Monday 09:00 30/9/2013
26 27.194 S 178 34.342 E
Posting by Dennis:
Here we motor on our way across to New Zealand. We have now motored for over sixty hours and we still have six hundred miles to go. This is a huge relief for Barb since she has heard such horror stories about this crossing. It is also why we are motoring more then we normally would. Most of the time we would just be content making two knots and just enjoying being out here. Being a couple hundred miles from any shore is the best. There is nothing like it. You look out at the vastness and you see nothing but the gentle rolling swells in the distance and when you are on top of a large swell you can see what looks like forever as the earth curves off in the distance.
We caught a Dorado the first day out so have had a couple meals of fish so far. We have crossed the 180 degrees longitude so now we are on the eastern side of the globe. It is really pretty uneventful we are just plugging along. Barb will be flying home as soon as we get to New Zealand and I will be flying home sometime in the middle of November. I have the usual boat work to get started on. The list is not three pages long like in Chile but it is a good two pages. Most of the things are small so it is not going to be too bad.
Wednesday 9/18/2013 9:00
21 08.275 S 175 10.981 W
Posting by Barb:
We arrived in the town Nuku’Alofa in Tongatapu early in the morning. This would be our last stop in Tonga before heading to New Zealand. We knew that we would have to hang out here until we had the weather window required to do the 10 day sail to New Zealand as per the grib weather files and Bob McDavitt’s weekly report. It turned out we only had to stay in Nuku’Alofa for a week. I found the town to be dirty and littered with garbage. The people were generally nice but not the same as in the more remote places. Locals of Tongatapu probably see more tourists and cruisers and their interest in us was more geared to the dollar they could earn versus genuine interest to welcome us and share their deeply respected customs and traditions. There was a great market with plenty of local fruit and vegetables but the grocery store was small and barely stocked. There were many restaurants and bars and the food was good and relatively inexpensive. We ate at a local restaurant the Bullfish a couple of times and enjoyed the local beer during Happy Hour and ate a very good meal of grilled fish. The hamburgers were not so great. We enjoyed the banter with the waitress that we had each time we ate there and we agreed to attend the service of her church, the Wesley church, much to her delight as she gave us the directions to get there. Dennis made the 2 mile trek to the church but Beth or Suly as she called herself never showed. We later understood that it was the ‘Tonga Way’ as kindly described by the locals. The ‘Tonga Way’ is you may show up you may not, you may be on time you may not, but either way people don’t sweat it and go with the flow. The service was all in Tongan and very formal, unlike the service in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, where kids could get up and roam around. The singing was beautiful until a Tongan lady sat next to us just as the service was beginning and 10 minutes after the pre-service singing had started. It was all I could do to keep from laughing as we experienced her energetic, shrill, over the top loud singing. I had to pray hard to keep a straight face as I watched Dennis try to look around me to see who was doing the unabashed , joyful singing Dennis. We realized after that we had seated ourselves in the middle of the choir and maybe that is why all the kids in the front pews were looking at us so strangely and I thought it was simply because we looked different. I enjoyed the service and I could sense the Tongan’s strong spirituality and commitment to their beliefs.
We made one road trip on a local bus to the North end of the Island to see the flying foxes (bats with fox like faces) clinging to the causarina trees. Dennis of course took hundreds of pictures, one of which we will post in our photo album and blog.
We also visited a neat surfing, beach resort as Rosemary has always had an interest in learning how to surf.
While med tied to the Tongatapu harbor we met a very nice family that live in a Catamaran, Mares Fatola, which they sailed all the way from Switzerland. We had Mario, Esther and little Laura (8 years old and a delightful, happy child) over to share and evening meal. Laura spent an afternoon with me going through our collection of kids movies to sort through which ones she wanted to watch or borrow. She watched snippets of movies sitting cozily in the nav station. I so much enjoyed her total engrossment in the movies and every now and then she would look at me, during possible scary parts of the movie, with her big beautiful eyes to ask for reassurance that everything would be ok. It made me reflect on my moments with my kids when they were little.
