2002 Commodores Report

Commodores Report 2002
Written by Joe Wright – Vice Commodore
Wednesday, 24 April 2002

As Vice Commodore, it was my sad duty to inform Club members and other yachties that the Club Commodore Wally Saunders passed away suddenly on 02 of December, 2001. His passing came as a shock to everyone and has left a huge void not only in the Niue Yacht Club but in Niue as a whole.

Wally (often affectionately called “Uncle Wally”) was the main driving force behind the Club – keeping members informed on the Club’s activities, organizing the maintenance of the moorings plus a long list of other jobs. For a lot of yachts arriving in Alofi Bay, Wally or his wife Mary would be the first contact on Niue, calling them up on the radio to guide them to a particular mooring, going through arrival procedure with them and on occasions meeting them at the wharf. Everyone will miss his cheerful outlook and his help and advice. The first yacht arrived on 19 April, 2001 and from then on we had a steady flow of arrivals – in all, 132 yachts visited Niue last year which was down a little on the previous year. But then we had more long stayers – the longest being Aquila with Ken and Janet Slagle plus Moxie the cat onboard who stayed 162 days. They soon got into the swing of island life and joined in everything from Hash House Harriers to the Curry Club. The buzz going around was that Aquila was stuck hard and fast on the reef or Ken and Janet had forgotten how to sail!! Second longest stayer was Chris Drakos off Desiderata – 50 days. Chris was a single handed sailor who must have had a huge task sailing his 50+ foot ketch on his own. Chris, Ken and Janet became familiar faces at most events – like the 3 musketeers, they went everywhere together. A good turnout of humpback whales in the Bay this year. Some of the yachties had amazing encounters as the whales moved around the moorings – it must have been hell for them to be woken up at daylight by a blowing whale, several meters longer than their yacht, and only a few meters away – and to look and see a calf going under one side of the yacht and coming up on the other side then turning around and doing it again. The weather was reasonably good for mooring in the Bay – but there were a few occasions when the wind swung around to the West and made it very unpleasant and causing a couple of boats to lose their tenders. One blow particularly forced yachts to depart for Vava’u, but Aquila and two or three others plus the island’s supply ship sheltered on the other side of the island until it calmed down again. The easterly trade winds were a bit kinder this year – not as strong as last year. I would like to thank the staff at Customs who came out at weekends to clear yachts when they arrived; Niue radio for their 24 hour watch and their helpfulness to the yachts when they arrive and while on Niue. Also the Niue Tourism Office, the Internet Society for email services, our secretary Trudy Culling and Don Silk – Rarotonga Harbour Master who provides information on our moorings and sends so many yachts to us. Also, where would the Club be without members like Ian Gray and Annie Franklin from Niue Dive, Graham Marsh, Ernie Welsh and Jeff Wood – their help with the moorings was invaluable. The moorings are inspected after removal and if necessary, repaired each year ready for the next season. We still have 14 moorings including one larger mooring for big yachts – more mooring blocks are becoming available, so we should be able to increase the number to 20 in the near future.

Treasurers Report
Mary Saunders
It was a fairly quiet year for the club as far as sponsoring goes, as usual we donated NZ$500 to the Old Folks Xmas Party and also the Niue Youth Raft Race – both of which were a success. We also bought a share in the new theatre on the island for NZ$2,000. The theatre has a big screen and shows DVD’s and video’s which were very much enjoyed by the yachting fraternity. There is room for 40 with seating in the form of deck chairs to make you feel right at home! The first yacht to arrive and join the club was ‘SV Coconut’ with Holly, Robert, Terry, Frank & Nick on board, they were taken to Gabes Restaurant for a meal. The total number of yachts was 132 and the total of days 1145, average stay was 8.67 days. It is amazing how many come in and say they are only staying for a couple of days and end up staying a couple of weeks or more. With the passing away of Wally, my time on Niue is limited, my family want to see me back in New Zealand where I am closer, we are rather isolated here and none of them could get to Niue in time for their Father’s funeral which was really very hard on them. Until such time as I have sold the business and house I will still be operating the radio for the club and hope to see some of you this season. Great sailing!

Niue Yacht Club BBQ’s
Joe Wright Vice Commodore
BBQ’s were few and far between last season – mainly because of rough weather (when yachties were reluctant to leave their yachts) or our Clubroom, Gabes Restaurant was busy with other functions. The ones we did hold were a great success, particularly the “build a burger” night when about 50 turned up – boy can yachties eat a heap of food and drink a lot of beer!! However, one night they had to drink rum as the island had run out of beer – what a desperate situation!! We managed to clean up 4 bottles of rum with apparent ease – most of the yachties made it back to their yachts okay – obviously a hardy breed, but the bay was very quiet the next morning. The staff at Gabes came out tops again, providing a good selection of tasty salads and other goodies – hopefully this year the BBQ Team will be able to organize more get-togethers.

