10/03/2011, back in Neiafu harbor.
Well, we're back in Nieafu to get checked out of Tonga after four days out at anchor and thirty days in Tonga. The first two were at Nuapapu Island waiting out a two day "norther". Actually, the winds came out of the northwest so we say and waited for them to return to their normal southeast winds. There are lots of places to anchor where you are protected from southeast winds but few that protect you from the north. Meanwhile we took Puff over to a great snorkeling place just west of Langito'o Island, south of Nuapapu. It was a great snorkel trip seeing lots of coral we have never seen before. The water was strange in that you would run into warm water and then an area of much colder water a few feet away.
Once the winds changed, we headed over to Ovalau Island(about 2.5 miles south of Nuapapu Island) and found paradise. It's what we had always dreamed a South Pacific island would be like. Deserted with lots of beautiful coral to dive on and palm trees to sit under. The beach was pristine sand with numerous small shells ripe for the picking. We even heard whales calling out in the distance as we were snorkeling. The only draw back was that there were other boats there with us. Most came and went in a few hours)the charter boats) and other spend a day or so there. We did have the place to ourselves for about an hour between the boats coming and going. Once came so close(a charter) we thought they were going to raft up with us. At 45 feet, they finally pulled up their anchor and found another place to drop it. It was truly Paradise found!!!
We upped the anchor on Monday(Sunday to you folks back in the US) and headed back to Neiafu to get checked out today(Tuesday). We'll be heading off for Fiji shortly where we will stay for the cyclone season.
09/29/2011, Nuapapu Island, Vava'u, Tonga
We dropped the line to our mooring buoy yesterday afternoon after getting a few more errands done in town. I'd stopped by the Tropicana Cafe to have them email Fiji a form about our intended arrival in a couple of weeks. We'd had the folks at the Aquarium Cafe email it two days before and had never gotten a confirmation that it was received. You really want to make sure that they have your information long before you arrive because if they don't have it, they will tear your boat apart looking for anything that they consider illegal and there is a lot that they think is illegal. We didn't want to leave the harbor and head back out to the islands till we had the confirmation as the next time we will be coming back to Neiafu will be to clear out of the country and head west for Fiji. The email went out about 1000 and we had the confirmation of receipt by 1230 so we dropped the line and headed out.
The winds have shifted to be from the northwest so many of the anchorages that are normally occupied are unsafe for boats to anchor in as the wind could blow you ashore if your anchor drags. We looked in our guide book and settled on an island called Nuapapu(18 42.567S 174 04.159W) as the best spot for us. We headed out of the harbor under engine(still working fine) and once clear of the channel we rolled out the Genoa sail at the bow and took off under wind power. It was great to be out there moving with no engine noise to disturb the quiet. Most of the islands in Tonga are so close that many of the boat just motor between them. It's faster but not as much fun as doing it the way sailors are supposed to.
We were in a good northwest wind getting our speeds up to over 7 knots so we were moving quite well toward our destination. About 90 minutes later, we'd covered the 10 miles to Nuapapu and dropped the hook among 9 other boats. The skies were getting filled in with lots of clouds and we could hear thunder rolling through the islands. It's unusual to hear thunder out here. I think it's the second time we have heard it. The clouds got lower and darker and I put my computer in the oven to keep it safe from any lightening that might make it's way anywhere near us. We fastened down all the hatches and closed all the port lights just incase we got nailed with a big downpour. We even rolled out the side panels for the cockpit. Normally when it rains out here, it pours. About 45 minutes later, Mother Nature didn't fail to come through with her downpour. Two other boats had come into the anchorage after us and just got their anchors down and set before the rains came. It did a nice job washing all the dirt and grime off the boat. As the Sun went down, the clouds parted and the night was full of stars.
The winds are still coming from the northwest so we will probably be here just for tonight and then head out to another island in the morning. It all depends on what Mother Nature has in store for us.
One of the other errands we got accomplished was signing up with another weather router for the trip to Fiji. Bob MacDavitt has built quite a reputation as the man to go to for accurate forecast out here in the south Pacific. We've given him our particulars(size of boat, speed we can do and probable course we will take) so he can put together a forecast for us. It's cheap insurance for cruisers as you don't want to get out there and then get clobbered with a bad storm. It can ruin your day as well as your trip. It's only 590 miles for our next voyage but it's through some of the more reef strewn areas of the Pacific. We plan on heading out as close to the full moon as possible so we can have better night vision while out there. We try to not leave anything to chance.
