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!


emma said...

holy crap!

SV Intrepid II said...

Hi Linda & David: We've been enjoying your adventures from afar and wish you well as your voyage continues. Thought you might like to know that Dolphin Tales, Kalagan and Scream have started on their offshore adventure as well. Kelly is crewing on Kalagan for some of the journey down the coast for now, as we had to postpone our plans this fall. One step (nm?) at a time...Regards, Carol