Tregoning

17 August 2017 | South of Ofolanga Island, Ha’apai Group, Tonga
13 August 2017 | West of Pangai Village on Lifuka Island, Ha’apai Group, Tonga
10 August 2017 | Northwest side of Ha’afeva Island, Ha’apai Group, Tonga
04 August 2017 | Northwest side of Ha'afeva Island, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
03 August 2017 | Northwest side of Ha'afeva Island, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
29 July 2017 | West side of Lalona Island, Otu Tolu, Tonga
28 July 2017 | Kelefesia Island, Otu Tolu Group, Tonga
27 July 2017 | West side of Malinoa Island, near Tongatapu, Tonga
19 July 2017 | Anchorage off Big Mama’s Yacht Club, Pangaimotu, near Tongatapu, Tonga
14 July 2017 | Just north of the island of Fafa, near Tongatapu, Tonga
12 July 2017 | Anchorage off Big Mama’s Yacht Club, Pangaimotu, near Tongatapu, Tonga
09 July 2017 | Anchorage off Big Mama’s Yacht Club, Pangaimotu, near Tongatapu, Tonga
05 July 2017 | Anchorage off Big Mama’s Yacht Club, Pangaimotu, near Tongatapu, Tonga
04 July 2017 | Off Big Mama's Yacht Club on Pangaimotu, near Tongatapu, Tonga
29 June 2017 | Anchorage off Big Mama’s Yacht Club, Pangaimotu, near Tongatapu, Tonga
26 June 2017 | Anchorage off Big Mama’s Yacht Club, Pangaimotu, near Tongatapu, Tonga
20 June 2017 | Anchorage off Big Mama's Yacht Club, Pangaimotu, near Tongatapu, Tonga
17 June 2017 | Anchorage near Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga
12 June 2017 | South end of North Minerva Reef, South Pacific Ocean
06 June 2017 | North end of North Minerva Reef, South Pacific Ocean

Finding a place to hide

17 August 2017 | South of Ofolanga Island, Ha’apai Group, Tonga
Photo: Calm underwater before the blow. Top to bottom: reticulated butterflyfish, ornate butterflyfish, and longnose tang
After much mulling over the weather forecasts, cruising guides, and charts, on Tuesday (August 15th) we left the anchorage off Pangai Village. While Kalliope and Devocean headed south to find suitable anchorages further along the Lifuka-Island-chain, we took the north-channel out from the lagoon on the west side of the long, narrow, north-south oriented Lifuka Island.

In the process, we met another boat coming in to anchor just south of the airport which runs diagonally across the north end of Lifuka Island and to the west of which a large area of shoreline-reef bulges to the west. This would make the anchorage fairly well protected from northerly waves but would put the boat on a lee-shore (wind blowing towards the shore) when the winds continued to back from northeast to northwest to west to southwest. In the forecasts, the winds were to be strongest from northeast and north during Wednesday, with possible gusts up to 35 knots, and would weaken to 15 - 25 knots during their anticlockwise swing on Wednesday night and Thursday.

We had considered this airport anchorage but instead unfurled the jib and sailed northwest to the uninhabited Ofolanga Island which is about 12 nm from Pangai. This island is much smaller than Lifuka and almost rectangular in shape with a slightly longer north-south dimension than east-west. Protection from the north is increased by fringing reefs that fan out on the east and west sides of the island. However, on the south side only a narrow line of reef separates the beach from a large area of coral-less, gently sloping sand. Randall had studied Google-Earth views of this sandy area as well as the charts and we had chosen it for several reasons.

1. The pure sand bottom (no plants, no coral-heads, no coral rubble) provides very good holding for our anchor.
2. When strong winds are coming, we (especially me) like to know that we have plenty of room in case of problems. Thus, if the anchor does start to drag in this site, we do not have to worry about a lee-shore or reef behind us (until winds turn southerly on Thursday in which case it will be time to move) nor are there coral-heads on which the anchor or chain will snag.
3. If we had to leave in the middle of the night for some reason, the entrance and exit is wide and very simple (no narrow channels between reefs).
4. The reefs to the east and west of the island will provide protection from waves from northeast to northwest.
5. Even when the wind becomes westerly, we may lose wave-protection but there will be plenty of swinging room. The lee-shore will not be too close so we can leave when we want to, not because we have to.
6. When the winds swing westerly, we can easily sail downwind back to somewhere on the Lifuka-Island-chain that will provide adequate protection from the south, possibly back to Pangai Village.
7. The southern anchorage at Ofolanga is not discussed much in the cruising-guides (it would not be comfortable in the southeasterly trade-winds) so we might have the place to ourselves which adds to the security of not having to worry about hitting, or being hit by, another boat.

The main potential downsides of this anchorage are exposure to northerly swells wrapping around the reefs or to any residual swells from the south, and the need to move once the winds become westerly to southerly. These are issues in most of the anchorages in Ha'apai, very few of which have any westerly protection, but the winds should be reduced and only last for a few hours from that direction. The Pangai Village anchorage had been blessedly free from residual swells (the long north-south chain of islands providing good protection from 0 to 180 degrees, i.e., the eastern half of the compass) so we were fully prepared to find that some swell would roll us a bit at anchor at Ofolanga.



Chart of Ofolanga Island (central orange) surrounded by reef (green) and Tregoning's anchorage (red blog from which the black boat icon is moving away)

We arrived to find the place to ourselves, a luxury that allowed us to circle around several times to find the best balance of water depth and distance from the reef. As the Google-Earth images had shown, the bottom was sand with no coral-heads so we dropped the anchor in 42 feet (13 m). Soon afterwards, I snorkeled over the anchor and was very happy to see that it was deeply set in the unobstructed sand.

While I was in the water, I swam over to the edge of the reef that lined the southern shoreline of the island. With northeasterly waves flushing through the reef upwind of me, the water was not perfectly clear but along the sheer edge between the reef and the sandy bottom at a depth of 30-feet (9 m), there were quite a few larger fish such as emperors, parrotfish, and yellowfin surgeonfish. I enjoyed exploring the reef edge and was excited near the end to see a harem (dominant male with several females and a few lesser males) of scalefin anthias. This was my first sighting of any member of the seabass subfamily of anthias, which are small (all less than 20 cm or 8 inches and most around 11 cm or 4 inches), often brightly colored species. My tropical Pacific book lists 33 anthia species, many of which form plankton-feeding aggregations over quite deep reef slopes (often below 10 m or 33 feet deep so difficult to identify when snorkeling).



