ENJOYING TONGA

This morning we headed into Neiafu to clear into Tonga, arriving at the main wharf at eight.  Customs opened thirty minutes later and we started the clearing in process.  This consists of completing around ten forms, answering the same questions multiple times.  The whole process took a while, there was a flight arriving and available manpower had been diverted to the airport.  Finally, at one in the afternoon the last check, Sanitation, was complete and we headed off to find an anchorage.

The anchorage turned out to be a mooring buoy just off the dinghy dock at the moorings, a convenient spot.  Without delay we were moored and the pig in the water.  By two in the afternoon we were sitting on the Mango Café deck snacking and drinking cold beer.  A fitting end to a long voyage from Christmas Island of 1,648 miles over 13 days.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around town and soaking up the Island pace of life.  In the morning, when getting cash for the clearance, I left my credit card in the ATM.  In the afternoon I went back to the bank and retrieved the card which had been handed in.  Honest people here. 

WiFi access was on our shore list as we haven’t had any connection since leaving Honolulu a month ago.  We found WiFi at a price but it was so slow we couldn’t download the information we wanted.  Priority tomorrow will be to find decent WiFi and book Jessica’s flight back to Melbourne.

In the evening we came across a good café overlooking the harbour.  The fresh fish looked good so we went that way.  Jessica tried the Ota Ika (raw fish in coconut with veggies), it was superb.  I had pan seared tuna, also excellent but too much to finish in one go.  We both felt very relaxed as the sun went down over the harbour.  I am sure we will sleep well tonight, securely tied up to a mooring.  Total voyage distance from Kiritimati to Neiafu 1,648 miles.

LIGHT WINDS CONTINUE TO TAUNT US

Another day of light winds.  Nothing we can do about that – just sail as best we can and enjoy the trip.  I had hoped to arrive in Neiafu early afternoon Monday and clear customs.  Now it looks like we will arrive late evening.  If that is the case I will hang back so we arrive in daylight on the 22nd.

Most of the last twenty-four hours has been spent with the jib poled out to port and the mainsail boomed out to starboard.  A very comfortable way of sailing, we managed to make some progress this way overnight.  This morning we sailed west to find some more wind as promised by the weather prediction.  So far, we have found a couple of small squalls, a refreshing shower, but no wind yet, just slating sails in the sunshine.

At lunch time we passed over an area indicated in the chart as having volcanic activity.  We were hoping to see some bubbles, pumice, volcanic stuff, smell rotten eggs – but nothing, just sea like the surrounding area.

Now that Tonga is just a weekend away we really want to get into port.  This has been a long trip from Honolulu, made longer I think because we couldn’t get a real break in Christmas Island.  We both wanted to get off the boat there and explore ashore, the strong trade winds and exposed anchorage prevented us from getting that break.  So, it almost feels like we have been sailing nonstop since Honolulu.

Last nights movie was ‘Once were Warriors’.  An iconic New Zealand movie.  I only saw it myself last year and it was Jessica’s first time.  Well worth watching once – even if its to see what the Auckland southern motorway looks like with light traffic.  Total Voyage distance 1,241 miles.

A DAY OF TWO HALVES

As they say in football – today has been a day of two halves.  From midday to midnight we romped along, reefed down, in twenty knot winds doing a comfortable six knots.  At midnight, we had clocked seventy plus miles and all was good.  After midnight we ran into a rain squall (probably a front) and after a brief flurry the wind disappeared.

Since midnight we have been ghosting along and now have the jib poled out to port and doing three to four knots in glorious weather but not much breeze.  The forecasters wanted to give us twenty knots again today – oh how wrong they got it.

It looks like this light weather has blown our planned ETA for the 21st in Neiafu, we will most likely arrive on Tuesday now.  Just another day to wait for a cold beer – maybe I should drink an extra one to compensate.

Last night we watched ‘Men in Black 3’ in the cockpit.  Great movie – they don’t need to make any more MIB’s.  The weather is still hot but absolutely no complaints.  Two fishing boats turned up last night, the first vessels we have seen since leaving Christmas Island.

At lunch time today we used the last of our eggs.  One was a floater so went over the side to Davie Jones.  Fresh food is almost finished now, all that is remaining is a large onion from Honolulu.  It still looks in perfect condition so suspect it has a similar upbringing to the atomic (never go ripe) tomatoes I experienced in Alaska.  Total Voyage distance 1,130 miles.

ADOPTING PLAN ‘C’ – HEADING TO TONGA

Another lovely night.  This time though the wind deserted us in the early hours and has been missing since.  For the last twelve hours we have rolled around the ocean and just managed to keep moving at between two and three knots.  Such a contrast to the previous days when we have been striding along effortlessly at between six and seven knots.

