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20 August 2015 | Ha'Apai Group Tonga
21st July Tuesday
s/v Irie II, Silhouette, Sequoia, and Searcher decided to leave very early in the morning from Tongatapu to the Ha'pai Group, like 0500, to make it to the next anchorage before sunset. It's dark but the pass through the reefs are wide and since we have all been through them before in the daytime all we need to do is just follow our tracks on the GPS. Winds are light around 6kts, so will be motoring for awhile. Weather man said they should be picking up later.
Plan A was to stop by Kelefesia, only a 6hr sail. Other cruisers said that this was their favorite spot on earth. The book said the anchorage was big enough to easily hold 3 boats. But by the time we got there the winds where up to 15-20kts from the SSE and I could see these big swells breaking on the reef. Since Silhouette got there first Capt. Phil decided to go thru this narrow passage in the reef and give a report - big waves inside, and room for only 3 small boats.
So on to plan B which is another 4 hrs sail further north to the island of Numuka Iki. This was the last anchorage Capt. Bligh used before the mutiny, to take on fresh water for the Bounty. But since it was a little rolly and not much to do except take a walk on the beach looking for shells we only spent one night here. Besides we didn't need any water.
Next morning, anchors up and we all move to the next anchorage north, Ha'afeva, about 25nm. Winds from the SE at 20kts. This island and the reefs around it make this place one of best for winds from any direction in the Ha'pai Group. All the others have no protection from the West and very little from the North and only a few patches of sand in between all the coral to drop the anchor. Since the winds are going to be blowing strong for awhile we plan on staying for awhile.
There's a village on the South side of the island so we take a walk to visit. Along the road/path we come across this Tangerine tree, just loaded with beautiful fruit. So we loaded up our pockets and backpacks and continued thru the jungle. Then we decided to have a bite - shit, they taste like green lemons. Uck, no wonder the tree is full of them, not even the birds want anything to do with them. When we make it to the other side, the store - if you could call it that, which was mention in the cruising guide was closed. But school was out for lunch time and we did have some fun trying to communicate with the kids. They were the only one on the island that could speak any English, what they learn in school - Hello? What's your name? Where you from? Etc. but when grandpa was trying to negotiate a deal with some bananas and coconuts they were lost. This part of the world rarely see any "plangies" aka foreigners and those who do come, come by private yacht and can't speak Tongan.
We spent the next day snorkeling. And the next day beachcombing. Found a few lovely shells. Cheryl will be happy for them. Some of my best finds yet. Another 4 boats showed up in the next few days. Yes this is a popular anchorage. Almost getting crowed must be 8 boats here. A few we met in New Zealand.
Monday, and we want to visit more anchorages and islands in the area so at Phil's suggestion we sail to O'au South. It's another one of those anchorages that is not on any charts, but the cruising guide give a few waypoints to guide you in and describe it as another perfect spot. Three hours later we arrive at the entrance through the reef and Silhouette goes in first. One reason he always goes first is he have a modern fin keel sloop with a bow thruster and he can turn around on a dime. The 3 other boats are old classics with full keels and turn around like a drunken elephant. He reports the waypoints were correct; the depth was over 3 meters except in one place where a rock was visible, easy to go around. And the anchorage was calm.
This was another one of them places that has room for 3 small boats and we are 3 medium size and one large. Oh well we are all friends so anchoring real close to each other shouldn't be a problem. Except at around 0200 the winds picked up to 20-25kts with higher gust. My anchor and Sequoia's set the first time, but Phil and Paul tried several times to get hooked which means this isn't a good place to be in high winds especially since there is a boat eating reef just one boat length behind me. Needless to say I got no sleep from that point on. I already had all the anchor alarms set, now added a depth alarm and an alarm clock to make sure if I did fall asleep in didn't last more than 10 minutes.
Just as the sun gets high enough in the sky to light up the way out of there - I'm out of there. Searcher right behind me. Silhouette asked what's the problem? We haven't been to shore yet. He slept all night, ignorance is bliss sometimes. Since Uiha is on the list of places to visit I set a course for it. But after getting out of the lee of O'au those waves got real big. Searcher called on the VHF and said FTS, he's going back to Ha'afeva where there is a good anchorage and only 10 miles away. We all change course to join him. Just after lunch we'll back at a nice anchorage. Now to catch up on the sleep I missed last night.
Next morning I'm determine to get to Uiha and picked up anchor early in the morning for a 6 hour sail to windward with Searcher following. The others stayed, some excuse like the winds are to high and from the wrong direction to sail in - but it was okay to anchor in that shit- hole? Heck it wasn't that bad, only had to tack 6 times and after anchoring I found that starboard aft chain plate dripping water on my bookshelf again. Damn it. So now I'm convince it's not the chainplate that's leaking, it's when the rail is under water due to being heeled over in rough seas. Water is somehow getting inside the cavity above the chin plate. Now I'll have to remove everything and recaulk everything on that side of the boat. Been having that problem since leaving Texas, and I thought it was the chainplate. On well that's a job for another day because it's going to take some time to do it right. Well at least there is no water coming in when it rain.
Me and Paul take a tour of the island the next day while the other 2 boat are on the way. They had a south wind and didn't have to beat into it. They had a better sail. When they get there we take a walk around the beach looking for some more shells. Found a few, some almost perfect, some was perfect but still had someone living in it, no need to kill just to have a shell.
Monday, August 3rd
The weather forecast for the next week doesn't look good. There is a cold front coming our way with strong winds and to make it worst they will be coming from the West. We starting looking at the charts and reading the cruising guides and decided the best place to be is inside the town harbor on Lifuka. Besides we need to check-in with the officials. The winds are already blowing 25kts from the SE but we do have some protection behind the islands and the reefs. It was a short motor-sail over to the village of Pangai. We went paid our respects to the immigration guy and surprisingly no fees to pay. Now that's a first. Then we went looking for the harbor master to get permission to move into the harbor. No problem except 3 solo sailors trying to anchor and then back up to a rock wharf and tie up to some trees. The plan was made; we'll all help each other. But there was a small sail boat anchored right in the middle of the small anchorage. We went and had a talk with him, found another single handler needing help to tie up to the trees. We got him in position then, Searcher, and then Irie II and this time Silhouette got to go in last. Sequoia decided to stay put and wait for the winds to die down and to see if there would be anymore room in there for her. Then a big catamaran came in and picked up the mooring in the middle. Not any room for a small boat now.
Next day the weather forecast is the same, except the wind should switch to the north before going west. As long as our anchors hold we should do fine, if they don't it'll be a mess. So while waiting on the weather we take a short walkabout, lasted all day. Guess who's coming to town? King George Toupou VI will be here and they are getting the town ready for his royal highness. Streets being clean, trash picked up and repairs from last year's category 5 cyclone in full swing, even working overtime, just not on Sunday.
Sequoia came in to do the paperwork and then went back to Uiha for the bad weather; at least it has good protection from the strong north winds. Then when the cold front finally got here the winds went from the East to the North to the West to the South and back to the East in 20 minutes, nothing over 15kts. Sure glad the weather man was wrong about the strength of the winds. It turn out that this was almost a perfect place to be. No long dinghy rides, and we didn't have to cook, just walk to town where a meal cost $5 Tongan. Or about $2.50 US. They even had the Chinese owned stores on every other block just like the big city of Nukualofa, only 10 blocks..
After a week in the harbor it's time to move on and do a little cruising and visit some more nice quite anchorages. So on to Uoleva South, just a few miles south of here. Beautiful beaches with resorts on all of them. But these are not the kind you see in places like Bora Bora. Best way to describe them - shacks with a view. The resort at the North end is a Kite boarders paradise. Good winds and good beach make this one of the best places for that sport. Of course with such beautiful beaches we just had to take a walkabout, looking for shells. Found lots of them. These islands all the best spot for shell collecting. And we were thinking with all the tourist in the resorts there wouldn't be any. But they don't get that many customers per year. This place isn't the easiest to get to from the first world countries, and for the price you think they would have windows and door locks. Not needed, just a mosquito net.
Wednesday is the big day for the King's visit and the agriculture and fishermen's show, so off we go early in the morning to make sure we get a good seat only we anchored out this time. No bad weather on the horizon. They had all sorts of farm products from all the villages in this group. I didn't think that there was that many people here to grow that much food. And all the fish and lobsters and octopus and stuff. No one will be hungry tonight. And this was the first time I seen a pig or a chicken in a pen. Guess they had to keep them in one place to be judged. At the end the King gave awards to the winners. And there were lots of winners.
We tried to hire one of the locals for a tour, but he wouldn't accept any money from us, done it all for free, so be bought bread from his bakery even though we didn't need any. They don't call this place the friendly islands for nothing. We couldn't even pay for his gas. The Ha'pai Group is where King George I came from. To unite the islands under one rule he captured an English Privateer. He invited the English for dinner, only they became dinner, took the cannons, and went on to capture the rest of the islands with his new military power.
Well we still have a few more islands to visit and more shells to collect so while the winds have abated a little we say goodbye to everyone, get our inner island movement paper work and got a verbal permission to stop at a few islands on the way to Vava'u. Early Saturday morning we are on the way to Nukupule, which the cruising guide says have the best cower shells anywhere. So when we get there we spent the whole afternoon looking. I found a few, but none perfect like the ones Jan and Phil found. Oh well better luck next time I hope.
So since I couldn't find any there the next day we take a 3mile dinghy ride to the next island inside the atoll, Meama, hoping for better luck. Different type of island, only a small beach and cliffs, but a hike to the inside did produce some green Papayas. And zero coconuts, not even one in a tree. Somebody has been here and took them all. With nothing else to do on a Sunday we had a Pot luck dinner on the beach, with a camp fire and all, hoping to warm up a little and keep the bugs at bay. I also had a beauty contest. With all the shells I have collected it's time to get choosey. Separated all the perfect ones from the near perfect ones from the good ones from the bad ones. Brought all the bad ones back to the beach along with all the good ones. Will keep the perfect ones for myself and send Cheryl the near perfect ones to go with all the ugly ones that I sent here last year.
Monday morning, anchors up on the way to Ha'ano, about 16nm to the NE, and guess which way the wind is coming from? Well those 16nm took 6 hours, but was paid back with whales swimming all around the boat. Like they thought I was a whale. They came right up to the boat and said hi. Like only 3 meters away, but by the time I went and got my camera they drop back a little, must have been camera shy. Searcher said he even caught one on his fishing line, lucky the line broke, it's against the law to catch them. The faster boats left later and had a similar experience. Dang if we hadn't check out of this group of islands we would hire someone to take us on a swim with the whales tour. But it'll have to wait until Vava'u.
