Now in Niue
Sun 21 Sep 2014 01:28
The mooring field at Alofi
You'll be relieved to hear that we did eventually get here. The wind picked back after nightfall, from the South, and we had a lovely reach to the North of the Island, where upon the wind backed and let us carry on down the Western side, sailing to within a mile of the moorings off Alofi, and arriving just after daybreak, with no need to heave to and wait for light. Perfect.
Niue is an atoll. Ok, you got me, I admit, there's no encircling reef, no pass to go through, no lagoon surrounded by motus. But is was an atoll a long time ago until the sea floor got lifted up. So now it is an atoll in the air also called a Makatea, made of coral, with a ring around the edge which was the reef, and a dish in the middle, which was the lagoon. Coral is not very hard and it is water permeable and soluble. This means Nuie is dissolving away. It's worn by the waves, creating caves, which then collapse and get washed away, resulting in a coral platform all around the island, which in turn is edged by the new reef forming around the Makatea. It's also worn by the rain which dissolves the limestone then precipitates it back out again as it is filtered through the coral, creating caverns filled with stalagmites and stalactites and pillars...
The wharf has been created by blasting out a boat sized space in the coral platform and building the jetty. The swell is too big to be able to tie dinghies up to it though, so they supply a crane and a trolley. You lift your dinghy and park it alongside the crane. All very well organised. All the other boats on the island come and go by this method too - bigger ones needing a bigger crane. The day we arrived the supply boat was due to come in. It's too big to go alongside so they anchored stern to, with warps attached to the wharf then craned out a ferry and lighter to bring the goods back and forth.
I know we rarely take a mooring, preferring to anchor, but here it's not an option. The lifted up atoll is so steep to that we are in 30 meters of water, on fissure strewn coral with no sand to drop in. But the amazing thing is that we can see the bottom through those 30 meters as clearly as we can usually do in 5 meters. The rain water is all filtered through the coral, so the visibility around the island is stunning. Diving's going to be brilliant!