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.