Since it took all day to get there we didn't get to shore until the next morning. We hiked to the village to the north. Turn out it's a gated community, in Tonga, with a security fence all around it. On second thought since there isn't any crime to mention, it must be a fence with a gate to keep the cattle out and the pigs in. And the store was actually open this time. Just when you need a cold drink, well room temperature is cold enough for a soda but no beer here.
Time to head north to Vava'u. Since it's over 60nm we decided to leave just after sunset on Thursday and sail all night. Winds less then 10kts when we head out, but before midnight it's blowing over 20kts so reef the main and rolled in the Jib. We all reached there in the morning, except Phil, he didn't leave until a few hours before sunrise. We all looked around for a mooring to pick up. Vava'u's anchorage is real deep and the part that's shallow is full of coral. And this place must have over a hundred boats here. What a culture shock, we haven't seen this many boats since leaving New Zealand. Oh well time to check in with the officials and join the party.
21 July 2015 | Tongatapu, Tonga
Somewhere around the middle of May, I made my last provisioning trip to Pak n Save - a Big Super Market across the street from the Town Basin Marina. It's amazing they still have food and stuff left on the shelves, because all the other cruisers have been making the same trip, 2 or 3 times a day. There won't be a supermarket like that for any of us for a few more months. I previously stocked up on boat parts, beer, rum, and Reggae music New Zealand style a few days earlier. The only thing left before I can leave is a good weather forecast for a sail to Tonga.
That weather window came on the 17th of May. I checked out with the NZ customs in the morning with Silhouette and about a dozen other boats that made it down river from Whangarei to Marsden Cove. There have been boats leaving New Zealand for about a month now. Most of them are sailing to Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia and some farther West. But a few of us are headed to Tonga because we didn't get enough the first time around. One month in a country is not enough for me.
It's a big ocean out there and the waters between New Zealand and Tonga/Fiji is one of the most treacherous on earth for sailing. Although the weather forecast is good, everyone knows it's just a guess because the weather man sometimes ain't right. So to keep in touch with all the other boats making the same passage the Isabella Radio Net has been reactivated with the same bunch of boats as last year and a few newbie's. I also join the Pacific Seafarers Net again. This group is more professional with HAM operators setting at home playing with their radios. And if there is a problem they can easily notify the officials. But the main use is to say hi everyday to friends and see what the weather is like where they are, because most of them are miles ahead of me. Every now and then I check in with the Southern Cross Net, a bunch of cruisers whom I've met and been in touch with since leaving the Galapagos. They are all in Fiji and other islands farther to the west.
After checking out with the New Zealand customs I left NZ at noon. Only 807 nautical miles to go to the 1st stop, Minerva reef. Winds out of the South at 20kts so I only roll out the Jib and doing 6 knots. 100% cloud cover and 2 meter seas. These conditions last for the next 3 days, but no rain. Have to run the engine a few hours every day to recharge the batteries. Solar panels can't keep up without any sunlight.
Then about half way to Minerva reef the winds drop to 13kts so I raised the main sail and rolled out the staysail. Before the sun goes down the wind drops to 5kts. Well the weather forecast said that that would happen, so sails come down and the motor comes on. Glad I have a full fuel tank because these conditions are predicted to last a few days. Then on the 5th day around midnight the winds picked up enough that I can raised the sails and turn off the engine. Too bad it only lasted until sunrise, so on comes the motor and in comes the Jib and Staysail. Left the main up because I'm hoping the wind will pick up again. Lucky me that happen around midnight again so out comes the sails and off goes the engine. Rats that plastic window on the Jib is cracked. I'll have to keep it rolled up to the first reef point and hope it doesn't rip the rest of the sail. Then the sun comes up and the wind goes down, on comes the motor and sails rolled up to keep them from just flapping. Well the weather man said that that would happen.
Well with just 100nm to go the wind switches to the Northwest, the direction I want to go, at 15kts. Damn it, the weather man was right again. So now I have to tack a few times, but at least the wind is strong enough that I don't have to listen to the motor running. But that 100nm to go will take me about 2 days.
25th of May, 8 days at sea I finally reach North Minerva reef around 0700. Since I haven't caught a fish yet I decided to just motor around outside the atoll on the west side and troll a little. Other boats reported catching a fish or 2. Well I hooked a bunch of them, but got none to the boat. They kept breaking the fishing lines, or somebody doesn't know how to tie a proper knot. Well I gave up after I ran out of lures and went inside the reef to join Silhouette who made it here a day earlier. Took a quick nap before going lobster hunting on the south side of the atoll/reef. Weather conditions wasn't great, waves were big due to the increasing wind and big waves crashing on the reef. I made it inside the protection of the reef just in time. I would rather be at anchor sleeping then trying to sail in that shit. I caught one little lobster and decided to send him back to the ocean to grow up. Phil caught none, but the night before he caught 4 on the north side of the atoll. Only problem he didn't tie his bag up properly and they all escape. Same as last year.
Two days later we moved over to the Western side of the atoll and went lobster hunting again. Phil gets a bunch and I get zero. Go out a second night with crew from Ika and another boat. I caught 2, Ika caught 3, Phil catch 4 and the other guy zero, but at least he now know what they look like. Winds are still strong making this part of the atoll a very uncomfortable anchorage so we decide to move to the Eastern side, but first while close to the past in the reef we decide to go fishing. Phil catches 3 yellow fin Tuna, I caught zero. This time those giant suckers decided to break my reel. Oh well, that old Penn 404 that I inherited from my father, must be 50+ years old, have finally been retired. We drop anchor on the eastern side of the atoll to get out of them wind generated waves. Decided not to bother with trying to go get more lobsters since the waves were really breaking on the reef. S/v Ika, whom we met way back in Raiatea and New Zealand with Patrick and Mary aboard showed up and joined us for a Sushi feast. Must have eaten 25 lbs. of Yellow Fin tuna that evening between the 4 of us. How much would that cost at a Japanese restaurant in the states?
On the last day of May the weather settles down to 15kts from the SE, enough to leave the protection of North Minerva reef. We had wanted to visit South Minerva reef but - maybe next time. We need to make it to Tonga before the next bad weather comes. Rigged up my hand line to do some fishing, but caught nothing. Phil caught one. 260nm to go to Tonga and the weather is good, doing over 7kts. Just wish I had some fresh fish, because Phil so stingy, he didn't give me any of his and to think I gave him a Wahoo way back in Fanning when he couldn't catch anything.
2nd of June, I arrived at the custom's dock in Nukualofa, Tongatapu, Tonga just after lunch. Only the Health official showed up for his paperwork and money. I'll have to try and do the rest in the morning, if and when the officials show up. Well at least the quarantine is lifted and I can leave the boat and have a good meal. By noon the next day I'm officially checked in, so leave the harbor and went over to the anchorage by Big Mama's Yacht club to join the rest of the fleet.
Started to get all settled in and start to enjoy paradise, but something told me to investigate where the water came from that got my cabin cushions wet. Damn-it!!! Not only the cushions got wet but everything in the book shelf is also soaked. WTF?? Upon further investigation found the chainplate behind the books is where the water came from, and lots of it. So first to try and save my cruising guides, medical guides, and other boat books. Spread them out in the sun, hung them up, used the heater and cross my fingers. Was able to save most of them. The catalogs and some others will have to be thrown away. It's very hard to read them with the pages stuck together.
Took a look at the other chain plates and they also show evidence of leaks. Oh, well will have to reseal them all. Now what went wrong? A lot of people have been bragging about the stuff call butyl tape. It never hardens, never cures, and always stays flexible, never cracks, so it should last forever or one short trip across a river not an ocean. The problem was since it never cured and I was trying to seal a hole on a horizontal plane gravity just pulled it out of the hole and into the bottom of the boat and in comes more water with worse results then before I worked on them.
Now it's time to fix them instead of just working on them. So I decide to seal them like my buddy George recommended doing the last time. Which mean removing the chainplates again, remove that messy butyl stuff and clean up - almost like tar, and then fill the hole in with epoxy. When the West System epoxy cures it's as hard as fiberglass, won't move, won't flex, and won't leak - I hope. Removing the chainplates this time was pretty easy. Instead of using several different types of power tools all I had to do was removed the bolts and pull the plates out. Now how come the factory never made it that easy? Instead of using that butyl stuff again to seal the top I used a little of this and a little bit of that - I only had partial tubes of different types of caulking, so this will be a test to see which manufacturer is the best and then when I get back to NZ or someplace that sells boat stuff I'll know which one to buy. Well there went my first few weeks of cruising and enjoying paradise.
In between all the work I did manage to get to town a few times. The original plans was only to stay in this part of Tonga for a few weeks, but - beside the unplanned boat work I found out that July 4th is the date for the coronation of the new King of Tonga, King George Tupou VI. Now how many chances in life does one get to attend the crowning of a new King and all the festivals that goes with it? It wasn't hard to convince Phil and the crew from Sequoia to hang around a little while longer instead of racing thru paradise with that question.
Compared to last year the town of Nukualofa has had a major make-over. All buildings have been or in the process of being painted. New trash cans have been installed everywhere - now to get people to use them and someone to dump them. Banners hanging from every other power pole congratulating the New King. Tongan flags everywhere. And I mean everywhere. The town population has double due to all the Tongan's living abroad coming back home for this special event. And lucky me I just happen to be passing by.
Well not wanting to miss out on anything I decided to move Irie II into the town harbor instead of being anchored out 1½ nm away and be at the mercy of the water taxi or a long wet dinghy ride at night. Beside I might want to have a few drinks and/or stay out pass 7pm.
The first event was the Parade of athletes on June 30th, started early in the morning. All I had to do was walk a few blocks from the harbor into town to view. Phil had to wait for the water taxi, which meant he didn't see the parade. And by the time he made it to the sports stadium some of the events had finished. No King, but the Crown was represented by the Crowned Prince and his wife. The event was to mark the opening of the commissioner of athletics or something like that.
Later that night was a Tongan fashion show, showing the traditional attires. We all made it to that event. The star of the show was the Crown Prince's son, the 2nd in line to the thrown at the age of 4. Again no King, just the Crown Prince his wife and son and other high ranking ministers and nobles.
