Tonga 2014

August 22nd…..Catching up with a childhood friend

Craig and Ralph were childhood friends when growing up in Port Stephens. Their mums still keep in touch and discovered that their boys would be sailing back across the Pacific at the same time. Ralph departed from the Caribbean, we departed from Mexico and here they are in Tonga enjoying a cold beer and a beach potluck. Thanks mums! That's "Ankles" in the background. He has been on board with Ralph since Panama. Unfortunately they had some delays when their boat got struck by lightning and all of their electronics had to be replaced.

The sun goes down and we all hang out around the fire. True Blue V, Knot Tide Down, 2Dream & Kailani. The tide comes in and we all go home.

Spectacular views over the reef at low tide. Blow holes, rock pools, corals and lots of exploring to be done.

A beautiful blue starfish.

Now that is a rock pool.

A Tongan Feast…...There are 42 anchorages around Vava'u. The Sunsail Moorings Guide lists them all and has symbols to indicate Feasts/Snorkelling or Restaurants. We are at Moorings 11 and there is a Tongan Feast at 3 Little Birds Restaurant so we catch up with Lady Carolina, Exodus and Dreamweaver and all feast together. Some of the locals play their guitars under a big shady tree and enjoy a large tub of kava. We enjoy the feast, the locals, music and the kava. It is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The feast consisted of about 11 dishes including spit roast pig, a raw fish dish similar to poisson cru, octopus, clams, pasta, salad, curry vegetables, taro, roast beef wrapped in taro leaves, lamb wrapped in taro leaves, fruit salad. All you can eat.

After the feast we sat around enjoying music and kava

We are anchored away from the main moorings in front of a delightful island called Tapana. The beach looks ideal for a potluck and campfire so Craig and I go ashore to get permission from a local resident. She says it is no problem.

A good excuse for everyone to get off their boat for a while

The weather and the water are getting cooler now…..everyone is pulling out their long sleeve shirts and blankets.

Neiafu, Vava'u………This was a slow, bumpy passage with winds and swell from the SE. Because we had made a stopover in Niuatoputapu we now needed to head in a South direction which meant we were heading into the 25-30 knot winds and 2-3m swell. Instead of a downwind run and a 1 night passage we knew this was going to be a slow 2 night passage. We departed with 2 other sailing vessels Knot Tide Down and Kailani.

Safe arrival drinks with Knot Tide Down and Kailani at the Bounty Bar. L-R Tony, me, Craig, Carolyn, Steve and Bill.

In the background is Hemisphere which at 152 feet is the longest catamaran in the world. There are a few cool bars and restaurants around and it generally looks like a great place to hang out. There are also lots of anchorages close by, nice beaches and caves to explore as well as being a favourite place for the humpback whales to mate and have their young. I think we are going to like it here.

New Potatoes, New Potatoes, da da da da……..We departed Apia, Samoa at 5am with the intention of sailing through to Vava'u, Tonga. It would have been a 340mile voyage and the weather showed that we should expect 15knots wind from a S/E direction. Instead we got a consistent 25-30 knots with gusts in excess of 30 and no sign of abating. At 5pm we decided to alter course to stopover halfway at Niuatoputapu (affectionately known by cruisers as New Potatoes) a northern island in Tonga. We arrived at noon the next day.

A calm anchorage and a good nights sleep. There are lots of pigs on this island and we have been invited to a pig roast tomorrow night. Sorry piggy.

It was a 3km walk into town. We would have hitched a ride but no vehicles came along. This is the local bank where we exchanged cash. Next door is Immigration. A tsunami in 2009 wiped out alot of local buildings and homes. They were replaced with pre-fab constructions like these. There is no electricity on the island, only generators. The locals grow their own food and sell copra.

Here is Tony and Steve from S/V Knot Tied Down and Carolyn and Bill from S/V Kailani. As you can see they managed to hitch a ride and were pretty happy about it.

Looking towards Tafahi Island, an extinct volcano 9km north of Niutoputapu. 500 people live on the island and they produce some of the highest quality kava and vanilla in the South Pacific.

Carolyn, Craig, Vincent and Dominique at the Saturday afternoon pig roast.

Meeting the locals is always a highlight. Warm smiles and warm hearts. William has offered to take the men out 'lobstering' on the reef Monday night. Fresh lobster is guaranteed and we are all looking forward to that. Unfortunately we missed the opportunity to go lobstering because the weather said it was time to go.

Off to church…..a dinghy ride to the wharf and then a ride to church in the back of a pick up truck. Just like a local. What else are you going to do on a Sunday?

Everyone dresses up in their best clothes and attend church on Sundays. It is the one place you can always go and hang out with the locals whilst they sing their hearts out.

We hiked to the top of the mountain. It was tough going but we were rewarded with island and reef views and whales in the background. Yesterday we snorkelled just outside the reef and were impressed with some of the best coral we have seen since leaving Australia.

True Blue V 2016