Sandy greeted us early in the morning. He told us to go onto a certain heading and then he headed out to meet 5 other boats which had arrived overnight outside the reef. We thought he had forgotten us but all of a sudden he told us to go onto a different bearing (a good lesson in faith). We eventually ended up in the middle of the convoy. The last part of the circumnavigation was a very tricky dogleg. Sandy only guided 2 boats through at a time. As soon as we arrived the customs guys came on board. Warren plied them with Steinlager and they only charged us T$18 ($20NZ) but if you calculate the cost of the beer it would have been cheaper to pay full price. The Immigration/Agriculture people had been confiscating all fresh(?) fruit and vegetables so we had ours out ready. He looked at the potatoes and asked if we were intending to eat them on board. When we affirmed it he said 'well, you'll have to peel them and put the peelings in a plastic bag and then.....Well you'll have to peel them and put the peelings in a plastic bag and then...'. He had dug a hole for himself. If he said anymore he would have to take some responsibility and action as well. The potatoes tasted delicious. He did take 2 bags of garbage away with him.
We've got our own resident bommie (coral outcrop) - 2 feet under the keel.
The family were waiting on the shore for me. They had had a hair-raising trip out from Nuku'alofa on the motorboat with the customs guys smoking directly over the outboard fuel.
We ate at the restaurant $18 per head. Laura ordered then fell asleep so I had to help her out. Even in paradise some people require assistance.
Went for early morning swim and snorkel. The fleet has assembled so we all went for a walk through the local village and plantation. The gongs in the village are made from old oxyacetylene bottles. I hope they're empty because some are quite rusty. In the afternoon a group of us organised to go for a snorkel over the giant-clam beds. The longboat took off in the wrong direction so I asked Shaun, the boatman if we were going to the clams. 'Yes' he replied (meaning yes I'm listening, not yes, we're going to the clam beds). When we arrived at the reef he mumbled something about no anchor so he stepped barefoot onto the reef with a mooring line. Also muttered something about tide too low to go to the clams anyway. Still visibility underwater was awesome at 50-60 feet. I think I got some good photos. There was lots of staghorn coral.
There was a buffet dinner at the restaurant of traditional fare. I enjoyed the raw fish dish and cheesecake as well as ice-cream and sauce. The evening wound up with traditional dancing by the natives. I was too tired to really enjoy it though. Laura and Susannah were given some leis afterwards. The dancers cover themselves with oil so that the tourists can stick money to them while they dance. I found it goes against the grain of most Europeans who regard it as a form of begging. When you realise they only get about 68 cents an hour working in the restaurant though you realise they do need help. A good union negotiator might help raise their standard of living but they seem contented - or is that just resignation.
ICA Sports day. Joy, Laura and I played 9 holes of golf; 5 holes chipping up through the coconut palms and 4 coming back. Joy and I played tennis against our crew which we won comfortably then because it was so hot Joy threw the next game. We won 2 games of coconut bowls before bowing out. S and R won through to the finals..
We had the protests tonight. I got protested for keeping my riding light on when we came around the island in convoy. We protested DELPHIS OF WELLINGTON for contravening the spirit of the ICA by calling on the elephants (elements) when we sighted them and then we were becalmed while they sailed off into the sunset.
We also had the poems and stories incorporating all the boat names. Don and Sue, the crew off EPISODE won that. Their entry also had burnt edges around it along with the best story. I composed mine on the bottom of a Steinlager tray which should have won me some points.
Today Susannah, Warren and I finally got to the clam beds with 10 other folk. The weather was overcast and blustery. Shaun took us again. We enjoyed it for a few minutes but after looking at a giant clam from 6 different directions the next one looks somewhat similar. At teatime we had the pirate/shipwreck night along with prize giving. We got a large plastic platter, a wicker tray, and a hat along with the blue water certificates.
The finals for the coconut bowls was held and although our girls won the first 2 ends, unfortunately they went down 3 - 2. Many people said that they wished our girls had won because they were nicer.
Went to church. The Wesleyan church. The first church in the village was full so we went to the other one. All the service was in Tongan. One could almost understand the sermon because of the gestures and intonations. There was a long prayer with congregational responses which enabled the preacher to take a breath. There were two men up the front of the church, a little to the side - possibly elders. They must have been bad because a lot of the gestures during the service were aimed in their general direction. At the end of the prayer the congregation suddenly burst into song which gave me a fright.
Some of the crews were sporting hangovers and the loud singing was hard for them to take. The singing is almost shouting but their enthusiasm is infectious.
In the afternoon Susannah and Warren went for a snorkel. REALM was leaving for Nuku'alofa and was heading straight for them. Fortunately for Susannah and Warren it stopped before it reached them; unfortunately for REALM she stopped because she hit a bommie; fortunately for them I took a line from them to MATANGI who pulled them off Warren and Susannah dived down and saw that half the keel was firmly on the reef before she was pulled off. It was fun playing tugboat, rescuing the realm from the clutches of a small island. REALM backed off and were taking an alternative route which also led towards a bommie so we again redirected them to a safer passage.
I played Bennet at tennis until darkness overtook us.
We get the feeling that it's time we moved on.
Motored from Atata Island at 0930 hours. We were led through the reef by Sandy, this time on IMPETUOUS. OMEGA of WELLINGTON followed him and we were next. There is quite a dogleg in the middle of the channel and SEA SALTER who followed us cut the corner and ran onto the reef. Because the channel is so narrow we were unable to turn about to assist. Instead we radioed to Atata Island and they were sending out longboats to help. DELPHIS of WELLINGTON (hereinafter called DELPHIS) who were close behind SEA SALTER were also unable to assist. Fortunately they were able to reverse off under their own power with no apparent damage.
On arrival at Nuku'alofa we all moored stern to the embankment - Mediterranean style. All the crews assisted each other as there was a crosswind which made it difficult. We still needed a dinghy to get to the embankment which was made of rocks with concrete steps in it. Most of the boats rigged up a continuous pulley system. We just commandeered a dinghy which was across our stern. Its owners are taking the adjacent yacht to Auckland to sell. They are the European Union ambassadors to Tonga.
After lunch Joy, Laura and I took a taxi to town where we had a look around. Joy had given the taxi driver her ballpoint pen. I went to the New Zealand High Commissioners office to seek out an old family friend, Ian Hill, who is New Zealand's ambassador to Tonga. His secretary said he was unavailable but when I went outside I saw his car NZ1 parked there.
We did some grocery shopping on the way back to the boat. With heaps of groceries I took one big load and left it by REALM before returning to collect the remainder. Then I walked around the small boat harbour to our boat before returning in Plain Jane to pick up the groceries on the first trip and Joy and Laura on the second. I then took the main and the genoa over to the motor catamaran HAKULA. Her skipper is a sail maker - a New Zealander gone troppo.
The girls tried to shower in the toilet block Only one shower worked at a time so when the men's shower finally got going the girls all showered there - no nozzle, just a dribble from the pipe. Pretty primitive and filthy. The men's toilet didn't have a seat but at least there was toilet paper. Also the water seems to be turned off at irregular intervals for no apparent reason for indeterminate times. They charge us for the facilities too!!!
There was finger food and free drinks for the regatta personnel at the Billfish Bar, which is 400 metres from the boats. This is put on by the Tonga Visitors Bureau.. Around the walls are many bills from the piscatorial conquests around Tongatapu over many years - quite impressive. When I arrived there was a fax from my brother, Geoffrey.
A very full day but given the events of the next few days I should have eaten heaps more and drunk lots too.
We were going to have another day looking around the town but Joy met Edward the Tongan taxi driver who had brought them into Nuku'alofa from the airport so we hired him for a trip around the island of Tongatapu.
Edward is mentioned twice in the Lonely Planet book on Tonga.
We saw the Crown Prince's residence - a huge mansion with extensive grounds and an impressive driveway leading up to the house. A rather large ostentatious abode for a confirmed bachelor - with an eye for the ladies. He went to Kings College of Auckland with David Holland, owner of RAGNAROK moored next to us in Tauranga.
Across the road from this Stately Home is the less grand abode of the Princess. It is probably equivalent to a middle class home in Auckland. However it had big stone tigers guarding the padlocked gate. About 30 metres further along the road there is an open farm gate leading back to the house.
About a mile further along the road out of town was a humble house even by Tongan standards with a cannon in the front yard.
We visited Cook's landing, the burial mounds of the ancient kings with its massive stones brought by canoe 800 miles across the ocean; Ha'amonga the Tongan version of Stonehenge was next. Here Joy bought a necklace and bracelet T$5. They take a week to make according to the vendor. We then went to Edward's house so he could collect a torch. His home is about the size of the average NZ garage. He shares it with his wife and five children. With his torch and our two we visited some caves. Bennet, Andy (SANITY) and I had a swim in the deep clear fresh water at the back of the cave. The water was cool but not cold. We then travelled to the Southern coast where we saw one of the most awesome sights I have ever seen. All along the 12 miles of coastline are blowholes. The tide was full and the swell was 1.5-2 metres high. The spray was being flung 70 feet into the air. Apparently in a really big surge the view is nowhere near as spectacular as the water goes up to the next level of rocks on the shore.
The final site was the South Western peninsular which we had sailed around the previous week. Here the sight we were shown was the bats or flying foxes in the tops of the trees. Rebecca took a photograph of 3 young schoolgirls and they ran away giggling. On the way back to town we were shown a very rare sight - supposedly unique - a coconut palm which branched near the top. Back in town we drove past the Royal Palace with the flag flying. Joy, Laura and I had seen the King and Queen arrive yesterday with police escort and sirens and lights. The King's Palace has a small retaining wall cum fence out the back made of rusting corrugated iron. Then we drove past the Prime Minister's residence just as he was arriving home.
Total cost of the day - long trip was T$100 ($20 per adult)
When we arrived back at the boat we found the other yachties in an angry mood. In order to extend our visas it was going to cost T$26 per person and take one week. We felt aggrieved because three weeks visa had cost us nothing and we had not been told of the wait or the cost when we arrived at Atata Island. This is the first year that 3 month visas hadn't been issued to the members of the ICA on arrival in Tonga. There was certainly an awareness of deceit.
Bennet and Warren had spent the night in a motel prior to catching their flight home. As today is Bennet's birthday we all got up early to wish him a Happy 21st.
Joy had bought a bone carving off the taxi driver who had asked for the ball-point so we gave that to him. After farewelling all the returning crews we returned to the boat.
