(published February 2017)
Twenty five years ago, a few volunteers, both Niuean and ex-pats, shared a vision to provide safe moorings that would encourage cruisers to sail to Niue during their voyages in the South Pacific. In the intervening years, we have had over 3,500 yachts with approximately 12,000 crew visit Niue.
These crew discovered how different and unique Niue is and so began a chapter in our maritime tourism that is alive and well today. It is appropriate that 2016 has been a record year for our 25th Anniversary, with 172 yachts mooring and 490 crew coming ashore to discover Niue for themselves.
Our mooring field is in an open roadstead on the west coast of Niue, and is in an exposed position if the predominant trade winds change with a westerly component. The undersea topography of the volcanic slope, coupled with fragile coral gardens, makes it essential for visiting cruisers to moor, often for the first time in many months of cruising.
Our prime focus is to provide and maintain 20 safe moorings. Herein lies the problem we face. The mooring field is on the edge of the “drop off” with eight of our moorings in depths greater than 30 meters and with two of these in 37 meters. Although the underwater visibility is often 50 meters or more, it is difficult and potentially dangerous for divers to work for long at these depths.
To prolong the life of our 25mm polyester moorings, the lines and buoys are laid in early April and removed in early November for cleaning, checking, repairing or replacing. In the interim and during the cruising season, surface checks are carried out regularly, with scheduled “bottom end” checks after any major storm.
Over the years, there have been major setbacks for our small group of volunteers. On the January 4, 2004, Cyclone Heta decimated Niue. Barometric pressure dropped to 918 hPa, wind speeds blew up to 320 kmph (200 mph) and huge waves pounded the cliffs on the Alofi coast. The waves were so large they broke up through the clefts in the 23-meter cliffs to destroy homes, a hospital, a resort hotel and museum.
The back wash from these surges either buried our concrete mooring footings, or rolled them down the volcanic slope where they were out of the reach of divers. It took our small group of volunteers two years and $14,000 (NZ) to reinstate the previous 12 mooring sites and to bring the total available to 16.
In 2016, to aid Niue’s infrastructural development for increased tourism, the Government of Niue, supported by New Zealand aid, provided funding to allow the yacht club management committee to renew all 20 moorings.
As is the case with many voluntary organization, we have only a few people available to help, while the demand for moorings increases. We are faced with rising costs and the rope and hardware needed is expensive because of our isolation and government taxation. Often, we need to employ professionals for tasks that the management committee is unable to provide.
It is worthy of note that two of our management committee, one local and one living in North Carolina, are still involved after 25 years of service. We owe so much to them for their interest, technical expertise and enthusiasm as well as to the yacht club’s 1,800 members over the years.
This year we are offering special memberships to all who have an interest in sailing, whether they have visited Niue or not. Please check out where there is a description of what we want to achieve for the 2017 season. https://nyc.nu/gofundme/ and our website is www.nyc.nu.
—Ken, Commodore, NYC