We replenished our food supply, gasoline and diesel and on September the 25th we started our trek to New Zealand. I left a little sad about leaving the beautiful South Pacific, apprehensive about the 10 day sail to New Zealand that generally, historically offers at least one gusty storm on the way. Of course Dennis is not worried and if he is not worried then I will be ok.
Tuesday 9/17/2013 21:20
20 16.626 S 174 48.206 W
Nomuka Iki, Tonga
Posting by Dennis:
The sail here was a nice leisurely one, doing four to five knot with the wind on the beam. It was a zig zag course as we wove are way amount the many reefs and islands. This would have been a very hairy trip before GPS. The reefs are everywhere. The whales are everywhere too. I saw two breaching in the distance. That is truly an amazing sight. I am sure they just come up from the bottom and let their speed catapult them into the air where they roll and fall onto their side. Another whale swam right under the boat as we sailed along. Once we were anchored we saw a couple take their dingy from shore and go out and swim with the whale. It is something that you need to do if the whales wish to come and play. Often they do not let you get very close and keep ‘you’ at a distance. So it is all up to them whether we get to swim with them or not.All Barb got to do this time around is snorkel with sea turtles. I am sure someday we will get to experience swimming with the whales.
In the morning we went into town and walked around. We saw many women working with their palm bows as they got them ready to weave. This is a very long process, they first cut the bows off the tree then strip the individual ‘leaves’ off and tie them into small bundles. The bundles are tied to lines between some upright sticks dug into the shallow sea. The bundles soak in the sea water for a week or more. Every day they go out and untangle the leaves and move them around. When ready they bring the bundles in and hang them to dry. The leaves are ripped into very straight strips which they can then weave into elaborate mats, baskets, and skirts.
All the kids that we meet are so curious about us. They stare at us and slowly get closer and closer as we sit under a tree. It becomes a game for them to see who is daring enough to get close.
We were hoping to get some bread while we were in town but nothing seemed to open and we later found out that it was a holiday because it was the princess birthday.
Sunday 9/15/2013 17:30
19 56.621 S 174 43.081 W
Posting by Dennis:
We got to this anchorage just after lunch so we had time to dinghy around a little before it got dark. Barb and I explored a couple of the little islands that make up part of the reef.
One of them was sticking no more than three feet above the water at high tide. It was a neat place to wonder around and look for shells and just watch the ocean roll in and out among the coral formations. We would have stopped at a little village on Matuga Island but being it was Sunday and we were only dressed in swimming suits and tee shirts we thought it wouldn’t be a good idea. The people here are very religious and no work is done on Sundays. The men here wear long black skirts with white shirts, ties and suit coats, as well as a woven palm skirt over that. A lot of the men wear these skirts every day, not just on Sundays. The woman wear long skirts and hats on Sundays and during the week most of them still wear the long skirts.
On Monday the three of us jumped in the dinghy and ran out to an old Korean ship wreck and went snorkeling. The water is getting much cooler as we are heading south. Admittedly it is not nearly as cold as Lake Superior on a warm day but you do get cold after you swim in it a while. Besides I am getting soft in my old age. Anyway the coral is wonderful to look at. You do not see a lot of big fish hanging around like in the Tuamotus but I think that is because the reefs are fished pretty heavily by the locals. I saw a few parrot fish but they were pretty little, at least I saw nothing that I thought was big enough to spear. After lunch Barb and I decided to take a walk into town. The ‘little one’, as I call Rosemary, had a headache and stayed on the boat to lie down. As Barb and I walked toward town a young girl came over and asked if we would like some papayas, we said sure and she walked with us to town and told us about the different buildings and homes as we walked past them. When we got to her home, where she lived with her mother, father and two younger brothers, she told us to go and sit on the porch and wait for her. In a few minutes she came out with three papayas and a big hand of bananas, all of which she had just picked. Then she went to the window and grabbed something off the window sill. She told us to follow her as we took a small trail that lead back to the road. Once we were out of sight of her house she shared with us a bread roll that she had snuck out of the house. It was bread dough rolled out then had jelly spread over it then rolled up and baked. It was a very tasty treat. When we got back to the wharf we asked her what she would like in return. We wanted to give her something, a gift to her. Barb finally got out of her that she would really like perfume, well that is something that we just don’t have. But they all like perfume here and the strong stuff, nothing at all subtle. Some of them smell as though they bathe in the stuff. She did say she liked to read and a book would be good. So we went to the boat and found some lotion, Oreo cookies, and a book. When we took it back she was so very grateful. The people are generally happy and very appreciative of anything you give them.
