Christmas is fast approaching and the weather has been magnificent. We are enjoying living at Westhaven the scene is always changing, people and boats coming and going, the pohutukawa trees are covered in red, looking gorgeous even on a cloudy day.
Alan is working hard on Road Runner to get all the new bits and pieces fitted. Jim Pasco is up from Hamilton for a couple of days to help fit new batteries among other things. The thing I like about this project is all the retail therapy I have been getting although some of the Marine Industry can be very frustrating. On one of the few wet windy days (not wasting fine weather work time) we went to Lusty and Blundell, the Raymarine supposed experts, to price a new tiller pilot along with other bits, all adding up to a considerable amount of money. Their service was very poor we almost felt we had to produce a bank statement to prove we were serious. We left feeling quite despondent and confused with no progress made on the RR project. The salesman had even told Alan he was wrong about a tiller pilot that was on their own website, that it wasn't on the website and didn't exist. On returning to Westhaven we called into The Nav Station. Wow what a difference, Will was a breath of fresh air, he knew exactly what Alan wanted and could talk knowledgeably about all the products we needed. We left The Nav Station feeling confident that the RR project was on track again. Will even produced a Raymarine catalogue showing the Tiller pilot "that didn't exist". Just for the record, Lusty and Blundell, it is on your website too! I guess if we had turned up with super yacht written all over us we would have got better service. I just hope all our overseas cruising friends buying marine gear in NZ this summer get the Will treatment not the Lusty and Blundell type. Apart from that glitch we have had good service and it is so handy being here at Westhaven close to all the services we need. It doesn't hurt so much paying lumps of money over to helpful likeable people.
There are lots of things I cant help or don't want to help Alan with so that leaves me free to go for walking around Westhaven, St Marys Bay and Ponsonby. One day I walked across the newish over motorway walkway up through St Marys Bay admiring the views and beautiful houses.
There is one drawback of living in the marina, laundry cannot be hung out to dry, spoils the scenery. The management do provide a good dryer in the laundry however today I realised how many clothes I have that cannot be tossed around in hot air. The marina at Apia in Samoa had the same rules although no one took any notice of the rules. The marina there was falling to bits so a bit of laundry flapping in the breeze was neither here nor there. Today is hot and breezy so I risked a few things out on coat hangers. Clothes on coat hangers aren't really classed as laundry out to dry.. is it?
We are now in Auckland tied up at Westhaven Marina. We have been busy since arriving in Opua on the 8th of November, a good excuse not to write this blog, the journeys end blog, the start of the rest of our life blog, I can't put it off any longer.
On the 7th of November at 4am we crossed our outward track, 32deg 58S 174deg 19E, 27 hours from Opua. Cold, rough and windy, similar to our outward passage. We had asked Jim Pasco back to crew from Tonga to NZ it seemed fitting that we have the same crew for the two passages, leaving and arriving New Zealand albeit 41/2 years apart.
Tuatara had taken us safely to 45 countries across 12 seas and 3 oceans, and some 35000 miles. We have also visited 19 countries by land. In this journey around the world I have to mention Talitha the lovely little boat that took us to Asia in 2007 and helped us decide that we liked the offshore life and a circumnavigation was possible. So our journey really started over 6 years ago and I can add another 3 countries visited by land. Tuatara has now completed her third circumnavigation which is very impressive, a well designed and built NZ yacht.
Our passage down from Tonga via North Minerva reef took 10 days 16 hours that included a 2 day stop at North Minerva. The wind was on the beam for most of the trip and except for a few hours of motoring we enjoyed the sailing the only distraction was the 24 hours of 30 knots. After months of tropical weather crossing the Pacific the cold weather saw us seeking out jerseys, coats and leggings. I did manage to keep bare feet until 2 days out of Opua.
At around 3am Friday morning I spotted the Cape Brett light, the wind died so we completed the last miles under motor. As the sun rose we motored past the Ninepins across a mirror calm sea, fog clung to the hills, hiding Russell and channel markers.
Tuatara motored down the channel dressed in the flags of all the countries we had been to. As we pulled up the front halyard of flags one of the ties gave way half way up so there was a small string of flags streaming from the mast and the rest sat on the deck, a dejected wet bunch of material. Alan shimmied up the mast to pull down the halyard to rejoin the flags and there was just enough wind to turn the wet bunch of material into colourful flags. After Paihia the fog descended and we couldn't see a metre in front of us, luckily we knew where we were going. Alan took us close along the moored yachts, past our old mooring and once the Opua wharf appeared out of the fog we could see our way easily into the Quarantine wharf. 7am 8th November 2013 Circumnavigation complete.
Flags flying in Opua Marina.
Bacon and eggs, a tot or two of rum for breakfast, Bailey flavoured coffee, photos and then it was time to see the officials, fill in the forms, give our rubbish and excess food to the quarantine officer, the meet and greet lady gave us our welcome to Opua pack then onto a marina berth. Some of our first visitors were the Yindee Plus Crew, Chris, Sue, Wilf and Sid, from England, we had sailed on and off with them for nearly two thirds of the world. More Bailey flavoured coffee to celebrate. Amanda and Patrick from Egret called in and the Baileys bottle emptied a little more.