On Wed. there wasn't much going on or nothing we cared to see so we took a land tour of Tongatapu. Stopped and visited a few historical sites and had lunch at a fancy resort. About the only thing we could afford there.
The next day I walk into town by myself since the others missed the water taxi or didn't care about what might be going on. There was something going on at the parade grounds next to the palace. It wasn't advertise in the tourist brochure so I don't know what it was all about, just a lot of school children performing for the King. Wow I finally got to see the new King from a distance since it was by invitation only to get inside the fence. Anyway it was kind of exciting to see the kids dancing and the school bands marching. So I guess it was the kid's day to perform for the new king.
On Fri there was another parade advertised in the tourist brochure. It was listed as the largest parade in the South Pacific and I can see why. It consisted of all the high school graduation classes from the pass. As far back as the 50's. But what's with all those American, New Zealand and Australian flags? Well all the Tongan's living abroad came back home for the festivities, so not only they are representing what year they graduated from they be representing where they came from. Since it started close to the harbor I got to see it all. The other guys had to wait on the water taxi and only got to see the end. Since it was a slow parade we took the back streets to town and caught up to the parade so that at least they got to see the 2nd half of it. Boy sure glad I'm in town and don't have to depend on anyone else to get me to the party.
Saturday, the 4th of July, Coronation Day. The ceremony is at the Free Wesleyan Church, by invitation only. For this event Phil and I dressed up in our traditional dress with the Tupenu (a skirt) and a Ta'ovala (A special mat, a precious heirloom) that we borrowed from Big Mama's husband, Earl. He's kin to the royal family thru his mom, but not close enough to get us a special invitation into the church.
Someone suggested for us to go to the church and who knows, since we are dressed like Tongans and look like Palangis (foreigners) we might can get into the church as representatives from the USA. Well since someone had to catch the water taxi and by the time we got to town the ceremonies had already began, so we just found us a place on the street corner near the Palace hoping to get a glimpse of the New King when he drives by. Well that plan worked. Not only a glimpse we were within 10 feet and got a wave from the King - or was he just waving to the crowd. Nice parade, the USA was represented by the Marine Marching Band who was marching with the New Zealand and Australia bands.
Now way back in 1992 when the Water Babies Sailing Club visited these islands I was lucky enough to shake hands and present King George IV with a WBSC t-shirt. Now I have gotten to see his son King George VI, and his grandson and his greatgrandson. Mmmm 4 generations of a royal family. Now I'm feeling lucky.
Well since we didn't get invited to the palace for the after party we went back to Big Mama's for her party and the most beautiful sunset. Then after the sun sets all the kids on all of the islands throughout the whole kingdom light torches lining the beaches. It's an old tradition signaling the arrival of the King. In the old days he visited the islands by canoe and the touches showed the way. Then a fireworks show. Guess I got to see 4th of July fireworks after all, just for a different occasion.
The only thing happening on Sunday is church and since I didn't get an invitation to join the King I just stayed home and done a few boat projects. On Monday the tourist guide said there was a Tatto going on at the parade grounds. I just had to go see what that was about. Turned out it's a Tongan word for military parade and the King's inspection of the troops. The others stayed home.
Later on in the week I hear all this music and loud speakers coming from the parking lot on the other side of the harbor. I just got to go see what's that's about. Turned out it was a beauty pageant. So I got to see Tongan's most beautiful girls. Boy, sure glad I wasn't at anchor, would have missed that since it wasn't advertise in the tourist guide. Later that night me and a boat neighbor on s/v Searcher decided to go to one of the restaurants/bars in the opposite direction of town from the marina. Wow, all those beautiful girls from the pageant were there, a double dose of Tongan beauty, how lucky can a single guy get? Oh well I can always dream.
By the middle of July all the festivals, feasts, and special parties are over. It's time to get out of the harbor and go cruising. Silhouette and Sequoia left first. A few days later I joined them at an anchorage off the little island Toke on the west side for the night. Next day we sail over to Fofa where there's a resort. Made reservations for dinner, not a bad place if you want to get away from it all and pay a lot of money. Then back to Big Mama's and then the next day me and Paul on Searcher sail on to Molina, a picture perfect little island, that's really away from it all. If you didn't bring it you don't need it. It has to be the best beach in this group. And at low tide you get to see the beautiful reef, just like you were snorkeling over it. Water so clear and coral so pretty and since the water is so cold, no need to get wet.
20th July and I've been here a month longer than originally planned. So now I'm thinking if I go to Fiji I might as well spend cyclone season there. So on to see some more of Tonga, say good-bye to Big Mama and her staff, get our inner Island movement papers and leave Pangaimotu very early in the morning for the Ha'Apai' Group, only 50nm to the north.
18 May 2015 | New Zealand
Since Phil put new sails on Silhouette back in Hawaii I can't keep up anymore. He gets to Opua, New Zealand Wednesday evening and gets to sleep at the dock while waiting for customs. I get there the next day around noon and was hoping to get a little rest before having to deal with the officials, but they were waiting for me. At least I had someone to help me tie up to the pier. Must say that was one of the fastest check-ins I ever done. Got a berth at the Marina for a couple of weeks. Now I can run an electric heater.
We heard that there was a Thanksgiving Dinner at the yacht club, if you had a ticket. The tickets were sold out, but we showed up anyway looking hungry and someone had a couple of tickets for sale since his guest didn't show up. Ran into a few more cruising friends whom we meet along the way, like Beez Neez from England, whom I met way back in Galapagos. They are still here in New Zealand, arrived here about the same time I arrived in Hawaii. Now that's how I like to cruise. No hurry equals no worry. They have finally made it halfway around the world in 7 years.
Opua is a nice little town with a few boat stores and other yacht facilities and a guy who can work on refrigerators, but he's on holiday this week. WTF. I could get someone from out of town for twice the price, but since I still have a few more cans to eat out of and a restaurant nearby, and a little store a bit up the road I can get by without frozen food for a while longer. Heck it's so cold outside who needs refrigeration to keep the beer cool. The other problem with Opua is all the transit slips are taken by the guys who got here first. We didn't think about making reservations. Soon we will have to anchor out or pick up a mooring and no electricity to run the heater. No fun.
After calling every Marina in the country the only place we could find with a berth for a few months was Marsen's Cove, about 80nm south of here. And since Phil is leaving the country soon, off we go before they run out of slips with a stop on the way for an overnight anchorage to see some more of New Zealand, too bad we never got off the boats. Several of the other boats in the parade down from Tonga are also heading for Marsen's Cove. I guess they didn't think about making reservations either. Oh well one of the problems of being one of the last boats to make the crossing to New Zealand.
Some of the boats in this group had reservations in Whangarei and this was just an overnight stop. Some were like us, looking for a place to plug in to run the heaters or leave the boat for a month or so. In Opua they loan you the electrical adapters to go from 240 volts AC to 120 volts. In Marsen's you have to supply your own. Phil have a built in transformer, I have a portable one. I would have to buy a special cable to hook up my transformer and then it's not big enough to run the built-in boat heaters anyway. Damn why did I give away my little portable heater to Sparky in Honduras. Oh well when I have to have heat I'll just have to run that gas powered Honda generator that I went to Samoa to get if Phil will loan me his portable heater. Or maybe I can find one for sale when I find an appliance store. But its summer time here, no one selling heaters, fans maybe, but no heaters. Just can't wait for the temperatures to rise so I can use the fans.
Marsen's Cove Marina has been in business only for a couple of years. Everything is brand new. But it's located way out of town. And there are no boat businesses yet. There isn't even a convince store unless you call 5 km nearby. But the staff is very accommodating. They will take you to the strip center and if someone is going to town you can catch a ride. There's a bus stop nearby about 2 km, but we heard that sometimes they don't stop. So the only sure way to get anywhere is to have a car. Not yet. I get on the waiting list at a couple of marinas in town, if nothing comes up soon, then maybe a rental car or something cheap.
First thing on the list is to get that frig fix. Call a guy in Whangarei to come by and take a look. He said the compressor is bad, can get a new one in a couple of days. Then I luck up and get a call about an opening at the Town Basin Marina in Whangarei next week. I take it and tell the frig guy I'll call him when I get there. Pay for travel time would be less.
We arrive in this part of NZ just in time for the welcome to Whangarei party for the cruisers. Meet up with other cruisers that we haven't seen since French Polynesia, s/v Itaca with Colin and Anna. Also met this lady with the strongest southern USA accent that I ever heard. She from Arkansas and her mate is from New Zealand and they be the Capt. and first mate aboard that big yacht in the marina. Well with that kind of an accent Nalene is now my best friend.
I move on to Whangarei Town Basin Marina in Downtown Whangarei where all the boat shops and stores and bars and restaurants and city life is located and leave Silhouette in the boom docks. I will have to raff up to another boat and for that I get 25% off the monthly rental. I bought the necessary power cable and believed it or not you just can't plug it in. It has to be inspected by a certified electrician and have a tag that with the date the inspection expires. WTF? You have to have a power card that you bought at the store inspected every year? And I thought OSHA was bad. Just one of the many weird things NZ call safety related. Seem like someone just passed a few laws so brother-in-law can have a job.
The refrigerator guy came by and installed the new compressor, but it only work for a few minutes. He said I now need a new evaporator because the dryer from the old compressor must have failed and plugged everything up. More money. Just happens he has one back at the shop and he'll be back later today, More money. But at least now I have cold beer and ice for the rum. A month later he had to come back and replace the thermostat. Shit I should have just bought a new one and installed it myself and saved some $$$.
Early December, Phil and Carl and Jane need a ride to the airport. I want to go and visit some friends in Auckland. I rent the car and they share in the expense. One friend that I have never met is the daughter of my Aunts sister. She's on a work assignment here. Denise meets us at a restaurant just outside the airport for a quick visit, because Phil's flight was ready to leave without him. She then took me around town and showed me all the sites near the marina. The other friends I wanted to visit weren't aboard their yachts. So when I went back a couple days later to take Jan and Carl to the airport I called first and had another place to sleep for free while in town. Also found a scuba shop and got another mast.
I heard The Great Barrier Islands east of New Zealand is a must see, especially for Christmas. So I invite Denise for a sail over the Christmas holidays. Only problem the weather doesn't want to cooperate. So we make plans for another day. When that day comes the wind doesn't. But we did get to do a little motor-sailing out to the ocean and back. I think she had a blast, it was hard to see behind that big smile.
