We knew since we arrived that there would be a weather change this week at Niue. The winds were going to clock around to the north, northwest, west, etc. all the way back to the normal ESE direction. The problem is that the anchorage is on the northwest of the island and is completely exposed to the sea. So, once it got to the northwest, the anchorage became choppy. The winds were forecasted to be less than 15 knots. So, being in a catamaran, we didn’t think it would be much of a problem. In fact, on Monday and Tuesday we had a taste of the conditions and it was fine on Tahina. Some of the mono-hulls were less comfortable and a few boats left.
Last night, things got a little different. There was a light front associated with weather change that crossed over around 2 to 4 AM. But, it had a squall with it!
We first notice it getting really choppy and Tahina started bucking a bit – around 2 AM. Suddenly we heard a loud crash in the galley! We forgot to close our dish drying bin and two plates fell out and shattered. Ugh! I went over and closed the bin and took a look outside. Two boats had their navigation lights on and suddenly I heard some calls on the VHF. One boat was leaving and another was asking if everything was ok. They decided they had had enough and were going to move out. Most of the mono-hulls were really bucking around out there. A quick look at the sky and I could see a big black cloud to the northwest headed our way. Winds were up to 25 knots at this point.
Since Tahina was on a mooring closest to the reef, I was pretty awake at this point. I had checked the mooring line underwater days earlier and the rope was in good condition. But, there were coral rocks all around the mooring base. As long as we stayed pointed away from the north, our mooring line should remain free from the sharpest rocks. I put on my handheld Garmin GPS with an anchor alarm set. That way I would know if we slipped free. But, given we were only 75 meters from the shore reefs, I would have to respond quickly if we came loose from the mooring. I stayed on watch. Three other boats left in the next few minutes. It probably wasn’t fun preparing to leave in those conditions at that hour.
About 20 minutes later the winds picked up to 30-35 knots (I even saw gusts to 38). And it started pouring rain. I kept an eye on other boats and our position, and made sure our hatches were all fastened tightly. But, the worst of the squall only lasted for about 30 minutes. Things gradually lessened and by 4 AM it was down to less than 10 knots. Niue radio hailed the boats in the anchorage to make sure everyone was ok. A couple of the boats asked what would happen if they continue to Tonga without properly clearing out. They were told Niue could fax the paperwork to Tonga and they could send their fees back. The seas remained choppy with 3-5 foot seas, but I was able to go back to sleep (still with the anchor alarm on) and slept until dawn.
We plan to clear out of Niue this morning and return our rental car. We hope to take a few more pictures before we leave as well. Then later this afternoon we will depart for America Samoa. We have heard you can find good ole American products at the grocery stores there, and they even have American electronics and other goods we haven’t seen in a while. Plus, we can have our mail delivered. Maybe they’ll have good Internet – but, I won’t hold my breath on that. The trip there is about 36 hours. Should arrive by Friday morning.