Tonga – Vava’u
22 October 2018
Photo: Celebration Time
Friday 24th August 2018 - We have done it, crossed our outward path from 8½ years ago when our first stop from New Zealand was Tonga. The 2 day passage from Niue was uneventful, the first 24 hrs was glorious sailing, wing on wing with good breezes and we even had a green flash at sunset. Unfortunately at 14:30 the wind died and we ended up motoring the rest of the way into Neiafu, Tonga, tying up at the Customs wharf at 08:00. The Customs officials came aboard at 09:00 and we were cleared quickly.
We then motored around to the Boatyard, a haul out and boat maintenance area that was not here years ago, to drop off our outboard motor for repair. Unfortunately the tidal current running past the mooring buoy was very strong and as we attempted to pick it up off the stern, after unsuccessfully trying to pick it up off the bow, we managed to get a rope caught around the propeller. Luckily Brian stopped the motor quickly, a few radio calls and Chris from Barefeet and Rob from Yonder, came round in their dingy to assist us free the rope. Luckily the rope was easily freed, we dropped the outboard at the boatyard and headed into Neiafu Refuge harbour and picked up a mooring. Keeley and Josh, Kuan Yin, came over for a catch up which was great to hear of their adventures in Palmerston Atoll and American Samoa. It was then dinner and an early night.
Saturday morning we headed into the market for some fresh fruit and veges then off to sort out internet access which took some time. We stopped at Mango Café for a drink with Johan and Lisa, Rubicon before heading back to the Dol for lunch. Early evening we headed ashore to have dinner and watch the All Blacks play the Wallabies with our Australian friends on Raftkin and Barefeet and Phil, Ella and Aiden, Tranquillo. It was a good night with the All Blacks victorious again, maybe next time Aussies.
It was time to go and explore more of Vava’u. Sunday lunchtime, 13:00, ourselves, Raftkin, Barefeet and Tranquillo dropped the mooring lines and headed off to Kenutu Island. The path to Kenutu is through a couple of shallow areas in the reef, can be tricky and we kept in convoy and in constant communication re the depths. As we went through one of the slightly deeper areas there were 5 manta rays playing, never get tired of them. At 15:30 we were all safely anchored behind Kenutu Island.
Several days of socialising, including bonfire dinners on the beach and boat jobs was a great stop. Wednesday there was a mass exodus of 6 boats to Tapana. Unfortunately as we went to drop the anchor the winch suddenly failed, luckily for us a mooring was available nearby so we picked it up. Brian then went to work to try and sort the anchor winch. 4 hours later with some help from David, Raftkin, the anchor winch was working. The earth cable had deteriorated so badly it had broken, once replaced all was good again. Afternoon tea and coffee on La Cigale who had arrived in Tonga earlier in the day, then sundowner drinks ashore.
Friday morning we headed back into the Boatyard to pick up the outboard motor. The repaired motor is usable and will do till we get home, but it needs a new carburetor. A quick stop in Refuge Bay, Nieafu for some supplies and we were back out to Tapana Beach, anchoring late afternoon. The next few days were very social with paddle boarding convoys, drinks on the beach and a champagne party aboard Dol’Selene with Peter and Lisa, Pelizeno, David and Tracey, Raftkin and Chris, Barefeet, to celebrate our circumnavigation. It was a great afternoon/evening with plenty of laughs, tall stories and food. The night previously there had been a large bush fire on the island in the anchorage. It was quite impressive and the crackling of the fire through the woods could be heard clearly from the boats.
Next stop was the Blue Lagoon and a shared BBQ dinner on Raftkin where Hayley, Megan and Zenon surprised us with a Circumnavigation certificate they had made for us, how special.
Our next anchorage was Mala Island. On the way we stopped on the outside of the Coral Gardens for a snorkel. It was not the best day with cloudy skies and not much sun, but the variation of corals was amazing, one of the best coral snorkels we have had in the Pacific so far. From Mala Island we all jumped on board Raftkin and headed to Swallows Cave where everyone jumped in for a snorkel. The big balls of fish inside the cave where amazing and Hayley, Megan and Zenon had great fun diving in amongst them. From there it was back on board Raftkin and off to Mariners Cave, where the guys and Tracey and Hayley took the plunge into the darkness to get inside. It was then back to Mala Island for drinks and nibbles, another great day comes to an end. Over the next couple of days we walked across the island to Port Morelle, swam and snorkeled False Swallows and Swallows Cave again and generally had a good social time.
We also had a chat with a few of the locals about various topics including the Humpback whales who migrate here each year. We had heard from friends who had done the swimming with the whales’ trips and were a bit concerned about how they seemed to be chasing and crowding them. Apparently the feeling amongst the locals is that the practice of swimming with the whales is driving them further out away from the areas they are normally seen. It would be a great shame for Tonga if the whales’ natural breeding habits are changed because of the tourist trade.
It was then time to head back into Refuge Harbour, Neiafu for farewells till next time, for our Australian friends on Raftkin and Barefeet who will be heading off to Fiji in the next couple of days. A sad time for all as we have cruised in company with them since Panama, but we know we will meet again.
We floated around various anchorages for the next week ending up in Tapana Beach again as the wind increased. Josh, Sara and the boys on Rogue arrived from Niue and arrived in the bay on Wednesday. It was a great afternoon catching up with them, Peter, Lisa and Zenon joined us. The following day we went for a walk across the island and then had a dinghy raft up for sundowners.
Friday we moved around to Port Morelle and all the kids, with parents, went for a snorkel in Swallows Cave. Saturday we went into Nieafu for provisions and to watch the All Black game. Unfortunately after 9 attempts to get the anchor to hold, there were no moorings available, we decided to bail and went back round to Port Morelle. Pelizeno and Rogue were more fortunate and stayed for the game, the next day we all ended up at Nuku Island for a pot luck dinner on Rogue.
Monday 17th September, we all upped anchor and with Rob, Carli and Adrian on Yonder all headed out to Kenutu Island for a few days. The weather has not been very good for the past couple of weeks, lots of wind and rain, this continued out at Kenutu with a few good days. It did not stop us having sundowners on the beach each night with sausages on the fire for the kids.
Again it was time to move so in heavy rain and high winds, which did abate just as we picked up the anchor, we headed into Lisa’s Beach. It was a peaceful night and the following morning we headed into Nieafu for the now familiar “find a mooring” game. Moorings in Nieafu are at a premium and getting one is never easy or guaranteed, but with anchoring difficult due to the coral sea bed and the depth, everyone is keen to get one. Luckily for us Pelizeno had gone ahead the day before and put the word out that we would be in and looking for one. Thanks to Emily and Tom on Bonaire, we managed to secure a mooring as another boat left. Time to go ashore to extend our visa’s, visit the market and do the inter-island clearance for the Ha’apai group.
Later that evening as we were having drinks on Pelizeno with Blue Zulu, Rogue came back into the harbour. One of the boys had had a freak accident and injured one of his fingers, and needed medical assistance. Sunday, after going to church to listen to the singing, Gail accompanied Sara to the hospital where the finger was stitched and dressed, Nathan was ready to continue his “holiday”. We left the harbour and headed out to Nuku Island for the night and a potluck dinner on Rogue with 3 other kiwi yachts. Then onto Avalou Island the following day. This is an easy anchorage to get out of in the morning to head south to the Ha’apai group.