Late in the morning I started walking to town but a nice taxi driver came by and it was hot so I took a taxi ride instead -$2. I saw Ian Hill at his office and he said he would send his man around in the afternoon to arrange for us to go to his place for drinks. I then went to the Immigration Department underneath the Central Police Station. Only 1 out of 6 fluorescent lights in the corridor was working. Typical.
STUPID PALANGI. Anyone but a palangi would know that the Immigration Department closes for the day at 1230 on Wednesdays. For future reference they are also closed on Friday afternoons.
Ian himself arrived at the boat and invited us to a barbeque at their place. He would send a car for us at 7pm.
All the ICA had a council of war on EMOTION late afternoon to discuss visas. Some hot heads and some cool ones. Someone suggested calling David Hunt (Atata Island) who had offered to help if we ever got in trouble. He said he would contact immigration in the morning.
Ian himself arrived in NZ1 to pick us up. His surname is Hill and he lives on the only hill on Tongatapu. He said that he has had Tongans who have lived all their lives on the island who, when they ascend his hill, have been scared of falling off. We met Barbara, his wife, and their children. Laura played with Emma, their daughter. It was an enjoyable evening with some good experiences of Ian's to enjoy. At the conclusion of the evening he delivered us back to the boat. He said he would contact the Tonga Tourist Bureau regarding our visas.
Arrived at Immigration Department at 0930 hours when they opened. I was immediately sent to another counter where there was a man sitting behind a desk doing nothing. After a few minutes he gestured me to another counter where after several minutes a girl gave me 5 forms to be filled out by each crew member. I told her that all the crew were back at the boat harbour (2 miles away) and anyway some were too young to fill out forms. She reluctantly said I could fill them out. I asked if I could borrow a pen. She said 'NO'. So I went to a stationary shop where ball-points were T$1-50. I was charged only 40 cents, why I'm not sure. I filled out the forms and took them back to the girl. She charged me T$130 and when I proffered my bankcard she looked at me blankly... I went off to the bank to get the money. Upon eventual payment she gave me 5 receipts. I returned to the first counter where they took our passports and told me to come back on Monday morning. I told them I was leaving at first light tomorrow. 'When is that?' was the response. 'At dawn' I said... After a long pause I was told to return at 3pm today. At 2.55pm I was back to pick up our passports. I had asked for 6 month visas (because it costs so much to renew), I was given 5 months - but I won because we only need 2 1/2 months.
It is worthy to note that if you are changing money at the Bank of Tonga they convert it into Australian dollars then into Tongan so you pay 2 lots of conversion. However the ANZ bank converts it straight from NZ to Tongan dollars. The T$6 charge seems uniform.
This belligerent attitude continued amongst the bureaucrats throughout Tonga and does little to perpetuate the myth of 'The Friendly Isles'. Only one bureaucrat in the whole of Tonga was found to smile. The other feature which took some adjusting to was the shopkeepers' habit of glaring at you when there was change to be given. They would then slap the change down on their side of the counter. Again, in Tonga this was almost universal. The exceptions were refreshing. Obviously public relations do not feature highly within their tourist industry.
Spent the morning trying to find the Customs Clearing Officer on Queen Salote Wharf. When departing for one of the other groups of islands which comprise the Tongan group one must clear out and clear in at the next group - more on this later. The office at the gate sent me way down the end by the containers. The only office there appeared to be the Quarantine Office and as I didn't need to clear out from them I returned to the gate thinking they had misunderstood. They again sent me way down the back so I played their little game and asked at the Quarantine Office. They directed me behind some yellow containers to a tiny office. I could have spent all day looking for it. After clearing we had to leave within the hour. I had paid my port dues $30 the day before so all that remained was to fill up with water. Had also refuelled with diesel from a truck on the embankment. Took 60 litres. We kedged out on the anchor and adjacent buoys with the help of Andy (SANITY) and motored to the other side of the boat harbour where we tied alongside a fishing boat. We made a good approach second time. T$5 for as much water as we needed. Then we motored to Pangimotu Resort, several miles off the coast. Had a swim and lunch. There is a wreck on the SE corner of the island but no-one was game to go into it because it looked very dark inside. About 1500 hours we weighed anchor and motored along the shipping channel followed by DELPHIS. We found the channel markers confusing as did everyone else: some are not working, some are in the wrong place and some are non-existent. We deliberately left mid-afternoon so as to ensure arriving at our destination in daylight hours. We were heading towards a light on an island when DELPHIS went off on a different angle. Then a ship came from Nuku'alofa and followed them. Then a reef appeared between DELPHIS and us so I contacted them on Ch 6. They said they were about to contact us because they thought we were headed for a reefy area. I checked the chart and the GPS and found I was several miles from where I thought I was so we retraced our steps and put the sail up to give us maximum speed in order to be clear of the reef by dark. I think the error came by taking a misplaced channel marker as being correct.
Once clear of the reef we took the middle course to the Ha'apais. DELPHIS took the right hand lay line and SEA SALTER followed us. There was a NE change in the weather forecast but I thought it would not come for 20 hours by which time we should be there. It is only 60 miles so should only take 12 hours. The problem would be to slow down as we get closer to arrive in daylight. Under No.4 jib alone we made very good speed into the night. The wind speed increased from 18 to 26 knots. Our boat speed was 6.2 knots and we overhauled DELPHIS. SEA SALTER slipped behind. Once abeam DELPHIS and only 200 yards from them I decided to change down to the storm jib as the wind was 27 knots from dead ahead in the direction we wanted to go. All the family except Laura was seasick and miserable. I had made a bad call with the weather and they let me know. DELPHIS had been wandering all over the ocean with her wind vane steering and when we came abeam Steve adjusted the bungee cord on the wind vane. By the time Rebecca and I had changed to the storm jib DELPHIS was 1 1/2 miles ahead. He thought it was because he had altered his bungee. Our speed dropped from 6.2 to 2.6 knots.
During the night I had catnaps on the cockpit sole. Rebecca was too worried and sick to sleep but tended the others well by keeping their buckets empty. At one stage the boat lurched and she ended up with her foot in a bucket and it wasn't empty. I was not worried, just uncomfortable. She thought she was going to die but was determined not to die a wimp.
In the middle of the night we came across a boat going around in circles. It gave us an average speed of 2 knots. Although the wind had just gone over 30 knots the seas were 2 metres and quite close together. The wind had pushed us further W than we had wanted. We resorted to motor. We had hoped to pick up the light which is visible from 10 miles at night but it was not to be. Our destination was a volcano and the volcanoes I know are Mayor, White and Rangitoto. They rise hundreds of feet into the air and are visible from a considerable distance. When we were 8 miles from Nomuka Iki, Rebecca said to me 'Dad, what happens if when we get there it isn't really there?' Oh the insecurity of trusting in GPS. It makes one look over one's shoulder in case the island is there.
With 7 miles to go I sighted it right where it should be. With a swell now up to 3 metres on the nose it took a few hours to approach the island. The light stands on a small island which looks like a battleship from the seaward side. Just off the light we caught up with DELPHIS. I went up the rigging and guided us into an anchorage at the prison island. A marvellous place for a prison. Who wants to escape from paradise? We dropped anchor at midday in sheltered waters which were a beautiful turquoise, beckoning us to snorkel. However after 21 hours at sea we all had a sleep. It was for anchorages like this that I had wanted to come to these isles. When we went for a walk to stretch our legs in the evening there was the ubiquitous rubbish littering the shore and the clearing where there were several huts. An early night was on the cards as we still weren't feeling wonderful.
Went for a snorkel early in the morning. Joy was first in. DELPHIS and SEA SALTER were also in the bay. Jim, off SEA SALTER caught a crayfish. After breakfast we all went ashore to explore. There is only one track leading from the clearing so we followed it for several hundred metres. We came upon a plantation so we borrowed some coconuts, papayas (paw-paw is a rude word in Tonga) and some bananas. Stealing food is a very serious crime in Tonga so we only borrowed it. This was on a Sunday when people were in church back home.
We then walked along the beach to a wreck lying on the shore. It is also anchored to the shore. This is apparently to fulfil the law that says all wrecks must be secured. Jim told Laura he would give her 50 cents if she could catch one of the crabs running up the beach. Within 5 minutes she had caught one. She caught a few more to show how easy it was. They did look hard to catch though.
Today we spent doing the things I do best - viz. swim, snorkel, eat, sleep, snorkel....The fish are so colourful. I like the electric blue ones best.
Another full day in paradise.
Most of the fleet are here now. Today was a day like yesterday - really busy and full of tiring activities. There was a BBQ ashore tonight but a bit of a surge made going home a wet experience for me. It was tricky navigating through the reef by using masthead lights on the anchored boats alone as the sky was overcast.
A lazy morning on the boat. In the afternoon a few of us circumnavigated the island on foot. It probably took a couple of hours. It is amazing how many boat parts are just lying on the beaches and amongst the rocks.
Rebecca went for a sail on PERICON in the afternoon, arriving back just on sundown.
After breakfast we set off for Ha'afeva Island some 20 miles to windward (NNE). We took a long board out towards the volcanic cone of Kao and her squat neighbour, Tofua. It was around these parts that the mutiny of the BOUNTY took place. DELPHIS with her steel hull went close to Hakaufisi Reef but we stayed a more cautious 3/4 mile off. Just after we tacked in 13 knots towards Ha'afeva Island Steve came on the radio to alert us to whales leaping off our port quarter. We saw one tail waving in the air for a while then one whale leapt right out of the water.
Apart from that, the only noteworthy points were that we went on the E side of Teauba Island and Fetoa Island while the rest of the fleet went to the W. and just as we passed N of Russel Reef the fishing reel went off and Rebecca got very excited but unfortunately there was nothing on it by the time I got to the rod. We anchored to the E of Ha'afeva in 60 feet on a sandy bottom. This is our deepest anchorage so far. We had covered 29 miles on a 20 mile journey. It had been an enjoyable sail but a trifle long as the breeze was just under a good sailing strength.
Most of the people who live here are in dept to the storekeeper. If they have benzene they can go fishing and earn some money: no benzene; no fish; no money. I have the feeling that if you got them out of debt within a month they would all be back in debt again.
One of the potentially most dangerous incidents of the trip happened this evening when Laura who had been playing on the jib on the deck fell through the for'ard hatch. The good Lord was watching over her because Rebecca just happened to be walking underneath the hatch and Laura fell on top of her. Laura sported a sore knee for several days but her injuries could have been far worse.
Sandy (MATANGI) warned us of the islanders' nocturnal antics. The supply ship was due in tonight and there were outboards and shouting in abundance. I slept through it all. Apparently the supplies took about 3/4 hour to unload. They must have worked fast because there are 300 people on the island.