Friday 9/13/2013 19:00
19 50.979 S 174 24.904 W
Posting by Dennis:
This is an amazingly beautiful spot. It is a gentle bay with a wide white sand beach. It is a very easy place to get into and you could easily make your way in in the dark. You place your anchor in about twenty feet of water on a clean sand bottom with great holding. One boat that does charters went in anchored within a hundred feet from shore. It remains deep all the way in. This is not a place that you will probably be alone because it is so very nice. When we were there, there were seven boats scattered around the bay.
During the day we hiked the beaches until it got to hot and we felt well cooked. I was limited in the amount I could hike because I had cut my foot when a sharp lime stone punctured through my sneaker and my foot while hiking in Niue. So I spent my time hiding under the trees trying to stay out of the sun. I even spent one afternoon on the boat while Barb and the ‘little one’ , Rosemary, went hiking and snorkeling.
Thursday 9/12/2013 9:00
19 48.079 S 174 21.296 W
Posting by Barb:
It was a 3 hour sail to the main town of Pangai. As we approached the island we spotted a Humpback whale slapping it’s tail on the water. It appeared as it was waving to us and giving us a fine welcome. Once we were anchored just of the town wharf, we jumped into the dinghy and headed into town in search of customs and immigration. We quickly found it and checked in only to be told to go back to the boat and they would board our vessel. It was obvious they were not accustomed in dealing with cruisers checking in as most boats check in Vava’u. Dennis dropped Rosemary and me off first and then went back for the customs party. This was comprised of 4 big burly men representing customs, immigration, Health and Quarantine officer. All were dressed in their traditional long black cotton skirts and on top of that, tied with a rope, they wore a short coconut tree ferns, dried and woven into a rectangular mat. Dennis had to make 2 trips to bring them all on board and we cringed as they attempted to clumsily get on hanging on to the boat with their hands as they simultaneously pushed the dinghy away with their feet. As the gap between dinghy and boat widened I pictured them landing in the water with a big splash. Dennis had to help them and I could see the struggle and horror in his face as he contemplated giving them a push up via their rear end and at the same time watched the boats stanchions pulled on like it has never been pulled on before.
Saturday 9/07/2013 8:30
19 40.202 S 174 17.296 W
Posting by Barb:
We arrived in Ha’Ano at 8:00 in the morning. For me it was hard to believe that our travels had now taken us to Tonga. It was one of those places I had read and heard about but never thought I would ever see. Well here we were! Ha’Ano is part of the Ha Apai group which is the middle of the Tonga islands and is characterized by low, palm covered islands, long sandy beaches, beautiful coral reefs, clear water and small rural communities. Most cruisers blow through this group of islands and prefer to explore the northern Tonga islands called Vava’u.
