honeymoon island beach caves brianna rob

Honeymoon in Niue

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Hiking, Outdoor Adventures, Traveling

honeymoon island beach caves brianna rob

Lime green and lavender. These are the colors of our honeymoon in Niue. Wait, honeymoon? Didn’t you guys get married a year and a month ago? Yup. But we never took a honeymoon, since we were gearing up for our sailing + travel adventure.

After six weeks aboard Compass Rose(y) and five months at sea on other people’s boats, we were ready for our very own bedroom. As much as we have enjoyed sailing on Rose(y), our crewing situation has got two main drawbacks: we have no bed or door. Rob and I sleep on separate settees (translation from boat speak = “narrow couch”) in the main cabin. As the tiny island nation of Niue came into view after several passages in a row, I sat next to Rob on deck and said: “Let’s get a room, honey.”

Rob upped the ante by announcing it would be our late honeymoon. Perfect. We found the last available room for rent in Niue and booked it for three nights (it’s high season in Niue, which means the one flight per week is full of at least 50 tourists).

honeymoon island beach caves brianna rob

Our first night on land after five months was AWESOME. Except when it started pouring in the middle of the night, and we both jumped out of bed trying to close the hatches … that didn’t exist … and realized that the floor was pitching and tilting like we were riding 10-foot waves instead of standing on solid ground. Weird. We jumped back in our big, cozy bed and promptely fell back asleep.

We slept so well, actually, that we extended the stay from “weekend” to “week.” The room we rented was in a local’s home right downtown, and we enjoyed the owner’s company — Lawes, a Niuean who now lives in Australia part-time — as well as his hot water heater, refrigerator, electricity, washing machine, and the patio that didn’t move.

Since it was our honeymoon, we decided to splurge on the most romantic thing we could possible think of — a motorcycle.

honeymoon island beach caves brianna rob

Motorcycles are the perfect honeymoon craft. You have to hold on tight to your loved one as he careens over wet, slippery roads. You have to wear helmets that make you look like a popsicle, and that bang together in a plastic-y love-kiss when the cycle jerks forward. You can’t talk, so you get to share a secret language of nuanced physical touches: a death-grip on a shoulder means “slow down, damnit!” and a vise-squeeze around the hips means “let’s stay out of the potholes, ok?”

Just kidding. It was super fun to have a motorcycle, especially once my legs unclenched after the first day (I’ve only ridden a motorcycle once for 45 seconds). Rob was a stellar driver, and didn’t throw me off the back even once. It did rain most of the time, so we had to wear our green rubber coats, which made us look even more like delicious lime popsicles. To top it all off, we got to use the cute little horn often to “beep beep” all the chickens off the road.

Back to the colors: lime green and lavendar don’t just refer to the color of our rain coats and helmets. Niue is 100 square-mile island plateau that rises 200 feet out of the sea, and is home to a whopping 1,600 people. It’s nicknamed “The Rock,” since the ground is made up of old, dead coral and limestone. The limestone is what makes the water look green. The coralline algae encrusting the rocks and caves is lavender.

honeymoon island beach caves brianna rob

Beneath the island is a lens of freshwater, which pours out of the island into the sea. This creates all kinds of awesome caves, chasms, and crevices to explore on land and underwater. It also creates a crazy blending of fresh and salt water along the shore, which makes things look blurry when the cold and warm waters mix. All sorts of fish frolic in the clear water, and whales pass by, too.

Niue (pronounced “new-ay”) is from ‘niu,’ which means coconut, and ‘e,’ which means behold.  So, basically, the first settlers a few hundred years ago exclaimed: “Hey, check out all these coconuts.”  One other fascinating tidbit: Captain Cook never succeeded in landing here.  The natives all had red-stained mouths from a local root, and it scared the bejesus out of Cook and his crew, who named Niue “The Savage Island.”

All told, we’ve spent 10 solid days exploring this one-of-a-kind island, and highly recommend it as a honeymoon destination. Unfortunately, there are only two ways to get here: sail or catch the one flight per week from New Zealand. The other downside is that tomatoes cost $4 each — produce in general is scarce, and more expensive than jewelry.