Jessica Sailing in The South Pacific
Jessica Sailing in The South Pacific

The wind is expected to fill in again this evening and we will welcome some breeze through the boat – its very hot today.  I poled out the jib this morning to reduce the sail flogging, we are moving slowly south east, downwind.

We keep scanning astern looking and hoping for signs of a breeze.  Its been a slow day today, only one hundred and eighteen miles noon to noon.

Last night we downloaded another weather file and found the winds forecast for Suwarrow had not diminished – in fact they had become slightly stronger, thirty knots.  There is no point in us arriving in such weather, the anchorage will be neither relaxing or conducive to exploring ashore or by Kayak.  We will just be stuck onboard, much like during our call at Christmas Island.

We have reluctantly made the decision to skip Suwarrow and head direct for Tonga.  If we had been on an easier schedule we could have easily held back arriving in Suwarrow for a couple of days and then enjoyed some calm condition inside the lagoon.  We don’t have that luxury so will head direct to Neiafu in the Vava’u group to check in with customs and immigration.  It will probably take us another ten days to get to Neiafu, arriving around Monday 21st August.

The time that we have missed at Penrhyn and Suwarrow we will spend sailing down the Tonga chain of islands.  We have been reading some good stuff about Humpback whales breeding at this time of year – hopefully we will catch up with some.  Total voyage distance 540 miles.

CHRISTMAS ISLAND / KIRITIMATI TO PENRHYN

I awoke early this morning, it was too quiet.  On deck all was peaceful, the anchor cable was lying soundlessly in the water.  After days of wind this was a pleasant surprise.  I was now too awake to go back to sleep and it was too early to wake Jessica.

For the next hour I pottered about, putting in some waypoints to the GPS, reading some old news clippings and getting the ships papers’ ready for clearing out from Kiritimati.  Then I made toast and marmalade for breakfast and woke Jessica – who couldn’t complain too much about the time as she was presented with breakfast.

After breakfast we launched the pig and headed into London to clear out with customs and immigration.  This was an easy and pleasant affair and cost us AU$20.  With clearance in hand we set off to do some final provisioning.  We discovered poor quality oranges cost $3.5 each and water was $3 a bottle.  Other items were similarly expensive and we ended up getting not much at all.  I will need to start fishing again.

I found that there are chickens on Christmas Island, I saw a whole bunch running around a yard.  No doubt some enterprising local doesn’t like paying $1.50 for each egg.

When we returned to Truce the wind and sea had picked up again and we had a wet ride.  Once back on board we made ready for sea, lashing and stowing everything in its place.  At eleven o’clock I started the engine and began hauling up the anchor.  By midday we had cleared Cooks Passage and started out voyage south to Penrhyn.

The first hour we sped south on a beam reach at over seven knots.  However, as soon as we cleared the Island the wind went around to the south east and we are back with the wind on the port bow.  Beating into the wind, crashing and banging, salt spray everywhere (thank goodness for the hard dodger) and a strong feeling of Déjà vu.  At the moment we can’t lay the course south and are getting pushed to the west.

Predict Wind weather routing has the wind coming from the east and further down the track from north of east.  That will be perfect.  I hope the wind comes around in the next few hours because I don’t fancy five more days going to windward.  We both had enough of that coming from Honolulu to Kiritimati.  Sailing should be fun, a little bit of going to windward occasionally is OK, but not for days on end.  In the back of my mind I have the option of missing Penrhyn and going direct to Suwarrow if the wind stays south of east.

Apart from my moaning about the wind everything is fine, clear skies with fluffy clouds, fifteen knots of wind and we are making reasonable speed in the general direction of south.  The biggest problems we have now is deciding what to eat for dinner.

PUBLIC HOLIDAY ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND

Last night I slept in the cockpit under the stars.  I started off in the forward cabin but the noise of the waves against the bow and the anchor chain drove me out.  It’s quite cool here at night and a long sleeved shirt, sarong and socks was the comfortable attire for sleeping outside.

Fortunately, the wind subsided this morning to around fifteen knots and we were able to head ashore in the pig.  It was a wet ride into the dock.  Jessica took most of the spray as she was sitting at the bow and I arrived quite dry.

Christmas Island Church. Photo Ray Penson
Christmas Island Church. Photo Ray Penson

Today was a public holiday on Christmas Island, but I didn’t notice any difference.  I was told that everything would be shut, but all the little stores were open as usual.  There is an ANZ bank here and we walked up to get some cash from the ATM.  Cash is needed to buy anything here.