Yachts and Diving
Annie Franklin and Ian Gray
Niue Dive
2001 was a bumper year for yachting and diving on Niue. At one memorable time we had every yacht in harbour either going on trips with us or taking dive courses (our special yachtie discounts are always an added incentive to get wet with us!). The prize for most consistent customers has to go to Ken and Janet on Aquila who between them logged over 50 dives during their time here. Full points also go to Verena off Miss Sophie, who despite a less than ideal start to her diving completed her course with flying colours. Lets not forget Ron and Ingree off Seashell, Marc and Teri off Tauranga, Mike and Joanne off Destiny, Ed and Gennie off Wandering Dream and Guy and Melissa off Pneuma and the many other yachtie divers who provided us with non stop laughs, equipment challenges, great company and wonderful hospitality on board their boats. We managed to cure a few of their fear of sea snakes, gave a handful of others a much closer look at hammerheads than they were expecting and introduced all to the delights of Niue’s underwater caverns and reefs. The humpback whales of course played their trump card, outdoing all we could provide with many memorable encounters on the way to and from dive sites and some fantastic performances around the yachts themselves. We thank all our yachtie divers for such a great 2001 and look forward to sharing many new and varied underwater experiences with the 2002 contingent due to head our way soon!!

Yachts and Fishing
Jeff Wood
Akau Charters
Standing on deck, with the wind blowing gently and the sound of the waves slapping the hull, I started to imagine that I was Errol Flynn aboard his yacht Sirocco setting out across the Pacific. But suddenly reality hit, and the skipper said, ” Shall we throw out a line”. Not being anything like Errol Flynn, here I was standing on the deck of Aquila, a Santa Cruz built Yacht owned and sailed by Ken and Janet Slagle. Being the captain of my own “ship”, a 5m aluminium tinnie, this was my first time aboard a vessel such as this, and in particular one that doesn’t rely solely on an engine to get from A to B and back again. Getting used to the technical words was the first challenge as we got under way. “Cast off the mooring ropes from the bow” isn’t as easy to understand as “let go the ropes at the pointy bit”. But eventually we set forth into a triangle bounded in each direction by Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, and with only a piece of fibreglass over wood to keep us afloat and a sheet for propulsion. But all thoughts of mutiny disappeared when Ken uttered those magical words. Because of the nature of the weather we decided to put out only one line and this was where it got interesting. Instead of quality game rods and reels with nicely tied doubles extending off outriggers with dropbacks, the equipment Ken bought out showed how simple fishing can really be, and only humans will make an easy sport hard. 100 feet of 300 pound mono with a 3-ft wire trace tied to an 8″ metal head squid lure on a plastic reel. Let the line out over the side and tie off to a piece of bungy cord. Nothing more simple. Nothing more needed. This was really the way to go, and very quickly it was, for the moment the lure went past one of the FADS (fish attraction devices), the line and bungy went tight and a fish was on. But then we were hit with the reality that we couldn’t just stop the boat to play the fish. So while Ken steered the yacht, willing hands carefully pulled the line in so the fish came to the boat. Carefully? Not on your life, this was come here type tackle and the fish was soon water skiing across the surface where everyone gathered to make sure lunch didn’t get away. The yellowfin tuna seemed to eye ball us accusingly for not playing by the rules, but raw fish was all that mattered to us. Carefully killed, bled and then thrown on ice for a lovely lunch when back at the mooring. Out went the line again for a double whammy. Fishing from a yacht is like a stealth bomber with no noise to scare the fish away. The idea of sneaking up on schools of fish and gliding past while fish take the lures with willful abandon is tremendously appealing. No smelly exhausts, just lots of pure fresh Niuean air to cleanse the soul, and of course plenty of fresh fish for the table.

Matavai Resort’s Report
Rojene Abbott
General Manager,
Thankfully due to the huge sign at the wharf – if you were a yachts’ person, a yachtie, a sailor, a crew member or a Captain, you couldn’t miss us last season! The start of the yacht season was also my first 3 months on the island. To say the least, my breaking in period was quick! With the introduction of the Tauranga Punch (Marc & Teri’s – special cocktail) – the nights rolled into days and Matavai Resort’s famous Friday Fish & Chip Night flowed into Saturdays Island BBQ Buffet Night. After the feeding – it looked like many of you hadn’t eaten in weeks! (or I should say that the food was just soooo good!) Karaoke with the Island Pride Band seemed to be popular amongst many of you. Free transfer on Friday and Saturdays gave ample opportunity to relax by the pools with a cocktail and a few of you even indulged in the luxury of hot showers and at a special discounted rate, a non rocking bed for the night! In all, over 90% of yachts called in to say hi. We were so happy that you frequented the Matavai Resort – the bar was always full of story swapping and laughter. A great relief for the staff to have a break from the lull the wet season brought to the island. So we look forward to seeing you this season down at the wharf to transport you free of charge to your haven for the weary, tired, thirsty, hungry, fun loving yachting fraternity. Maybe the Guinness Book of Records will be interested in our record-breaking attempt for the most people in an 8 seater van! You can’t miss us, the sign tells you all. You can reach us through Telecom Niue or Alofi Rentals on Channel 16. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Watching the Whales
Ian Gray and Annie Franklin
Niue Dive
It seems whales and yachties are becoming inseparable as their visits to Niue coincide every year. Even if you never leave the deck of your yacht, you’re pretty much guaranteed a close up view of the humpbacks in the peak of the season (August/September). Most yachties are very respectful of these fellow travellers of the sea but it takes only a few to spoil the experience for the rest. Visitors to Niue are requested to observe a 30 metre exclusion zone around the whales with their tenders and yachts so that the humpbacks can rest, and feed their young undisturbed. Obviously, if the whales come up to you that’s their choice and you are encouraged to enjoy the wonderful experience. The whales should never be chased by boats or swimmers and they should never be touched. Curious calves will often approach swimmers – if this happens, stay still or back off slowly – any threatening or excited behaviour by humans is likely to cause a protective response from the mother whale. Never swim directly over a whale, always stay slightly to the side where they can clearly see you. If the whales move away, its their way of communicating they want to be left alone. One of the great attractions of Niue is the lack of rules regarding interactions with these marine creatures. Up until now, common sense amongst the small boating community on the island has ensured the whales have a hassle free visit. We ask all yachties to respect the way things are done here so Niue can continue to be a haven for whales.