It took a while to find an anchoring spot as the little bay was full of coral heads. We used a couple of fenders and floated our anchor chain over the corals. As I looked over the boat I could see that we were floating in the middle of a beautiful coral garden and all I had to do was jump off the boat to explore and enjoy, which I did despite the cold water and dreary, rainy weather. I saw a many beautiful blue star fish and loaded my underwater camera with dozens of pictures. We stayed in this beautiful spot for 2 days and managed to do a lot despite the weather. We made a trip into the little town of Haano and we were greeted at the wharf by a few very excited and curious children who were delighted to see new faces on their island. We tried to talk to them but they spoke no English so they just followed us as we walked along giggling and laughing at us. We were greeted and welcomed by William who was the minister of the Church of Tonga. The little town was a little run down, mainly concrete homes but very clean and tidy. All the homes were surrounded by some type of fencing and we realized this was to keep the multitudes of free roaming pigs from digging in their gardens. The island had a few healthy horses, much to the delight of Rosemary who used to train horses. As we walked through town we were welcomed by Juliette who was William’s wife. She gave us some fresh coconut to drink right from the tree in her yard and then offered to cook us a traditional Tongan meal that she could serve on our boat for a small fee. We explained that our boat was small and she would hardly have any room in the galley to prepare a large meal. She laughed and suggested maybe we were referring to her being too large to be on the boat as she was a typical happy, healthily fortified Tonga woman. The real truth was that we enjoy mingling and partaking in the local cultures of the islands we visit so we wanted to have the meal in their natural surroundings. We agreed to be there for lunch the next day.
They lived in a modest, simple little home and served us quite a feast cooked in an Omu, a fire pit in the ground. The feast included lobster tails, Ota Ika or otherwise known as Poisson Cruz in French Polynesia, octopus (which she admitted to be burned to a crisp), baked papaya, plantains, yams (not sweet like yams we are familiar with), breadfruit, fish wrapped in Taro leaves (the leaves tasted a little like spinach), corned beef wrapped in Taro leaves and for dessert we had watermelon and bananas. So other than the corn beef the entire meal was harvested by them from the sea and their garden. William and Julitte entertained us with their stories of their town while we ate and ate and ate. William was sent to the little town by the Church of Tonga to help the people find ways of producing things that they could market and sell such as artifacts weaved from coconut leaves and painted tapestry made from the Tapa tree. We left them a small gift of a bag of oatmeal, pasta and a few small bottles of hand cream. They gave us a bunch of bananas to take on our journey. Early Thursday morning we departed this beautiful little island for our next destination, Pangai, the main town of the Ha Api group of Tonga islands so that we could check in with customs and continue our limited travels in Tonga as our October 10th deadline for arrival in New Zealand was fast approaching (the date has been dictated to us by our current insurer of our boat).
Tuesday 9/10/2013 17:30 19 31.745 S 173 50.840 W http://maps.google.com/?z=7&t=k&q=loc:19%2031.745S%20173%2050.840W Posting by Barb: It was a two hundred fifty mile sail to Tonga which we did in forty five hours. The winds were great although at the end it was very rolly. When we left Nuie we had made arrangements to stay in touch with SV’s ‘Huck’ and ‘Iolea’ using SSB at 7:00 and 19:00. It was comforting to have that check in and to be in touch with other vessels when visually there is nobody else out here. Rosemary had a rough start and was seasick an hour after leaving. She managed to get through the first day and on the second day she slept for most of the day. By the end of the passage she was feeling better and able to move around the boat with some comfort. On our way to Tonga we crossed the dateline. This means we added 24 hours to our clocks. So basically we are a day older without actually having the luxury of living the moments of the day. We arrived safely and were anchored in Ha’Ano, Tonga by 9:30 Tuesday morning. I have already seen 4 Humpback whales so I am very excited about being here!
