We have enjoyed our visit here in Tonga, but it’s time to move on. November 1 marks the official start of the Southern Hemisphere cyclone season, although early cyclones are rare. The forecast is favorable for departing within the next few days, and we want to get going while the going is good. We feel as though we’ve only “scratched the surface” of what there is to see and do in Tonga.
We checked out today (Friday) and then took on duty-free diesel, which is delivered to the dock by tanker truck, but which you can’t buy until after clearing out because the driver has to see the stamp on your papers. But usually, when you clear out you leave. It’s a bit complicated.
We are hanging on the anchor in Port Maurelle (actually a beautiful and isolated cove with flying foxes overhead) for the next 24-48 hours. There is a low trough passing over Tonga, bringing clouds and rain.
Our plan is to sail directly from Vava’u southwest to North Minerva Reef. If the weather conditions are right when we get there, we may stop over for a couple of days. If the conditions aren’t right to enter a coral reef in the middle of the ocean with no landmarks and no buoys, or if we are making good time and the weather ahead looks good for continuing, we may choose to carry on to New Zealand without stopping.
The Minerva Reefs, North and South, are unpopulated reefs that are often awash – there is no land – but the interior is a very large sandy lagoon that can provide a good anchorage for passing yachts wishing to break up a passage. The swimming and snorkeling are said to be among the best in the South Pacific.
Otherwise, we will carry on. All told, it’s ~1400 nautical miles from here to New Zealand. We expect the passage to take around two weeks; longer, if we stop at North Minerva Reef.
We plan to clear into New Zealand at Opua (Ah-POO-ah) near the tip of the North Island. There are other entry ports, but Opua is really well set up for efficiently clearing in numbers of visiting yachts quickly; at least that’s what we’ve been told by people who have “been there, done that.” We hope to do a bit of cruising in the Bay of Islands before sailing on down the east coast to Whangarei (Fan-ga-RAY is the Maori pronunciation), where we have arranged for a haul-out, new bottom paint and other boat work.
AIS transmit has stopped working. So you won’t see us leave Neiafu on MarineTraffic.com. You won’t see us arrive in New Zealand on MarineTraffic.com. Be assured: We do have good GPS position data and AIS is receiving positions of other vessels. We can see them, even if they can’t see us. We will email you when we get settled, take showers, find fresh salads, and get internet.