Niue from a Yachties perspective
Ken and Janet Slagle
S/V Aquila
When we arrived in Niue last May (the third boat of the season, unfortunately!), our plans were to spend three weeks on your lovely island before moving on to Tonga and Fiji for most of the cruising season. We immediately fell in love with Niue, doing a lot of diving with Ian and Annie, Ken riding in the annual “Rally of the Rock” mountain bike race, getting involved with the “Hash House Harriers”, fishing with Jeff Wood, and trying to visit all the “tourist spots” as soon as possible. With the disruption of air service from New Zealand and Tonga, we were really enjoying being the only tourists on the island! After a couple weeks, our plans began to soften like jello in the warm tropical sun, and for the next six MONTHS (!), we extended our stay a few days or a week or two at a time. There always seemed to be another Show Day to attend, another dive site to try, or the fact that we just HAD to stay “until the whales arrive”. Well, the whales arrived, and we swam with mothers and calves right off the back of our yacht quite a few times and had great shows as they played around us at night. So many Niueans befriended us that we kept thinking we were at “Cheers” (where everyone knows your name!). There just didn’t seem to be enough time to get ready to go anywhere else. We sat out several “westerlies” on our mooring, and only once had to drop the mooring and spend a couple nights with the “Southern Express” (supply ship) sailing around on the east side of the island. Many of our cruising friends kept saying on the radio “nobody has EVER been able to stay in Niue that long!”. Anyway, we’d like to say THANKS to all of you who made our visit so memorable!

“Uncle Wally’s” Obituary
Walter Leslie Saunders 1933-2001
Most yachties approaching Niue were warmly welcomed to the island’s shore during a VHF radio conversation with Wally Saunders commodore of the unique Niue Yacht Club. But sadly Wally will no longer be on the airwaves – at the age of 68 he passed away suddenly at Lord Liverpool Hospital, Niue last December. However his wife Mary, also a stalwart of the NYC, remains on the island managing Alofi Rentals and she says she’ll still be on hand to answer any yachtie calls over the VHF. Wally was totally committed to the yachting fraternity and he and Mary were renowned for their friendly and generous assistance freely given to hundreds of visitors from the sea. A boat owner himself ( Wally and Mary kept their launch Lady Luck in Auckland, New Zealand) Wally knew what sailors wanted after a long trip in sometimes trying conditions and made sure all the road-stead moorings off the wharf at Alofi were in top notch condition and maintained a good relationship with the Niue Customs and Immigration Departments so yachts would be cleared quickly upon arrival and crew could get ashore without any hassles. Wally and Mary came to Niue in 1995 after purchasing the Alofi Rentals business from a German couple. They moved to Niue from Whangaroa in the North Island of New Zealand where they were involved in the Big Game Fishing Club. Wally was a registered electrician, worked for his father in the family business then took a leading role in Portal’s Water Treatment Ltd that amalgamated with L.J Saunders Ltd. In his younger days Wally was a well-known softball player in Auckland. Wally and Mary quickly integrated with the small Niue community supporting tourism, sponsoring sports events and working selflessly for the yacht club and fishing club. Uncle Wally as he was affectionately known on the island, was a former chair of the Niue Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Niue Tourist Authority and the Niue Tourist Association and was on the committee of the Healthy Islands Programme. Hundreds of visiting yachties will remember Wally with affection and Mary for her kindness and ability to organise most things from her office at Alofi Rentals. Niue benefited from the work of Wally, the Niue Yacht Club has become a legend in the South Pacific – it is one of the few yacht clubs in the world that does not have a resident member that owns a yacht! Keen yachties from around the world join up via the internet or sign up for a burgee at Niue. Wally will be sadly missed. He is survived by his wife Mary, two sons, two daughters, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Stafford Guest
Makapu Point,