We topped up a jerry can of diesel and bought some eggs.  The eggs come in from Hawaii, apparently there are no hens on Christmas Island.  I find this hard to believe – all remote communities visited previously have hens running about.  The eggs came in a tray which proved a challenge to get back to Truce without breakage – but surprisingly we did it.

The weather is still not settled enough for me to be comfortable away from Truce.  The four times dragged anchor of yesterday still on my mind – we headed back out to the anchorage.  The trip back was even wetter as the wind had picked up again.  I was steering the outboard with one hand and bailing with the other, Jessica was holding onto the tray of eggs with grim determination.  Fortunately, the bailing rate exceeded the water inflow and we arrived alongside Truce with buoyancy intact.  The first item discharged to the deck of Truce was a tray of intact eggs.

Tomorrow we will be going ashore to clear out of Christmas Island before heading south to Penrhyn.  I would’ve liked to explore Christmas Island further.  The locals have told us of many interesting spots.  Unfortunately, the open anchorage, poor holding for the anchor and strong trade winds and seas coming across the lagoon have prevented us from venturing far from Truce.  Next week may be perfect weather but we don’t have time to linger.

BOAT BOUND AT CHRISTMAS ISLAND

Any hopes of going ashore this morning were foiled by the wind.  A solid trade wind made conditions at the anchorage unsuitable for using the dinghy to g et ashore.  I have plenty of little jobs to attend to – the time will not be wasted.

At lunchtime, we experienced wind against tide conditions that put Truces stern into the wind and everything out of kilter.  The pig was acting erratically and charging into the hull in a vicious manner.  At about this time we started dragging anchor.  I was also making bread at the time.  Jessica and I hoisted the pig onboard, which is quite easy with two people.

Resetting the anchor turned into a chore, on the fourth attempt we finally found a good hold.  The tides and currents are flowing strongly into and out of the lagoon now.  Crystal clear water on the flood and milky waters on the ebb.  Its full moon tomorrow, we can expect another ripping tide day.

We ended up spending the day just doing stuff in our own time.  We did laundry, made lunch, baked bread, serviced the self-steering gear, tightened up the starboard cap shroud, Jessica sang and played guitar, I cleaned toilets and bilges.  Time flew by.

I did a download from Predict Wind and the prediction is for the wind to decrease tomorrow and Tuesday.  We hope they are correct as the shore and exploration is calling.

A DAY OUT ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND

This morning we had a run ashore, in fact by the time we had ourselves ready it was almost lunchtime.  The wind and waves at the anchorage are too much for the small rubber duck so we had to launch the pig which has been languishing on the foredeck for months undisturbed.

Jessica bailing a full boat load of water
Jessica bailing a full boat load of water

This is Jessica’s first experience with the pig and she seemed to take my warnings to be careful a bit too lightly.  Together, we could just manage to lift the pig and sling it over the side.  The best way to launch even if it does mean there will be a bit of water to bail out.

The trip ashore was very wet, the twenty knot trade winds coming uninterrupted across the lagoon whip up a small sea.  Luckily the water is warm and its no hardship.

When we arrived at the dock a surprising event occurred.  I asked Jessica to hop onto the dock first.  As she proceeded to alight she performed an uncoordinated pirouette followed by a squeal, some small boat gymnastics (that I have only seen surpassed by her mother) and then a large splash.  I found myself sitting bin a boat full of water and quickly rescued the valuables and myself to the safety of the wharf.  From the wharf, I looked down at a boat full of water and Jessica clinging to the side.  Quite how this happened I am a loss to explain.  Anyway, based on the you caused it – you fix it philosophy, Jessica started bailing.

Just then a guy called Rab, wearing a NZ Rugby Sevens shirt turns up and we get chatting.  He tells me a few interesting things about the Island, where to get cold beer and offers to find us some fresh local fruit on Sunday.  He also gives us a large papaya that he happens to have in his truck.  Then he offers to fill our diesel jerry can and bring it back for us.  Wonderful.

By this time Jessica has clambered out of the water and is now complaining about jelly fish stings.  We set off into town – as Rab says you can’t get lost.  The main street has tarmac between the pot holes, soft tarmac that squashes as you walk on it.  We visited most of the shops in town and bought a little something at each one.   Finally, I found full crème powdered milk – no non-fat rubbish for these people, they understand the value of full fat.

After the shopping, we headed towards some loud music and found the Lady Wheel Bar.  I drank an almost cold Heineken and Jess had a warm coke.  I wondered why they needed chicken wire over the bar – reminded me of the Blues Brothers film.