This island appears to be a Mormon stronghold and at 4am the bells (oxy-acetylene tanks) started ringing with the usual island vigour. As soon as one bell at one end of the village stopped being beaten to death another one at the other end of the village would start complaining. Sometimes 2 or more would be beaten at the same time. They obviously haven't read Proverbs 27:14. A most unholy din. The Mormons have got a lot to answer for. Also the incongruity of the splendour of their white floodlit buildings contrasted with the squalor of the native structures. I noticed the other church building was more equitable. Why do the Mormons always have the tennis court on their compound?
Rebecca's hormones are coming into play. There are 5 eligible young men and only 2 eligible girls in the fleet. The young lad in the picture is Andy Marshall(SANITY)
We all went ashore and had a walk through the village. The inhabitants include horses, goats, chooks, dogs and pigs. Someone had booked us to visit the local school but when we arrived they weren't ready so we walked across the island to where they are building a new wharf. No safety helmets or safety goggles but they all had steel-capped boots. The welder did have a welding visor though. We returned to the school where we were entertained by songs, some with actions and some without. In reply we sang our National Anthem and Old McDonald had a farm. Yvonne (SANITY) then sang them a song about a wiggly fish. Sandy (MATANGI) recited a poem and made the greetings and farewell speeches.
After lunch we all shifted our boats to the other side of the island for better protection. The anchorage was in 15-20 feet. There was a bit of a roll though.
I was expecting ELYXIR any day, so when I sighted a sail on the horizon I called them up on the VHF. However it was Sandy from Atata on IMPETUOUS. He had a boatload of beauties including Elle Macpherson on the way to a photo shoot up north. He is normally fairly taciturn but must have been starved for male company because he kept starting up the conversation again every time I signed off.
The guys practised the haka before walking back to the village to take up the challenge of a game of touch. Rebecca played too and it was comical to watch the locals' reaction to her. They didn't know where to touch her so just ran alongside waving to her. I played a little too. Not sure who won but it was fun. Laura and I walked back across the island and were given some citrus fruit by a lady and a young girl. We were both startled by a horse hidden behind some tall grass.
The boys from PERICON took me out to the wreck of the EKIAKI to snorkel. Every reef seems to have its resident wreck. It certainly cautions one in respect for the sea. This dive was very disappointing with very little in the way of fish life. We all returned to RUBEN JANE for morning tea while a squall went over. We then raised anchor along with PERICON and SANITY and motored S out of the bay in 18-20 knots which quickly became 25-30 knots SE. BARNSTORM went N through a gap in the reef. We were all bound for Uoleva Island which The Lonely Planet describes as the best beach in Tonga.
The main hazard to avoid is Lord Shoal and we motored into the SE chop. Once around that it would have been plain sailing on 045°M apart from being one crewmember short as Rebecca had gone on SANITY. We had the drifter hanked on which would not tolerate 30 knots. It was an uncomfortable 2 1/2 hours motoring with frequent squalls whipping up a 4 foot short sea on the starboard quarter. Finally the wind dropped to 20 knots so I hauled up the drifter and our speed rose to 7 knots (7.6 max). We were quickly overhauling SANITY but eventually ran out of time. PERICON with full main and No.3 up got to 11.8 knots. We anchored in the SW bay on Uoleva and found that it certainly is a beautiful bay with good anchorage on sand sheltered from N through to SE. As we arrived we heard the cheers of the Canterbury supporters (mainly SANITY) as they beat Auckland in the Super 12 final.
The Lonely Planet says that there are wild pigs ashore and Steve (DELPHIS) is keen to get some pork with his crossbow.
Joy, Laura and I went for a walk along the beach then back through the undergrowth looking for the well. We found it at the back of the backpacker’s hostel. Sonny, the custodian, was giving water to the pigs when we arrived. We asked if we could have water for our boat and he said yes. He also said all the pigs on the island belonged to him so we told Steve before he went hunting.
The young folk played the first half of a game of touch on the soft sand. At half time they all jumped in the sea to cool off (26°C). They stayed in so long they forgot to play the second half.
We spent the day on the beach then went to OMEGA OF WELLINGTON for a bread party. Grant had cooked a loaf so we helped him eat it.
I interrupted John's sked tonight when I heard PACIFIC PROPHECY trying to contact him. There seemed quite a bit of tension in the lady's voice. I needed a relay from SUNSET QUEST to make myself understood and then another relay was needed to get their message to John. They were returning to Cape Brett with a broken boom vang. Also 5 of the 6 crew were seasick so I felt the interruption was warranted.
Got up. Spent the day on the beach. Went to bed. Well we all had a BBQ on the beach with a beautiful sunset silhouetting the boats. Raced back to the boats when a rain shower came through. It was only short-lived.
It was about this stage that some of the skippers started to make moving-on noises because the good weather was going to come to an end sometime. For crying out loud - here we are in paradise and already people are discontented.
Spent a lazy morning on the boat catching up with writing letters and diaries. Also repaired the GPS by taking the batteries out and spraying the terminals and the buttons on the face with electronic CRC which I borrowed from Grant (OMEGA OF WELLINGTON).
In the afternoon Laura and I went to Jackson's 4th birthday party on OMEGA OF WELLINGTON. Late in the afternoon Joy, Laura and I went for a swim off the boat but didn't stay in long as it was so cold (26°C) Otherwise it was a relaxing day.
Tonight, on John's sked we heard a boat half way from New Zealand to Fiji with a very frightened crew. They had been followed all day by a (? ) fishing boat which would not respond to radio calls. Every time they turned one way the other boat would do likewise; when they turned the other way the other boat would follow. The yacht was obviously afraid of pirates. They asked for an hourly sked but after several hours cancelled it as the other vessel had turned and disappeared over the horizon. We realise there are pirates over near Indonesia but this is a little close to home. It is scary when the nearest vessel is over 70 miles away.
Motored to Pangai which is the main town in the Ha'apai group. It was about 5 miles. We had as passengers: Steve and Claire (DELPHIS), Debbie (OMEGA OF WELLINGTON), and Wendy (ADVENTURER).
We had some discussion on the way as to which marker was the correct one to go around on the entrance to Pangai Harbour. There was a cube of concrete on the end of one reef and a green light with a red piece of paint about the same size underneath it on the other side of the channel. We went around the green one keeping it to starboard. The entrance is very narrow but the harbour is relatively wide. Anchored in a squall - guess who was on the foredeck?BARNSTORM, EMOTION and SANITY had preceded us. They continued N at the end of the day.
Spent a few hours in and around the town. It is a very dirty place - more so than Nuku'alofa. There are plenty of rubbish bins but there is only minimal rubbish in them and heaps of litter within 3 metres of them. Obviously their motto is 'at it not in it'. The locals have everything they need.
We all went to the Police Station to clear in. It is just like a 10 minute form. Steve threatened to put Laura in jail and the policeman grinned. He is the first official I have seen in Tonga who looked happy. For a population of 8000 people there are at least 4 policemen, one car, one motorbike and one launch. Most people who are in prison are there for driving too fast and killing pigs that wander on the road. They are not allowed to escape but they are permitted to have visitors so almost every night there is a party in the prison.
We also went to the post office to send letters home. I then went a country mile down the road to the hospital to check it out. Spoke to the senior medical man for a few minutes. Their emergency department is a name only. In it they have oxygen. I forgot to ask whether it is bottled or piped. They have a female ward, an obstetric ward and a male ward. I also forgot to ask about paediatrics. On the way back to town I was overtaken by 2 Tongans also on foot. I have slowed down to their pace.
Just as I was hopping into PLAIN JANE to return to the mother ship a young lady from the wharf asked me to fill in a form with one line, giving boat details. The preceding page had ELYXIR on it. I thought we were getting close to their trail until I read the date - 31/10/97. According to the book, only 6 yachts have called here since October. I think that it is more likely to be sloppy bookkeeping especially seeing there didn't appear to be many entries before that.
On the return trip to Uoleva after exiting the reef we raised the drifter and in 20 knots from the starboard quarter we made good time until we rounded the reef off the mouth of the bay. We were accompanied by dolphins for part of the way. These are the first we have seen on the voyage so far. Also we heard Roy (BARNSTORM) on the VHF advising Tony (SANITY) how to trim his sails so for the next few days we all asked one another how we should trim our sails. It is a little surprising to hear someone telling another boat how to sail. It is made more poignant when you realise that BARNSTORM had hit a bommie whilst leaving the anchorage this morning.
Steve and Claire came for tea and we spent a pleasant evening.
The outboard hasn't been working since Pangai so Laura and I rowed ashore, burnt the rubbish and repaired the outboard. I think it was the float in the carburettor sticking. I took the cover off it, hit the barrel hard, shook the whole motor and put it back together losing 2 spring washers in the sand in the process.
After lunch Rebecca had a sleep, Laura came and played on the sand while Joy, Susannah and I went snorkelling with Murray and Donna (EPISODE) and Steve and Claire. Saw some amazingly coloured fish but the coral was disappointing. Joy found a big anchor in the sand but it was too big for our use so we just photographed it.
I cooked tea (pancakes). After tea Rebecca, Susannah and I went over to DELPHIS and saw a promotional video of Steve's car racing career as well as 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels'. It's bizarre to have modcons like videos in a setting like this.
Rebecca and I went to the backpackers resort to do the washing. It involved drawing water from the well, then washing and rinsing the clothes in tubs. Flies around the feet made it uncomfortable. George, a Czech refugee domiciled in Canada, came for a long chat. He was a retired engineer. If he can't get a ride with Sonny I offered him a ride to Pangai with us tomorrow. Mid-afternoon Joy and I went for a walk along the beach. We startled some large calves. I went back and picked up the girls and we all went snorkelling. All went well until a local boat came along and dropped some of the crew from ORKA (another boat anchored in the bay) on the beach. Laura thought it was a shark so she swam quickly towards shore. We were all pretty cold by this time so we headed back to the boat where we had a quiet evening.
EPISODE and DELPHIS left this morning for Foa Island. On the way Donna (EPISODE) asked Kevan (ADVENTURER) if it was all right if they pulled in their main.
The wind got up in the night and this morning HORNPIPE, an American boat which had summered over in Tauranga Bridge Marina came into the bay. Laura and I went ashore to burn the rubbish then we went to see them. They had had 35 knots gusting 38 overnight.
George must have got a ride because he wasn't on the beach at 1000 hours when we departed. In blustery conditions we motored to Pangai taking 2 hours to make the 5 mile trip. No dolphins appeared like they had on the previous trip.