A present from the Yindees to celebrate our circumnavigation. Embroidered by SId
Eventually we got tidied up ready for the family to visit for the weekend.
Florence spent her first night sleeping onboard, the first of many we hope. A little small for such a big bunk.
Over the next week we watched the yachts stream into Opua, some mornings there were 10 boats waiting to clear customs and once they cleared more arrived to take their place on Q dock. Across the Pacific we had been part of the Southern Cross Net on the SSB but in the marina we could not hear it so each morning it was interesting to see who had arrived.
A lovely card hand made from Isabelle and Jim of Sonsie of Victoria
It seemed that most had had good passages, there had been a variety of conditions but as far as we know not many had been "slammed". Across the Pacific we had constantly heard, "everyone gets slammed on the way to NZ" We had always said," no not necessarily, just watch the weather." Pleased we weren't proved wrong.
2 weeks later we turned into the berth at Westhaven and realised this really was journeys end.
We have shared our journey with lots of people, made many friends, visited amazing places, taken hundreds of photos and so we have memories to last a life time. We hope some of our friends will visit us in NZ and we hope to travel a bit more and visit around the world. So although journeys end is a little sad we have plans!!
We are now a two boat family, Alan is going to sail a Young 11, Road Runner, in the Trans Tasman Solo race next year. Something he has wanted to do for many years. So he will be busy with that and I will help where I can. So life goes on just in a slightly different direction. I think I will keep up the blog to keep account of the next few months getting Alan and Road Runner ready for the race.
Happy to be home.
10/27/2013, Vavau Tonga
Revisiting Tonga after 22 years.
We have now been in Tonga a month, time seems to have flown past. Time spent revisiting places we anchored and cruised as a family in 1991 on our yacht Sousa. The kids have grown and are well into grown up lives of their own, the size of our yacht has increased and there have been some changes in the Kingdom but there are still many things the same.
We arrived in Nuiatoputapu after an overnight sail from Samoa. Nuiatoputapu is one of the most northern Tongan islands 170 miles north of Vavau . The island is flat and difficult to see however the neighbouring island, Tafahi, is a high profile volcano with its steep slopes easy to spot from miles away. The pass into Nuiatoputapu was eventually spotted, the two outer markers a little bent and rusty marked the way. The electronic chart a little out, gave our friend Kevin a fright, he was looking at us going over reef. We called him out on deck to see us eyeballing our way in past markers and reef into the calm anchorage outside Falehau village.
Looking ashore we soon spotted some changes there was some newish housing and there where vehicles moving around the village also our VHF crackled into life and we were asked to identify ourselves. In 91 there were only a couple of tractors on the island the main transport was horse and cart, there was no VHF contact from ashore and the village houses along the shore was a bit dilapidated. The modern world had come to the island. When we cleared out of Nuiatoptapu on Sousa to sail north to Wallis we waited a day for the officials to turn up eventually we gave up waiting and Alan borrowed a push bike to go the few miles into "town" to do the paper work. Unfortunately the bike only had one pedal, he eventually mastered the one pedal bike, paper work done we set off to Wallis after taking two days to clear out.
This time we were clearing in and we arrived at 11 am, plenty of time to get our clearance done on the same day...well you would think so but no. Sia our VHF contact ashore said she would contact the officials. By 3pm we were pretty sure we weren't going to get ashore or see officials that day. We filled in the day with a swim, snoozing and chatting to Bruce and Dinah on the NZ Cat, Margarita. They had left Apia before us so filled us in on all we needed to know about the modern Nuiatoputapu. We also scanned the shore with binoculars spotting the changes.
The next morning Sia called early and told us to watch out for the white ute on the wharf which would hold the officials.
"come in and pick them up with your dinghy''
Eventually the vehicle was spotted and officials transported out to Tuatara. A lovely lady from Immigration and a polite gentleman from Quarantine arrived , the Health man was sick! There was a small fee to pay, we could not pay these people direct we had to go into the office and pay. This was when we started to find out how much had changed on the island and why. The main catalyst for change had been the 2009 tsunami which destroyed many houses, official offices and the schools. There were even two new villages built closer to the hill. Luckily the tsunami struck at 7 am so there was minimal loss of life. Government offices and schools were empty. Later in the day when we walked the hot 4km into pay our money we passed the empty place where the school had been. I remember as a family we caused quite a stir as we passed the school, the teachers lost control as the kids rushed to the open windows to say hello to the palangi family as we walked past. All the government buildings in Hihifo had been destroyed so now the new school and government buildings are all a little more inland and grouped together. Here we paid our fees and met Sia the yachtie contact.
Sia offered us a ride back to Falehau which we gratefully accepted it was a long hot walk back. We didn't mind the slight detour to her in laws where a lunch time umu was just being uncovered and a small pig was roasting over an open fire.
"We will have lunch and then I will take you back, it is my sons 18th birthday."
A hot walk back or sit in shade and have an interesting lunch...no choice really. We also soon learnt Sia commanded rather than requested, in a nice way.
