More of the Same Isn't a Bad Thing
23 October 2012 | Ha'apai group, Tonga
Greetings from Ha'afeva island in the Ha'apai group of Tonga. We're moving through the anchorages in a herd, snorkeling and walking on sandy beaches along with doing last minute projects to get the boat ready for the passage. Each morning, we have to tune into the SSB nets to get the weather update on when we'll have a window to push to New Zealand; perhaps it'll be this coming weekend. Listening about the low pressure systems rolling off of northern NZ gives me heartburn. But we have to liken it to traveling down the east coast of the US during change of season because after all, it is spring in NZ. It's just that they have nastier weather there.
We're pretty much ready to go. Yesterday we realized our VHF radio wasn't transmitting or receiving well so we tackled that today and at least improved our signal but we'll need to get a new antenna- put that on the growing list of must haves that have nothing to do with fun items to buy. And then we scrubbed the hull today to get it ready for the passage. We want it clean for the least amount of drag possible- the most speed we can get! We cleaned it using a scuba tank to save brain cells and it makes it immensely easier. We sometimes wish for a larger boat but not when it comes to cleaning the hull!
We've been to some knock your socks off anchorages here in the Ha'apai group. Some are uninhabited, & most have long sandy beaches and beautiful water. The one we're anchored at now has a village on the windward side and a ½ mile pretty path leads back to the westward side where our boats are anchored. The snorkeling is amazing and we even snorkeled on a wreck today which we rarely ever do since we prefer not seeing manmade wreckage underwater, but this one was right near the anchorage and supposedly had lovely coral surrounding it. And it sure did! I forgot the camera but hope to go back there tomorrow and take some pictures. There was a huge, tall, longfin spadefish and a really nice view of a lionfish just hanging in the open water which I rarely see and so many types of brightly colored corals I can't count. I particularly love the ones that look like rock candy. They come in an array of blues, purples, teals, browns and today, even bright yellow. The weather's been great lately and the sun just makes the underwater world glow. It's so easy to get lost in thought just hovering over the reef and occasionally picking your head up to get reoriented. I know the blog has been pretty boring lately since I never can get any internet so not much for pictures. People say how expensive French Polynesia was but we disagree. Certain things like restaurants were but you could still find plenty of goods & services that were reasonable and up with the times, one being internet. I'm not so sure we'll get any until we get to NZ.
Friends of ours had lunch with a local family yesterday and asked if the locals could take them for a lobster hunt tonight and they agreed. So that's where Jon is right now- probably kicking himself for going since it's 9pm and we started snorkeling at 2 this afternoon. The locals generally hunt lobster after dark since that's when they're easy to get. They come out of their holes and up into very shallow water. However, we checked the reef behind our anchored boat a few days ago while snorkeling and voila! There were lobster there finally! Jon speared a huge one and then the following day we went back and he got another one but this time it was by just reaching into the hole and grabbing it. We've been looking for lobster this entire season and have never seen any that were spearable so now at least we know they're here. We had half a tail one night and then went over to another boat- Aquamante for dinner the following night and contributed some for a pasta dish that fed the 6 of us, then we used the remainder for dinner last night. We haven't been line fishing in earnest lately so no fish of our own. There was one on the line a couple days ago but we didn't set the hook in time and it got off. In these islands, the water is calm enough from the barrier reef protection that we tow the dinghy from place to place and it makes it hard to drag a line off the stern. We did get a nice big piece of sailfish that a friend caught right as he entered the anchorage a few days ago so we haven't been without any fish.
When we had dinner with Aquamante, they served us espresso coffee- they have a machine on board. That got me thinking about how each boat has to choose what luxuries they're going to have on board or can't live without. Certainly it has to do with money & space to have them and then just mindset. We've met some bare bones boats with simplicity as their motto and then ones who seemingly have everything. We bumped all the way to the eastern Caribbean carrying our heavy fiesta ware, more cooking utensils than we could ever use, the waffle iron, wok, pressure cooker, lobster pot, casserole dishes, etc. Over the years we've pared it down to what we really use and substituted plastic dishes for the fiesta ware. I think the coffee maker is critical but maybe a soda maker would be nice too??? An espresso pot as well? Bring back the wok? Definitely bringing back the bikes. We rented bikes a few days ago to tour one of the islands and once again, we were glad to get them back in one piece. I don't know why maintaining bikes is such a hard thing to do.
Well Jon is home now after 8 hours in his wetsuit! Three locals and four palangi's (that's what we foreigners are called) went out lobstering but it ended up being more of a local's fishing expedition than anything. Apparently they were fishing to sell. The cruisers provided the boats to get out to the outer reef. The lobster that the local guys did shpear for the palangi's were so small that Jon wouldn't normally spear those himself. And then they had a long string that they dragged behind them as they swam around spearing anything they saw- parrot fish, sea cucumbers, adding it to the string. Jon said most of the fish were sleeping in their holes, beautiful crabs were out walking around (they're so colorful they look like something from outer space) and of course sea cucumbers don't move, so the spearing was easier than by day. In fact, we never see any crabs by day here so it's nice to finally see some, but sad that they weren't alive. Anyway, it wasn't much of a learning experience for how to lobster but more of a realization for why we often wonder why the reefs don't seem as plentiful as others we've seen. But that said, the locals have to eat/sell fish as they can and so there is no answer except maybe vegetarianism? Hmmm. Anyway, Jon came home with 2 big crabs and one tiny lobster so we'll have some meals out of that. And after tonight, I don't guess he'll become a night fisherman anytime soon.
Well that's it for now. Will keep you posted on when we head out.