11/18/2011, Pangaimotu, Tongatapu, Tonga
19 November 2011
We checked out of Tonga and left town yesterday (Friday) back to Big Mama's (Pangaimotu) It looks like we'll be leaving on Monday (though still not 100% official!) Spend too long talking to other boats and looking at weather websites and your head can get into a right fuddle! Today was spent cleaning the barnacles off the bottom of the boat. Even though we're in Tonga, the water is a little chilly once you've been in for half and hour (me) or an hour (Mark) so the bouts were interspersed with hot cups of sweet tea (more to wee into your wetsuit later for extra warmth!) We've just got one more side of one more hull to do, and Pegasus is lovely and smooth. I did the metre I could reach with my snorkel and mask which didn't involve me putting my head too far into the water and then Mark did the rest (propellor etc) I do understand why New Zealand sets such stringent regulations but feel a bit sorry for poor Tonga who has all the barnacles of all the boats' bottoms from the Pacific that are heading to NZ. Now we're off to the beach with the kids so they can clean the bottom of the dinghy.
16 November 2011
The water at the fuel dock is painfully slow. We're talking 4 hours to fill up the tanks. So, yesterday, I thought I'd start doing dinghy rides to the dock to fill the jerry cans - 400 litres needed - might take all day. I got bored after 200 litres. Luckily for the past two days it has rained non-stop and we have actually been able to fill our tanks using rain water, do another load of laundry (yet to dry it!) and scrub the decks. Today has been a sit-in-a-cafe kind of day and catch up on weather reports. Unsurprisingly, there is a big low over us at the moment which is why we're not going to leave until Monday. We have shared paying for a voyage plan from Bob McDavitt, the NZ weather guru, with Heartbeat, so we should get that back tomorrow.
We've washed the kids' bikes; taken the mud off the wheels - for NZ biosecurity and we still have to clean under the water line, but I am putting that one off until I really have to.
All the local kids are going mad in the rain - showers in the street, jumping off the pier, I think it was a half day off school today because of the rain it was that wet. All the roads in town were flooded. We've been reminded of the hatches that leak - another job for NZ. And also on the list? A new bimini please!
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