So here we sit. The Sun is out and the winds are still from the northwest at about 10 knots. Not bad as it keeps the boat temperature sort of comfortable as long as you stay out of the direct sunshine.
We'll let you know where we end up next.
09/28/2011, Neiafu Harbor
Well, we're back in Nieafu having left anchorage 16 on Monday morning. We wanted to check with Westpac Bank and see if we were going to get our money back plus restock our supplies with fresh veggies and snacks.
We started upping the anchor about 0900 on Tuesday. With my foot on the power button on the windlass, and my head looking over the side watching the chain come up, there was a sudden CLUNK on deck and the chain stopped coming on board. I took my foot off the button and looked down to see a big pile of chain on the deck and a jam in the pipe that leads the chain into the anchor locker below decks. Apparently, it had stopped going down the hole and then had gotten jammed when more chain piled up at the hole and filled it with the links. We were stuck with 60 feet of chain out but luckily the anchor was still hooked to the bottom giving us time to try and figure out how to get this solid mass of chain links out of the hole so we could get all the rest of the chain up along with the anchor. We hooked one of our anchor snubber hooks to the chain and led the line aft to one of our winches in the cockpit and tried to pull it out. Tracy cranked while I got a hammer and started pounding on what exposed links I could get at. No luck. Next, we grabbed a big screwdriver and put the end in one of the links and pounded on the end of the screwdriver. It moved a bit but the chain showed no sign of coming free. The sounds of my pounding resounded through the anchorage. About 20 minutes later, Bill off Dilligaf dingies over with what is called a "Spud wrench". It looks like a crescent wrench only the end of the handle comes to a point. I jammed the pointed end into the links and slowly wedged it out of the end of the pipe. Problem solved. All it takes is the right tool. It's now on my list of things to get when I get home in November.
With the chain and anchor up, out we headed for the 9 mile trip back to town. About two miles out, the engine slows down and quits!!!! Yep, it had happened again. We'd been fine since I found the problem of the leaking hose way back in the Marquesas in early May. We had gotten the sails ready just incase something like this happened or we actually had wind in the right direction so we could sail back. So we pulled out the Genoa sail at the bow so we could be under control and down below I went to try and find the problem. I pulled off the doors to the engine compartment and all looked fine. I grabbed one of my wrenches and some rags and headed for the "bleed" screw on the injector pump. With our small auxiliary fuel pump running, I loosened the screw and air(along with diesel fuel) came pouring out of the screw hole. Once all the air had been flushed out, I tightened the screw, turned off the small pump, turned the key and the engine started right up. Problem solved. There are only so many things that will stop a diesel engine but the most common is air in the lines. It stops all the fuel from getting to the injectors. With the engine started, Tracy rolled in the Genoa sail while I stayed below and cleaned up my mess and inspected all the hose connections for leaks. I checked all the hoses and found every connection nice and dry. No leaking fuel anywhere. The only strange thing I found was that the fuel vacuum gauge I had installed a while ago was now reading a different pressure. It had been reading about 3 pounds of pressure. Now it was reading about one pound. No real idea as to why and neither does any of the other cruisers I have talked to. But the engine was up and running and we made it safe and sound into Nieafu about an hour later.
