we left him there. As I sat down in the van, he jumped off my shoulder and ran across the seat. Not wanting to alarm the elder couple that picked us up, I said nothing. Not wanting utter chaos in the car, I did not alert the children. So I casually looked around to see where he'd gone while continuing my conversation with the hosts. Then Integrity in the back seat said "Mom, there's the gecko." Intrepid and Innocence jump out of their seats and flip over to see the back row. I sit them right back down and tell Integrity to quietly and subtly get the lizard. Fortunately, the couple seemed oblivious to our excitement and we left the vehicle with as many living beings as we entered it with (we think).

Traditional Raft Racing

Yesterday morning we just went to shore to look for the razor I dropped while returning from my hot shower and to our surprise, there was a big gathering on the wharf. They were having a raft race with traditional rafts made of wood tied together with vines and some were "floated" by coconuts. Some nice work and designs, but most of them floated until you loaded 4 adults onto them, then many were about a foot under water. Was a fun and funny race to watch!!! The second heat was a "nontraditional rafts" race where the New Zealand women's team had plastic jugs floating them tied together with the wood and twine. They floated nicely even when loaded!! Then they served drinks and snacks. The kids thought it was great and it made for a full and fun morning.