Tonga – Ha’apai Group
22 October 2018
Photo: One of many whales
We were up at 05:30 and had the anchor up and underway by 06:00 on Tuesday 25th September, bound for the Ha’apai group 57nms away. Peter and Lisa, Pelizeno, decided to stay in Vava’u for another week, so in company with Josh, Sara and the boys on Rogue we headed off. It was a wonderful close haul sail with lots of whale spouts, a couple of whale breeches, not close but still good. Brian reckoned he saw one whale dive and go under the Dol, either that or it was an enormous fish. We had the anchor down in Pangai by 16:25.
Later we went ashore with Josh, Sara and the boys with the American family from Counting Stars for pizza. Unfortunately they completely messed our order up, so while the others stayed and ate pizza, we went back to the boat for dinner. The following morning we went into Pangai to do the clearance into the Ha’apai Group, again we could not clear out at the same time and will need to go back 24 hrs before we head to Tongatapu. Back to the Dol and a short 5nm motor to drop the anchor off the beautiful, sandy Uoleva Island beach.
We stayed at Uoleva for a week while a squash zone with strong winds went through. Not a bad place to stop, we walked across to the other side of the island and along the white sandy beach with an extensive fringing reef, went to a Tongan dance evening at the Yacht club, snorkeled a reef with many crevices and generally socialised with the other cruisers in the bay, including dinner on Shawnigan with Christian, Josie, Nina and Taj. Brian also took the opportunity to do the annual varnishing, clean the hull and bottom of the Dol as per requirements for entering NZ and other jobs in preparation for our passage to New Zealand.
Brian went into Pangai with Brian from Counting Stars and Patrick from Blue Zulu to do the inter-island clearance. Friday 5th October with the winds easing, it was time to head further south to Nomuku Iti Island, 38nms away. The day started off with rain squalls but morphed into a beautiful, blue sky sunny day. As we motor sailed along we talked of our disappointment at only seeing whales in the distance, this changed as we saw several whales, one surfaced close enough to Dol that we had to reduce speed to avoid getting too close.
We anchored in Nomuku Iti for the night and left the following morning at 06:00 and motored all the way to Tongatapu, 56nm. One thing we have noticed since we were here in 2018 is the accuracy of the electronic charts, previously they were out by up to half a mile, but now the reefs and islands seem to be in the right place. We anchored next to Rogue on the outer reef of Tongatapu at 14:30, having again seen several whales on the way, we even had dolphins as we left Nomuku Iti. It seems all the whales we have seen are heading south, maybe they have started to turn around and are heading back to Antarctica.
Within an hour we were out snorkeling on the reef, probably the best coral we have seen in a while. Lots of variety, all healthy and plenty of small to medium sized fish. Later we had a pot luck dinner on Rogue and a catch up.
With a potential weather window coming, we headed into Pangiamotu outside Big Mamma’s, on Sunday 7th October. The following day we went into Nukualofa to find Customs for the local clearance, which turned into a bit of a mission. The Customs office for yacht clearance is in a porta cabin in the midst of a load of containers. We eventually found it and cleared into Tongatapu, then found out the process for clearing out of Tonga, which involved going to another building. It was then off to the fuel companies to work out how to get duty free fuel. Over the next couple of days we returned to the fuel companies and eventually got comfortable with Total. Brian went ashore with David from Anila and cleared out late afternoon Wednesday 10th October. He then had to organise the duty free fuel certificate and a bunkering license, go to the fuel company and schedule the fuel. 08:30 Thursday morning, ourselves and Anila where over at the FISA wharf waiting for the tanker to arrive. It was possible to organise a tanker to deliver the fuel as between us we needed over 1000 litres of fuel, anything less would have been 200 litre fuel drums, necessitating putting it from the drums into jerry cans and then into the tanks, not ideal.
The decision was made after looking at the weather to depart Friday morning in the direction of North Minerva and make a final decision on whether to stop or not then.