Now the fun is over. When Phil came back from the States he was able to get a spot at the same Marina. Now it's time to get to work on that BIG ASS Maintenance List. Main thing to do now is to replace the chain plates - big straps of stainless steel that holds the wire rigging from the top of the mast to the hull. It is highly recommended by the experts that these and the wire rigging be change every 15 years if you are sailing in the tropics, and somewhere in the insurance papers they say the same thing. I changed them out 15 years ago with a little help from George. So it should be easy this time. WRONG. We put them things in so tight last time it's going to take a lot of cutting and grinding and cursing. And to add to the work the bolts wasn't change out last time, so now I have to cut out fiberglass and wood to get to them. And then I have to rebuild it back to better then new, maybe? So from January to April all I can remember doing in New Zealand is working on chain plates and varnishing some wood. And then after all that was done I hauled the boat and repaint the bottom and a few other underwater projects that's best done when the boat is out of the water. Not to mention finding the rudder brace broken, the engine exhaust pipe leaking, and this and that and more. But only minor damage done when I ran into that reef back in Honduras. Not many pictures of New Zealand, but I did include pictures of working on the boat.
Well that wasn't the only thing I done. Nalene plays keyboards with one of the local bands. She invited me to the Wednesday night Jam session where her band is the main attraction. I had so much fun there I came back every Wednesday night. Became good friends with the band members too. And there were a lot of other parties and such, but no touristy stuff. Spent all my money on the boat.
If I want to see New Zealand I'll have to come back.
31 December 2014 | Tongatapu, Tonga
Tongatapu Tonga revisted 22 years later
After motoring around for several minutes looking for a shallow place to drop the anchor on the lee side of Pangaimotu, aka"Big Mama's Yacht Club", I gave up and drop in the deepest part, in the back of the pack with plenty of swinging room. There are over 2 dozen yachts here, and all of the good places are taken. Decided to anchor here so when the strong winds come from the opposite direction I'll be in the front of the pack and won't have to worry about another big boat dragging down on me. Don't want a repeat of America Samoa's anchor dance. I just hope I don't have to pull 100 meters of chain up by hand.
I made it here just in time for Papa's birthday celebration. Plenty of good food, good drinks, good music, and good people. Besides anchoring next to my lil brother again on Silhouette there are lots of cruisers also here that I have met since French Polynesia and other places along the way, all waiting on the next weather window for the passage to New Zealand. The party lasted until about 3am when Big Mama said lights out, go home! Boy does time fly when you're having fun and drunk?
Unfortunately the weather man was right. High winds arrived late Saturday night due to a small tropical depression passing to the south of Tonga. Just in time to interrupt any thoughts of a good night sleep in a calm anchorage. Winds in the 30 knot range, coming from the west. About 5 miles of open water which means at that distance and that wind the waves get big, making for a rock and roll anchorage. My anchor did break loose, but reset itself in a short distance. I then ran the engine in forward to take some of the strain off the anchor hoping it'll give it a little more time to burry itself. Also notice that big red boat on the side of me also was dragging anchor a little, but she reseated herself also, about 3 times. Besides she's on the side of me and if she breaks loose I won't be in the way. This wind lasted all day and since everything is closed on Sunday might as well stay aboard and do a little surfing - on the internet and watch the anchor alarms.
Big Mama has the perfect set up, almost. Unlike the northern Vava'u Group of islands, the southern group, Tongatapu, do not have many good places to anchor. And she is located at the best spot. Not only does she have the bar and restaurant she has rooms for rent as well. Also runs a ferry service 3 times a day most days into town and back. Cater to all the cruiser's needs. And when they are all gone for the season she sets up special things for the locals. Since this is the last big group of boats that she will have until next cruising season she decide to put on a couple of festivals for us. Got to make the money when you can. First was a cooking class, how to cook local food the local way. All the cruisers went to the local markets and bought something fresh. Phil passed up the octopus and bought 3 Parrot Fish and learned a new way to scale them, just pull them off with your hands, no tools needed for this fish. I went to the farmers market and bought things that looks like vegetables but had the slightest idea what they were. Turn out I had squash, Japanese Egg Plants, Spinach, and who knows what else, because Big Mama said she's not cooking that - all local grown.
Now a couple of days ago Big Mama sponsored a pot luck dinner. Most cruisers brought something for the occasion, some didn't but there was enough to go around. For the cooking class not everyone got the memo and a lot of people ate for free. Make you wonder what they be thinking. The staff was supposed to join in, but the freeloaders ate their share.
So for the next festival, the pig roast, Russ from A-Train took over. We are not going to let the friendliness of the Tongans be outdone by the rudeness of the free loaders. He went to each boat and told them about the pig roast and it will cost $20pp and you must present your ticket before you can eat. He collected enough for 3 little pigs. The only cruisers that opt out were the vegetarians and those that don't eat pork. So for half price that could eat the veggies if they wanted to join in.
Plans were made - the cruisers would help cook the pigs and the restaurant staff would supply the rest. The next morning the Boys would go get the pigs and Russ told the two brothers we had to kill them. Don't want to but it wouldn't be the first animal I had to kill before I could eat. But by the time we got back from town the deed was done. The Boys wanted to make sure it was done right! The only thing left to do was shove a big stick up their asses, hang them over the fire, turn tem, drink beer, let someone else do it, drink beer, throw some wood on the fire, drink beer, turn tem again, repeat 4 more times, throw some water on the fire and some coconut water on the pigs, drink beer. By the time they were ready the 3 little pigs had names - Tasty, Crispy, Burnty. The 1st little pig was just right, the 2nd little pig look like a big crackling, and the 3rd little pig, well he wasn't black when he went on the fire.
If it wasn't a feast meant for a king it sure went well for a bunch of drunken sailors and the not so drunken sailors. Even the kids from the "Kid Boats" were having a ball and playing all over the place. Plenty of hiding spots for hide and go sea. Afterwards those that could stay up a little longer join the Boys in the Kava ceremony. And those who could sing and play a guitar joined in. Big Mama said lights out, time to go home, again very late.
Well the weather between here and New Zealand should be clearing up soon, so we head into town to try and find those favorite spots from 22 years ago. Finding the King's Palace was easy. Looks just as it did last time and it's the biggest thing on this part of the island. Finding the Parliament building was not so easy, we had to ask for directions. The canon by the seaside had been removed and in its place a big pier for the cruise ships. Many new buildings in town due to a fire a few years ago. Burnt up several blocks. Heard it was a riot after a demonstration about better pay or something like that. But where is the hotel we stayed at? We went up this street and down that street, and back up this street a little further up we go, and this time out the corner of my eye I see something that looks just right, then see the sign Hotel Nukalofa. I don't remember having to go up these small stairs before, but inside brought back some old memories. We mention to the clerk that we were here in 1992 and were just looking around and wanted to make sure it was alright to take pictures. Even the pic of King Toupu IV was hanging in the same place. Somewhere in my pic collection I have a picture of me in the doorway underneath the same picture and another picture of me shaking his hand at the airport as the Water Babies Sailing Club was departing from the 'Bu 92 tour. Now his second son will soon be crowned "The King of Tonga." Heard it will be on his Dad's birthday next year.
Most of the cruising yachts have already made it to New Zealand or are on the way at this time of the year, But we smarter than them, we decided to wait until mid November for that crossing. The cold fronts should start to lessen. Instead of one every 4 -5 days they spread out to one every 8-10 days. One of the stories we hear about the trip to New Zealand is to pick which part of the trip you want to take your ass kicking, because you will get one. The choices are the beginning, the middle, or the end, because it takes at least 10 days to cross. But we so smart and listening to other cruisers stories if you wait until almost December the chances of a cold front is less, but the chances of a tropical Depression is more. Like the one that just passed between Tonga and New Zealand last week.
Weather is getting better for the crossing to New Zealand so we check out with the local officials and head into the town harbor to fuel up. The boats who went in before us were complaining about coming up short for the fuel they paid for. 6 or so boats would go in together and buy a truck load of duty free fuel and have it delivered to the dock. We decided between the 2 of us we only need a big drum on the back of a pickup. We got what we paid for. Rumor had it the truck driver got caught stealing fuel the next time around.
There are now about 3 dozen boats anchored outside of Big Mama's hiding out, waiting on the next good weather window. Most have done the paperwork to leave for New Zealand this weekend. Kind of illegal to not leave within 24 hrs after checking out, but the weather makes you do some things you would not do under normal circumstances. Some boats left on Friday - isn't that suppose to be bad luck? Some left on Saturday, we left on Sunday, 16th of Nov. with most of the boats. And some stayed longer. Hoping I sea none of the bad weather that can happen in this part of the world.
The windlass worked. The anchor and 300 feet of chain came back aboard without me having to do anything, except step on a button. There's a parade of boats following me out the pass. Not because they think I know what I'm doing, it's just us slow boats try to leave early. Not far from the pass after setting the sails just right, I catch a big Mahi Mahi. I should have plenty of food now in case I get stuck inside Minerva Reef for weeks. Also I hear the lobsters are so plentiful there, you just walk out on the beach and pick them up.
Now you may be wondering where in the world is Minerva Reef and why are you going there? I thought you were going to New Zealand. Well the other part of the plan to avoid an ass kicking from Mother Nature on this crossing is to stop at this little atoll in the middle of the ocean and wait. Just 250 nm southwest of Tonga and 800 nm northwest of New Zealand located at 23° 38.282' S X 18° 54.8739' W (check Google earth) are these too atolls, north and south Minerva Reefs, about 4-5nm in diameter. At low tide you can see the reef, at high tide you only see the waves crashing on the reef. We never heard of this place either until we started talking to other cruisers months ago. Since everyone now have GPS for navigation almost everyone stops here on the way to New Zealand. Even the cruising guides now mentions it. Without accurate navigation skills you would normally avoid this area. But with it - paradise can be found.
It took me 2 ½ days to get there. The boats that left before us were already having a ball in the middle of the ocean, scuba diving, snorkeling, crayfishing and all the other stuff cruisers do in the middle of nowhere. The evening I arrived they were planning on going to the reef and pick some more lobsters/crayfish. I was tired and decided sleep first, fish tomorrow. Phil been there since morning and went with them and came back with 5 big ones, and I got sleep, but in the end he didn't tie the bag up good and 4 of them got away. Well at least he got to eat dummy.
