01 January 2013 | Boatyard, Opua
22 November 2012 | New Zealand
27 October 2012 | Tongatapu
28 September 2012 | Tahiti
09 September 2012 | Apataki
01 September 2012 | Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas
14 July 2012 | Pedro de Gonzalez, Las Perlas
20 June 2012 | Curacao Spaanse waters
20 June 2012 | We left Bonaire at 24h00 in order to arrive at Curacao during daybreak. The sail was very bumpy due to the direction of the waves in the strong wind. We did not sail with the main, but only the headsail with the pole. The wind was mostly from the stern
17 June 2012 | Kralendijk, Bonaire
23 May 2012 | Chaguaramas, Trinidad
20 May 2012 | Storebay, Tobago
15 May 2012 | Scarborough Tobago
End of a Chapter
16 September 2018
We are all excited to sail again with our new home, C'est la Vie.
But it was a very sad day when we handed over the keys to Ntombi. He is sailing her to Darwin.
Third month in New Zealand
22 February 2013 | Opua
O what a feeling! We went back in the water and Ntombi is still my favourite home away from home! It is however “sailing week” in the Bay of Islands and marina berths is very scarce. The wind is predominantly south, so we are stuck in Opua. We even slept two nights moored on the outside of the breakwater wall. It was a bit bumpy at times, but better than a swing mooring an d a very wet dinghy ride to shore! All the boats from Auckland that came down for sailing week were also unable to return home as well. It caused havoc with space in the marina for the following week or two.
Eventually the wind prediction indicated a shift in the wind direction and some boats left late afternoon/early evening. We decided to leave over the weekend. Johan had a challenge to “unlock” the log and depth sounder. Bob from Cater Marine came to help. Eventually Johan found information on internet and reset the electronics. We decided to take a short drive to ensure the log and depth sounder is working properly before we leave for Auckland. We do not want a repeat of the Whale Rock episode!
A few hundred meters from Ashby’s boatyard, between a few boats on mooring buoys, we heard a very loud “bang”. Ntombi jumped out of the water and we knew instantly that the damages are severe. Needless to say, lifting the floorboard confirmed our suspicions. The water started filtering through into the bilge. We turned around and made arrangements to be hauled out again. We also walked over to the insurance broker to find out what the claiming process would entail.
We are now living in a small cabin in Waitangi Holiday Park while Ashby’s boat builders are working on Ntombi. The insurance approved the work, which is estimated at a bit over NZ$12 000. It is sad to see how they cut the galley in half to get to the floor, cutting out the streamers and replacing it, etc. I am confident that Ntombi will be stronger or just as strong as when she came out of the factory.
Second month in New Zealand
23 January 2013 | Opua
It is just amazing how quickly the time is passing. I still cannot belief that I was so stupid not to see that we are sailing straight onto Whale Rock! I do not even have an excuse that it is not charted, or something like that. Johan even called me showing that the buoy close to the rock is saying ‘keep north’ whilst we are sailing south of it. The plan was to sail between the rock and the land, not onto the rock. And the next minute we heard a big bang and Ntombi lifted into the air, sitting on the rock. I rushed inside to fetch the passports and the emergency container. Johan came inside asking me if there is any water coming into Ntombi. I got to my senses and realised that there might be no need to get into the life raft or calling for help. I lifted the first floor board, and there was no water coming inside. What a relief! We also heard the water flowing on the outside and realised that we went over the rock and are sailing on. I went through all the lockers and there was no water at all.
We turned around to go back to Opua, but decided to rather continue to Whangarei. In the end we decided to turn around and go back to Opua to haul out Ntombi. There might be damages underneath and we cannot take a change in the open waters. I phoned Opua Marina office and arranged for the travellift to be available to haul us out at Ashby’s boatyard. The guys were waiting for us when we arrived. They took us out and we found that the keel came loose. It would not fall out, but it is better to ‘glue’ it back on before we continue our journey to Auckland. Whilst we are on the hard, we might just as well remove the windows to fix the water leaks. Johan also wants to get a keyway cut in the propshaft and it is an ideal opportunity to do that, except that the engineering places are all closed for the holiday season. We will have to wait until the 3rd of January to get the engineering work done. Ample time to do all the other odd jobs we wanted.
