14 November 2011
Still moored up in Nuku'alofa, we got up early for a round the island tour with Heartbeat. After a night of hearing the high-pitched zzzzz of a mozzie and trying to catch it (unsuccessfully!) I was a wee bit tired this morning, but we were in for a day of treats. First we headed to Captain Cook's landing place. If only he had known that the Tongan's were planning to kill him, he may never have named this group of islands "the friendly islands" which has stuck to this day. Then we saw the 'stonehenge' of Tonga which was built in 1200AD, using three large rocks bought in by canoe from Fiji.
Then, a spot of swimming in freshwater underground caves, followed by visiting the blowholes of Tonga - an amazing natural phenomenon in the reefs, where the incoming surf blows up through holes in the rocks like geysers. After a visit to see the bats, we were back in town checking the infamous 'weather window' for getting to NZ. After thinking this Thursday might be a good day to go, it seems now that it will be more like Monday 21st November to make the best of the pressure systems around. So, we'll be using this week to scrub the bottom of the boat, provision, fill with water and generally pack everything away again ready for our sail.
13 November 2011
We've been busy busy busy! We're back in town, moored up, Med style, where you drop your anchor and then reverse back to the quay and put stern lines out. Normally, you back right up until you can step off the boat and tie up but here there are rocks before so you have to back up and then jump into the dinghy and take the ropes ashore, all the while trying to keep the boat in line whilst the wind is pushing you sideways. Mark did a good job though and we were in in time to then help Heartbeat moor up - normally when someone is mooring here neighbouring boat crew will jump up to help you, but here there seems to be a tradition of them standing on the bow of the boat with a beer in hand to see if you are going to cock up! We thought of doing that too, but why would you do that?
We went with Heartbeat to some caves to have a Tongan feast and watch the dancing. It was a late night for us all but Lochy managed to stay awake for the fire dancing which was amazing as was the whole evening. Very different from French Polynesian dancing, but very serene and lovely - not the fire dancing - that was energetic and lively and only for a brief minute did I think 'I hope the end of the fire stick doesn't fly off and hit the audience' Not much health and safety there - until we went back in the taxi, where we were in 3 police checks and the driver was breathalyzed all three times. Zero tolerance for any alcohol whilst driving.
The next day, Sophie, the kids and I went to the Baha'i picnic where there were about 100 Baha'is celebrating the birth of Baha'u'llah - a lovely day. And today, Mia and I are off the the Baha'i centre for a meeting, and then bringing back some of our new friends to see the boat, which is now looking a bit tidier than yesterday!
11/09/2011, Pangaimotu, Tongatapu, Tonga
It's a nice feeling, sorting out. Taking a cupboard or a box under a bed, sorting it out, cleaning, checking for 'hitchhikers' as the NZ biosecurity department calls them. And we have found some. The wooden drums we bought in Greece harboured a few wood eating creatures which had rendered said drums into a pile of sawdust. So it was good we found them. I've put all the potential banned items (straw, shells, wooden ornaments) into one box for the customs official's easy access when we arrive.
Mark and I yesterday started cleaning the hull, we've only managed to clean above the waterline so far, but below will need quite a bit of attention too as once again we are not allowed to take hitchhikers into NZ, even of the watery variety.
We've been following the progress of the yachts that left last week for NZ, with their course and wind strength so we can get a better prediction for ourselves. And we nearly got an extra crew member - someone from Jersey who is living in NZ at the moment but unfortunately his last exam doesn't finish until after we will have left so we'll just have to do it ourselves, which is a shame but I am sure we'll be fine.
I've contacted the local Baha'i community here - there are 4000 Baha'is in Tonga and on Saturday we'll be joining them for their celebration of the birth of Baha'u'alla which should be fun.
4 November 2011
The Tonga trench is 10,000 metres deep and we passed over it just before our depthometer read 30 metres - we'd arrived within Tongatapu's lagoon. Crazy! There's nothing to show that we've just jumped 9,970 metres over an underwater mountain, except our boat's instruments (and they've been known to have their inaccuracies in the past!) The sun was setting (as predicted) but luckily we passed all the way through the channel in light, which was just as well as none of the channel markers marked on the chart were in place. It was great to see whales blowing mist around us as we came in and even nicer to hear Gruffalo come over the radio and guide us in with a flash light. Dropping anchor was the nicest feeling. Having Gruffalo come over to say hello was also lovely, not having seen them since Panama.
The next day, we left the anchorage and headed into the customs dock, where we waited all day for the 4 officials to visit us. At least we didn't have to walk all over two looking for them. I know that every country has their protocols and we as sailors have to respect them, but I did wonder why we needed 4 visits - when each one gave us the same form to fill in. I even had to ask one of the men from which department did he come? Health. And your role is? To check that no-one is unwell on board. But he didn't even ask us. He just asked us to fill in a form (none of the questions asked are all your crew in good health?) and charged us 100 pangaa. Hmm.
Anyway, now we are back in the Pangaimotu island anchorage - it's very beautiful and has a really friendly 'yacht club' which is the hub of social activities for the boats waiting to head down to NZ. For now, we're just going to relax and enjoy our time here, thinking about leaving in the next couple of weeks.
Curr Position: 21.07S 175.09W
3 November 2011
In the past 10 days we have seen precisely NO ships, yachts, boats......anything. It certainly is a wide wide sea. Oh, I'm sorry, yesterday, we did see a shark about the size of a dolphin - we thought it was a dolphn but then it did the whole wavy thing with its tail sticking out of the water and Lochy and Mia spotted the discrepancy. And then a flip flop. Hopefully the two weren't linked. Apart from that, it's only been the odd sea bird. Incredible really.
Poor Mark has been in bed for the past 48 hours now with a fever and sweating like a ..well, a sweaty thing. He was able to do a watch last night which helped and he's definitely a little better this morning. We worked out that we might be arriving after sunset (quelle surprise!) and so we have put one engine on just to keep our speed up with the hope that we might just squeeze in before it gets dark. 80 miles left to go. At least it's not the weekend - you can't check in at the weekend and you're not supposed to leave the boat until customs have visited. At least we don't have loads of fresh fruit and veg for them to confiscate! Curr Position: 21.03S 173.55W
1 November 2011
Well, the kids were excited about Halloween and so parental tiredness was not going to stop the pumpkin carving, the dressing up and face paints, cookie baking and jelly moulds. I thought we had quite a fun day considering we were out at sea and so couldn't really trick or treat, but when Lochy woke up this morning, he expressed his disappointment with our effort - "it just wasn't really all that fun." Thanks Lockster!
Mark is still not feeling well and after a plethora of information from our shore support - Goody - I think he might have a kidney infection. He's on antibiotics though, so hopefully the fever will go down soon.
I think we've passed through the international dateline today - well, there is a wiggly purple line on our chart, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't mark the edge of the world. So it's tomorrow. Unfortunately, the reference to skipping 24 hours doesn't extend to skipping 120 miles too, which would be nice given the circumstances. This leg will go down as the toughest one mentally for me. But then, no one said it would be easy and I think the next on to NZ will be so much more enjoyable; a combination of better provisioning and a shorter journey. And if there's a stray kiwi needed a lift back home, we might be offering him/her a lift!! Curr Position: 20.54S 171.56W