Laura and I went into town to see if Ian and Barbara Hill were there but apparently they were at Foa Island which is connected to the northern part of the island that Pangai is on by a narrow sandy isthmus. They were at the Sandy Bay Resort.
We did look up Ofa Fakahau, chief fisheries inspector for the Ha'apais. His name had been given to us by Bob Ealam (TAISIA). I have Bob's trysail. Bob and Ngaire, his wife had met him in the Vava'u’s last October. Ofa is an adopted son of Ian and Edna Graham (NZ). He chatted to us for an hour or so while his wife went and bought us all a bottle of coke each. He is looking for a second hand SSB. I must contact John Billinghurst about it when we reach the Vava'u's. We then went to visit the Reverend Shirley Baker's grave. He was an early missionary and political figure in Tonga including being their first Prime Minister. I took a photo of his statue which probably pleased him very much. In preparation for this trip I had done some extensive reading but only recently did I realise that he was a male.
When we eventually returned to the boat Rebecca and I went back to the wharf in choppy seas to get rid of some rubbish and to get some water from the unlocked tank on the wharf. Joy was baking her second lot of bread in 2 days. We found an Australian yachtie on the wharf and chatted for a while. He is awaiting boat parts from New Zealand. Earlier, on the way in to shore Laura and I had spoken to an American skipper and his wife. He had seen RUBEN JANE in Auckland. He said we could stay inside the breakwater but as our anchor was down firmly and holding and we are only staying overnight we stayed put. Besides which even where we were anchored we could smell the town and it was not very pleasant.
During the evening sked I was talking to DELPHIS on the VHF who are at Foa Island when OMEGA came on the SSB to say that they had arrived in the Vava’u’s after a terrible trip with confused seas and winds to 35 knots. Apparently everyone else so far has had a rough trip from the Ha'apais to the Vava’u’s. We had a very uncomfortable night with the wind blowing strongly and the warp creaking on the bollard. During the evening I played with the GPS putting in waypoints. At about this stage Joy started getting worried about the next stage of our trip after hearing of others experiences.
Motored from Pangai to Foa Island in very gusty conditions. Again the wind was on the nose most of the way 18-28 knots. It is quite a long trek out of Pangai Harbour heading N and navigation was not helped by one of the channel markers being AWOL! I was up the mast and we had deep water all through the channel which was fairly obvious. Off the causeway between Lifuka Island and Foa Island the depth sounder started giving bizarre readings. We eventually concluded that it was caused by water turbulence as our charted position gave us deep water. Coming in the entrance by the village of Faleloa the rain came in again. Fortunately I saw it coming so I had my rain gear on but with wind and driving rain in the face it certainly made it difficult to see bommies with the Polaroid’s on. We anchored in a very sandy area but when we came to rest we had the anchor of DELPHIS under our keel. Later Murray (EPISODE) dived and checked all the anchors (he had dragged last night). Ours was firmly embedded but he made it more so. We spent the rest of the day relaxing on board.
Spent another lazy morning on the boat then collected everyone's rubbish and went ashore to burn it. DELPHIS and EPISODE are here too. Then Joy, Susannah and I went for a snorkel. I spied a blue, black and white fish. Rebecca brought me the camera so I could photograph it. Very difficult because it was very flat and whenever I approached it would turn to face me and instead of brilliant colours I would get a thin blue strip. Hope a good shot eventuates. Also photographed 3 mushroom shaped pieces of coral-blue, yellow and pink, in the same shot.
Andy called from BARNSTORM (in Vava'u's) on the evening sked. They were visiting from SANITY.
Joy and I walked around the N tip of Foa Island to check on the swell. The sea and the wind appear to be decreasing. There is still a wind warning out for all of Tonga. We all went aboard EPISODE for morning tea with Murray and Donna.
I snorkelled over several bommies this afternoon but found them fairly boring; even one I had previously investigated but it didn't have the exciting colours of coral or the abundance of fish life it had 2 days ago. The sky has been overcast and the weather is not conducive to doing much outdoors.
Some natives in a boat stopped by on their way to Ha'ano Island and gave us some mangoes and limes. We had been laughing at the way they go to town with the pigs in a cage on their boats. We took a photo of them before they came to us. We were a little embarrassed at their kindness and we felt a little guilty about our earlier mirth.
Well its 10am NZ time (11am Tonga). The sea temperature is 26°C and my fingers are all wrinkled from being so long in the water. No, that's not sea water; it's dishwater. I have just done a ginormous load of dishes and cleaned the stove. Joy baked some more bread yesterday using a new recipe she got from Donna. Rebecca cooked tea so there were a lot of dishes from that. Then they had the gall to say I hadn't cleaned them properly. I only dirtied a few.
Motored off our anchorage heading for Ha'ano Island just a bull's roar N.
Joy did a good job on the helm as we had only limited turning room with DELPHIS, EPISODE, a bommie and a reef as well as an awkward wind to contend with. Motoring S parallel with the shore inside the reef was no problem but going out through the marked channel was difficult with the glare of the sun on the water. I was up in the rigging. The girls gave Joy a scare when they said we were heading for rocks close to the surface in the channel. The clarity of the water made 50 feet look very shallow - AWESOME!
Our GPS sailplane is up and running so after the first waypoint we raised the main to test the conditions for the night. In 18 knots NE with a sharp chop we made 4 knots towards Ha'ano Island. The purpose of going to Ha'ano is to give us an anchorage we can leave in the dark as we intend leaving for the Vava’u’s tonight and trying to get out through the reef passage at Foa in the dark would be folly.
Dropped the main and motored in to our anchorage off the mushroom rock. The cruising guide is particularly unhelpful at this anchorage. The narrow channel in by the mushroom rock is particularly narrow; the off-lying rocks to the S don't appear to exist; There is a reef on the N side which is poorly charted.
Our final approach was done with me up in the rigging again. I see a pattern forming here. When I called for volunteers nobody else seemed keen to go aloft. In the sunlight all the salient features were readily identified. We anchored after the water shallowed to 26 feet, then went to 36 feet and we came to rest in 30 feet. However our chain snagged a bommie. This made the anchorage secure but as we were leaving in darkness I did not relish the prospect of going down for a nocturnal sortie to free it. Our second attempt was more successful.
Joy and I took PLAIN JANE ashore and snorkelled off the beach. It was very shallow for some distance offshore. I was concerned that I would graze my chest. Don’t know how Joy managed. The snorkelling was the best I'd seen with some big drop-offs. I was impressed by some fish which could swim along and then hang motionless. By the time we got cold the tide had come in a few inches so it was easier getting back to the beach.
Contacted John Goater to advise him of our plans. Had an early night. Slept soundly for 3 hours although apparently the chain was rubbing over coral on the seabed.
When I awoke at 2230 hours the full moon was coming up behind the palm trees. It made a beautiful sight and we should have taken a photo of it. It's a long way to go back for another shot. We could see the bottom clearly in the moonlight at 35-40 feet. Kept a good lookout as we motored out on a compass course of 200°M. Once we were in deep water it was quite eerie almost expecting to see some bommies although the chart said there were no dangers. Joy says that if we have another rough trip she's flying home, so the pressure is on to make a good call. EPISODE and DELPHIS are going to follow us tomorrow. After 5 minutes we were clear of the reef but I motored for another 10 minutes on the same course for safety's sake. Raised the sails and turned on to our next waypoint off the N tip of Ha'ano Island. When we were abeam the light I called DELPHIS as arranged to inform them of the sea conditions. There was a metre NE swell and the breeze was 14-18 knots also NE. We passed our waypoint and turned to 358°C for our next waypoint over 50 miles away just S of the Vava’u’s. The plan was for Rebecca to take the helm for a couple of hours. However we came out from behind the protection of the reef which extends 1/2 mile N of the island. The wind increased to 22 knots and the swell got up to a full 2 metres with a short distance between peaks. For the next 1/2 hour it was uncomfortable. I had one reef in the main and the No.4 up. I shook the reef out of the main because the boom was banging on the bimini. By this time Rebecca had gone below and Susannah was in the cockpit. We had the auto helm on. Joy asked to go back but it was too dangerous to navigate around the reefs in the dark so we continued.
The wind decreased and stayed 14-20 knots for the remainder of the trip. Also the swell, which was just forward of the beam, became more regular and comfortable. After several hours Joy went below to sleep and I stayed in the cockpit enjoying the sailing. The full moon lent a sparkle to the sea. It looked good to see the swells marching off in the moonlight. I sang. The rest of the family told me later that they had heard me. All my family say that I'm so good at singing that I should be on TV - then they could turn me off. About 0400 hours I called Rebecca on watch and went below for a sleep after giving instructions to call me in an hour or earlier if necessary. When I emerged 1 1/2 hours later Joy was at the helm and Rebecca was dozing below. Our speed was constantly over 6 knots. Susannah joined me as Joy retired and we watched the sunrise which was only moderately spectacular. An hour later Susannah said she thought she could see land. I deliberately had not looked so that she would be the first to see it and when I did look it was plain on the horizon. She said it reminded her of McDonalds because the twin peaks looked like the Golden Arches. The waypoint was passed at 0900 hours. The next one was at the N end of the Pulepulekai Passage but as we approached it an island got in the way. We have cross-referenced our position and the island is S of its charted position. We altered course towards our next waypoint and were then hailed by ADVENTURER who led us to our destination at Anchorage 8. In the Vava’u’s they have a lovely system of identifying most of the anchorages - by numbering them. I think this is to avoid any confusion with local names by the charter boat fleets. The voyage had taken a shade over 11 hours (I had predicted 10). We had also chosen the best weather window of the ICA boats - the boats from Foa Island got hammered the next day with 35-40 knot winds. The purpose of leaving during the night is to ensure ease of landfall in a strange place during daylight hours. We arrived before midday. Rebecca immediately swam over to SANITY. Tony and Yvonne invited Susannah and Laura to accompany them to an adjacent island where a lot of the fleet were having a lesson on sextant use given by Grant (OMEGA). Joy and I had some time to ourselves as we hadn't had much sleep during the night. When the children came back I was fast asleep. They said a film crew had arrived with some models to have a photo session. One of the models was topless and apparently flaunted herself near the sextant class. So much for searching for heavenly bodies. Late in the afternoon ROYAL EAGLE, a private cruise ship arrived in the anchorage for the night. It looked magnificent all lit up. I hear that people are often judged by the company they keep. Another early night disturbed only by Rebecca arriving home at 2300 hours.