Another low came through with the usual spell of bad weather and we decided to leave Ntombi in the boatyard whilst we go visit Johan’s friend in Greymouth. We could not postpone the visit any longer, because his holiday was coming to an end. We drove through to Auckland to catch a flight to Christchurch, which is on the east coast of the South island. Petrus fetched us from the airport and introduced us to family and friends (fellow South Africans) on our way out to Greymouth. Greymouth is on the west coast of the South Island. It is a picturesque drive through Arthurs pass with snow on the tips of the mountains and temperature of only 6 degrees. We arrived in Greymouth with temperature of 12 – 16 degrees. Petrus and his lovely wife, Alicia could not understand why we were cold. We were spending a whole year without winter and being in the tropics most of the time…….
Every morning we spent time with Alicia before she had to go to work. In the afternoon Petrus took us for a ride to some of the attractions in the area. We explored the town of Greymouth and the suburbs, including a stroll on the walkway next to the beach and a walk on the beach with the two dogs, Blackie and Milo. They have their own facebook pages if you want to see what they are up to.
On one of the days we went to Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes. We had to leave the two dogs home because they are not allowed on the well-maintained walkway that leads you to the pancake rocks. The walkway takes you through native forest before emerging into areas of coastal flax and scrub. The views of the inland mountains, the rugged coastline and the pancake rocks and blowholes are magnificent. There is also informative signage along the way that helps you to make sense of what you're seeing. The advert says “Here you can gaze in wonder at nature's artistry as columns of water shoot skyward from rocks that resemble giant stacks of pancakes.”
We went to Shantytown, which is in Paroa (suburb), just 10Km south of Greymouth. The advert of Shantytown says “Discover fascinating stories of real New Zealanders and experience a recreated gold-rush village just 10kms from Greymouth, West Coast isolation, extreme weather and rugged terrain produced stories of fortitude and ingenuity. Shantytown tells these pioneering stories through a fascinating mix of experience and displays. Ride the Steam Train through native rainforest, experience the sights and sounds of a working sawmill, watch the sluice gun blast gold bearing rock and soil from the earth, then follow the races to the gold claim and pan for your own gold a strike is guaranteed! The village, with 30 shops and buildings to explore shows life the way it used to be. For a memento of Shantytown nothing is better than an old time photo” sounded like Gold Reef City in South Africa. We arrived at Shantytown in a light rain and seeing that it looks like a miniature Gold Reef City, with a price tag of NZ31.50 pp, we decided to rather spend a quiet afternoon at home. Petrus would be able to assist Johan to change the SA terminology in his CV to the terminology that New Zealand is more familiar with.
The next day, we went to Lake Brunner. Blackie and Milo enjoyed playing in the water, running up and down with us. We stood on the walkway bridge over the railway track when the train passed beneath us. On our way back we went to the famous Blackball. Blackball is a small village, with general store, a hotel/backpacker and famous salami company. Despite its small size, Blackball is famous in New Zealand for its rustic charm, and militant union past from its “glory days” as a coal mining settlement.
The last day of exploring was spent driving to Hokitika where we bought fish and chips and ate it at the lake, where the 2 dogs could play in the water. We drove through to Dorothy Falls, a beautiful waterfall in the area. Thereafter we went to Hokitika Gorge with the water from the glaziers flowing through. The water is milky blue and there were a couple of youngsters swimming in the ice cold glazier water. They were almost freezing when they came out, but they enjoyed the thrill. On our way back we stopped for ice cream cones to round off a perfect day. Alicia was able to spend the day with us, because her holiday just started. We left the following day on the bus to Chrischurch to catch our flight back to Auckland. We drove back to Ntombi, our “home” on the hard in Opua. We were going into the water on the following day, which had us both very excited!