That evening we all had crayfish cooked several different ways aboard s/v Nirvana, celebrating something, I think it was one of the kid's birthday or the sunset, or need a way to eat up all those crayfish. Next day the Captain from s/v Nautilus organized a dive trip. He's a commercial diver from the Netherlands and was out the day before and said that out of all his dives in the world this has to be on top. Next morning all the divers suit up, take the dinghies outside the calm protection of the reef, drop the anchor in 2 meters of water, jump into the most clearest water ever. Only problem, I'm diving without my good mask. I broke the lens a few months ago and haven't found a replacement yet. So this Walmart POS is leaking and I'm trying to clear it constantly, and then I notice my dive partner having buoyancy problems so I follow him back up to the dinghy. Phil needed more weight and I needed a mask. So I gave him a few pounds. He jumps back in to catch up with the group. In the meantime, Will is finishing snorkeling and he loans me his mask. I jump in and the water is so clear I can see the group way on the other end of the reef. I decide it's too far to go, I'll just wait for them to come back to me. Phil had the same thought only he went back to the dinghy. So I just hung out and enjoyed the scenery at about 30-40 feet. Didn't need to go any deeper. Then the group makes it back to the dinghies and Capt. Nautilus say follow me. I do and we end up going down Minerva Reef's Blue Hole. We didn't make it to the bottom where there's a cave that leads back to the outside wall because Capt. N was low on air. We all agreed that this has to be virgin diving at its best. The only ones that get to see this place must come by private yacht. One day maybe someone will start doing live aboard dive trips here, but I hope it's a very long time away, I want to come back and see it again in its virgin state.
That evening low tide is just an hour after sunset, perfect to go pick up some lobsters. Get out the lights and the lobster bags and the reef walkers and off we go. This time Phil remembered to bring a light to mark the dinghy so we can find it after we walk a mile. I caught 3 lobsters after missing 6 and a couple of flipper lobsters. Must have pick up 6 females with eggs. They go back in the water. Now catching these bugs is a lot harder than just "reach down and pick them up", because when they sense danger they move real fast, so it's like catching a blind fly with chop sticks. You blind them with the light and grab them tight before they feel it coming.
The weather is the One who is really in charge of when to move a sailboat and the winds are beginning to pick up between here and New Zealand. So while we would love to stay here longer than 3 nights it's time to go before the bad stuff gets here next week. Some boats leave on Wed, we leave on Thur. and some on Friday and the next day and the next. Ocean is full of sailboats this week. About 12 from North Minerva, a bunch from Tonga and a bunch from Fiji. I'll have to keep a good look out, not for fishing boats or ships but for another sailboat.
First day out I notice my frig keeps running. Then I notice the temp. rising in the freezer. Shit!!! Damn thang not working and I got a big fish and lobster tails. The hell with the chicken and steak, I want my seafood, so I cook all the lobsters. I ate lobster for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, for 2 days, what a life. Then I cooked up some Mahi Mahi for the next two days, and then everything goes to the sea. I'm now living out of the can, because I haven't caught any more fish.
And to top that off Windy the wind vane steering breaks another pulley the next day. And then for the next 8 days - great passage, highest winds were 20kts for half the day, were several days of winds less than 10 with the rest less than 5kts. Needless to say I ran the motor a lot. This is one part of the ocean you don't want to wait around for the wind to come back, because when it do it does. It's getting Cold outside, the further South I go the more layers of cloths I have to put on. It got so cold I had to go dig out my long johns, and put on 2 pairs of socks. Heck can't remember the last time I wore socks and shoes. And it's supposed to be summer soon down under. I sure hope it gets here sooner.
14 November 2014 | revisted 22 years later
They have a morning VHF net in Tonga that comes on every morning at 0830. One question they ask, "Any new arrivals?" I call in. They want to know what they can do for me, I tell them my problem and Fabio on s/v Amandala whom I met way back in the Galapagos answers, he'll come out and assist me with his dinghy when I get closer. We make it to a mooring ball that said private, but it's an emergency and I should have the problem solve in a few minutes. First I inspect the water strainers, they be clean. Next I take the water pump off with plans of installing the spare pump, but the spare pump never got rebuilt when I was in Hawaii. I disassemble the pump and take a look at the impeller and nothing wrong, so that leave one more thing to check - the inlet thru hole. Well don't feel like diving so I'll just take the hose off inside the boat and open the valve and see how much water flow comes in. A lot. Maybe that's not the problem either. Put everything back together and turn the engine on and no more overheating problem? Wish I knew what I did to fix it. But time to go check in with the officials and worry about that later.
Check in was a breeze. First you tie up to the wharf, but at low tide this metal wall is so high I had to tie the fenders onto the shrouds to keep the life line stanchions from being banged up. Then all the officials come to the boat. You pay and then you can go anywhere in the Vava'u Group. To visit another part of Tonga you have to come back and pay some more and check-out of this group and into the next group. Every country have a different procedure so it's best to do a little research before arriving. Glad I did.
Well after getting all checked in - time to go find a mooring ball. All of them seem to be taken. Called Souljourner on the VHF and ask where he was. He was out on another boat racing. He gave the location of where he was anchored and I could take the spot where s/v Namaste was, they just left. Rats there went the poker game rematch. Just about the time I was ready to do the anchor dance, Jacob comes by by dinghy and said there was some free moorings way over there, he takes me to one and invite me to shore for happy hour. Wow, can't miss that, but while getting the dinghy ready, over comes a guy from the Moorings Charter base and tell me that'll be $15 Tongan dollars/night. It's the last one, so no argument from me.
Last time I was here 22 years ago with the Water Baby Sailing Club
there was only a few boats here. This time I counted over 70 and there are even more at the other anchorages. What the heck is going on? I found out it's the start of the All Points Rally and Festival. Every year about this time boats are getting ready for the trip down to New Zealand because it's getting close to the end of the cruising season and the start of cyclone season. So a few business men from New Zealand put on this Festival in Vava'u. Along with the parties are seminars with all the info you need for a safe passage and what to expect when you arrive in New Zealand. Also lots of information on the weather and the check-in procedure. Well I arrive to late for the info but was able to make the last party and was able to sit in with Fabio while he was getting some one on one weather info. Lucky they had some brochures, I'll just have to read up on it and go ask a few questions to other cruisers. As usual I'll be one of the last boats to leave. Heck I just got here and Phil is still in Acutaki.
While at happy hour with the boats and crew whom I was with in Suwarrow and Samoa a plan was made to take a tourist boat out for a little Swimming with the Whales, not just watching them. Words can't explain the experience, so here's a few videos taken by me, Thomas, and Fabio. And don't forget to take a look at the still pics in the photo gallery.
After that experience what do you do? Since all my gear is all wet I decided to clean the boat bottom. What a mess, must have its own eco system growing down there. In places the algae/slim was 1 inch thick and little barnacles everywhere. I found the problem with the engine overheating. Stuff was so thick I couldn't even find the thru hole; it's a miracle any water got thru that, maybe that was a giant sponge. There was a little fouling going on before American Samoa, but now, wow!!! Those waters of A. Samoa must have plenty of shit in it to make stuff grow like that. It only took me a week to complete that job. Use half the scuba tank in the morning, take a break for lunch, use the other half after lunch, take a nap, go get the tank refill and repeat the next day. And of course no work allowed on Sunday here either. Arms all sore and got so much water in my ears I'm beginning to think there is a barnacle growing in there because I can't hear very well.
Guess who's coming to town? The Hawaiian sailing canoes, Hokule'a and Hikianalia. For more info check out their web site. Hokulea World Voyage
http://www.hokulea.com/ . It almost seems like we are planning these rendezvous, but it must be just good luck. They left American Samoa a week before I did but they stop at a few other islands along the way. I haven't gotten to see them under sail, so when they announce they were close I take off in the dinghy. But instead of being close to the island they were close to the harbor. All I got was more pictures of them motoring and the other one being pulled. The wind was blowing the Hokule'a away from the dock and they weren't having much luck getting a line to the dock, so Al to the rescue, they passed me a line and I took it over to the dock with the dinghy. I finally get to help someone else dock. Being on the boat by myself I'm always accepting a hand with the dock lines.
One of my favorite places is The Bounty Bar. Will also hang out there a lot and made friends with the bartender. For her 19th birthday he said they could come by and hang out on his boat. But when she invited 15 guess, well his boat wasn't going to hold that many, so he ask if I wanted to help. Little girls, sure. I can dream. The plan was just to raft up, let them play their Hip Hop music and eat cake, but somehow they convince me to take them for a boat ride to the beach on the next island. That set a record for Irie II, 17 people aboard. All had a good time and nothing broke and nobody got hurt. Every one said that was the first time a foreigner took anybody here for a sailboat ride. Now everyone is having a birthday next week. But no more than 6 will be allowed.
Everyone should know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It took awhile to reach Tonga, not the cancer, but the first annual Fundraiser in which I just had to attend. Frances had given me a whole lot of the pink bracelets to past out doing my travels. This was a good opportunity to present them to another group. Now Vava'u know all about www.PinkPhuree.org.
Now how did Halloween costume parties get way down here? Must be all these expats all over the place. They have just about taken over everything, but mostly the tourist trade. Take a look at the pictures in the gallery, there is a prize for anyone who can guess what I was dress as?? I didn't win any prizes but got some laughs.
Some things you just can't forget and the La Paella Restaurant is one of those places that just stay in my mind and I'm wondering what has change since the last time I was here. 22+ years ago this Spanish couple sailed in and fell in love with the place and started a restaurant. Now that I have had enough of downtown, I pay my mooring fees and sail over to Iautala Island for a revisit. When I arrived I got invited to the Saturday evening pot-luck dinner. I was planning on eating out, but since I didn't make reservations at the La Paella no one was home. So out came a big bag of frozen French fries from French Polynesia that I didn't know what I was going to do with. Potatoes was the theme for this pot luck, out of the 5 boats at anchor/moorings 3 of us brought potatoes and no one brought any meat. But everyone manage to get full. Again nothing happens on Sunday, but when the owners of the La Paella came back on Monday I just had to go pay a visit. Old restaurant with the dirt floors and the ducks eating the crumbs was gone and replace with another building with a better view of the bay with a dog and a goat looking for handouts. The ducks are now in a pen. The owners looked familiar but I looked just like any other tourist/sailor and they couldn't remember me from 22 years ago, but when I mention I was with the WBSC, a group of African Americans, she remembered the party and the dancing we had. She said there hadn't had that much dancing since. Well with a little luck and planning the WBSC will come back and she'll be waiting. She now plays a violin instead of the sax. And they have a real drum set.