A lazy morning awaiting the arrival of DELPHIS and EPISODE from Foa Island. They arrived just before we departed for Neiafu. They had been hammered by the weather with winds of 35-40 knots. They were all tired and in need of a rest.
We motored to Neiafu. On the way I contacted Mark at Sunsail Charters (Ch 71) to ask for some water and a mooring. He said to get water we would have to arrive by 1300 hours. We got there with 5 minutes to spare. Water cost $5 and an overnight mooring cost $5. The system seems to be that both Sunsail and The Moorings moorings are free until 1600 hours when one must arrange for an overnight tenure, or anchor in the harbour which is very deep. The mooring we were directed to was for a catamaran so it had 2 mooring lines. ROYAL EAGLE came and anchored beside us. We took a photo of her flanked by 2 square riggers. The one by her stern was the SOREN LARSEN. The other is an American flagged vessel.
We hastened in to town where I changed some money at the ANZ bank. I bought some groceries then we went to the Bounty Bar for a hamburger $5 and coke. Laura had an ice cream and drink. Amesia (the office girl from Atata Island) is now managing it. We also met 2 girls from ROYAL EAGLE. They told us they had out about 500 feet of chain so to beware in case they swung and hit us during the night. I said it would be no problem as I would sue the owner for everything he had as I was on a mooring so I had the law on my side.
I told Amesia that I had been into 5 shops looking for a machete and had even described it in words and actions. I had been surprised that no-one had any. She said I should ask for a hele (long knife). We then wandered back to Ana's Cafe. This place has jetties around it and is the local watering hole for the cruising community. Joy and Laura stayed here while I took Susannah back to the yacht along with the groceries. While we were there the weekly Friday night fun yacht race got under way just along from us. PERICON just missed us. They later touched BARNSTORM knocking off their $450 barbeque. BARNSTORM also ripped their kevlar mainsail so it was a fairly expensive time. It reinforced my reluctance to race. The winner gets a $20 prize with 2-3 other prizes being drawn from a hat. PERICON with Rebecca on board, won the race which is up and down the harbour. By the time I returned to Ana's, Gordon (SEASALTER) was getting ready to blow the finish hooter. This is a trumpet-like contraption. He has less breath than anyone else in the fleet. He can only walk 100 metres at a stretch. We had a drink then went back to the boat. Andy (SANITY) came over and we all chatted for several hours.
True to the Lonely Planet book, Neiafu is a noisy place. Until 2am there was a noise from ROYAL EAGLE, Ana's cafe and a 1000 voice choir who are practising for the king's birthday (July 4th, in Tongatapu). Dogs added accompaniment. When the singing stopped the roosters started. There is a market from midnight till 1100 hours in Neiafu on Saturdays. Apparently one needs to be early for bargains so at daybreak we all went ashore to check out the markets. We bought some fruit and vegetables. Greens are scarce in Tonga. I then asked at several shops for a hele. The second shop was the supermarket where I asked the same girl I had asked yesterday. 'Over there' she pointed to a bin 20 feet from her. There were half a dozen machetes. Five had $10.50 on them and 1 had $11. Won't tell you which one I bought. We also purchased $125 worth of groceries. The store owner offered us a lift back to Ana's with the groceries. We now feel like genuine Tongans because we all sat on the back of the ute. Susannah, Rebecca and I took the groceries out to the mother ship. Then we all had showers. Sailed off the mooring under the drifter and returned to Anchorage No 8 making good time with just the drifter up - 6.2 knots in 22 knots of breeze. Motored the last half mile directly upwind. Joy and I were invited for drinks at SANITY where we were joined by the crews from EMOTION and BARNSTORM. When we returned Steve and Claire were on board so we had some more fun. Very calm night.
A quiet morning but after lunch we took the crews of EMOTION, BARNSTORM, DELPHIS and SANITY to Swallows Cave. Absolutely awesome colours - I hope the photos turn out. At the entrance to the cave the cliff disappears straight down for 200 feet. Inside the cave the bottom is visible in 60-70 feet. I dived down 30 or so feet and the bottom appeared just as far away as when I was on the surface. From the surface the bottom looked close enough to touch. We clambered up a narrow chute to an overhead entrance. The view from there was fantastic with the turquoise water and yellow, cream and white coloured limestone walls. Probably the best sight since the blowholes on Tongatapu. There have been many good sights including the bay in Nomuka Iki, and the beach at Uoleva but this is wonderful. At the entrance there is a rock which when struck by an oar sounds like a drum but we didn't know that so didn't hit it. When we returned to Anchorage 8 the SOREN LARSEN was anchored there so we went aboard and were given a guided tour by the skipper. There was a barbeque tea on EMOTION and everyone attended except Joy, who isn't feeling well.
Ordered some meat from the Bounty Bar over the local morning sked. It's due from Nuku'alofa on Wednesday (when is Wednesday?). Motored over to Anchorage 11 towing a lure without success. The PERICON boys went out to the open sea and hooked a mahi-mahi, a marlin and landed a yellow fin tuna. The mahi-mahi was lost at the boat and the marlin was lost 10 metres from the boat after an hour and a half fight. Apparently it was BIG.
The rest of the family went to see an abandoned Spanish restaurant. It was abandoned 2 years ago. The tables are still set. Apparently there was a dispute over the rent rise.
I tried to install the fan but found the wire too short. Another still night with a starry sky.
Susannah's birthday. She's a teenager now. Birthday greetings came on the morning sked from Claire on DELPHIS. There is a letter for us at Sunsail which they are going to collect. Birthday greetings also from BARNSTORM; a card from SANITY and one from Andy. PERICON also radioed birthday greetings then later fronted up with some freshly baked scones. I spent most of the day installing the fan with some wire from EMOTION. I misunderstood and used more wire than I should have. Sorry, Brian. The fan works which has won me some Brownie points from Joy. At night we went to Ana's Beach for the Tongan feast - $20 per person. No pork but some New Zealand lamb. Very traditional! The food was very tasty and very plentiful. I started at one end and the family, and Andy, started at the other end. I won! Their teamwork let them down. They didn't eat all at their end. Still, I did my best. The Tongan dancing that followed was tolerable. I still find that sticking paper money to oiled bodies is akin to participating in and encouraging begging. The cutest children are pushed to the front and once money is placed on them they are quickly whisked out the back, the money removed and the trap reset. The people in Vava'u are much happier than those in the rest of Tonga. This is definitely the Friendly Isles. This is unusual as it is also a more highly developed tourist destination. On the way back to Anchorage 11 in PLAIN JANE we saw some phosphorescence. The anchorage is very well protected.
The snorkelling at Anchorage 11 is not worth seeing. The noteworthy feature was a yellow fish with black stripes which has taken up residence under our stern. When I go swimming it stays about 2 metres away but when Joy gets in it swims along quite happily about 6 inches from her chest. The sexual discrimination in Tonga exists amongst the fish. The water is only 26°C. Back home only the bath water gets this warm but up here it raises goose bumps sometimes.
Laura took me to the Tapana Island Restaurant and Resort where the family had been 2 days ago. Apparently the father had died and the son had lost interest in it. There are several stories floating around and all avenues are being extended. The whole setup is quite remarkable really, like a time warp with dishes still in the draining rack and magazines waiting to be read. We had a swim with Laura swimming to ADVENTURER and then snorkelling back.
We motor sailed to Anchorage 16. On the way we found our GPS is malfunctioning again. It is about 6 miles so we followed SANITY which made it easier dodging reefs. Again no success with the trolling line. As we turned the last corner into the anchorage we saw the shape of a (rock) dragon silhouetted on an islet. We sailed past Glen and Maryanne on HORNPIPE. They had only arrived there a short time beforehand. Took 2 attempts at anchoring. The anchor wouldn't hold with the first one and with the second we were a little closer to the rocks than I feel really comfortable with but we are holding really well. We have tried reversing on the anchor as we normally do but this time we have done it three times and the anchor is not budging. I dived on the anchor but the visibility is very poor here - the worst we've seen since Pangai. There is a slight roll coming into the bay.
I went ashore (very shallow from the end of the jetty) to buy some bread. It was a 10 minute walk up through the trees to the bakery and restaurant. Had a chat to the bakery owner before Kevan and Wendy arrived followed 5 minutes later by Tony and Yvonne. The view through the trees (with large spiders in their webs) out over the water was worth the walk. An interesting phenomenon is watching the swells roll in every 20 seconds or so and swells (technically seas) every 3-4 seconds coming from the island beneath us. There was only a little wind so there must be some unseen current generating them. In another month the whales will be frolicking out there close to land. I ordered some bread, to be picked up in the morning.
Joy, Rebecca and Susannah went ashore for the bread and while they were gone Glen from HORNPIPE came on board. We spent a pleasant hour before he departed. We then weighed anchor and motored for an hour directly upwind to Port Maurelle, the freezer switch had not been on so we had to run the engine for another hour to freeze the produce.
The evening was spent in enjoyable discourse with Steve and Claire.
Went snorkelling by myself. The visibility was good and the fish life interesting but the water is still only 26°C. Weighed anchor with Rebecca at the helm and raised the drifter. Passed by an American flagged vessel COEUR DE LION going our way under power just off Swallows Cave. It was a tight reach in gusty conditions all the way up the channel. We dropped the drifter off Port of Refuge. I tried to arrange a mooring but there were none available so we anchored on the shelf just under the Princess' Palace. Even here there are the ubiquitous chooks and pigs. We can also hear either doves or pigeons. The anchorage doesn't feel very secure but nobody drifts very far. The chain rattles on the coral overnight. Steve called on ADVENTURER and forgot to tie his dinghy on but 1/2 hour later it was still floating by the boat. Even dinghies get lazy in paradise. The shelf slopes so dramatically that although the depth sounder shows 20 feet one day later the rudder just touched a small bommie (probably 2 feet down). The tidal range is only 4 feet.
I ambled into town to get some money and post some letters but when I was almost there I realised that I didn't have my passport. Rather than row back I walked along to the Paradise Hotel and down through their grounds to Beluga Diving where I whistled to RUBEN JANE and Rebecca delivered my passport. I then walked back into town where I withdrew some money from the ANZ bank and posted the letters. The post boxes are in the wall of the post office but they have a board over most of the slot - unpainted, of course. It's unclear whether they are for use or are obsolete and the new ones are around a corner (or two),or there may be no others. It is an insecure feeling posting letters which you think may lie behind a cabinet for years . There are no phone books in Tonga. Why should anyone want a phone book? You know your friends' number, don’t you!!?