When leaving Truce at an exposed anchorage I can never really relax ashore so we headed back out for another soaking in the pig.  Boarding Truce in the seas was a bruising affair – I now have bruises on bruises.  Jessica has had her first experience with the pig – now she understands its malevolent attitude if not treated with the utmost respect.

There are no other cruising boats here.  Not many boats come here, the customs man reckons there have been ten in total for 2017.  I suppose the lack of a protected anchorage is a big drawback, although catamarans could easily assess the protected lagoon by the town which would be perfect.  There is a weekly flight here now from Fiji and Honolulu, tourism is being developed – I would say they have a long way to go but the potential is there.

I was thinking about all the remote places I have been and think Christmas Island must be the remotest I have been to in terms of distance from major cities.  The people we have met here are all very genuinely friendly and helpful.

ARRIVED CHRISTMAS ISLAND

This morning I saw the loom of Christmas Island in the distance, off the port bow before sunrise.  I was a bit surprised, I didn’t think the place was big enough to light up the horizon.  It always feels good to make landfall as expected – even in the GPS age when the average muppet can navigate like a pro.  I think this is a symptom of my earlier life before GPS when making landfall was satisfying and sometimes a relief.

CHRISTMAS ISLAND. PHOTO Christmas Island Tourism AssociationCHRISTMAS ISLAND. PHOTO Christmas Island Tourism Association
CHRISTMAS ISLAND. PHOTO Christmas Island Tourism Association

It took a few more hours for us to work our way into Cook Passage against a stiff head on trade wind.  I aborted our first attempt to get into the Cook Passage and past the first set of reefs – we headed out on the track we had come in on to revaluate.  Something was not right – the breaking water on the reefs did not seem to correspond with the charted reefs.  I have a BA paper chart and two electronic charts – a comparison between the three gave a bit more confidence, the reef is not marked on any charts but the paper chart shows thirty decimetres water depth, hence the breaking water.  Once that was sorted out and the situation reassessed I made another go and found my way into a position just off London town in shallow water.

The radio operator on Christmas Island radio advised me to anchor anywhere I felt comfortable.  Basically, that was nowhere.  There is a beautiful protected deep lagoon just off the town which I wanted to enter.  Unfortunately, the lagoon entrance is shallow and only available to shallow draft vessels, larger boats must anchor outside.  The anchorage area is exposed to the trade winds and on a lee shore – we won’t be venturing too far from the boat on our trips ashore.

The immigration, customs, police and associated people wanted to come out to Truce to clear us in.  When they saw the small size of our dinghy and the choppy sea they asked me to bring the ships papers ashore.  A much better arrangement.  Clearing in was done on a bench in a boatyard and was a happy affair.  I must go to their office on Tuesday to clear out – when no doubt they will hit me with a fee.

I discovered that Monday is a public holiday here – national youth day I think.  Saturday most things are shut, but cold beer and a store or two should be available.  Sunday everything is shut, apart from Church.  Looks like a quiet time will be had here – but you never know.

By the time we had cleared in both Jessica and I were not inclined to go ashore.  It had been a long day.  The plan is to relax on board tonight, have sundowners, a good meal and maybe watch a movie before a good night’s sleep.  Total voyage distance 1,198 miles

FREE OF THE INTER TROPICAL CONVERGENCE ZONE (ITCZ)

Yesterday afternoon I tacked east and after a few hours the wind started to back around and I could head south again.  We are close hauled on the port tack again with the wind from south of east.  The motion became quite violent on board as Truce was jumping off waves and crashing into the following one.  I have reduced sail to preserve body and boat.  We should still make Christmas Island in two days if the wind does not go any more south.

The sunrise this morning was magnificent.  Blue skies and high cloud.  No more ITCZ.  We spent four days in there and had two wonderful nights sailing, dining and watching movies in the cockpit.  We also had two not so good nights.

This morning I did my bread making workout.  Quite an effort when going to windward.  Hopefully this batch will last a couple of days.

The Truce movie appreciation society watched the first ‘Men in Black’ movie last night.  Jessica’s choice.  I have seen it a couple of times previously, it was a family favourite with the children – but still entertaining to watch again.

KIRITIMATI, Christmas Island. Photo Google Map
KIRITIMATI, Christmas Island. Photo Google Map

Talk is now turning to Christmas Island and what we will do when we get there.  Important items include go for a long walk (Jessica), fresh fruit, laundry and cold beer(me), snorkelling, fresh fish, fresh vegetables, sleep and hang out with the locals.  Christmas Island is on GMT plus fourteen hours, we will need to adjust a day before we get there as we are currently on GMT minus ten.  Voyage distance 1,026 miles.