Phil has finally arrived in Tongatapu. My 30 day visa is just about over with. I decided to check out of the Vavau' Group and head south to meet up with him and wait on a weather window to make the trip to New Zealand before I get to comfortable here.
November 3rd. I settle up all my bills, check out with the officials, said my good byes and start the sail down south. It was a nice sail, close reaching with the waves and swells just forward of the beam for the first few hours with the winds in the high teens. When I got into the lee of the Ha'apai Group the winds picked up into the 20's but all those reefs blocked the swells and it became a comfortable ride. Averaging 7 kts. on the GPS. For this slow old boat that's fast. Heck top speed is only 7.3kts. Must be that clean bottom or a south flowing current. I arrived to the anchorage the next morning around 10am. Drop the anchor in 25 meters of water. The weather forecast say in the next few days the wind going to switch to the west blowing 35kts. I sure hope this anchor stay put.
Suwarrow and American Samoa
06 November 2014
Sept. 3rd, Bye Bye Bora Bora
Finally got everything ready for some ocean sailing. Drop the line to the mooring ball after lunch and headed for the cut in reef along with another solo sailor on s/v Last Unicorn - a Tayana 42. He's going to some islands to the SW of Bora and I'm going NW. We'll stay in touch as long as we can via SSB radio. Winds are almost perfect, coming from the SE at 15kts with seas in the 2 meter range. Weather forecast said the winds will be more then that so I started out with a reef in the main sail. Later that night winds pick up into the 20's and switches to the ESE. Still not a bad ride, but I put in a reef to the jib just in case. Then the winds pick up to the high 20's so I put in another reef to the jib. Moving along at 6-7kts, just not in the right direction, this old boat don't like to go dead down wind and the windvane autopilot don't like it either. I decided to drop the main sail and roll out the staysail. This helped Windy steer a bit better. That big main sail keeps making the boat round up and with the 2 head sails they kinda pull the boat downwind. Now Windy can steer and Otto can take a break and I won't have to start the engine to recharge the batteries since it's been mostly cloudy and the solar panels just not putting out enough without sunshine. And if it is sunny the sails cast a shadow over them in the afternoon. I didn't think of that problem before.
Why do you only come close to a collision with a fishing vessel at night? Just before sunset one day I hear voices on the VHF radio which I assume to be Japanese and if so that make it a high probability that it's a fishing vessel and they usually don't run with their AIS turned on. So I'm on alert looking for it. I see a blip on the radar a few hours later. And when he gets within 6nm I can see his lights, but no AIS signal. Keep an eye on him and sure 'nuff we on a collision course, so I hail him on the VHF several times before I get a reply "No English" in which I replied "No Japanese". But I tell him anyway that I was altering course to past behind him. So I turned 90° to port and he's still coming at me so I turned 45° to port and he's still coming at me so I turned another 45° to port and turned the engine on because now I'm going into the wind and then he turns on his AIS for about 10 minutes or until we pasted each other. Now why did he keep turning when I turned? Best I could figure out he may have been towing a fishing net and didn't want me to run into it if I went behind him and if that's the case why he didn't turned to go behind me 6 miles ago? One day I'll find the answer to that, but in the meantime I can't sleep longer than 20 minutes.
I have been keeping in contact with Silhouette, the Last Unicorn, the Isabella Net, and the Pacific Seafarers Net via SSB/HAM radio. Phil started complaining first that he was having a hard time hearing me, I'm thinking it's because he's the farthest away. Last Unicorn stopped at Aitutak and is doing a relay for us. Then the guys with them big HAM radio transmitters and antennas couldn't hear me very well on the PacSea Net. Something is wrong with my radio, so instead of thinking about stopping in Suwarrow I'm now aiming straight for it, or as straight as the wind will allow.
Just to keep things interesting the winds die down to below 10kts and switches to the ENE. So had to jibe. Then the wind die to less then 5kts, but the seas are still coming in at 1.5 meters which make for a rock and roll ride. Not enough wind to keep the sails from flapping. So sails come down and the motor comes on. Then I unroll the staysail, trying to lessen the roll. Motored for the next 24 hours and arrived just in time for lunch on the 9th of Sept.
Was greeted by the crews of a couple of boats that I met in Bora Bora. While waiting for the Park Ranger, Customs, Immigration, and Health Officer to show up they helped me reanchor. I dropped the anchor in what I thought was a sand patch but Matthew snorkeled over it and said I was wrap around a coral head. He tried to direct me to which way to steer the boat to get it unwrapped but no luck. Someone will have to put on the scuba gear and go free it. Matthew volunteered and his crew Claudia steered the boat while I worked the windlass. After a few minutes it was free and we're off to find a better spot. This place reminds me of anchoring in Penrhyn, coral heads everywhere with a few patches of sand. I drop the anchor in another spot only to have the boat swing too close to another boat. So go find another spot and everything Irie. All the officials come aboard for the check-in process, only one guy with many hats. He informs me that since everyone had a good morning of fishing he was sponsoring a pot-luck dinner that evening ashore. Good I don't have to cook but what do I bring on such short notice. I got a few bake potatoes and a few boil eggs that I was planning on eating underway and got some left over corn and some left over beans - what the heck I'll make something and call it a salad. One definition of a "pot-luck" is to bring something that you would never eat by yourself.
After dinner we go coconut crab hunting. Only we didn't bring any home, this place is a Cook Island National Park and everything is preserved. No taking of anything is allowed except fish and pictures, and no leaving of anything is allowed. They have very strict rules and if you don't follow them they give you a fine. Like one boat sailed in at night. Full moon little wind, no problem, except one of the rules say something about unsafe navigation into the entrance of the lagoon. Cost him $100, could have been $500. One boat drugged anchor doing a storm about a month before I got there and ended up on the shallow part of the reef and halfway sunk. The fine for polluting the water with spilled oil and such was huge. And someone has to pay for its safe and non-polluting removal. I'm sure that guy is glad he had insurance.
Got around to trouble shooting my radio transmitter problems. Gotta get that fix because that's my only way of communicating to the outside world when far from land. A Satellite phone has been on my list since before I left Texas, but always had an excuse for not having one - like no money in the kitty. Found a corroded connector on the isolator. I have a connector in my spare's box, but no isolator. Was able to replace the connector and bypassed the isolator. Now everyone can hear me again. Now what's the reason for that isolator? Now when trying to send an email radio waves get into everything, like lights come on, inverter turns on and off, but the worst part is now the modem keeps locking up which mean no can send emails on some frequencies. That's not good, so I send Aaron the info for him to order me a new one so when I get to American Samoa it'll be ready to ship. Also sent Charlie a list of things to buy for me at West Marine and a spare starter for my engine and have them ready to ship when I get to Samoa. I don't have a problem with my starter but would like a spare just in case, because it's almost impossible to get a replacement where I'm at.
After 4 days in this little paradise I'm ready to go. Weather forecast is good for the next few days. But again I can't leave. That fricking anchor chain is wrapped around another coral head. This time I put on my scuba gear and go free it myself. Was pretty easy this time since the wind wasn't blowing. So late afternoon I'm off. The other boats are planning on leaving in the morning when the wind is supposed to be back. But my slow boat needs a head start. Once outside the reef the winds not bad, only 10kts so full sails flying. By sunrise I'm passed the lee of the reef and winds are light and the 2 meter swells has begun to roll the boat again. Mainsail just a flapping, beating itself to death and the jib not faring much better. So down they come and on come the motor. Just before midnight the wind picks up a bit out comes the jib and off goes the motor. Only doing 4kts but what the heck, what's the hurry I'm on a sailboat.
These conditions last until I reach American Samoan waters. Then around midnight I hear someone calling me on the VHF, its Nana Parahi whom I met in Bora Bora and Suwarrow, the guys who help me with my anchoring. They want to know what's it's like inside the harbor? I don't know I'm not there, where are you? I'm 12 miles behind them and Kwisil is only a few miles behind them and the other big boat is already there sleeping. Rats they passed me up. They decide to enter the harbor at night and I decided to stick to my rule about not entering an unfamiliar place at night. They tell me how easy it was, I tell them I need to run my watermaker for a few hours and fill up my tank before getting into that polluted harbor, besides when sailing solo I have enough things to be stress out about, why add more by entering at night.
Dropped the anchor in 40ft and it held. Reports were to expect poor holding due to a tsunami a few years ago that washed a bunch of stuff into the water. Next on the agenda, sleep. Woke up around noon and the 4 boats begun the check-in process. So how did I spend my birthday on the 18th of Sept? Doing the check-in dance. The group wanted to do something special for me but we were all too tired for anything but sleep. But I did get the birthday song sung to me in Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, and English. The dinner will be tomorrow.
How was American Samoa? The people are some of the most friendliest that I have ever met. Unlike the last time I was on American soil (HI) everyone actually greeted me with a smile and a hello. Everyone went out of their way to help you if you had a problem like finding the Immigration office. If you didn't know where you were going, just tell the bus driver and he let you know when it was time to get off the bus. The only turnoff was those sirens. Was the ambulance, fire department, and police needed that much or did they just like the sound of those horns?
I ran into another sailor from Texas, Steve at Sadie's bar they had a pool table for our nightly entertainment. This seems to be the place a few cruisers hung out every evening or at the McDonalds for free wifi and a burger. He knew some of the racers from Kemah that I knew since he raced with a few of them before. He's the guy that bought that old schooner from the Caribbean to start a shipping route between Tonga and Samoa.