Male (left) and female scalefin anthias

One slightly odd aspect of my snorkeling venture was that despite frequently diving into deeper water than usual, I did not get particularly cold. One of our cruising guides (Ken's) had made a passing comment about the water seeming warmer at this island which he assumed was due to it being a sunny day. My snorkel was under overcast skies so this explanation did not seem to apply to me, but reading another guide (Sailingbird's) revealed that there was a volcanic vent releasing detectable heat into the sea by the Buhi Rocks which we could see on the edge of Ofolanga's western reef. It seemed surprising that I could detect it where I was on the south side of the island, but I had noted the warmer conditions before I read the guides. This information made snorkeling on the west side of the island seem rather appealing but that would only be tenable in calm conditions which were not predicted for the foreseeable future.

Amazingly, the anchorage was sufficiently protected by the eastern reef, even at high tide, so that there was very little swell when we arrived. This convinced us that, at least until the winds backed to the southwest, this would be a good place to sit-out the blow. In the evening, one of the boats that we have left at Pangai showed-up but there was plenty of room for them to the west of us. It was an Oyster so we predicted, correctly, that once the wind did come from the west, they would take-off in the direction of Vava'u. We assumed that most other cruisers in the area had gone looking for anchorages that were shallower, provided protection from more directions, and/or were closer to Pangai.

After a comfortable night, Wednesday dawned with overcast skies and a steady rain which lasted all morning. The northeasterly wind started to increase into the mid-20 knots around 10 am and did not dip below that speed for 12 hours. Remembering that we do not have a recording anemometer but have to be in the cockpit looking at the gauge to see the current wind-speed, the highest gusts that we noted were 32 knots at noon, 37.6 knots by 3 pm, and 35.9 knots by 4:30 pm. Steady winds from the northeast to north of around 30 knots must have lasted for about five hours (2 pm to 7 pm) during which time I was able to immerse myself in projects but got rather anxious when distracted by particularly strong gusts.



30 knots winds whip spray from waves on the sheltered side of the reef at Ofolanga Island

The wind finally eased during the evening while we were watching a movie, returning to the mid-20 knots by 9 pm. Having the anchor-alarm set on Randall's laptop was very reassuring and allowed us to check Tregoning's position on the chart and relative to the anchor at any time without leaving the cabin. It was also a refreshing change for the strongest winds to occur during daylight.

With the anchor-alarm set for the night, we did not need to take turns at anchor-watches but Randall checked the laptop at midnight and 3 am to see where Tregoning lay in relation to her anchor, thus, indicating the changing wind direction. Sure enough, by 3 am the wind was coming from the west but we still had a little protection from the waves due to the western reef.

By 5:30 am, however, sleeping was no longer an option because the swell and wind-waves from the southwest were bouncing Tregoning around quite merrily. As anticipated, we looked out to see our neighbors heading northward around the east side of Ofolanga and as it became light, we could finally see the 6 feet (2 m) swells rolling in from the southwest. Although these waves crashed rather spectacularly on the reef that was now behind Tregoning, we were a sufficient distance away that it was bouncy but not too alarming.

Still, it was not going to be tenable as an anchorage any longer. We had considered moving to outside the island's eastern reef but the Google-Earth images had shown that there was not much sand between the large ridges of coral in which to anchor. Even if that had been acceptable, once we raised the anchor and moved south and away from the shelter of the eastern reef, we found that there was still a considerable northeastern swell which would have been very uncomfortable in the southwesterly wind. So we unfurled the jib and in 15 knot winds, we gently glided over opposing northeasterly and southwesterly swells, and set-off in a southeasterly direction looking for our next place to anchor.

Time to reconnect

13 August 2017 | West of Pangai Village on Lifuka Island, Ha’apai Group, Tonga
Photo: On the way to Pangai, several humpback whales breached very close to Tregoning
Despite the relatively small land area of the Ha’apai Group of Islands (110 sq km or 43 sq miles), because they are spread over a 60-nm wide swath of ocean (northeast to southwest) and because some islands contain freshwater springs or lakes, they have been a popular landfall for mariners. At the south end of Lifuka Island, evidence has been found of settlement by the Lapita people from more than 3,000 years ago.

Europeans started arriving after Abel Tasman’s visit in 1643, and many stopped at Nomuka in the southwestern part of the Ha’apai Group to get freshwater from a spring there. Captain Cook visited the Tongan Islands on the second and third of his voyages of exploration in the Pacific. In October 1773, he stopped at the Tongatapu Islands for five days and on his return eight months later, he stopped at Nomuka. During his third and final voyage, in 1777 he spent five weeks in the Ha’apai Group visiting five islands, including Lifuka, and almost running aground on a reef. Continuing south to the Tongatapu Group, he then spent four weeks at Pangaimotu followed by a week at the island of ‘Eua.

It was Cook who came up with the moniker of the “Friendly Isles” for Tonga (still used widely by the Tongan tourism industry) after he had been treated by Chief Finau to lavish foods and entertainments during his stay in Lifuka. However, it was revealed later, that some of the festivities were part of a plan for the Tongans to gather and distract Cook’s crew so that they could be killed and the ships Resolution and Discovery looted. A last-minute dispute between Finau and his nobles, however, caused the plan to be abandoned and the Europeans left without any knowledge of the intended unfriendliness.

The plot was only revealed several decades later when a British sailor named William Mariner published a book, “An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands”, that gave intimate details about life in Tonga in the early nineteenth century. Mariner was 15 years old in 1805 when he went to sea on the privateer Port-au-Prince. After rounding Cape Horn and visiting the Hawaiian Islands, the ship stopped at the northern end of Lifuka Island. The crew was immediately welcomed with feasts of yams and barbecued pork. However, a few days later, while 300 Tongans were aboard the ship, an attack was launched and most of the crew were massacred. The young William Mariner happened to be dressed in his uniform and so was captured and taken ashore. The chief of Ha’apai, Finau ‘Ulukalala I, assumed that the well-dressed young man was the captain’s son and spared his life.