We will however spend a week or more in Opua, waiting for the next weather window to sail to Auckland.
First month in New Zealand
01 January 2013 | Boatyard, Opua
Johan and Francina
Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Yes, I think New Zealand is close to what Paradise on earth could look like. Luckily Gods Word tells us that Paradise will look like nothing we have ever seen before. It will be more spectacular with streets of gold, etc.
The day we arrived, it was raining, cold and visibility was very poor. Johan asked "Why did we come to this 'mist'-erable land?" (Mist or fog) We were cold, tired, wet and dressed in long sleeves whilst the locals were walking around in shorts and sleeveless tops. Obviously, we suffered because we did not have a winter in 2012, sailing in the tropics for such a long time.
Customs/Immigration/Security/Agriculture were very efficient with the check in process, importation of Ntombi and all paperwork done within an hour. We collected the last paperwork on the following day because we just needed food and a bed.
The little town of Opua is good for working on your boat, but there is no other facilities/shops close by. The closest supermarket is about 10 km by road and a 2 hours walk along the beach. Very nice walk to the supermarket but not a good idea to try and walk the distance with heavy shopping bags. It will definitely take more than 2 hours walking back. There is a little convenience store in Opua, but everything is very expensive. We however bought bread, meat and veggies out of desperation.
The people are very friendly and trusting. The owner of "The Marina Shop" provide free internet to the yachties as well as the use of his business branded car. We used the car to go to Kerikeri (the closest town with a variety of shops) 32 km away. We were able to get a Telecom connection stick and a simcard for the phone. We bought a cable for my kindle and fresh fruit, veggies and meat for Johan. Not too sure if it was a good or bad thing, because we spent the next week or two on internet trying to find a car and a job.
We attended a few functions whilst in Opua. The first was arranged for all the yachties new to New Zealand by sv Moonwalker. Russel and Karin (sv Moonwalker) are a fabulous couple that we met in Tongatapu and they wanted all their yachtie friends to meet each other at their house. We were 40 people and it was fun! The next was a function organised by their friends to welcome them (Moonwalker) back to New Zealand. Russel wanted the yachtie friends to attend in order to meet his local friends. It helps to network and find jobs and find anything else you need to know about New Zealand and the surrounding areas. We were 'hitch hiking' to these events. The first was attended traveling with Water Music and the second with Radience.
We also went to Whangarei with Radience to say goodbye to Alaeris (Alex and Iris). They are leaving their yacht in Whangarei and flew 'home' for Christmas and New Year. They will only be back towards the end of February.
We were not too happy with the cars we found on Trademe and then we went with Mark (yacht Radience) to Whangarei to the Auction at Turners and attended the Irish pub session afterwards. It was an enjoyable day in good company and good music. I was wondering why we never started something similar for South African volk music? Anybody who can play an instrument arrives at the session and start playing with the rest of the group - obviously Irish music lovers.
We eventually found a car from "Cars for Cruisers" and are very happy with her. She is automatic and it is something for me to get used to. The next milestone was to find a job. We applied for a few but do not expect anything to happen in 2012. Johan however went twice to Auckland for interviews at the same training company. It is only 230 km by road, but it takes anything between 3 and 4 hours to travel due to the nature of the roads. You cannot travel more than 80 km per hour, with very short stretches of 100. The roads are very winding, curly and dangerous if you drive fast. It was however a very relaxed drive and we slept over in Auckland. In the first trip, we also slept over in Whangarei in the Top 10 holiday resort. Whangarei is where we originally hoped to settle down. Currently, I would prefer to settle here in Opua or Kerikeri, but that is not where the jobs are.
We joined the Church in Kaikohe and enjoy attending services in this rural town (38 km). Most of the congregation travel similar distances than us and they have therefore arranged to enjoy a pot luck every week.