The next morning at anchor he runs into me. He dropped his anchor about 40 meters in front of me the day before. Late that night the wind starts to really blow. I wake up and set my anchor alarms, don't want to wake up on shore. And take a look around, everything okay. A little later my alarm goes off and I go check things out. I'm not drifting just swinging and swung further then the alarm is set. Take another look outside and that big boat is now maybe 15 meters away. Shit he's dragging and headed my way. I called him on the radio, no answer, sounded my horn, one long blast. He sticks his head out of his companion way and asks "what?" I yell that your anchor has dragged. I heard him say something like I'll take care of it when . . . Didn't get it all due to the wind noise, but I thought he said when it stops raining. Now I'm up keeping an eye on him. It stops raining but he's not doing anything. The wind is still blowing about the same and maybe his anchor has caught unto something because he's not getting any closer. So I go down below and maybe took a little nap when this little inner voice starts yelling at me to wake up and take a look outside. I did obey and what I seen scared the shit out of me. This big 80 ton of rusty steel is heading my way fast. I had made a mental plan of what to do if that would happen. Got my air horn out and blew 5 short blasts - the danger signal. Turn on the engine and hit reverse. Run up to the bow and undo the anchor snubber and start letting out the anchor to try to get away from this monster. He again pokes his head out the companion way half asleep mumbling something like "I told you I would take care of it when the sun . . . Oh shit!" He gets into action turn on his engine and hit hard reverse. About this time Jacob from Krysil dinghies over to help. He manned the windlass while I went back to steer the boat. Told him if he had to, let all the chain out and we'll cut the rope when it gets to the end. We have to get away from that monster. Well he manages to miss my bowsprit by 1 meter. Then he started sliding down the side of me and his bowsprit missed my rigging by 1 foot. Then his anchor snagged my anchor rode which then starts to pull the two boats together, side by side. For awhile my anchor was holding the both of us, then it pull loose. Now the both of us are drifting down on the next anchored boat. Another cruiser who heard the horns made it over in his dinghy and has tied to the side of me trying to pull us apart. Jacob's dinghy is caught between the two boats acting as a bumper and the crew of the big boat is setting fenders out and dumbass Captain Steve is pulling up his anchor with my chain attached. Then a third cruiser shows up in his dinghy and position himself between the two boats where the anchor was coming up. He was able to free my chain from the monster's anchor and the big guy was able to motor away from me. I reset my anchor back in the same spot as before. The only damage done not counting growing a few more grey hairs was my snubber line is now in the bottom of that filthy place. It can stay there, I'll make another one. After several failed attempts of reanchoring in the same spot that big ass boat finally moved to the back of the pack and found some good holding. Now if he drags he'll hit the rocks before he hits anyone else, unless the wind switches from a different direction. After everything settles down he comes over and apologizes. He taught it could wait until the sun came up and maybe his first cup of coffee. And he owes me a beer. Hell he owes me more than that, I didn't pay for any more drinks or pool games as long as he was there. Even got a dinner out of the ordeal. Lesson learned or new rule - next time an asshole refuses to reanchor, I think I'll move my boat or start cursing and raising hell until he does.
The Hawaii canoes are tied to the dock. And have an open house scheduled. I got a first look at these in HI from my sister's husband's cousin, Tia. Got a brief visit and view when they came to Bora Bora. Now I get an inside view and get to talk with some of the crew. Met Linda who said she was a fan of Tia or he was her hero. Tried my luck and another crew member knew him. He must be famous or he keeps good company. Their next stop is Tonga so maybe I'll meet them there if I sailed fast enough.
I didn't get around to doing much touristy stuff. Mainly because there isn't that much touristy stuff to do here. This is not a major tourist destination. For that type of thing, Western Samoa is the place to go. Sure there were the beautiful vistas and great hiking trails. But for an island this size, no scuba diving, etc. So I spent my first week removing every piece of that sorry no good POS generator. It was easier to disassemble it then to try to get it out of the hole in one piece. I tried to find a place that accepted scrap metal, but this must be the last place on earth that doesn't have one of those things. They just throw everything in the water here. And when it rains, the harbor is full of plastic bags, cups, and everything else that floats and don't float. There is a major campaign going on to try and stop some of the littering, but it'll take years to reverse the trend of "just throw IT on the ground and it'll end up in the ocean and the ocean will eat it."
So on one side the harbor is the town with its pollution and the fuel dock for the ships that are always spilling lots of fuel. Then on the other side of the harbor is the Starkist processing plant. And a fleet of fishing vessels - make that at least two fleets. Now I'm guessing that they have a way to dispose of the fish guts and other stuff that is not suppose to go into the can, but I'm also guessing that it ends up in the harbor after treating. One story goes that the system broke a few years ago and there were fish heads floating around the harbor. And the smell of processed tuna all day and all night. Only time I didn't smell it was when the wind was from the other direction, once. Or maybe I had just gotten use to the smell and didn't notice it anymore for that one day. Now with all this shit and stuff in the water you would think that noting could live in it. Wrong, I usually try to take the dinghy out of the water every night. Not to prevent a thief like in other places of the world but to prevent algae and stuff from growing on it. Even by removing it I still had a bunch of barnacles attached to the motor and dinghy bottom. The boat bottom was in need of a cleaning before I left Bora Bora but now, it look like extra long and extra thick shag carpet. Even barnacles growing on the bottom paint where just a week ago there was none. Heck if those little bugs can live in this pollution a little copper paint is not going to slow them down. They eat that for desert.
The story goes - you go to Western Samoa because you want to; you come to American Samoa because you have to. My packages all showed up the following Saturday after I had them shipped from the mainland on a Tuesday. No extra charges, nothing missing. And all a little more than $100. That's the reason to come here. Other boats are here for the same reason, and soon as the packages arrive. Out of here. Another reason to come here is to ship things out, like all those new generator parts I was waiting for in Raiatea that I can't used now. But Charlie can use them, so I shipped him those and strip down the old generator for anything else that he might could use.
But you must be careful, there are some boats that have came and stayed for years for one reason or the other. Most American flagged. You can get your McDonalds everyday and everyone speak English and it's good protection from cyclones and before you know it you have so much shit growing on your boat bottom you can't leave. One guy in his 70's died on his boat while I was there. He only had been here for 10 years. So before that happen to me I checked out on a Friday and it took me until Sunday the 5th to leave for Tonga.
The anchor rode was covered with this brown looking algae or some type of monster slime from the depths. I finally get to use that anchor wash down pump I bought in HI. But it's only good for mud, this stuff needs a high pressure washer, but since I don't have one of those a wired brush and some elbow grease will have to do. Only took an hour to raise the anchor this time. The good thing is I didn't have to put on scuba gear to get the anchor up this time. Since my water tanks are low I decided to just motor at a slow speed for the first few hours and make a little water. To motor slowly I was almost at full throttle. Damn that shit on the bottom of the boat is slowing me down. Or AS don't want me to leave.
Only 300+ miles to go to Tonga. The other boats I've been hanging with left last week, since they weren't American it was easier for them to leave. Weather conditions good, wind at 15kts from the E, seas only 1.5 meters. Partly cloudy. 1st reef in the mainsail, Jib and staysail all the way out and Windy steering without any problems. Boat speed only 4-5kts. Going to be a long passage at this speed. On the 3rd day out the predicted higher winds appear. Glad I left the reef in the main, when it got up to the mid 20's I took in the Jib, and just sail under Staysail and reefed main. I didn't need to go fast because it was going to be another night time arrival. I almost got to see the total eclipse of the moon on the 8th of Oct. At least that's the date where I'm at; somewhere along the way I crossed the International Date Line. The clouds blocked the view but compared to the night before when it was almost a full moon it was like sailing with no moon. Then once the eclipse was over the clouds moved away and the sky brighten up.
Reach the island of Vava'u Tonga around 0300, so only the mainsail up and drifting around until sunlight, might as well get some sleep. Opps slept too long, I drifted out 6 miles further out to sea, that's a whole hour to get back and into the wind. So on comes the motor and then I notice a little smoke coming from the exhaust. That's not normal, so I take a closer look and it don't look like smoke, look like steam, take a look at the temperature instrument and it's running close to 200°F when it normally runs 160°F. Now What? Lowered the rpm's down to 1000 and the temperature return to normal. Took a look at the exhaust again and the water flow is a lot less then it suppose to be. Easy fix is to clean the strainer but there is nothing in it. Maybe the waterpump impeller has broken, but I have a strainer on the discharge of it to catch any parts that may break off. Nothing there. Well maybe one of the blades has broken and stuck in the hose or I have sucked something up the thru hole restricting the flow. Well I'm thinking I have a sailboat so I can motorsail to an anchorage or someplace and find out what's wrong.
The Society Islands, French Polynesia.
03 September 2014 | It's Never As Good As The First Time
I spent the first few days at the Apooti marina using the free fresh water to wash and clean inside and out, mostly the inside cushions and cloths. They got a salt water bath when some dummy left the hatches open, and then a big wave came crashing over the boat. The hard part was trying to dry them. Sun would come out for a few hours and then a quick rain shower just when they were almost dry. Same story with trying to dry the cloths. The marina had a washing machine but no drier. Finally gave up and drop the cloths off at The Moorings base, the cost for drying the linen was just as much as they cost. It would have been cheaper to just buy some new ones if there was a place around here to do that.
I got the boat all clean up, well almost, just in time for Karlyn's arrival. Unloaded the dinghy from the foredeck install Yammy, hooked up the gas and off we go to meet her at the airport. Nice little dinghy ride over the reefs and some are so shallow you have to raise the motor not to hit 'em. The flight arrive on time and Karlyn is all smiles, me too. Back to the boat and more cleaning and putting things back in its place. Cushions almost dry, and got my laundry back just in time.
Next day we motorsailed to the main town of Raiatea, Uthora, to say hi to Phil. He's still at the dock, nursing the wounds his boat received on the way down. Some of his problems are refrigerator not cooling to specs, alternator broke, batteries not holding a charge, etc. We also need to do a little provisioning since Karlyn will need more stuff to cook and to cook with. But no cooking tonight, I take her to one of Phil's favorite restaurants, a food truck on the side of the road. In this part of the world it may not be the best French restaurant, but it's the best value for the Franc. You get twice as much food for half the price compared to the fancy places.
There is a little break in the weather, if we leave on Wednesday we can get to Bora Bora before the rain starts again. So we go for it, skipping a stop at the Coral Gardens with some excellent snorkeling on the west side of Tahaa. The wind has calmed down a little but the waves and swells are still big. A very impressive site when they crash on the reef. White water everywhere.
Wave hitting the reef
After entering the pass to Bora Bora we picked up a mooring ball at one of my favorite places, Maikai Marina If we have dinner at the restaurant we don't have to pay for the mooring. What a deal, not having to pay for something here. Of course the staff all remembered me from last year and were kinda surprise to see me, without my brother. "Where is he?"
The fastest and most informative way to see a new place is to hire a guide. After a few phone calls we decided to book a tour with Dino, he was the only one available in such a short notice. We visited a few of the Marae's but they weren't as well maintained as the ones on the other islands. I'm guessing Bora Bora doesn't need them to attract tourist. What would a tour be without a stop at the taxi driver's Pearl Store and Tattoo parlor? Karlyn found a pearl and I looked at the Tattoos with probing from her. Once back to the boat we took advantage of the no rain and loaded up the dinghy for a tour around the islands and motus by boat. We just had to stop at the world famous Bloody Mary's restaurant for a view and to get out of the rain. Next stop, a snorkel with the Eagle rays, only they weren't there, then a stop at Motu Tapu for a nice sunset and then back to the boat.