For four years, Mariner accompanied the chief on his travels so that, after quickly learning the language, he was in a good position to observe the details of Tongan ceremony and protocol. After Finau died, his son permitted Mariner to leave Tonga on a passing English vessel. Back in Britain, an amateur anthropologist, Dr. John Martin, was so fascinated by Mariner’s tales that they collaborated on the aforementioned book. As an extremely valuable account of a pre-Christian culture that was otherwise scarcely documented, their book came to be regarded as a masterpiece of Pacific literature.

The arrival of missionaries on Lifuka and the baptism of Taufa’ahau, the ruler of the Ha’apai Group in 1831, made the Ha’apais the first Tongan islands to convert to Christianity. Taufa’ahau took the Christian-name of George (Siaosi in Tongan) and his baptized wife became Charlotte (Salote), after the King and Queen of England. As King George Tupou I, he united Tonga and established the royal line that still continues.

Not all foreign visitors to Tonga and other South Pacific Islands were explorers or missionaries. Traders followed on the heels of the explorers, along with whalers, who eventually overexploited the Pacific whale populations, frequently stopped at the islands from the late 18th to late 19th centuries. The most terrifying visitors, however, must have been the “Blackbirders”.

In the late nineteenth century, after slavery was abolished in the US, slave traders turned to South America and Australia to maintain this vicious market, mostly for work in mines and plantations. Blackbirders were ships that plundered South Pacific Islands either taking the natives by force or by deceit, such as promising good jobs on bigger islands, such as Fiji, Samoa, or New Caledonia, or inviting islanders on board ships for feasting or trading. Some chiefs simply betrayed some of their islanders in exchange for iron or foreign trinkets. Kidnapped islanders were forced to work for little pay on long contracts, with no organized means of returning home after their indenture.

Remote islands were particularly susceptible. For example, ‘Ata (the volcanic island that we passed on our way from Minerva Reef to Tongatapu) had lost 40% of its population to Blackbirders. Eventually, King George Tupou I ordered some Tongan villages to consolidate and some islands, such as ‘Ata, were evacuated and remain uninhabited to this day.

Largely as a result of petitioning by missionaries, Blackbirding was outlawed in 1872 by Britain’s Pacific Islanders’ Protection Act. The British government enforced the law by regular patrols of the region to prevent unscrupulous blackbirders. Overseas labor-recruitment was eventually banned to Australia (1904), Samoa (1913), and Fiji (1916), although between 1879 and 1916 the large plantations on Fiji had imported more than 60,000 indentured laborers from India. So while some Pacific Islands lost large and valuable portions of their populations overseas during this period, others like Fiji, received an influx of immigrants. Both of these patterns have had long-term influences on the global distribution of Pacific Islanders and the mixture of races on some Pacific Islands.

Apparently, artifacts from blackbirding ships are scattered around the Ha’apai Islands. If it was possible for the islanders to attack these ships and kill the crews, items such as cannons were saved and have, for example, shown-up in churchyards in ‘Uiha (in the southern part of the Lifuka Island chain) where they are now used as flowerpots.

Having thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Ha’afeva, on Friday (11th August), we finally crept out of the north entrance to the anchorage. We went slowly because the chart was a little inaccurate and the channel was quite a bit shallower than we had expected (12 feet or 3 m rather than 40 feet or 12 m). Still, once in open water we enjoyed a beautiful morning of sailing. We tacked between various islands to the north-northeast of Ha’afeva and then motored east into the wind to make our final approach to the south end of Lifuka Island.



Underside of a humpback whale breaching close to Tregoning

On the way, we saw plenty of whales, including some breaching closer to Tregoning than we had ever experienced before. Although their proximity allowed me to take some better photos, it was a little unnerving to have such huge creatures launching themselves into the air so nearby. One cannot help thinking about sailboats that have been destroyed by impacts from breaching whales and, yet, it is hard not to interpret the behavior as something joyous.

Continuing our “Voyage of Superlatives”, we also noted a huge, blue-hulled schooner anchored by Uoleva (the island immediately south of Lifuka). The AIS showed the vessel to be called Eos and when I checked online, we found that it is the largest privately owned sailing vessel in the world and is not for charter. Built in 2006, this aluminum-hulled superyacht is 305 feet long (93 m) by 44 feet (13.5 m) wide, with three masts that are 200 feet (61 m) tall. Owned (as of 2009) by the movie and media billionaire Barry Diller, the creator of Fox Broadcasting Company, and his fashion designer wife, Eos a carries 16 guests and more than 20 crew members. Judging by the launch that was buzzing around the area, someone from the vessel was out whale-watching. Otherwise, we wondered what a ship that was more commonly seen in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and the big coastal cities of the world was doing in the Ha’apai Islands.



Superyacht Eos at Uoleva

After weaving around the reefs that flank the southern entrance to the anchorage off Pangai Villiage, about mid-way along Lifuka Island, we set the anchor in sand about 0.5 nm away from the entrance to the small inner-harbor. The long island provides a good barrier to swells from the northeast to south so it was very pleasant to not have any rolling on Tregoning while the wind was blowing from the east.



Looking across part of the inner harbor at Pangai to the anchorage (Tregoning on right)

Being a Friday afternoon, we quickly launched the dinghy and went ashore to find the Customs Office. Despite the small size of Pangai Village, we had to ask several people before we finally located the correct red and white building immediately north of the Police Station (just north of the furthest concrete dock where one can tie-up a dinghy). The officer took our exit paper from Tongatapu, wrote on it our arrival time in Pangai (ignoring the fact that it was more than four weeks since the document had been issued), and told us to return to get our exit-paper when we had an intended date for leaving the Ha’apai Group.

Having accomplished our administrative task for the day, we wandered around Pangai for a little while. We passed by the market, which had little produce left at 4 pm, several small grocery stores run by Chinese people, a couple of schools, and several churches. One of the churches had signs directing us to a concrete cross that had appeared on the lawn one morning in 1975. It was not possible to see the actual 30-feet long (9m) white cross lying on the grass due to the surrounding fences but an interpretive sign with a picture explained that the “…Mystery Cross is the only known and confirmed imprimatur cross delivered by angel hosts from heaven. It is God’s gift to the People of Tonga.” So there you go…



Sign about the Mystery Cross in Pangai

Needing refreshment after such an astounding revelation, we made our way to Mariner’s Café (named after William Mariner). Here we sipped beer and cider and ate dinner (our selections sounded a bit better than they tasted) in the pleasant company of Penny and Nigel on SV Venture. They were part of the Oyster Rally going around the world (starting and ending in Antigua in the Caribbean) in two years. They were leaving the Ha’apai Group that night to join about 30 other Oyster boats, which are made in Britain, that were to be gathering in Vava’u the following weekend.