We have decided to move down to Auckland on the 27th, after the end of Hurricane Edna passes New Zealand. What a disaster! We struck Whale Rock and the keel came loose. God was great, He protected us and we suffered minimal damages to Ntombi. We hauled Ntombi out to fix the damages and plan to be on the hard for a while to complete all the work we planned, like fixing water leaks, etc.
22 November 2012 | New Zealand
Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu island, Tonga to Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Total miles: 1052
Average speed: 4.0
Max: 122 Nm on day 9
Min: 64 Nm on day 3
Time: 11 days 1 hour
Motor: 111.1 hours 41.8% of this journey
The South Pacific has an interesting weather pattern. You get high and low pressure systems following each other and the low's bring very strong wind with very high gusts. The high pressure system brings low winds with about 3 days of calms. There is normally a low pressure system crossing the path from Tonga to New Zealand every 5 to 7 days. Everybody therefore warned us that we can expect to encounter one "storm" on this passage. Our experience of the low coming through whilst at Tongatapu (74 knot gust) caused everybody to be a bit nervous about the trip to New Zealand.
We therefore studied the weather maps very carefully and waited for the "correct" window to start sailing to New Zealand. We saw 2 high systems following each other, without any lows (storms). This is actually the perfect window for this trip, except that you can expect to motor quite a bit. We left Tongatapu island along with 9 other yachts. On the first night there was quite a few yachts around us and it was interesting to see how they moved during the night. Some sailed on a more westerly course to stop at Minerva Reef whilst others went ahead with the advantage of size, speed, etc.
We were three boats of similar size and speed that stayed together for most of the voyage . Daniel, from Angeline, got the weather prediction daily from his Dad in New Zealand. He would then contact us and Privateer with the update. Sometimes we could not hear Angeline, and at other times we were unable to hear Privateer. We were however able to get the weather update from either of them. It was the first time during the 14000 mile journey that we were able to stay in a group sailing together.
We sailed in light winds for the first 4 days before we started motoring to get out of the calms. We sailed through patches of coral drifting on the water, looking like islands. There were very big coral (like a baseball) between the smaller pieces.
We sailed with full sails in the light wind and Ntombi was making good miles. It was such a delight with low seas that we were convinced she is the best boat on the voyage. The bigger boats fell behind due to their weight constraint. Whilst motoring on one of the calm days, we heard a strange noise from the prop-shaft and it was growing loader. I was unsure what caused the noise and I decided that it would be advisable to double check the cutlass bearing. We therefore took the sails down, stopped the engine and waited for Ntombi to get to a standstill in the middle of the ocean. Luckily the waves were almost non existent and I took my snorkel gear and dived down to inspect the cutlass bearing. Francina was almost hysterical when I went into the water. The cutlass bearing was still fine and there was no need for her to worry about me.
On Monday, 19 November the barometric pressure was 1016 and rising. On Tuesday 20 November the barometric pressure started falling whilst it was overcast and we sailed through patches of rain. We realized that there is a low pressure system coming through and we can expect stronger winds. On Wednesday it was raining and the wind became stronger with very strong gusts. We reefed down and were still sailing over 5 knots. The wind however changed to a South Easterly and we were unable to sail directly to Kerikeri in New Zealand. We were either sailing to the east or to the west, but not making any way towards our destination. The connector of the one glider broke, as well as the stack pack fastener. Francina's sewing of the stack pack fastener on the voyage to Tonga was not very well, because it was the same one that came loose. At 17h00 we decided to heave to and wait for the wind to change or ease to 10 - 15 knots. We were able to get some sleep before we started motorsailing at 23h00 to arrive in Opua at 9h45 on Thursday, 22 November 2012, still raining.
The breakwater is the Q-dock where you have to moor for the clearing in process to be completed. The breakwater is not connected to land at all and there is a toilet for the boats without holding tanks. When we approached the Q-dock we saw Angeline was already moored and Daniel helped us with our mooring lines. Biosecurity was already waiting for us to get on board to complete the documents and relief us from any seeds (beans, popcorn, etc) and fresh produce, which is not welcome in New Zealand. Next in line was customs, which also represents immigration. Lastly, the representative from Security came on board to find out if we are carrying any drugs. He explained the process and told us that the last step in the clearing in process is the sniffer dog. They however never brought the dog on board. When we were cleared, we moved to a walk on mooring in the marina.
