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s/v Sand Dollar
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - Pig Roast
09/12/2007, Niuatoputapu, Tonga

This evening a local family entertained the cruisers from the seven boats at anchor by having a traditional Tongan pig roast at their home. Besides the pork we had mixed vegetables, chow mein, breadfruit, curried horse meat, and candied mangoes. The horse meat was very much like beef and much more tender than I expected. Naturally, a good time was had by all.

On the way back to the wharf we stopped at the town hall to join an informal kava drinking session. The patrons, mostly men, were very happy to have us join them. Kava is a very mild intoxicant the Pacific Islanders have been drinking socially and ceremonially for many centuries. It tastes like mud! After several cups and feeling very little effect I decided it was time to head back to the boat while I could still walk.

All else is well onboard. The anchorage is very secure and I am sleeping well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - Trading With the Locals
09/11/2007, Niuatoputapu, Tonga

Three more boats arrived this morning with flags from the U.S., Canada, and Finland. The Finnish boat I don't know but will meet the crew tomorrow evening at a pig roast arranged by a local family. There are now seven of us in the anchorage. I expect one or two more boats to arrive today while the weather holds. It is expected to blow hard starting tonight.

The inhabitants of this island have by far the most primitive lifestyle of any island I have visited so far in my ocean travels. It is in sharp contrast to the relative affluence of French Polynesia and American Samoa. The economy is one of subsistence with the people growing or collecting almost all of their food. There is no central source of power. A few homes have solar panels or generators but fuel is in short supply and very expensive. Most families use kerosene for cooking and lighting. There are a few vehicles but horses or bicycles provide most of the transportation. Everyone wants to trade with visitors just like they have for a thousand years. Today I traded a tee shirt for some papayas, mangoes and bananas. Tomorrow a fisherman is bringing tomatoes and cucumbers for some fishhooks. Despite the simple way of life everyone seems happy and content. The ambitious ones leave for the main island or go abroad to work.

All else is well onboard. I am looking forward to the pig roast tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2007 - Land Ho!
09/10/2007, Niuatoputapu, Tonga

Sand Dollar dropped the hook in the lagoon at Niuatoputapu (New Potatoes), Kingdom of Tonga at 10 AM this morning which is actually tomorrow morning on account of the artificial location of the International Date Line. I was not happy about losing a whole day at this point in my life but I am told that I will eventually get it back.

All in all the passage was a breeze, so to speak. That is, the wind and seas were almost ideal and my arrival occurred when the sun was high enough for good visibility at the entrance. The Seattle boat "Marcy", with my friends Peter and Ginger onboard was the only other boat on the island when I anchored and I was delighted to see them. Soon, however, two other boats pulled in, both of which I know - the Swedish boat "Lorna" and the Norwegian boat "Helen Kate".

We spent most of the afternoon checking in with the officials. Their main concern was whether we had any cigarettes for them. You see, the island's smokers have run out of tobacco and the bimonthly supply ship is not due until the 24th. They are in dire straits.

All else is well onboard. I have not yet researched the angling opportunities.

Saturday, September 8, 2007 - Near Perfect Conditions
09/08/2007, Enroute from Pago Pago, American Samoa to Niuatoputapu, Tonga

The sailing so far on this passage has been almost ideal and I don't expect any change before my arrival in Tonga tomorrow morning. The wind has been 10-12 knots on the beam and the sea height has been dropping since my departure yesterday afternoon so that now there is a 5 ft. swell with a period of 9 seconds. The ride has been very comfortable, there is no rain in sight and the sky has some large cumulus clouds typical of steady trade winds. Sand Dollar is now 75 miles from landfall which puts me into "New Potatoes" before noon tomorrow.

All else is well onboard. I will not start fishing until tomorrow morning at daybreak. There are still some ahi tuna steaks in the freezer.

Friday, September 7, 2007 - Anchor Aweigh
09/08/2007, Enroute from Pago Pago, American Samoa to Niuatoputapu, Tonga

With some trepidation I began the process today of attempting to free my anchor from the muck and junk at the bottom of Pago Pago Harbor. I truly thought the job would take hours or even days. Some derelict boats in the anchorage seem to have been stuck there for years by their appearance. Neptune himself must have been looking over me, on account of my clean living, for the anchor came home with little trouble. It was caked in two inches of crud but at least it was on deck and Sand Dollar was free to set sail for the Kingdom of Tonga.

The present passage to Niuatoputapu, cruisers call it "New Potatoes", is 205 miles on a broad reach. It will require two overnighters with a landfall early Sunday morning. However, the Tongans have decided to be the first ones in the would to wake up each morning so they moved the international dateline to the east of them. Who gave them permission to do this? As a result, Sand Dollar will actually arrive a day later, on Monday. The tourism ministry must have hired a Madison Ave. PR firm to come up with their slogan: "Tonga - Where Time Begins". Anything for a buck!

All else is well onboard and I am glad to have finally left Pago. I was getting used to the putrid smell of the canneries.

Thursday, September 6, 2007 - Weather Improves
09/06/2007, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The low pressure system is still hanging around but at least today there was some sunshine between the dozen or so rain showers. Tomorrow is looking good for a departure to Tonga. The ocean swell is down considerably and the wind is forecast to be 15 knots on the beam. The water tanks are full, the wine locker is stocked and there are a few fruits and vegetables hanging in the cabin. My only concern is whether I can win my anchor from the foul bottom of the harbor. It has been holding so well in strong winds that I fear it is hooked onto a piece of WWII scrap iron. There is no way I will go in the water to check it out. The visibility is only inches. I do, however, have the phone number of a local diver.

All else is well onboard.

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Sand Dollar
Who: Don Pratten
Port: Beaux Arts, WA
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