We were pleased to find that someone at the guesthouse associated with the Mariner’s Café would take-in laundry so I was relieved to get that done the next day for a very reasonable rate. Mariner’s Café is also the base for the Ha’apai Yacht Club. We were not quite sure how active this Club was, perhaps more along the lines of Big Mama’s Yacht Club at Tongatapu, but we did sign-in to their log book, noting several familiar boat names list from over the last three years.



Satsumas neatly tied to a stick from the Saturday morning market in Pangai Village

With good Digicel cellphone coverage and a calm anchorage in the prevailing southeasterly to easterly winds, Pangai Village was a good place for us to hang-out for a few days and reconnect with the rest of the world through the internet. The snorkeling was not going to be very good in the area so once we had caught-up with the online world, we were looking to try some of the other anchorages north and south along the Lifuka Group of Islands.

However, Gulf Harbor Radio was forecasting that on Wednesday and Thursday a front would pass over Tonga causing winds to back from east to north, to west, and eventually to south, with gusts up to 35 knots. This sounded very similar to what we experienced in Minerva Reef. Patricia and David said that in these conditions, they would consider moving on to Vava’u where more complete shelter can be found on the lee side of some of the higher islands or in the well-protected Neiafu Harbour. This suggestion did not take into account that the Vava’u anchorages might be getting a little crowded with the 30 boats of the Oyster Rally, boats like us that had come from New Zealand, and boats starting to arrive from the 2017 Pacific Puddle Jump.

Our GRIB files show the same wind directions but did not predict the wind to be as strong as David forecast (a similar situation to Minerva – for which David was correct). So we will wait until the forecasts on Monday morning. At worst, we can rush up to Vava’u that night or at best we stay in the Lifuka Island chain and move south to the neighboring Uoleva for some reef-protection from northerly and westerly waves. More likely, we will return to Ha’afeva, ready to anchor on either the west or east side of the island as the winds rotate, or find some other anchorages that will protect us from the strongest winds. Whatever else happens, compared to our harrowing experience at Minerva Reef, we will anticipate the west winds earlier and have the dinghy and outboard stowed.

The quiet island life

10 August 2017 | Northwest side of Ha’afeva Island, Ha’apai Group, Tonga
Photo: The ferry from Nuku’alofa being unloaded onto small boats while anchored off Ha’afeva
The village on Ha'afeva is on the east side of the island and is called Kolongatata, a Tongan name which reflects its exposure to the strong prevailing winds. Approximately 300 people live on the island and the village has a three-classroom school (which in 2006 had 42 students in six grades/classes) with an associated court for various sports, a community health-center, at least three churches, and one or two tiny grocery stores. As with many of these small-island villages, the houses range from tiny shacks with glassless windows surrounded by animals and assorted debris, to neat modern bungalows with carefully tended gardens. Unlike larger towns where more affluent people can choose to move to "better" neighborhoods, in these villages the full range of homes are mixed together, with the shiny newer houses scattered, apparently randomly, among the more basic habitations.



A pig grazes by the attractive community health-center (funded by Australian Aid)

We had walked across the island from the dilapidated ferry dock on the west coast to the village along a dirt road late one afternoon. We went through coconut groves and areas planted with taro, bananas, and manioc, and passed a freshwater marsh (a bit surprising), the electrical power house (built in 2003 with funding from Australian Aid), a cemetery, and some unattractive piles of dumped soda cans and bottles.



The tiny grocery store into which Ana invited us to look around while the locals had to stand outside at the small window (presumably they all knew exactly what was in-stock)

The village itself was very quiet at that time of day with even the children, who we had heard usually greet visitors most enthusiastically, noticeably absent or appearing to be quite shy. Or maybe it was us... We purchased a few packaged items from Ana at the only open store and bought a bag full of passionfruit from Peter, which I subsequently made into tasty liliquoi bars (like lemon bars but using the juice of passionfruit, liliquoi being their Hawaiian name). Charlie offered to trade us bananas for some fish-hooks if we came to shore again but, as it turned out, we neither needed more bananas nor went ashore again.



This may be a simple house in Kolongatata village but it has a well-used volleyball court

During our 12-day stay at Ha'afeva, we only saw a few people wandering around the shore on the western side of the island; sometimes fishing, sometimes just walking. The place truly came to life, however, when the weekly ferry arrived from Nuku'alofa. The first Wednesday morning when we were there, we were puzzled to see that a dozen or more small boats suddenly appeared around the boat ramp. Some had obviously arrived from neighboring islands but most had simply come from the village, around the south end of the island. We supposed that it was either time for a feast, that they were delivering fish for a market later that day, or the ferry from Nuku'alofa was due. When people and pickup trucks started to appear on the dock, we were pretty sure that it was the latter.



Small boats, pickup trucks, and people started to arrive at the dock on the west side of Ha'afeva Island

The reason for all of the small boats soon became apparent because the ferry did not pull-up to the dock, as we had seen in pictures from old cruising guides, but it anchored just southwest of the dock. The big, red-hulled ferry, 'Otuanga'ofa is operated by the Friendly Islands Shipping Company and was donated by the Japanese government in 2011 following the ferry disaster that killed more than 70 people in 2009. That ill-fated ferry had been on its way to Ha'afeva at the time of its sinking. Tragically, most of the fatalities had been women and children because it was traditional for the men to sleep on the ferry's decks allowing the women and children to stay inside the cabins.

The 'Otuanga'ofa looked too big to tie up and unload at the dock, which appeared to have been designed for vessels with a loading-ramp that could be lowered at the bow. The pilings and concrete platforms of the dock also looked as though they had been damaged during a cyclone or had fallen apart due to lack of upkeep. The Pulotu Wharf had been opened in 1998 after its construction as a joint project between the Government of Tonga and the Asian Development Bank. As with many of these infrastructure projects that are built with overseas aid, it is not obvious that funds for maintaining or repairing the structures are included in the aid packages or are prioritized by subsequent Tongan officials.