We had to visit the marina office for the formalities there and discovered that we needed insurance in order to be in the marina. We therefore had to go to The Marina Shop to take out insurance on Ntombi. We also had to visit the customs office to complete the process of importing Ntombi into New Zealand. Our passports were stamped and we are therefore in time for our Permanent Residency visa to be effective. Only a few years to get citizenship.....
It is ironic that we started this very long journey in March on Francina's birthday and we completed it on my late Dad's birthday.
Two main islands comprise New Zealand: North Island with 44 200 square miles and South Island, with 58 200 square miles. Both islands are long and narrow and 1100 miles separates the northern and southern extremities. No point is farther than 68 miles from the sea. The country is predominantly mountainous. As huge and permanent as the mountains seem, New Zealand has changed its shape many times, for it is a region where the earth's crust has long been changing. This is particularly true of the volcanic and thermal area. The remarkable thermal activity is most spectacular at Rotorua, where geysers spout and mud pools bubble and plop like boiling porridge.
The hot shower and 'no movement' on Ntombi allowed us to sleep right through the night. We did not even woke up once, which is a first in 8 months! The next week or two will be spent working on Ntombi, seeking employment, sourcing a car and sorting out a few administrative challenges for SA, like SARS returns, etc. Luckily Bill from "The Marina Shop" has kindly offered his car for us to use to go to Pahia, Kerikeri and/or Whangarei. We also met a few South Africans in the marina and the towns close by, ready with advise.
Tonga updated 9/11/12
27 October 2012 | Tongatapu
Total miles: 1456
Average speed: 4.3
Max: 137 Nm on day 10
Min: 59 Nm on day 2
Whilst we were at Hiva Oa, we asked David from "Ranchos of the Seas" about his wind steering. He raved about the Pacific windpilot that is already 30 years old and never been touched. Even the gears are still the original. One of the bushes in the pilot was a bit loose. He contacted Peter from Windpilot to enquire about replacing the bush. Half an hour later he got a response from Peter suggesting that he does not need to replace. The pilot was still fine. He said it was spooky, because it seemed as if Peter sat at his computer waiting for mails to come through responding almost immediately. We contacted Peter for a quote and had a similar experience, even with the 11 hour time difference. Which business in Germany responds on a Sunday?
We ordered the Pacific Windpilot and it was sent to Tahiti airport, on flights from Hamburg to New York to Tahiti (2 days). We went to the Faaa airport in Tahiti to collect the Windpilot. The process at customs took longer than the fitting of the system on our return to Ntombi. There is only 4 bolts to fasten the bracket at the stern. No ugly birdcage like I envisaged in South Africa when everybody recommended a wind steering system. The wind steering systems I looked at in Cape Town were all fitted with welding works and really looked ugly at the back of the boat.
The big supermarket, Carrefour in Punaauia is only 10 minutes walk from Marina Taina, where we were moored, and it was the cheapest. Beef and Lamb were imported from New Zealand and sold at very reasonable prices. I enjoyed fresh meat every night during the stay in Tahiti. The French loaves are subsidized and only costs 50 Pacific Francs. It is very nice and crispy to eat especially whilst hot. Every week there is cheese on special and we were able to enjoy it with the freshly baked bread.
Whilst waiting for the Windpilot to arrive, I decided to get the rigger to make up a spare inner shroud. I read that the inner shrouds are the most likely to break and it would be good to have a spare on board. When I removed the shroud to see if the t-bracket they have in stock will fit on our mast, I saw that 2 strands of the inner shroud were already broken. We therefore decided to replace all the rigging before we leave for New Zealand. Everybody is saying that we will sail through at least one storm and we do not want to take any chances with faulty rigging.
