Niue: A haven from the wind, yacht is optional

By Jim Eagles

A friendly club, but don't visit when it blows from the west, writes Jim Eagles.

Commodore Keith Vial runs a sometimes yachtless yacht club. Photo / Jim Eagles
Commodore Keith Vial runs a sometimes yachtless yacht club. Photo / Jim Eagles

Have you ever heard the Slim Dusty song Pub With No Beer?

In 1957 it became the first Australian single to go gold and it does still play now and again.

Niue, I'm told, sometimes becomes the island with no beer when supplies for the Government Bond store arrive too late.

While I was there several locals passed on dire warnings that beer and wine was running low (but, fortunately, the drought didn't come to pass).

I was, however, able to visit a yacht club with no yachts.

The Niue Yacht Club was formed in 1991 and has its own commodore, these days retired New Zealand school principal Keith Vial, and a clubhouse in Mamata's Ice Cream Cafe Bar on the Alofi seafront, but no yachts.

There isn't a secure enough anchorage for a permanent yacht fleet.

"It's fine when the southeast trades are blowing," says Keith, "but when it comes from the west we tell them, 'Tonga is that way'." But the club was formed to cater for visiting yachties.

Most years 200 or so yachts, with 600-700 crew members, arrive at Alofi for stays of a few days.

The club gives out advance information about Niue via its website based in Charlotte, North Carolina, where it is run by a former Peace Corps worker of the island. It maintains 20 permanent moorings (available for $15 a day), meets visiting yachties on the wharf to steer them through customs and provides a friendly base while they're on the island.

The club also helps out when disaster strikes. When the 17m catamaran Anna was sunk by a freak gust of wind, and the crew of two arrived in Niue with nothing, locals rallied round.

"When they left, one was wearing a Niue Yacht Club poloshirt and the other had on a pair of wraparound shades and a Pacific Police Chiefs Conference shirt donated by our chief of police. He looked like he was in the FBI," recalls Keith.

CHECKLIST

* Getting there: Air New Zealand has a weekly service to Niue, which runs on Saturdays. Airfares start from $329 per person, one way from Auckland. See airnewzealand.co.nz

* Where to stay: The 22-room Matavai Resort is at matavai@niue.nu

* What to do: Niue Yacht Club is on the web at nyc.nu.

* Further information: See niueisland.com

Jim Eagles visited Niue with help from Air New Zealand and Niue Tourism.

- NZ Herald

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