The disintegrating dock on the west side of Ha'afeva with Tregoning beyond to the right

While the passengers heading on to Pangai and Neiafu watched from the decks, within about an hour of the ferry's arrival, people and plenty of stuff had been transferred on and off. The ferry carried a good-sized, flat-bottomed boat which was lowered into the water by crane and onto which large objects like water tanks or mini-containers could be loaded. The local boats carried passengers and smaller cargo back and forth and, once the process was complete, the little boats dispersed again even more quickly than they had appeared. From a distance, it was hard to tell quite how efficient the system was, but it looked as though the ferry's two cranes were busy from the moment the anchor was dropped to when it was raised again. Presumably, someone at the shipping company had to work out exactly how to stow everything on the ferry so that it could be removed in the correct order at each island that was visited. And somebody had to organize the transfer off the ferry into the waiting boats without delay or error. Strangely, these sorts of organizing jobs sound quite appealing to me...but then I am the sort of person who keeps spreadsheets of lists of birds and fish seen and books read.



People, packages, and a mini-container are transported ashore from the ferry in its flat-bottomed boat

It is always sobering to think that on these islands with no airport and beyond an easy ride in a small boat to a main town, these ferries are providing the only source of imports to the village which must otherwise provide itself with adequate food. These villagers may take the ferry to Nuku'alofa or Neiafu (Vava'u) to buy the occasional specialty items but they are not going there every week to do their grocery shopping at a supermarket.



Many of the village houses on Ha'afeva had well-tended yards. This was one of the larger, more expensive-looking houses which may have been a group-home or housed an extended family.

On Friday mornings, the ferry makes the return trip from Neiafu, arriving sometime around 5 am and leaving just after 7 am so, as we discovered during our first week there, it is quite possible to miss its coming and going in the dark. We assume that it mostly picks-up items for sale and people who need to go to Nuku'alofa.



A white-collared kingfisher seen during our walk on Ha'afeva Island

As has been the theme of our stay in Tonga, during our time at Ha'afeva, there were lively winds from the east, varying between south and northeast. While this meant that it was a bit rolly in the anchorage thanks to the swells wrapping around the ends of island, especially when they crept over the reefs at high tide, the wind did provide us with plenty of electricity-generation thanks to Wendy, our wind-turbine. I used one such period of 15 to 20 knot winds to power the sewing machine and made a new bag out of Sunbrella canvas for our life-sling. This sounds pretty simple, but to support the harness and long floating-rope for easy access on the life-lines by the cockpit, the bag has to be well-secured and stiffened with plastic inserts. Once I had taken the old, disintegrating bag apart to extract the inserts, I was committed. I was, thus, very thankful that I had carefully mapped-out the project before making the first cut, and that the sewing machine and I we able to play nicely together (not always a given). It was a great relief when the harness and ropes fit comfortably into the new bag and it all hung firmly on the life-lines.



The new bag for our life-sling (a long floating line that has one end attached to the stanchion and the other end to a floating harness that is thrown to a person overboard)

During our stay at Ha'afeva, we never shared the anchorage with more than four other boats at a time but a total of about eleven boats passed through. These included the Nai'a whale-watching/snorkeling boat, a private, super-, motor-yacht, Dardanella, SV Kalliope (last seen at Malinoa) and SV Devocean. Marisa and Bavo had their neighbors from Christchurch visiting so the six of them were quick to explore the island and reefs before heading off for O'ua and Nomuka. We suspect that we might see them and Kalliope again when we visit the island of Lifuka, our next intended destination, and from which Devocean's guests would be flying back to Nuku'alofa and then on to New Zealand.

Having a whale of a time!

04 August 2017 | Northwest side of Ha'afeva Island, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
Photo: Three humpback whales turning in 20-feet deep (6 m) water between Tregoning and the double-masted catamaran, Cactus Island: L to R, calf, mother, and escort-male
We really like this anchorage. We are anchored in the middle of a big sand circle just 20 - 26 feet deep (6 to 8 m) with no danger of the chain touching any coral. The spot is not immune to rolling when the wind comes from anywhere not between NE and SSE but we are sheltered from the prevailing wind chop, and there is plenty of room for other boats and no emergent reef close behind us. It is easy to snorkel right off Tregoning, with some deeper coral behind us where bigger fish can be watched in the relatively clear water, and with a good diversity of fish and soft and hard corals in the shallower water towards the shore. Given that we get quite cold after 45 minutes in the water (or up to 90 minutes if the sun is shining), we have only been snorkeling once a day, but that frequency is still a great treat.



Randall swims down to look at a large table coral near Ha'afeva Island

Ha'afeva is on the western side of the rectangle that defines most of the Ha'apai Group but on the skyline to the west we can see the large, high, volcanic islands of Kao and Tofua. The northern Kao is 1,046 m high (3,431 feet), dormant, and has a classic cone shape. Tofua is flat-topped and being wider and only 507 m (1,663 feet) tall, it is not obvious that it is the bottom of a cone. It is an active volcano with a large, steaming freshwater lake in the middle and plumes of smoke are frequently emitted from near the northern end.



The volcanic islands of Tofua and Koa seen on the western horizon from Ha'afeva

Tofua is perhaps best known as the nearest island to where the mutiny on the ship Bounty occurred. On 28 April 1789, Captain Bligh and 18 loyal seamen landed on Tofua after Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers had set them adrift in a small, open boat. Unfortunately, on arrival the quartermaster John Newton was clubbed to death by the islanders. Bligh and the others narrowly escaped only to embark on a 6,500 km (3,513 nm) drift west to Timor with desperately little food or water.



Smoke billows from volcanic activity on Tofua beyond a humpback whale raising its pectoral fin within the Ha'afeva Bay

It is possible to go ashore and hike to the crater rims but the paths are indistinct so guides are needed for the grueling climbs. Anchoring, on a rocky bottom, is only possible on calm days and even then it is recommended that someone stay aboard. So we will content ourselves with admiring rather than scaling these peaks. However, for the first part of our stay, at least, the most captivating aspect of the anchorage was the whale activity.

By the second morning of our visit to Ha'afeva (Monday, July 31st), three mother and calf pairs of humpback whales were within the bay defined by the island and the fringing reef about 1 nm to the west. These whales had probably spent the night in the bay and after some morning activities, which we thoroughly enjoyed watching through the binoculars, it seemed as though they had all gradually moved out by 10 am.



Submerged mother and emerging calf seen from Tregoning's stern (the closer escort-male follows)

During the afternoon, two large whales and one calf swam very close to the stern of Tregoning, then turned around and swam back. This close proximity was very exciting and we were tremendously lucky that it was sunny and the water was so clear. A little while later, the same group swam very close to Tregoning's bow, turned between us and the only other boat in the bay (SV Cactus Island) that was anchored inshore of us, and then back past Tregoning's bow.