We went to the 7th day Adventist church in Papeete on Sabbath. The service was in French with a Tahitian translation. A Chinese translator was allocated to us and he translated the whole service in English for us. He also arranged for the youth leader to take us back to Marina Taina after the service.
On the Wednesday we went to Motu Uta to replace the forestay. When we pulled away from the jetty in strong wind, I felt loss of steering. I immediately realised the stainless steel c-pin replaced in Apataki was sheered off. We were unable to go back on the jetty and therefore used the headsail to cross the harbour into the channel leading passed the airfield. There were 2 ferries coming into the harbour and we had to manouvre to keep out of their way.
When we reached the entrance to the channel, we put out the anchor. Francina contacted the harbour master, informing him of the dilemma. Whilst I was busy aligning the holes to get the broken c-pin out, the torch also died on me. I battled with a small handheld torch. With the grace of God I managed to align the holes and pushed the broken one out with the spare. It only took a few minutes, whilst it took very long in Apataki to remove the previous c-pin.
One of the days that we went to Papeete (capital of Tahiti), I saw a few guys with MTU shirts/overhauls. I stopped them. The one guy was in Cape Town a few years ago and we shared a few "do you know this person" memories. Tahiti was exactly what I pictured it to be. It met all my expectations and I could live here, if it was not for the French language barrier.
Ntombi is registered in New Zealand and we are therefore flying the New Zealand flag. As we sailed through the pass, leaving Tahiti behind, a Swiss boat came past, entering into the channel. He shouted at us "Going Home?". On my response "yes" I suddenly realized that I am going home, my new home. I suddenly felt a big emptiness in my heart thinking of South Africa, the people I met, friends I made over the years, my colleagues and my family. Suddenly my vision became blurred and I had to pick the tears from my eyes. Yah, I am going home.
The wind steering exceeded my expectations. The sail is much more comfortable than using the autopilot. It is a crew member I definitely recommend. The Simrad autopilot served me well, but I belief the wind steering works better in most circumstances. It also do not need any amps, only wind.
We had a slow start. On the day we left Tahiti, it was raining, the baromic pressure dropped to 1015 and all wind disappeared. The same scenario repeated itself a day before we reached Tonga. The pressure dropped from 1024 to 1015, heavy squals washed over us and then the wind died on us in the late afternoon. At 2h00 in the morning we started motoring until we reached Tongatapu at 17h30.
Thursday, 25 October was Francina's Dad birthday. Our calender only had 3 hours on this day due to crossing the time meridian. We went into the future within a blink of the eye. Tonga's motto is "where time begins" because they are 13 hours ahead of UTC.
The Pacific ocean is still very highly confused seas and nothing is predictable. The wind changes direction 360 degrees within 4 hours starting from North, moving anticlockwise. Suzie, the autopilot still worked during these peculiar situations.
On one of the days I caught 2 fish. The first fish of the day was a flying fish and we decided to let it loose. It was it's lucky day. The second fish was approximately 5 - 6 kg big. We however threw it back because the Bible says you can eat fish with fins and scales. This one only had fins and was therefore not fit for human consumption. The American Navy also confirmed the same fact after extensive research.
Contrary to my previous opinion of Ntombi, I belief she is a very comfortable boat and her length is acceptable. The bigger the boat, the bigger the cost - mooring, haulout, antifouling, rigging, etc. etc. A longer waterline immediately gives you the advantage of desperately extra speed - unlike us crossing from Panama to Marquesas in 43 days, whilst bigger boats took 32 days. An eleven day difference can be a l-o-o-n-g time.
We entered Tonga through the Ava Lahi channel approaching with the waypoints given in "World Cruising routes". A very big ship came out of the harbour and we were able to confirm our waypoints (from c-maps) into the harbour is correct. It was getting late and we saw that we would not be able to make it into the harbour before sunset. We decided to anchor out at Fafa motu and had a very peaceful sleep. Fully rested in the morning, we motored to Pangaimotu, dodging some coral reefs on our way and anchored at the Big Mama's yacht club.
