In April 2000, husband and wife Neville and Catherine Hockley fell head-over-heels for the sailboat Dream Time in a Long Island parking lot. In June 2007, they packed up their stationary lives in New York and set sail for an eight- to ten-year adventure on the water.
Today, Dream Time is the couple's home and office as they sail around the world, working remotely to run a New York-based design studio while blogging about their journey and documenting the people and places they discover along the way.
The plan is a complete circumnavigation that will take the Hockleys across the Pacific to New Zealand and Australia, then up to southeast Asia and over to India. They intend to travel up the Red Sea to Cairo before exploring the Mediterranean, crossing the Atlantic and returning to New York City.
Before we set off on this grand adventure my geographical knowledge of these parts was pretty limited. The thousands of little dots on our world globe spread across the vast stretch of ocean between the Americas and Australia seemed too numerous to count, let alone memorize.
But the South Pacific has been our home now for six months, and while many of the tiny islands are still as foreign to me as, say a map of the New Jersey Turnpike to a Cook Islander, I am now at least a little more familiar with the eastern side of the Pacific and look forward to exploring her western islands.
Niue, the World's Smallest Nation Is a Giant Rock
Like Niue for example, an island that, up until just a few months ago I didn't even know existed. Which isn't terribly surprising I guess as it is, after-all, the world's smallest nation, sitting all alone in the world's largest ocean.
Affectionately referred to as "The Rock" by Niueans , Niue is, well just a giant rock, a slab of limestone coral to be exact, which rises up from the ocean depths to an altitude of barely 200 feet above sea level.
With no lagoon, outer islands, protective barrier reef or sandy beaches, Niue wouldn't even be on our radar if it wasn't for the fact that it just happens to sit directly in our path from Aitutaki to Tonga, and rumor has it the locals are among some of the friendliest in the Pacific, so it would be rude not to pop in and say hi.
Niue promises to be a unique port-of-call for Dream Time. With no sand or dirt run-off from the rocky island you can expect to have water visibility to over 150 feet.
The island is surrounded by a network of limestone caves, both in the water and out, diving is suppose to be spectacular, especially now the humpback whales are in season, and if that's not enough the entire island has free WiFi - I guess they figured that as they're the smallest nation in the world, isolated and hundreds of miles from their nearest neighbor, the very least they could do is offer their loyal residents free access to Google and Facebook.
So with only another 220 nautical miles to go, we're looking forward to raising our Niue courtesy flag, getting another stamp in our passport, exploring the world's smallest nation, meeting a few of the locals and, of course, downloading some more Podcasts to iTunes.
Arriving in Niue for a Relaxed Break
I had never even heard of Niue before we planned this trip so it was a great surprise to find this little independent coral limestone island not too changed from when Capt. Cook first came across it in 1774.
There is no surrounding coral lagoon, so not much protection from the seas for visiting boats, and as I write this we are pitching around like a cork in a swimming pool full of children, except that we are actually attached to a Niue Yacht Club (NYC) mooring!
There aren't many people on the island anymore (approx. 1,300) but all of them without exception, wave and smile as they go by.
Whales and their babies swim round the island playing and feeding in water with a staggering 200 ft. visibility, and most of the island is a swiss cheese of incredible caves and chasms for your own personal Indiana Jones adventures, so all in all a very cool place.
There is only one flight a week, which comes in from New Zealand bringing tourists and some supplies, but the main provisions come in on a supply ship which normally arrives every 5 weeks. But there has been some sort of mechanical problem requiring an obscure part from far away, and the ship and its much needed supplies is now an uncomfortable 3 weeks late, and horror of horrors, the beer has run out!
But the ship is rumored to be arriving in the next day or so, and even I'm getting a bit excited to see what treasures it shows up with. Despite the lack of beer, folks here seem pretty relaxed about the situation, but I guess you get used to life's predictable unpredictability when you live on a little rock in the middle of the Pacific.