MORE MAGIC SAILING

Last night was a magical sailing night – one to remember.  The wind was only slight but a constant six or seven knots.  The sea was calm with bio luminescence shimmering in our wake.  The only noise was the sea as we passed through at three or four knots.  So comfortable and I slept well.

This morning at ten the wind backed to the south east as hoped for, we can now lay a course towards North Minerva Reef without having to tack if the wind holds true.  This afternoon the wind picked up and I reduced sail to lessen the pounding and spray.  We are now ninety miles away from North Minerva and should arrive around breakfast time.  A good time to arrive, I need daylight to see what I am doing entering the lagoon inside the reef.

The sun has been out all day and the batteries are now fully charged again including the other electronic gadgets such as torch, speaker, phone, iridium, computer, iPad, hand held vhf radio etc.  It’s marvellous that just a couple of solar panels can keep everything working without having to use a generator or engine for power.

Not sure what the weather will be doing next week in New Zealand.  I expect to get an update from the weather Guru Bob McDavitt tomorrow.  I hope there is an early window of opportunity as I am ready to get home.

SOME BEAUTIFUL SAILING TODAY

truceLast night and this morning it rained continuously, the soaking type of rain that turns everything into a sodden mass.  But the wind held and we had a great sail through the night, unfortunately the south-east wind that was forecast didn’t arrive and the south westerly breeze pushed us too far to the west.

All day today we have sailed on the port tack, wind on the bow as usual, waiting for the wind to back to the south east.  It hasn’t.  We are now about sixty miles west of our track for Minerva Reef.  Looks like we will not be stopping there unless the wind backs overnight or I put in a long tack to get back East.  Let’s see what happens overnight, there is no hurry as I don’t want to arrive at New Zealand before the next big low has passed by.

The sun came out for a couple of hours this afternoon, the boat dried out quickly and hopefully the sun put back enough charge into the batteries to see us through the night.

Today has been an eating and snacking day.  I topped up on fresh food before sailing and as I don’t have a fridge on board the food only has a few days life.  I must scoff all the good stuff before it goes off.

We now have less than one thousand miles to go.  I am really looking forward to getting home, not least for the luxuries of a hot shower, a big stable bed and laundry.

On the subject of beds – when I am sailing I sleep on one of the settee berths in the main cabin, depending on which tack I am on.  I have a lee cloth rigged up to keep me in place if the boat rolls and tries to dislodge me.  It’s not the most comfortable of places but I don’t spend too long there in one go.  There is also a snug quarter berth that is ideal for sleeping at sea.  However, as its close to the cockpit I use it as a handy store for all the stuff I need when sailing.

NUKU’ALOFA TO NEW ZEALAND

This morning it rained cats and dogs.  My walk to the internet café to check the weather was a soggy affair.  Good news, the weather seems to be easing off on the route to New Zealand.

I went shopping for fresh fruit and veg and topped up on additional beer, the stocks were running low after such a long time in port.  I stopped for lunch and had fish and chips – a final Tonga treat.
After lunch I visited the Customs to get the boats clearance outward.  After some repetitive form filling I finally had the required piece of paper and a stamp in my passport.  All ready to go.

Just after three in the afternoon I let go the lines and we were on the way home.

We are now clear of the island of Tongatapu and sailing in a westerly direction – hoping the wind will back around and we can sail more to the south in the morning.  I am heading in the general direction of Minerva Reef.  A stop at the reef may be necessary if the weather blows as forecast on the eighteenth at the top of New Zealand.  We shall see in the next few days.

Its good to be back at sea again after waiting for so long in port.  Beautiful fresh air and a clear horizon.  At the moment the wind is a perfect ten to fifteen knots.  I have reduced sail for the night and we are doing a comfortable five and a half knots.  I hope it holds until morning.

READY TO GO

I am ready to depart Tonga and head down to New Zealand.  The charms of Nuku’alofa are wearing thin and I have a strong desire to get moving again.  The only thing delaying me is the weather at the New Zealand end of the route.  There has been a constant stream of lows charging across the Tasman bringing poor sailing weather.

Royal Tombs Nuku'alofa. Photo Ray PensonMy plan is to clear out on Monday and start making my way slowly to the south west awaiting a time when the weather improves and I can head down towards New Zealand.  If favourable I may stop at North Minerva Reef on the way to wait for an improvement.  I just want to get moving again.

This morning there was a Tsunami warning following an earth quake in Mexico.  Thankfully, nothing happened but I was ready to put to sea – just in case.

After the Tsunami all clear I had a stroll around the Saturday market.  What a great market, you can buy just about anything cars, clothes, tools, lawnmowers, shoes, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, electronics and of course food.  I was impressed by the chicken rotisserie mounted on a trailer, very ingenious.

