DAY 13 ONWARD FROM TONGA

This morning the wind finally died at ten, just ripples on the water.  We now have a huge spreading calm patch to get through before picking up the strong north westerly winds that will take us the final step to Opua.

The Yanmar engine has been running since the wind left us. Maybe it will be running for the next day as well – if the diesel lasts out.  So, we are making slow progress and now expect to arrive on Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday night.

I haven’t seen much bird life today.  I think the birds like some wind to play with, just like us sailors.  In the distance I saw another boat this morning, don’t know what it was, not a big ship or yacht so maybe a fishing boat.  The first boat I have seen since departing Minerva Reef on the 15th.

When making pasta last night one of my gas bottle ran out.  One that I had refilled in San Francisco back in June.  Amazing how long these gas bottles last, must be the best value fuel out there.

My food stock is getting low now, at least the stuff I want to eat.  My diet for the next days until port will be boring pasta, noodles, cereal and the occasional tin of something.

Last night we changed clocks to Summer time in New Zealand.  To celebrate this occasion, I am having an extra tot of Mount Gay Rum for sundowners this evening – I still have two fresh limes from Nuku’alofa.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Last night at midnight we passed through a weather front.  As we approached the front we were becalmed and motored in windless conditions for an hour before picking up the wind from the south east.  When the wind filled in it had some force, we had a boisterous sail to mid-day with more benign conditions since.  There was some heavy spray over the boat which has helped wash the dust and grime from Nuku’alofa away.  The topsides are sparkling now.

The weather forecast is firming up, looks like we continue heading west for three more days until making the turn for the south.  I can see light at the end of the tunnel now and can start thinking of an ETA into Opua.

After lunch, I had an afternoon siesta.  It was so good I went back and had another one.  Well it is Sunday, the day of rest.  Sunday is also the designated day for personal grooming, shower, shave, haircut and scrub down.  I have not had a hot shower since leaving Honolulu – I am looking forward to that luxury.

For sundowners this afternoon I changed back into long sleeved shirt and track pants.  It’s cool in the cockpit when the sun goes down.  It feels like the south-east breeze is bringing cold air up from the Antarctic.  For the cool weather I have switched to whisky and water.  Very nice, I could have taken another one but resisted as I need to stay alert.

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.

A DAY OUT ON PANGAIMOTU

This morning I took my constitutional walk into town.  Found the internet was not working, bought a fresh loaf of bread and returned to Truce in time for smoko.

Wreck off Pangaimoyu. Photo Ray Penson jpg.
Wreck off Pangaimoyu. Photo Ray Penson jpg.

At eleven I caught the boat out to Pangaimotu Island.  This is a small island with a resort, Big Mamas Yacht Club, that is a popular stop for visiting yachtsmen, having a sheltered anchorage from the prevailing winds.  When I arrived at the island I walked all the way around – it only takes forty minutes if you walk slowly.  Then I ventured into the water for a snorkel around the ship wreck close offshore.  A mass of tropical fish down below, very pretty.

Big Mamas Yacht Club.Photo Ray Penson jpg
Big Mamas Yacht Club.Photo Ray Penson jpg`

After all the excursion, it was time for lunch – fish with chips and salad.   Beautiful fresh fish, simple yummy food washed down with a couple of cold Heineken’s.  So nice to be sitting on a peaceful island, a contrast to Nuku’alofa which is only ten minutes away.

Pangaimoyu Resort Beach. Photo Ray Penson jpg
Pangaimoyu Resort Beach. Photo Ray Penson jpg

After lunch I walked around the island again before finding a spot to have an afternoon siesta.  After an hours peaceful sleep I awoke in time to take the boat back to Nuku’alofa and Truce.

So, an enjoyable day out.  The weather was overcast all day with a cool breeze so it didn’t get too hot.  I am still waiting on a weather window to sail to New Zealand.  It still looks mixed up with another low charging across the Tasman, a couple more days to wait yet.

RAIN ON SUNDAY, SUN ON MONDAY

Yesterday was a damp squid.  Rain all Saturday night and Sunday morning.  Sunday was overcast, wet and showery, cool all day.  Onshore it was very quiet, hardly anyone about, shops all shut.  I suppose everyone has gone to church and retreated home, the sort of day you want to have a nice fire and stay put.

Today is sunny with a nice cool breeze.  I walked over to the customs office and enquired about clearing out – particularly if I could clear out and anchor out for a day or two.  The first customs guy said no problem, I could have 24 hours after clearing out.  Then his boss with four stripes came and said no.  I would only have an hour to leave after clearing out and I could not go to anchor.  He said he had problems with other yachts clearing out and then anchoring for days and it must stop.

I would like to go out and anchor for a couple of days.  But if I need to come back into port for clearance its not worth the trouble.  I will hang around in Nuku’alofa until it’s time to depart.

The passing of the rain has unleashed a plague of Mosquitoes.  These are serious insects, cunning and tenacious.  I have the mosquito screens in place buy still they find a way in.  On board I have some mosquito and fly spray from Alaska, it worked fine in Alaska – stopping deer fly without any problems.  But – it doesn’t seem to worry the Tongan Mosquitos, they just keep coming.  One of the disadvantages of being tied up in port.

Later I wandered into town.  Everybody is very friendly and after being here for a few days people are recognising me (and me them) and the greeting are turning into conversations.  So many of the people I speak with have been to, lived in or have relatives in New Zealand.  It seems the remittances from family members in New Zealand plays a big part bin the economy here.

Previously I have extolled the qualities of Tonga bacon.  When walking about outside the main town you can see pigs and piglets running around, foraging all over the place.  They look happy, contented and plump.  Good bacon must be the result of such a life.

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.

RAIN STOPPED PLAY

I was awoken this morning by the patter of rain on the coach roof and the creaking of the mooring lines.  Fortunately, it was time to get up and no precious sleep was lost.

The northerly wind was causing little waves to enter the harbour and set Truce jiggling alongside and gently rolling.  There was a danger that the cap shrouds would touch the adjacent boat when both boats rolled towards each other.  I shifted Truce a bit further inshore to reduce the risk, a bit of a palaver as I have five mooring lines out.

Once the boat was settled I headed ashore.  Any thoughts of exploring the island had disappeared as the weather was threatening rain again and still windy. On my way into town I was given a lift by Dave, my new best mate in Nuku’alofa.  Dave is a bone carver and part time tour guide, in fact he is enthusiastic to do anything for money it seems.  Dave dropped me at an internet café where the kids go – fastest internet so far and only cost a dollar, unfortunately there is no wifi.

When I returned to Truce the waves were making her surge alongside – I put out another stern line, now we have six lines out.  There is a trough approaching and I expect the winds will come around to the east as it passes through.

If the weather is good tomorrow I will take a trip and visit Cooks landing place.  I am really not too interested in seeing the rest of the island – my mind is on departure and not sightseeing.

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.

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.