Thursday 9/5/2013 19:30 19 03.204 S 169 55.384 W http://maps.google.com/?z=7&t=k&q=loc:19%2003.204S%20169%2055.384W Posting by Dennis: It was earlier this morning and I was still sleeping in the salon because it was to rolly on the mooring to sleep in the vee birth when I heard “PAN PAN we are on the reef” on the VHF radio. I was fully awake instantly and was in the dinghy and heading for the catamaran Blue Marble which was indeed on the reef. I raced over with the engine wide open and the prop coming out of the as I flew of the tops of the waves. When I got there they had a line two guys were trying to untangle as two more guys were trying to get an anchor off the stern to keep it from going farther on to the reef. They asked if I had any more line so I took off back to the boat and yelled to Barb to grab the bag with the shore line in it. She grabbed the bag and literally threw it into the dinghy and I raced off back to Blue Marble. I was back there even before they had the line untangled. I threw the end of the line to the guys and they tied it onto the line that they had run out from the boat. I was about to bring it out to a fishing boat when a huge crane and an aluminum tug boat showed up on the wharf. It took them less than ten minutes to launch the tug and get over to us. I ran the line out to them and they tied it off. They started to pull and the line went fiddle sting tight. I was just waiting for the line to snap. When it did it was not my line that broke but the line that they had run out from the boat. So I ran out to the tug with the dinghy and ran the line back in to Blue Marble. This time the tug gave it even more power. All at once there was a loud pow and three cleats that they attached the line to all broke with pieces flying everywhere. Blue Marble did not move at all so it was decided that they would leave it sit there and wait for the tide to rise so it could be floated off. In the meantime about fifteen local guys worked very hard to attach floats to the outside of the hull to add extra floatation. Barb and I went to the Wharf and it was so sad to see the people off Blue marble. They all had such a lost look they had all just lost their home for the last year. They were all in total shock and disbelief. Blue Marble’s crew/owners were a delightful group of eight to ten young people from Norway, who each put in a share of money and bought the boat. We had seen them in a couple of anchorages and had talked to them just the day before. Most of them had taken a year off from their jobs or had just quit to take on the adventure. At around three o’clock I asked the chief of police if there was anything else that I could do to help. He said that they would need someone to bring things between the tug and shore. So I left in the dinghy and headed back over to where Blue Marble laid. I ended up ferrying lines in and out a few times. It is really hard bringing your dinghy into the surf and then trying to reverse when the big swells come and then off loading straps and lines before the next swell hits. When the tug started to pull and the boat did not move and then a bigger swell came in and you could see the boat start to move such a little bit. So they just kept pressure up and slowly the boat inched out when the waves would roll in and float it up off the reef. Once off the reef they towed it over to the wharf which had three foot swell slamming into. I had to be the tug boat and push sideways on the boat to push it over to the dock. The waves were smashing it hard against the concrete wharf and the entire boat would shudder as it hooked on the wharf. The boat was rising and falling at least four feet as the waves rolled under it. The boat was taking on water and you could smell diesel fuel so it was determined that they would try and lift it out. A set of slings were fed under the boat as the thing was being literally smashed to pieces. I watched in horror as I saw three of the stanchions being ripped off the boat. The first time they tried to lift it the straps for the front were too long and the boat just about got dumped on its nose. So they lowered it back down and instead of shorting the straps they just slid them forward almost to the bow. A catamaran is not designed to have that kind of pressure put on the hulls. As soon as they started to lift it I jumped off and moved back. But it did not crush and the guy running the crane was very gentle and eased it up and onto the wharf. Once it was up you could see the massive damage. The rudders were gone, the saildrives were broke and sitting at odd angle with blades gone off the props, the keels were totally gone sheared off flush with the hulls. There were hole in the hull were it had banged on the reef on both hulls. I am sure that the boat will be totaled. The people on the Blue Marble did nothing wrong at all, the boat was still attached to the mooring ball when it was sitting on the reef. Apparently the pin on the shackle where the pendent attaches to the anchor sheared off. So it was in no way their fault, they had no way of knowing. It just makes me think that it could have been me just as easily. I am on a mooring ball just like they were and I wonder if sooner or later my time will come no matter how anal I am. I just can’t tell you how it feels to see someone’s dream die.