I sought directions to the police station for Immigration and was directed to a blue building. It was the fire station. Next door, connected over the fire engine was the police station; around the back was the Immigration office. The man looked at my passport and then said it was unnecessary to see him until departure time.
I walked the long way back to the main street and on the way was passed by a Tongan schoolboy who beat me to the main street by one whole block. I now walk twice as slowly as a Tongan. Holiday fever has really struck. I inspected several shops including a video shop - little sex, mostly comedy and violence. (Does that constitute black humour?) before arriving back at Ana's Cafe.
Malcolm and Linda (SUNSET QUEST) were looking for crew for the Friday night race. Kevan and Wendy, Steve and Claire and I made up the crew. Just before boarding I helped an American yacht free a cubic metre of bommie from his anchor. The race (15 boats) was the 1st anniversary of the Friday night races so everyone won a prize. We came in about 9th. Kevan and Malcolm went to anchor after the race and I went in our dinghy to pick them up. Earlier Joy had rowed ashore towing 4 other dinghies. However I spent so much time delivering other people ashore that I lost their boat. With the sun setting it really was a SUNSET QUEST. We finally made it back to Ana's in time for a drink before retiring to RUBEN JANE for the night. An adjacent night club kept up the music until well after midnight.
Joy, Laura and I walked into town for a small number of groceries. At the supermarket the checkout operator is Lolly Sio's cousin. Lolly was Tiffany (COPOUT)'s boyfriend in Tauranga for a while. In the afternoon Laura and I went to ADVENTURER to listen to the rugby test. Then we: Joy, Susannah, Laura and I went to see the practice for the Vava'u contingent who are going to Nuku'alofa for the king's 80th birthday on July 4th. There were 3-400 singers and dancers. The Crown Princess was there watching. Several people were prevented from walking in front of her viewing stand as it was seen to be impolite. Afterwards she got into her car and was driven across the road to her palace. We walked home - well down to the Beluga Diving jetty behind the Paradise Hotel and motored back to the boat. The park where the show was held has a tree capable of sheltering 500 people beneath its branches but we did not see it.
Joy, Laura and I went to church in Neiafu. Yvonne came with us. The Princess and her husband were there too. The format was more formal than at Atata Island. They had a 10 piece brass band and the singing was better - more tuneful, not as much shouting. A dog came in out of the hot sun and lay down in front of me.
In the afternoon Rebecca, Susannah and Laura went for a swim at the Paradise Hotel, Joy had a sleep and I caught up with correspondence. At night we all joined the SANITY crew on board EMOTION for a barbeque which went until very late but was a lot of fun.
Awoken by singing coming from the palace. The rain set in about the same time. It was torrential. Joy went with Rebecca to the Italian clinic (local GP). Yvonne called and offered to look after Susannah and Laura while Tony, Brian and I went to fill the gas bottles. When we arrived at EMOTION we found that their dinghy had disappeared overnight. We went ashore to Sunsail and took a taxi to the gas filling station and back. Then Tony and I went up-harbour looking for Brian's boat. We were nearing the top of the harbour when we saw Mark (Sunsail Charters) towing it back. We went ashore to the Bounty Bar to pick up our meat ordered last Monday, then back to the boat. Collected 4 gallons of water off our roof this morning. Could have collected a lot more but we weren't here. Before I left earlier this morning I had blocked the cockpit drains so we could have a wash as the water was warm. This is the first rain they have had in 3 months. All the water around us is dirty from the land runoff. Had a quiet evening at home.
Heard on the morning sked that we had mail so Susannah and Laura went ashore for that. There was a letter for Susannah and one from Joy's mum. We took the rubbish and the laundry ashore then went for a walk to find the ice cream factory. It was on the shore of the Old Harbour. We took a circuitous route but it was interesting to see the backstreets of Neiafu. Our footwear got very muddy and it was hard to clean afterwards. We purchased 4 litres of ice cream plus a small one each. Took a shorter route home. We stopped at SANITY for morning tea and when we departed we left the ice cream in their freezer. I returned to shore to pick up our laundry. Met the couple off WINDFLOWER. Her name is Chelsea but I can't remember his. I was able to help them with information about Neiafu and the Vava'u’s. I picked up EPISODE's mail too.
Just as I was raising the anchor Joy got in a conversation with Michelle on ROMANA which had to be cut short as we were on a lee shore. Then we motored to Port Maurelle where Joy and I had a snorkel but the water visibility was not good, probably as a result of the rain last night. We joined with ADVENTURER, MAKANI, SANITY, EPISODE, EMOTION and EVERGREEN (Phil and Lorna) for a barbeque ashore. After dark I went back for the lantern so we could see what we were eating. A time of benevolence and fellowship.
A rolly night followed with the wind holding all the boats across the bay and the swell coming directly in.
The children reminded me that the island just outside the bay looks like the top of a McDonald’s bun and the island on the horizon looks like a hash brown. Sometimes I despair! Here they are 5 weeks away from New Zealand and they are still craving McDonalds.
Borrowed a can of electronic CRC cleaner from Marty (MAKANI) then picked up Brian (EMOTION) so he could take some photos of us and RUBEN JANE so we could give one to John Goater. I then borrowed a siphon off ADVENTURER. Kevan dropped a hose in the water so after they left I retrieved it. Gave it back to him several days later. I siphoned the diesel into the tanks then tried to fix the GPS. Still no success. I will request help over the sked tomorrow morning.
A frustrating day with everybody interfering with any plans that are made. The children enjoyed my story last night about the whales surrounding the plankton then plundering them with cries of 'krill, krill, krill!'
Had another snorkel with Joy around the edge of the bay and saw 4-5 different fish to what we had previously seen including 2 baby-pink starfish 30 cm across. At one stage Joy was trying to show me a blue-and-yellow fish on one side of a bommie and I was trying to show her a blue-and-yellow fish on the other side. Both fish were different. Late in the afternoon we motored around to Anchorage 8 because it gives a better radio reception for the morning.
I put a plea out on the morning sked for the location of an electronics expert. I was told that the local man at Vava'u Electronics was available Ch 13 after 1000 hours. MAKANI had had dealings with him and had found his work substandard so I didn't contact him. SANITY contacted us about a snorkelling expedition so we motored back to Port Maurelle (about 1/2 mile) where we boarded BARNSTORM and motored out through a 40 metre wide pass between 2 islands on the way to the Coral Gardens. When we rounded the final corner there was quite a swell hitting the reef so initially we were reluctant to dive but Phil (EVERGREEN) brought back a report of awesome water clarity. I went in and found the report true. I could see people 70 metres away. The coral was disappointing as was the fish life but being able to see the bottom in 285 feet was memorable. Apparently the coral bed had been devastated in 1990 during cyclone Kina and hasn't recovered yet. The water felt considerably warmer than the last few days. There was a considerable drop-off but there was a shelf before it plunged again into the depths.
We did a quick head count before leaving but forgot Brian and Eileen (EMOTION). As we were leaving someone spotted them swimming towards the boat so we circled and picked them up.
We retraced our steps to Mariners Cave. When we were almost abreast the cave we came upon a family of dolphins so Rebecca and 3 others jumped in but the dolphins didn't stay around to play. We spied what appeared to be a 4 foot shark as its fin made a straight path through the water. After a few anxious moments for the swimmers in the water it was identified as a baby dolphin. They were left with 150 metres to swim to the cave; the rest of us had 30 metres. I was first into the cave. It had been a big psychological barrier to many people but we had been told that if you can swim under the keel on your boat you would have no trouble getting in to Mariners Cave. The entrance is about 1 metre down and about 3 metres in. When a couple of others had entered I swam out again to show those remaining that we had successfully negotiated the entrance. I then went back in again and photographed people as they entered. Susannah went really deep as she entered. As I waited for Joy I had the camera pointed at 6-8 feet. She finally slithered into sight at about 1 foot shallow. Everyone agreed that the hardest entrance was the first one - the psychological barrier. Inside it was a wonderful experience. Joy's fluorescent coral-pink togs glowed in the subdued light as did the masks and snorkels. Every 20-30 seconds as the water level changed in the cave, due to the swell, a mist would form. Our ears were also affected. From our sitting position at the rear of the cave it became difficult to see the entrance 14 metres away; then it would become crystal clear over 2-3 seconds. It was quite an inspiring experience. The water swirled at our left but otherwise the water rose and fell about 2 feet. It was cooler in the cave but not cold. After about 20 minutes or so and a few photographs I swam out and photographed people as they swam out. Again Joy was one of those who came out near the surface. Several others benefited from the confidence boost of the experience too.
We then motored over to Swallows Cave. Inside, the surface of the water was dirty with leaves and dust and it was too early in the afternoon for the direct sunlight to penetrate. I didn't stay in for long as finally the cold was starting to tell. Even in the tropics one gets goose bumps from the water only being 26°C. At the entrance to the cave I tried to climb onto a ledge but got caught in the surge and cut my right ankle on the coral. Back on our boat I applied janola to the cut and it is healing nicely. Once more in Port Maurelle I rowed over to KAPAIORA and asked for assistance from Jan (pronounced yarn) to fix my GPS. His expertise is in the electronic field. He generously came and had a look at it but without a circuit diagram and an oscilloscope he was unable to identify the problem area. He didn't charge either which was extremely kind as he spent most of an hour working on it.
There was a barbeque ashore tonight but we didn't attend. Instead we made thick shakes out of the melted ice cream we finally retrieved from SANITY's safe keeping. At bedtime I amused the girls by playing tunes on my teeth with my toothbrush. The end of one of the most fulfilling days of the trip so far.
Went ashore to burn the rubbish. Last night there were 15 boats in Port Maurelle. We motor sailed with the drifter up to Anchorage 41 (Mounu) a delightful tropical island which had beautiful white sand and turquoise water. Picked up a mooring which took 2 attempts as I picked up the wrong buoy on the first attempt. I should have picked up the old oil can with the loop on the top instead of the buoy. The moorings are new. The lady on the island told us they are made from 2 concrete blocks chained together; I think she meant 2 blocks of concrete. The mooring cost us $2 because we didn't eat at the restaurant. Had lunch on SANITY then went ashore. Took some photos from the shore but forgot to take one of the island from the boat. Ashore there is the stern of SCARAMOUCHE, a yacht wrecked on an adjacent island 3 years ago. After a walk around the island we sailed off the mooring and headed for Anchorage 10. The breeze was 15-18 knots ESE so off the island of Katafanga we had to put in a large tack towards Euakafa. DELPHIS was behind us and with all her sails up she still couldn't catch us. In fact we were gaining on SANITY who had all her jib unfurled and her motor going too. We only had our drifter up but when we eased sail through the gap between Kapa and Taunga we made speeds of 6.7 knots with consistent 6.1 knots. Although we were trolling a line still no fish came to visit. Just as we doused the sail we passed over a large patch of jellyfish. Let go the anchor then we snorkelled over it. The water clarity was remarkable. However the anchor was just lying on the bottom. Susannah and I dived on it several times trying to dig it in but the coral was only several inches under the sand so we re-anchored. Even then only 1 fluke was buried. Also discovered that our depth sounder is reading 16 feet deeper than reality.
