The last two posts were all text. They were written during our passage from Aitutaki, Cook Islands, to Vava’u, Tonga, using SailMail. SailMail doesn’t allow for graphics. We are now on a mooring in Port Refuge, the harbor for the town of Neiafu, and have a fairly good internet connection and can post photos. It’s raining and is forecast to rain all day. “Raining” in the tropics is different from what we call raining in the temperate latitudes. Those of you who have experienced it know what this means. The goal today is to collect rainwater and fill the water tanks. Otherwise, we are spending the day below deck, reading and, yes, updating the blog. And this one will mostly be pictures. We hope you enjoy them.
On the passage from Aitutaki to Vava’u (say Va-va-oo):
Some days were like this …
and some days were like this.
The seastar drifter: Our “go to” sail when the wind goes light. It keeps us moving at 1.5 to 2 knots when the breeze was only 4 to 5 knots.
And a few days were like this. You can see a large squall (thunder storm) ahead. We avoided this one by altering course to the north. We were actually quite fortunate on this passage; although we saw a lot of squalls with thunder and lightning around the horizon, we were able to avoid them or they simply missed us.
The Vava’u Island Group of Tonga:
Arrival was Saturday, so we passed the time until Monday anchored in Port Maurelle – a lovely bay around the point from the main town of Neiafu. Neiafu was where we would check in to Tonga.
The geology of Tonga surprised us. In contrast to the volcanic islands of the Marquesas and Societies, Tonga is comprised of sedimentary limestone lifted up above the sea. This results in flat-topped islands with no high peaks but steeply eroded cliffs at the shore line, and fewer beaches, but numerous caves to explore. The smaller islands look like muffins. One benefit of this geology for the Tongans is more arable land and good soil for crops.
Looking back toward the entrance into the Vava’u Group from Port Maurelle anchorage. We saw several other cruising yachts moving between islands. We shared our anchorage at Port Maurelle with about a dozen other cruising yachts.
Yet another pretty beach. This one at the head of Port Maurelle bay. Interestingly, due to the geology of the Vava’u Group, there are not a lot of sand beaches. The real beauty is said to be underwater, where the coral and limestone uplift has created caves and so-called “coral gardens.”
We anchored near the boat Ness, a steel Tahitiana 31 with a gaff rig and no winches that we’d last seen in Ta’haa, Society Islands. Phillip and Ness hail from Port Townsend and have already completed one circumnavigation. Phillip rowed over for a visit. Betty Ann of Confidence, anchored nearby, swam over to say “hello” also. Zebedee lies beyond Ness. She is a J. Benford design is a plywood sailing dory with a junk rig and no engine. Both skippers row their dinghies. We all felt at home together.
Philip of Ness and Allen of Zebedee, sharing Allen’s boat-made wine. Per Ruth, it is entirely drinkable. Both single-handers are in the Pacific for the second time. Alan, Zebedee’s owner/skipper, has also already completed one circumnavigation on Zebedee and is slowly working around on his second loop. Phillip’s plans are to backtrack from Tonga to South America, make his way around the Horn and, eventually, to the US East Coast. Alan (who is from England) has plans that are fluid at the moment: a true cruiser.
Looking back through the entrance to the harbor at Neiafu. The entrance is marked and has a visible back-range, making it an easy transit for sailboats.
Customs dock. There is one short section that is low enough for sail boats. The rest of the quay is high, with huge black rubber fenders for ships. Clearance officers come to the dock to board your boat for inspection and paperwork, best done at high tide when access to and from the boat deck is feasible. We were lucky and able to raft alongside Echo Echo, a Beneteau 47.7, then Galatee rafted outboard of Velic. Five boats cleared in same afternoon, keeping the Customs & Immigration, Health, and Agriculture Quarantine (that’s; right three officials) busy all afternoon.
Another view of the waterfront and commercial quay. The rip-rap enclosed small boat harbor (lower left) was funded and constructed by local cruisers for visiting yachts. The local fishermen didn’t have anything as nice, so it is now filled with local fish boats. There’s an asset management lesson in this.
Street scene, downtown Neiafu.
Neiafu farmers’ market, right next to the quay. The best-stocked farmers’ market we’ve seen in the South Pacific so far. Especially if you want melons … It was very busy Saturday morning. With the fish market right next door, Randy was reminded of the Filipino palengke.
We had GREAT ice cream cones from this small shop, and ate them standing in the shade while the ice cream melted and dripped on the sidewalk.
The Methodist church here in Neiafu. We had planned to attend Sunday service, but Sunday morning was squally and wet, so we opted to stay dry below on Velic. Getting to the church entailed a row ashore and then a 3/4 kilometer walk, and we didn’t want to show up soggy and bedraggled at Sunday service.
Schoolboys on their way to classes. Each school has its uniform color. The boys wear cloth tupenus in their school’s colors with a white short sleeve shirt; girls wear cotton jumpers in the school colors with whites short sleeve blouse. Notice that some of the older boys are wearing woven mat ta’ovalas. Both men and women may wear the woven ta’ovala,
Mango Cafe; cruiser hangout over the water. Good food, friendly staff, cool breezes, restrooms with TP and soap(!), free wifi, easy dinghy dock. With ambient temperature showers nearby it’s pretty nice living.
Cruiser party at the Aquarium Cafe, another popular place. Most of the Vava’u Bluewater Rally events were held at the Aquarium or at Mango (a whole 200 meters apart). This was a rally sponsored by New Zealand’s yachting industry to promote NZ, provide information about making the passage to New Zealand from Tonga, clearing in to the country, and services on offer there. Sailing is a really big deal in New Zealand and they do a lot of it. The Kiwi accent may be the most commonly heard English language accent in the South Pacific.
Staff at the Aquarium Cafe. “Malo ‘Aupito” means Thank You Very Much in Tongan. Tapas cover to front of the cabinet.
View across part of the anchorage. Mooring buoys have been placed in this deep bay, and they also help to protect the living coral below.
Randy was delighted by this unexpected parade on his way back to the dinghy.
A parade with marching bands from the local schools. At the head is a man carrying the flag of Fiji. Why the Fijian flag?? Because the parade was in honor of Fiji Independence Day.
This is a the same collegiate band that played for us at the closing party of the Vava’u Bluewater Festival at the Aquarium on Saturday night. Wonderful.
The main banner of the parade…
Getting into the spirit.
And taking the opportunity to do a little advertising of local businesses.
This is the red and white flag of Tonga. Why the US flag also? We don’t know, but we’ll attribute it to a spirit of friendly inclusion.
Participants getting blessed. We don’t know whether the parade stopped at each church in Neiafu; the photographer (Randy) just happened to be standing near St. Joseph’s so was able to get this shot. This is the church overlooking the harbor and is close enough that we can hear singing from on board Velic. Lovely.
Performance report: 150 liters, or about 40 gallons, of fresh, clean rain water collected. All water tanks full.