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Tonga

New Zealand to Tonga crossing 8 - 15 May, 2005

Crew: Paul C, Ivo & Susan

On May 8th we leave for Tongatapu, the sourthernmost island of Tonga. This crossing took us 6,5 days which is good going, averaging 200 nm a day. Well we did have strong following winds! A low passed by very close to us, luckily passed to the South of us which meant good following winds for us. Winds of 45-50 knots for 36 hours.

Oh, and we had ‘forgotten’ the hydraulic oil back in Sydney that the auto pilot feeds on. So this was a crossing with hand steering only. Good practice says the captain. Never again says the crew and ask whether Ivo had ever heard of keelhauling, a particularly unpleasant punishment. We are in Captain Bligh country, it was in Tonga that the mutiny of the Bounty took place…. Well, Ivo did a good job of steering through the worst of the storm, 6 hours nonstop when the waves were huge and gusts of over 50 knots. The crew could not have handled that. One night during this weather Susan was nearly swept overboard during her watch. If she had not been wearing harness there is no doubt ishe would have gone overboard. Very frightening.

Eventually the storm passed and we were then in the tropics and the layers of clothes began to come off.

In the fishing department, Paul had brought a smoker so we smoked fish which was delicious. And then a greedy booby got caught on the fishing line and was exceedingly angry but Ivo managed eventually to free him!

Storm approaching

Ivo having fun

Wow!

Compass fixation

See, not looking at compass!

Just a peek at the compass, promise!

Sky clearing after storm

I think we'll practise Catch & Release

Tonga, May 15-30th, 2005

At last we arrive in Tongatapu at night and find a spot in the bay to anchor. Imagine our surprise and dismay when we look around in the morning and see only rusting shipwrecks everywhere! What the… Luckily Paul spots a little boat full of tourists disembarking on a small island nearby and off we go to investigate. It is Sunday and in Tonga there is a strict observance of religion so no activities are allowed on that day. Well, on the little island there is a bar, a nice little beach and some very friendly locals (Big Mama). We just love the place, and over the next few days keep coming back.  

Tongatapu, Southern group of  Tonga.

Nice break from sailing

That's what they said too when they hit the island!

Big Mama at home

After many beers: "let's adopt the cat"

Pangaimotu island bar

Picture perfect sunset

Traditional Tongan tapa skirt

Can we come sailing too?

Hapa'i Group, Middle Group of Tonga

Eventually we leave for Ha’apai & Vava’u group of islands further north in Tonga. The Ha’apai group is poorly charted so we are not comfortable with night sailing. We stop at a few places, first stop is Kelefesia island, which is sometimes inhabited but not while we where there. We then stop overnight in an unpleasant windy and reefy anchorage by Nomuka-iki island (how did we manage to not go aground?), and continue up to Haaefa island. There is a village here with lovely people, we are given fruit and vegetables, and visit their village which has about 500 inhabitants. Ivo & Paul go to the church service on the Sunday (hmmm, their singing would not win them first prize in any contest). After the service the priest invited them to have lunch with his family. To return the favor, Ivo invited them to visit us on FIU! Luckily Susan made pancakes that morning so we had something to offer them as well - kids enjoyed our pancakes! This was the first time for all of them to be on the yacht! There is catamaran anchored next to us and they kindly lend us a ‘hooker’ their compressor and hose so that Ivo and Paul can dive under the boat and clean it. After two hours of hard work & perspiring Fiu's bottom was finally clean and we gain at least a knot from a now clean bottom!

Kelefesia, 1 inhabitant

But they were not home that day...

Paul & Bruce

Chicken feeding on coconut

Lifuka, in the Hapa'i Group

Lifuka, a very remote place on Earth

Vava'u, Northern Group of Tonga

We had a great time here, but then we continued up to Lifuka for a brief visit before heading off to Vava’u. On Lifuka Paul and Ivo meet some other locals (the other end of the scale of Tongan society really) and had  a meal of barbecued pig with them. The week before a person had been shot on the beach. Such a contrast to the village life in Ha’apai.

After a night’s sailing we arrive in Vava’u and this turns out to be the best sailing grounds yet. It is still early in the season so not very many boats around although we heard that it gets very crowded later on. In Neifu we participated in the local Friday harbour race, and won (of course). Everyone we subsequently met were so pleased that we had won, they were fed up with the Mooring’s staff winning every week. So beer all round and a good evening at the Mermaid’s bar! Except Susan got food poisoning and was then sick for a couple of days.

Weather is now generally good, we are definitely in the tropics, and the sea is a beautiful colour. The boys go snorkeling where they can while Susan recovers from the bad food. The islands here are different to the rest of Tonga, quite abrupt granite rock with steep sides to them and very green and lush. Where we are able to anchor, of an island or a reef, the water is turquoise and the sandy beaches very white.

The area is also better charted and the Moorings Charter base has a small guide & chart of the area indicated safe anchorages. So less reef sniffing here.

All in all, visiting Tonga was a mixture of rusting shipwrecks, uncharted reefs, sudden appearance and disappearances of volcanic islands, lovely people, traditional lifestyles on remote islands, beautiful sailing grounds, we'll come back!

Fiu won the Friday harbour race in Neifu

Coconuts! Ivo bought them all

A nice dinner, but no lobster for Paul

Ivo in the kitchen?

Fiu in picturesque surroundings

 

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