Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More news from Tonga!

We did the Tongan feast again and this time it was wonderful. Participated in a kava circle, sitting around on mats on the ground as the sun set. Several musicians playing guitars, a banjo and traditional drums from a log. Very relaxed atmosphere and friendly group. I had three bowls of the kava but felt no effect at all. The young dancers were very energetic and talented. Especially two young boys, maybe about 12 years old, who danced a traditional Tongan dance where they lunge with their
spears. One of the boys had lots of 'attitude' and seemed to really enjoy it. The girls that danced were also well decked out in beautiful clothes and jewellery and their enthusiasm was contagious. Then they piled the food on the long table and it was varied and bountiful! All sorts of seafoods, from octopus, clams, fishcakes, marinated raw fish to some less recognizable varieties. Packages of pork or lamb or beef all wrapped in leaves and tied with vine. And different kinds of taro and breadfruit,
bananas, etc... No cutlery or plates were used, everything was served wrapped in nature's bounty and eaten with fingers.
So we have been back in the Tapana anchorage for over two weeks again and rode out another squally night with high winds, heavy rain and lightning, though not as dramatic as we had when Abe was with us. We are finally getting restless and will probably wait till after the weekend to go back into Neiafu and take on water and butane before checking out to head down to the Hapai'i Group of Islands about 60 south of us. They are supposedly more remote and have small villages with fewer visitors. We
have had sunshine for two days in a row now so managed to get over to the small island around the corner and snorkel on the reef. It was interesting but not spectacular. The beaches and islands and clear turquoise waters make it a very beautiful place though. Yesterday we actually blew up the two kayaks, first time since the Tuamotus, and paddled around the bay, following the shoreline where the coral is visible only a few feet below you.
We have managed two great parties lately with 'Cat's Paw IV', 'Tarun' and two bachelors who are singlehanding at the moment; there is Ernst on 'Accord' who is from Switzerland and has spent time in more remote areas and even a year in Japan, and Mike on 'Kokoamo' who is shares his year between his home in Scotland and New Zealand. We play dice and pigs and dominoes, drink a bit and laugh a lot. Linda made her famous Red Snapper fish soup last night and it was well received by all.
So rumours that we are bored and don't know what to do with ourselves are greatly exaggerated and some days we even do more than read a book!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Holy Crap!

Thanks Emma! Gramma really laughed when she saw your comment on the blog! "That's so like Emma", she said. We are not sure if it was the sea snakes or the lightning that got your attention but it was a fun time for sure!
Meanwhile, we seem to have settled down at Tapana Island. The weather cleared up for almost a week and we did some swimming and exploring by dinghy. Now it's rainy again so we try to keep busy. Linda walked into Neiafu the other day, a little over an hour walk and she got a lift in part of the way. I think the wine was the priority! I spent a half day in the water under Toketie with a young local fellow scraping the growth off the bottom of the boat. Was trying to arrange a haul out but even
though there are two rails to haul boats out in town, one only wants to do multihulls now (I think the sides that hold up the monohulls are rusted out) and the other is jammed in among the bars and restaurants so we are worried we would get rats or cockroaches on board....so we cleaned the bottom as best we could and hope to make it to NZ for a proper haul out.
We walked into the small village today to try to send some pictures to the blog but the internet in Vava'u is down again. We picked up some bread and milk and garlic! On the way back to the beach where we left the dinghy we met the young couple who were preparing for the 'other' Tongan feast tonight, the Ano Beach one! They seemed really nice and were willing to include us at the last minute as they said they had 34 people coming and lots of food. So we will try it again and hope it is a better
experience than the first one!
It's cloudy and muggy and I am trying to figure out how to catch rain water so we don't have to rush back into Neiafu's noisy crowded harbour. The Ark Gallery has taken a couple of our water jugs and has offered to fill them from their roof. Lots more rain is in the forecast over the weekend so we should be able to figure something out.
The days and weeks are flying by and soon we will have to start seriously thinking about the 1200 mile trek down to New Zealand. But today there are still good books to read and a feast to starve for.....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gunk holing!