Submerged whales pass close to Tregoning's bow

Seeing the whales approach, I slipped into the water with mask and snorkel but I had no time to grab the camera. I did not wear fins so that I would not tempted to swim nearer to the whales and I deliberately held onto the dinghy painter or stayed in touch with Tregoning's hull. People are only allowed to follow whales or go snorkeling with them from commercial boats that have trained crews that have been licensed to participate in whale-watching. By getting in the water, I was probably somewhat distending the rules but I rationalized that by staying with our anchored boat, the whales had come to me and that by simply hanging in the water, I was probably not altering their behavior. Or so my situational ethics flexed enough to let me sleep that night...



After passing Tregoning's bow the large male (right submerged) and spouting female (the calf is submerged beyond her) approach SV Cactus Island before turning around

While underwater, I saw both of the adult whales which was very, very cool and heard them all communicating in low moans and higher-pitched squeaks. That evening, when we had drinks with Maree and Gerald on their homemade, double-masted catamaran Cactus Island (a slang name for Australia from whence they came), Maree guessed that we had seen a mother and calf with an escort male. We wondered if the whales had come so close just to have a look at us, maybe to show the calf what to avoid, or if they liked to use the sandy area where we were anchored as a resting or scratching place. While we were pretty sure that humpback whales are smart enough to recognize boat hulls, we did wonder if they could see and avoid our anchor chain or if we had been lucky that they had not caught it and dragged us around for a while; the male had been so very close.

We never saw the whales come anywhere close to anchored boats again but for a few more days within the bay, we were treated to exhibitions of calves breaching, and pectoral fin- and tail-slapping by both calves and adults. The loud smacks of the latter were often preceded by loud, deep groans that sounded most satisfying. Later in the week, the live-aboard dive/whale-watching boat Nai'a stayed for a couple of nights. They spent the intervening day with two groups watching and snorkeling with the whales, both inside and outside the bay. We did not see any whales inside the bay that evening or for another few days.

We will never know whether the absence of whales in the bay after the day of whale-snorkeling activities was a coincidence or a consequential change in behavior, but some of them did eventually reappear. Subsequent neighbors, Amy and David on another catamaran SV Starry Horizons, suggested that the females may be coming into the bay to give birth and then leave when the calves are old enough go outside. That would be particularly cool.



A honeycomb grouper (up to 32 cm or 13 inches)

Even when the whales were temporarily absent, we still had plenty of places to snorkel to keep us happy with the anchorage. My joy was almost derailed when I realized that one of my fins was developing a split that started on one side and threatened to cross the whole the blade, shortening the fin to be little longer than the foot-pocket. Luckily, Randall was able to drill small holes in the plastic on either side of the tear and use stainless steel seizing-wire to hold the sides of the tear together. So far so good. There are dive operators in Naiafu, Vava'u that may have some decent fins for sale, otherwise, I will have to hope that Randall can keep it repaired until we return to New Zealand.



Bluelipped bristletooth (up to 20 cm or 8 inches)

A short dinghy ride to the north end of the island revealed a large network of fairly shallow coral heads that could be swum between, but the fish and limited amounts of living coral were not very interesting. Putting the outboard on the dinghy and crossing the bay to the inside of the southwestern corner of the reef proved to be much more worthwhile. Anchoring the dinghy near the emergent black triangle of the wreck of Ekiaki, a Korean fishing vessel, we could swim south along the edge of reef that sat in sand at the relatively shallow depth of 10 feet (or 3 m). Swimming north, took us around an island of reef that had walls up to about 26 feet (8 m) deep and which included branching canyons within the reef, a favorite of Randall's.



A squid in Ha'afeva Bay (about 20 cm or 8 inches)

In either direction, the colors and diversity of shapes of soft and hard corals were spectacular. The fish were plentiful and diverse and on the wreck, I saw the largest trumpetfish that I have ever seen. In addition to seeing squid and a small octopus, fish species around Ha'afeva that were new to me included: Black snapper, reticulated dascyllus, imitator damsel, blotcheye soldierfish, tiger cardinalfish, southern tubelip, blackheaded filefish, and a pair of lemon coralgobies.



A diversity of hard corals south of the wreck at Ha'afeva

The snorkeling site around the wreck was mentioned in the cruising guides but had also been specifically recommended to us by Phil on SV Silhouette and, as he had suggested, it greatly reminded us of snorkeling in the Tuamotu and Society Islands of French Polynesia. If Phil is having a good time in Fiji, we may have to persuade him to give us all of his snorkeling and anchoring recommendations there too because he has not led us astray so far.



Initial adult phase of the ring wrasse (up to 25 cm or 10 inches)

Rolling northward - Part II - a summary

03 August 2017 | Northwest side of Ha'afeva Island, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
Photo: Looking over Tregoning’s stern: the black back of an adult whale passes under the stern of the dinghy while the female whale with a black back, white side, and black pectoral fin hanging down moves from left to right beyond
This is a quick update sent via the SSB radio to report that we are on the west side of the Ha'apai Group of Tongan islands and that all is going well. Once Randall had fully recovered from his lingering cold, we left Tongatapu on July 24th and spent three nights anchored west of the tiny island of Malinoa, just a few miles north of Pangaimotu. Here we enjoyed some excellent snorkeling and fully explored the tiny, deserted island. Southwest winds on the third night, however, made for rolly conditions which encouraged us to leave.

From there we had an excellent sail northeast to Kelefesia Island at the very south end of the Ha'apai Group. It is a beautiful island with yellow, sandstone cliffs at each end and a long sand spit exposed at low tide. We had hoped to spend two days there snorkeling, exploring the island, and getting to know the couple that lived there, but after one very rolly night (the swell was coming from the southwest, the only direction to which the anchorage was exposed) and with forecasts for stronger winds to come, we decided to move somewhere more protected.

We were disappointed to find that the tiny, reef-protected anchorage at Telekivavau Island, which was further to the northeast, was not suitable so we spent another rolly night on the west side of the neighboring, also uninhabited, Lalona Island. We then had a good downwind sail to the northwest to look at O'ua Island but finally decided to go to the large anchorage on the west side of Ha'afeva Island.