As we bid “The Rock” a fond farewell tomorrow when we sail to Tonga, we’ll remember these top highlights from our Niuean honeymoon:

> Rob faced his biggest fear: sea snakes. The venemous striped sea snakes are ALL OVER the reefs here. Other than one chasing me for a few minutes one morning, they are totally harmless, since their mouths don’t fit over any part of a human body. Whew!
> Whales spouting just offshore, and singing under water.
> As many showers as we wanted, with water as hot as we could stand.
> Climbing through forests carpeted in coral into caves.
> $5 Indian rotis at the restaurant next door to our rented room.


changing sails on the bow on hte horizon line blog brianna and rob pacific ocean

The Pain of Passage-Making

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life, Sailing

changing sails on the bow on hte horizon line blog brianna and rob pacific ocean

Many people envision sailing as a romantic and relaxing hobby. I still do, too, even knowing from experience that the romance and relaxation account for about 10% of the actual time on a sailboat. It’s easier — and more fun — to talk about the sunsets and stars, or even the more dramatic storms or near-disasters, than the daily routine of sailing across the ocean. But no one really mentions the parts of passage-making that slowly drive you insane. Or that there will be at least one morning when you’ll close your eyes tight against the new day, hoping to make it tomorrow already so that you don’t have to deal with the constant motion and maintenance of a floating home a thousand miles from anywhere.

No one talks about the frustration of flapping sails that grate like fingers on a chalkboard. About the persistent sideways swells that keep you gyrating like a drunk pendulum and make your brain feel like it’s on a merry-go-round with no way to get off. About the fact you’ll scream at the dishes to “just fucking stop it!” the 1,024th time they rattle, roll and crash to the floor. About the fact that you’ll need to change sails at midnight on a wildly swinging deck in the rain because no one can sleep with the boom banging in the light winds. About the rash on your butt from sitting so damn much.

No one told me that if my husband was seasick much of the first half, I’d have double-duty cooking and cleaning. Or about the fact that there are endless amounts of dishes on a boat with 7 crew members. Or about how dizzy you’ll get watching the gimbaled stove rock as you attempt to make a meal for those 7 people with the dishes flying every which way and bottles clanging out onto your head when you open cabinets.

It’s hard work, this sailing across the planet business. Tiring, monotonous, frustrating work. Luckily, Rob and I were under no illusions this crossing would be anything less. We came aboard knowing we’d have to take one day at a time.

Of course, to be fair, there are dozens of small miracles cruisers’ forums and sailing books forgot to mention, too, interspersed blessings that take the edge off. Like how the sound of your bow wave can calm those grated nerves. Or how standing on the foredeck will make you laugh aloud as you surf up, up, up and down the endless swells. And how luxurious it can feel to have the time and space to think — or not to think — as you stare aimlessly across the miles as they roll by.

We learned that it’s little things that are the most challenging to overcome, like dishes and rashes and moldy sheets. But we also learned that it’s the little things that keep you from going insane. The well-timed joke from a crew member that makes you giggle instead of scream. The flying fish and swirling storm petrels that come by to say hi. The thoughtful husband that brings you a pillow for your sore butt while you sit gazing from the bow. The game of Scrabble or the book that sucks you in and holds the world at bay.

The way I see it, a long crossing might be akin to what I’ve heard about childbirth: the pain pales when you hold the fruit of your labor. The daily frustrations of sailing evaporate when the dolphins appear or when you see the turquoise waters approaching land. The pain of passage-making will eventually fade in comparison to the romantic memories, even if they do only account for 10% of the voyage. And I’ll probably be another one of those people who forget to mention the flapping sails and rattling dishes.

Post-Script from Later in the Passage:

Day 29 of the passage. After a stellar post-fresh-produce dinner of chiptle chicken enchiladas with roasted red peppers, we were all sitting in the cockpit digesting and watching the full moon on the water. Gavin decided to start a sharing game. His brothers tried to joke it off, but he was adamant that everyone answer the question: “Why are you here, now, on this boat?” These answers are almost verbatim.

Gavin (10): “Because the ocean is fun and exciting. And you never know what might happen. I thought today would be the same as yesterday, but then that Japanese fishing boat passed 100 feet off our bow this morning and I made a horn from a conch shell.”

Bri (32): “Because I have no choice today to be anywhere else. A big part of why we chose this boat, though, is because of you, Gavin. We wanted to be with people of all ages, including kids, during the first part of our ocean adventure.”

Connor (18): “Because of a whole host of preconceptions and misconceptions, both correct and incorrect.”

Rob (37): “Because Bri told me she’s always wanted to cross the Pacific, and I let myself be convinced it’d be a good idea.”

Rowan (15): “Because there’s nowhere else to go. And it’s a good opportunity to explore. Plus, it makes me appreciate the things I like best about home and school.”

Brooks (53): “This is the type of adventuring I’ve done most of my life, in a different format. We chose this boat and this course as a means of addressing the tactical and technical aspects of climate change impacts on the planet. We’re expensing everything to make this trip: economically, emotionally, physically. And we’re hoping it becomes a way to pursue our passions while supporting us economically.”

Janis (49): “Because Connor went to Maine one summer and took a bunch of sailing classes. Next thing I knew, we bought this boat and here we are.”

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