After 4 days or rain the weather man promises a break. If we leave tomorrow we can get back to Tahaa while the sun is shining. Once again the weather man was right. After an uneventful trip back to Tahaa, no rain and no fish, we enter Baie Apu and picked up a mooring ball. Last year it was recommended to leave them along since they were not maintain, but this year they all looked new, so I'm thinking we may have to pay someone for the privilege when Jeremy rows out to the boat in his kayak. He invites us to his newly open restaurant and tells us the moorings belong to the Pear Farm just down the road.
Once the boat was secured we took him up on his offer. Or at least we made use of his dinghy dock to take a walk to the Pearl Farm for a tour and to pay for the mooring - well nobody home, we'll try back another day. Next day we use his dinghy dock for a walk in the other direction. This time he invites us for the family dinner, musical, get together that evening. The food was great the music better. I just had to go back to get my video camera for that show.
family musical older generation
family musical younger generation
I made copies of the video to pass around, but the next day there was nobody around so I just left them at the bar with a small note. And we wanted to thank him for inviting us into his family for their monthly get together.
Next day time for a stop at Baie Haamene for the Vanilla and Black Pear Farm tour with old friends Teva and Linda of Terainui Tours whom we used last year. We picked up a mooring at the Hibiscus restaurant, made reservations for dinner and for a quick tour of the island in the morning. Teva and Linda remembered me from last year and wanted to know "where's Phil?" The first stop of the tour was at the Vanilla plantation. We luck out because the first flower of the season had bloom and we got to watch the pollination process. Then a ride up the mounting for a marvelous view of the bay and reefs, then a stop at the 3 limbed coconut tree, maybe the only one in the world. Then a stop at the Pear Farm to learn all about the cultured pearl process and then to the Pearl Store where Karlyn found another pearl to take home with her.
Next day time for the next anchorage and the next mooring ball. This time to the Baie Faaroa on the east side of Raiatea for a river and garden tour. But first on the list was a visit to Marae Taputapuatea since I didn't get to go there last year and visiting old artifacts and historical sites is high on Karlyn's list. Late morning we motored over to the next bay to the south looking for a place to drop the anchor. But everything was either a reef, or too shallow, or too deep, so we past as close to the Marae as we could and zoom in with the cameras for some photos. We'll have to come back by car because it's too far for a dinghy ride. So back to the mooring and a trip up the river where we met the local tour guide "Django". But last year his name was James. I think he was just pulling our legs because he had just seen the movie. At first he didn't recognized me but finally when I mention I was here last year with my brother then he remembered. "Where is your brother?" This time the river tour was a little different. Lots of RAIN. That made it all the better if you don't mind getting soaked.
River by Dinghy
Well somebody have to go home, so off to Uthora we go for some last minute shopping and dining. Cooks day off. Met Jeremy at the dock, so we did get to thank him for the show and dinner and told him about the CD's. He was wondering where they came from and what was on them. Then we motorsailed down to the village Uturaerae where Phil is waiting on a haul out to get some more things fixed on his boat. We picked up another mooring. As you can tell by now it's a lot easier to pick up a mooring ball then it is to pick up the anchor after dropping it in 30 to 40 meters of water. Besides my anchor roller is a little bent from snagging those coral heads in Penrhyn and I don't want to break it. Next morning another scenic dinghy ride to the airport to drop my friend KD off for her flight to Tahiti and then after a few days there back to California. Gonna miss that girl.
Now it's time to start working on the boat with all those parts she brought with her and to watch a few new movies. First on the list is to replace the belt on the generator's water pump. Not only the belt is broken I found out that the bracket that holds the pump is cracked which is why I can't get the belt tight which is why it keeps breaking. I came up with a jury rig that I hope will work. A miracle product call "JB weld" - it's an epoxy used for joining metal and especially for fixing cracks, like a liquid welding rod. Mixed up a batch and applied to the crack and to the bolt. End results - I was able to tighten the belt and now the generator is generating electricity again. But I don't trust it to last forever so I ordered a new bracket, except it's a new design and I'll have to order new pulleys, new mounting bolts, new this and new that. And then I'll have to pay a fortune to get it ship to me and wait forever to get it. Oh well that's cruising, getting to work on your boat in exotic places and paying dearly for the privilege.
Other things needing replacing or adding, BC inflator hose, holding tank vent thru-hull, refrigerator hour meter, engine alternator temperature sensor, latches for the companionway doors, a recording Barometer, chafe protectors for the shrouds, jib roller furling line, replacing all windvane mounting bolts and a bunch of other stuff I can't think of and didn't write down.
While busy doing nothing I look up and see this dinghy go by with another Black guy onboard. Just to make sure I wasn't dreaming, I hurried up and got my dinghy in the water and go chase him down. That 15hp motor is fast. Met Will Holmes another solo sailor, from California on the s/v SoulJourner a '74 Dreadnaught 32. And I thought I had an old boat. His definitely has some classic lines.
Well it's July and the Heiva Festival and Bastille Day celebrations has already started in Bora Bora and Phil is still working on his boat and I'm fed up with eating at the same little house restaurant everyday. That's about all it is to do on this side of Raiatea, heck the nearest bar is miles away, unless you count drinking a beer doing lunch a bar. So we say our good-byes and I leave him to have fun working on his boat while I go have fun partying every day and night with the other Cruisers.
I have lost count of how many times I've sailed between Raiatea and Bora Bora and again this time I catch no fish, just waves, and the wind seems to always be blowing from the direction I want to go. With all the festivities going on I'm prepared to drop anchor in 35-40 meters of water because the anchorage is full of boats, but lucky me one of the charter yachts leave and now there is a mooring available at the Maikai marina. Not too far from Souljourner. And just as I get settle in another boat leaves from a mooring real close to the marina, I can pick up free wifi from there, so I hurried up and moved before another late arrival beats me to it. Now I won't have far to go to the bar either.
The first order of business is to go join all the cruisers for Happy Hour and find out where the party or what's the schedule for all the Heiva Activities. There are posters and flyers that tell everything, but it's in French. We found out that the dancing contest was yesterday and tonight is a spear chunking contest. We all stayed at the bar and will wait for something more exciting. At the bar are Igor and Louise with the new addition to the cruising family Ingrid or Mataki Ho. When we were in Nuka Hiva last year we met them because he had a sewing machine to do a few repairs to my sail cover and she was about a week away from delivery. Now a year later we meet again just in time to celebrate the kid's first birthday party, where else except on a boat.
Seems like every new anchorage consist of different groups of boats that become instant friends and always hanging out together. I get drafted into the group consisting of Will on SoulJoyner and Igor and Lisa on __________, and Chris and his family on Iona whom I briefly met in Raiatea, and Patrick and Rachel on Namaste who I also briefly met in Raiatea. And then there were Vanessa and Sandra who lives there who help us out with the interpretations of the flyer. Take a look at this video for some of the dancing in Bora Bora.
Bora Bora Heiva Dancing
Someone came up with the idea of a poker game for our group. These games lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The first couple of games I either lost or broke even, but the last game I wipe everybody out. Don't play Texas Hold'em with a Texan on his lucky day. Everybody is heading west soon for Tonga and a rematch is planned. Heck I need to add to my cruising kitty anyway.
Well all good parties must end and Iona and Namaste head SW for Rarotonga and Souljourner head NW for American Samoa and Igor and family head to Raiatea to store the boat for the season and fly to Australia to raise a family and get a job, what a bummer - the job that is. Well with nothing else to do I go and get a Tattoo.
Next week I head back to Raiatea to visit Phil. He's still working on his boat so for something new I sail to Huahine. Seems like everywhere I go that sailing cruise ship Wind Song is there, but this time she was sailing away. Didn't do much in Huahine except get a haircut. I vowed to go a year without one. Seem like all my life someone was telling me to get a haircut. So since I'm now free as the wind I decided not to cut it. The last few months were the worst. Had to dry it after swimming or a shower, had to comb it several times a day, if I didn't feel like that I platted it up, just to see what it look like if I made some dread locks. But in the end a military style haircut is what I needed. If it's long enough to comb it, cut it. One day I had a dream that I cut all my hair off. Woke up the next morning and cut it all off.
Huahine is a very lead back island, and if you don't have someone to hang out with it can become lonely or boring. So since I didn't meet any new or old friends, I pulled up anchor after 4 days and headed back for Raiatea. My visa is over with so time to check out and become an illegal alien and hope the officials don't catch me. I can't leave until that fricking package with all those generator parts gets here. It didn't take long for it to make it to Tahiti from Houston, but it has been in Tahiti's customs office for 3 weeks now. I'm sure glad I shipped it to Phil since he has an extension on his visa due to all the work he's doing on his boat. And if that wasn't enough - One day I fired up the old generator with the new water pump belt just to use the microwave. Damn my food didn't get hot, what's up with that? No AC power but the generator is running. What the ____! Open up the hatch and smelled smoke. Shit the magic smoke that make it work has escaped. I give up - that POS generator is now headed for the dump even if and when all those new parts show up. Money foolishly spent?????
Been there and done that in Raiatea and to hide from the officials I go back to Bora Bora to meet up with some old friends and make some new ones. Met this young lady from Chile that had gotten left ashore without a place to stay or any money. She was on an 80' from the Caribbean who was planning on doing some trading between the Samoa and Tonga. Hate to say it but the owner was from Texas and the stories I heard not a very likeable guy. A local gave her a place to stay and I offered a ride to Tonga, but she needed to leave soon so she hitches a ride with another single handler from Canada. Also met Tyler the crew from a motor yacht named Argo. Nice guy and a nice job, gets paid to motor around the world in a brand new boat with very nice owners. But they only in Bora Bora waiting on boat parts and repairs before they take off for New Zealand and all the places in between. So I'm left here all by myself and then my package shows up in Raiatea, sailed back there picked it up and then sailed back to Bora Bora. How many times have I done that?
Now I can get the boat ready for my next leg. Have decided to go to American Samoa via Suwarrow. Decided the fastest, cheapest way to replace the piece of shit generator is to buy a portable one from Honda. But to get it ship to French Polynesia will take another 2 months and the shipping would cost as much as the generator. But I can ship it to American Samoa for a little more than a $100 and don't have to pay any duty and with good timing and good luck it'll be there in a week.