Wednesday 9/4/2013 17:30 19 03.204 S 169 55.384 W http://maps.google.com/?z=7&t=k&q=loc:19%2003.204S%20169%2055.384W Posting by Dennis: It is not everyday a person gets the chance to save a life, but a couple of days ago I got the chance. We had been over at a Heidi and Joe’s boat, Huck a Shannon 43, and had just gotten back to our boat. Barb went to bed and I was just starting to watch a movie and I had my headphones on. It was just a little before midnight when I heard Barb yells out that someone was yelling for help outside. So I jumped up and climbed into the cockpit. It was totally pitch black out and I could not see anything at all, then I heard a weak voice yell out “help me”. I peered over the side and could not even see the water so I groped along the side of the hull and yelled back that I was right here. Then I felt a hand and grabbed on tight to her wrist. It felt cool and fleshy as my hand dug in trying to hold on. She said to me “I am going to die, please don’t let me die”. I said “I got you, you are not going to die” and tried to get her to talk to me but she did not respond at all. I yelled to Barb to get the dinghy which we had hoisted out of the water for the night. As she is trying to get it untied Rob on Compass Rosey yelled out “Barb are you ok”. She yelled back “do you have a dinghy in the water, get over here!” Barb came back to the cockpit and held a flashlight and I could see the girl was unconscious and her head was barely above the water when the swells rolled the boat. My arms were getting so tired holding her so her head didn’t go under. She laid there total hanging by my grip. I remember thinking I just can’t let go no matter what. It seemed like forever before Rob finally got there, but I am sure it was only a minute or two. When he did he grabbed the girl and held her above the water while I jumped down into his dinghy. Compass Rosey’s dinghy is an old inflatable and the front tube leaks air so we were able to bring the girl around to the front and as we drug her in the bow just went under water so she basically just floated into the dingy. I yelled to Barb to get on the radio and call for an ambulance. The whole time I am trying to talk to the girl and reassure her that she was going to be ok, but I was not getting any response at all. As Rob was motoring toward the wharf I slapped her gently on the face and I could get a moan out of her so we knew she was still alive, but by the time we got to the wharf I could not even get that from her. I climbed out of the dinghy when I saw a car pull out onto the wharf I thought it could be the police but it wasn’t and I flagged them down anyway and asked them to call for an ambulance, they looked at me very strangely as I stood there in my underwear, but they took off to call for help. I few minutes later the police did show up and I flagged them down. By now the girl was totally not responding but she was breathing and she did have a pulse. The waves were luckily not too bad up against the wharf, the dingy was only rising and falling a foot or two and it was near high tide so the dingy was almost level with the bottom step on the crest of the waves. The two police officers came down the steps and looked suspiciously at two guys in a dinghy in their underwear with a past out teenage girl. They asked what happened and I recounted the story to them as the four of us tried to haul her out of the dinghy. It is surprising just how hard it is to lift someone when they are passed out. They just sort of bend and fold, but between the four of us we were able to get her up the steps and into the back of the police car. As soon as she was in the police car the ambulance showed up. They decided to leave in the back of the police car and I got to ride in the ambulance. Once at the hospital we unloaded her onto a gurney and they wheeled her in to a room. I then got to tell the entire story of what had happened again. After a half hour or so they decided that they were done with me so the police took me back to the wharf. I called Rob and he came in to get me. Both Rob and I then had to give a statement to the police of what happened. The police were wondering if the girl had not been out on one of the yachts that were moored around us. So we had to give them the names of all the boats and where they were moored. I can see why they would think that since the girl was dressed and even had shoes on. Not the way one generally goes swimming. I told them that some of the yachts where planning on leaving at six in the morning and if they wanted to talk to any of them that I would give them a ride to any boats that they wanted to go to but they said no that they would wait until morning and talk to the girl first. By the time I got back to the boat it was 2:30 in the morning and they wanted me to come back at six and answer a few more questions. When I got back to the boat I was so keyed up that I could not sleep so I watched movies until 5:30 and then headed back into town. It takes a while to get the dinghy lifted and in a parking spot. When I got to the police station they said that they didn’t have any more questions and told me that the girl had not woken yet but that she would be ok. She had just had too much to drink and her mother said that she liked to swim so they were leaving it at that. A few days later I stopped back to the police station and they said that she could not remember anything at all but was doing fine. So that is the story.