I had already heard from Sia , in a roundabout way, while still in Apia. Knowing yachts called in on their way from Samoa to Vavau, Sia had emailed Claire in the marina office at Apia with a shopping list. Could some of the boats bring these things.... a longish list. Apparently the supply ship had not been for several weeks and was not due for several more. That was a familiar story. In 91 "the Kings Ship" as it was called then had not been for about 2 months. The island was desperately short of everything. We met a woman who had come from Tafahi to have her baby and could not get back because there was no petrol or diesel left. The village lights went out early or rather never came on, nothing to run the generator. The baker was having an enforced holiday as his flour had run out.
It seemed 22 years later things hadn't changed too much the supplies were late again. Although there was obviously still lots of fuel left this time seeing all the vehicles running around. Sia wanted less essential items but still important. The high school had a seventh form for the first time ever , Sia's son was in line to be dux. A grand graduation ceremony and party was being planned and the shopping list was for this celebration just in case the cargo boat didn't come in time. We bought the material needed for the celebration lava lavas. Sia was in a good position to get/ ask for bits and pieces from the yachts when they arrive. She and her family lived in the anchorage village of Falehau with a clear view of the yachts coming and goings along with working in the Immigration office Sia almost knew what we were doing before we did it! It was hard to by pass her to talk to and help some of the other people. I think I managed a little bit but she still managed to know everything that was going on.
Somewhere in storage at home I have photos of ladies soaking the long thin pandanus leaves in the sea before putting them on the washing line to dry and sitting in the afternoon shade weaving the dry white leaves into mats and baskets. I now have similar photos, digital this time. The process is the same, the place in the sea, in front of the village, where the leaves are soaked has not changed.
The pandanus leaves are tied together in bunches and put in the sea with rocks holding them down and left to soak until they turn from green to white. Each lady somehow remembers where their leaves are, at low tide they check their bunches, turning and rearranging the rocks. When they are happy with the whiteness the water laden bunches are hauled home and put on the washing line to dry. One morning I took my camera ashore and asked if I could take photos. Everyone was happy and also happy to see the results, they laughed at the videos between sloshing their leaves around.
I got talking to two young ladies about their families , they had a sister in Auckland who the youngest had visited. They giggled when I asked if they were married.
"No not yet.''
I think I got the gist from the following conversation that there weren't enough young men to choose from on the island and like young people all over the world the big city was the place to go. In this case Nukualofa or if dreams came true, Auckland.
The oldest sister asked if they could come out to the boat, so we hopped into the dinghy arriving back at Tuatara to find Alan and Kevin doing the breakfast dishes. A surprising domestic activity for young Tongan ladies to see men doing! We had a nice visit, a hot chocolate breakfast for them and a guided tour of Tuatara I then found some bits and pieces for them, some frivolous and some practical before I took them back ashore.
That afternoon we chatted to Sia on the VHF.
"You had visitors to the boat this morning."
"Yes a nice way to say thank you for the photos I took."
Sia knows everything!!!!
After a few days it was time to sail down to Vavau the wind was easterly promising a good trip, unfortunately 36 miles from Vavau the wind changed to a strong SE, right on the nose. We eventually motored in past islands melting into the dark night and anchored in Port Maurelle where we stayed two nights before going up to the shops and internet at Neiafu.
Neiafu has changed, bars and restaurants have sprouted up along the water front servicing the vastly increased yachtie visitors. Years ago we anchored Sousa down below the Paradise Hotel, the kids swam in its pool and we walked to town. These days the Paradise is silent, left to deteriorate. There are lots of moorings and dinghy docks closer to town and the internet reaches out into the harbour. A new Hotel dominates the waterfront but it has been poorly built with Chinese money , what could be a asset to Vavau is an empty blot on the picturesque harbour. The habour is a good place to come to for supplies, internet and social activities. We took part in the Vavau regatta which was fun and have been out and about in the anchorages. Nothing much has changed in the anchorages they are still referred to by number something started years ago by the Moorings guide for their yacht charterers. Number13, the Hunga anchorage is in a huge crater lagoon the narrow pass is shallow and ..well narrow. A nervous few minutes of "have we got the tide right" and you pop into a calm anchorage.
Number 8, Nuku, has a couple of gorgeous beaches which are the picnic beaches for visiting dignitaries and royalty, most of the time enjoyed by the crews of a few yachts. There are 41 anchorages in the Moorings guide even opposition guides quote the Moorings numbers.
Tuatara and crew have enjoyed the anchorages we have visited but it is time to head back to Opua. Yachts are steadily leaving for places south and west the moorings in Neiafu are easier to come by now, the restaurants are starting to work shorter hours and weather forecasts dominate the conversation. We have to avoid what John from Island Cruising Assn calls, "analyses paralyses". Too many different weather window opinions and you can get frozen in the headlights. So we have decided tomorrow is the day, Jim Pasco our crew has arrived no need to delay. One last big passage to go and Tuatara will soon be cruising past the Nine Pins, waving to Paihia and Russell before tying up in familiar Opua.