We grabbed a mooring buoy and got settled in. Puff was launched and we headed over to the dock and walked over to Westpac Bank. A short time later, I walked out with my $300 Pa'angas. Problem solved. They had gotten all the paperwork straightened out and I got my money back from the double dipping the ATM did to my account. We headed next for the local laundry as we had won wash a dry service for two kilos of laundry and we figured they could do our towels as they are the hardest thing to do with our little washing "machine". We dropped them off and were told to pick them up about the same time on Wednesday. Off we went to a restaurant we wanted to try that had advertised a $5.00 Pa'Anga(about $2.70US) lunch of fish and chips. We placed our order and I walked down the street to one of the markets and bought two cokes as the restaurant doesn't sell drinks of any kind(go figure). I got back just before our order came. We each got four large pieces of breaded fish(bone in) and a nice pile of fried plantains on the side. This fish wasn't filleted, it was just chopped into sections, breaded and fried. We ate slowly and carefully picking out the bones as we went. The fired plantains tasted quite a bit like real potatoes. Neither of us could finish our meals so the wait person wrapped the rest in foil for us and off we went for the veggie market looking for some lettuce. We'd been out for a few days. None was available so Tracy put in an order for a couple of heads so we could pick them up on Wednesday. We walked around for a while hitting some of the markets. We stopped in at one of the local shops that sells hamburger or as they call it "minced beef" and found they were out but expected a shipment on Wednesday. Any more, if you see it, buy it because they will run out and then you have to wait for the next shipment. We then headed up the hill for the Ice Cream store to get a cone for a treat. They had run out of ice cream(they only carry one flavor) so no luck there. They told us to try again tomorrow. Every one was waiting for the ferry boat that brings in supplies. With most of our errands done we headed back to Zephyr for a quiet night.
Wednesday. we headed back to town and picked up the lettuce and revisited the Chinese Restaurant for lunch. Tracy had spring rolls and rice while I had chicken fried rice. We'd had the spring rolls on our first time at the restaurant a few weeks ago and she had really liked them and I was hungry for some fried rice. Including drinks, our bill came to just $20.00 Pa'angas(about $12.00US). We left quite satisfied. Up the hill we went heading for the Ice Cream store. This time we got lucky and we each got a cone of Vanilla that was on the verge of melting. They had just gotten their one tub in and it had not had a chance to get hard in their freezer. We ate it quickly as it melted into the cone. Tracy headed for the bakery for some "brown bread"(bread with small pieces of dried fruit in it). While I continued to shop for other things around town and picked up our laundry, all nice clean and folded. They did a great job. On the way back to Puff, I ran into Lene and Henrik off Dana(friends we originally met in Naniamo Harbor clear back when we were on our way back from Alaska. They invited us over for drinks that evening. Tracy meanwhile could only get one loaf of brown bread(they'd run out). I stopped in and picked up our "minced beef" that had come in on the ferry and we climbed back into Puff and headed back to Zephyr.
Earlier in the day, on our first trip in, we'd stopped at the Aquarium Cafe to have entry documents emailed to Fiji as they require advanced notice when boats are coming to their country. The internet service was down(not uncommon here) and they had not been able to get the emails out. Tracy started defrosting the freezer since it was quite well covered in ice. That's one of the scary things to do on Zephyr as sometimes the compressor won't start after the defrosting is done. We finished out the day with drinks and snacks aboard Dana with Lene and Henrik.
This morning we headed into town early as Tracy had found a store that sold New Zealand apples. We haven't seen an apple in months so she bought a few yesterday and they proved so good that we had to get more. At $5.00 Pa'angas for five apples, that puts it to about .67 cents US. Not a bad price out here. We hit the bakery and got our bread as well as some cinnamon rolls for breakfast. You have to get in early to get those as they sell out by late morning. Back to pay for our mooring and we expect to be out of here in a couple of hours. Since we have to check out of here by October 5th, our time is running out.
09/24/2011, Vaka'eitu Island, Vava'u, Tonga
It' been quite a while since I updated as to what we have been doing so lets get started.
We left Neiafu on the 20th and dropped anchor off a small village on the island of Mala(18 41.384S 174 01.805W) in about 10 knots of wind out of the Southeast. A pleasant anchorage that is supposed to have nice coral to snorkel on. Our friends(Paul and Karen on Gigi) came along so we have become "Buddy Boats". It's nice to travel as a group so if one has a problem, the other is there to help out plus it's great to have some company out here to talk to. We spent the day snorkeling off the island and enjoying being away from the town. We'd been in town on a mooring buoy for two weeks and that is just too long. It was great to be back on anchor and I actually got a decent night sleep. The snorkeling was good though the water was the coldest we have felt in quite some time coming in at just 79 degrees. We haven't been below 80 since we left Mexico back in April. Jumping in is a bit of a shock as it's still in the mid 80s outside. We picniced on the island exploring an outcropping of sand and coral on the North side of the small island.
