EXPLORING NUKU’ALOFA

The weather here is still unsettled, last night we had some wind and rain but today has been sunny with a cool breeze.  There is a trough forecast for Sunday with clearing weather following behind.  Weather Guru Bob says there may be an opportunity to sail after the weekend, maybe Tuesday.

Pangai Main street. Tonga
Pangai Main street. Tonga

Today I went exploring around Nufu’alofa.  I reckon I have now seen as much of the town as I want to.  It’s a spread-out place but not that big.  One good thing here is the food, everything I have eaten has been well cooked and fresh.  A real delight after the heavily processed foods of North America and Hawaii.  My next venture will be to look around the island outside Nuku’alofa.  I will see if I can hire a bike for the day.

Mariner's Cafe and Bar Nuku'Alofa
Mariner’s Cafe and Bar Nuku’Alofa

Since being here I have tried to get decent wifi.  It just seems impossible.  The cafes have wifi, all of them charge, its not free.  However, even after buying a few Mb its so slow that it’s an effort even to send out a few emails.  Don’t even think of downloading files.  This is the main island and I expected wifi here would be better than the other islands.  This is not the case, wifi in Neiafu and Pangai was faster.

So, a quiet day, just killing time, waiting to sail.  I notice Truce is getting a bit of green stuff on her bottom, she needs to sail south as well.

RUNNING SOUTH TO HA’APAI GROUP

I awoke this morning to find a stiff north-east breeze blowing into Tapana Lagoon.  Perfect for our trip south to the Ha’apai Group, some sixty-five miles distant.  We dropped our mooring at seven, said our farewells to Steve and scuttled out of Tapana under half a jib at six knots.

Holy Door Of Mercy Church Neiafu, Tonga. Photo Ray Penson
Holy Door Of Mercy Church Neiafu, Tonga. Photo Ray Penson

As we progressed south the wind came around to the east and blew 25 plus knots for the first couple of hours before settling down to a steady twenty to twenty-five knots, only easing off when we were a couple of hours from our destination.  We had a fast boisterous sail.

We are headed to Pangai to clear into the Ha’apai Group.  However, I didn’t expect to reach Pangai before sunset and planned to stop off at Haano Island for the night.  We can then move on and clear into Pangai on Saturday morning.

In Neiafu I took the opportunity to buy a new fishing lure and some one hundred-pound strength fishing line.  This afternoon I slung the lure over the side and an hour later had a fish on.  As we were sailing at seven knots at the time the load on the line was tremendous.  I got the boat headed to wind and slowed down and tried to haul in the line.  Whatever was on the end was large – it felt like the deadweight of a large tuna.  After ten minutes hauling I was getting nowhere, I gained a bit of line and then it was taken away again.  Then as I was giving a good heave the line parted – the fish was gone.

The fish was too large to get on board and too large for eating – it would be too wasteful.  So, I was not concerned about the fish getting away.  The loss of my new fishing lure is bugging me.  I will have to get inventive and try and make something up from bits and pieces I have onboard.

DRINKING RUM WITH OLD FRIENDS

The rain from yesterday evening continued overnight, finally giving way to some sunshine mid-morning.  I spent a few minutes bailing out the pig before we could go ashore – amazing how much water collected overnight.

By ten I had visited the customs and port office to clear out from the Vava’u group.  The tonnage dues came to less than ten dollars, all up the clearance into and out of Neiafu cost one hundred and thirty-one dollars.

Next on the ‘to do’ list was getting some fresh fruit and veg Fresh veg, eggs and topping up on a few dry goods.  The market down by the wharf has an excellent selection of fresh produce where we also got fresh eggs.

On the way back to Truce we decided to have an early lunch at Indigo café.  Our favourite café as they also seem to have decent WiFi.  Eggs and bacon for me and BLT for Jessica.  The bacon here is so good – unfortunately we forgot to buy some in the store.

Just after one in the afternoon we dropped the mooring and headed out of Neiafu harbour with a stiff breeze behind us.  We headed to Tapana Lagoon where a friend, Steve, was moored.  I met Steve last year at Warm Springs Bay, Baranof Island in Alaska.  Steve is also headed back to New Zealand but at a far more leisurely pace than mine.

At three in the afternoon we entered Tapana Lagoon and saw Steve’s lovely yacht ‘Rhapsody’ tucked up in the corner, nicely sheltered.  We were fortunate to find a vacant mooring close alongside and before long we were securely moored in a beautiful peaceful little bay, completely sheltered from the easterly trades.

The evening was spent on Rhapsody, chatting, eating and drinking Rum.  We were joined by Linda, a charming Australian lady who is sailing her yacht single handed.  Steve produced a surprisingly good Spaghetti Bolognaise – a great night was had by all.

Tomorrow morning we will rise early to head south towards Pangai in the Ha’apai Group.  We need to keep heading in the direction of Nuku’alofa to make the connection with Jessica’s flight back to Melbourne on the 29th.

WANDERING IN NEIAFU

What a great night’s sleep.  The weather was calm and Truce lie quietly to the mooring without a sound.  It was a cockerel crowing on the shore that work me early morning.  It took a few seconds for the unfamiliar sound to register before I realised where I was.

Wandering in Neiafu, Tonga
Wandering in Neiafu, Tonga

Breakfast was fresh Papaya with lime.  Then it was a brief tidy up of the boat and getting some urgent laundry out of the way before going ashore to explore.

