First Annual Regatta Vava'u
10 September 2009 | Vava'u Island, Kingdom of Tonga
Yes, we raced, and no, we did not come in first. A beautiful 82' Oyster sloop took that honor. Racing was just one part of the regatta festivities here in Vava'u. There were food fests, treasure hunts, Tongan feasts, full moon parties and cornhole tournaments. What was that last one, you ask? In plain English, it was a beanbag toss. Margie on s/v Dosia was talking up her natural-born tossing abilities for the entire regatta week. Needless to say, when the big day arrived, we were cheering and rooting her on. After 3 rounds it was down to just two teams: Dosia vs. Zen! They clobbered Cammi and Tom, but hey, taking #2 to Margie and Drew was an honor in our book.
When looking back on the week of fun, the best part was the Govenor's Race from Neiafu Harbor to Vaka'eitu about 10 miles away. There were two classes, the monohulls and the multihulls. Mono's were given a 10 minute headstart. Of the 40 boats racing through the harbor, many joined Zen in hoisting their spinnakers for the short downwind run. After that, it was all upwind tacking. Zen kicked some serious butt, coming in 5th across the line. The biggest comment we heard after the race was, "Wow, I didn't know catamarans could point like that!" Our crew consisted of Tom (navigator), Monique (helmswoman), Ian Gray from Whangarei, NZ (winches and wind guru), Pierre from s/v Schtimagine-France (winch and hoist) and Cammi, Richard & Krista from m/v Karma (crew). Where the heck was Cole? He took our dinghy to s/v Dosia, who towed it to the finish line, while being our TeamZen photographers. Every sail was used and we had some definite close calls, making for much excitement. But, to all those Newporters who are reading this, it was nothing like a Narragansett Bay race. Radically more casual and laid back. At least 4 boats would have been disqualified by RI standards, but the race committee turned a blind eye and just kept up with the friendly spirit of the event. All Zen family members, plus Ian and Pierre had racing experience. We knew how close our hulls would come to other racers. Richard and Krista were new to yacht racing, immediately felt their adrenaline surge and at the finish line, uncorked their bottle of wine and let all their nervous giggles, amazement and laughter come flowing out. They loved the good fun!
After the final event, Lauren from s/v Wayward Wind, threw a huge 40th birthday party for her mate, Aaron. It included 4 slow roasted pigs, a 12 foot buffet table filled with pot luck dishes, dancing male transvestites, called fakaleiti, and a fire dancer. It served as the perfect welcome for our dear friends, Rick and Ami, from s/v Tara Vana. They cruised with Zen in Columbia and flew into Tonga from LA for a week-long visit and sail with Zen. Not an hour had passed since their flight landed and they were laughing and reuniting with cruisers they hadn't seen since Mexico, the San Blas and beyond. Blend is an understatement. They were fully integrated into our cruising clan within minutes. Ami and Rick will be with us for about 10 days and we hope to share Tonga with them. So far we've done the partying, fresh markets, Tongan buffet, diving and whale watching.
Yesterday, Zen, Tara Vana and Qayak went on a professional whale watching boat to scout and possibly swim with humpback whales. Whales are by far the biggest draw for tourism here. The BBC recently filmed a documentary and were given special permission to get close to the majestic animals underwater. Only a licensed whale boat is allowed within 300 feet of the whales. We not only saw a mama, new calf and large male swimming in a bay, but we got to swim with them. The experience, as you can guess, was magical. The small spout, fins and tails we see above the surface, give no hint to the massive bulk gliding effortlessly below. Beyond the wildlife, there are natural caves all around Vava'u. Our whale guide brought us to the infamous Mariner's Cave, which is accessed through an underwater tunnel located 4 feet below the surface and about 12 feet long. Once you pop up to catch your breath, it's obvious why the cave is famous. As the ocean swell goes in and out, the cave fills and empties with mist and fog, making it quite the experience for all who dare to enter. As you can guess, every single person, including Cammi and Cole, made it into the cave to add that feather to their caps.
Tomorrow, September 12th, is my 29th birthday...again. Grin. Tommy has made some secret party arrangements. Little does he know I have some stealth plans for celebrating his 29th in New Zealand! Stay tuned.