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.

CHECKED INTO NUKU’ALOFA

What a night – the weather and sea turned it on.  We had the choice of going fast with thirty knot winds or sailing conservative and reducing stress on both man and boat.  We went the less stress way – it was still a wild ride and a very wet affair, both from the rain and seawater coming onboard.  After four in the morning the wind started to decrease and by six was blowing a good trade wind twenty knots.

First refreshment in Tonga
First refreshment in Tonga

After a long night, I didn’t get much sleep, we arrived in Nuku’alofa at eight in the morning.  The pilot book advises to call the port and customs when one hour out.  I did call but knew it was a waste of time, no one is listening. We entered the small boat harbour and spent some time trying to find a place to get alongside.  Eventually we tied up alongside a fishing boat so we could jump ashore and clear in.

By midday we had completed the customs entrance, paid our harbour dues and found a place to tie up alongside ‘Ikale’, an old converted Gulf of Mexico crew boat.  With the inward formalities over we headed into town to clear Jessica with immigration., ready for her flight tomorrow.

On the way into town we stopped for some fish and chips on the harbour side.  Cheap and cheerful and great fresh fish.  At the immigration office the clearance for Jessica was quickly done and fee paid.  Now with all the clearances complete, fees paid and papers stamped we could relax.

We had a roam around town, found a café to have coffee and cake, the vegetable market, the general market and a few stores along the way.  Then we had a long walk back to Truce for an afternoon siesta – we were both quite tired.

In the evening, we went to a local restaurant on the waterfront and ate fish again – then back to Truce for more sleep.  So ended our first day in Nuku’alofa.

HEADING SOUTH TO NUKU’ALOFA

After an excellent super last night, we retired early to catch up on some sleep.  During the night, the wind got up and we were swinging and rattling about the anchorage.  Fortunately the holding at Uoleva Island is good in sand, so no worries about dragging and the water is quite calm in the lee of the island.  Just a bit uncomfortable and noisy with the wind howling in the rigging and the rain beating on the deck.

The morning was a dark brooding affair with black rain clouds all around.  The forecast was for strong winds but an update later in the morning had the winds decreasing.  We decided to run south, so with a triple reef in the main and a tiny jib we headed south at a fast pace.  In the end, we had thirty knots of wind, plenty of rain and the wind ride continues.

I was reluctant to leave Uoleva Island.  It’s a truly beautiful spot, I would have liked to explore further and visit the reefs and lagoon pools on the east side.  But – Jessica has a plane to catch so Uoleva will have to wait for another time.

We saw whales again.  The water was too rough to get a good look at them and we were moving fast.  At the rate we are moving we should be in Nuku’alofa by nine in the morning – in time for customs to open so we can check in.

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.