Once ashore we were surprised by how many people were walking about – then we saw that a cruise ship was close by ferrying passengers ashore by tender.  Most of the passengers we came across seemed to be Australian.  One of the main tasks for us was to get internet access and get a flight out of Nuku’alofa booked for Jessica.  I also wanted to download and send emails that have been backing up for a month.  We found good internet at the Tropicana Cafe and after a couple of hours had exhausted our passion for being online.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around (its not a big place), looking in stores, buying some food items (Anchor long life milk!) and chatting with strangers.  In between we managed to find the Bella Vista Café for excellent BLT’s and the Aquarium café for dinner overlooking the harbour.  Fish again for dinner – it’s so good.  We finally ended up in the Mango Café where the Pig was parked for a final cocktail before heading back to Truce.

The rain had set in, as it did yesterday, in the late afternoon.  We had to bail some water out of the pig before setting off and were both quite damp by the time we got back on board.  Fortunately, its quite warm and being damp is no hardship for a short while.

Jessica is departing from Nuku’alofa on the twenty ninth of August so we must start heading south without delay.  Tomorrow morning we will buy some fresh provisions before checking out with the authorities and turning the bow towards the south.  I am not sure what our next destination will be – we will go with the weather and plan to suit.

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.

TONGA IN SIGHT

For the past forty-eight hours we have been sailing with the jib poled out to port and the main to starboard.  I haven’t touched anything, neither sails or self-steering – we have headed relentlessly down the track to Tonga.  It’s almost as if Truce is saying she has had enough of me messing around – just leave me to get on with it.  I am happy with that arrangement – an easy way to chew up the miles.

At two this afternoon we saw Tonga in the distance off the port bow.  Just a few more hours sailing and we will be in the lee of the island, where we can loiter around until tomorrow morning to enter and clear inwards.  I expect we will pick up some radio soon (I guess they have a FM station) and then the smells of the land.

This morning I ran the engine for thirty minutes, partly to give the batteries a top up but also to check everything is ok for entering port tomorrow.  Don’t want any surprises.  Later this afternoon I will complete and print out the paperwork required for clearing into Tonga, as soon as we near land the bureaucracy starts again.

Another great night for watching movies in the cockpit.  Tonight’s choice was ‘Blood Diamond’.  It’s quite a long movie and the computer battery ran out of juice half way through.  We will watch the second half this evening.  Total voyage distance 1,606 miles.

THE PENULTIMATE NIGHT AT SEA

We have both got the channels – even worse than yesterday.  Last night the discussion turned to food again and the dishes we were going to eat in Tonga.  Then Jessica started showing me photos of the food she had been eating in Vietnam.  We both seem to be slightly obsessed with the food thing now.

Well, the sailing has been good if not spectacular.  We have been sailing in beautiful weather, (Inc. occasional rain shower), with the jib poled out for the last twenty-four hours.  The winds have been light overnight and filling in this morning to around twelve knots, a slow night but perfect sailing weather now.  I have not touched the self-steering or sails, we just keep heading down the track.  Almost as though Truce knows the way, like a horse sniffing the stables.

Our arrival time at Neiafu is still Monday evening.  I will slow down as we reach the coast and enter at daylight, hopefully going direct alongside the dock for our clearance into Tonga.

Last night I did have something on toast as predicted.  At the back of the cupboard I have two tins of kippered herring skulking about – they went to Alaska with me last year.  I thought it was time to try one.  It was dreadful and ruined perfectly good toast.  I will try and barter the other tin with some gullible person for something edible.

Fishing is slow.  The smaller lures I have been using are not catching anything.  Another lure has lost its hooks to something.  The small lure strategy is a failure.  I have concluded we have the wrong line and the wrong lures.  I will replace both in Tonga and then start catching fish like a pro.

The wind was light and the sky clear for last nights screening in the cockpit.  We watched ‘Snatch’, a UK film.  Very humorous if not a bit violent.  Not suitable for everyone, having a British sense of humour is helpful.  Total voyage distance 1,470 miles.

TRUCE CREW GET CHANNELS

Jessica has the channels, that strange malaise seafarers get after being at sea for some time and approaching port.  She is restless and constantly talking about what food she is going to eat.  Of course, the condition is contagious, I am now is a similar state.

We still have plenty of food on board – but nothing we want to eat.  Tinned food and dried stuff is OK for a week or so but gets boring after a time.  The knowledge that we will have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meats after the weekend makes it even harder to eat pasta again.

A mixed bag of a sailing day some good winds and then going light and rain showers.  We are not going to make arrival on Monday so just taking it easy to arrive on Tuesday morning.

After lunch the wind allowed us to go back to poled out jib and mainsail.  We are now comfortably running down the track to Neiafu with little fuss and an easy motion.  That has led to a flurry of baking, muffins first and now the bread is in the oven.  We love the smell of fresh bread, although the oven makes the cabin too hot for comfort in this climate.  No doubt we will have something on toast for dinner this evening.

The movie showing in the cockpit last night had to be moved indoors due to rain.  We watched ‘Be Cool’ with John Travolta.  A good movie but it went on a bit too long, I only had a short sleep before my watch at midnight.  I managed a cat nap in the cockpit later but was woken up when heavy rain arrived in a small squall.  Total voyage distance 1,353 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.