After the market in headed into town and checked the weather and emails at the internet café.  I also bought a new small bucket to replace my previous favourite one that got washed overboard in one of the squalls on the way to Christmas Island.

Tonight, I will head up to the Billfish Bar to watch the All black’s vs Argentina.

VISIT TO CAPTAIN COOKS LANDING PLACE

Today started out wet with the northerly wind dying down.  By nine the rain had stopped and the outlook seemed fine for a few hours.  I decided it was time to get out and about the island of Tongapapu.

First, I set off to Captain Cooks landing place where he set foot on Tongapapu in 1777.  It’s quite an unimpressive site, run down with a closed-up café and non-functioning toilets.  The water side is dirty with old junk lying around.  The Queen and Prince Phillip visited the site in 1970 – I bet they spruced it up before she turned up.

Ha'amonga a Maui.photo Ray Penson jpg.
Ha’amonga a Maui.photo Ray Penson

Then it was off to look at some old royal terraced tombs.  After the tombs I headed out to see Ha’amonga ‘a Maui.  This is a stone monument, much like a mini Stonehenge.  I am not sure the history of the thing as there was no information available.  It appears that the cut vegetation lines mark out the summer and winter solstices, although the monument does not seem to line up.

This part of island where Ha’amonga ‘a Maui is situated is to the far east.  There is a nice fresh atmosphere about the place with clean fresh air coming off the ocean.    There’s Mango, Cassava, Plantain, and Banana everywhere.  The land here looks very fertile and reminded me of Nigeria just stick anything in the ground and it will grow.

Captain Cooks Landing Place - cafe closed. Photo Ray Penson
Captain Cooks Landing Place – cafe closed. Photo Ray Penson

Alongside the roads there are stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables.  Not the bland, perfectly formed, irradiated supermarket type, but real out of the soil and off the trees produce.  I bought some, it tastes good.

Captain Cooks Landing Place. Photo Ray Penson
Captain Cooks Landing Place. Photo Ray Penson

Around midday the heavens opened again, heavy tropical rain, I headed back to Nuku’alofa for a decent coffee and light lunch at Friends Cafe.  After lunch I visited the internet café to check the weather – still not looking very flash for sailing to New Zealand.  The weather up north is light and down south very windy.  I will be waiting a few days more.

Sunday tomorrow – everything shut apart from the churches.

WAITING FOR A WEATHER WINDOW IN NUKU’ALOFA

Today has been a flat day.  I have not done anything meaningful.  I am feeling a bit down now that Jessica has gone and I am alone again. I stayed on board most of the day reading a book and doing small odd jobs, just pottering about really.

I want to get going to New Zealand but the weather is not right yet.  It looks like next Monday will be the earliest opportunity to depart.  Very frustrating as I want to be on my way, but you can’t hurry the weather.  So, I will be waiting on weather and going slightly crazy if I can’t find some distraction.

This morning I was reflecting on our trip from Honolulu to Tonga.  The route planned was Honolulu, Christmas Island, Penrhyn, Suwarrow, Niue and Tonga.  In the end, we went direct from Honolulu to Tonga with only a stop at Christmas Island.  The weather on route and at the destinations of Both Penrhyn and Suwarrow being nasty.

In the Vava’u group we met up with a lady who had planned the identical trip, leaving Honolulu a month before us.  She made Christmas Island, after having similar weather on the bow as we did.  She then could not make Penrhyn or Suwarrow and missed them, she left out Niue as we did and headed direct to Tonga, all due to the weather.  What a coincidence that we both had identical itineraries and both made the same route decisions – and then both met up in the same small bay.

Tonight, I will stay on board again and cook some supper.  I have plantain and some fresh veg – it will be a healthy meal.  Then maybe watch a movie.  After a good rest tonight I will be ready for some exploration tomorrow.

SINGLE HANDLING TRUCE AGAIN

Last night I was eaten alive by a mosquito before I woke up and dealt with the problem.  This is the first time we have encountered mosquitoes this trip.  I now have the mosquito screens in the hatches and repellent on hand.  Early in the morning I awoke to the unmistakable smell of fish.  A quick scan around the wharf confirmed that we are berthed next to the local fish market.  I am not complaining, where we are moored is really handy to get ashore.

Truce Resting in Nuku'Alofa
Truce Resting in Nuku’Alofa

Today I lose my crew and will be back to single handed sailing again for the last leg of the voyage back to New Zealand.  As it was Jessica’s last day in Nuku’alofa we decided to take it easy and just stay local.

We had a late breakfast at a café just beside the boat.  Eggs and bacon in Tonga must be the best in the world – never disappointed.  Then it was back to the boat for Jessica to pack her bag and me to fuss around doing cleaning and small chores before we headed into town for the final time.

