Welcome to Nuku’alofa

After a boisterous 13 day passage of 1286 nm we are enjoying hanging out at anchor in front of Big Mama’s Yacht Club.

Big Mama’s Yacht Club on Pangaimotu island, a Seven Seas Cruising Association recognized yacht club, has been welcoming cruisers for many years. Earle and his wife – “Big Mama” – run the restaurant and bar as well as ferry service to the mainland. They are very helpful and can provide advice and information as well as facilitating services like  laundry, fuel, potable water, as well as a cheeseburger and beer in paradise. The ferry runs regularly twice a day between Nuku’alofa and Pangaimotu Island, carrying passengers and goods. The island is home to a small permanent community, almost entirely composed of family members related to Earle and Big Mama.

The dinghy dock and ferry boat in front of the emblematic wreck at Big Mama’s YC on Pangaimotu. The central town of Nuku’alofa on big island of  Tongatapu is across the lagoon.

Below is a screen capture of the weather pattern we encountered on the passage from New Zealand to Tonga (this is a GRIB weather file overlaid on OpenCPN navigation app). Note the Big X pattern. A Low above and a Low below, a High to the east and a High to the west. Our actual track versus the neat planned route, with a number of zigs and zags, resulted from this persistent weather pattern.

Our actual track, overlaid on top of Google Earth satellite image. NZ at the bottom. Tonga at the top. The Kermadec Ridge and Kermadec Trench are visible. Just don’t hit the Kermadec Islands (circled in white)! Tonga is clearly part of that benthic geology.


Approaching Tongatapu. Around the headland is the bay and harbor approach to the capitol of Tonga, Nuku’alofa. In addition to being a main port of entry for Tonga it also is the country’s largest city and serves as the main commercial port for the country.

The doughty skipper. Once again, his skillful navigation skills have brought our little vessel safely to port.

Tied up alongside the concrete wharf. As we approached slowly under motor, lines and all fenders at the ready, Ruth was eyeing the dock and preparing to scramble. But we also could see two boys playing at the end of the dock. Spying our approach and knowing our intention, they spontaneously extended their hands, clearing indicating willingness to catch our lines. We brought Velic alongside and secured to the wharf’s concrete bollards, with enthusiastic assistance from the boys. They were very interested in the boat, so once secure, we invited them aboard for a “tour.”

View of the small boat harbor, used by all the smaller local boats, and where visiting yachts come to clear in. Note the med-moored cruising boats lining the dike across the way.

Zeffe, the older of the two boys who took our lines. He was shy, very quiet and courteous.

Nici, the “scamp” – younger, bold and curious. He asked lots of questions – in what sounded like a pidgin blend of Tongan/English – and wanted to explore every locker and corner. Randy offered them peanut M&Ms and we enjoyed having both boys aboard. They stayed until the Customs official arrived and sent them off.

The Digicel tower at the small boat harbor entrance. Good cell coverage throughout the anchorage using our MiFi 3G cellular brick for internet.

The fish market on the wharf. Boats go out in the early morning while it’s still dark and come back after daybreak, unloading ice chests full of fish here.

A large cemetery we walked past on the road into downtown from the harbor. Nearly every neatly-kept plot had (plastic) flowers, and many of the stone memorials included photos of the dearly departed.

The label reads: “Funded by CCECC; China Civil Engineering Construction Company.”

These trash receptacles were along the waterfront park of town. Nearby a new Chinese consulate building was under construction and appeared nearly complete. Chinese Aid signs appear along with US AID and European Union Aid posters throughout town.


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