Stolen Kiss

Stolen Kiss

August 20, 2012

A Taste of Tonga

Certainly the biggest lie in history occurred when the Polynesians told Cook that there was no safe anchorage in Tonga. It kept the western world at bay for a while longer at least!!

With our Pacific crossing we keep asking…’does it get better than this?’…and our answer is YES!!!
The chart shows Neiafu harbour if you follow the NW headland around.

Vava’u, Tonga has it all. Not only an amazing harbor in Neiafu that would have to be the best hurricane hole in the Pacific, with no direct opening to the open ocean, but also, to our delight, the first calm anchorage we have had for some time. What bliss!! Many islands that provide an amazing array of sheltered anchorages and water ways; white sandy beaches and with limestone karst topography, many caves to explore. It is our number one suggestion for chartering in the Pacific, closely followed by Tahiti.

Of course, much excitement stemmed from the fact that we have crossed the International Date Line and are now on the same day as Australia!!!! We will cross the 180 meridian on the way into SavaSavu, Fiji.

Neiafu is well versed with having cruisers and is set up accordingly with a cruiser’s net and much entertainment. As the anchorage is deep, there are many moorings you can pick up for around $9.00/night. 

The town is so so with few provisions but with great cafes, restaurants and familiar banks like ANZ and Westpac.. The Aquarium CafĂ© is the greatest yachtie hang out with good food, alcohol and coffee, rubbish disposal, dinghy dock and internet. What more could we ask for??? Mike also offers to fax our notification of arrival to Fiji which is appreciated.

 Lyn from Carillon kindly showed us the local shops and their wares.

Being keen to try local entertainment we went to a Pig Racing Event (run by a Kiwi) and the Baby Grand Theatre which showed a Flea Circus (performed by a Brit); each bizarre but an experience which perhaps reflected the humour of each??????????????

For some reason, Steve and Lyn were given a pig to look after for a while???????????

On Sunday morning we found our glad rags and went off to Church; to listen to the amazing harmonies of the choir and the congregation (even though it was not in English). It was as expected; absolutely brilliant and Peter, of course, especially was blown away by it.

A walk up Mt Talau for the stunning views was worth it and the surprise of the story was amusing. Basically someone came to steal the top of the hill and a local girl mooned the thieves, scaring them and hence they dropped the top of the hill to form an island nearby!!!!!!!!!! Mooning, it seems, has been around for a while!!

Lyn and Steve, having spent 3 months here by the time we arrived, suggested some anchorages for us and Red Sky. Nuku Island is a dream anchorage with an extended sand bar come reef, joining it with the large Island of Kapa. We walked and waded around the island just after low tide and shared a fire on the small sand spit with other cruisers that came into the anchorage later in the day.

From Nuku Island, we dinghied the two miles over to Mariner’s Cave. We would never have found this on our own as it is hidden underwater. It requires you to dive down and swim under a ledge and up into the cave. I decided not to undertake this adventure and looked after the dinghies instead. Leanne from Red Sky was a little unsure of this but with John’s support and coaxing (never give up must be his motto!!) she finally made it!! Lea nearly bailed on her last attempt but John grabbed her and pulled her through. By all accounts, Peter said it was stunning and an awesome experience.

On the way back we diverted to Swallow’s Cave which is enormous with such clarity in the water that you can easily see the bottom in around 20m!  We also found this is where the bait fish hide out!! Although it has graffiti inside, some of it dates back to early whaling times.

With two calm days forecast, we made the 9 mile trek through a small reef pass over to the eastern most islands, anchoring in the lee of Kenutu Island. Wonderful paddling opportunities, crystal clear water .........

and a small camp that someone has constructed out of twigs affords a view out to the open ocean.

Peter decided to check the prop and clean a little hairy cover that had grown on the front of the rudder. As he was swimming along the waterline, he happened across a long sea snake doing the same….I was on deck and was alerted to something not quite right by Peter’s yelps (with snorkel still in mouth!). I looked over the side expecting to see him being chased by a large shark. Peter launched himself out of the water and into the dinghy with the same grace as a sea lion (they do this so easily!). Peter simply does not ‘do’ snakes!!!

Snorkeling at anchorage #40 (Moorings guide goes by numbers as do all the villages) unveiled some beautiful coral we had not seen in the Pacific and many small fish. It seems that the big fish are caught outside the islands in open waters. Could the area be fished out????  

However, THE best coral so far was at the Coral Gardens, located on the reef behind the bay Lape Island is part of. Now that was something to behold with the greatest variety of coral we have EVER seen, in species and colour. The garden is approximately 200m long and about 50 80m or so wide. Awesome.

Lape Island visit was primarily for the Tongan feast that the locals put on as a fund raiser. It was a great night, even though it drizzled for some of the time. The local village sang for us before the feast in beautiful harmony. We ended up staying there for 3 nights as we had poor weather for a few days…a little over 20 knots with heavy overcast skies and some rain. It’s the first rain we have had since Bora Bora. 

On our way back into the harbor, we had a short visit to Port Maurelle which is a very sheltered bay with a wonderful sandy beach. The water is so clear and a stunning colour. We could see the grains of sand at 8m, not to mention the coral head underneath us along with the fishes!

We have seen many humpback whales around the anchorages, all with the young calves leaping out of the water with gay abandon. There have been lots of whale stories on the net from other yachties… 43 foot cat had a calf between their hulls for most of the night on passage to Niue. They could hear the spurt but could not work out what it was…until they looked around the boat and saw its tail between their hulls. Rightly so, they were concerned where mum might be……by dawn the calf had gone and hopefully found mum! In Niue, a whale breached on the bow of an Australian yacht, damaging their bow roller, cleats and their code zero. They were out at dinner and came back to a nasty surprise. Other boats in the anchorage heard the crash.  Lucky for them, the anchor was released and caught a bombie so the yacht did not drift away or onto the rocks. The whale broke the mooring line and probably got quite a shock!!  Look before you leap??????

On weather, the long range expectation is that this year is a neutral year going into El Nino next year, which translates into more cyclones for the SW Pacific, but a drier East Coast Australia. The SPCZ has been further north this year, around 5 to 10 degrees south, which has been good for us so far as we have had fewer squalls to deal with. (We have been hanging around 17-20 degrees south.) It has also been the lightest trades anyone has seen for some time, which we can certainly attest to. Hopefully our mild weather will continue for our passages to Queensland. Hence we have used our engine more than what one would expect. 

All seems to be well with our engine….Peter has drilled out another hole in the coupling to hold the shaft (the keyway is so worn) and strangely enough, the engine runs beautifully at 2500 RPM and uses less than 2L/hour. We will be up for a re-build in Bundaberg though. Peter has sourced a split coupling that will fit our shaft, so we will not need a new shaft.

In Tonga, it’s customary to be bought up as a girl if there are no girls in the family and you are the youngest boy!! So like SE Asia there are many lady boys here, albeit not as glam as the one’s in Phuket!!

Although we are very sad not to have spent more time in Tonga, such is life.  We are ready to move on. We still have around 2000nm to Bundaberg.

From here, we have a short 3 day sail (with half to ¾ moon) to SavuSavu in Fiji (in the north), departing Saturday, Aug 25th where we will clear in and visit the LED manufacturer, then make our way towards Nadi and surrounds. We are in company with Carillon and of course, Red Sky. Our forecast…..22 knots of SE winds on an easterly course. Nice!!

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