When John calls a boat on the sked he calls the boat name first then the radio operators' name. After calling RECLUSE for 3 nights then identifying the voice as Bruce, tonight we found that Bruce is not really Bruce but Brian!!!..
I made pancakes for tea using our last egg. Everyone complained when I put the milk powder away without tying the top of the bag. Another early night.
A very lazy morning. I dismantled the head again to check the flap valve because it has been slowly filling. Joy, Rebecca, Susannah and Laura had a lot of laughs with Andy in the cockpit. Headed in convoy for Anchorage 30 (Kenutu - the easternmost bar in the world). DELPHIS was initially in lead but they don't like leading so BARNSTORM took over followed by SANITY, EMOTION, DELPHIS and us. Rebecca and Laura went on SANITY. We were motoring into a SE wind and at times were down to 2.8 knots. There are a couple of doglegs in the course and once we were through the first one we hoisted the drifter and our speed increased to 6 knots. However we were not quite able to point high enough to clear the reef off the S tip of Ofu Island so we lowered the sail and resorted to motor. I was up in the rigging and it was easy to see the route. DELPHIS had raised their jib too but instead of lowering it they put in a big tack towards the S. Just as we were arriving at Kenutu MATANGI sneaked past. Three other boats followed soon afterwards so BARNSTORM would have been happy. The convoy started with 5 boats and ended with 9. We arrived just in time to join SANITY for the broadcast of the rugby test. I cooked sweet and sour chicken for tea -delicious. My ankle is swollen from where I got the coral cut so I have commenced Augmentin tablets. Another early night although Joy was awake a lot during the night.
Another lazy morning in paradise. I did the dishes then Laura and I motored around the anchorage photographing all the ICA boats. We purported to be representing the CIA (not the ICA). We then joined Steve (DELPHIS), Ethan (6) and Jackson (4) from OMEGA in a walk across the island of Kenutu. On the E side of the island it is exposed to the ocean swells and the surf beats against the cliffs. The swell was only about 1 1/2 metres but the noise during the night had occasionally been explosive. Unfortunately while we were there Ethan fell over on the sharp volcanic rock and cut his knee. I carried him back while Steve carried Jackson in his arms and Laura on his shoulders. Back on the boat I dressed Ethan's knee and told him to keep it straight for 30 minutes. Every time he asked if he could bend it I added a minute to the time.
After lunch Steve, Claire and I motored over to the adjacent island of Umuma in their deflatable with 2.5 HP Tohatsu motor. They call it a deflatable because it keeps on slowly deflating. We kept on hitting rocks with the outboard but Steve was unconcerned. Once ashore we found the track which led to a huge hole in the ground. Steve clambered down first and by the time Claire and I arrived he was sitting on a long rock jutting out into the saltwater pool. It looked as though he was sitting on a saltwater crocodile. The water was cool and we were hot but there was a slight scum on the water which made it uninviting so we didn't have a swim. Back at the beach we all had a laugh when Steve and I lifted the stern of the deflatable before Claire lifted the bow. This shifted all the water in the boat to the bow making it heavier for her. Back on DELPHIS we pulled the anchor around to the stern and hoisted the spinnaker to try to make a swing but the breeze was not strong enough. I cut my foot on a sidestay so I threatened to sue them. Steve told me not to drip any blood on their deck or he would counter-sue.
Linda (SUNSET QUEST) had a birthday barbeque ashore so we all joined in a pot-luck. It was eaten in the Berlin Bar at the almost abandoned resort. A very enjoyable evening which went quite late.
True to form, the one night I didn't listen to the sked was the one night I got a call.
Hazel Andrew, a workmate was seeking my e-mail address.
Spent some time this morning with Claire and Steve hoisting their spinnaker on our boat and trying to make a swing of it. Claire and Laura were light enough to get airborne in about 6-7 knots but the rest of us are too heavy. Laura took a mighty tumble into the sea from about 10 feet up. She was wearing her lifejacket and flippers along with her wetsuit so she was all right. Early on Claire had been videoing us from OMEGA. We made some improvements to the arrangement but then the wind died so we had to wait until afternoon.
After lunch I rowed around the fleet picking up rubbish which I then took ashore and burned. On the way I had a chat to Kevan (ADVENTURER). He said he would buy a copy of my book (which I haven't written yet). Then we started playing with the spinnaker again. In fact we had so much fun that we spent all afternoon playing with it. Rebecca was the only other one to get airborne. The wind did get up to 8-9 knots for a short time. Mid afternoon Roy (BARNSTORM) climbed to the top of his mast and lost his screwdriver overboard. They dived for 10 minutes trying to find it. Steve, Susannah and I swam over and I spotted it on my first dive...and my second. On the third sortie I managed to pick it up in about 25 feet. It felt like 40 feet up though after 3 dives in quick succession. Back on our boat it looked really good with the sinking sun behind the spinnaker.
Right on sunset a charter boat got onto and off a reef half a mile out from our anchorage. He was guided towards our anchorage by Glen (HORNPIPE) then he hit another reef just outside our anchorage, then he finally parked very close to BARNSTORM. Moses from Kenutu said that sailors don't have problems on the reef but charter boats do!!! Steve and Claire stayed for tea and Susannah cooked.
On the evening sked we made contact with Carol on ELYXIR. They are in Fiji. We arranged to have a chat after the sked but when we tried later we could not make contact although we tried repeatedly. In the end I went over to MAKANI to try on his set which has a stronger signal but still couldn't get through. When I arrived back everyone was asleep.
During the night the wind got up and would have been sufficient to have flown the heaviest one in the spinnaker, however there were no takers.
Picked up a torque wrench from HORNPIPE for TRANQUILLO who was in Neiafu then motored out from Kenutu. Off Ofu Island we raised the jib and in a SE breeze to 18 knots sailed W. However we went too far S and got on the wrong side of the reef SW of Ofu. As we couldn't find the gap in the reef we lowered the jib again. When we realised where we should be, we backtracked and once more on the N side of the reef we soon saw the channel markers. Once through the channel, with me up the mast, we raised both sails. 4 other yachts had followed us out of the channel about 1/2 mile astern. The wind dropped to 11-14 knots but we still made reasonable speed. Just past the island of Taunga we passed ROMANA sailing upwind. She looked a pretty picture. On between the islands of Ava and Oto. Just beyond Swallows Cave the wind increased and our speed went up too. BARNSTORM was doing her best to catch us but we held our own. They only took 1/4 mile out of us the whole trip. By the entrance buoys abeam Mt.Talau we headed into the wind and doused the sails. Susannah has got the jib well in hand now. The big red ferry passed us on the way into the harbour. We motored alongside TRANQUILLO and handed over the torque wrench before returning to Sunsail jetty to replenish the water tanks. We anchored back near our old anchorage by the Palace but a little farther off shore than previously. CRIMSON TIDE were just astern but they shifted soon afterwards.
Joy had a shower while I took the laundry to the Vava’u laundry and then went downtown to the bank. I withdrew some money and had a chat to the Australian manager of the ANZ. He told me that there had never been a bank robbery in Tonga but he, personally had been held up twice in Australia. I then managed to squeeze into the supermarket just on closing time where I purchased some bread and milk. The checkout operator told me I would be too late for the Post Office so I didn't even try. I had taken an oar so I slung the bags over each end of it and carried it on my shoulder. It hurt my shoulder so I won't do that again. We also picked up a letter from my mother from Sunsail.
The instant potatoes were too salty tonight and the self-saucing pudding was ready an hour after the first course. Andy came for tea. Joy and I went to bed while Rebecca and Andy did the dishes. A really solid night's sleep. We had intended going to Port Maurelle tonight but the fuel is due tomorrow instead of 2 days time.
All the family went to town and we shopped at the 2 supermarkets, getting the best deals from each. Then Joy and I went to the Post Office but it was closed (Stupid palangis should know that). Inside there was a child running around with an airmail letter in his hand. No wonder mail gets mislaid. A lady came to the grill and explained that it was closed for stocktaking or something - I think it was the something. The fuel which had been organised for the main wharf was now transferred to the Sunsail jetty. Before we had gone to town a boat hawker had tried to sell us a grass skirt for $12. I said $10. When we returned from town he wanted to sell it for $10 but I said 'no deal'. We had to wait until 1500 hours to take on fuel.
Had some bother raising the anchor again - bommies! As we were motoring towards the jetty SANITY took our place so we picked up a mooring while we considered our options. There was no space on the upwind side of the dock and downwind our way in was largely blocked by the charter catamaran, TIKITI BOO. Still that was the option we took. Once Rebecca took a line off the stern of TIKITI BOO we were out of trouble. A line from our bow went onto the dock and we were kedged into the dock. There was a flurry when we realised there were no fenders on that side of the dock so we hastily put on ours. Filling with 100 litres cost T$71.40. Tony lent us their baja filter and there certainly was some grit in the fuel. A tanker-trailer had been pushed to the landward end of the dock. I released the stern line and then released the bow line and jumped on board. As we were reversing, SANITY also left the other side of the dock. They had to stop while Joy engaged forward gear. We cleared their stern although there was no danger of collision. As there was still plenty of daylight we sailed to Port Maurelle. Out by the channel markers we raised the jib and made good time motor sailing. Abeam Swallows Cave we passed HALLMARK heading towards Neiafu. We lowered the jib and motored in to Port Maurelle. Anchored, but when the boat came to rest we were too close to OMEGA so re-anchored. After tea we went over to SANITY where we played 'Last Chance'. Joy and I won by a country mile. Before tea I spoke to Roger Lindsay (off WINDERMERE II) He lives up our road in Tauranga. He is going to take my GPS back to Corina for repair so I later took it over to him with a covering letter. I had neglected to tell Corina so she got a surprise when several days later a man arrived at her door with a GPS for her. I had only just met him but this is a good example of how the sailing fraternity works on an excellent trusting system. I have never yet heard of this trust being abused. It is one of the real pleasures of cruising. Long before this everyone had ceased to lock their vessels unless at large towns. The locals have no need of our equipment and other cruising boats keep a good watch for any nefarious activity.