We stayed on Ntombi until Monday morning for Immigration, Customs and Agriculture to visit us and complete the checking in process. Contrary to the resources available, we were going to the mentioned offices instead of them coming to us on the boat. Immigration is in town, a good 2 mile walk (one way) from the wharf, then you need to walk to customs - another mile from the wharf in the opposite direction. Agriculture is luckily on your way back from Customs. To check out, you also need to visit Port Control to pay harbour fees (calculated on gross tonnage per day) which is on your way to Customs. They are busy with a new building next to the fuel dock which will host Customs to ease the clearing in/out process, but also to keep an eye on boat movement. Whilst we were standing inside the harbour, Customs and the Police came onto the wharf observing the ships/yachts with binoculars. As SA citizens, we were required to pay for entry permits at TOP69 (approx US$43) each.
Located at the heart of the the South Pacific, the ancient Polynesion Kingdom of Tonga is one of the most scenic and unspoiled of the Pacific Island nations. There are 176 islands (only 40 inhabited) located just to the west of the International Date Line, southeast of Fiji and South of Samoa. Tonga is the first Pacific nation to greet the new day (UTC + 13).
Tongatapu island is the heart of the Tonga islands and home to the capital Nukualofa. Here is the center of government and business and it is where the King of Tonga and the royal families reside. The people are very friendly and most of them speak English. There is a very big fruit, vegetable and local handicrafts market (Talamahu market) in the center of Tongatapu. It has an abundance of local foods at reasonable prices, except pineapples, which is very expensive.
There is also the Tu'imatamoana Fish market located along the waterfront, just before the main wharf where you can buy fish and seashells in the afternoons. We took the local bus to Houma, 15.4 km from town to visit the blow holes. Waves send water spouting 18 m into the air through natural vents in the coral rock, creating one of the most impressive sights in the South Pacific, according to the Tonga brochure. Whilst in Houma, we spoke to a local person who spent 27 years in New Zealand. He told us that Tongans do not pay anything for their land or houses. Everything is owned by the community and is for free. You only need to pay for water and electricity.
We completed our checking out process and were ready to depart on Sabbath morning (3 November). On Sabbath we saw the latest GRIB files which indicated a low pressure system coming from Fiji towards Tongatapu causing heavy winds crossing our path sailing to New Zealand. We therefore decided to stay in Tongatapu waiting for the next weather window to sail to New Zealand.
O boy! What a wind we experienced whilst at anchor at Pangaimotu island. The gusts came through ranging between 20 and 40 knots. There was however one that lasted only a few seconds, but it measured 74 knots. I was busy washing the dishes in the galley and all the water ran out of the zinc into the bilges. Luckily we have the automatic bilge pump that kicked in and started pumping out the water. It only lasted a few seconds, but it felt much longer and all we could do was praying. It is almost like driving a car and when you brake it starts skidding. You can see the accident is going to happen, but there is nothing you can do about it. All happens in slow motion. We donated our wind charger to the sea during this gust. It was blown off the pole whilst the only piece that remained is the bottom that fits over the pole which I secured in St Helena with an additional bolt. Only one yacht dragged anchor, but luckily the anchor wedged itself into the sand where it got stuck and the yacht did not move afterwards in the gusts that followed.
There were two distress signals, one to the east and one to the South of Tongatapu. The one boat was rolled over and demasted in 10 meter waves. They lost some hatches in the process. The woman on board suffered head injuries. Another yacht turned back to aid them assistance, whilst an aircraft hovered over them speaking to them on the radio whilst help was on it's way. We do not know anything about the other boat, south of Tonga yet. There EPIRB is unregistered and the Tonga Navy was searching for them. We have not heard anything yet.
It looks like the wave height will be down over the weekend and the weather is looking much better for a passage to New Zealand leaving on Monday morning. We will keep a close look at the weather over the weekend and if everything is favourable, will leave on Monday, 12/11/12.