Although a little rolly when the winds come from north-northeast or south-southeast, we really like this site. The anchor is well-buried in the middle of a large sandy area with no risk of the chain damaging any coral. We are sheltered by the island from chop created by the prevailing east to southeast winds. There are plenty of interesting snorkeling sites within swimming distance of Tregoning and we will soon put the outboard on the dinghy to explore those further away on the surrounding reef or other side of the island. There is a good-sized village on the east side of the island that we plan to explore this afternoon.

But, most unexpectedly and perhaps best of all, we share the anchorage with at least three mother-and-calf pairs of humpback whales. They are not all in the bay all of the time but we have been thrilled to watch their antics from the cockpit, including breaching, tail- and pectoral fin-slapping, and spy-hopping by the calves (sticking their noses vertically out of the water). We had seen many whales as we sailed into and around the Ha'apai Islands but sharing a lagoon with them is particularly satisfying.

The highlight was one afternoon when a mother, calf, and escort male swam within a boat-length of Tregoning's stern before slowing turning around, only to repeat the maneuver a little while later off Tegoning's bow. In the 26-feet (8-m) deep water, they turned around between us and the other anchored boat, the catamaran Cactus Island and swam back past us to the deeper parts of the bay. For the second visit, I grabbed my mask and snorkel and slipped into the water while Randall, Gerald, and Marie watched from the boat decks. I deliberately did not put on fins and was careful not to let go of the line between Tregoning and our dinghy because I did not want to be tempted to follow these wonderful creatures. Following and snorkeling with whales is only allowed from commercial vessels that have been licensed for that activity. Sadly, I did not have time to grab the underwater camera but it was still amazing to see these massive animals passing so close to our anchored boat and maneuvering so gracefully in the relatively shallow water. There will be more details and plenty of above-water photos to follow when we have internet coverage again, perhaps in a week or so.

Blind Roller and the Uncharted Hazards*

29 July 2017 | West side of Lalona Island, Otu Tolu, Tonga
Photo: A little fuzzy but my best attempt to photograph a young humpback whale breaching
*Looking at the charts for Ha’apai, Randall came up with this title as a good name for a band.

Although we had planned to spend a second day (Friday July 28th) exploring Kelefesia Island and visiting Esse and his wife, after listening to the Gulf Harbor Radio report which suggested that the southeast winds would increase on Sunday, and having had another very rolly night, we decided that we should look for a better protected anchorage sooner rather than later. We did not want to find the suitable anchorages full (little did we know that there were hardly any other cruisers in the area at the time) or if we went to an anchorage that turned out not to be suitable, we might need a second day to move somewhere better. As it turned out, this was a good decision but we were sorry not to have seen more of Kelefesia Island and reefs.

Marisa and Bavo had come to the same conclusion so we left Kelefesia together in the late morning. After threading our way between the Nuku Island and Kekifana Rock (which looks disconcertingly like a large coffin afloat at sea), Devocean continued on a northwestern track towards Nomuka Iki, while we turned Tregoning northeast, towards the island of Telekivavau. The anchorage on the west side of this island was only mentioned in detail in one cruising guide but being almost completely surrounded by reef and with a small, old resort on the beach, it sounded interesting and well-protected from waves even if the area was rather small.



The disconcertingly coffin-shaped Kekifana Rock (seabirds to left provide some scale)

We had a lively sail with full jib and mainsail, seeing quite a few whales blowing spouts and breaching. On our way, we paid close attention to the charts because the whole Ha’apai Group is littered with islets, isolated rocks, exposed reefs, and shallow reefs that always stay awash and which can only be recognized by their breaking waves.

It was around 4 pm when we arrived at Telekivavau Island and with the sun quite low, it was not easy to see the shallow reef until it was quite close. We entered the narrow pass all right but the tiny lagoon inside is not charted so we were unsure of the depth of water at low tide. With only a small area that seemed deep enough for us to maneuver in, and with the wind and current trying to move Tregoning northwestward, it was a rather tense situation. At one point we tried to reverse against the wind and current to make a quick turn but the boat was swung over the reef beside the entrance pass and on an outgoing surge the keel hit top of the reef wall. The horrible bang and mast-juddering of the downward impact was sickening, but luckily, the incoming surge that followed, floated Tregoning high enough that we could motor off. I was very distressed to think that we may have damaged coral in the incident but thankful that only Tregoning’s solid, sturdy keel made contact with the rock, not any part of the hull itself.

We tried to anchor just south of the entrance where we would have the longest distance of deep water downwind of us but the anchor did not hold in the loose coral rubble on the bottom. The cruising-guide suggested anchoring slightly north of the entrance but there the bottom looked covered in weeds or rubble. The only spot that appeared to have smooth sand would have left us with the reef too close behind and absolutely no room for error or anchor-dragging. So when Randall wondered if it was worth trying to stay there, I was quick to agree that we should move on. Although the water in the little lagoon had been temptingly calm and protected from swell by the reef (at least at low tide), the former resort looked thoroughly deserted which was not very inviting.

With me on the bow shouting and gesticulating how to avoid the shallow reefs, to Randall’s dismay I, unknowingly, directed us to exit the lagoon by a slightly different route than we had entered. Luckily, I did not lead us into a dead-end and we were quickly clear of danger. With our heart-rates gradually subsiding, we motored south to the neighboring island of Lalona. Although we would, again, have no protection from the southwest swell, it was very easy to find a good anchoring spot in the sand on the west side of the island where we were sheltered from any wind-waves. Needless to say, it was another rather rolly night but at least there was no concern about swinging or dragging onto a reef.



Approaching the north end of Lalona Island (tree trunks litter the shoreline)

Of course, we needed to move again once it was light enough the next morning, so we did not have a chance to go ashore and explore the uninhabited Lalona. The shoreline looked rather bedraggled with fallen trees lying across the beach at several places so maybe we did not miss much. Instead, we had a lovely downwind sail using only the jib in 10 to 15 knots of southeasterly wind.