Rebecca and Susannah saw a car today with snow ski racks on. Now that is a fashion statement. At least it is winter.
Eileen (EMOTION) had her birthday today so we all went over for a late morning tea. It was a squally day and we just lay around most of the time almost planning things but never completing the plans. In the evening there was a barbeque planned ashore for Eileen's birthday but heavy showers caused us to alter our plans and so Rebecca and Susannah went to BARNSTORM and EMOTION which rafted up for a barbeque under sail(??). There was also a barbeque on ON THE DOUBLE - a charter catamaran. The fire got out of control and took some time to bring under control again.
Laura, Joy and I went to DELPHIS to see Steve's promotional video as Joy hadn't seen it. While we were having tea EPISODE called on VHF to say that Tauranga Coastguard was trying to contact us. It was to confirm Rebecca's friends' arrival dates in Fiji. I then relayed a message for EPISODE as they couldn't be heard. They were in anchorage No 10.
Steve and Claire joined our crew for a motor sail to Euakafa Island where there is good snorkelling. Joy said there is a romantic story which originated on this island about a chief and his wife but I think it is a terrible story of lust and wife-bashing. We had difficulty anchoring on the NW corner of the island but finally Steve dived down and hooked the anchor chain around a large bommie. In the process he was bitten by some small pencil-like silver fish. The guide book says to anchor in a sandy patch. We did but the chain went around a bommie. The reef to the W of us had some of the best snorkelling we have experienced. BARNSTORM joined us at lunchtime and as an afterthought we roped the sterns together for closer fellowship at lunchtime. After several swims we went ashore just leaving Joy and Susannah on the boat. We gathered some coconuts and then went looking for green coconuts on the ground. It was interesting walking through a tropical forest alone. It is easy to pretend no-one had ever been this way before. Just as we all arrived back at the beach Joy using our trusty, rusty bike horn alerted us to BARNSTORM's plight. She had dragged and the only thing keeping her off the reef 100 metres away was the line attached to our stern. We all motored to the rescue with full cavalry accompaniment. With disaster averted we raised anchors and sailed into the sunset (a little N of W actually and there was still an hour of daylight remaining). As we passed Katafanga Island I saw a rock which looked like a polar bear and Laura saw one resembling a hippopotamus. Steve and Claire stayed for tea - pancakes cooked by me, and then Joy and I joined them on DELPHIS to watch some movies. Halfway through I dashed home to check that the gas was turned off (Rebecca had used it last). Steve's aluminium dinghy was banging on our stern. There was no wind at all so I took their dinghy back. We watched the best of Billy T. James.
We were going whale watching. Hoisted both sails as we went past Swallows Cave and headed S down the Pulepulekai Passage. We looked for whales; in fact we looked and looked but did not see any. As we rounded the bottom end of Hunga Island we spied SANITY, EMOTION and BARNSTORM anchored in Anchorage No 14. Just past them we were able to see the bottom clearly in 40 feet of water. The rocks looked dangerous. There was a 1-1 1/2 metre swell from the SE. The wind became fickle and finally headed us so we dropped the sails and resorted to motoring in through the entrance to Hunga Lagoon. There is a rock in the centre of the entrance which is supposed to look like a lion and if there is enough water to be up to the lions mouth there is sufficient depth to enter safely. However on this particular day Laura said it looked more like a rooster. We passed safely on the S side of it and once round the buoys we headed for Hunga Resort where we picked up a buoy close to OMEGA OF WELLINGTON. Susannah and Laura went ashore and played on a swinging rope. SANITY, EMOTION and BARNSTORM anchored across the bay and Rebecca and Andy came visiting in their rubber ducky. Susannah cooked sweet and sour chicken for tea.
I started the day by doing 2 days worth of dishes while everyone else went ashore. It is the Tongan King's birthday today and being Sunday all work is banned so why am I doing dishes. I've just noted His Highness's birthday was yesterday - I don’t even know what day it is.
It has been arranged that when I have finished doing all the work I will summons PLAIN JANE to come and pick me up. I decided instead to throw my jandals and wearing my sunglasses and progressively throwing my jandals I eventually swam, or drifted ashore. In the rafters of Hunga Resort are written the boat names of many visiting yachts. We saw ANN-MARIE (Dave Taylor - Tokoroa) and JOHANNA(Tauranga). There was a visitor’s card from Bob and Carol off ELYXIR. OMEGA were going to write their boat name there but we ran out of time.
We climbed to the summit of the island to see BARNSTORM sailing for Samoa and EMOTION and SANITY depart for Fiji. As we were waiting for them to come into view on our left we saw 2 whales 1/3 mile to our right. The boats motored directly away from the island so they would have missed seeing them.
After lunch we retraced our steps of yesterday. There were a few squalls and we had to motor sail around the S tip because the wind was due E. A Moorings yacht with its sails poorly set took a long time to overhaul us and once past they landed a fish. There was a decent breeze and we made good time along Ave Pulepulekai. By Swallows Cave we contemplated lowering the genoa but by putting in a large tack we were able to make the final 1/2 mile under sail to Port Maurelle where we anchored for the night.
Spent a quiet day on the boat. Joy and I went to ADVENTURER for a visit to discuss routes to Savusavu.
Had some unfinished business so we motored to Anchorage 20 and took a photo of the rock which looks like a polar bear and the other one which resembles a hippopotamus, thence to Mounu (Anchorage 41) to photograph the island which looks idyllic. Unfortunately the overcast and sometimes drizzly day detracted from the scenery. The lesson to be learnt here is never look back at paradise: there are greater and better places in the future. Onward towards Anchorage 16 (Vaka'eitu) to photograph a dragon (rock). We anchored by Nuku for several hours. Laura and Joy rowed ashore and I swam. Then I snorkelled with Laura (who protested but we've got to build her confidence again). Joy swam back to the boat and Laura and I played on the beach before rowing back. It started raining. We waited for it to finish but finally motored back to Port Maurelle where we spent a wet rolly night.
Went snorkelling. On our return to the boat, whilst still in the water we were met by 2 men from Tauranga who along with 4 other people had hired a Moorings yacht for a week. After a chat I motored ashore with Laura to crack a coconut. Back on the boat once more we decided to head for Port of Refuge so we motored there with Laura doing most of the steering. When we arrived we discovered that it is quite exposed to the SE. The only other boat there was HORNPIPE who several nights before we had heard talking to another boat in Vanuatu also called HORNPIPE. The conversation had ended with :-'HORNPIPE clear; HORNPIPE on the side'
Rebecca, Laura and I went around the point into the next bay, under a rickety vehicular bridge and tied up by a culvert. We then climbed Mt Talau which has a distinctive shape which is on the Port of Refuge Yacht Club burgee. It is the only club that Rebecca and I belong to and we are both life members. The last part of the ascent is reasonably steep but at the summit Laura still had energy to run. We only had to ask directions once on the way. I asked several villagers if they remembered the missionary vessel AMAZING GRACE but each time I drew a blank. Our friend Ed Pahl used to skipper her before a naughty man sailed her to Fiji against instructions and put her on a reef going into Suva Harbour. When we arrived back at the boat I found I had been asking at the wrong village.
We then motored across to Anchorage No5 which is by the Tongan Beach Resort. It was sheltered but it took 2 attempts before we got the anchor to hold.
On John's sked there was a message for CONANDALE who were anchored close by. Yesterday they completed a circumnavigation of the world. They were celebrating on another vessel called SEA D.
After a quick visit to CONANDALE we motored in to the Sunsail jetty to fill the water tanks - $5. We then went out and picked up a mooring for the day, disposed of the rubbish, took in the laundry, picked up the mail and said goodbye to Mark at Sunsail and Amesia at the Bounty Bar. All that remained was to face officialdom.
The first stop was the Immigration department. The official couldn't get his mind around the fact that I was clearing out of Neiafu today but I was leaving tomorrow from Port Maurelle. He told me that I would have to go back to Neiafu to clear on the morning I was leaving. I said that I didn't want to as it is 8 miles out of my way. Apparently all the other boats just say they are leaving on the day they clear and some stay for up to a week waiting for the right weather window. I decided to test where honesty would get me. Laura was with me and she had never seen me appear so dejected. I wasn't dejected, I just looked that way. I was actually having fun. I didn't leave the counter but continued to look sad until he relented and after signing an indemnity we left with the desired clearance. When SANITY had cleared they hung around in Port Maurelle for a week before leaving. Jacob from CRIMSON TIDE called them on the VHF after a few days but they didn't answer. I told him that a boat called TASWELL might be able to help him (SANITY is a Taswell 43'). He took a while to cotton on.
Next on the list was customs; 'no, not until you pay the port captain light fees'. SUNSET QUEST had paid $7 so I was expecting about the same because their boat was longer and they had stayed longer although we had more people on board. He was at lunch 1200-1400 hours. He wanted to charge me $19-61!!! Some of the lights are not even working either. I told him I did not have that much money left and emptied my pockets. I fished out all my change along with 2 hose clips and a shepherd’s whistle. He settled on $9-61 (I must be getting soft). Then he wanted to know if I would pick him up a VCR player in New Zealand for his kids as $50 is a lot of money in Tonga.(I'll say it is after paying lots of it to officialdom)... Then off to customs.
I hadn't bothered to clear in to Vava'u because it had been too tedious clearing in and out of each group of islands with grumpy sullen officials so after confusing them on that one I guess we got off to a bad start. They found it even more confusing that I should wish to clear in and out of paradise on the same day. We finally reached an amicable resolution and I came away with the necessary documentation. Because the port captain had taken more than expected I couldn't afford a jar of honey so bought 3 loaves of bread instead.. T38 cents left so I gave that to Wendy (ADVENTURER) when she bought me an ice cream.
Within the next hour ADVENTURER, MAKANI, PERICON and CRIMSON
TIDE all got charged more than us by the port captain; all different amounts with no relation to the number of people on board, length of vessel or length of stay. I won that round.
Joy went to Port Maurelle on ADVENTURER so she could baby-sit their yacht while they went into Swallows Cave. We motored to Port Maurelle with Laura at the helm. Apart from reversing once while we were anchoring because she thought it was too shallow, she did well. I then tried fixing the head - even at sea I have head problems. It has been intermittently overflowing. I think it is the fault of the plunger seal moving. I broke one hose clip and had to borrow one from PERICON. I thought I had fixed it but next morning it had overflowed again.
John Goater told us that Corina is sending a fax for us tomorrow to Pete at Club Hunga, so it looks as though we'll have to call there tomorrow on the way out.