Ok, we are being very lazy! I admit it. Rather than scheming to move to the more remote areas and smaller atolls out there, we are pretty much hiding in the old harbour of Vava'u in Tonga, doing some boat chores and relaxing. Maybe it is the sudden realization that we have close to 10,000 miles under our keel since leaving Victoria in August of 2006. Or maybe 'racing through paradise' is just too tiring! I don't know but we have the luxury at the moment of being lazy so we are taking every advantage
of it! Our friends on 'Tarun' are down exploring the next group of islands in Tonga, the Ha'apai Group and another couple on 'Pacific Star' got itchy feet and headed for Fiji the other day. Meanwhile we had this bay to ourselves the first night, probably because the pass is inconvenient to access as you navigate with charts that are about half mile off and not completely accurate in marking reefs and coral heads. But with a small amount of hair pulling to find the small floats that mark the entrance
to it and perseverance driven from an overwhelming need to stay away from the crowded and noisy main harbour in Neiafu, we managed to get here and are quite comfortable anchored on the edge of a reef near the small village of Makave that none of the tourists seem to bother with. And today we discovered it is only a short walk into Neiafu if we really need supplies we can't get here, like tonic water to make the gin palatable.
Two other boats have now joined us in our isolation. A very small pocket cruiser, a Contessa, named 'Mamiti Vava'u' (the name of the native woman that Fletcher Christian married when the Bounty mutinied)....you all knew that though....and another young couple on 'Madeline' who have come through the South Pacific via the Panama Canal and the Galapagos. They are both very relaxed and also seem to be enjoying the solitude in this bay.
So until the water tanks run low, we intend to sit here and re-charge our batteries, both literally and figuratively and if I don't send too many updates.....well it's probably because there isn't much to say!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Cruising Tonga!

Well, our crew member has gone back to that other world! About 36 hours each way was a really long way to go for a three week holiday but we are sure glad that Abe made the journey. Although we did not get to do all the things we had planned, due to weather (more about that later), I think he had a good time overall and we managed to work in a few experiences one usually only reads about!
We found some reasonably interesting reefs to snorkel on, had whales blowing in the bay we were in on two occasions, were chased out of the water by sea snakes twice, managed a couple of hikes and resolved most of the world's problems over several bottles of rum!
But the weather, assisting another boater in trouble and the yacht race were memories to carry away to that other world.
A high pressure system, higher than any on record (1040 on the barometer), formed East of Australia, and a low pressure system north of us combined with the South Pacific Convergence Zone to give us some very interesting weather. None of the local forecasts seemed to capture it accurately but you just had to look out the window to see something unusual was going on. I think we were playing scrabble one night with the wind howling in the rigging when Linda thought she saw a light flashing out the
porthole. We ignored it for a while but eventually it got our attention and looking out the cockpit we saw what looked like broadsides from HMS Surprise off in the distance. The clouds would light up then blackness would swallow it. Strange! Couldn't be lightning? An hour or so later the sky lit up like broad daylight, sheet lightning everywhere, fairly constant and obviously getting closer. Every now and then a bolt would come to earth and we began wondering whether we might possibly be struck!
This went on all night! I have never seen anything to compare. Then the rain came and although we had the full enclosure in the cockpit, it came down so hard the zipper seams leaked! All this time the winds had been slowly building till at one point our neighbour registered 47 knots. We had seen 42 knots which was impressive enough in a sheltered anchorage! Fortunately the moorings we were on were sound and because we were tucked in behind and island, we had no seas to contend with.
The game was interrupted again by the sound of a sail flapping violently in the wind! About two boats over in the anchorage, we could see several people under lights on the foredeck trying to wrestle with an obviously out of control headsail! Not able to resist an opportunity to help out, Abe and I jumped in the dinghy and hoped our 4 horse Johnson could hold its own in the wind and waves! About six of us fought for two hours to try to get half of a fairly large headsail under control. Seems
they had fouled the furling line somehow when they came into the anchorage. We won but not without some bruises and bleeding knuckles. The boat, Gecko, was very grateful and thanked us again the next day! Further on in the bay, another boat dragged anchor, their engine failed and when they attempted to sail back to anchor, they struck the reef! I don't think too much damage was done but it was a wild night!
Can't remember who won the scrabble game.....
For his last night in Tonga, we took Abe into town and he got himself on to a sailboat named 'Macy' for the Friday yacht race in Neiafu Harbour! It's a fun event that occurs every week and ends in the Vava'u Yacht Club's Mermaid Bar for beers and tall stories! They took third place and had great fun doing it!
We were sorry to see him go, wishing he could have stayed for the next 1000 miles to NZ, but duty calls and I guess his PHD is a higher priority at the moment than bashing around the ocean! There is always the Indian Ocean Abe....and at the rate we are going, you may have your degree by the time we get there!
So here we sit, the weather has calmed down, a quick trip to town to renew our visas today, buy some beer and cheese (cruiser staples), and relaxed visiting with friends nearby.
Not sure where we will go from here, too early to head for NZ as the weather down there is still unpredictable. More to explore locally and another island group south of us to check out. Will keep you posted!
Cruising Tonga!