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.