Wednesday, we upped the anchors and headed for Nuku Island(18 42.911S 174 02.661W) and dropped them in a spot recommended in a book(Ken's Compendium of Tonga) that Paul and Karen have. We've never seen it before but is the best book we have ever seen on Tonga and all it's harbors and coves. A smart investment for any boat heading out here. The anchorage was on the lee side of the island(less wind) and perfectly calm with winds in the high teens going right around the island leaving us perfectly calmed. Paul and Karen jumped in and started scrubbing the bottom of their boat. We had done the same thing at Mala Island. Out propeller is beautifully clean and the water line is grass free. During the night, it poured buckets and buckets! I had towels all over the port side of the boat catching leaks as they developed. With the rain came a change in the wind as it shifted more toward the southwest making our anchorage very rollie and not a fun place to be anymore. We all decided to up the anchors and head for Port Maurelle(18 42.055S 174 01.887W), about 1.5 miles away. That's one nice thing about Tonga, all the coves are so close, it's an easy hop from one to another. Port Maurelle is enclosed on three of it's sides so it's a very protected place to stay. As we rounded the point, the waves and wind dropped to just about zero. We'd found a new place to wait out the storm. We dropped the anchor and I dove to make sure it was set well. It might be calm then but it might change and I'd like to know what we faced below the water line. We were dug in nicely but found that the anchor off the boat behind us(Silver Ruffian) was right under our keel. I swam over to talk to them These are the people that encouraged us to re-email Vuda Point Marina in Fiji to double check about a space in their marina(we got one). We'll be watching their boat wile they are away as they are staying in the same marina over cyclone season. There was no problem as they were spending the day and weren't sure as to when they would be leaving anyway. Once settled in, both of us settled in for naps as we had been up and down all night watching the rain(buckets) and the change in the wind and how it would affect our anchors. I know we dragged once as it showed up on the screen of the chart plotter.
Yesterday we upped the anchors again and headed for anchorage #16. When the Moorings Yacht Charter company came here years ago, they went around the islands and put numbers on their charts and wrote up info on each of them for the folks that charter their boats. Through the years, that info had been passed along to every cruiser that comes here so that when you are discussing where you are going, you no longer need to say, "we are gong to Port Maurelle", you just say, "We're going to #12" and everyone knows exactly where you are headed. It keeps it simple out here. Surprised it hasn't happened elsewhere where the Moorings is. For those of you out of the know, #16 is Vaka'eitu Island(18 43.378S 174 05.998W) farther down the chain on the west side. An easy trip of about 4 miles so it was no great fuss for the move. We'd heard a good bit about the anchorage as it was the place for "Kids Boats" for the last few weeks. All the boats with kids tend to congregate together so the kids on the boats have friends to play with. Smart parents!! A happy kid can make for a happy boat. Same with happy "Admirals". We came in with Gigi a few minutes behind us and dropped our anchor. Gigi is off our starboard side in a bit shallower water. We launched Puff and headed for the "Coral Garden" that is supposed to be just around the corner west of where we anchored. The tide was running and the seas were breaking over the reef so after just a few minutes of snorkeling(water on about 2 feet deep where we were) we bagged it and came back to the beach where we had anchored Puff and had a great conversation with the folks off Yaringa, an Australian boat that has been out cruising for years. They have their two sons(one about 7 and one about 14) aboard with them. A nice couple that are fun to talk to. We'd heard about a rumored bonfire that was to be held on the beach that night so we headed over to Gigi and let them know about it so they wouldn't miss it. Sure enough, about 1830, about 6 dingies took off for the beach and the bonfire was started. Some brought snacks and wine and a good time was had by all. We were back at Zephyr about 2030 and settled in for another night of movies. Our auxiliary speakers seem to be failing so I may be looking for another set when I head home in November. We watch the shows on our computer and the speakers just aren't powerful enough to do the job for us.
So here we sit in a nice quiet anchorage. The Sun is finally out!!! First time we have had a sunny day on well over a week so the laundry machine has been pulled out and we are hard at work getting things cleaned, put through our wringer(envy of the anchorage) and hung out on line stretched around the shrouds of the boat. Tracy is doing the wash while I help with the wringer and hang the clothes out to dry. A team effort though Tracy has the harder job. Other jobs await so I'll close now and get back to them. We expect to be heading back to Neiafu in a few days to see about the over draft from the local Westpac back. They should have gotten it all straightened out by now so I can actually get the money they owe me. More on that later I guess.