The Ha’apai Group of Tonga has a land area of just 110 sq. km (43 sq. miles) in the form of 62 islands which are mostly spread over a rectangle of sea that measures about 60 nm from southwest to northeast and 20 nm southeast to northwest. There are a couple of permanent outliers west of this rectangle, the large volcanic islands of Tofua and Kao. One other island west of the Ha’apai rectangle is Fonuafo’ou or Falcon Island, which appears and disappears at the whim of the submarine volcano of which the occasional island is the summit. For a few decades the volcano will build up enough lava to create an island as big as 2.5 km long and 130 m high (1.6 mile and 430 feet) but this then erodes away again until the volcano actively builds its cone once more. As of 2012, the “island” or seamount was charted at 17 m (56 feet) below the water surface. There are many inactive seamounts at various depth in the area and, luckily for us, they are mostly charted. Passing over them with the recording depth-sounder
running, it is possible to see that their shapes are the steeply sided peaks of cones. On the volcanically active west side of the Ha’apai Group, where these seamounts still project above the water as small round islands, they are often fringed with black, sharply edged volcanic rocks.



A small volcanic island with black rock on the shoreline with flat sandy-beach-wrapped island beyond

Islands on the eastern side of the Group tend to be long, flat, and coralline with sandy shorelines, more like Tongatapu. The uninhabited islands of Lalona and Telekivavau fit this description as the southern links in the eastern chain of islands and reefs. Further north on this chain are the larger islands of the North and South Lifuka sub-groups where Pangai, the administrative center of Ha’apai, is located. Most of the 8,200 people in Ha’apai live on these eastern islands, where most of the 30 villages occur. In total only 17 of the 62 Ha’apai islands are permanently inhabited.

The Ha’apai Group of islands were rarely visited by cruisers in the past. There are no islands like Vava’u that are large enough to have bays protected from all directions. Most of the anchorages are on the west sides of the larger islands. Thus, they are protected from the prevailing southeasterly trade-winds but would be unprotected on the occasions when the winds back around to the west. Only with increasing access to more accurate weather forecasts have many cruisers felt confident enough to spend time in the Ha’apai Islands, being ready to switch anchorages when the wind direction is predicted to change. It is also necessary to be fairly tolerant of a boat’s rolling motion at anchor. Very a few anchorages are surrounded by shallow reefs that keep out the swell from all directions. Even when there is a fringing reef, big swells can usually cause some rolling when the tide is high and waves, albeit subdued, cross the submerged reef.

Also, it is only with the advent of GPS and electronic charts that many cruisers have felt comfortable in moving around an area that is so littered with awash reefs. As we passed north from the Otu Tolu sub-group of islands to the Kotu/Lulunga sub-group, we crossed a channel of deeper water. On the northern rim of this channel, our chart showed a series of awash reefs and “Blind Rollers”. The latter are waves breaking on shallow reefs that might not be seen if approached from behind (the white water would be on the far side of the wave), especially in rough seas at high tide. Fortunately, our charts seem to be fairly accurate in this area and we could safely pick our way through the hazards that make such an intimidating line on the chart. Ironically, in calm conditions, when exposed reef is easier to see, those just below the surface become most threatening because they lack the tell-tale breakers that normally warn of their lurking presence.

Again, we were entertained during our passage by the antics of humpback whales as they breached, tail-slapped, and waved their pectoral fins. We even had to dodge rather hastily around one mother and calf pair that was lolling at the water surface. I counted eight groups which at a minimum contained two whales (mother and calf), but more likely had at least three whales that included a male escort.



The slightly pink belly and pectoral fin of a young humpback whale breaching to the right and away from us

We were also briefly preoccupied with hits on Randall’s fishing lures. Two fish inconveniently hit just as we were about to listen to weather from Gulf Harbor Radio but they shook the hooks free. Randall finally landed a fish that was perfect for a couple of meals. It had firm white meat and looked like some sort of mackerel with big eyes, solid blue color on its back, plenty of scales, and a few small black dots on the ventral side. Online we have identified it as a double-lined mackerel, in the Spanish mackerel group.



Our big-eyed catch; a double-lined mackerel

Right around noon the clouds started to break-up and this greatly facilitated our entry into the lagoon on the south side of O’ua Island. This anchorage was another lagoon surrounded by shallow reef at the corner of a larger lagoon. None of it was charted so we had to rely on GPS waypoints provided in a couple of the cruising-guides. At least, several boats had visited this site and reported on the entrance route so we had a bit more confidence in it than at Telekivavau. There were supposed to be five navigation marks along the reverse-L-shaped route but only the three at the ends and turning point were still in place.

Although the entrance to the outer reef looked narrow on the chart, the navigation mark and waypoints helped and it was relatively easy to distinguish the deeper water with sand from the reef. We proceeded along one arm of the L and around the corner but as we headed towards the small lagoon, we had a discussion about our comfort level with this anchorage and what we could do there. The guides only mentioned visiting the small village on O’ua and nothing about snorkeling. Although the extensive reef probably protected the anchorage from swell (an attractive proposition after five nights of rolling), it was fully exposed to the southeast wind and chop. The anchorage looked empty but it was not a big area so there would be always be a lee-shore of reef fairly close behind us, and one of the guides pointed out that if the winds really picked-up and generated breaking waves across the entrance to the reef, it was impossible to leave safely. All in all, I think that Randall was willing to stay but I was still rather spooked by our difficulties at Telekivavau.

So a half-nm short of the anchorage, we turned around and followed our trail back out of the lagoon with the goal of going further northwest to Ha’afeva. After motoring between islands west of O’ua, we were able to sail again on just the jib and weaved between several uninhabited islands to approach the southwest side of Ha’afeva.

The attraction of this island for us was a nice big anchorage on the west side which would be protected from the prevailing east to southeast wind chop. Reef around the west side of the anchorage might also provide some protection from westerly swells and if the wind were to shift to the west, it is also possible to anchor on the east side of the island where the village is located. In addition to exploring the island and village, of particular appeal to us, was that our cruising-guides described several good snorkeling sites around the anchorage and the island. So provided that we could find a good coral-free spot to drop the anchor and there was little roll, this looked like the sort of place where we could spend quite a few relaxing days…
Vessel Name: Tregoning
Vessel Make/Model: Morgan Classic 41
Hailing Port: Gainesville, FL
Crew: Alison and Randall
About: We cast-off from Fernandina Beach in north Florida on 1st June 2008 and we have been cruising on Tregoning ever since. Before buying Tregoning, both of us had been sailing on smaller boats for many years and had worked around boats and water throughout our careers.
Extra: “Tregoning” (rhymes with “belonging”) and is a Cornish word (meaning “homestead of Cohnan” or “farm by the ash trees”) and was Alison's mother’s middle name. Cornwall is in southwest England and is where Alison grew-up.
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