Lunch was taken at the Friends café, where they have wifi.  The coffee and food was excellent.  The wifi so slow it was almost useless.  However, I managed to send out emails that have been sitting in my outbox since we arrived in Tonga.

Fresh Ota Ika
Fresh Ota Ika

Next to friend’s café is a local craft shop, nice stuff, not the usual tourist junk.  We browsed around and Jessica finally found some unusual local jewellery for her friends.  Then onto the ice crème parlour for a mix of coffee and coconut ice crème in a waffle cone – more indulgence.

Finally, we hit the supermarket for some groceries to take me down to New Zealand.  Even in the big supermarket the choice and range of products is very limited – and costly compared with New Zealand.  A lot of the products on the shelves are well known supermarket or store brands from New Zealand.

At six thirty in the evening Jessica got a taxi to the airport.  I went back to the boat and suddenly felt very alone.  I will spend tonight on board and prepare to depart tomorrow.  I have some odd jobs to complete on the boat and some equipment checks to carry out – otherwise Truce is ready to go.  I will get some fresh vegetables and fruit on board plus another case of beer as the stocks seem to be running low.

Not sure when I will be sailing from here, the crossing to New Zealand is very weather dependent.  I will start paying close attention to the weather reports and forecasts.  Hopefully I will find a good weather window to get me across the final eleven hundred or so miles without too much drama.

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.

LEAVING NZ – A NEW CHAPTER

I am on the way back to Truce in Canada and writing this on the plane.  Eleven hours from Auckland to San Francisco and then on to Victoria in Canada.  It’s going to be a long flight but an even longer journey when I return to New Zealand with Truce in a few weeks.

Leaving home is always an uneasy time, there is the anticipation of new adventures ahead tempered with the leaving of loved ones behind for a while.  I will also be leaving a nice soft bed, home cooking and the easy domesticated life.  I have been through this cycle many times but it never gets any easier.

Before leaving home I checked out the weather forecast for Canoe Cove, seems there will be a few days rain and temperatures struggling to get into double figures during the day.  I don’t like wet cold weather and it’s not the best to be getting the hull anti fouled.  I am hoping the winter has not been too harsh on Truce and that the BC green mould has not taken over.  Whatever, I expect that there will be a lot of cleaning up, airing out and warming through to be carried out.

My priority is to get the hull anti fouled and then launch Truce back into her natural environment.  Then I can really get going on the seemingly endless job list of commissioning for the trip back to New Zealand.

I am flying on United Airlines from Auckland to San Francisco.  What a useless airline, I am very unimpressed.  The inflight food is just awful, service is aggressive and inflight entertainment is like something out of the seventies and the touch screen doesn’t. Then came the bizarre ice cream snatch.  I was given Ice Cream with my meal and just getting into it when a cabin attendant snatched it from me!  Why?  Because someone on the plane had a nut allergy!  Just Bonkers.  To cap it all my seat won’t recline, the cabin attendant informed me it’s broken and nothing can be done – but I could try complaining.  Clearly the Cabin Staff don’t anticipate any result from complaining and as there is no free seat I can move to – looks like I will just have to suck it, sit upright for 11 hours up and make a note never to fly United again.  I suppose the equipment on the flight deck works better than my seat.

Working on the theory that everything happens for a reason and that every action has an opposite and equal reaction – I am expecting a stroke of good luck to come my way soon.

FAT AND CONTENTED IN NZ

 I have been back in New Zealand since the end of January.  Living the good life, eating, drinking and enjoying the warm summer weather.  Generally getting fat, contented and too comfortable.  Apart from a couple of mammoth record breaking rain events the weather has been beautiful, real Kiwi summer.  Ngozi and I had a few days away in the Far North, enjoying he beautify scenery and taking in the quiet pace of life that exists just a few hours drive north of Auckland.  February always seems to be the best month.

Oakura Bay, New Zealand
Oakura Bay, Northland, New Zealand

Recently there has been a chill in the air at night and I am thinking more of my return to Canada next month.  Time for action, I have booked a one-way ticket to Victoria for early April.  Then down to Canoe Cove and meet up with Truce again.  I feel guilty about leaving her all winter, I hope she hasn’t suffered too much.  I expect she will need a thorough cleaning and airing, the weather will have been cold and damp over winter.

I have been thinking about the route I will take back to New Zealand.  First I think it’s down the coast to San Francisco, I have never been to San Francisco and I feel the need to sail under the Golden Gate bridge.  From San Francisco, I will probably head towards Hawaii before turning south towards New Zealand.

Anyway, before heading off from canoe Cove I have anti fouling and heaps of boat preparation to get out of the way.  There are always jobs to do on a boat – to keep in the sweet spot between perfect working order and total breakdown.