09/18/2011, Neiafu, Vava'u Island, Tonga
Well, a few more days have passed and we are still in Neiafu harbor here on Vava'u in Tonga. Paul and Karen on Gigi showed up a few days ago and we have been out having fun with them showing them the ins and outs of Neiafu. We've been zipping back and forth to town in our dingies exploring. Yesterday, we went on a whale safari out to swim with the whales. It's one of the few place left on Earth that still allows people to get in the water right beside these huge creatures. We left the dock at 0830 and didn't come back till about 1600 so it was a long day searching for whales. In all, there were 8 of us on the boat--4 from one of those 100 foot yachts. Everyone was keeping watch to see where the first whales would be spotted. There are several tour companies in town so it becomes a race to see who can get to the whales first. We spotted our first group about 40 minutes out. In groups of four, we entered the water with a guide(as the main spotter stood on the fly bridge and screamed at us when it was time to get into the water) and swam as they passed right under us. We were in and out of the water all day as we spotted numerous groups of whales through the morning. Strangely, we saw no whales after about 1400 so the afternoon was quiet.
It's great seeing Paul and Karen again and getting caught up on what has happened on both our boats. They went through massive repairs when they reached Tahiti. The list is too long to go through here but the list is quite long and I'm sure it was tough on them as our entire first year was on us. If it was on the boat, it needed attention. In the end, they got to see very little of Tahiti since they had to spend so much time on their boat. As their visas were expiring, they had to by pass most of the islands and only spent one night at Bora Bora before leaving the islands.
We just heard that Suwarrow Atoll(where we just were) has been sold to a rich Russian by the New Zealand government. Not sure why other than it was originally discovered by a Russian many years ago. It will be interesting to see what he does with this beautiful atoll. It had been one of New Zealands national parks. I guess money talks. From what we have heard, it will change hands at the end of this season.
We plan of heading out to explore the different islands of this chain tomorrow. We've made reservations at Vudo Point Marina for the Winter(their Summer) to avoid the cyclones. I'll be flying back to Denver shortly after we arrive to do some odd jobs and load up on supplies and parts we can't get out here. The list will be long and costly but cheaper than trying to get it out here. I will be leaving here at 2200 at night and getting in the same day at 1900 so I'll arrive before I'll be taking off from Fiji. Somehow, I don't think my body will be telling me the same story. Now coming back, I'll lose two days!
And that's about all that's been going on out here. Many of the boats from the Regatta have left as we will be doing tomorrow. Many have already left for Fiji or New Zealand. We don't plan of setting out from here till about October 7th. It's a good five day trip to Fiji will all the reefs between here and there. We will be constantly on watch and many of them are not charted. I have a list of at least 60 that are not on any charts so I'll be entering them on our chart plotter in the cockpit so we will know when we are near them. It' just safer that way.
Well, more to come.
09/15/2011, Neiafu, Vava'u Island, Tonga
Well, the regatta is now over and Neiafu is now return to a state of quiet. Many of the boats have taken off for other islands as we will be doing later today. It was a lot of fun though there was just about no wind for any of the races(we motored instead). We did win first prize for "Team Spirit" for the Tridecagon'athlon games.
Well, after touring Neiafu and seeing what they have to offer, we have changed our plans again and now plan on spending the "Winter"(Summer here) in Fiji. There is just nothing to keep us here. Little in the way of supplies and very little in the way of repairmen to do what I can't. No yard to haul out Zephyr for the bottom paint that needs to be put on before we set out again next year. So we are off for the islands later today for a while to see the back roads of Tonga and visit other villages and beaches as well as dive on coral to see the beautiful fishes.
We are making plans to stay in Fiji at the Vuda Point Marina on the west side of Viti Levu(not sure of the spelling). It's near a town called Latoka if that's a help.
Other than that, all is well. Blue and Snowshoe are enjoying the peace and quiet(unless the engine is running) and spending some time on deck( in the evening) as well as sleeping most of the day below decks as it get pretty warm out there. We've done a few projects but will now be saving most of them till we get to Fiji.
I'm in the process of making plans to fly home in a month or so to get a few things taken care of and order in parts and equipment that is just not available out here. DHL will love me by the time I get done in Colorado.
I'll let you know how the next few days go once we are out at anchor again.